Posts

Showing posts with the label Comedy

Shazam! (2019)

Image
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 "Captai…

Santa Jaws (2018)

Image
Santa Jaws is a made-for-TV Syfy comedy/horror movie about a magical Christmas shark targeting a specific family during the holidays. So... basically it's an unofficial remake of Jaws: The Revenge. Okay, that's not really true - this honestly has more in common with Krampus than Jaws, and it probably owes more to Stranger Things than either. I figure it's a flip of the coin whether this started with someone coming up with the punny title or listening to the Duffer Brothers talk about how they envisioned the Demogorgon as a shark while making season one.

Shockingly, this has a plot. The main character is Cody, a high school student with dreams of becoming a comic artist. Along with a friend, he's created a one-shot story about "Santa Jaws," a great white shark which devours an evil Santa and wears his red hat on her fin.

His family, however, doesn't seem to understand him. To them, he's just an angsty, inactive teenager unable to fit in. When his prin…

In the Bleak Midwinter (US Title: A Midwinter’s Tale) (1995)

Image
There are many Christmas movies about families, and many about found families. This delightful black-and-white dramedy from Kenneth Branagh shows that the bonds between the members of a theater company are every bit as dysfunctional and poignant as any other family, if a bit more dramatic.

This is a movie that rewards close attention. It’s absolutely hilarious, but many of the jokes, and nearly all of the character beats, are played so straight and subtle that you’ll miss important details if you’re trusting the movie to telegraph when something is funny.

It also rewards some familiarity with theater people and their habits, although I think it would be enjoyable even without that context. It has a lot in common with the 2003 Canadian television show Slings and Arrows - I suspect this film was an inspiration for that series.

The movie follows Joe, an unemployed actor nearing the end of his rope. He talks his agent into helping him bankroll a passion project: an experimental Christmas…

Christmas in the Clouds (2001)

Image
Modern romantic comedies are hard to do well without either deconstructing the format or tossing in elements from contrasting genres. Christmas in the Clouds takes neither of these paths - at its core, it's just a romcom. It's fundamentally absurd, funny without being hilarious, and almost too sweet.

But I'll be damned if it wasn't charming. This one works.

It helps that it's set a long way from the typical locations these movies play out in. It's also featuring a very different cast: with only a couple exceptions, every character (and actor) is a Native American.

The movie's two leads are Ray and Tina. Ray manages a ski resort owned by his tribe. He's expecting an anonymous reviewer from an influential guidebook to stay over Christmas and write up the resort. When a woman (Tina) shows up traveling alone from New York, his staff assumes they've identified the guide. They give her the best room and bend over backward to make her stay comfortable.

Ti…

Prince of Peoria: A Christmas Moose Miracle (2018)

Image
Prince of Peoria is a new Netflix series attempting to replicate the formula of Disney's tween-focused sitcoms. Which means, right off the bat, it's going to be bad. That being said, it's sort of trying to be bad, so that makes it... still bad, but maybe successful?

The premise of the series - at least insofar as I've been able to tell - is that the teenage prince of a fictional island nation is roommates with an American, and they're living together in a bowling alley. So... Perfect Strangers meets Coming to America meets Boy Meets World.

It's certainly ambitious - and bizarre. Tonally, it's mostly farcical due to the absurd customs of the titular prince. In addition, he's accompanied by a bodyguard of... questionable mental ability. Actually, several characters are played as comically idiotic.

The series sidesteps a lot of issues by casting white actors using British accents as the exotic foreigners and a diverse cast as the Americans. Using British …

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

Image
Alright, cards on the table. This is one of those movies where spoilers are going to matter. But before we can get to things that shouldn't be spoiled, we need to address a handful that should. And by that, of course, I'm talking about the elements of this 1942 comedy that don't play so well in 2018.

We've got a couple brief but not minor racist sequences, a touch of misogyny, and at least one moment where - despite the anachronistic impossibility - you almost expect a character to pull out a smartphone, open Twitter, and type #MeToo. The moments in this movie that aged poorly aged very poorly.

But if you can look past them, the rest of this is a hilarious, fascinating, and unique holiday film. I'll get to why in a moment, but first I have to deliver on my promise:

*Spoiler Warning*

If you like old movies - hell, if you like comedies in general - this is worth tracking down. The less you know going in, the more fun you'll have with each twist and turn. And if …

Neptune's Daughter (1949)

Image
This is not, by any reasonable definition, a Christmas movie, but we're going to cover it anyway. Why? Because while Neptune's Daughter isn't a Christmas movie, it had a significant impact on Christmas tradition, namely by introducing the song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to the world.

Baby, It's Cold Outside has been debated heavily in recent years, and this year's no different. It's arguably become the single most controversial holiday song in existence. Rather than retread points others have made, I thought it would be interesting to go back and actually look at it in its original context.
Okay, this wasn't actually its original context. Before being sung by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams on the big screen, it was sung privately by Frank Loesser and Lynn Garland at dinner parties. If anyone has a time machine I could borrow, I'd love to go back and hear it performed in that context, as well. I'll also need to borrow a tux. And…

All I Want for Christmas Is You (2017)

Image
Oh, great. Someone else thought basing a kid-friendly animated special on a romantic Christmas song was a good idea.

Okay, first let’s be clear. I actually like this song. It’s sappy as heck, but it’s bouncy and fun and easy to sing. But it is clearly about a lover. Not a dog. I mean, we love pets and all, but this is a bit much.

The special is based on Ms. Carey’s book of the same name, also based on the lyrics to her hit song. It’s about a little girl named Mariah and her Christmas wish for a puppy. The Mariah of the special has some things in common with the actual Mariah, but this is clearly much more fiction than memoir.

Anyway, Mariah wants a puppy more than anything, but her dad is allergic and her mother is a neat freak. Her grandmother brings her to the pet store, however, and introduces her to a dog. Quickly dubbed “Princess,” this dog is small but no longer a puppy, well-trained and hypoallergenic. Mariah begins an all-out campaign to convince her parents to let her adopt …

A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)

Image
I never saw the original Bad Moms, though it's worth noting that the synopsis on Wikipedia makes it sound as though it has something resembling an actual plot, which already sets it above its holiday sequel.

Usually, when I say a movie is difficult to describe in terms of genre, it's a compliment. In most cases, I'm saying a movie transcends boundaries or exists in its own space. Sadly, that's not the case here. A Bad Moms Christmas is a mangled mess of tones, ideas, and tropes. It attempts to be three movies in one, and I'm not even referring to the three distinct storylines following three grown women and their mothers.

That would have been a far better approach - write one woman's story as a farce, the second's as a light comedy, and the third's as a grounded drama - then play with blending these tones when the characters come together. That could have been interesting.

Instead, they just kind of write each scene using one of three tones. If there&#…

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Best Gift Ever (2018)

Image
After eight seasons, a theatrically released movie, a series of spin-off movies and shorts, comic books, and soundtrack albums including a non-canonical Christmas album, you’d think My Little Pony had done everything. But what it hadn’t done until this year was a holiday special.

Best Gift Ever is that hour-long (45-ish minutes) special, and I’m happy to report that it’s so good that we’re thinking of adding it to our standard holiday rotation. It’s charming, funny, and sweet. It features interlocking plotlines that build on everything we know about these characters without being so complicated that you have to have seen every episode to understand. It’s on Netflix, and if you’re a fan of the show, go check it out now, before I get into the plot.

It takes place either the day after the season eight holiday episode or the next year, depending on how much handwaving you want to do around the end of that episode. (The multi-species student characters featured in that episode are seen br…

Nailed It! Holiday! (2018)

Image
Nailed It! Holiday! is the third season of a tongue-in-cheek baking game show streaming on Netflix. The title and premise reference the meme in which abject artistic failures attempted by amateurs are ironically celebrated. In keeping with that theme, each episode (with one exception) features three amateur bakers who compete for $10,000 cash.

We watched through all seven episodes in this holiday-themed season. I know we typically break these out into episode-by-episode chunks, but the structure doesn't change from one to the next, and - aside from a few thematic shifts and guest judges - there's not a lot to discuss. With a few exceptions, everything kind of blends together.

I'll get to those exceptions in a moment, but first I want to touch on the season (and presumably series, though these are the only episodes I've seen) as a whole. To its credit, it's nowhere near as negative as the premise implies. Yes, the contestants are trying (and failing) to recreate co…

Office Christmas Party (2016)

Image
Office Christmas Party was an R-rated holiday farce, which at this point is really a sub-genre in itself. Blame the success of Bad Santa if you like - I'm pretty sure at least one of these has been made every year for the last decade or so.
This one falls somewhere near the middle of the pack. If you can make it through the first two acts, the film's climax is actually quite a bit of fun, but getting there is a commitment. Nothing in here is awful, but until the plot fully spirals out of control, it's fairly tedious.
And...
I feel like I've written this before. I mean, this is basically what I said about A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas: the set-up was boring; the payoff was solid. Same with The Night Before (though that didn't take quite as long to pick up). I guess it's a common issue with these movies.
Let's get to the premise. It's about, well... an Office Christmas Party. Okay, there's a little more meat, but not much. The party is being t…

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Chapter 11: A Midwinter’s Tale (2018)

Image
A Midwinter’s Tale is, depending on your point of view, either the eleventh episode in the first season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or the series’ holiday special. It continues the plot of season one while adding the usual seasonal tie-ins you’d expect from a genre show’s Christmas episode.

First, a little about the series as a whole, since I’ve got a few things I want to get off my chest. It started out extremely promising, pulling in elements from John Hughes and 50’s Americana, then blending that with surprisingly dark horror elements. It was never great, but it was intriguing… for a couple episodes. Then it did something I didn’t expect.

It dropped everything but the horror and devolved into a Buffy clone. Everything unique about the tone and setting got sidelined to focus on the macabre, horrific elements. And, for what it’s worth, it wasn’t a bad facsimile of Buffy’s later seasons. There were some fun moments and cool visuals, and some of the characters were neat. But…

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Image
The Shop Around the Corner is an extremely influential black and white romantic comedy. It's based on the same source material that was updated and adapted into "You've Got Mail," which I should probably watch one of these days.

Like most movies of its era (or at least the ones that have endured), The Shop Around the Corner is a bit complicated. It's well regarded - Rotten Tomatoes has it at 100% - but it's also dated. Do I even need to say that the gender politics in a movie made in 1940 are less than ideal? I suppose they could be a lot worse. The male lead manipulates and lies to the woman for half the movie, and in the end, she's just glad to end up with him. But aside from that, she's generally portrayed as intelligent and capable. The premise requires that the two fall in love with each other's minds, rather than their bodies, though there are definitely some awkward jokes around their concerns as to what their mysterious love interests loo…

The Simpsons: Holidays of Future Passed (2011)

Image
This episode from the twenty-third season of The Simpsons was originally intended as the series's finale, in effect book-ending the holiday special that served as the pilot.

Holidays of Future Passed opens with a Christmas-themed intro, followed by a brief Thanksgiving sequence that transitions into a Christmas photo, which in turn transitions into a montage showing the family growing older over the years. This may have been my favorite part of the episode, honestly - there are numerous clever jokes hidden in this sequence, and I found the vignettes of these characters aging endearing.

When we catch up to the present (or more accurately the future), Bart is a 40-year-old renting an apartment in the ruins of his old elementary school. He's a deadbeat father to a pair of boys who typically live with their mom but are sent to him for the holidays.

Lisa is doing marginally better - she seems to have a successful career and a relatively okay marriage (she's married to Milhouse…