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REVIEW: Arthur Christmas

December 25, 2014 2 comments
Arthur ChristmasDirected by: Sarah Smith
Produced by: Steve Pegram
Written by: Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
Story by: Sarah Smith (uncredited)
Edited by: John Carnochan, James Cooper
Animation studio: Aardman Animations
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Ashley Jensen, Imelda Staunton, Marc Wootton, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Ramona Marquez, Michael Palin
Year: 2011

 

Every year, we hear that people are losing the true Christmas spirit, how everything’s become focused on material possessions rather than family togetherness. Horror stories from Black Friday sales frenzies flood the news, and having the most presents under the tree dominate our thoughts, so we’re told. But what if that attitude started spreading to one of the season’s most iconic figures, Santa Claus? That’s the basic start for the premise of Aardman’s contribution to the Christmas film pantheon, Arthur Christmas. Read more…

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REVIEW: The Family Stone

December 21, 2014 11 comments
The Family StoneDirected by: Thomas Bezucha
Produced by: Michael London
Written by: Thomas Bezucha
Edited by: Jeffrey Ford
Cinematography by: Jonathan Brown
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Tyrone Giordano, Brian J. White, Elizabeth Reaser, Paul Schneider
Year: 2005

 

Every family has a traditional family Christmas film, I’m fairly certain. My family has a few, and they’re probably yours, too: Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf… (I’ve pretty much already exhausted reviewing all my favorites.) Of course, everyone has their oddballs. I like to throw in Die Hard, though not everyone recognizes that one as a Christmas movie (they totally should – family togetherness and such). My mom and sister? They like The Family Stone, and so, more often than not, that’s one of the movies we end up watching this time of year, though I, admittedly, usually end up finding a nice distraction while enjoying the company of family. I’m not a fan of the film, you see, and I’ve seen it enough times to feel like I knew it inside and out. I admittedly got a bit mouthy about it last year, though, despite seeing it a few times, and this upset them both. This year, I figured I’d watch it again on my own and see if I was being unfair to it. Naturally, this also meant that I intended on writing a review of it, too. Here it is. Read more…

REVIEW: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

December 17, 2014 6 comments
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 2 comments
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 5 comments
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 5 comments
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…

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