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Showing posts from December 11, 2022

A Unicorn for Christmas (2022)

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By their nature, movies with titles like this always fall into one of three buckets: either they're inexplicably amazing, bad in an amazing way, or just borderline unwatchable. I went in hoping for that middle option, as those are the most fun, with "amazing" as a second choice. Unfortunately, neither was to be, so we were stuck watching just a godawful low-budget kids' flick. The primary issue here isn't the story or dialogue, though neither is particularly good. Rather it's the pacing that makes this drag. Most of the time when I refer to pacing as an error I mean structural pacing: the length, arrangement, and layout of scenes. Typically, pacing complaints fall on the writer and editor. But Unicorn for Christmas doesn't even reach that point: the problem here is how each and every scene is directed and acted. Characters speak slowly, as if concerned the audience will be unable to follow along. Running this movie at 125% speed would honestly help. Becaus

George and the Christmas Star (1985)

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I heard about this in a Twitter thread about another Canadian science-fiction Christmas special . Someone commented with a link to this with the addendum it was from Gerald Potterton, the director of the 1981 animated film, Heavy Metal. I'm not really a fan of that movie, but damned if it didn't pique my interest. Christmas science fiction is a weird subgenre in general, and this looked even more out there. This special starts with George decorating his Christmas tree. All that's left is to put a star on top, but the idea of using a common paper one depresses him. He decides what he really wants is an actual star, so he builds a working spaceship and heads into the cosmos to bring back the brightest one in the heavens. He crash-lands into an outer space motel, where he meets a friendly robot pianist named Ralph. The motel business isn't thriving in the vacuum of space, so Ralph joins George on his quest. Next, they're picked up by Space Rangers (not the Lightyear ki

Bluey: Veranda Santa (2019) and Christmas Swim (2020)

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Despite being a longtime fan of children's media, I admit that Bluey might not have been on my radar if I wasn't the parent of a young child. And that's a shame, because I think this show is funny and poignant enough to charm almost anyone. The show follows the everyday adventures of Bluey and Bingo Heeler, two young sisters (ages 6 and 4) who can and do turn anything into a game. Their parents encourage and play along with the kids' imaginations, and the show is a fantastic portrait of great parents who are still realistic parents. While there are lessons to be learned, they are often subtle, blended into the stories, and sometimes for the adults rather than the kids. The show has honestly made me tear up on more than one occasion. It's popular worldwide for very good reasons. It's also one of the most fascinating exercises in anthropomorphic animal fantasy I've seen in a long while. All the characters are dogs. But they are also people. They have houses an

Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001)

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Well, that's certainly not what I expected. As a rule of thumb, animated adaptations of A Christmas Carol with runtimes between an hour and an hour and a half tend to be pretty by the numbers, as far as the scripts are concerned. Occasionally they'll toss in an animal companion, but the basic story almost always sticks to the source material. I've seen quite of these now, and all follow more or less the same formula. Until now. This one is... it's weird. Really, really weird. Let's back up. This is a British animated movie released direct to video in the US. To the limited degree it's remembered, it's due to the relatively impressive cast, which features Kate Winslet, Michael Gambon, Rhys Ifans, and Nicholas Cage, among others. Simon Callow voices Scrooge and plays Charles Dickens in live-action segments at the start and end, a role he'd reprise on Doctor Who a few years later. It's also worth noting this is directed by Jimmy T. Murakami, who made Th

Pottersville (2017)

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We meant to get to this back when it came out, but for whatever reason missed it in its first year - most likely a combination of negative reviews and high rental price convinced us to hold off and catch it on streaming. But this thing kind of disappeared into the ether immediately afterwards, and we forgot it ever existed until we stumbled across it on Netflix. And now that we've seen it... well... we found out why it disappeared into that ether. Pottersville is pretty bad. Actually, that might be overly generous: the movie is a train wreck on a scale rarely seen with a cast this impressive. The movie's lead is Michael Shannon, with Judy Greer, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and Ian McShane all playing major roles. That's a hell of a cast for a low-budget holiday satire. Assuming this is satire. Honestly, it's difficult to identify what exactly they were going for, because - whatever it was - it missed the mark by light-years. I'll get to the plot, I promise, bu

Book Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

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I had planned to tell you all about this Christmas Carol-related book, but this review is being delayed in solidarity with the HarperCollins strike. 

Carol's Christmas (2019)

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I have no idea whether or not you'll be able to watch this movie by the time we post this review. Lindsay and I stumbled across this on Amazon Prime a while back. It looked like a weird take on A Christmas Carol, so we decided to check it out. As the credits rolled... well, that's actually one of the reasons I suspect you're not going to be able to watch this. It's not that the credits are particularly unusual: the majority are indistinguishable from a typical Hollywood movie's. It's just that the typical Hollywood movie they are indistinguishable from is specifically the 2019 film, Angel Has Fallen. Once Carol's Christmas runs through its actual cast and crew, it just sort of runs a chunk of credits from Angel Has Fallen. I should note they don't start at the beginning of Angel Has Fallen's credits: they start with the stunt performers. I took a picture: I have no idea if this was some sort of mistake (i.e.: if they uploaded the wrong file, perhaps

Yogi's First Christmas (1980)

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One of the main plot threads of Yogi's First Christmas is that the bears - Yogi, Boo Boo, and Cindy - are constantly struggling to stay awake. In a stroke of artistic genius, the producers of this hour-and-thirty-eight-minute TV movie found ways to not just depict this on screen, but fully immerse the audience in the story by lulling us into the same state. I am not exaggerating when I say I found myself physically and emotionally drained when I paused this movie to discover I was less than thirteen minutes in. I should mention this seems to borrow heavily from Casper's First Christmas, a half-hour special also from Hanna-Barbera, released the previous year. The cast of characters is virtually identical, including Yogi and Boo Boo. Technically, I suppose this could  be a prequel to Casper's First Christmas, though I doubt anyone was worried about continuity when making this. On top of everything else, this includes a couple songs from the prior year's special (as well a

Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales (1979)

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Part of me thinks it's odd this slipped through the cracks for so long. As far as I can tell, it's the first Looney Tunes TV Christmas special, and it features some huge names in animation (Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Mel Blanc). On that level, it feels like this is something that should be important. Or at least it does until you watch it. It's not that this is bad - I'd describe two of the three segments as "fine" and the third as "pretty good" - but there's nothing in here that makes it feel bigger or more memorable than three random Looney Tunes shorts. And the one segment that might have left an impact, Bugs Bunny's Christmas Carol, was supplanted four years later by the far superior Disney film with a similar premise. After a brief (though maybe not brief enough) intro sequence with Looney Tunes characters caroling, the special moves on to its spin on A Christmas Carol. This does actually feel like a transition between Mr. Magoo'

Bah, Humduck!: A Looney Tunes Christmas (2006) [Revisited]

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I watched and "reviewed" this back in 2011 , but those quotes are there for a reason. This is far from the only version of A Christmas Carol I'm revisiting as part of this year's project. I didn't much care for this when I last saw it, but I've seen some endorsements online and decided it was worth giving it another shot, if only to add some depth to the snarky, uninformative diatribe I wrote eleven years ago. I'll start by saying the re-watch didn't improve my opinion much, though there were a handful of good moments and aspects I failed to credit the first time around. I'll get around to those in a bit. First, let's do something else I apparently didn't feel was relevant in 2011 and actually describe the damn special. Bah, Humduck! is a homage/parody of A Christmas Carol featuring Looney Tunes characters as versions of themselves. This of course differs from versions where established characters are playing the actual characters of A Chri

The Best Man Holiday (2013)

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Let's start with the disclaimer: The Best Man Holiday is the sequel to The Best Man, a 1999 dramedy I haven't seen, meaning thematic and story connections between the films almost certainly went over my head. As such, I'm only able to review this as a standalone installment, rather than a piece of a longer story. There's a popular perspective that this shouldn't be a shortcoming in my ability to review a work, as movies supposedly need to be able to stand on their own. I do not share that ideology - I believe that presumed context isn't an unreasonable assumption on behalf of filmmakers and that those of us lacking that context should at the very least be upfront about it. Hence this paragraph. I don't feel quite as bad about this as I sometimes do, because the bulk of what I have to say is going to be positive and most of my complaints relate to story beats and character choices wholly contained within the narrative of this film. On top of that, I found eve

The Hip Hop Nutcracker (2022) and In Motion: Hip Hop Nutcracker at NJPAC: An ALL ARTS Presentation (2019)

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What is The Hip Hop Nutcracker? "The Hip Hop Nutcracker" is a new special you can stream on Disney+, while "Hip Hop Nutcracker at NJPAC: An ALL ARTS Presentation" is a New York Emmy-winning episode of In Motion on PBS.  Both of these presentations are based on the original stage show (which you can even see live on tour .) Is one of them better than the other? Well, both have their good points, but we think one is clearly more enjoyable to watch. Both are based on a reimagining of The Nutcracker. Short version: In this story, Maria-Clara is a teenager (possibly young adult) who's sad that her parents are fighting. She meets a cute boy who sells nuts from a cart, they fight some magic mice together, and he saves her with the help of some magic shoes from Drosselmeyer. Drosselmeyer sends Nutcracker boy and Maria-Clara back in time to witness the beginning of her parents' romance, then they return to the present and use dance to remind them how much they love e

A Christmas Carol: The Concert (2013)

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This should be a short write-up, as the movie in question isn't actually a movie. Instead, this is a recorded performance of a concert version of A Christmas Carol. To be clear "concert" means this is written for a chorus, symphony, and a handful of actors playing multiple parts. The recorded version is from a 2013 staging recorded in Illinois. There are a few props and a minimalist set, but the focus is on the music.  So let's start there. Fortunately, the score is quite good overall. The concert involves a number of different styles, though the bulk feels like a blend of rock opera and classical music. That's an interesting approach to the material, and it works well. The last song is less successful: it changes direction and goes for southern gospel. I understand the logic here, but it feels too different tonally to work with the rest of the music. I also think it clashes with the story in a way the rest of the music doesn't. Note everything above reference