REVIEW: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

December 17, 2014 Leave a comment
Rare Exports: A Christmas TaleDirected by: Jalmari Helander
Produced by: Petri Jokiranta
Screenplay by: Jalmari Helander
Story by: Jalmari Helander, Juuso Helander
Edited by: Kimmo Taavila
Cinematography by: Mika Orasmaa
Music by: Juri Seppä
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen, Per Christian Ellefsen, Ilmari Järvenpää, Peeter Jakobi, Jonathan Hutchings, Risto Salmi, Jens Sivertsen, Sigmund Bøe, Olav Pedersen, Nils M. Iselvmo
Based on the 2003 short film Rare Exports Inc. by Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander
Year: 2010

 

Santa Claus has largely been portrayed as being a saintly old man who travels the world delivering gifts to children on Christmas night, but that’s largely been because most productions are based on the image cultivated by American pop culture – you know, the one seen in film and on soda cans. Some films have attempted to stray from this mostly by making a point of it, incorporating some traditions while adapting and adding their own twists – Rise of the Guardians still portrayed him as a large, jolly man, but also a Russian brawler who will gleefully leap into battle with dark forces, while Arthur Christmas had Santa and his crew of elves leading a technologically advanced operation that adapted to each culture they visited, though Santa, by default, was still largely influenced by the traditional Santa. It seems like a hard thing to get away from, and it can largely become pretty stale, no matter what twist they may put on it. Rare Exports, as its name suggests, is as far from tradition as one can get from tradition without losing any semblance of who the central figure is supposed to be, though. Read more…

REVIEW: Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights

December 12, 2014 Leave a comment
Eight Crazy NightsDirected by: Seth Kearsley
Produced by: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo, Brooks Arthur
Written by: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Brooks Arhtur, Brad Isaacs
Edited by: Amy Budden
Music by: Teddy Castellucci, Marc Ellis, Ray Ellis
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jackie Titone, Austin Stout, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, Norm Crosby, Jon Lovitz, Dylan Sprouse, Cole Sprouse, Tyra Banks, Blake Clark, Peter Dante, Ellen Albertini Dow, Kevin Farley, Lari Friedman, Tom Kenny, Carl Weathers, Allison Krauss
Year: 2002

 

Christmas overshadows most other holidays that take place during this time of year. This is particularly because it’s unofficially considered to be a “season” rather than just a specific day. Christmas is also less of a cultural thing, as it’s essentially a global holiday that is celebrated by people who aren’t even Christian. More specifically cultural holidays, like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or, uh… Boxing Day… are thus given less attention. This despite the fact that Hanukkah is actually a longer celebration. That being said, it’s not like it’s completely hidden in the shadows in obscurity – we’ve all heard about it, even if we’re not Jewish ourselves – so it’s always been kind of puzzling why we haven’t seen very many films centered around the holiday. Perhaps it’s because studio executives think that the subject matter would isolate too many people from the potential audience? That really must be it since, you know, money. It’s not like there haven’t been films about Jewish people, but their holidays? Not so much. Cultural sensitivity be damned, I guess? … Of course, there are always ways of getting around such things. Like, for instance, cashing in on a big name star. Someone like… Adam Sandler. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

December 7, 2014 1 comment
Kirk Cameron's Saving ChristmasDirected by: Darren Doane
Produced by: Raphi Henly, David Shannon, Darren Doane, Amanda Rosser
Written by: Darren Doane, Cheston Hervey
Edited by: Postmill Factory
Cinematography by: Andy Patch
Music by: Brian Popkin
Starring: Kirk Cameron, Darren Doane, Bridgette Ridenour, David Shannon, Raphi Henly, Ben Kientz
Year: 2014

 

The so-called “War on Christmas” has long been the butt of many jokes, particularly because a select number of Christians have taken issue with stores switching from having their employees say “Merry Christmas” to the more generic and all-inclusive “Happy Holidays!” and they have made their voices heard by shouting about it on network news over the years (yes, especially on one in particular). These days, that war still seems to be ravaging on in the minds of many, as indicated by some of the Facebook posts I continue to see every year. I saw my first in early October, actually. “Man, the War on Christmas seems to get started earlier and earlier each year!” I joked in the comments section. The humor and irony was seemingly lost on all but one person, who merely Liked the post. I am unappreciated in my time, it would seem.

Seriously, though, you gotta find some humor in the concept of a group of people who claim that “Jesus is the reason for the season” getting so upset about people not “Keep[ing] the Christ in CHRISTmas!” while binging on material possessions. I concede, however, that it’s equally annoying that anyone would get offended by someone wishing them a “Merry Christmas!” just because they don’t share that belief. In my eyes, yes, Christ should be at the center of Christmas, but when we complain about the rest of the world not sharing in our beliefs, it becomes more about us rather than Him. This whole concept of a “War on Christmas,” as a result, really puts a damper on my Christmas spirit – it even makes me a bit embarrassed as a Christian, to be honest. So when I heard that Kirk Cameron was featuring in a feature length movie about “Saving Christmas,” I couldn’t help but burry my head in my arms and beat the back of it with my fist in frustration. Read more…

REVIEW: Happy Christmas

December 2, 2014 1 comment
Happy ChristmasDirected by: Joe Swanberg
Produced by: Joe Swanberg, Alicia Van Couvering, Peter Gilbert
Written by: Joe Swanberg
Edited by: Joe Swanberg
Cinematography by: Ben Richardson
Music by: N/A
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg, Mark Webber
Year: 2014

 

Originally released widely in the midst of summer, July 2014, this film apparently only popped up on most people’s radars thanks to Netflix and the presence of Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick being featured on the film artwork displayed and less so because the film got any widespread word of mouth. At least, that’s exactly how it popped up on my radar, so… I can only assume that that’s how it was with everyone else, right? Its Wikipedia entry even currently makes note of its streaming availability, so my inference is not without any basis in proof. That’s probably for the best, as a film of this sort was never going to make crazy box office numbers in theatres, so it was smart to debut the film early in the year at festivals and then release it to a general public to build up word of mouth before then releasing it to an even wider audience that has essentially already paid admission through their Netflix subscriptions and let the respectable Rotten Tomatoes score, courtesy of all those critics who watched it over the year, convince people to give it a watch during the holiday season. Such is indie filmmaking business, I guess. Hopefully, though, that translates into a film that will actually be watched by more than just a few people, because this is actually a film that’s nicely put together. Read more…

The Fourth Annual Christmas Movie Month!

November 30, 2014 Leave a comment

MST3K Christmas with Joel

It’s that time of year again: Christmastime! And, for the fourth time, we here at The Viewer’s Commentary will celebrate in traditional fashion by reviewing nothing but season-appropriate films until 12/25. (And by “we,” I of course mean “me,” since I’m the only one who writes for the site….)

I might get in a theatrical release, if the urge strikes me so (I’ve been meaning to write a review of the fantastic Interstellar, so that might pop up), but, for the most part, I’ll be expending what energy I might have into writing about Christmas movies — though I do also keep putting off a review of a Hanukkah film, too, but can you really blame me when the only major one anyone seems to have made is Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights? Seriously, someone make a respectable Hanukkah film! Or at least point one out to me if there has been one and everyone just chooses to ignore it or something!

Then again, I’m probably going to be reviewing a lot of stinkers this month. I’ve burned through my favorites already and found a few new ones I love, but, really, of the films I’ve seen so far in preparation for this, most of them have been pretty awful. I’m talking equal to or even worse than A Madea Christmas awful. One of them, currently out in theatres and featuring a certain Growing Pains star, shouldn’t even qualify as a film since anyone who sits through it should be entitled to some kind of justice and compensation.

Ah well. Since this is the fourth time I’ve done this, that means that there’s been three previous months dedicated to the Christmas season. Luckily, for you, I’ve got them all listed below, with a bonus New Year’s appropriate film for you to ignore because, like Eight Crazy Nights, it’s just… horrible. Trust me.

MST3K Christmas with Mike

REVIEW: Free Birds

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment
Free BirdsDirected by: Jimmy Hayward
Produced by: Scott Mosier
Screenplay by: Jimmy Hayward, Scott Mosier
Story by: David I. Stern, Scott Mosier
Edited by: Chris Cartagena
Music by: Dominic Lewis
Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler, Colm Meaney, Keith David, George Takei
Year: 2013

 

I felt like I should do something for this Thanksgiving, but, to be honest, I have already pretty much exhausted my Thanksgiving movie options after Planes, Trains and Automobiles and, to an extent, Miracle on 34th Street (unless I wanted to review the remake, too…). Luckily, last year brought us a brand new Thanksgiving film to watch just before Turkey Day: Free Birds, a film that will have you shouting at the person who announces they’re about to put it on, “Play ‘Free Bird’!” because you’ll undoubtedly rather hear a great but very long Lynyrd Skynyrd song than see the movie that apparently didn’t even have the sense to license the song for the obvious reference I just made. (It instead plays a cover of CCR’s “Up Around the Bend” as played by Social Distortion over the credits. I guess it is a much more upbeat song, but I’m not too certain lyrical context really matters to a movie like this.) When I told people what I was reviewing out of desperation for another film, they strongly advised that I instead review the Charlie Brown TV special, which… yeah, that probably would’ve been more tolerable, but I felt like I should at least exhaust all theatrical film options, and at least this film was on Netflix streaming, so I wouldn’t have to take up a slot in my DVD queue, either. So, yeah, I watched Free Birds. … Here’s the review. Read more…

REVIEW: Joe Versus the Volcano

November 23, 2014 Leave a comment
Joe Versus the VolcanoDirected by: John Patrick Shanley
Produced by: Teri Schwartz
Written by: John Patrick Shanley
Edited by: Richard Halsey, Kenneth Wannberg
Cinematography by: Stephen Goldblatt
Music by: Georges Delerue
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Ossie Davis, Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya, Barry McGovern, Amanda Plummer, Nathan Lane, Carol Kane
Year: 1990

 

I’d always been curious about Joe Versus the Volcano, mostly because it was the first pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan – and you know from a past review that I actually quite like the pairing – but my mom basically shaped my understanding of the movie to the point of making me mostly be ambivalent about it by hammering it into my mind that the movie was stupid. That curiosity was obviously not enough to cause me to seek it out, as I had basically not seen it up until this past week, but, whenever I did remember it existed, there was a moment where I would think to myself, “Huh. I should see that someday,” before quickly forgetting about it. This time, though, I finally saw it, mostly because a friend/coworker/fellow cinephile recommended the movie as being his favorite bad movie. Me being who I am, I took it as a sign that, yes, I should finally see this movie, so it instantly went onto the top of my Netflix DVD queue.

So… yeah, I saw this movie. Finally. Was it worth it?… Read more…

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