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Showing posts with the label 2017

Daddy's Home 2 (2017)

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I've never seen the original Daddy's Home, mainly because I don't entirely hate myself, so I'm unable to offer any opinions on how this stacks up against its predecessor. I have, however, seen a elephant defecate, so I can provide some comparison there (said comparison is not favorable towards Daddy's Home 2).

I should mention that, as much as I despised this film, it managed to make me laugh a handful of times. I really, really didn't want to, but - to the movie's credit - there were a few scenes or jokes that really landed. They were exceptions, none of them came close to redeeming the film, and they mainly felt like the movie was mocking us by showing us what they could have made instead... but they were real scenes. I didn't dream them.

The rest was...

     God.

          Where to begin?

Maybe with the trailers. If you don't recall this movie, first of all, I envy you. Second, it's the one with the trailer where Will Ferrell kisses his fath…

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: Lobster Claus Is Coming to Town (2017)

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According to Wikipedia, the series this is from is a prequel to the movies set when Flint Lockwood was in high school, that Sam Sparks is an intern, and that the pilot implied the reason they didn't know each other in the movie was that at some point between the show and the film, Flint invented a memory eraser.

We realized literally none of that while we were watching this, and it's technically a double-length episode (i.e.: a full half hour rather than the usual 15 minutes).

The animation is stylized to a degree that characters' ages are impossible to decipher, and the plot of this installment takes place when no one's in school. As a result, we just assumed it was intended as a sequel. Apparently not!

I suppose the plot makes more sense if this is a prequel. In it, Sam's new to Swallow Falls, and this will be her first Christmas. Her excitement turns to agitation, however, when she learns no one in town has heard of Santa Claus. Instead, they celebrate the adve…

We Bare Bears: The Perfect Tree (2017)

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This is the second Christmas episode from the show We Bare Bears - we reviewed the first last year. Without retreading more ground than necessary, We Bare Bears is a fantastic animated show that defies easy explanation. Its themes are complex and nuanced, while still being completely appropriate for young audiences. This is the kind of show that can actually be watched and enjoyed by everyone.

The Perfect Tree, like most episodes of this series, is only about eleven minutes. That said, they pack a lot into that time. The episode opens with Chloe, a child prodigy who's friends with the bears, being given control over her family's Christmas decorations for the year. She enlists the bears' help, giving Grizzly and Panda the job of decorating the outside of her house while she and Ice Bear go in search of the "perfect tree" alluded to in the episode's title.

The home decorations are at most a B-plot (really they're more of a series of recurring gags), while …

The Star (2017)

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At this point, I'm fairly certain the entertainment industry has invested more time in trying to tell the story of the donkey who attended the birth of Christ than the story of Joseph and Mary.

While this attempts to wedge in a bastardized version of the nativity, The Star continues this tradition by focusing its attention on Bo, a donkey with big dreams of one day joining the royal caravan and doing something important. His friend, Dave (a dove), also plays a role, as does Ruth, a sheep obsessed with following the star of Bethlehem.

Opposing them are an assassin sent by Herod and his two hunting dogs.

I'll admit I kind of like the idea that a bunch of kids are going to be devastated when they learn there's no canonical justification for a bulky cave-troll getting pushed off a cliff by a flock of sheep. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Or am I? There's really not a lot to say about this in terms of plot, because - spoiler alert - it's mostly just the goddamn n…

Star vs. the Forces of Evil: "Stump Day/Holiday Spellcial" (2017)

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Hey, it's a fantasy analog Christmas episode! I love those! Where to start, though.

Star vs. the Forces of Evil is an animated show that I quite enjoy. The eponymous Star Butterfly is a princess from a fantasy-esque dimension. Her primary traits are recklessness, enthusiasm, and immense magical power channeled through the wand she received from her mother (Queen Moon Butterfly) on her 14th birthday. At the beginning of the series, she's sent to Earth as a sort of exchange student so she can practice her magic without burning down the kingdom. On Earth, she lives with the Diaz family and meets her best friend, worrywart/practical guy and karate enthusiast, Marco Diaz.

In season three, by the time this episode takes place, Star and Marco are living in her parents' castle in the kingdom of Mewni. And it's Stump Day!

Stump Day

Stump Day is obviously Christmas; it's a winter holiday with all the decorations and carols and forced good cheer. According to the explanation …

Trolls (2016) and the Trolls Holiday Special (2017)

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We watched the Trolls Holiday Special and walked away with one big question: Is Trolls a Christmas Movie? After we got around to watching the movie itself, we decided the answer is ehhh... not really? Probably not?

However, its one holiday element is unique enough that we wanted to catalog it.

The movie Trolls (based somehow on the plastic dolls from back in the day) is a surreal confabulation of light, color, and pop music. The trolls are small and brightly colored, and the favorite snack of a larger creature that looks much more like your stereotypical common troll. These "Bergens" believe that the only way to be happy is to essentially steal the trolls' happiness (by eating them).

However, (and this is where the holidays come in) they only eat trolls once a year, on a holiday called Trollstice. Other than being a pun on solstice, Trollstice has very little in common with Christmas though. There is one very early scene in which the bergen prince wakes his father on Tr…

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

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I knew going into this movie that despite the title, it wouldn't exactly be a straight adaptation of the book. However, I was surprised how many elements of the well-researched biography made it into this somewhat fantastical film. Plus the heart of the work, the enthusiasm for the subject, definitely transferred.

The movie is a dramatization of the writing of A Christmas Carol with a large dollop of artistic license. I think the liberties taken with the truth are mostly reasonable for the sake of drama, but they are certainly present. For example, it's true that Charles Dickens' father always had trouble with money, that he was always asking for loans and sometimes selling Charles' correspondence, etc. without his knowledge. They did not, to my knowledge, reconcile over the same Christmas when A Christmas Carol was written. A Christmas Carol, along with much of Dickens' other work, was influenced by the times he had worked as a boy when his father was in debtor&#…

"Home" for the Holidays (Dreamworks 2017)

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This straight-to-Netflix special spins off of the show Home: Adventures with Tip and Oh, itself a spin-off of the movie Home. It's not awful, but neither is it heartwarming or coherent.

The premise is that Tip (who I remember speaking like a girl and not a stylized stereotype in the movie) realizes that this will be Oh's (her alien friend) first Christmas to celebrate. (I guess last Christmas was the invasion?) So she gets excited telling him about all the fun things to do and see.

There are a LOT of songs in this special. Erin liked more of them than I did, although I admit that the wackiness is strong and fun in some of them.

Unfortunately, everything between the songs is thin pretext to get us to the next song. I'll talk about this more in a moment.

Tip takes Oh into town to see the decorations. On the way, they're sidetracked by a bunch of boys who are apparently recurring antagonists. But now they're filming a "celebrity holiday special" in an attem…

A StoryBots Christmas (2017)

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When we finished watching this new special from Netflix, we were left with a conundrum. Had we just experienced a kids show with a surprising scattering of subversive humor and references? Or a hit-and-miss parody of children's entertainment? Or a piece of tedious moralizing aimed at the very very young?

If it sounds like all those things couldn't possibly be contained in one 25-minute special, you understand why we were perplexed. We didn't hate it, but we didn't enjoy it either. We spent most of it staring at the television, heads slightly cocked to one side, saying, "Huh?"

The best I can put together without doing any research is the Storybots are animated characters from a children's series of the same name, and they answer questions from videos of young kids. They live in a place that is either another dimension or a hollow-earth world, which is connected to Earth via a series of vacuum tubes. In their own world, they're two-dimensional animatio…

Will and Grace: A Gay Olde Christmas (2017)

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Despite being off the air for a decade, Will and Grace was recently resurrected by NBC. Let this be a lesson to you - never assume the monster is dead. Even if you think you saw its body, even if there's no conceivable way it could have escaped alive... always be ready.

The Christmas episode is sort of a dream sequence/flashback to four characters in 1912 played by the cast. There's a brief frame story involving the actual characters and the bathroom of a historical society, but none of that's actually relevant.

The dream sequence is set at Christmas. Karen's alter-ego is a poor Irish immigrant raising a large family in a dilapidated apartment owned by a rich landlord (Will). Jack is a sailor boarding with Karen, and Grace is married to Will.

The plot basically boils down to Will wanting to throw Karen out at Christmas until Jack sleeps with him to change his mind.

That's... that's it. It's stretched out to fill thirty minutes and padded with jokes about I…

A Christmas Prince (2017)

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A Christmas Prince is Netflix's new tween-friendly movie that proves the internet giant is capable of competing in the crappy made-for-TV realm typically dominated by Hallmark. Personally, I kept hoping a few characters from A Princess for Christmas would show up in cameos, but no dice. Maybe they can make a sequel where their nations go to war or something - I hear shared cinematic universes are all the rage these days.

You should be able to figure out at least sixty percent of the movie from the title, but I'll throw you a bone. The movie opens to a montage of New York just before Christmas. I often find myself wondering if there are film companies that send people out every time it's snowing in Manhattan in December and start filming for the sole purpose of selling that footage to productions looking for generic shots of flakes falling in Rockefeller Plaza. There must be, right?

Amber, the movie's protagonist, dreams of one day making it big, but for the time being…

DC Holiday Special 2017

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I picked up DC Comics' Holiday Special this year, but it's kind of a rip-off. Unlike the pleasant surprise of last year, most of the tales in this one feel cramped and one-note.

The 90ish-page special opens and closes with a frame story of Clark Kent and Constantine in a bar, arguing with "Bibbo" Bibbowski over whether Superman (or anyone) is really making a difference in the world. Bibbo's an optimist and reassures Clark with a bunch of stories. Not that the stories which follow make any sense in that context.

Most of the stories are just too short to have any impact. I was thinking that I would have rather they had cut one or two and let the others be longer. However, it's not actually that they're all short on space; some of them just aren't paced well for the space they have.

Worst of the bunch: 

There's a weird, surreal, fatalistic Swamp Thing piece that doesn't end with much. Something called Atomic Knights wasn't so terrible in itse…

A Very Pentatonix Christmas (2017)

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Now, I like vocal music, and I like a cappella music. But when it comes to Christmas, I am over Pentatonix. They're good at what they do, but I think much of their stuff blurs together, and it's incredibly overplayed.

Like most variety-show style holiday specials, this was mostly boring.

The opening wasn't terrible. For once, Jay Leno was actually amusing as he stubbornly refused to recognize the singers as anyone famous. The rest of the show alternated between songs on stage in front of an appropriately adoring crowd, songs on stage with guest singers, and short "comedic" bits filmed separately.

The Pentatonix crew seem nice enough, but they are singers, not actors, and they felt stilted and awkward whenever they had to deliver a transition. I was most amused by the fifth guy. One of the members of the group dropped out earlier this year, and apparently, the new guy hasn't been accepted/made official yet. They introduced him separately, and he quietly disap…

Book Review: If the Fates Allow

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If the Fates Allow
Edited by Annie Harper, 2017

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

Premise: Five stories of love, hope, and forgiveness at the holidays.

Do you need some warm and fuzzy holiday cheer? Do you love love?

This new collection features five LGBTQ holiday romances that make your heart feel full of sugarplums. I smiled and sighed and giggled. It's seriously sweet, without being too sweet.

The first author, Killian Brewer, starts off strong with "Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree." Marcus wants his first Christmas with his boyfriend to be perfect, and his grandmother's friends are there to help.

"True North" by Pene Henson follows a WNBA star who goes home for the holidays with a friend, only to navigate her family's misguided assumptions and her high school crush.

Erin Finnegan brings us "Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grill," in which a young political advise…

Spirit - Riding Free: Lucky and the Christmas Spirit (2017)

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I have never seen the Dreamworks animated movie Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron, but Wikipedia tells me that the point was that it was about a horse whose rightful place was running free, untamed by man. So I'm not sure why the Netflix spin-off series follows a girl who befriends a wild horse (also named Spirit) such that he follows her around and hangs out in town all the time. Seems... wrong.

But hey, there's money in dolls that ride horses.

We also couldn't figure out when this takes place. The lack of cars, one-room schoolhouse, and prevalence of farming seems to imply a vague "frontier" time, but the clothing and the writing seemed plausibly modern. Based on this episode, we decided that it could take place anytime between the 1880s and the 1980s, but if someone pulled out a cell phone, we wouldn't be that surprised.

The episodes seems to follow the lead girl, her friends, Spirit, and the friends' horses as they go on inoffensive Babysitters-Club…

Book Review: Santa's Husband

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Santa's Husband is a children's book where the Plump Jolly Old Elf is portrayed as a black man who's so busy, his white husband fills in for him at the mall, leading to some confusion as to his identity. If that premise doesn't intrigue you, you're reading the wrong blog.

I stumbled across a link to an interview with the writer, Daniel Kibblesmith, that included some shots of AP Quach's artwork. Between those and the description, I was sold.


The book is thirty-two pages, and there's no real plot or story. It's more a series of kid-friendly pictures coupled with text introducing you to Mr. Claus, Santa's husband. Like a lot of children's books, it reads like a series of comic vignettes.

It's a fantastic reimagining of Santa and his operation, and the relationship between Santa and Mr. Claus is sweet and touching. Towards the end, it offers a brief introduction to multicultural holiday traditions that's refreshingly diverse.

The writer ant…

Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017)

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We covered Frozen back when it came out, despite some disagreement on whether it should count as a Christmas movie. (We've since decided it should be classified as Christmas in July.)

But with this new special there's no room for disagreement or confusion. It's Christmas in Arendelle.

The premise is that it's the first holiday season since the events of the movie, and so it's the first opportunity that royal sisters Anna and Elsa have for a holiday celebration both in public and together.

They decide to throw a party, but after a public ceremony, the local folks all have their family traditions to get back to. The sisters realize that their lives have been so circumscribed by hiding Elsa's powers that they don't really have any traditions of their own. Olaf sets out to save the day by collecting traditions from the townspeople. Naturally, complications ensue.

I loved this. I sat through it with a big stupid grin on my face the whole time. I liked the story…

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return: The Christmas That Almost Wasn't (2017)

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If you haven't tried the new episodes of MST3K, available on Netflix, you should. They are a lot of fun, they keep what worked about the original formula while adding new twists, and you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that one of my life goals is now to have as much fun as Felicia Day is having every second she's on screen.

The cast features a who's who of the geek-culture parts of the internet, with Day and Patton Oswalt as the recurring villains and brief guest appearances including folks like Neil Patrick Harris, Mark Hamill, and Wil Wheaton. I've watched 12 episodes and I'm still amused by the inclusion of commercial bumpers as if the show were made to have commercial breaks.

These episodes have more ongoing plot in the scenes that break up the movies than I remember from the original show, but I probably never saw more than one episode in a row before. This episode in particular is building toward the season finale.

So make some popcorn and…

Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special (2017)

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The second most surprising thing about Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special is that's it's got a surprising amount of Christmas in it (the most surprising, obviously, is that it's actually worth watching, but I'll get to that in a moment).

This is a holiday special produced as a collaboration between Comedy Bang! Bang! and The Lonely Island. Blending together elements of old-fashioned Christmas specials, musical parodies, telethons, sketch comedy specials, and some 90's nostalgia, it sort of feels like a series of SNL music videos expanded into a short movie with a frame story.

The plot is pretty thin, but Santa Claus plays a crucial rule (hence this write-up). The elves made too many toys, so Saint Nick enlists Bolton's help, hoping that a Bolton Valentine's Day special will result in 75,000 more pregnancies and by extension 75,000 new babies born before Christmas. The special's opening number, "Ten Months 'Til Christmas…