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Showing posts with the label Movie

Dance Dreams: The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker (2020)

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We've watched a lot of Nutcrackers over the years, but nothing like Debbie Allen's Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.  Created as a showcase and fundraiser for the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA), the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker appears to follow the rough outlines of the traditional ballet (girl gets toy at party, toy breaks, magic happens, crazy tour through fantastical realms), but replaces the standard dance and music with dialogue, comedy, and a vast and ever-evolving variety of musical and dance styles.  I say "appears to" because this documentary follows the rehearsal and backstage information about the show. It's not a recording of a full performance, so we only get to see snippets.  Interspersed with clips of rehearsal and interviews with young performers, we also get basic background on Allen's career, the founding of DADA, and some of the ongoing barriers facing Black dancers, particularly in ballet.  I felt the film was fairly well-balanced between showing t

Six Weeks (1982)

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It's rare to come across something that tries this hard and misses so spectacularly. Six Weeks is a 1982 drama about a man running for Congress who forms a deep emotional connection with a precocious, talented 12-year-old girl dying of cancer and her wealthy mother. So... not a premise you want to screw up. The movie stars Dudley Moore as Patrick, the Congressional candidate, and Mary Tyler Moore as Charlotte, the mother. Nicole, the dying kid, is played by Katherine Healy. Katherine and Dudley do good work. As for Mary Tyler Moore... let's just say she EARNS her Razzie nomination. The plot is thin, which isn't in itself a bad thing, since this is really supposed to be more about tone than story. Unfortunately, it screws that up, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's expand on the premise. Nicole's a talented dancer who dreams of performing in the Nutcracker, but she worries how her mother will react to her death. She also wants to know what it's like to ha

De Familie Claus [The Claus Family] (2020)

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Just as a number of Hollywood productions with 2020 release dates got pushed to streaming, quite a few foreign films intended for theaters were picked up by streaming services hoping to expand their customer base internationally. A side effect of this is a number of movies that would otherwise never have seen US releases are readily available, offering a glimpse into how other countries view Christmas media. In this case, that apparently boils down to a fairly by-the-numbers knock-off of English language holiday fare. De Familie Claus (I'll call it "The Claus Family" going forward, since the title isn't getting mangled) is a live-action Dutch language kid's fantasy/dramedy from Belgium about a kid discovering he's the secret heir to the Santa dynasty. If that sounds like Arthur Christmas, you're both right and wrong: there's a hall of Santas set more or less directly lifted from that movie, but they've otherwise deviated from the formula, particula

Fatman (2020)

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I held off on this one when it came out last year, because I didn't want to contribute anything towards salvaging Mel Gibson's career. He's had more chances than damn near anyone, and he doesn't deserve another. At the same, this is a bizarre spin on Santa, so I felt like I had to get to it eventually. And of course, I was incredibly curious. If you missed the trailers, Fatman is a dark comedy-action-drama-superhero movie about an aging Santa and Mrs. Claus trying to keep their Alaskan factory afloat through difficult times, and also Santa's being hunted by a sociopathic hitman hired by a kid seeking revenge over a lump of coal. So, yeah, that at least sounds like something I'd be interested in. The problem for me is the movie works so hard doing all that competently, it doesn't actually get around to justifying the premise in the first place. In other words, this movie is fine but ultimately forgettable, which is kind of a major failing in a premise that ba

Slasher Santa: Themes and Thoughts

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I hadn't intended to spend anywhere near this much time on "Slasher Santa" movies this year. As I mentioned in my top 5 list , I'm way outside my wheelhouse here - I typically dislike slasher movies, and my background in horror remains relatively limited. I only put the list together after being surprised by the number of movies in (or at least adjacent to) the genre I considered good enough to warrant recommending. And while I'd originally intended to just sort of "wing it," I ultimately found myself re-watching everything on the list to confirm my rankings. In the process of going through all that, I wound up with a few observations I couldn't fit in the introduction. In particular, I noticed that every one of these movies in some way incorporated two related themes: identity and the dual nature of Santa Claus. Actually, back up a minute. Every one of these except for Santa Jaws. But Santa Jaws is really more a parody of this trope than an example

Five Slasher Santa Movies that are Inexplicably Good

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If you read that headline and thought it was full of crap, you were at least partially right. I'll admit up front I technically went with four  movies and an episode, which is kind of cheating. That said, the episode in question isn't XMas Story from Futurama  - this is limited to horror, and all five of my picks come from that genre. The idea that I would be able to assemble this list at all would have been unthinkable a few years ago. This is, after all, supposed to be the dregs of holiday entertainment - the worst trope Christmas media has to offer. Only... it's not? While there's no shortage of abysmal slasher movies where the killer either is dressed as Santa or - in some bizarre sense is  literally Santa himself, there are a shocking number of movies where the otherwise tired premise results in something absolutely fantastic. Just to reiterate, by "shocking," I mean five. Okay, four and a half. I was going to start with some history on this trope, but...

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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I honestly think this might be the most high-profile pre-2010 Christmas horror movie I haven't gotten to yet. Hell, it might be the most high-profile Christmas movie regardless of genre, excluding a bunch of indistinguishable remakes of A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. Part of the reason it took me so long is it's easy to confuse with countless other movies in the same subgenre. I've done Silent Night, Bloody Night , Christmas Evil , and countless other " Killer Santa " movies . Hell, I even did Silent Night , the 2012 remake ("remake" in the loosest meaning of the term possible). But until now I'd never gotten around to this one, which... I guess this is significant? I mean, it spawned multiple sequels, it's supposedly being remade AGAIN, and NECA made an action figure of the killer a few years ago, which... Honestly, I bought it for a custom project I just haven't gotten around to yet. The point is, this must have a fan base. I'

The Family Man (2000)

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I have no recollection of this movie ever existing, and honestly that surprises me. It's not so much that this deserves to be remembered - aside from a few solid performances, a couple decent moments, and a score from Danny Elfman, it's got very little going for it - but it's kind of amazing a Christmas movie starring Nicholas Cage, Téa Leoni, and Don Cheadle could gross more that 100 million dollars then just get swallowed up and forgotten. It makes a little more sense when we enter the director into the equation: this was made by Brett Ratner, whose reputation as Hollywood's least interesting filmmaker has been overshadowed by numerous accusations of sexual assault and harassment. The Family Man is the story of Jack (Nicholas Cage), a successful businessman who broke up with Kate (Téa Leoni) years before in a formulaic prologue set in an airport. Jack thinks he's happy, and he seems to have everything. That's until Christmas Eve, when he witnesses Don Cheadle

Period of Adjustment (1962)

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The bare premise of this film - two couples in crisis nearly separate on Christmas Eve but finally reconcile - could be a Hallmark movie. In practice, it's something much more unusual and uneven.  The movie is based on a play by Tennesee Williams. A bit of research tells me that he wrote it as a "serious comedy," partially in response to criticism that his works were too dark. It's been a while since I've studied any of his plays, but the man isn't exactly known for happy endings, and it shows here. These are deeply unhappy people, each with their own neuroses, and it seems unlikely that these "happy-ending" reconciliations are for the long term.  The movie opens with a montage without dialogue showing the whirlwind romance of a nurse (Isabel) and one of the young veterans under her care (George). She realizes that she has made a terrible mistake when a hearse (a "great car" according to George) appears as their honeymoon vehicle, and thing

Trail of Robin Hood (1950)

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Roy Rogers starred in more than a hundred movies, so I guess the laws of probability dictate at least one would be a Christmas flick. That brings us to "Trail of Robin Hood," a movie I wish I could discuss without first going through the exercise of explaining who Roy Rogers was, what his movies were, and why you should care. Actually, I'll field that last one now: you shouldn't. While this is sort of interesting as a cultural artifact, it doesn't hold up 71 years after its creation. In fact, I'd call it a stretch to refer to this as a movie at all. Which brings us back to who Rogers was and why his "movies" are somewhat distinct. I doubt anyone will be shocked to learn that Roy Rogers was a stage name, but if (like me) you've never subjected yourself to any of his movies, you might not realize Rogers is also the main character in the majority of them. You could look at this as an actor playing a fictionalized version of himself, but I honestly d

8-Bit Christmas (2021)

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If you've seen the trailer, I won't need to explain what this is. The movie is very upfront about the premise: a homage to A Christmas Story that's virtually a remake set in the '80s, with the Nintendo Entertainment System talking the place of the infamous Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. I want to be crystal clear about something before continuing: this is infinitely better than A Christmas Story. Most movies look good compared to that, though - the real question is how well this fares on its own merits. And the answer to that question is pretty well. This is a solid, funny Christmas flick, ready-made to be left on in the background while cleaning, cooking, or disposing of bodies: whatever your holiday traditions necessitate. I think it stops short of greatness, however, due to the ending. I want to acknowledge that I'm not entirely certain about this: the movie hinges on a twist that feels unearned after one viewing but might improve upon r

Exit Speed (2008)

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Exit Speed is a low-budget action/suspense film from 2008. I can't find much information about how or why it was made, but I'm guessing it was never meant for more than a video and/or streaming release. It's also worth noting a bus features heavily on the movie's poster, leading me to wonder if the title's inclusion of the word "speed" might have been an Asylum-style knock-off. Granted, 14 years is a hell of a gap, but I honestly can't think of a better explanation for the title. The movie's premise centers around a group of people trying to travel through Texas by bus on Christmas Eve. Things go awry pretty much from the start, when they cross paths with... sigh... a nomadic bike gang. They get in an accident, resulting in the death of a biker, resulting in a brief chase, a crash, and a siege set in a junkyard. It's the junkyard siege that makes up the bulk of the movie. The protagonists are something of an odd assortment of character personal