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Showing posts from December 8, 2019

Klaus (2019)

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Last year we were big fans of Netflix's entry into the family-friendly fray, but this new movie fell flat for us.

The plot follows Jesper, the spoiled rich son of the Postmaster General. His behavior and attitude are cribbed so closely from The Emperor's New Groove that we thought the voice actor was David Spade (it's actually Jason Schwartzman). To shock him into acting like an adult, Jesper's father banishes him to a remote city on a far north island, tasked with re-establishing the post office there and stamping at least 6,000 letters over the next year.

When he gets there, he discovers the town is home to two feuding clans, and everyone is only interested in making each other miserable. After trying and failing to encourage anyone in the town to send a single letter, he ends up at a solitary house on the far end of the island. Here he is terrified to meet Klaus, a huge woodsman with a house full of mysterious toys. He flees but drops a drawing he had been trying …

Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas (2018)

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Aggretsuko is an anime series I quite like based on a Sanrio character. Yes, that's the Hello Kitty company, but with this character they are shifting their target consumer fairly significantly - from young girls to adult women dissatisfied with the modern world. The lead character, a red panda named Retsuko, has a boring job with a chauvinist jerk for a boss, annoying co-workers, and no romantic prospects, so she releases her rage at the world through singing death metal at a karaoke bar.

This Christmas special is an extra-long episode that doubles as an epilogue for the first season, so I'm not sure how enjoyable it would be to watch without that context. The main plots of the special are Retsuko's attempt to seek validation by becoming popular on social media and her coworker Haida's continuing crush on her.

At the beginning of the special is a missing scene from the end of the prior episode that reveals that Haida did ask Retsuko out, but she turned him down, at …

The Hebrew Hammer (2003)

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When we talk about movies from the 1940s or 1960s, we often fall back on the adage "it was of its time" as sort of an explanation for problematic content or offensive cultural norms that have since evolved. Today, I want to look at a comedy from 2003 that I believe was "of its time."

Comedy at the turn of the millennium was largely dominated by two titans. On television, South Park had achieved almost unimaginable success by combining crass humor with rough animation. Meanwhile, Austin Powers continued to cast a long shadow across film.

If someone in 2003 were to attempt to replicate surface-level properties of those two franchises without actually understanding what made either work, you'd expect the result to be something very similar to The Hebrew Hammer, an independent production that wound up getting a heavily edited release on cable television.

The movie's title character is more or less an attempt to answer the question, "What if Shaft were Jew…

Cupcake Wars: The Nutcracker, Hollywood Christmas Parade (2011)

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Cupcake Wars is a food competition show. I watch, let's be honest, a decent number of food competition shows, and I place this one squarely in the lower-middle tier of such fare. It’s fine background noise that’s somewhat entertaining, but it lacks the theatricality of shows like Cutthroat Kitchen or Beat Bobby Flay, the impressive flexibility and talent on shows like Chopped or Iron Chef, or the personal drama of shows with a continuing cast like Great British Bake Off or even Next Food Network Star.

Even so, it is amusing enough to pass the time with when tied to the couch under a feeding baby. On my maternity leave earlier this year I watched a lot of reality shows, including two Christmas-themed episodes of Cupcake Wars. In this show, people who make cupcakes professionally (most either own a cafe or do catering) try to outdo each other to win a cash prize and a contract for a specific fancy event. In these episodes, said events were the opening night of the New York City Bal…

The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

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The Holly and the Ivy is a black and white British movie about a dysfunctional family coming together at Christmas to work out their differences. It's adapted from a stage play, which is fairly obvious watching the film: it's almost entirely set in a single building, and the dialogue is, well, actually good.

Like many plays, this is less driven by plot than by character interaction. Almost everyone's got a secret, and it all comes out as they talk to each other. Fortunately, the script has some solid characters, and the cast does good work.

The closest the movie comes to a main character is Jenny, a woman looking after her father, a parson with an academic mind. Unbeknownst to her father, Jenny wants to marry her boyfriend, but he's about to move to South America for work. She's unwilling to abandon her father, since he's got no one else to look after him.

Also in the mix is her younger sister, Margaret, who's harboring quite the secret backstory. Five yea…

Book Review: The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories

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The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories
Edited by Martin Edwards, compilation 2019 (US release)

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: A new collection of little-known stories with a holiday twist from the classic age of crime fiction from British Library Crime Classics.

Like most short fiction collections, this one is hit and miss. Some of these stories are fun, but none of them are exceptional. Several introductions mention that the author rarely wrote short stories or seldom wrote mysteries. Apparently, this is the third collection from this publisher collecting unknown British crime stories on a wintry theme. What I'm trying to say is, they might be scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point.

The first story is by Baroness Orczy of Scarlet Pimpernel fame, and the characters are a lot of fun, although the plot is somewhat lacking. Two of the best stories in the volume follow: “By the Sword,” a tale in which a murder…

Fargo: Season 3 (2017)

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The following is a review. The season being reviewed originally aired on FX between April and June of 2017. At the request of those who haven't seen the show, this review will keep spoilers to an absolute minimum. Out of respect for the series's creator and stars, the descriptions and discussions that are included will be presented as accurately as possible.
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Only this isn't just a review: it's a murder scene.

The victim is in their late seventies, and the manner of death was asphyxiation. They may have gone by several names throughout their life, but around here they were known as the "Christmas episode." In life, they were a concept of an episodic holiday installment of a television series. They stood out from their peers in only one respect: they were set at or about Christmas.

Anything else could change. Maybe they were a self-contained narrative, or maybe they were an episodic installment of a longer series playing out in real time. Hell, the…