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Showing posts with the label Highly Recommended

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

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I think I've watched this movie at least three times since the creation of this blog simply to reconsider whether or not it qualified as a Christmas movie (this is, of course, in addition to countless viewings growing up - this is one of my mother's favorite movies, so it was on a lot). Because this is more a New Year's movie than a Christmas one, it never quite passed our litmus test, which I always regretted, since this movie - in my humble opinion - absolutely rules. Well, now we consider New Year's an extension of Christmas (since, you know, it is), so the question's moot, and we can talk about one of the most iconic romantic comedies made in the last four decades. The story, of course, centers around Billy Crystal's Harry and Meg Ryan's Sally, both of whom are awkward and somewhat off-putting. They come across to the audience as eccentric and likeable for the duration of the film, but the movie succeeds in making you doubt you'd enjoy hanging out w

Strange Days (1995)

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Before I even get into the spoiler warning, I want to open this with a content warning. The movie I'll be talking about includes a sexual assault, and while I won't go into much depth in the review, I found it disturbing even relative to other films that touch on that subject matter. [Editor's note: I found this scene incredibly upsetting to watch. I was glad I sought out spoilers ahead of time so I knew what I was in for - Lindsay] If that's not something you're willing to sit through, you'll want to steer clear of this one... ...And I needed to open with that, because this is one of those movies where plot spoilers could impact your experience quite a bit. And also, yes, this is a pretty great sci-fi noir flick directed by Kathryn Bigelow, so it's probably worth your attention, assuming the last paragraph isn't a deal-breaker. The film definitely has some issues aside from that, so it's not like this is required viewing or anything, but it's g

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (2021)

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TWO Aardman holiday specials this year? Woo! While Robin Robin featured a slightly different look and style for the studio, Shaun the Sheep is right in their comfort zone: hilarious comedy done with extremely professional stop-motion animation. If you've never seen any Shaun the Sheep, you can jump in at any time. There's a television series, two films, and multiple specials. All of them feature roughly the same premise: Shaun and his sheep pals live on a farm. Shaun is much more intelligent than the farmer knows (as are the other sheep, if less so), and comedy ensues. The farmer (who is an idiot) and the farmer's loyal dog often come up with plans to improve the farm, which often come into conflict with capers run by the sheep and other animals.  And it's all wordless. There's no dialogue in Shaun the Sheep, only mumbles and expressive animal noises. The simplicity lends itself to brilliantly outlandish physical comedy.  This special might be the funniest entry I&#

Hawkeye: Season 1 (2021)

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So far, the Disney+ MCU shows have been something of a mixed bag. I don't think any have been awful, but the level of quality has fluctuated wildly from series to series, with WandaVision being by far the best and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier being the most disappointing. Good or bad, they've all boasted impressive production values and have all delivered some of the quippy dialogue that's become a hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hawkeye joins Iron Man 3 in sporting a Christmas setting. Between the two, I think Hawkeye makes better use of the holidays -  in Iron Man 3, it mainly just felt like a callback to the director's filmography. Here, it serves to heighten the tension, tie in to themes of family, build up a sense of the surreal, and... well... okay, it's also kind of making a bunch of allusions to Shane Black movies, but it's not like I mind. Of course, the Christmas setting also means it's fair game here, so let's dig into the sec

Angela's Christmas Wish [Angela's Christmas 2] (2020)

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A few years ago, we were surprised and delighted by Angela's Christmas , which was a joy in basically every way. I actually remember seeing that this sequel existed last year, but I was hesitant about it. No more source material plus a lot of good press for the first one could easily lead to something rushed and poorly written. And even in the best-case scenario, what could possibly live up to the first special?  Well, not this, but it's still very good. Funny, charming, adorable, uplifting, and really grounded in ways that animation often isn't. It's just not, you know, transformative children's media. If you liked the first one, I recommend you check this out. If you didn't see the first one, go watch that! Angela's Christmas Wish (also marketed as Angela's Chrismas 2) starts with an introduction that takes place before the events of the first movie, in which we see Angela's dad get on a boat for a job in Australia. (Reminder that this all takes pl

Metropolitan (1990)

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I'd never watched (or as far as I can recall even heard of) this movie prior to seeing someone on Twitter assert it was a Christmas movie, a claim I initially doubted skimming the synopsis. I became more optimistic watching the trailer, as holiday decorations can be seen in every other shot, give or take. So I decided to give this a chance. First, I can confirm this is absolutely a Christmas movie, at least according to the definitions and litmus tests employed at this site. Granted, all such definitions are inherently subjective, but I think it's worth pointing out that our subjective definition is objectively superior to any other found on the internet. If you disagree, I don't know what to tell you: that's just science. More importantly, this movie is goddamn hilarious, or at least that was my take. Lindsay found moments funny but overall was kind of bored. I suspect that's a common reaction to this film - the humor is an unusual combination of over-the-top and d

Last Holiday (2006)

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This is one of those cases where a movie's backstory is nearly as complicated as its plot. I'll try to be as brief as possible, but no promises.  The original Last Holiday, a movie I've never seen but probably should, was a 1950 British film starring Alec Guinness as a salesman diagnosed (technically misdiagnosed) with a fatal illness. Believing himself to have only a short time to live, he goes on the titular "last holiday" to a fancy resort, where he befriends a number of wealthy individuals who assume he's higher class than he is. At the end, he learns the truth about his diagnosis... only to get in an accident and die (spoiler: The remake goes with a different ending). The original was not, as far as I can tell, set at Christmas. The term "holiday" strictly referred to a vacation. Jump ahead four decades to the 1990s, and there was a push to remake Last Holiday with John Candy. Apparently, it was relatively close to happening, but the star's

The Green Knight (2021)

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This movie is sitting at the crossroads of several subjects I'm obsessed with, which fascinates me but concerns me on your behalf. I'm not entirely sure how long this review is going to be, but "excruciatingly" isn't out of the question. Because of that, I'm going to approach this out of order and start with a summary of my thoughts in the hopes it will give you enough information to make up your mind about whether or not to watch The Green Knight without having to endure God knows how many thousands of words ranting about Arthurian legends, modern fantasy, myth theory, Christmas media, and the point at which these subjects intersect. The movie is absolutely breathtaking to watch. Everything from the score to the sets to the costumes and makeup is beautifully designed, shot, and edited. This uses new and old filmmaking techniques (including at least one matte painting) to create something that looks and feels truly unique. It's a dream of a fairytale cross

Robin Robin (2021)

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Has animation ever looked this cuddly before? I know there has been other stop-motion work in felt, but this is simply exceptional. A new musical holiday special from Aardman Animations and Netflix, Robin Robin is available on Netflix, and it's just so dang adorable! The whole thing is animated with fluffy soft felted characters, and the artistry on display is amazing. The premise is simple: a robin has been raised by mice. The business of mice is to sneak into human houses to steal food. During the first of many delightful songs, it quickly becomes clear that Robin's chirpy, fluttery nature doesn't lend itself to sneaking, but she doesn't understand why it goes wrong for her.  This is a sweet special. There isn't anything unexpected about the resolution, but the humor and music ensure that the ride is thoroughly enjoyable. I'm going to sum up the rest of the plot below, but if you like stop-motion animation or musicals or all-ages media (or all three, like me),

Hilda: The Yule Lads (2020)

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Hilda is an animated Netflix series adapted from a series of graphic novels inspired by Scandinavian folklore. The art style mimics the feel of the comics it's based on, building a world that honestly looks like drawn pictures come alive. Depending on the episode, you might end up seeing something wacky and fun, magical and awe-inspiring, or even a little dark and unnerving. It's an absolutely phenomenal show, beautifully written and animated, and we recommend you watch it at once. Which of course poses a bit of a problem. The holiday episode I'm about to discuss is towards the end of the second season, so while I absolutely recommend it, I'd suggest watching the rest of the series first. This isn't so steeped in continuity that you'll be spoiled or confused: it's just better in context. The main character of the series, unsurprisingly, is Hilda, an adventurous preteen girl who moves to Trolberg, a cross between a modern city and a walled medieval village. T

Nisser [Elves] (2021)

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Nisser is a Danish TV series, just six half-hour episodes long, released as "Elves" in the US. It looks and feels a lot like Stranger Things, both in terms of tone and content, which is both a recommendation and a warning not to watch this with young children (teenagers used to horror should be alright, though - this is scary, not terrifying). The premise is rooted in European folklore and tradition, and while the creatures here have been updated with a modern aesthetic, their portrayal isn't entirely subversive. Traditionally, nisser aren't typically this scary or monstrous, but the older stories about them tend to get dark. I'm going to have a lot - and I mean A LOT to say about this, as well as the US title, but I'll save that for the end, so readers bored by the nerdy stuff have the option of checking out. First, a spoiler warning. This isn't one of the cases where the impact depends on some kind of major twist, but I'll be going over the plot in a

A Boy Called Christmas (2021)

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Despite its best efforts, A Boy Called Christmas is a fantastic movie. It tries exceedingly hard not to be - there are tonal issues, its themes are out of alignment, the structure is poorly conceived, some of the CG doesn't work - but for all its faults... it still works. Really well, in fact. This is one of the best Christmas fantasy offerings out there. Let's back up and discuss what this is. A Boy Called Christmas is a British movie based on a young adult novel that came out six years ago. I should note I haven't read the book it's based on. Lindsay has, and her review is already up. But this review will be looking at the movie in isolation: I don't care what's changed, nor will I overlook stuff they included just to placate fans. The movie comes off as sort of blend of Harry Potter, the Narnia movies, and Princess Bride, with maybe a touch of Paddington tossed into the mix (though I assume pretty much every British family film is going to feel at least a lit