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Showing posts with the label 2021

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (2021)

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TWO Aardman holiday specials this year? Woo! While Robin Robin featured a slightly different look and style for the studio, Shaun the Sheep is right in their comfort zone: hilarious comedy done with extremely professional stop-motion animation. If you've never seen any Shaun the Sheep, you can jump in at any time. There's a television series, two films, and multiple specials. All of them feature roughly the same premise: Shaun and his sheep pals live on a farm. Shaun is much more intelligent than the farmer knows (as are the other sheep, if less so), and comedy ensues. The farmer (who is an idiot) and the farmer's loyal dog often come up with plans to improve the farm, which often come into conflict with capers run by the sheep and other animals.  And it's all wordless. There's no dialogue in Shaun the Sheep, only mumbles and expressive animal noises. The simplicity lends itself to brilliantly outlandish physical comedy.  This special might be the funniest entry I&#

Hawkeye: Season 1 (2021)

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So far, the Disney+ MCU shows have been something of a mixed bag. I don't think any have been awful, but the level of quality has fluctuated wildly from series to series, with WandaVision being by far the best and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier being the most disappointing. Good or bad, they've all boasted impressive production values and have all delivered some of the quippy dialogue that's become a hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hawkeye joins Iron Man 3 in sporting a Christmas setting. Between the two, I think Hawkeye makes better use of the holidays -  in Iron Man 3, it mainly just felt like a callback to the director's filmography. Here, it serves to heighten the tension, tie in to themes of family, build up a sense of the surreal, and... well... okay, it's also kind of making a bunch of allusions to Shane Black movies, but it's not like I mind. Of course, the Christmas setting also means it's fair game here, so let's dig into the sec

Blown Away: Christmas (2021)

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Netflix had been pushing this on me for a while, and I thought, well, I haven't watched any mediocre reality competition shows this year yet, why not? And that's more or less what I got: a mediocre reality competition show with some pretty art and a few weird, possibly unpleasant quirks. Apparently there have been two seasons of this glass-blowing competition show before this, and this holiday event invited five previous competitors to come back for another shot - so far, so normal for a special (or in this case, a special short season). The host for these four episodes is Bobby Berk of Queer Eye, while professor Katherine Gray is the judge.  The first thing I want to say is that, despite the show's attempts to sneak in little captions or asides that explain specific techniques or tools, I found the footage of the actual glass blowing surprisingly boring. I didn't see enough of any one piece to be able to follow it from inception to completion, and the pieces in progres

Book Review: The Legend of the Christmas Witch

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The Legend of the Christmas Witch By Dan Murphy, Aubrey Plaza, and Julia Iredale  Not to be confused with the mangled English title of the movie, La Befana Vien di Notte, The Legend of the Christmas Witch is a 2021 children's book. The writing is credited to both Aubrey Plaza and Dan Murphy, but Plaza certainly seems to be the face of the project. I say "project" because this feels like something intended to expand, either through sequels or even by transitioning to some other media. Whether it does or not is anyone's guess: this may have some hurdles to climb, because... This thing's going to piss off some people. Maybe a lot of people. I'll cut to the chase: this is a kid-friendly pagan, feminist deconstruction of Christmas and the patriarchy. It doesn't call out Christianity by name, but the message is hard to miss. On top of all that, the end of the book takes a turn that's pretty dark, or at least ambiguously so. So, at the very least, I certainly

Father Christmas is Back (2021)

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I'll admit I haven't tried particularly hard, but a cursory glance provides very little insight into how "Father Christmas is Back," a new British comedy purchased and released by Netflix, actually came to be. The short blurb on Wikipedia only includes vague filming dates - September through November of last year. While that certainly doesn't answer the question, combined with elements in the movie itself - its limited locations, small cast, and the slapdash story - I can't help but wonder if this was sort of thrown together at the last minute. I certainly can't say for certain this was a movie made without a finished script, but I can assure you it absolutely, unequivocally left me with that impression. I assume it goes without saying I didn't like this one. The premise centers on a family with the surname "Christmas" (really), whose patriarch, James Christmas, (played by Kelsey Grammer) abruptly walked out on them decades beforehand on Chri

Santa Inc.: Season 1 (2021)

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Santa Inc. is one of those pieces of media I feel I need a disclaimer before reviewing, as it feels like it was intended to be viewed while high. As I watched this sober, my opinion may be skewed. I should note Santa Inc. is an 8-episode stop-motion series streaming on HBO Max. The premise, as implied by the title, concerns a corporate version of Santa's operation, staffed by magic creatures but (mostly) operating in a capitalist paradigm. If you're planning to watch this, be aware it's intended for mature audiences (though in my experience, shows made for mature audiences tend to be the least mature). I suspect there are plans to continue the series, though I have no idea whether this will build the buzz needed to justify that (I'm guessing between the animation and cast it's not cheap to produce). To be safe, I'm labeling this as "Season 1." Seth Rogen voices Santa, or at least the current holder of that title. He's not actually the main characte

A Castle for Christmas (2021)

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So you're here. That probably means one of the following things is true: You're curious about this movie You've seen it and want someone to confirm or challenge your opinion of it You're one of the handful of friends who still read every article (Hi!) You enjoy our often-sardonic over-the-top reviews/takedowns of rom-coms If you're in the final category, I should warn you that, unlike Erin, I didn't...hate...this one. Now, that doesn't mean it wasn't bad. Because it was. It was badly written, bizarrely shot (although we postulated while watching that some of that may have been pandemic-related), and overall mediocre.  You already know if you're the kind of person who likes these movies. If painfully obvious tropes don't give you stress headaches, and you don't give a fig for linguistic or cultural accuracy as long as there are two reasonably charming characters and a happily ever after, then you've probably already seen it.  I, myself, a

The Green Knight (2021)

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This movie is sitting at the crossroads of several subjects I'm obsessed with, which fascinates me but concerns me on your behalf. I'm not entirely sure how long this review is going to be, but "excruciatingly" isn't out of the question. Because of that, I'm going to approach this out of order and start with a summary of my thoughts in the hopes it will give you enough information to make up your mind about whether or not to watch The Green Knight without having to endure God knows how many thousands of words ranting about Arthurian legends, modern fantasy, myth theory, Christmas media, and the point at which these subjects intersect. The movie is absolutely breathtaking to watch. Everything from the score to the sets to the costumes and makeup is beautifully designed, shot, and edited. This uses new and old filmmaking techniques (including at least one matte painting) to create something that looks and feels truly unique. It's a dream of a fairytale cross

Nisser [Elves] (2021)

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Nisser is a Danish TV series, just six half-hour episodes long, released as "Elves" in the US. It looks and feels a lot like Stranger Things, both in terms of tone and content, which is both a recommendation and a warning not to watch this with young children (teenagers used to horror should be alright, though - this is scary, not terrifying). The premise is rooted in European folklore and tradition, and while the creatures here have been updated with a modern aesthetic, their portrayal isn't entirely subversive. Traditionally, nisser aren't typically this scary or monstrous, but the older stories about them tend to get dark. I'm going to have a lot - and I mean A LOT to say about this, as well as the US title, but I'll save that for the end, so readers bored by the nerdy stuff have the option of checking out. First, a spoiler warning. This isn't one of the cases where the impact depends on some kind of major twist, but I'll be going over the plot in a

8-Bit Christmas (2021)

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If you've seen the trailer, I won't need to explain what this is. The movie is very upfront about the premise: a homage to A Christmas Story that's virtually a remake set in the '80s, with the Nintendo Entertainment System talking the place of the infamous Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. I want to be crystal clear about something before continuing: this is infinitely better than A Christmas Story. Most movies look good compared to that, though - the real question is how well this fares on its own merits. And the answer to that question is pretty well. This is a solid, funny Christmas flick, ready-made to be left on in the background while cleaning, cooking, or disposing of bodies: whatever your holiday traditions necessitate. I think it stops short of greatness, however, due to the ending. I want to acknowledge that I'm not entirely certain about this: the movie hinges on a twist that feels unearned after one viewing but might improve upon r

A Boy Called Christmas (2021)

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Despite its best efforts, A Boy Called Christmas is a fantastic movie. It tries exceedingly hard not to be - there are tonal issues, its themes are out of alignment, the structure is poorly conceived, some of the CG doesn't work - but for all its faults... it still works. Really well, in fact. This is one of the best Christmas fantasy offerings out there. Let's back up and discuss what this is. A Boy Called Christmas is a British movie based on a young adult novel that came out six years ago. I should note I haven't read the book it's based on. Lindsay has, and her review is already up. But this review will be looking at the movie in isolation: I don't care what's changed, nor will I overlook stuff they included just to placate fans. The movie comes off as sort of blend of Harry Potter, the Narnia movies, and Princess Bride, with maybe a touch of Paddington tossed into the mix (though I assume pretty much every British family film is going to feel at least a lit