Dash & Lily: Season 1 (2020)

Dash & Lily is an 8-episode-long Netflix series set entirely around the holidays. Now that binge-able shows are the norm, I suppose it was inevitable that these would start popping up (I speculated as much while talking about season 3 of Fargo last year). I'll acknowledge I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around what Dash & Lily is, or at least what it's best described as. At the time I'm writing this, I don't know for sure if it's intended as a limited series, the first season of an ongoing show, or what. But even beyond that, it kind of exists in a gray area between television and film. It doesn't conform to either medium, but rather incorporates elements as needed. Which is great, honestly. I sometimes think we get overly attached to conventions to the point that entertainment is forced into boxes it doesn't belong in. The vast majority of what defines a "television show" or a "theatrical film" is based on the limita

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

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

Ben is Back (2018)

I'd better open by recommending this movie, because if I start with the premise, you'll probably dismiss it without reading through the review. Also, it's worth seeing unspoiled - it's marketed as a drama, but it's got more than a little suspense mixed in (think In Bruges, minus most of the dark comedy), and knowing where it's going would undercut the impact. So if you like drama, suspense, and/or good movies, stop reading and go watch it. It's really not hard to track down. I'll warn you in advance the synopsis for Ben is Back is going to read a lot like an afterschool special, so you'll have to trust me when I say this is something exceptional. The titular Ben is a recovering addict who leaves rehab to spend Christmas with his family. His mother, Holly, is both overjoyed to have him home and terrified he'll relapse. Some of the family is more cautious - the oldest of his siblings doesn't trust him, nor does his stepfather. Apparently, incid

BREAKING: Christmas 2020 is NOT Cancelled (Yet)

It wasn't looking too good, was it? Halloween never materialized, and then Black Friday, the only holiday in November, was officially called off. Well, okay, technically it was moved to Zoom or something, but for all intents and purposes, this is a year without Black Friday. Some of us thought that might include Christmas, too. Despite an unbroken record of annual festivities going back millennia, we began to wonder if maybe 2020 would be the "Year Without a Christmas" Rankin/Bass prophesized one thousand years ago. We even held a referendum three weeks ago to see if there was still hope in the world. Things were looking bleak for a while (isn't that always the way?), but pending litigation, it looks like good's going to win out so we'll go ahead and assume Christmas is still in the cards. It'll have to be a small Christmas, limited to just your household, to be safe, but unlike some holidays I could name, there's no rule that says you need to go door-

That's a Wrap on Our First Decade

This wraps up ten seasons of Mainlining Christmas. Yup, a full decade down, and we've got nightmares brimming with sugarplums to prove it. In theory, this probably should have been our biggest year, the one we went all out to celebrate. But, frankly, we've had way bigger things occupying our attention than holiday movies and songs. I hope this doesn't dispel the magic too much, but the vast majority of content we reviewed this year was watched and written up prior to the birth of our daughter over the summer. Since then, we've been busy. And tired. Also sick. Turns out, having a kid is hard. But it's also all kinds of incredible. I won't rehash all the cliches: I think everyone knows this is life-changing in more ways than one. If you've got the inclination and ability to bring a small human into your life, I recommend it. This Christmas... it's been weird so far. I wasn't joking about the sick part: all three of us have had one virus or anothe

I Trapped the Devil (2019)

I Trapped the Devil is a low-budget, direct-to-streaming horror film with a clever premise, some great atmosphere, and a script that could really have used a few more passes before filming. That said, it's fairly good (though not quite great), so if you're into this genre, feel free to drop out now before the spoilers start flying. The plot centers around four characters, and one of them spends more than 99% of the movie off-screen. There are also a pair of cops who show up at the start and end, but they're fairly inconsequential. The three named, significant characters are Matt, Karen, and Steve. Karen is married to Matt, who's Steve's brother, and the couple show up out of the blue at Steve's house on Christmas Eve, expecting him to be happy to see them. There's been some sort of falling out or something, and everyone has secrets. At least, I think they have secrets. None of that really comes up or gets explained: we're just kind of told there&

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

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