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Showing posts with the label 2012

Tawo [The Tower] (2012)

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Here's one that's been on our list for a while. This is a 2012 South Korean disaster movie set on Christmas Eve directed by Kim Ji-hoon. The effects and overall production values are, for the most part, at the level of a Hollywood blockbuster, and the movie was a massive success in South Korea. It was so well executed, I found myself a little surprised it hadn't received a US release... until it got to the third act, when it became extremely clear why this particular market wasn't an option. The premise is going to be familiar to anyone who's heard of the 1974 film, The Towering Inferno, whether you've seen it or not (which is fortunate, because that's another one I still need to get around to). At its core, The Tower is about people trying to escape a burning skyscraper, with the complexity coming from who the characters are, what their relationships are to each other, what they're willing to risk or sacrifice for each other, and so on. While the premis

A Christmas Carol (2012)

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This low-budget Irish production sells itself as the "darkest" adaptation ever made, which is what put it on my radar. Before we even touch on that - or anything else about this - I need to take a moment and focus on another adjective in my opening sentence, namely "low-budget." Because when I say this looks as though it was made for very little money, I'm not exaggerating. The phrase "independent movie" covers a large range of films, from student projects to elaborate arthouse pieces that look as good or better than Hollywood productions. Sadly, this is closer to the former. Much closer. Honestly, I wondered if it might be a school project for a while. That's not to say it's bad, exactly. When you're looking at movies made under these kinds of constraints, that term loses significance. This is an ambitious movie, and without fully understanding the filmmakers' goals in undertaking the project, I can't even begin to offer insight on

O luna in Thailanda/A Month in Thailand (2012)

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I'm not going to go in depth into the intricacies of the Romanian New Wave movement, mainly because I know absolutely nothing about the Romanian New Wave movement, aside from what I can glean from Wikipedia. The short version seems to be a focus on realism and grounded storytelling - those are certainly qualities on display in "A Month in Thailand," a film which is set neither in Thailand, nor over the span of a month. Instead, the movie takes place over approximately 24 hours starting on the morning of New Year's Eve. The title refers to a theoretical vacation the movie's main character wants to go on with a girlfriend that also serves as a sort of stand-in for the kind of person he aspires to be and the sort of relationship he wants to be in. By design, the plot here is fairly sparse. The movie opens with the main character, Radu, in a relationship with Adina. It's clear early on that Radu isn't completely satisfied, but things really take a turn after t

It's Christmas, Carol! (2012)

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I'm being particular about the title this time, because there seems to be some confusion. The movie is actually listed a couple times on Amazon, with different versions having different streaming tiers. The difference is a subtle one: one version includes the comma, while the other doesn't. It's clearly present in the title appearing onscreen in the movie, so that's the one I'm going with. Speaking of titles, this is far from the first modern re-imagining of A Christmas Carol I've seen where the role is gender flipped and the lead is named "Carol." These reviews won't be run in the order watched, but by my count this is the third, and I'm aware of at least one more. Hell, this isn't even the first I've seen produced by Hallmark featuring a legendary science-fiction star as a ghostly helper. The 2003 TV movie, "A Carol Christmas" included William Shatner, so for balance to exist in the universe I suppose we needed a similar ver

Elf-Man (2012)

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I was genuinely shocked when the end credits for Elf-Man rolled and revealed a full cast worked on the picture. With the exception of a few decent shots and a couple actors who deserved better, this thing looked and felt less like a "real" movie than... God, I'm struggling to find some point of comparison. Some of it felt like the low-budget direct-to-video production it was, but it was rare for the movie to hit even that mark. More often it felt like a cheap sitcom, and even those sequences accounted for fifty percent or less. Most of the rest felt like a college project. At times, I'd have believed a handful of high schoolers were somehow calling the shots. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about the premise of Elf-Man, a 2012 fantasy/superhero/comedy serving as a vehicle for Jason Acuña, here credited as "Wee Man." The story centers around two kids and their father, an inventor whose wife died a few years before. On Christmas Eve,

Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot: Holiday Hics and Holi-Stage (2012)

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As a CG show aimed at children, this was not even close to the best of the crop. However, it's not completely egregiously offensive to the eyes, ears, or brain, either. Pablum is a good word. These two episodes didn’t air anywhere close to each other, but the second literally takes place the next day. Holiday Hics For a 22-minute episode in which very little happened, this dragged a surprisingly small number of times. As a Christmas episode, this was actually quite interesting, as it’s a fairly significant outlier. It’s a fantasy version of Christmas that isn’t explicitly set in the winter. I don’t know whether there are seasons in Care-a-Lot in this series, but this episode was not wintry in any way. However, “Great Giving Day” is still clearly Christmas. Not just because it’s a holiday with an “Eve” that involves caring and giving gifts. Nope, we have a genuine magical gift-giver. The Great Giving Bear has red fur, a kindly-sounding, older voice actor, a present sy

Silent Night (2012)

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Silent Night is a quasi-remake of the 1984 cult classic, Silent Night, Deadly Night, which - I'll be the first to admit - I really  need to see. Not that I really want to see it, mind you, but it's probably one of the more significant holiday films I've yet to get around to. At any rate, let's talk about the 2012 version, which - judging by the plot synopsis I just skimmed for the 84 - is probably is more of an homage than a remake. The only scene that reads the same is one where the killer impales a woman on deer antlers. To be fair, that accounts for a good 20% of the plot. Or, to put it another way, this movie is light on substance. The premise is pretty much summed up in the movie poster: killer Santa. The one innovation present is setting the killing spree during a "Santa parade", making it virtually impossible for the police to identify a suspect. That should have been an interesting twist to a cliched formula, but they didn't really use it t

Bunheads: A Nutcracker in Paradise (2012)

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Let's be real. Here's what I want you to take away from this review: BUNHEADS IS STREAMING AGAIN. It's on Hulu. Go. Get thee to Hulu. If you are a musical theater nerd like me, go watch the first couple episodes of Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop snarking at each other and see if you don't fall hard. I'll pause here for a quick moment of silence for the fact that this show only received one season. The basic premise is that Foster plays Michelle, a professional-dancer-currently-slumming-as-a-Vegas-showgirl who decides to change her life by getting married and moving to a tiny upscale California town, where she helps her mother-in-law (Bishop) run a dance studio. The show is by the woman behind Gilmore Girls and features her standout themes: intergenerational female friendships and pop-culture snark. I prefer this to the earlier show because this one is also about dance and art and living a creative life. (I promise The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is on my to-watch li

The Amazing World of Gumball: Christmas (2012)

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Well, that was odd. We’d never seen an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball before, and it seems unlikely that we ever will again. Not that this was bad or anything, it just seems like the kind of thing you might watch if A) you had cable and B) you had a lot of time on your hands and were prone to watching whatever came on next. I mean, it’s on Hulu, but so are a lot of other things. This show seems to follow a family of animals - the mom’s a cat, the dad’s a rabbit, and there are three kids: a cat, a rabbit, and what Wikipedia tells me is an adopted goldfish. Eh, all the character designs are round enough that the distinctions don’t seem to matter. The animation style is the most striking thing about this show - highly stylized cartoony characters are layered over real-world backgrounds and combined with occasional CG and stop-motion. This episode opens with a little Christmas singing, abruptly cut short when the dad hits a man with his car who’s dressed a little like

Happy Endings: Grinches Be Crazy (2011) and No-Ho-Ho (2012)

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According to the internet, a lot of people were devastated when this series was cancelled after its third season. This knowledge leads me to one of three conclusions: 1. This is one of those shows you need to watch for a while before it gets good. 2. This is a case where some episodes are much stronger than others. 3. This show's fan are extremely generous viewers. We absolutely hated these two episodes. The characters felt two-dimensional and dull, the stories were absurdly idiotic, and the tone didn't gel with the writing. I kept thinking I was watching a live-action show set in the world of Family Guy. This is (yet another) circle-of-friends sitcom in the vein of, well, Friends. It goes for a farcical, over-the-top tone, like the far superior Community, but I didn't feel like it committed enough to sell it. As a result, it came off as unrealistic people behaving unrealistically. I knew intellectually that was supposed to be funny, but I just didn't enjoy it

A Fairly Odd Christmas (2012)

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"A Fairly Odd Christmas" is the live-action made-for-TV sequel to the similarly live-action made-for-TV movie "A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!" which is itself a sequel to the Nickelodeon series "The Fairly OddParents," which had a Christmas special of its own , though that featured an entirely different version of Santa Claus and therefore doesn't seem to be in continuity with this film. I should probably add that I've never seen the first live action movie or any of the animated series other than the aforementioned Christmas special. This apparently opens where the previous movie left off: the now grown-up Timmy, Tootie, and the CG fairy godparents are circling the world in a magic flying van granting wishes to anyone who's sad. They give one young girl a magic unicorn, another a monster truck, they turn a boy's small toy into a giant monster and set it loose on Tokyo, and they help a bunch of robbers empty out an electro

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas! (2012)

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This is a special, double-length episode of a show I knew existed (as I often have a vague sense of programming affiliated with PBS) but had never seen. I had the impression it was educational. I’m not sure about that, but it is boring. It starts off relatively inoffensive, if bland. Nick and Sally are two kids who are friends with the Cat in the Hat, and they arrive at his Christmas party and are promptly put to work as waiters while he sings about how awesome his party is. They think this is awesome. Kids at home: when doing favors for your “friend” is the super-fun part of your relationship, maybe rethink the friendship. Anyway, all the guests are animals, and a bunch of them are introduced during the song and subsequent party games. These include an annoying young caribou/reindeer, a mouse, a crab, and a bunch of other animals in passing (I wasn’t paying close attention, it didn’t seem important). The guests leave, and the kids offer to help clean up, but the Cat sends them h

Transformers: Rescue Bots: Christmas in July (2012)

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Picture us sitting on the couch, trying to figure out what in the heck we’re watching. It’s ugly flash animation, it’s hard to follow, the writing seems to have been dashed off by a middle schooler pressed for time. I don’t have any huge historical fondness for Transformers as a franchise, and even I can tell something is terribly wrong. Apparently this is a series about the loser bots who couldn’t make the cut, and Optimus Prime found a backward town to dump them in so they could learn to be subservient to humans. It’s funny because I wrote that as a joke, but I just looked up the premise of the show, and it’s basically that. So in this episode, the kid (there’s always a kid) is teaching the robots about seasons, because they’re space-faring life forms that somehow don’t understand orbits and weather. It’s summer and very hot, and one robot asks why they can’t have snow in the summer. Cue lightbulb. The kid goes to visit a guy who is apparently the local mad scientist? There

Mr. Christmas (2012)

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Mr. Christmas is a short documentary about Bruce Mertz, a retired electrician in Concord, California who spent more than three decades building elaborate holiday light displays in his yard. At a cursory glance, his display wasn't much more impressive than hundreds of other throughout the country: there were animated displays, a large number of bulbs, and the whole thing was synced to music - we've seen things like that . What set Mertz apart from those wasn't scale - his yard was modest-sized, even if he filled it with lights - it was artistry. The documentary only provides a brief look at how he built and maintained his display, but it's incredible to see. There's no laptop managing the whole thing: it's all done using analog dials and timers. And all the pieces were made by Mertz himself, down to the paint covering the lights (he wasn't satisfied with the longevity of the color on store-bought lights, so he developed his own paint mixture). The docu

Arrow: Year's End (2012), Three Ghosts (2013), The Climb (2014), and Dark Waters (2015)

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This is one of those times I stumbled across a few Christmas episodes while watching a series. I saw Arrow's pilot back when it originally aired. I actually liked it quite a bit on its own merits, but was underwhelmed by the move away from comic book tropes. It felt like a really good dark and gritty take on a superhero origin, but I'd kind of had my fill of those. I decided not to follow it but to pick it up later if I heard it was worth it. What actually got me back on board was The Flash, which was much more in line with what I wanted from the genre. A handful of crossovers convinced me Arrow would head in a more interesting direction given time. Besides, like I said before, the pilot was actually quite good for what it was. Years End (2012) The first Christmas episode occurs a little less than halfway through season one. The season started strong with a few missteps. But a few episodes before Christmas, it took a dive for the worst, and this one doesn't do muc

The Swan Princess Christmas (2012)

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The Swan Princess Christmas is the third of four direct-to-video sequels to The Swan Princess, a movie which failed to make ten million dollars during its entire theatrical run and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 44%. This is the first and only installment of the franchise I've ever seen, so I can't attest whether the abysmal writing, direction, and animation were par for the course, or if this fails to live up to the series's pitiful legacy. Assuming Wikipedia is right, this was the first in the series to be computer animated. For the majority of this movie's run time, the plot is essentially incomprehensible. The two leads, Derek and Odette, are getting ready to spend their first Christmas together. They have three talking animal sidekicks who almost never interact with them: a puffin, a turtle, and frog trying to get women to kiss him. And there's a cat who's working with the ghost of the villain from the first movie. To get a Christmas tree, Derek goes