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Showing posts with the label Comedy

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

White Reindeer (2013)

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White Reindeer is a Christmas dramedy written and directed by indie filmmaker Zach Clark and largely financed through Kickstarter. The only famous actor in this is Joe Swanberg, who directed  Happy Christmas , which was made with a similar focus on realism over conventional narrative. That said, White Reindeer occasionally drifts into the surreal - maybe even the supernatural, though that's ambiguous. As I often do with movies I like, I'm going to cut to the chase and let you know this is absolutely a movie I recommend. By design, it's a tad light on payoff, and it's certainly not a feel-good movie, but it's a fascinating, honest look at how alienating and difficult the Christmas season can be for anyone who isn't in a position to appreciate cheer and goodwill. A few caveats before anyone starts streaming, though: this movie should have a warning upfront for flashing lights, and I don't remember seeing one. I don't think I've ever seen the kind of fu

Holiday Affair (1949)

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The question I most often confront when looking at old romantic comedies is how much of a curve I should grade them on when it comes to overlooking both the use of now cliched tropes and pervasive sexism. Is Holiday Affair good? Well, depending on whether we mean "good for 1949" or "good for 2020," we'll reach distinctly different conclusions. This movie aged... well, fine, relative to most of its contemporaries (or at least the ones I can think of). But it's still dated in ways I found difficult to ignore. I'm not sure if anyone's put together a comprehensive taxonomy for the genre yet, but Holiday Affair would be classified with modern entries like Sleepless in Seattle. The "will they/won't they" tension is built around an illusionary question of whether the character will take a risk for love or settle for the more readily available partner/human obstacle. Really, this is all an update of the old "marry for love or money" c

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

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

Snowglobe (2007)

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This one was quite a rollercoaster. It started off weak, then got progressively weirder through the second act. By the time it hit the climax, the movie had us fascinated with where it would go next. Then the whole thing was resolved through what might be the least satisfying use of deus ex machina I've seen in my entire life. So, "mixed" would probably be a generous summation for this bizarre fantasy rom-com. I'm going to jump right into the story because this thing is bonkers. The protagonist is "Angela," a single woman with a somewhat unhealthy affection for Christmas, which is... honestly kind of refreshing. The vast majority of these start with a gender-flipped Scrooge - going the opposite way is a nice change of pace. She lives in an apartment building owned by her parents, who also own and run the deli she works in. Her mother keeps trying to fix her up with men by moving them into apartments near hers. Angela is annoyed and frustrated with this behav

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

Remember the Night (1940)

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Remember the Night is the third film written by Preston Sturges we've looked at here and, in my humble opinion, the least interesting. It's widely considered a romantic comedy, but I'd argue it's closer to a romantic melodrama with bits of comedic relief. More on that later. The movie opens with Lee Leander (played by Barbara Stanwyck) getting arrested for stealing a bracelet right before Christmas. The prosecutor assigned to the case is John Sargent (Fred MacMurray, two decades before he'd appear in a supporting role in one of the best Christmas movies ever made). When Lee's defense attorney tries to claim she was hypnotized into stealing the bracelet, John uses it as an excuse to have the trial delayed until after Christmas, when the jury will be less reluctant to sentence a woman to prison. John realizes he just ensured Lee will spend the holidays in jail, since she can't pay for bail, so he arranges to have her released until her hearing. But then he d

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

The Christmas Star (1986)

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Before we get into this, I want to start with a spoiler warning of sorts. Sometimes we come across a movie that's surprisingly good for reasons that are best viewed in the context of the movie. This is not one of those times. The Christmas Star isn't good. At all. It's badly paced, dull, and tedious for the vast majority of its runtime.  But then... See, to finish that sentence, I'd need to go into the finer philosophical details of the phrase "so bad it's good," which you'll note is being used as a label for this review. While most movies earning that title win it through a constant level of entertaining badness, The Christmas Star takes a different tack, one I'll discuss later in this review. In the meantime, allow me to propose a drinking game. If you were to sit down to watch this with a bottle of your favorite holiday spirit and take a shot anytime you became bored out of your goddamn mind, you'd be in a *perfect* state to fully enjoy the

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

12 Dates of Christmas (2011)

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I find this movie somewhat perplexing, and not because the premise is a knockoff of Groundhog Day, complete with unexplained temporal paradox. What's weird about this campy made-for-TV romcom is... it's kind of good. Don't get too excited - it's only mostly kind of good; there's still quite a bit that just isn't . Either someone turned in a screenplay too good for the format, and a third got rewritten into schlock, or someone rewrote two-thirds of a schlocky screenplay and forgot to fix the rest. I have no clue which. Granted, that's a hell of a lot better than what you'd expect for an ABC Family Christmas flick. The plot centers on Kate, a woman pining over her ex and planning to try and reconnect for the holidays. Meanwhile, her stepmother has set her up on a blind date, and Kate feels obligated to put in a brief appearance. Before we follow her through her first iteration of interactions with a random cast of people, she briefly faints in a department

Feast of the Seven Fishes (2018)

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Feast of the Seven Fishes is a low budget, '80s-period Christmas dramedy based on a graphic novel written thirteen years earlier by the movie's writer/director. The year of release seems to be up for debate - I'm going with 2018, based on when it appears to have first debuted in festivals, as opposed to its official release a year later. The movie seems to have been fairly well-received critically - it's at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, albeit with only 16 reviews. I'll put my cards on the table now and say this is going to be a dissenting opinion. I'm not sure if critics are seeing something I'm missing or simply grading on a curve, but Lindsay and I had a hard time sitting through this one. It was partially salvaged by some great character work around minor characters and what I assume is an accurate representation of an Italian-American tradition, but that wasn't enough to make up for the movie's shortcomings. Which brings us to the plot and premise. Wh

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