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REVIEW – Trading Places

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment
Trading PlacesDirected by: John Landis
Produced by: Aaron Russo
Written by: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Edited by: Malcolm Campbell
Cinematography by: Robert Paynter
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott, Paul Gleason, Kristin Holby, James Belushi, Tom Davis, Al Franken
Year: 1983

 

I’d always managed to forget this movie for the Christmas/New Year’s season in years past – it takes place predominately over the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Not this year, though, thanks to a friendly reminder to not do that. My family was pretty big on this movie when I was growing up. Sure, I had to cover my eyes quite a few times (it’s an R-rated ‘80s comedy, after all), but apart from that, even I found it pretty enjoyable as a kid. But I haven’t seen it in a few years, as evidenced by my constant forgetfulness of its existence, and as the years went on, and the cycle of trying to remember this film at an appropriate time, forgetting, and then holding off until an appropriate time continued, I began to wonder to myself – was it actually Coming to America that I liked better than the other? Well, I don’t really know the answer to that one, as I also have to watch Coming to America again for the first time in years. However, the time has at least finally come for me to get around to reviewing Trading Places at what is ostensibly an “appropriate time” of year. So… Read more…

REVIEW – Gremlins

December 25, 2016 Leave a comment
gremlinsDirected by: Joe Dante
Produced by: Michael Finnell
Written by: Chris Columbus
Edited by: Tina Hirsch
Cinematography by: John Hora
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Francess Lee McCain, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Judge Reinhold, Glynn Turman, Polly Holliday, Keye Luke, Frank Welker, Howie Mandel
Year: 1984

 

Don’t expose them to bright lights. Do not get them wet. And never, ever feed them after midnight. The three rules about owning a mogwai are pretty well-known, even to people like me, who went a couple decades of their lives before seeing either of the Gremlins films – one of the most often cited Christmas films for people who don’t want a traditional Christmas film – much like Die Hard or even last year’s Krampus, itself kind of an adult Gremlins. I wasn’t allowed to see this movie growing up – the combination of monsters, magic, and the fact that it was a horror film were pretty critical factors in that. And probably in a lot of other kids’ lives, too, since it was a major reason why the PG-13 rating was created. Alongside Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, due to their scarier and more violent content than the usual PG-rated film, Steven Spielberg collaborated with the MPAA and created a rating between PG and R due to the films he was producing. I only ever got around to seeing it as an adult – not, mind you, because my mom told me I couldn’t all my life (that had long since passed, even as a kid). I just never got around to it until then! Luckily, I think I’ve held on to my inner child… Read more…

REVIEW – Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

December 22, 2016 Leave a comment
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasDirected by: Andy Knight
Produced by: Lori Forte, John C. Donkin
Written by: Flip Kobler, Cindy Marcus, Bill Motz, Bob Roth
Edited by: Daniel Lee
Art Direction by: Julie Eberley, Clive Powsey
Music by: Rachel Portman, Michael Starobin
Songs by: Rachel Portman, Don Black
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry, Paul Reubens, Haley Joel Osment, Frank Welker, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie, Andrew Keenan-Bolger
Year: 1997

 

Disney may not have invented the concept of the midquel (a follow-up that takes place between the timeframe of the original work, rather than before or after), but with their direct-to-video series, I swear that they’re probably the one studio to make unusually extensive use of the concept. There’s Tarzan 2, Bambi II, The Lion King 1 ½, The Fox and the Hound II, and, as a follow-up to a film that celebrated its 25th anniversary just this year, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. (This would itself followed up by Belle’s Enchanted World, which was actually a compilation of episodes meant for a TV spinoff set within the timeline of the original movie that never came to be.) Along with the Aladdin movies and the first Lion King sequel, this was one of the few direct-to-video follow-ups my family actually had sitting around while growing up, and I recall that my sister and I would proudly claim that we were the owners of “the only good Disney sequels,” which… yeah, I don’t know about that, considering there weren’t that many at the time to begin with, and they all were pretty awful to meh in terms of quality. The Enchanted Christmas, in particular, is probably the worst of the four that we owned (it’s been a while since I’ve seen the others, granted), particularly considering the quality of the film that bore it. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

December 18, 2016 Leave a comment
Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryDirected by: Gareth Edwards
Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Sheamur, Simon Emanuel
Screenplay by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Story by: John Knoll, Gary Whitta
Edited by: John Gilroy, Colin Goudie, Jabez Olssen
Cinematography by: Greig Fraser
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Genevieve O’Reilly, James Earl Jones, Valene Kane
Based on characters and concepts by George Lucas
Year: 2016

 

Disappointment. No, that’s not my reaction to Rogue One. Heck no! But it was the general consensus I gathered from people after they were told that the 2016 Star Wars film was not a follow-up to last year’s The Force Awakens but rather an ominously pre-A New Hope film that was mostly independent from the Skywalker family and friends’ saga. Most of that was just because they were eager to see that story continue, but, for some, there was also an added level of scorn for a film they seemed to consider… illegitimate. Which is unfortunate, as Rogue One, in both style and focus, is a much more important and bolder move forward for Disney and their still nascent new property, signaling a promising future for the franchise that isn’t beholden to repeating itself for the sake of nostalgia and familiarity. Read more…

REVIEW – The Ref

December 14, 2016 Leave a comment
The RefDirected by: Ted Demme
Produced by: Ron Bozman, Richard LaGravenese, Jeffrey Weiss
Written by: Richard LaGravenese, Marie Weiss
Edited by: Jeffrey Wolf
Cinematography by: Adam Kimmel
Music by: David A. Stewart
Starring: Denis Leary, Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey, Glynis Johns, Robert J. Steinmiller, Jr., Raymond J. Barry, Adam LeFevre, Christine Baranski, J.K. Simmons, Richard Bright
Year: 1994

 

Bad Santa 2 not doing it for your angry Christmas comedy hankering this year? Yeah, I don’t blame you. That movie looked freaking horrible. And apparently is. I’m not spending money on it. Good riddance. Thank goodness a friend recommended a movie to me that fit the bill for such a bad craving. I mean, I could have seen the first again, too, but I’ve seen that before! And The Ref was right there on Netflix streaming, so… Read more…

REVIEW – This Christmas

December 7, 2016 Leave a comment
This ChristmasDirected by: Preston A. Whitmore II
Produced by: Preston A. Whitmore II, Will Packer
Written by: Preston A. Whitmore II
Edited by: Paul Seydor
Cinematography by: Alexander Gruszynski
Music by: Marcus Miller
Starring: Loretta Devine, Delroy Lindo, Idris Elba, Regina King, Sharon Leal, Columbus Short, Lauren London, Chris Brown, Laz Alonso, Ricky Harris, Keith Robinson, Jessica Stroup, Lupe Ontiveros, David Banner, Ronnie Warner, Mekhi Phifer
Year: 2007

 

Holiday drama. For many, if not most families, it’s intrinsic to the time of year. Usually, or at least hopefully, families usually get through it all, however, come together, and celebrate in unison, as it should be, and forget all the troubles, at least for now. Of course, such an idyllic situation would not necessarily make for good storytelling, and so we have a whole swath of Christmas films centered around seasonal drama, regardless of whether or not the films themselves categorically fall into that genre, and that is how we get films like Four Christmases, The Family Stone, Christmas Vacation, Happy Christmas, The Santa Clause, A Madea Christmas, Krampus… And those are just the Christmas movies I’ve reviewed that are centered on the drama of family during the Christmas season. This year also sees the release of Almost Christmas, a film centered on yet another family coming together and enduring their wacky antics while learning to accept each other’s faults and “act like a family.” Well, I’m not paying money for that, namely because the movie got mediocre reviews, and I have things to afford. I will, however, watch producer Will Packer’s previous Christmas family dramedy This Christmas. Read more…

Christmastime 2016 on The Viewer’s Commentary

December 1, 2016 Leave a comment

Christmas Vacation - The Griswolds

Well, 2016 certainly was… a year. And now it’s almost over! And so is November, a month in which I totally intended to do far more here, but which ultimately ended up being mostly a month for taking a break.

No worries, however. Before the assured nightmare that will likely be 2017 begins, we have just a bit more time left on our hand to be festive and merry and all that junk, ’cause it’s Christmastime, and that means it’s time to get watching Christmas movies!

As with many of the big holidays this year, I have no real big plans for this month, ’cause it’s 2016 and… whatever, right? Heck, I’m writing this after imbibing a fair bit of wine after having made some delicious, spontaneously made spaghetti with shrimp and chardonnay sauce as a sort of break from the still considerable amount of Thanksgiving leftovers I still have, so it’s not like I’m caring too much about planning and such.

Joyeux Noel - Christmas Carol

I really don’t have much else to say on the matter, as a result. I solicited a few film suggestions from friends this year, and so I’m likely to touch upon some familiar stuff I have yet to cover in the last six Christmas seasons I’ve been writing. Geez… next thing you know, I’ll be doing my 2016 in review, huh? Man, this year has gone by quickly. I can’t tell if that’s God being merciful or just the sad reality of having now turned 30.

Never mind, though, right? It’s Christmas, and it’s time to be merry, dammit! And so, what follows will be a series of season appropriate reviews, with the likely exception of one film: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which may not be Christmas-themed, but is pretty much unavoidable, given Disney’s calendar and my fandom. (I’ve already pre-ordered 2 sets of tickets: one for IMAX 3D and another to get the Alamo Drafthouse-exclusive pint glass.) But, before I write my first review of the season, let’s look back on the movies I reviewed from Christmas seasons past and reflect upon how innocent a time it was, back before we knew what was lying ahead for us?

Arthur ChristmasYeah, let’s just be happy for a time…


 

Arthur Christmas

Bad Santa (Director’s Cut)

Batman Returns

The Bishop’s Wife

A Christmas Carol (Disney, 2009) Part 1, Part 2

A Christmas Story

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Die Hard

Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights

Happy ChristmasElf

The Family Stone

Four Christmases

Happy Christmas

Home Alone

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Home Alone 3

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998)

It’s a Wonderful Life

Jingle All the Way

It's a Wonderful LifeJoyeux Noël

Krampus

Love Actually

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas

Meet Me in St. Louis

The Muppet Christmas Carol Part 1, Part 2

The Nativity Story

New Year’s Eve

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Polar Express

Polar ExpressRare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Santa Clause

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Scrooged * Part 1, Part 2

Tokyo Godfathers

White Christmas

 

 

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