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Showing posts with the label Adventure

La Befana Vien di Notte [The Legend of the Christmas Witch] (2018)

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La Befana Vien di Notte is a live-action Italian fantasy/superhero/comedy/adventure/children's movie about Befana. I probably shouldn't assume everyone reading this is familiar with Befana: she's a legendary witch who delivers gifts to the kids of Italy on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). The easy explanation is she's "like Santa," which isn't inaccurate, but feels reductive. There's a lot of debate over just how old the legends are and where they come from: I'm not going to get into any of that here. What's important is this idea isn't invented for the movie, and in Italy this would come across like a big-budget Santa Claus movie. The problem we ran into trying to watch La Befana Vien di Notte is that this isn't Italy, and the film hasn't received a proper US release. Amazon has a version up, but the language options are limited. There's of course a dubbed English track, but... Okay, side note. I'm pretty firmly entrenched on th

Sword of the Valiant (1984)

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Sword of the Valiant is an '80s remake of the 1973 movie, Gawain and the Green Knight , made by the same director, largely using the same outline and themes. Please understand when I say it's an '80s movie, I mean that on every level - the decade oozes out of every lighting choice, every haircut, and every music cue. Both Gawain and the Green Knight look and act more like they stepped out of an episode of He-Man than anything in the actual live-action He-Man movie (same goes for the soundtrack, honestly). This is unquestionably a bad movie, and I savored every minute. The plot is functionally identical to the director's previous adaptation (loose adaptation, remember: these movies are really a blend of several Arthurian myths with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight almost serving as a frame). That said, there are several new characters and minor changes to the story. A friar appearing briefly in the '70s movie is given a major role as an eventual companion of Gawain

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

Morozko [Father Frost/Jack Frost] (1964)

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Like a lot of foreign movies we look at, Morozko has a few titles it's been released under in the US. "Jack Frost" appears to be the most common - that's the name from its 1966 release and from when it appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's also sometimes called "Father Frost." I don't think either are horrible, though I'll be sticking with the Russian title, Morozko. First, it's worth noting this is more accurately described as an alternative to a Christmas film. The title character (who doesn't appear until after the halfway point) is one of many midwinter mythological figures loosely tied to Santa Claus. The movie itself is based on a folktale, though it's been expanded and made a bit more kid-friendly. The folktale is pretty simple: two stepsisters live together, with the mother spoiling her bratty biological kid and abusing the other, despite the fact she works hard and never complains. Eventually, the (step)mother makes

Gawain and the Green Knight (1973)

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Seeing The Green Knight (2021) was a good reminder that the root story is set during and thematically linked to the holidays. Obviously, that makes the new movie a Christmas movie, which is why we just posted a pretty extensive review. The thing is, David Lowery isn't the first director to adapt Sir Gawain and the Green Knight into a feature film. In 1973, Stephen Weeks took a swing at the myth. The movie seems to be mostly forgotten - it's most notable as being Nigel Green's final role, as he passed away prior to the movie's release. The other thing about this that makes it somewhat notable is its proximity to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I can't seem to find concrete information about which Arthurian films Holy Grail was directly parodying, but both the timing and content make me suspect this was high on the list. Sir Gawain came out just two years ahead of Holy Grail, so it's likely Python's members saw it while planning their movie. This has title ca

Hilda: The Yule Lads (2020)

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Hilda is an animated Netflix series adapted from a series of graphic novels inspired by Scandinavian folklore. The art style mimics the feel of the comics it's based on, building a world that honestly looks like drawn pictures come alive. Depending on the episode, you might end up seeing something wacky and fun, magical and awe-inspiring, or even a little dark and unnerving. It's an absolutely phenomenal show, beautifully written and animated, and we recommend you watch it at once. Which of course poses a bit of a problem. The holiday episode I'm about to discuss is towards the end of the second season, so while I absolutely recommend it, I'd suggest watching the rest of the series first. This isn't so steeped in continuity that you'll be spoiled or confused: it's just better in context. The main character of the series, unsurprisingly, is Hilda, an adventurous preteen girl who moves to Trolberg, a cross between a modern city and a walled medieval village. T

Trail of Robin Hood (1950)

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Roy Rogers starred in more than a hundred movies, so I guess the laws of probability dictate at least one would be a Christmas flick. That brings us to "Trail of Robin Hood," a movie I wish I could discuss without first going through the exercise of explaining who Roy Rogers was, what his movies were, and why you should care. Actually, I'll field that last one now: you shouldn't. While this is sort of interesting as a cultural artifact, it doesn't hold up 71 years after its creation. In fact, I'd call it a stretch to refer to this as a movie at all. Which brings us back to who Rogers was and why his "movies" are somewhat distinct. I doubt anyone will be shocked to learn that Roy Rogers was a stage name, but if (like me) you've never subjected yourself to any of his movies, you might not realize Rogers is also the main character in the majority of them. You could look at this as an actor playing a fictionalized version of himself, but I honestly d

Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)

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For those keeping track, Home Sweet Home Alone is the fourth  official reboot of the series, as every installment after two has hit the reset button. For those of you who are new here, I should mention we're not big fans of the franchise. That doesn't exactly mean we consider the original bad - it's technically impressive, well shot and edited, and the score is fantastic. There are reasons it's lasted, and I respect it. Respecting a movie, obviously, isn't the same as liking it - none of the earlier Home Alone movies work for me. I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard Disney was going to update the property. A simple remake would have been a hard sell, and they already tried most of the other permutations. Movies 3 and 5 attempted variations on the same premise with new characters, and movie 4 was a loose continuation with a recast Kevin. Home Sweet Home Alone is closer to 3 and 5 - we've got a new lead and new thieves in a familiar situation. This is tec

3615 code Père Noël (1989)

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Occasionally, I have the rare privilege of watching a movie that not only widens my appreciation for the scope of the grander Christmas canon, but potentially explains lingering questions about existing holiday classics. Not only is this one of those movies, it is an absolutely fantastic film in its own right, a horror/action/comedy/adventure in the vein of Rare Exports and Krampus made decades before either of those films. But for the purposes of history, it's more significant that it was made one year after Die Hard and two years before Home Alone. A lot of people have joked about similarities between those films - I've done so myself. But deep down, I always assumed those similarities were ultimately due to similar holiday tropes being used in initially divergent ways that became similar due to the movies' premises. Convergent cinematic yuletide evolution, if you will. After watching 3615 code Père Noël, however, I'm less certain. This 1989 French masterpiece (so, ye

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

Avatar: The Legend of Korra, Book Two: Spirits, "Chapter One: Rebel Spirit" and "Chapter Two: The Southern Lights" (2013)

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I'll try and keep the context brief, because... there's a lot. The Legend of Korra is an animated series that's a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is... it's great. Like, astonishingly great. If you've never seen The Last Airbender, go watch it now (just don't bother with the abysmal live-action movie). It's a fantasy inspired heavily by martial arts movies and the films of Miyazaki. The series is funny, dramatic, and beautiful. Korra is set decades after The Last Airbender, when the main characters of that show are either old or, in some cases, dead (Korra herself is the reincarnation of the titular character of the preceding show). Technology has evolved, allowing the showrunners to remake the world with a steampunk aesthetic. As a whole, The Legend of Korra doesn't live up to its predecessor. To be fair, virtually nothing compares with The Last Airbender, so that's less an indictment of Korra than an acknowledgment of how good Airbender

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

Shazam! (2019)

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Before I get started, I just want to take a minute and acknowledge how surreal it is that you can go to the movie theater this weekend and watch both Captain Marvel and Shazam. Billy Batson and Carol Danvers are two characters I never thought we'd see on the big screen - Batson because he's silly and Danvers because I'd have sworn the one line Marvel would never cross would be putting out a movie with their company name embedded in the title - but here we are. And both of them are good. Really good, in really different ways. But not for different reasons: both Shazam! and Captain Marvel were made with respect and love for the characters being adapted, and it comes through in the finished products. I'll set Captain Marvel aside. Aside from sharing a convoluted history with Shazam! (if you have no idea what I'm referring to, pour yourself a Scotch when you've got an hour to kill and go read the Wikipedia histories on the characters calling themselves "