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Showing posts with the label Drama

Mr. Soft Touch (1949)

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This one's going to be weird because I'm still trying to figure out what kind of movie I just watched. Wikipedia describes it as a noir crime, IMDB has it tagged drama and romance (in addition to crime), and until the end, I was certain I was watching a comedy (still not entirely convinced I wasn't, despite... well... we'll get to that). I don't necessarily consider it a bad thing that this is difficult to identify, though I'm torn on whether it's a case of a complex premise or just a disjointed tone. Normally, this is where I'd go read some articles on the movie, but those don't seem to exist. So... I guess I'm just going to do my best here. First, a word of warning. This movie contains a couple details that haven't aged well. First, there's sort of a running plot thread about spousal abuse that at times feels like it's being played for laughs. To be fair, it takes a turn and gets serious later - the movie is making a pointed argumen

A Christmas Carol (1999)

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Watching the 1999 made-for-TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol makes for an odd experience. It boasts an impressive cast, but the production values, script decisions, and effects are impossible to ignore. This really doesn't hold up at all. The role of Scrooge is played by Patrick Stewart. Apparently, he was cast in part because of a one-man play he performed (incidentally, if anyone knows of a way to legally view a recorded version of said play, I'd be fascinated to see it). As a rule, I typically like Stewart, both as an actor and because he just seems like an all-around great human being . Naturally, I'd love to say I thought he works here. Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. His portrayal of Scrooge feels largely one-note, and - to be perfectly honest - more or less indistinguishable from Jean-Luc Picard. My guess is this is in part due to the version of the character created for the one-man show. If one actor's playing numerous characters, it's

Bright Eyes (1934)

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For those of you who - like me - don't have much of a background in 1930s film, this is for all intents and purposes the movie that cemented Shirley Temple as a child superstar. Along with two other films she made the same year, it also netted her an honorary Juvenile Academy Award, the first of its kind awarded. This is also the origin of the song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop," which... is not a mark in its favor, in my opinion. Let's jump into the story. Shirley Temple plays Shirley, a part you'll be shocked to hear was written for her. Shirley is obsessed with aircraft, largely because her late father was a pilot. She spends most of her time at the airfield with her godfather, James, who'd been her father's closest friend. When she's not there, she's living with her mother, a maid boarding with her employers, the Smythes, who are greedy, selfish, and self-obsessed. Also living with the Smythes is their uncle, Mr. Smith, who's standoffish but

Every Time a Bell Rings (2021)

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We're trying to catch up on at least a few Hallmark Christmas movies this year. We mostly dropped them a while ago, in part because we got tired of writing what felt like the same review over and over again, and in part because it became easier to watch similar offerings from streaming services we were already subscribed to. But after stumbling across a few better-than-average offerings, we found ourselves wondering if the production company had improved, or if we'd just seen a few anomalies. Consider this a data point in what will no doubt be a long attempt to answer that question. And this data point is a check in the "anomalies" column. Every Time a Bell Rings is a Christmas dramedy centered around three adopted sisters, now grown up, dealing with unresolved issues, life events, and the loss of their father, all while reviving a childhood tradition in which they complete a scavenger hunt to try and locate a bell family legend claims grants wishes. I'll tell you

The Note (2007)

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We came across this movie on a list purportedly ranking the best Hallmark Christmas movies. We'd actually just seen one from that list we liked, which is absurdly rare for this studio, so had high hopes for this one, which was ranked at #4. Maybe we'd been too hard on Hallmark this whole time. Perhaps we simply saw a handful of bad films and foolishly dismissed them prematurely, we thought. Then we watched The Note, and... nope. Never mind. Okay, let me walk that back a bit. First, I have actually seen good movies - plural - produced for Hallmark's various channels. I do suspect I've been too quick to group these together: good or bad, I'm discovering they occupy a wide variety of genres and styles. And I remain optimistic that I'm going to see more good - or even great - films with Hallmark's branding. But it's not this one. That's not to say The Note is awful. It's fine for what it is, but we're talking 2007 TV drama quality. Not even TV mo

Entertaining Christmas (2018)

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Among our various yuletide pursuits this year, we're trying to catch up on a number of Hallmark movies. Basically, we realized we'd more or less neglected the company for the better part of a decade due to, well, having better things to do with our lives, and - because there's obviously something wrong with us - we decided we should watch a handful of these in an attempt to recalibrate. So far, it's not going particularly well. That's not to say these movies are especially bad; the ones we've seen so far are a modest step up from those we saw back when we started this blog. It's just that I don't feel as though I'm learning much from the experience. I'd hoped to get a sense of the company's output by watching four or five movies, and it's starting to feel like I'd have to sit through forty or fifty before actually understanding what the hell these are evolving into. To be clear, we don't have that kind of time this year. Or at lea

A Christmas Carol (1984)

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The 1984 adaptation of A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott feels like it's trying to be difficult to categorize. Released theatrically in England and on TV in America, I'm not even sure whether to consider this a full movie or a made-for-TV production. It's also abnormally difficult to bucket the genre: this straddles the line between horror and drama to an unusual degree. Taken as a whole, this is one of the better modern adaptations I've seen. It covers the full scope of the story, the casting is good, and it's visually impressive. That said, I don't think it leaves as much of an impression as the best of the lot. Essentially, it's difficult to find anything significant to fault, but it's nowhere near my favorite of the bunch. Starting with the opening shot, the movie looks good. Rather than spending their budget on expensive sets, they simply filmed in a market town that hasn't significantly changed since the 1800s. Between that and some go

Hell's Heroes (1929)

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As far as I can tell, this is the earliest feature-length Christmas talkie that still exists. There's a movie released earlier in 1929 called "Auld Lang Syne" which I'm assuming was holiday themed, but no copies are believed to have survived, and I can't find so much as a synopsis online. If anyone knows anything about that movie or any other Christmas movies from the 1920s with sound, please   reach out . But as far as extant Christmas movies featuring synchronized sound with talking, this appears to be the first. I know that sounds like a lot of qualifiers, but I think the addition of synchronized sound - particularly sound with dialogue - is functionally the boundary between an earlier art form and modern movies. I don't want to disparage silent pictures in any way: they are a fascinating medium in their own right, and I have every intention of tracking down more silent Christmas films. But watching them is a very different experience than watching a film w

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) [Revisited]

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I'm not certain I need to revisit this at all. Rereading my review from 2014 , I find my opinions haven't shifted much on rewatch. That said, having seen numerous other versions over the past few months has altered my perspective a bit. And, while I'm still not the world's biggest fan of this, its place in the history of Christmas specials kind of demands it be included in this year's project of watching every significant adaptation. I'll start with something positive I only glossed over in my initial review: Jim Backus, the actor who voices Magoo/Scrooge, delivers a phenomenal vocal performance here. He manages to simultaneously stay in character as Mr. Magoo while that character plays Scrooge, and through it all his performance is faithful to Dickens' work. I harped a great deal in 2014 on the downsides of doing this within a frame story of a Broadway production (and I'm going to again in a moment), but Backus deserves credit for pulling it off without

Northpole (2014)

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As far as I can tell, Northpole was an attempt by Hallmark to create a family-friendly holiday franchise in the vein of Disney. The fact you've almost certainly never heard of it offers a pretty good summary for how that went. They actually did make a sequel the following year: maybe we'll get to that one of these days. This actually isn't our first experience with the brand. To accompany the movie, Hallmark made a number of tie-in products, most   of   which   we bought and reviewed  (I'll talk about some of those later). This is part of the reason I think Hallmark was trying to turn this into something big: they clearly invested in this idea. Let's talk about what that idea actually was. In the context of the movie, Northpole is a magical city where Santa and his elves live. It's powered by magic snow, which falls from the northern lights, which in turn are powered by happiness. Or something. Look, the idea is that Northpole creates toys so kids will be happ

Christmas Mountain: The Story of a Cowboy Angel (1981)

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I'm not at all clear whether this Christmas western/fantasy from 1981 was made for TV or if it was released theatrically. I assumed the former while watching, as it looked formatted for that media, but I came across something implying this may have been due to higher-quality versions being lost (at least for a time). Regardless, this feels like a television movie from the '80s, though - for what it's worth - a relatively good one. Take that as a compliment or insult, depending on your impression of TV from the era. I should note the movie occasionally appears listed as just Christmas Mountain OR The Story of a Cowboy Angel, though both appear on the title screen. There also appears to be a little confusion over the date, with some sources listing 1980 and others 1981. The latter seems more reputable and matches the stamp on the streaming site carrying it, so that's what I'm going with.  The movie appears to have mainly been the creation of western star Mark Miller,

Christmas at the Golden Dragon (2022)

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Depending on how you're approaching it, Christmas at the Golden Dragon could alternatively be described as a departure for Hallmark Christmas movies or a fairly by-the-numbers installment. It is, ultimately, a paradox in that respect: it looks and feels like a generic TV movie, but differs from others I've seen both structurally and in several details. I should pause here to acknowledge I'm not exactly a connoisseur when it comes to these films. While I've seen a somewhat absurd number of theatrically released Christmas movies and more than my fair share of assorted television movies, I'm actually trying to catch up on Hallmark specifically. So take that last paragraph with a grain of salt. The main way this differs from the usual Hallmark fare is it lacks any kind of central lead or core story. Christmas at the Golden Dragon feels roughly modeled after ensemble films like Love Actually. If anything, this might push the concept a little further, in that Love Actuall