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Showing posts with the label Fantasy

An American Carol (2008)

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This is one of those movies that's sort of on the boundary of what we'd consider discussing. It's not set at or about Christmas, but depending on your point of view it's either derivative of or based on arguably the most famous Christmas story set in December (we all know the manger thing happened in the fall, right?). On top of that, An American Carol has particular significance to another project I'm working on for later this year. For reasons not even I can explain, I seem to have decided 2022 would be the year I finally watched through the various adaptations of A Christmas Carol, or at least all the significant ones. And while this falls near the low end of the spectrum of both the significance and adaptation metrics, it was released theatrically, so I decided to give it a watch. Set in America in the "present" of 2008, the movie applies the "Christmas Carol" template to the 4th of July and the War on Terror in order to lampoon liberalism. I

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

Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

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As the name suggests, A Carol for Another Christmas is an updated take on Dickens's classic, here intended for the modern world. And when I say "modern," I of course mean modern as of 1964, when it was made. Unfortunately, that's half the problem, as it's more than a little dated now (not just because it's in black and white). Actually, it feels like it might have been a bit dated when it came out, which is the other half of the problem. Let's jump into the story, which follows Dickens's outline pretty closely, at least until the conclusion. The Scrooge analog is "Daniel Grudge," a retired US Commander with a massive amount of influence in politics and media. Standing in for Marley is [checks notes] still just a guy named Marley (feels a little lazy, if I'm being honest). Okay, technically it's "Marley Grudge," Dan's late son, killed in a war. While we're on the subject of characters whose names haven't changed,

A Christmas Carol (2019)

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In a world where multi-season series are now set during the holidays, an actual three-episode miniseries almost feels quaint and old-fashioned, but that's exactly what the BBC's 2019 take on A Christmas Carol is. We've been meaning to watch this for a few years now, but somehow never got around to it until now. And now that we've finally watched this, I can definitely say... it is not what I expected. More specifically, it's completely different than it was marketed, and not just because the teaser made it look kind of good . From everything I'd seen about this, I'd assume it was going to highlight the horror aspects of its source material, which I've long felt get overlooked. But aside from a veneer vaguely mimicking that genre and a few jump scares, this isn't at all a horror in tone. First and foremost, it feels like a melodrama, with touches of horror and - surprisingly - comedy tossed in. Even more surprising, it's kind of a stretch to call

Sword of the Valiant (1984)

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Sword of the Valiant is an '80s remake of the 1973 movie, Gawain and the Green Knight , made by the same director, largely using the same outline and themes. Please understand when I say it's an '80s movie, I mean that on every level - the decade oozes out of every lighting choice, every haircut, and every music cue. Both Gawain and the Green Knight look and act more like they stepped out of an episode of He-Man than anything in the actual live-action He-Man movie (same goes for the soundtrack, honestly). This is unquestionably a bad movie, and I savored every minute. The plot is functionally identical to the director's previous adaptation (loose adaptation, remember: these movies are really a blend of several Arthurian myths with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight almost serving as a frame). That said, there are several new characters and minor changes to the story. A friar appearing briefly in the '70s movie is given a major role as an eventual companion of Gawain

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...

Elf Pets: Santa's St. Bernards Save Christmas (2018), A Fox Cub's Christmas Tale (2019), Santa's Reindeer Rescue (2020)

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I want to start by saying upfront: you should discourage your kids from watching these. I'm not joking. And I'm not saying that because these are awful - they are, but that's the least of their problems. These specials cross a line between obnoxious and inappropriate in how they market their toys to kids. I'm not just talking about using animation as an extended ad, either -- this goes way beyond GI Joe or Transformers. GI Joe never explicitly told kids owning their crap would help save Christmas; these specials - all three  of these specials - quite literally convey that message. You want Santa's sleigh to fly? Help by "caring for" one of these three magic toys. I am not exaggerating. I don't recall ever seeing a show or special do anything like this before. With that out of the way, let's talk about the specials themselves, or rather the specials as a group. While all three contain unique characteristics, the overall concept and structure is iden

An Elf's Story: The Elf on the Shelf (2011)

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I'm torn on this. On one hand, this is a cheap ad for Elf on the Shelf, poorly disguised as an animated special. But on the other hand, it's so badly made, I think it actually may have contributed to the downfall of the brand, which is unquestionably a benefit to humanity. The special's protagonist is Chippy, an elf assigned a very important mission to help a boy recover his belief in Christmas. The boy, Taylor, hasn't undergone any sort of hardship or anything, and aside from being kind of a dick around his younger sisters, isn't a bad kid or anything. So the stakes here are pretty damn low. This is just about Santa sending one of his minions to police the beliefs of a random upper-middle-class kid. That's it. Chippy arrives in an Elf on the Shelf box, along with the stupid book, because we're really selling the hell out of the illusion any of this counts as Christmas lore. The family reads the book together, and we get the basic rules: the elf flies back t

Santa Inc.: Season 1 (2021)

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Santa Inc. is one of those pieces of media I feel I need a disclaimer before reviewing, as it feels like it was intended to be viewed while high. As I watched this sober, my opinion may be skewed. I should note Santa Inc. is an 8-episode stop-motion series streaming on HBO Max. The premise, as implied by the title, concerns a corporate version of Santa's operation, staffed by magic creatures but (mostly) operating in a capitalist paradigm. If you're planning to watch this, be aware it's intended for mature audiences (though in my experience, shows made for mature audiences tend to be the least mature). I suspect there are plans to continue the series, though I have no idea whether this will build the buzz needed to justify that (I'm guessing between the animation and cast it's not cheap to produce). To be safe, I'm labeling this as "Season 1." Seth Rogen voices Santa, or at least the current holder of that title. He's not actually the main characte

Elf-Man (2012)

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I was genuinely shocked when the end credits for Elf-Man rolled and revealed a full cast worked on the picture. With the exception of a few decent shots and a couple actors who deserved better, this thing looked and felt less like a "real" movie than... God, I'm struggling to find some point of comparison. Some of it felt like the low-budget direct-to-video production it was, but it was rare for the movie to hit even that mark. More often it felt like a cheap sitcom, and even those sequences accounted for fifty percent or less. Most of the rest felt like a college project. At times, I'd have believed a handful of high schoolers were somehow calling the shots. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about the premise of Elf-Man, a 2012 fantasy/superhero/comedy serving as a vehicle for Jason Acuña, here credited as "Wee Man." The story centers around two kids and their father, an inventor whose wife died a few years before. On Christmas Eve,