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Showing posts from November 29, 2020

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

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We wanted this to be good. I mean, obviously we want everything we watch to be good because it makes for a more enjoyable couple of hours, but Jingle Jangle is a fantasy musical Christmas adventure where most of the cast is black. I'm assuming part of the reason this was made was so kids could have a big Christmas movie with characters who look like them. We really wanted to be able to hold it up, sing its praises, and feel good about ourselves. But dear God is this movie a mess. The movie this most reminds me of, sadly, is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms . Both movies were visually interesting but narratively lacking. For what it's worth, the designs in Jingle Jangle are much more inspired. The sets and costumes are gorgeous, and the visual effects are significantly better than I'd expect from a Netflix production. Aside from a couple sequences where CG body doubles are a bit obvious, this movie looks topnotch. Same goes for the music. Taken out of context, the songs ar

A Christmas Movie Christmas (2019)

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I didn't mistype the movie's name - A Christmas Movie Christmas is a meta made-for-TV Christmas movie in which two sisters are pulled into the world of made-for-TV holiday movies. They realize where they are, have some understanding of the tropes and clich├ęs around them, and try to make the most of their circumstances. It's a fun concept, which is sort of a mixed blessing, because - while this certainly isn't a total loss - it left me more than a little disappointed no one else could take the same premise and do it better. The two protagonists are Eve and Lacy. Eve loves Christmas romances, while Lacy is more pragmatic. After a brief intro, they run into a Salvation Army Santa, give him a few bucks, and make Christmas wishes. Eve wishes for a perfect, old-fashioned Christmas, while Lacy makes her wish silently. No surprise, but it turns out that's the real Santa, and they wake up in "Holiday Falls," an absurdly cheerful village where everyone's full of

Book Review: We Are Santa

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We Are Santa Ron Cooper, 2020 New Release! A digital copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review. Wow. WOW WOW WOW. This might be "just" a coffee table book, but it charmed my socks off.  The premise is simple. Photographer Ron Cooper recruited fifty professional Santas (talking to and interviewing even more) and took gorgeous photographs of them both in and out of costume. The book includes quotes, profiles of some Santas, and background information. The additional info is enough to establish some context for readers who might not be familiar with the history of Santa's look or the reality of the professional Santa gig, but it's not tedious even for those of us who know this world fairly well already.  The variety is fantastic. Santas in red but also other colors, in robes and coats and pajamas and kilts and cowboy boots and military camo and a pirate-theme and... Of course, there are lots of lovely fur trimmings, but also Hawaiian shirts, o

Derry Girls: The President

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Derry Girls is a charming, hilarious sitcom set in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the '90s. Because it's set during the Troubles, a lot of the unique character of the show comes from how a constant threat of public violence is usually just background noise to the everyday lives of the characters. An example from the first episode: having to take a different route because of a bomb threat is just annoying to them, not anything weird. The other unique thing about Derry Girls is the characters. It's a show about teenage girls doing teenage girl things - school and friendship and family and mad schemes that escalate in exceedingly dramatic fashion. Erin (my husband, Erin - get ready for some confusion, because that's also the name of this show's main character) said that he appreciates that the main characters aren't "likeable" - that they're allowed to be extreme in a way teen girls on TV usually aren't. On the other hand, I do find them likeable - b

Milo Murphy's Law: A Christmas Peril (2017)

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Milo Murphy's Law is an animated Disney series from the creators of Phineas and Ferb. It's also in continuity with that show, featuring callbacks and eventually crossovers. I'm a big fan of Phineas and Ferb, so I was naturally interested in this, but - like so many things - it was difficult following at first. Once Disney+ launched, I caught up with the first season, which includes a Christmas episode. I should probably get this out of the way: the series, while well written and interesting, lacks the alchemy that made Phineas and Ferb exceptional. The characters just aren't as endearing, and the premise lacks the whimsy that really elevated its predecessor into something truly great. This is still good television, but (at least so far) it hasn't managed to recreate the magic. Half the series revolves around Milo Murphy, the youngest in a family who "Murphy's Law" was named after. In theory, whatever can go wrong around them does, though what this

Book Review: Ming's Christmas Wishes

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Ming's Christmas Wishes Susan L. Gong, 2020 New Release! A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review.  I had to read through this children's book twice to understand it, but it definitely grew on me.  This short, beautifully illustrated children's book follows a few days in the life of a young Chinese-American girl in the 1930s. Ming wants a Christmas tree (this is related to a larger desire to fit in at school), but her mother won't hear of it.  The next day, Ming's father takes her to visit some family friends and some places his father took him when he was young. The trip connects her with her heritage, and they even come back with a tree to decorate - not a fir tree to cut down and discard, but a Chinese pine to keep in a pot.  That all sounds simple enough, but there's something distinctive about the way this book is written, and it's somewhat unsettling if you're expecting a standard children's story. For one thing,

Happiest Season (2020)

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When making a Christmas movie, it's important not to take too much on. It's fine to try and blend a couple subgenres or ideas, but if you were to, say, attempt to fuse three distinct premises into a single movie that's already destined to be unfairly judged as the first mainstream lesbian romantic Christmas comedy, then one of two things is going to happen. Either something isn't going to work and your gingerbread house of cards is going to collapse, or... ...Or you're going to inexplicably pull off a goddamn miracle of a film that puts damn near every other Christmas movie ever made to shame and causes everyone else working in Hollywood to resent you for making them look bad. Yeah, so, if I were director Clea DuVall, I wouldn't expect to get invited to a lot of holiday parties this year, but that's fine because there's a pandemic. Besides, she could probably use some time to start drafting acceptance speeches, because this movie is the real deal. In cas