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Showing posts with the label Fantasy

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

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

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I can forgive The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special for being bad, but I can't forgive it for not being bad enough. The original Star Wars Holiday Special , of course, is a thing of legend. It's impossibly bad, unbelievably bizarre, and utterly mystifying. It's never officially been released, and everyone involved seems ashamed. I'm not saying this had  to be that bad, but it had to be... something. Most importantly, it needed to be memorable, and The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is already fading from memory minutes after watching. I guess I better get the plot down before it's gone for good. Set soon after Rise of Skywalker, the special opens with Rey trying (and failing) to train Finn to become a Jedi while their friends are preparing for Life Day. Blaming herself for Finn's lack of progression, Rey follows some advice in an old Jedi tome and heads out in search of a lost Jedi temple. BB-8 accompanies her for some reason. They locate the temple and come across

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 Academ

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 virtuo

Comic Book Review: Klaus (1-7)

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Note: Image not actually a good representation of the story. 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 t

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 seekin

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 try

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. ------------ 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.

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

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

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

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 fai