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Showing posts with the label Comedy

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

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

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I think I've watched this movie at least three times since the creation of this blog simply to reconsider whether or not it qualified as a Christmas movie (this is, of course, in addition to countless viewings growing up - this is one of my mother's favorite movies, so it was on a lot). Because this is more a New Year's movie than a Christmas one, it never quite passed our litmus test, which I always regretted, since this movie - in my humble opinion - absolutely rules. Well, now we consider New Year's an extension of Christmas (since, you know, it is), so the question's moot, and we can talk about one of the most iconic romantic comedies made in the last four decades. The story, of course, centers around Billy Crystal's Harry and Meg Ryan's Sally, both of whom are awkward and somewhat off-putting. They come across to the audience as eccentric and likeable for the duration of the film, but the movie succeeds in making you doubt you'd enjoy hanging out w

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&#

Retfærdighedens Ryttere [Riders of Justice] (2020)

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Over the past few years, I've been transitioning towards favoring original titles over translations when reviewing foreign films when practical, both in the header and in the text. Well... I've got limits, so I'm going to be referring to this film from Denmark by its English title from here on out: Riders of Justice. Sorry, Danish speakers: your word for "justice" is just a tad too righteous for me to type out. I'm seeing this referred to as an action/comedy, which feels like a bit of a stretch. Maybe it's because I'm overly familiar with American action movies, which almost invariably include comedic beats, but I'd almost classify this as drama before comedy. Sure, it's funny, but - again - I expect that of action films. The presence of trauma is a bit more surprising. Before considering whether it's either - hell, even before I'd bother with "action" - I'd consider this an existential film. Riders of Justice is fundament

Wir Können Nicht Anders [Christmas Crossfire] (2020)

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I'm fairly certain Wir Können Nicht Anders is the first German movie we've looked at. I should probably note you won't have much luck finding this under that title - it was released in the US as "Christmas Crossfire," with the "Crossfire" part written in blood. I understand badly translated titles is kind of a foreign language Christmas movie tradition, but this one feels particularly egregious. While there is some violence and a touch of suspense, this isn't horror or even action: it's a comedy. A dark comedy, certainly, but nothing like that title implies. A closer translation (at least according to Google Translate) would be "We Can't Help It," which makes infinitely more sense. I'll be sticking with the German name, because I can't bring myself to keep typing Christmas Crossfire. Tonally, this bears some similarities to US dark comedies (think movies by Martin McDonagh, such as In Bruges ). If I knew virtually anything a

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

Días de Navidad [Three Days of Christmas] (2019)

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It's been a good time for foreign Christmas miniseries, thanks to streaming platforms being desperate for content. Continuing that trend is Días de Navidad, a three-episode Spanish show chronicling the lives of four sisters across different eras and - to a degree at least - genres. That last part is an aspect I'm probably going to fumble a bit, because I have a feeling there's an entire meta-narrative I'm missing concerning Spain's recent history and popular media. More on all that in a moment - first let's dig into that premise a bit. Actually, before we get to even that, let's start with a spoiler warning and a somewhat tentative recommendation. I liked this quite a bit, but I imagine the style and tone of this series will turn a lot of people off. This leans heavily on its drama and at times almost feels like a soap opera (albeit one with money to burn). To be honest, I'm not sure why this didn't bother me more - normally, I don't give drama t

Metropolitan (1990)

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I'd never watched (or as far as I can recall even heard of) this movie prior to seeing someone on Twitter assert it was a Christmas movie, a claim I initially doubted skimming the synopsis. I became more optimistic watching the trailer, as holiday decorations can be seen in every other shot, give or take. So I decided to give this a chance. First, I can confirm this is absolutely a Christmas movie, at least according to the definitions and litmus tests employed at this site. Granted, all such definitions are inherently subjective, but I think it's worth pointing out that our subjective definition is objectively superior to any other found on the internet. If you disagree, I don't know what to tell you: that's just science. More importantly, this movie is goddamn hilarious, or at least that was my take. Lindsay found moments funny but overall was kind of bored. I suspect that's a common reaction to this film - the humor is an unusual combination of over-the-top and d

ÜberWeihnachten [Over Christmas], Season 1 (2020)

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Over Christmas is a German dramedy miniseries streaming on Netflix. It's getting a little hard to tell, but I believe this was actually a Netflix production, rather than a series they picked up after the fact, though I suppose that's kind of academic, anyway. Supposedly, there's a second season in the works. The story centers around Bastian, a former resident of a small German town who moved to Berlin after high school to pursue a career as a musician. To put it mildly, things haven't been going well - he's still pining over a breakup the year before, he's working in a call center, and his auditions haven't been going well. But despite everything, he's excited to return home for Christmas. So you already know that's going to go poorly. Really poorly, in fact, beginning with the rather abrupt discovery the ex he's pining over shows up to spend Christmas as his brother's guest. Bastian then hooks up with one of his brother's exes, he and hi

Pepper Ann: A Kosher Christmas (1999)

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This episode has actually been on my radar for a while. I have vaguely positive memories of the show being around, even though I was in high school when it premiered, and we're always looking for ways to build up our archive of Hanukkah content. So when I saw that the show landed on Disney+ this year, I sought it out.  Unfortunately, this is just a boring episode of what (judging only by this episode) was a mediocre example of animation in the 90s. In fact, between the fashions, the inline skates in the opening, and the character dynamics and stereotypes on display - this is aggressively 90s content.  The only thing I remembered about the show was the absolute earworm of a theme song, but the animation of the song opens with a few seconds of a dream sequence where the main character is fighting off some... racist caricatures of native people? Yikes. So it's obvious from the beginning that not everything has aged well about this series.  On the other hand, some brief research te

Last Holiday (2006)

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This is one of those cases where a movie's backstory is nearly as complicated as its plot. I'll try to be as brief as possible, but no promises.  The original Last Holiday, a movie I've never seen but probably should, was a 1950 British film starring Alec Guinness as a salesman diagnosed (technically misdiagnosed) with a fatal illness. Believing himself to have only a short time to live, he goes on the titular "last holiday" to a fancy resort, where he befriends a number of wealthy individuals who assume he's higher class than he is. At the end, he learns the truth about his diagnosis... only to get in an accident and die (spoiler: The remake goes with a different ending). The original was not, as far as I can tell, set at Christmas. The term "holiday" strictly referred to a vacation. Jump ahead four decades to the 1990s, and there was a push to remake Last Holiday with John Candy. Apparently, it was relatively close to happening, but the star's

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

Toys (1992)

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I'll be the first to admit our rubric for categorizing movies as "Christmas films" gets more than a little convoluted, particularly when considering movies that only contain a few scenes set around the holidays. As a rule of thumb, this isn't enough to warrant yuletide classification. Most movies like this primarily use the season to mark the passage of time (think the Harry Potter films, American Psycho, Little Women...), which I don't consider sufficient for discussion here. I dismissed Toys years ago for that reason - the movie starts and ends at Christmas, with the rest of the film set in the intervening year. I remembered that much from seeing it a handful of times decades ago (including in the theater, in case anyone thought I was younger than I am). I hadn't really bothered to think much further on the subject or considered there might be more to framing the film with the holidays than telling you a year passes and justifying a December release. Well...