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Showing posts with the label Erin Snyder

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

A New York Christmas Wedding (2020)

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A New York Christmas Wedding opens with narration that feels cribbed from Love Actually and informs you right off the bat there's magic heaven-stuff going on. It introduces some characters who get in an argument, then it leaps ahead twenty years and starts throwing exposition at you to catch you up, letting you know two of the three characters you just met are dead. I found myself pitying actors as they recited dialogue that would have been cut from a soap opera... A question dawned on me: were they doing this on purpose? Were they trying to make something so astonishingly bad it becomes a cult favorite? Were they trying to make a Christmas version of The Room? But as the movie started layering its message, it became apparent the opposite was true. Someone believed in this. They were trying. They wanted to make a good movie... I feel bad about this. I'm no stranger to honestly discussing astonishingly bad movies, but they're typically studio productions where the creatives

Trancers (1984)

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This is, for better and for worse, a pretty good example of what genre movies released in the '80s were actually like. Those of you born after the '80s probably think you know what the decade offered - after all, you've seen Ghostbusters, Terminator, Goonies, Blade Runner, Aliens, and a host of other films. But here's the thing: those were exceptions. Those were the movies that endured. The classics. The vast majority of 80's movies were... not those. They were this. Honestly, that might be generous. Trancers, an extraordinarily weird time-travel-action-Christmas-noir, is pretty good, as far as schlocky B-movies go. It's fun, campy, and inoffensive. I suspect this was trying to be a cult hit but didn't quite pull off the formula. Its weirdness feels a little too intentional, it's not bad enough to be "so bad it's good" but not quite good enough to be some sort of hidden gem. Still, it's a fun bit of '80s camp and a rare entry on our

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

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

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

The Proposition (2005)

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Every now and then we come across a Christmas movie and find ourselves a little ashamed it took us this long to discover it. The longer the blog goes on, the less and less common this phenomenon becomes, but when it does occur, it's all the more embarrassing. This is absolutely one of those times. I assume I must have seen this on numerous lists of movies set at the holidays and most likely glanced at the title, dismissed it as yet another rom-com, and figured we'd get to it eventually. This is not a romantic comedy. It's a highly realistic, brutally violent western set in Australia. It's beautifully shot, darkly tragic, and thematically driven. In short, we're absolutely recommending this - it's by far the best Christmas western we've seen. Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. We're recommending this with a giant caveat: this isn't an adventure film or a campy comedy or anything you'd call "fun." It reflects the horror of the time,

Full-Court Miracle (2003)

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Full-Court Miracle is a 2003 Hanukkah movie produced for The Disney Channel loosely inspired by a true story of a man whose life sounds like it was a hell of a lot more interesting and inspiring than what I just watched. I'll get to the plot in a minute, but first I do want to call attention to one thing legitimately noteworthy about this movie. We've watched and reviewed a handful of movies that were ostensibly about Hanukkah before, but every one of them was really a movie about being Jewish at Christmas. There are some specials and episodes of TV shows that break that mold, but this is the first movie I remember seeing which was unambiguously about Hanukkah itself. I'm still waiting on a Hanukkah movie that's, you know, good , but I view this as a step in the right direction. The movie's main character is Alex Schlotsky, a student at a Jewish private high school. Alex is obsessed with basketball, despite the fact his team consistently loses. For reasons I won

DuckTales: Last Christmas (2018)

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The worst thing I can say about the DuckTales reboot is that nothing about the show feels particularly revolutionary. Obviously, there's no reason it should, but it's the only thing that differentiates it from any of the best animated shows of all time. It's not subversive and dark like Batman TAS; it's not shocking and cerebral like Mystery Inc.; it's not progressive like Steven Universe or as profoundly optimistic as Phineas and Ferb. It's just... nearly perfect in every way imaginable. I apologize for being so harsh. So is this just the level of quality we should expect going forward? If so, I'm not complaining - the DuckTales reboot is fantastic, and I'm loving every minute. It's just... I'm kind of bewildered. Given the significance of the IP coupled with the money thrown at this (I mean, just look at the voice cast), shouldn't this have been shredded through meddling studio notes or something? How the hell did this series not only r

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

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I'm going to try and rate this movie on its own merits, and not dwell longer than necessary on how it holds up against its predecessor. The original was a delightful surprise, a movie that managed to balance its absurd fantasy elements with a relatively grounded story about siblings coming to terms with the loss of a parent. It hit the right notes, maintained the right tone, and worked in ways these movies almost never work. The sequel... doesn't. To be fair, it's not really trying. Instead, this takes the characters from the first and uses them in a conventional fantasy-adventure kid's movie. Tonally, this is closer to Santa Claus: The Movie or maybe the third Tim Allen Santa Clause flick than it is to the first Chronicles. And rating on that scale, it's pretty solid compared to most of its peers. But make no mistake: this hits its mark because it aims lower than part one. Much lower. The frame story this time centers on Kate, returning from the first installment

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

A Christmas Movie Christmas (2019)

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I didn't mistype the movie's name - A Christmas Movie Christmas is a meta made-for-TV Christmas movie in which two sisters are pulled into the world of made-for-TV holiday movies. They realize where they are, have some understanding of the tropes and clich├ęs around them, and try to make the most of their circumstances. It's a fun concept, which is sort of a mixed blessing, because - while this certainly isn't a total loss - it left me more than a little disappointed no one else could take the same premise and do it better. The two protagonists are Eve and Lacy. Eve loves Christmas romances, while Lacy is more pragmatic. After a brief intro, they run into a Salvation Army Santa, give him a few bucks, and make Christmas wishes. Eve wishes for a perfect, old-fashioned Christmas, while Lacy makes her wish silently. No surprise, but it turns out that's the real Santa, and they wake up in "Holiday Falls," an absurdly cheerful village where everyone's full of