Showing posts from 2021

Strange Days (1995)

Before I even get into the spoiler warning, I want to open this with a content warning. The movie I'll be talking about includes a sexual assault, and while I won't go into much depth in the review, I found it disturbing even relative to other films that touch on that subject matter. [Editor's note: I found this scene incredibly upsetting to watch. I was glad I sought out spoilers ahead of time so I knew what I was in for - Lindsay] If that's not something you're willing to sit through, you'll want to steer clear of this one... ...And I needed to open with that, because this is one of those movies where plot spoilers could impact your experience quite a bit. And also, yes, this is a pretty great sci-fi noir flick directed by Kathryn Bigelow, so it's probably worth your attention, assuming the last paragraph isn't a deal-breaker. The film definitely has some issues aside from that, so it's not like this is required viewing or anything, but it's g

This isn't the Christmas any of us wanted. It's still Christmas.

This was supposed to be the Christmas spent with friends and family again, right? After a year in isolation, this was when we'd all be able to take a deep breath and gather together. Honestly, that was never going to be this Christmas for my family. We've got a toddler, and even before the news the vaccine trials for that age bracket weren't a rousing success, it was clear the timeline wasn't going to line up. Our most optimistic projections would have been having our kid vaccinated sometime in early January. Now we're hoping for late spring and trying not to get our hopes up. But I know those of you without young children (and some with more tolerance for risk) were thinking this was the year you'd be able to celebrate without concern. Big parties, nights out... Christmas traditions. I know a lot of you are doing those things, anyway. And, I mean, I hope you're vaccinated, boosted, and taking as many precautions as you can. I hope Omicron really does turn o

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (2021)

TWO Aardman holiday specials this year? Woo! While Robin Robin featured a slightly different look and style for the studio, Shaun the Sheep is right in their comfort zone: hilarious comedy done with extremely professional stop-motion animation. If you've never seen any Shaun the Sheep, you can jump in at any time. There's a television series, two films, and multiple specials. All of them feature roughly the same premise: Shaun and his sheep pals live on a farm. Shaun is much more intelligent than the farmer knows (as are the other sheep, if less so), and comedy ensues. The farmer (who is an idiot) and the farmer's loyal dog often come up with plans to improve the farm, which often come into conflict with capers run by the sheep and other animals.  And it's all wordless. There's no dialogue in Shaun the Sheep, only mumbles and expressive animal noises. The simplicity lends itself to brilliantly outlandish physical comedy.  This special might be the funniest entry I&#

Retfærdighedens Ryttere [Riders of Justice] (2020)

Over the past few years, I've been transitioning towards favoring original titles over translations when reviewing foreign films when practical, both in the header and in the text. Well... I've got limits, so I'm going to be referring to this film from Denmark by its English title from here on out: Riders of Justice. Sorry, Danish speakers: your word for "justice" is just a tad too righteous for me to type out. I'm seeing this referred to as an action/comedy, which feels like a bit of a stretch. Maybe it's because I'm overly familiar with American action movies, which almost invariably include comedic beats, but I'd almost classify this as drama before comedy. Sure, it's funny, but - again - I expect that of action films. The presence of trauma is a bit more surprising. Before considering whether it's either - hell, even before I'd bother with "action" - I'd consider this an existential film. Riders of Justice is fundament

Wir Können Nicht Anders [Christmas Crossfire] (2020)

I'm fairly certain Wir Können Nicht Anders is the first German movie we've looked at. I should probably note you won't have much luck finding this under that title - it was released in the US as "Christmas Crossfire," with the "Crossfire" part written in blood. I understand badly translated titles is kind of a foreign language Christmas movie tradition, but this one feels particularly egregious. While there is some violence and a touch of suspense, this isn't horror or even action: it's a comedy. A dark comedy, certainly, but nothing like that title implies. A closer translation (at least according to Google Translate) would be "We Can't Help It," which makes infinitely more sense. I'll be sticking with the German name, because I can't bring myself to keep typing Christmas Crossfire. Tonally, this bears some similarities to US dark comedies (think movies by Martin McDonagh, such as In Bruges ). If I knew virtually anything a

Hawkeye: Season 1 (2021)

So far, the Disney+ MCU shows have been something of a mixed bag. I don't think any have been awful, but the level of quality has fluctuated wildly from series to series, with WandaVision being by far the best and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier being the most disappointing. Good or bad, they've all boasted impressive production values and have all delivered some of the quippy dialogue that's become a hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hawkeye joins Iron Man 3 in sporting a Christmas setting. Between the two, I think Hawkeye makes better use of the holidays -  in Iron Man 3, it mainly just felt like a callback to the director's filmography. Here, it serves to heighten the tension, tie in to themes of family, build up a sense of the surreal, and... well... okay, it's also kind of making a bunch of allusions to Shane Black movies, but it's not like I mind. Of course, the Christmas setting also means it's fair game here, so let's dig into the sec

Angela's Christmas Wish [Angela's Christmas 2] (2020)

A few years ago, we were surprised and delighted by Angela's Christmas , which was a joy in basically every way. I actually remember seeing that this sequel existed last year, but I was hesitant about it. No more source material plus a lot of good press for the first one could easily lead to something rushed and poorly written. And even in the best-case scenario, what could possibly live up to the first special?  Well, not this, but it's still very good. Funny, charming, adorable, uplifting, and really grounded in ways that animation often isn't. It's just not, you know, transformative children's media. If you liked the first one, I recommend you check this out. If you didn't see the first one, go watch that! Angela's Christmas Wish (also marketed as Angela's Chrismas 2) starts with an introduction that takes place before the events of the first movie, in which we see Angela's dad get on a boat for a job in Australia. (Reminder that this all takes pl

Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

As the name suggests, A Carol for Another Christmas is an updated take on Dickens's classic, here intended for the modern world. And when I say "modern," I of course mean modern as of 1964, when it was made. Unfortunately, that's half the problem, as it's more than a little dated now (not just because it's in black and white). Actually, it feels like it might have been a bit dated when it came out, which is the other half of the problem. Let's jump into the story, which follows Dickens's outline pretty closely, at least until the conclusion. The Scrooge analog is "Daniel Grudge," a retired US Commander with a massive amount of influence in politics and media. Standing in for Marley is [checks notes] still just a guy named Marley (feels a little lazy, if I'm being honest). Okay, technically it's "Marley Grudge," Dan's late son, killed in a war. While we're on the subject of characters whose names haven't changed,

A Christmas Carol (2019)

In a world where multi-season series are now set during the holidays, an actual three-episode miniseries almost feels quaint and old-fashioned, but that's exactly what the BBC's 2019 take on A Christmas Carol is. We've been meaning to watch this for a few years now, but somehow never got around to it until now. And now that we've finally watched this, I can definitely say... it is not what I expected. More specifically, it's completely different than it was marketed, and not just because the teaser made it look kind of good . From everything I'd seen about this, I'd assume it was going to highlight the horror aspects of its source material, which I've long felt get overlooked. But aside from a veneer vaguely mimicking that genre and a few jump scares, this isn't at all a horror in tone. First and foremost, it feels like a melodrama, with touches of horror and - surprisingly - comedy tossed in. Even more surprising, it's kind of a stretch to call

Días de Navidad [Three Days of Christmas] (2019)

It's been a good time for foreign Christmas miniseries, thanks to streaming platforms being desperate for content. Continuing that trend is Días de Navidad, a three-episode Spanish show chronicling the lives of four sisters across different eras and - to a degree at least - genres. That last part is an aspect I'm probably going to fumble a bit, because I have a feeling there's an entire meta-narrative I'm missing concerning Spain's recent history and popular media. More on all that in a moment - first let's dig into that premise a bit. Actually, before we get to even that, let's start with a spoiler warning and a somewhat tentative recommendation. I liked this quite a bit, but I imagine the style and tone of this series will turn a lot of people off. This leans heavily on its drama and at times almost feels like a soap opera (albeit one with money to burn). To be honest, I'm not sure why this didn't bother me more - normally, I don't give drama t

Less Than Zero (1987)

This is an odd one. Less Than Zero was supposedly adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, though there seems to be a consensus the movie has almost no relation to the book. I haven't read it, but apparently there was virtually no plot, so rather than attempt to adapt it, the producers had a series of writers create an entirely new script with an entirely different nonexistent plot. The non-plot centers around Clay, a college freshman who returns to his upscale LA home to find his best friend, Julian, has become an addict. Clay's girlfriend, Blair, is also an addict, but isn't quite as out-of-control as Julian, who we eventually learn is being forced into prostitution by his dealer. There's a love triangle, as well, since Julian and Blair had an affair while Clay was gone, but this feels oddly tacked on. Apparently, in the book Clay was supposed to be bisexual, a detail that was removed by the studio, presumably to make the movie more boring. The movie just kind of

Metropolitan (1990)

I'd never watched (or as far as I can recall even heard of) this movie prior to seeing someone on Twitter assert it was a Christmas movie, a claim I initially doubted skimming the synopsis. I became more optimistic watching the trailer, as holiday decorations can be seen in every other shot, give or take. So I decided to give this a chance. First, I can confirm this is absolutely a Christmas movie, at least according to the definitions and litmus tests employed at this site. Granted, all such definitions are inherently subjective, but I think it's worth pointing out that our subjective definition is objectively superior to any other found on the internet. If you disagree, I don't know what to tell you: that's just science. More importantly, this movie is goddamn hilarious, or at least that was my take. Lindsay found moments funny but overall was kind of bored. I suspect that's a common reaction to this film - the humor is an unusual combination of over-the-top and d

Sword of the Valiant (1984)

Sword of the Valiant is an '80s remake of the 1973 movie, Gawain and the Green Knight , made by the same director, largely using the same outline and themes. Please understand when I say it's an '80s movie, I mean that on every level - the decade oozes out of every lighting choice, every haircut, and every music cue. Both Gawain and the Green Knight look and act more like they stepped out of an episode of He-Man than anything in the actual live-action He-Man movie (same goes for the soundtrack, honestly). This is unquestionably a bad movie, and I savored every minute. The plot is functionally identical to the director's previous adaptation (loose adaptation, remember: these movies are really a blend of several Arthurian myths with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight almost serving as a frame). That said, there are several new characters and minor changes to the story. A friar appearing briefly in the '70s movie is given a major role as an eventual companion of Gawain