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Showing posts with the label Movie

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

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

Retfærdighedens Ryttere [Riders of Justice] (2020)

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Over the past few years, I've been transitioning towards favoring original titles over translations when reviewing foreign films when practical, both in the header and in the text. Well... I've got limits, so I'm going to be referring to this film from Denmark by its English title from here on out: Riders of Justice. Sorry, Danish speakers: your word for "justice" is just a tad too righteous for me to type out. I'm seeing this referred to as an action/comedy, which feels like a bit of a stretch. Maybe it's because I'm overly familiar with American action movies, which almost invariably include comedic beats, but I'd almost classify this as drama before comedy. Sure, it's funny, but - again - I expect that of action films. The presence of trauma is a bit more surprising. Before considering whether it's either - hell, even before I'd bother with "action" - I'd consider this an existential film. Riders of Justice is fundament

Wir Können Nicht Anders [Christmas Crossfire] (2020)

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I'm fairly certain Wir Können Nicht Anders is the first German movie we've looked at. I should probably note you won't have much luck finding this under that title - it was released in the US as "Christmas Crossfire," with the "Crossfire" part written in blood. I understand badly translated titles is kind of a foreign language Christmas movie tradition, but this one feels particularly egregious. While there is some violence and a touch of suspense, this isn't horror or even action: it's a comedy. A dark comedy, certainly, but nothing like that title implies. A closer translation (at least according to Google Translate) would be "We Can't Help It," which makes infinitely more sense. I'll be sticking with the German name, because I can't bring myself to keep typing Christmas Crossfire. Tonally, this bears some similarities to US dark comedies (think movies by Martin McDonagh, such as In Bruges ). If I knew virtually anything a

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,

Less Than Zero (1987)

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This is an odd one. Less Than Zero was supposedly adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, though there seems to be a consensus the movie has almost no relation to the book. I haven't read it, but apparently there was virtually no plot, so rather than attempt to adapt it, the producers had a series of writers create an entirely new script with an entirely different nonexistent plot. The non-plot centers around Clay, a college freshman who returns to his upscale LA home to find his best friend, Julian, has become an addict. Clay's girlfriend, Blair, is also an addict, but isn't quite as out-of-control as Julian, who we eventually learn is being forced into prostitution by his dealer. There's a love triangle, as well, since Julian and Blair had an affair while Clay was gone, but this feels oddly tacked on. Apparently, in the book Clay was supposed to be bisexual, a detail that was removed by the studio, presumably to make the movie more boring. The movie just kind of

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

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

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

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...

Father Christmas is Back (2021)

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I'll admit I haven't tried particularly hard, but a cursory glance provides very little insight into how "Father Christmas is Back," a new British comedy purchased and released by Netflix, actually came to be. The short blurb on Wikipedia only includes vague filming dates - September through November of last year. While that certainly doesn't answer the question, combined with elements in the movie itself - its limited locations, small cast, and the slapdash story - I can't help but wonder if this was sort of thrown together at the last minute. I certainly can't say for certain this was a movie made without a finished script, but I can assure you it absolutely, unequivocally left me with that impression. I assume it goes without saying I didn't like this one. The premise centers on a family with the surname "Christmas" (really), whose patriarch, James Christmas, (played by Kelsey Grammer) abruptly walked out on them decades beforehand on Chri