Movie Review: The Christmas Chronicles

Director: Clay Kaytis
Producer:Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Mark Radcliffe
Writer: Matt Lieberman, David Guggenheim
Cast: Kurt Russell,Judah Lewis, Darby Camp, Oliver Hudson, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Lamorne Morris, Martin Roach, Vella Lovell, Lauren Collins, Steven Van Zandt, Goldie Hawn

Plot: It’s Christmas and two siblings may cause Christmas not to come! Santa’s sleigh has been wrecked, the reindeer are scattered, and Santa is in jail for boosting a car! Can Kate and Teddy Pierce save Christmas and break Santa out of jail? Will Teddy believe once again in Santa Claus? Will Kate’s wish come true and they become a family once again?

You may be seeing some familiar storylines present in this Netflix movie and you are probably wondering whether you want to invest in another Christmas schmaltz fest where the meaning of Christmas is reduced to being a family again. And I don’t blame you at all. This isn’t “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” or “A Wonderful Life”. This isn’t even the “Santa Clause”. And if that is what you want then this isn’t the movie for you.

But if you want to see Kurt Russell take Santa Claus and make it his then this is the movie for you. Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t a great movie, this may be a movie that needs viewing in the satellite of love with three robots in the first row. But Kurt Russell will make you enjoy this Santa Claus. He takes the mantle of Santa Claus and gives it a truly unique spin on it. The concert scene alone is worth the time.

So if you’re in the mood for some schmaltz, and Kurt Russell as Santa Claus check this movie out on Netflix.

One last thing there is some profanity used in the movie, I am not talking about “F” Bombs but there is some of a minor sort, although I wonder how any profanity can be minor, so be aware if children are present.

I am giving this movie two stars out of five.


Movie Review Mondays

So being the observent group of individuals that you are you’ve probably notice that it has been awhile since I have posted a movie review.

Well there is a simple reason for this, most of the current crop of movies don’t interest me or are crap. Or skubulon if you prefer a biblical term.

However, that doesn’t preclude me from reviewing older movies something that I have done from time to time. Especially movies from the “golden age” of Hollywood. Which is a completely subjective since my “golden age” probably doesn’t correspond to a professional movie reviewer.

Also I have decided to do a few single sentence reviews every now and then such as:

Of the second season runs of the Netflix/Marvel franchise Daredevil has consistently been the best of all of them and has continued that into the third season.

Now this saves space, lets me be pithy something desired in a blog author or so I have been told.

And with that in mind another bit of pithiness. I noticed that Netflix has the four gospel accounts ( Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for those of you who go to Joel Osteen’s church) each being a word for word telling from the accounts with a video more or less acting out the words. These are rated TV-14 which I find odd. What is in them that suggests anyone under fourteen needs parental guidance, it could be the brutality of the crucifixion, and the whipping. But judging from what I saw in John I find that hard to believe. Perhaps, it is the words themselves that prompt the rating? Have to think about that.

Lastly I, and most of the internet no doubt, learned that Stan Lee died today. I can’t comment on the status of this man’s soul as he stands now before the righteous Judge. No one can. However, it is worth saying that many a lonely day in my youth was brightened by reading the adventures of Captain America, Hulk, and others. And it was Stan Lee and artists such as Jack “The King” Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Romita that brought a little joy into my life. Excelsior!

Movie Review: Only the Brave

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Michael Menchel, Dawn Ostroff, Molly Smith, Jeremy Steckler
Writer: Ken Nolan, Eric Warren Singer
Based on: GQ article No Exit by Sean Flynn
Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, Thad Luckinbill, Geoff Stults, Scott Haze, Ben Hardy

Only the Brave is based upon the lives of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots an elite group of firefighters, whose method of containg fires is to use a controlled burn in the area before the fire which deprives it of fuel.

The movie shows the lives of the firefighters, how they became Hot Shots (controlled burn experts), and the Yarnell Hill Fire that took all but one of the lives of the Granite Hill Hot Shots.

The movie is rated PG-13 so there is adult language and content, there are some F-bombs, as well as partial male nudity, and smoking of marijuana. This doesn’t detract from the obvious heroism portrayed by these men as they fight to save the lives of the people in the path of the fire ultimately losing their own lives.

At the end of the movie there is a tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives.

On a side note Mike Rowe, the guy behind the show Dirty Jobs, has a new show on Facebook called Returning the Favor. In it he visits the site of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot memorial. Click on the link below to watch what happens.

Returning the favor: Honoring the Brave

I give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5 I would definitely recommend seeing it.

Movie Review: The Incredibles 2

Director: Brad Bird
Producer: John Walker, Nicole Paradis Grindle
Writer: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowel, Huck Milner, and Samuel L. Jackson

Fourteen years ago Pixar introduced the movie goers to a family of superheros who couldn’t be heroes anymore.   But when faced with a challenge once again donned their costumes to fight against evil.  And there it left us hanging.  Would Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl be allowed to come out of retirement?  What about the laws against superheroes?  Not to mention did people really want the return of superheroes?

Pixar takes up the story from where it left off fourteen years ago and answers all those questions and more!  In Incredibles 2  a multimillionaire sees the Incredibles and Frozone  fighting the giant robot that was  attacking the city and is excited to see that the supers have returned.  And contacts Frozone .

The millionaire’s plan is simple using Elastigirl  generate good publicity for supers and get the law changed.  And that is exactly what happens.  Elastigirl goes out crime fighting while Mr. Incredible, Bob,  stays home and tries to be both mother and father.  And surprise, surprise he is doing a good job until they find that the baby, Jack Jack, has a plethora of super powers!  Because of the importance of what Elastigirl is doing they hide from her that Jack jack is super which causes Bob to be stressed to the point that the kids call in Frozone.  When Frozone sees what is happening he tells them that they need professional help.  So Bob takes the baby to Edna.  Edna is fascinated with the baby and takes him off Bob’s hands which allows him to get the sleep that he has missed,  Bob returns to Edna’s, (and the sequence of the baby and Edna has to be seen to believe it is great) to find that she’s designed a super suit that practically neutralizes the baby’s powers and makes him easier to handle.

At the same time something is up with the villain that Elastigirl is fighting.  Everything isn’t what it seems and Elastigirl is trying to find out who is behind the curtain pulling all the strings.

This follow-up to The Incredibles is great and excellent family fare I give it five stars.

Movie Review: Pixar’s Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich
Producer: Darla K. Anderson
Writers: Lee Unkrich,Jason Katz,Matthew Aldrich,and Adrian Molina
Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, and Edward James Olmos

In which I take Pixar to task for their ancestor worship.

Coco is about a boy named Miguel Rivera who lives with a family of shoe makers who seems to hate music. There is no singing, mariachi playing, no radio, nothing. All music is banned. But Miguel loves music. His greatest wish is to be like the greatest singer/actor in all Mexico, Ernesto de la Cruz, who died tragically while filming a movie. He decides to play in the festival for Day of the Dead with a guitar that he has kept hidden from his family but is discovered and the guitar is destroyed. While at the family’s ofrenda he damages a picture frame with his great-great-grandmother, his great-grandmother (named Coco) as a little girl, and his great-great-grandfather whose head in the picture has been torn off but is holding the famous guitar of Ernesto de la Cruz.

Seeing this he decides to steal the guitar from Ernesto’s tomb because he decides that based on the picture he must be the great-great-grandson of Ernesto de la Cruz and he has a right to this guitar. But stealing from the dead on the festival of the Day of the Dead has consequences, and Miguel has been turned into a ghost. Now normal people can’t see him but the dead can.

Turns out that the afterlife has its bureaucracy too. Because Miguel winds up in the government offices that handles such things. Miguel has been cursed by stealing from the dead, and not only that but by damaging the picture on the ofrenda his great-great-grandmother can’t cross over to the land of the living to be with her descendents. This is very important. So when Miguel is brought into the office he is told that he must return to the land of the living before sunrise or he becomes a ghost forever. And the only way to return is for one of his relatives to bless him. Well his great-great-grandmother is upset with him and but says she will bless him but with conditions. And the conditions are no music. Miguel refuses the blessing and goes in search of his great-great-grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz, who because he is a singer knows he will bless him and allow Miguel to sing and make music.

On the way Miguel meets a skeleton named Hector who played with Ernesto. Hector offers to help Miguel if Miguel helps him by taking his photo and placing it on the ofrenda of his family. And then Miguel learns a dark secret if a person’s family forgets a dead relatives in time that spirit will disappear into non-existentance. It is only by having the pictures on the ofrenda and the relatives seeing them can a dead spirit survive in the afterlife.

Now knowing this Miguel trys to help Hector, get the blessing of Ernesto de la Cruz, and avoid turning into a ghost forever.

Now it is without a doubt that Pixar has accurately portrayed the traditions of the Mexican people regarding the Day of the Dead. Which is worth while in itself. But as I was talking with my daughter about this film she brought up some interesting points. In this depiction of the afterlife there is no justice. Good, bad, everyone “lives” in the same place. The poor lives in run down shacks while the rich have there mansions. It is implied that the offerings on ofrenda may have something to do with the quality of afterlife but nothing is certain. But whatever afterlife this is it isn’t the biblical one. The punishment for their sins appears to be non-existentance. But if you are a murderer and your family keeps your picture on the ofrenda you are assured of continuing on. Plus what happens if you have no family? Sorry even if you were a saint on the earth you end up with non-existentance.

I would also invite the readers to look into the traditions regarding the Day of the Dead how the family places food and gifts on ofrendas, which are just altars for the dead. This isn’t Christian teaching regarding how we are to remember the dead.

Lastly I would say that watching Pixar’s Coco would be good to learn of the Mexican culture but at the same time you need to point out what the biblical teaching is regarding what happens when people die.

Pixar Coco gets three stars with reservations.

Movie Review: All the pretty horses

Producer:  Robert Salerno, Billy Bob Thornton
Director:  Billy Bob Thornton
Writer:  Ted Tally
Based On: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Cast:  Matt Damon, Jesse Plemons, Penélope Cruz, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black, Ruben Blades, Robert Patrick, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Míriam Colón, Bruce Dern, Sam Shepard

Based upon one of the most popular books by Cormac McCarthy ‘All the pretty horses’ tells the story of three young men (Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, and Lucas Black) in the 1940’s who after hearing all the tales of cowboying in Texas leave their home to cross the border and work on a ranch in Mexico.  

The youngest of the three youths, played by Lucas Black, is only 13 years old and is separated from them soon after they enter Mexico.  The two young men hire on with a wealthy rancher ( Ruben Blades), and Matt Damon proves his worth by breaking the wild horses he owns.  He also romances the rancher’s daughter (Penélope Cruz) much to the ire of her father.  He throws them in jail, where they meet up with their thirteen year old companion who has killed a man.  

This is what I would call a ‘New Western’ it has the elements of what a classic western contains but with a more modern feel.  There is a slight distopian feel to this movie a despair at a loss for the way of life that can’t be brought back.  

I do like this movie even if it does evoke a schadenfreude feeling in me and I am giving it three stars out of five.  

Shout out to W W Sorrells for suggesting this movie to me.

Movie Review: Arsenic and Old Lace

Producer:  Frank Capra, Jack L. Warner
Director:  Frank Capra
Writers:  Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein
Cast:  Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Priscilla Lane, John Alexander, Jack Carson, John Ridgely, Edward McNamara, James Gleason, Edward Everett Horton, Grant Mitchell, Vaughan Glaser, Chester Clute, Edward McWade, Garry Owen, Charles Lane, Hank Mann, Spencer Charters

Plot:  Poor Mortimer Brewster, (Cary Grant), all he wants to do is marry the love of his life, (Priscilla Lane) and take her to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon when he finds out the secret that his aunts (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair) have been keeping in the basement.  Seems the aunts have taken it upon themselves to reduce the population of older lonely men in town the upshot being there are twelve graves in the basement of their house.  

Throw into this mix the aunt’s brother, who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, and insists on blowing a bugle as he runs up the stairs yelling “Charge!” And Mortimer’s psychopathic brother, Jonathan, (Raymond Massey) whose brought his own personal plastic surgeon with him. Dr. Einstein, (Peter Lorre) a neurotic quack who can only operate while intoxicated.  How Mortimer survives this menagerie and learns the best news of his life is what makes this film one of my fifty must watch movies.  

Frank Capra’s dark comedy is truly one of the best examples of the genre and rarely matched by similar movies labelled as such.  Cary Grant is perfect as the much put upon Mortimer.  Josephine Hull and Jean Adair play the sweet deadly old ladies to the tee, having that “surprised by all the fuss” look upon themselves most of the time.  Raymond Massey’s performance is on par with Grant’s playing the cold craziness that he does so we’ll.  All in all a great movie with just the right touch of sinister to make this the perfect movie for a Halloween movie night.  

This gets five stars out of five.

Movie Reviews

So I am thinking about doing what I would call my fifty great classic movies.  Many of these are from what is called the golden age of Hollywood.  But it won’t be exclusive to that era.  So I am formulating a list and will take suggestions.  Stay tuned.

Movie Review: Little Shop of Horrors

Producer:  David Geffen
Writer:  Howard Ashman
Director:  Frank Oz
Cast:  Rick Moranis,Ellen Greene,Vincent Gardenia,Steve Martin,James Belushi,John Candy,Christopher Guest,Bill Murray
Based on Little Shop of Horrors
by Alan Menken Howard Ashman
The Little Shop of Horrors
by Roger Corman

Considering this is the day of the solar eclipse it seemed appropriate that this movie should be reviewed.

Little Shop of Horrors a musical based on the infamous Roger Cotman film that was rumored to have been shot in a 24 hour period. (Actually 48 hours) about a shnook named Seymour Krelborn who finds a unique plant after a solar eclipse.  Seymour works in a run down florist shop owned by Mr. Mushnik along with the beautiful Audrey whom Seymour secretly loves.  Mr. Mushnik wants to close the shop but Audrey suggests that a unique plant may draw customers.  Mr. Mushnik puts Seymour’s plant, named Audrey 2, into the window and sure enough the customers come in by the droves.  But Audrey 2 droops at the end of the day and Seymour discovers the awful truth to keep Audrey 2 alive he has to feed her blood.

And as Audrey 2 grows so does the need for more blood until the obvious happens.  But by this time Audrey 2 tells Seymour that all the luck he has been experiencing is because of her.

I won’t give away much more of the movie.  Needless to say it is a fun in a black comedy manner and you might find yourself singing along to some of the songs.  My favorite is the dentist song and I usually hum it as I am getting my bi-yearly check up.  My dental hygienist hates me.

This movie is for fifteen years old and older.  There is some swearing and physical abuse of a woman, as well as the murders.  But it is balanced by some great songs and some great acting by the cast.  

This is a four star movie.  

Movie Review: The Dark Tower

Producers: Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, Erica Huggins
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writer:Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel,
Based on The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley

Before I get on with the rest of this review I would like to quote a small bit of lyric from what was arguably one of the funniest shows on TV. 

Just repeat to yourself “It’s just a show, I should really just relax”

Now if you go to this movie thinking that they have through the wonders of Hollywood magic they have been able to condense an eight book series into a ninty minute movie.  Go to another movie!

If instead you go into this movie expecting to see common elements of Stephen King’s themes in his books played out on the screen you might enjoy this movie.  

The plot is very basic. Idris Elba Is the last gunslinger charged with protecting the Black Tower. The Dark Tower which stands in the center of the multiverse preventing darkness from entering the multiverse.  The enemy of all the gunslingers and ultimately the Dark Tower is the man in black played by Matthew McConaughey.  And like I said you get references to King’s work.  The young boy, Jake Chambers played by Tom Taylor, has the shine (The Shining) and it allows him to see visions of both the gunslinger and the man in black as well as the Dark Tower.  This makes him valuable to the man in black because he uses kids with the shine to attack the Dark Tower.  The young boy escapes from the man in black’s minions and meets up with the gunslinger.  The boy then inspires the gunslinger to continue his quest to protect the Dark Tower.

This is a “western” sci-fi movie similar to Serenity and a few others.  And it isn’t the train wreck many have portrayed it to be.  I will say that the best part of the movie is Idris Elba but I haven’t seen anything yet that he didn’t impress me by his acting skills.
I am giving this a three star review see it at a matinee or wait for a second run theater.