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Showing posts with the label Movie

The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)

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Based on a short story by D.H. Lawrence, The Rocking Horse Winner is a black-and-white movie straddling the line between drama, horror, and fantasy. I found it on a few lists of Christmas movies, though I'm not 100% certain I agree with its inclusion.

The movie either qualifies or fails to qualify solely based on its first twenty minutes, in which one of the lead characters, Paul, receives a rocking horse for Christmas. Granted, that's not entirely dissimilar to our justification for including Sleepless in Seattle. And there's something to be said for a movie that revolves around a haunted Christmas toy.

The tag attributes the gift to Father Christmas, though the movie never directly addresses where it comes from. Presumably, it was purchased by one or both of his parents or his uncle, though it's not an entirely unreasonable interpretation to take the tag at face value. That said, the rocking horse seems to be evil, so that's not the most generous reading towards…

Some Girls (1988)

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I spent the entire runtime of Some Girls trying to figure out what the movie was, and I'm still not remotely certain. The best description I can muster is: Victorian drama crossed with raunchy 80's comedy. That doesn't really convey the experience of the movie, though, since the description sounds inventive and fun.

The plot... uh... Okay, I'll do my best here, but there's not a lot of meat to this thing. The movie opens with a voice-over from the film's lead, Michael, who's flying to Quebec for Christmas to reunite with his college girlfriend, Gabi, who dropped out due to her ailing grandmother, Granny.
That's her name in the credits, and she's easily the third most important character behind Michael and Gabi. Arguably, she's more significant than Gabi and deserves the #2 spot. She doesn't appear immediately, however. First, we're introduced to the rest of her family, who live in a sprawling massive gothic mansion full of musty librari…

Daddy's Home 2 (2017)

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I've never seen the original Daddy's Home, mainly because I don't entirely hate myself, so I'm unable to offer any opinions on how this stacks up against its predecessor. I have, however, seen a elephant defecate, so I can provide some comparison there (said comparison is not favorable towards Daddy's Home 2).

I should mention that, as much as I despised this film, it managed to make me laugh a handful of times. I really, really didn't want to, but - to the movie's credit - there were a few scenes or jokes that really landed. They were exceptions, none of them came close to redeeming the film, and they mainly felt like the movie was mocking us by showing us what they could have made instead... but they were real scenes. I didn't dream them.

The rest was...

     God.

          Where to begin?

Maybe with the trailers. If you don't recall this movie, first of all, I envy you. Second, it's the one with the trailer where Will Ferrell kisses his fath…

A Holiday to Remember (1995)

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I'm not trying to be clever when I call "A Holiday to Remember" forgettable: it's honestly just the first adjective that pops into my mind. It's been less than twelve hours since I subjected myself to this made-for-TV movie, and I'm already having a hard time recalling details.

A Holiday to Remember belongs to a sub-genre best called the Christmas melodram-rom-com. It sounds specific, but - trust me - there are millions of these things. It tries to appeal to everyone by encapsulating all genres simultaneously, but forgets to do any of them even halfway well.

If there's a reason this was made, it was likely to serve as a vehicle for country music star Randy Travis. This isn't quite his first acting credit, but it shows up early in his filmography. He plays Clay, one of the two romantic leads, though the narrative follows Carolyn, who's played by someone you've never heard of (Connie Sellecca is actually pretty good, at least compared to the ov…

The Family Stone (2005)

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The Family Stone is a dramedy about... God, I can't believe I have to type these words again... a dysfunctional family celebrating the holidays together.

There are several things the movie does wrong, but one in particular is going to make it astonishingly hard to synopsize: it lacks a solid POV character. I think they were aiming for an ensemble cast, but the goal in those movies is to have multiple points of view - I'm not sure The Family Stone has any.

The closest actually might be Meredith, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. She's the new girlfriend of the titular family's oldest son, Everett Stone. The movie opens with her, and she gets a lot of screen time. But practically, she's closer to the comic relief than the lead. Parker plays Meredith to an over-the-top excess - she feels like she stumbled out of a farce without realizing everyone else is in a drama. And structurally, she's the false love interest, the wrong girl for Everett. He wants to marry Mered…

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas (2013)

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This review definitely needs to start with an aside:

What Tyler Perry, the creator and actor behind Madea, managed to accomplish is nothing short of awe-inspiring. He created a series of plays, films, and television shows that appealed to grossly under-represented audiences, and as a result, he's become one of the most successful producers in entertainment. His personal story is inspiring.

The fact I felt I needed to open with all of that isn't a great sign. God, I wanted this movie to surprise me. I went in knowing that Perry's work has never appealed to critics, but I really, really wanted to be able to offer a dissenting opinion.

No such luck - aside from a handful of good jokes and one or two compelling dramatic beats, this was an awful movie.

The film opens with Madea working in a department store along with her great-niece, Eileen. This segment is basically a prolonged excuse for Perry to ad-lib Madea farcically interacting with customers. The jokes didn't land …

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

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We already reviewed The Christmas Chronicles on the podcast, but I wanted to collect some more spoilery thoughts I had on the plot and overall structure. Which means, if you haven't see the movie yet, you should hold off on reading this until you do. The Christmas Chronicles is a good holiday fantasy you're better off experiencing without knowing where it's going.

The movie opens by introducing its two main human characters, Kate and Teddy, through a montage of home movies. We also get a brief look at their parents, only one of which survives past the opening. In a refreshing change of pace, the parent still breathing is their mother (it's disturbing this is as rare a choice as it is).

Teddy and Kate's dad was a firefighter, and he died between Christmases, making this the family's first season without him. Their mom is a nurse, so she's stuck working long hours. And of course it doesn't help that her kids are at each other's throats. She just want…

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

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Just want to nip this one in the bud, in case anyone skimmed the title of the post - this is the 1994 remake, not the 1947 classic. I reviewed the classic (albeit briefly) back in the first year of the blog.

That said, you can't examine this remake without considering the original, so I rewatched the '47 film before putting this on. And... wow, there's a noticeable difference. It's like comparing apples to oranges after one of those two pieces of fruit passed through the digestive track of a reindeer.

Let me slow down. I'm being unfair to the '94 movie, which actually does have several merits. The two key cast members, Kris and Susan, are well cast in Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson. Both did good work in their roles and manage to salvage the experience of watching this...

...Assuming you've never seen the original film. Because if you've seen the original, it's physically painful to sit through this thing. It's not so much a question of t…

Karroll's Christmas (2004)

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This made-for-TV comedy focuses on Allan Karroll, a man who hates Christmas because... Wait! Come back!

I know, I know. Christmas comedies made for TV are almost universally terrible. But while this one isn’t a work of cinematic brilliance, it’s definitely exceptional among its type.

I was skeptical of the beginning too. It seems like so many of this genre, presenting a protagonist who has to learn a lesson because they don’t unconditionally love Christmas to an unreasonable degree. However, while Allan’s irritation with a work presentation going poorly and a confrontation with his nasty neighbor are exacerbated by the Christmas season, he’s just average prickly until dinner with his girlfriend Carrie. Then he becomes downright unlikeable, as he can’t let his irritation go and doesn’t even notice that said girlfriend is trying to be romantic (and secretly planning to propose to him).

They go home together, but his neighbor starts stealing his electricity (via Christmas lights) to run…

Blizzard (2003)

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Attempting to outline the plot of the 2003 Christmas/fantasy/comedy/drama is akin to unraveling a Geordian knot. And, no, that wasn't a typo - it was something far worse: a pun. This was directed by LeVar Burton, who also gets a brief cameo. It stars Christopher Plummer, Kevin Pollak, Whoopi Goldberg's voice, and a bunch of Canadian actors you've never heard of.

The movie opens with a sledding montage showing a pair of kids enjoying a winter day together. Eventually, they head home and say goodbye forever - one is moving away. The other is so devastated, she retreats to her room. A week later, and her parents are still unable to get her to cheer up. In an attempt to salvage Christmas, they call in the mother's globetrotting sister, Aunt Millie, who flies in and starts telling her depressed niece a story about another friendship, long ago...

It's around this point that it becomes apparent the characters we've been following for the last ten minutes (give or tak…

Susan Slept Here (1954)

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Susan Slept Here is a lighthearted romantic comedy from the classic age of cinema about statutory rape. And here I thought romantic comedies from the nineties were problematic.

The movie's two leads are Mark, played by Dick Powell, and the titular Susan, played by Debbie Reynolds. Mark is a Hollywood screenwriter with an Oscar to his name. Said statuette narrates the movie via voice-over. Think of it as a running gag devoid of humor or point.

Despite some success in his past, Mark's in a rut. He's not satisfied with the work he's doing, and he's not satisfied with his beautiful, rich girlfriend. On Christmas Eve, a police officer shows up with a seventeen-year-old delinquent, explaining that Mark had expressed interest a few years earlier in making a movie with a character like this. The cop caught the girl (Susan, obviously) after she attacked a sailor with a bottle, but he doesn't want her to spend the holidays in jail. Instead, he has the idea of relinquish…

Pocketful of Miracles (1961)

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We didn’t know much about this movie when we turned it on, but I was met with two delightful surprises right in the opening credits. First, Peter Falk is in it. Cool, I thought, I love Peter Falk! Second, the movie is based on a previous screenplay, which was in turn based on a short story by Damon Runyon. Immediately I knew what to expect.

Damon Runyon, for the uninitiated, wrote short stories in the 20s and 30s about New York City under Prohibition. These stories are generally about gangsters and other people on the illegal side of society, often somewhat sentimental with a rough edge, and highly stylized. Adaptations generally turn up the sentiment slightly and enjoy leaning into the style. The most well-known adaptation is probably the musical Guys and Dolls.

Most of the characters from this movie could be dropped right into that show with no problem.

The lead is Dave the Dude, a speakeasy owner and gang leader who’s on the rise, possibly due to his habit of buying “lucky” apples…

The Star (2017)

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At this point, I'm fairly certain the entertainment industry has invested more time in trying to tell the story of the donkey who attended the birth of Christ than the story of Joseph and Mary.

While this attempts to wedge in a bastardized version of the nativity, The Star continues this tradition by focusing its attention on Bo, a donkey with big dreams of one day joining the royal caravan and doing something important. His friend, Dave (a dove), also plays a role, as does Ruth, a sheep obsessed with following the star of Bethlehem.

Opposing them are an assassin sent by Herod and his two hunting dogs.

I'll admit I kind of like the idea that a bunch of kids are going to be devastated when they learn there's no canonical justification for a bulky cave-troll getting pushed off a cliff by a flock of sheep. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Or am I? There's really not a lot to say about this in terms of plot, because - spoiler alert - it's mostly just the goddamn n…

Tangerine (2015)

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Tangerine is somehow both a broad comedy and a subtle, true-to-life drama. It focuses on one madcap day (Christmas Eve) in the lives of transgender prostitutes Sin-dee and Alexandra.

Sin-dee has just returned from a month in prison, and she finds out her pimp/boyfriend cheated on her while she was gone. She spends the day seeking out the other girl (Dinah) and the boy, intent on settling the situation. Alexandra, meanwhile, tries to blunt her friend’s more extreme impulses while she invites everyone (seriously, everyone but the cops) to a holiday cabaret performance she’s giving that evening.

The third plot thread belongs to Razmik, an Armenian cab driver who’s a frequent patron of Alexandra and Sin-dee. He struggles with the vicissitudes of his job and then skips out on Christmas Eve dinner, risking his marriage, to try to see Sin-dee after he hears she’s back in town.

The plot is almost an old-fashioned farce - woman scorned, attempting over-the-top revenge, takes the man back at…

The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

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First, let's get this out of the way: I'm not really convinced this qualifies as a Christmas movie. We have a fairly convoluted series of litmus tests we use to determine whether or not a movie is fair game, and the only one Curse of the Cat People doesn't fail is the most subjective of the bunch - Christmas arguably plays a pivotal role in the story.

If this were a less interesting movie, I'd probably set it aside, but - frankly - it's unique enough that I'm willing to give it the benefit of the yuletide doubt. Besides, while I can't claim more than half the movie was set at or around Christmas, a solid third absolutely was, so it's not that much of a stretch.

The movie itself is somewhat complicated. It's fundamentally a story about imaginary friends and the value they can have for children. But it's also the sequel to a 1942 movie about a were-panther fighting against her past and ultimately losing her life. Incidentally, the first film, Cat…