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Showing posts with the label 2020

Godmothered (2020)

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For the past thirteen years, more or less every Disney fairytale has started with the same premise: deconstruct and subvert tropes from "classic" Disney fairytales in a way that's progressive enough to deflect criticism but not so progressive that it threatens the bottom line. This formula was established by Enchanted, which I'd argue remains the high-water mark in terms of actually carrying through on that promise. Godmothered, a direct-to-streaming fantasy/Christmas movie that just premiered on Disney+, is easily the most overt ripoff of Enchanted I've seen to date. The twist is instead of focusing on a princess, the main character is a fairy godmother-in-training trying to help a woman find her "happily ever after." And the theme of the movie is the concept of the happy ending is broken, so fairy godmothers should try to help people be happy, instead of attempting to morph that into a preconceived princess narrative. Note this moral is specifically fo

The Christmas Setup (2020)

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This year saw a seismic shift in Christmas romantic comedies, which had been almost universally heteronormative (the possible exception being Carol , assuming you're willing to use an incredibly forgiving definition of "Christmas movie" and the classic definition of "comedy"). Gay characters have certainly appeared in other Christmas rom-coms, but until 2020, we didn't really see them presented as romantic leads. Depending on how you want to define "Christmas rom-com," this is either the second or third such new movie we've seen, and there's at least one more we didn't get to. That's obviously a great step, though I feel like the impact is undercut by how absurdly late it is. Sitcoms were willing to feature gay characters back in the '90s. By now, you can find representation in cartoon shows. Movies, both driven by big studios and made-for-TV, are behind the times. Still, it's nice to see them taking those first steps. The C

Cup of Cheer (2020)

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Cup of Cheer is a Canadian spoof of generic made-for-TV Christmas movies. Reading that, your first question should be, "Where does it fall on the Airplane/Scary Movie Scale?" The answer is somewhere around the middle - funny at times, far from the best in the genre, but a hell of a lot better than the Scary Movie films. I assume. I never actually watched those. It's at least better than the Scary Movie trailers. Cup of Cheer is at its best when it remembers its premise and adheres to holiday rom-com tropes and conventions, which it does about 60% of the time. It does a decent (though not entirely even) job playing with elements lifted from Hallmark and its imitators. The problem is the other 40%, which goes for generic, lowbrow shock humor - dick and fart jokes, in other words, and I do mean that literally. Hell, there's a character who's basically a walking fart joke - I haven't seen every Hallmark movie out there, but I'm pretty sure that's not lifte

Alien XMas (2020)

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I want to start off by acknowledging there are almost certainly people out there who'd really get a kick out of this new stop-motion Netflix special. There are things to like about this - I'll get to those in a moment - and I really like how dedicated this is to capturing the spirit of 1950s B-movie sci-fi features. But while I like what it was going for, the special fell short for me. And unfortunately, I think this is one of those concepts where "almost good" isn't good enough. The premise relies on a species of alien marauders called klepts, who go from world to world stealing resources. These beings were once brightly colored, but their cruelty transformed them into grey lifeforms, devoid of compassion. So far, so good. One of the two main characters is X, the smallest of the klepts, who's dispatched to the North Pole to construct a device that will nullify Earth's gravity, making it easy for the alien ships to gather up the planet's possessions. T

A New York Christmas Wedding (2020)

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A New York Christmas Wedding opens with narration that feels cribbed from Love Actually and informs you right off the bat there's magic heaven-stuff going on. It introduces some characters who get in an argument, then it leaps ahead twenty years and starts throwing exposition at you to catch you up, letting you know two of the three characters you just met are dead. I found myself pitying actors as they recited dialogue that would have been cut from a soap opera... A question dawned on me: were they doing this on purpose? Were they trying to make something so astonishingly bad it becomes a cult favorite? Were they trying to make a Christmas version of The Room? But as the movie started layering its message, it became apparent the opposite was true. Someone believed in this. They were trying. They wanted to make a good movie... I feel bad about this. I'm no stranger to honestly discussing astonishingly bad movies, but they're typically studio productions where the creatives

Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square (2020)

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The problem with movies like Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square is that, once you watch them, you invariably find yourself in the position of having to write a scathing review of something created by and starring Dolly Parton, who is a national treasure. When we started watching this, we did so hoping - praying, even - that it would be fantastic, and that we'd be able to sing its praises. And, for what it's worth, there are good aspects to this movie. Christine Baranski plays the lead role, and she's amazing. Hell, it might be worth watching this for her alone. In addition, there are some good musical numbers and even more good musical moments. They got a cast who could sing, and it paid off. And for all the issues I'll have with the writing in a moment - just wait for it - this was structured the way a musical should be structured. The songs (or at least the vast majority of them) serve a purpose in the narrative, either moving the story forward, exploring char

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

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We wanted this to be good. I mean, obviously we want everything we watch to be good because it makes for a more enjoyable couple of hours, but Jingle Jangle is a fantasy musical Christmas adventure where most of the cast is black. I'm assuming part of the reason this was made was so kids could have a big Christmas movie with characters who look like them. We really wanted to be able to hold it up, sing its praises, and feel good about ourselves. But dear God is this movie a mess. The movie this most reminds me of, sadly, is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms . Both movies were visually interesting but narratively lacking. For what it's worth, the designs in Jingle Jangle are much more inspired. The sets and costumes are gorgeous, and the visual effects are significantly better than I'd expect from a Netflix production. Aside from a couple sequences where CG body doubles are a bit obvious, this movie looks topnotch. Same goes for the music. Taken out of context, the songs ar

Happiest Season (2020)

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When making a Christmas movie, it's important not to take too much on. It's fine to try and blend a couple subgenres or ideas, but if you were to, say, attempt to fuse three distinct premises into a single movie that's already destined to be unfairly judged as the first mainstream lesbian romantic Christmas comedy, then one of two things is going to happen. Either something isn't going to work and your gingerbread house of cards is going to collapse, or... ...Or you're going to inexplicably pull off a goddamn miracle of a film that puts damn near every other Christmas movie ever made to shame and causes everyone else working in Hollywood to resent you for making them look bad. Yeah, so, if I were director Clea DuVall, I wouldn't expect to get invited to a lot of holiday parties this year, but that's fine because there's a pandemic. Besides, she could probably use some time to start drafting acceptance speeches, because this movie is the real deal. In cas

Dash & Lily: Season 1 (2020)

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Dash & Lily is an 8-episode-long Netflix series set entirely around the holidays. Now that binge-able shows are the norm, I suppose it was inevitable that these would start popping up (I speculated as much while talking about season 3 of Fargo last year). I'll acknowledge I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around what Dash & Lily is, or at least what it's best described as. At the time I'm writing this, I don't know for sure if it's intended as a limited series, the first season of an ongoing show, or what. But even beyond that, it kind of exists in a gray area between television and film. It doesn't conform to either medium, but rather incorporates elements as needed. Which is great, honestly. I sometimes think we get overly attached to conventions to the point that entertainment is forced into boxes it doesn't belong in. The vast majority of what defines a "television show" or a "theatrical film" is based on the limita

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

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I can forgive The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special for being bad, but I can't forgive it for not being bad enough. The original Star Wars Holiday Special , of course, is a thing of legend. It's impossibly bad, unbelievably bizarre, and utterly mystifying. It's never officially been released, and everyone involved seems ashamed. I'm not saying this had  to be that bad, but it had to be... something. Most importantly, it needed to be memorable, and The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is already fading from memory minutes after watching. I guess I better get the plot down before it's gone for good. Set soon after Rise of Skywalker, the special opens with Rey trying (and failing) to train Finn to become a Jedi while their friends are preparing for Life Day. Blaming herself for Finn's lack of progression, Rey follows some advice in an old Jedi tome and heads out in search of a lost Jedi temple. BB-8 accompanies her for some reason. They locate the temple and come across