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Showing posts with the label Fantasy

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

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Before I get started, I should specify I saw the three-hour theatrical cut of Fanny and Alexander. After watching, I learned there's also a five-hour version that was re-cut as a miniseries then screened in theaters. Honestly, there's a part of me that really wants to see that five-hour cut for comparison.

That's not happening anytime soon, though.

Fanny and Alexander is a Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, director of [checks notes] some of the greatest and most influential movies ever made. According to Wikipedia, this was a fictionalized version of Bergman's own childhood and was intended to be his final film. His actual last film came out twenty-one years later, so take that with a grain of salt.

Before I get to plot, theme, and, well, CHRISTMAS, I should mention this movie is a goddamn work of art and probably among the most beautiful cinematic works I've ever put in front of my eyes. It's a wonder to behold, it deserves its Academy Awar…

How the Toys Saved Christmas (1996)

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I have to start this review by explaining a big, giant, caveat. I was unable to obtain a version of this holiday special in the original Italian (or even verify that a subtitled version exists). In Italian, this special is called La freccia azzurra (The blue arrow) and the story is apparently somewhat different. Hopefully, it's better in Italian.

I knew that we would be watching a kludgy anglicization, but I held out some hope. I sought out this special because I knew it featured Befana, who is a character we'd love to see more of. Befana is a witch who brings gifts to Italian children on Epiphany (Jan 6). In the English version, this character is nonsensically renamed "Granny Rose" and is demoted to being one of Santa's helpers. At least she's still a witch.

The following description is based on the English version.

For some reason, Granny Rose has a shop where children can come to drop off their wish lists. One boy (Christopher, your requisite virtuous orp…

Comic Book Review: Klaus (1-7)

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Klaus (Issues #1-7)
Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, 2015-2016

I remember seeing this title about a reimagined Santa hit stores. I've always been intrigued but also very tentative about it.

A big part of why I never read this book before now is that I've been burned before on Santa retellings, and the cover art was fairly realistic/Conan in style, making me think it would be too dark. I have strong opinions on what is appropriate Santa behavior and what is not. I have a history with this character that I'm protective of. In short, I have FEELINGS about this topic.

Now I've read it, and... y'all, this might be a new favorite.

I love the ridiculous line the book tries to walk from the first page. It's not actually realistic in any sense, but it's treating ludicrous situations and characters seriously. It's practically pulling from Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, with a town under the thumb of a cruel ruler who has outlawed toys and joy. Klaus lives outside of…

The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

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The Knight Before Christmas is another of this year's Netflix entries in their growing collection of Hallmark inspired, tween-friendly romantic comedies. Although it deviates from the formula and contains no princesses or royalty, I'd also group it in the sub-sub-genre of "Christmas Princess" films, due to tonal similarities.

The premise, that a medieval knight gets transported through time to the present day, where he meets a woman who doesn't believe in storybook romance and convinces her otherwise, feels as though it started with the pun in the movie's title and the rest was haphazardly developed around it.

I'm guessing it won't surprise you to hear this thing is, first and foremost, astonishingly stupid, even for this genre. What might surprise you is this: I didn't hate this. I'll get to why in a moment, but first let's synopsize.

The knight in question is Sir Cole (played by Josh Whitehouse), a fourteenth-century knight seeking to b…

Klaus (2019)

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Last year we were big fans of Netflix's entry into the family-friendly fray, but this new movie fell flat for us.

The plot follows Jesper, the spoiled rich son of the Postmaster General. His behavior and attitude are cribbed so closely from The Emperor's New Groove that we thought the voice actor was David Spade (it's actually Jason Schwartzman). To shock him into acting like an adult, Jesper's father banishes him to a remote city on a far north island, tasked with re-establishing the post office there and stamping at least 6,000 letters over the next year.

When he gets there, he discovers the town is home to two feuding clans, and everyone is only interested in making each other miserable. After trying and failing to encourage anyone in the town to send a single letter, he ends up at a solitary house on the far end of the island. Here he is terrified to meet Klaus, a huge woodsman with a house full of mysterious toys. He flees but drops a drawing he had been trying …

Fargo: Season 3 (2017)

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The following is a review. The season being reviewed originally aired on FX between April and June of 2017. At the request of those who haven't seen the show, this review will keep spoilers to an absolute minimum. Out of respect for the series's creator and stars, the descriptions and discussions that are included will be presented as accurately as possible.
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Only this isn't just a review: it's a murder scene.

The victim is in their late seventies, and the manner of death was asphyxiation. They may have gone by several names throughout their life, but around here they were known as the "Christmas episode." In life, they were a concept of an episodic holiday installment of a television series. They stood out from their peers in only one respect: they were set at or about Christmas.

Anything else could change. Maybe they were a self-contained narrative, or maybe they were an episodic installment of a longer series playing out in real time. Hell, the…

Noelle (2019)

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Noelle, one of a handful of made-for-streaming movies released with Disney+, feels like a derivative premise mulched by a committee that's still mostly redeemed by Anna Kendrick's presence and likability.

Kendrick plays Noelle Kringle, daughter of Santa Claus and therefore (Disney) princess of the North Pole. They're not afraid of using the p-word, either. Her servant elf calls her "Princess" as a nickname, and Noelle uses it herself at least once. Also, she has a pet reindeer she calls using the generic Disney princess song. Honestly, it was kind of nice to see a Disney movie where they embrace the term again instead of treating it like a insult.

Ever since she was a child, Noelle's wanted to do something important, but all the attention was placed on her brother, Nick (Bill Hader), heir apparent to the family legacy. Oh, I should probably have mentioned we're doing the whole Santa-bloodlines-thing they did in Arthur Christmas. In fact, there's a lo…

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

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The Peanuts Movie somewhat breaks our litmus test for Christmas movies, in that it objectively passes despite the fact it's pretty clearly not a holiday film in any meaningful sense of the phrase.

For those of you who don't want to read through my treatise on the subject, there are a handful of binary questions we can ask, and any movie receiving a "yes" on one or more those questions is considered, for the purposes of this blog, a Christmas movie. The most basic of those questions is whether or not more than 50% of a movie is clearly set at or around the holidays, and The Peanuts Movie passes. In fact, the vast majority of the film - everything except the ending - is adjacent to Christmas.

But the reason for this is, well, pretty trivial. As far as I can tell, The Peanuts Movie's setting is just an homage to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Beyond that, the holidays really don't come up.

I've seen a few other movies where Christmas seemed to be more a referen…

We Need to Re-Evaluate L. Frank Baum's "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus"

Content Warning for discussion of genocide and accounts of severe historical racism.

We've reviewed L. Frank Baum's Life and Adventures of Santa Claus in the past, we've written about the Rankin/Bass special, and we've talked it about multiple times. But, in the process of watching the 2000 animated adaptation for the first time, I wanted to go back and revisit the book, as well as its sequels.

So I did. I wrote an extremely long article discussing the merits and flaws of the work (some of the writing is pretty but most of it is kind of boring) and how influential it was (it probably created one of Santa's two primary origin stories, it's more or less the basis for all the Rankin/Bass specials, and its sequels, "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" and "How the Woggle-Bug and his Friends Visited Santa Claus," are probably why we have Nightmare Before Christmas).

I went through the plots, the characters, all of it. It was a lot of work, and I think I did…

The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (2000)

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This isn't the first time we've reviewed an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's novel. There's also a Rankin/Bass stop-motion version that's visually impressive but otherwise fairly forgettable. This animated version from 2000 shares one of those qualities, and unfortunately it's not the visuals.

For better or worse, this is a very faithful adaptation of Baum's book. There are a handful of changes here and there, but these are generally trivial alterations. The largest change was the decision to expand the role of Wisk, a fairy appearing in the last few chapters of the original, into a major character serving as comic relief throughout.

But the backbone of the story is mostly unaltered, which probably wasn't the best idea. While I'm fond of the original book, it's mostly due to some interesting choices around the setting, tone, and premise. I like that Baum wrote Santa into a world of fantasy and magic, as opposed to religious. The book is a fairy ta…

Shazam! (2019)

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Before I get started, I just want to take a minute and acknowledge how surreal it is that you can go to the movie theater this weekend and watch both Captain Marvel and Shazam. Billy Batson and Carol Danvers are two characters I never thought we'd see on the big screen - Batson because he's silly and Danvers because I'd have sworn the one line Marvel would never cross would be putting out a movie with their company name embedded in the title - but here we are.

And both of them are good. Really good, in really different ways. But not for different reasons: both Shazam! and Captain Marvel were made with respect and love for the characters being adapted, and it comes through in the finished products.

I'll set Captain Marvel aside. Aside from sharing a convoluted history with Shazam! (if you have no idea what I'm referring to, pour yourself a Scotch when you've got an hour to kill and go read the Wikipedia histories on the characters calling themselves "Captai…

Lost Christmas (2011)

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Lost Christmas was a made-for-TV holiday movie, but because it was made in England, it's actually pretty good. "Pretty good" may be underselling it: this is, in many ways, a fantastic film, though there is a bit of a catch. I'll get into that a bit, but first...

This is one of those movies where spoilers do make a difference, and it's worth seeing, assuming you enjoy this sort of thing. It's a melancholy fairy tale exploring cycles of alienation and guilt before setting things right. Imagine a low-budget urban fantasy reimagining of It's a Wonderful Life and you'll have some sense of what you're in for. If that sounds good, by all means stop reading now and go stream it.

The story centers around two characters. The first is an orphaned boy called Goose living with his grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's. His parents died in a car crash the year before, which was caused indirectly by Goose. Since then, the boy's become a petty thief.

Th…

Santa Jaws (2018)

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Santa Jaws is a made-for-TV Syfy comedy/horror movie about a magical Christmas shark targeting a specific family during the holidays. So... basically it's an unofficial remake of Jaws: The Revenge. Okay, that's not really true - this honestly has more in common with Krampus than Jaws, and it probably owes more to Stranger Things than either. I figure it's a flip of the coin whether this started with someone coming up with the punny title or listening to the Duffer Brothers talk about how they envisioned the Demogorgon as a shark while making season one.

Shockingly, this has a plot. The main character is Cody, a high school student with dreams of becoming a comic artist. Along with a friend, he's created a one-shot story about "Santa Jaws," a great white shark which devours an evil Santa and wears his red hat on her fin.

His family, however, doesn't seem to understand him. To them, he's just an angsty, inactive teenager unable to fit in. When his prin…

The Nutcracker in 3D/The Nutcracker: The Untold Story (2010)

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So, turns out this year's Nutcracker and the Four Realms wasn't as original as I'd thought. Eight years ago, someone else had the idea of flushing 80 million dollars down the toilet trying to merge Nutcracker with Narnia.

According to Box Office Mojo, The Nutcracker in 3D (a.k.a. Nutcracker: The Untold Story) was budgeted at an estimated 90 million dollars. Its total US box office was a little less than two hundred thousand dollars, and its worldwide total was just over 16 million. It's currently sitting on a Freshness rating of zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Somehow, both that and its box office total feel oddly high to me.

The movie is, in all senses of the word, a fiasco, which I honestly mean as a compliment. Somewhere around the time the Nazi Rat King (John Turturro wearing some astonishingly weird prosthetics) finished his jazz solo by electrocuting his pet shark, I realized I was watching something gloriously bad.

I'm getting ahead of myself. The movie st…

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Hearth's Warming Club (2018)

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This is the fourth holiday episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, so it's no surprise that they decided to expand the focus a bit more. A quick warning: this is less of a standalone episode than the other seasonal offerings, as it focuses almost entirely on new characters.

In the latest season, the show takes advantage of the world that has been building up over the previous seasons and the movie. Twilight opens a school to teach friendship lessons to both ponies and creatures from beyond Equestria. There is a group of core young student characters representing all the various species, and they're the focus here.

It's almost Hearth's Warming, and the school is going on a holiday break. All the students are getting ready to head home. Then a mysterious figure pours a substance onto the spell at the top of the tree in the common area, and it explodes into a mass of sticky purple goo all over the room. Twilight and Rainbow Dash chase after the perpetrator, but t…