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Showing posts with the label 2019

A Christmas Carol (2019)

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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)

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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

Elf Pets: Santa's St. Bernards Save Christmas (2018), A Fox Cub's Christmas Tale (2019), Santa's Reindeer Rescue (2020)

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I want to start by saying upfront: you should discourage your kids from watching these. I'm not joking. And I'm not saying that because these are awful - they are, but that's the least of their problems. These specials cross a line between obnoxious and inappropriate in how they market their toys to kids. I'm not just talking about using animation as an extended ad, either -- this goes way beyond GI Joe or Transformers. GI Joe never explicitly told kids owning their crap would help save Christmas; these specials - all three  of these specials - quite literally convey that message. You want Santa's sleigh to fly? Help by "caring for" one of these three magic toys. I am not exaggerating. I don't recall ever seeing a show or special do anything like this before. With that out of the way, let's talk about the specials themselves, or rather the specials as a group. While all three contain unique characteristics, the overall concept and structure is iden

Santa Girl (2019)

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A minute or two into Santa Girl, I remarked to Lindsay that I'd seen student films with better production values. Ten minutes later, we paused the movie to check whether it actually was a student film. The answer is somehow both no and yes. Santa Girl was produced through a partnership with Shenandoah University. I'm still a little unclear on the specifics, but Shenandoah boasts the majority of the cast and crew are students . It shows! I was honestly a little surprised to learn the movie wasn't written or directed by students, too. Let's talk plot. The story is centered on Cassie Claus, daughter of Santa, reimagined as a calculating, business-oriented yuletide CEO. Cassie is betrothed to the son of Jack Frost, because the house of Santa requires their patronage in order to... Wait. Is this going for a corporate thing or a medieval royalty vibe? Both! Probably should have picked one, because the mixture comes off as incoherent. Regardless, Cassie isn't happy about h

Hjem til Jul/Home for Christmas: Season 1 (2019)

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Hjem til Jul is a Netflix-produced Norwegian semi-romantic Christmas comedy/drama series. As is becoming more and more common, it's produced as a solid block of Christmas entertainment, almost like they surgically removed a holiday episode, regrew it into a full organism, and discarded the rest. Alternatively, you could think of this as a movie that got chopped into episode-length pieces. That might be more accurate in some ways: Hjem til Jul's seasons are six episodes, each approximately 30-minutes long, so at plus-or-minus three hours, it's still within movie-length (though admittedly twice as long as you'd typically find within this genre). Be aware said movie would definitely be rated R. The humor is at times crass and explicit, and while the vast majority of the dialogue is in Norwegian, speakers occasionally switch to English to drop an F-bomb. This review is going to cover the first season - I'll do the second at a later time. Also, I guess there's a thir

Last Christmas (2019)

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So, technically I should probably open this with a spoiler warning, because structurally this is one of *those* movies where the entire plot hinges on a single misdirect, but... here's the thing. If you've ever seen a movie before - quite literally any movie - you will see the twist coming. Not near the end: from the moment the "twist" character shows up. Hell, I mostly figured it out from the trailer. By the time the obligatory realization montage plays and the main character realizes the truth, I literally said to the screen, "You don't have to do this - everyone gets it." But here's a twist you might not have seen coming: I love this movie. I love it unironically. Also, I love it ironically. This might be the first movie reviewed on Mainlining Christmas to earn both a "highly recommended" and a "so bad it's good" label. It feels like someone made a computer program watch 10,000 hours of Christmas movies and spit out a scrip

Black Christmas (2019)

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I watched and reviewed the original 1974 Black Christmas a full decade ago. You can click on that link if you want to, but I'll save you time by revealing the main two takeaways: I hated the original My reviews were crap back then I've since read some pieces that make me think I should probably revisit it, that perhaps quite a bit went over my head. I'm still skeptical I'd enjoy it, but there's a chance I might appreciate it a lot more.  I mainly bring that up to explain that while I'm familiar with the original, I'm in no way attached to it, which is probably for the best, since last year's film is less a remake than a complete reimagining of the premise. There are elements and ideas borrowed from the '70s film, but it's ultimately a new story. The premise this time centers on a sorority at a college founded by a misogynist who studied the black arts. The main characters are a pair of sorority sisters trying to navigate a culture of sexist tra

Christmas Break-In (2019)

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On some level, it's weird there aren't more Home Alone homages. We've seen a few - Unaccompanied Minors was solid, and (apologies in advance for even spoiling there's a connection) Better Watch Out  is easily one of the best Christmas horror movies in existence. But given how large a footprint Home Alone left on the zeitgeist, it's weird there aren't more. I mean, think of how many holiday family comedies National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation spawned. That brings us to Christmas Break-In, a movie that reuses Home Alone's formula to a degree that's almost shocking. The line between homage and knock-off is of course subjective, but this really strains credibility. It certainly wants to be an homage - I spotted numerous shots and moments I'm pretty sure were intended as references - but these felt more like the movie was flaunting its theft of ideas, rather than complimenting the source. That said, if you told me this was originally intended to be

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 clichés 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

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

I Trapped the Devil (2019)

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I Trapped the Devil is a low-budget, direct-to-streaming horror film with a clever premise, some great atmosphere, and a script that could really have used a few more passes before filming. That said, it's fairly good (though not quite great), so if you're into this genre, feel free to drop out now before the spoilers start flying. The plot centers around four characters, and one of them spends more than 99% of the movie off-screen. There are also a pair of cops who show up at the start and end, but they're fairly inconsequential. The three named, significant characters are Matt, Karen, and Steve. Karen is married to Matt, who's Steve's brother, and the couple show up out of the blue at Steve's house on Christmas Eve, expecting him to be happy to see them. There's been some sort of falling out or something, and everyone has secrets. At least, I think they have secrets. None of that really comes up or gets explained: we're just kind of told there&

The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

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The Knight Before Christmas is another of this year's Netflix entries in their growing collection of Hallmark inspired, tween-friendly romantic comedies. Although it deviates from the formula and contains no princesses or royalty, I'd also group it in the sub-sub-genre of "Christmas Princess" films, due to tonal similarities. The premise, that a medieval knight gets transported through time to the present day, where he meets a woman who doesn't believe in storybook romance and convinces her otherwise, feels as though it started with the pun in the movie's title and the rest was haphazardly developed around it. I'm guessing it won't surprise you to hear this thing is, first and foremost, astonishingly stupid, even for this genre. What might surprise you is this: I didn't hate this. I'll get to why in a moment, but first let's synopsize. The knight in question is Sir Cole (played by Josh Whitehouse), a fourteenth-century knight seekin