Tag Archives: holiday movies

The Grinch

The original, made-for-TV How The Grinch Stole Christmas! will always be the version that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s as old as my mother, and like her, it’s a classic. That’s the one I’ll always need to rewatch. But I can see how 2018’s The Grinch will be a favourite for kids in the years to come.

It’s a safe retelling, sticking fairly closely to the original story, with a few embellishments here and there to puff it out to 86 minutes. The Grinch is a mean, green dude who lives in a cave with no one for company but his faithful dog, Max – and that’s the way he likes it. In the town down below, however, the Whos of Whoville are a happy, joyful people, who eagerly and lavishly celebrate the holiday The Grinch most despises: Christmas.

Whoville is an orgy of colour and action. Imaginative details abound – from the mouse skating by on candy cane skates, to the machine that cleverly collects snow MV5BNjJhYmE0NGYtOThhMC00ZGIwLWExNDUtZmU3NWI3NmNlNmViXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjgxNTQwNw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_and poops out snowballs for the trail of excited children behind it. The animators have outdone themselves drenching everything in lights and tinsel and Christmas cheer. The Grinch himself looks better than ever, his green fluffiness rendered hair by hair. And Max, half companion, half servant, all wonder dog, has fantastic and recognizable doggy traits.

A couple of noticeable differences: The Grinch doesn’t seem to be entirely bad, even while still misunderstood. He can be quite sweet to his pal Max, and he’s compassionate with new addition Fred, a rubinesque reindeer, dopey with good intentions. And The Grinch’s “nemesis” Cindy Lou Who is now the adventurous daughter of a hardworking single mother, a detail that helps move this timeless story into this century. I didn’t mind any of the new stuff, but I did miss just a few details from the original film, which I know and love so well.

A lot of the voicework was fantastic: Angela Lansbury, Pharrell Williams, Rashida Jones, and especially Kenan Thompson. Nothing against Benedict Cumberbatch but I found him terribly mis(voice)cast as The Grinch. And I found it baffling that they hired him only to make him do an American accent – he might have sounded better in his own voice. Ah well.

All in all, kids will love this movie. I know this for sure because my theatre was filled to the brim with some sort of organization’s boatload of kids. Their joy and mirth brought an extra layer of fun to the screening – not to mention squeals like “He’s naked!” followed by every single kid dissolving into giggles, the sound of which is sure to grow anyone’s heart by two to three sizes at least.

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Utter Christmas Crap

Christmas Inheritance

Ellen is set to inherit her father’s ambiguous “gift” business but first she must prove she’s worthy by travelling to a small town and hand-delivering a letter to a man who isn’t there. She leaves her grinchy fiance behind, all the better to fall inappopriately in love with the good-hearted jack of all trades who drives the town’s cab and serves as the hotel’s bell boy, played by a face you’ll recognize if not the name – Jake Lacy was on The Office and in Girls, and has starred in real, legit movies like Carole, Miss Sloane, and Obvious Child. I’m guessing this movie was a last-ditch effort to save his knee caps. But what then is Andie MacDowell’s excuse?

Anyway, this movie hits all the Christmas movie check marks: baking montage, helping the homeless, fake snow that looks suspiciously like shaving cream. Plus the plot never makes a lick of sense. Not a lick.

 

Christmas in the City

Wendy moves to the “big city” in order to save her dead father’s candy store by working a minimum wage temporary job in a failing department store where she’s terrorized by the new “marketing” expert who hates Christmas as much as she hates Wendy, who she deems a romantic rival. I think.

Ashanti stars as the “witch” and believe it or not, she’s the only one in the movie who doesn’t sing. She also throws a mean wreath – and every time she does, the extras react like she threw a baby right on its soft little fontanel. The mere suggestion that Christmas is somewhat about presents brings literal tears to their eyes despite the fact that they all work in a DEPARTMENT STORE.

Oh, and if the ending where everyone joins hands and sings their hearts out in the direction of the one person who lacks Christmas spirit feels familiar – I’m pretty sure it’s lifted directly from The Grinch.

Christmas Crush aka Holiday High School Reunion

Georgia is “on the verge of her first milestone” (which I take to mean she’s pushing thirty) and barely feels like she has time to find Mr. Right with the pressure to settle down and marry breathing down her neck (or is that her mother?). When she goes home for Christmas, she finds that her old high school is also hosting a reunion and lo and behold, the torch she’s been carrying for her high school boyfriend Craig is reignited. And this time she won’t let anything come between her and the one that got away – not even true love, played by the guy who was also in the unfathomably necessary Christmas Kiss 2, and the glorious A Dog Walker’s Christmas Tale and also featuring a dude from the above Christmas in the City, plus Harry Hamlin and Merilu Henner, all of whom embarrass themselves as you know they must. But if your idea of a holiday classic involves slutty dancing to Christmas hymns (which are, not coincidentally, royalty-free!), you’re in luck.

 

 

Scraping the Bottom of the Christmas Barrel

12 Dog Days Till Christmas

A boy named Jack is sentenced to community service by Uncle Carl (Reginald VelJohnson – formerly of Steve Urkel fame). He’s had a “rough” childhood, as evidenced by his medium-bad attitude. He’s a foster kid who hasn’t quite aged out, and he seems to relate a lot to the dogs at the shelter where he’s sentenced to work his hours. They’re unwanted too. But oh no, the shelter’s closing! So when they have the 12 remaining days before Christmas to find homes for 12 dogs, he greets the task with frantic zeal.

The kid who plays Jack is monumentally bad. He’s either someone’s nephew, or he was sentenced community service hours which he must serve by appearing in this very bad movie, which co-stars the woman who was in the Christmas movie about the dog park about to close before the holidays. The dogs are cute, but a couple of nice gifs should prove far more entertaining than the entirety of this movie. In fact, here’s a Christmas picture of my own dogs. If it helps keep you off the Christmas crack of bad holiday movies, it’ll all be worthwhile.

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Christmas Kiss 2

The title implies that there was a Christmas Kiss 1 and I can scarcely believe it was so well-received that it merited a sequel. It’s about a woman who seems to get non-consensually kissed by her boss until she falls in love with him. It co-stars the male lead of that aforementioned dog park movie. It seems that multi-picture deals seem to be big business in the horrible holiday movie racket. I have my suspicions about the kind of person whose IMDB credits include ONLY Christmas made-for-TV movies, but I’m going to keep them to myself. No one in this movie is any good at all but oh my god, the woman hired to play the “hot girlfriend” is god-awful. You might think she was hired solely for her looks, but haha, no. No.

And here’s a fun fact about Christmas movies: in 99% of them, someone is a millionaire, maybe even a billionaire, but usually a secret millionaire, and yeah, it’s usually the guy. Only none of these Christmas movies have the budget to convincingly portray a millionaire’s lifestyle. It’s half-hilarious, half-depressing.

Holiday Breakup

Man, this one really makes you work to get to the Christmas part. It’s about a couple who meet on the Fourth of July and breakup by Halloween but then have to fake a relationship through Christmas in order to…I don’t know, really, fend off awkward questions, I guess? I mean, they were a couple for less than 4 months, I doubt anyone was overly invested in it, EXCEPT FOR NANNA WHO’S ABOUT TO DIE, yet they really pursue this terrible plot because they settled on a title first and the script just followed, for worse or worse still.

An actual quote from the movie: “You used to call me ridiculicious.”  “Maybe I’m tired of your ridiculosity.”

 

Okay, one more just in case you need it.

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Pottersville

Maynard is the nicest guy in town, so it’s kind of upsetting when he goes home to surprise his wife with a couple of steaks and instead finds her – no, not naked in bed with another man, but dressed up in a plush mascot costume with one, which is somehow worse. She’s not just an adulteress, she’s a furry, the kind of person who gets kicks from dressing up and rubbing herself on someone else, also wearing a sweaty costume.

still1_pottersvilleMaynard is shocked and disturbed, and after a night of drinking, he finds his old hunting gear and an ape mask, though they bring him little consolation. Cut to: the next morning, the small town’s abuzz: big foot is on the loose. It doesn’t take long for Maynard to connect the dots and realize HE’S the one they’re looking for, but he keeps that embarrassing information to himself and the legend grows.

Netflix has a whole bunch of really, um, interesting holiday fare in its lineup this year, and this one stars the likes of Michael Shannon, Judy Greer, Ron Perlman, and Christina Hendricks (as the furry). I kind of dig Michael Shannon. He’s a great actor whose choices sometimes baffle me – this holiday season you can check him out in this, or the Oscar-bound The Shape of Water. Totally up to you. If you’re looking for a Christmas movie that’s light on Christmas, high on conspiracy, and is a tolerable if forgettable watch, well, I can say with confidence that this is the cream of the crop. If it’s also my opinion that the crop this year is spoiled, well, that’s a whole other post.

 

 

Four Christmases

Being a child of divorce, I can relate to this notion of multiple Christmases, and most people seem to be stressed enough by just the one. Of course, the truth is, if you have divorce in your life or not, you probably already have multiple holiday celebrations: office, friends, in-laws. The holidays are never simple.

So who can blame Brad and Kate for opting out? They’re a fun loving couple in a committed but unmarried relationship who have kept family out of the equation. Instead of choosing between celebrations, they fly south for the holidays, and this year they’ve got their sights set on Fiji. EXCEPT the stupid San Francisco fog has other ideas and their flight is cancelled AND they get caught on live television so the secret’s out and the families start knocking on the door immediately.

Not only are Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) on the hook for 4 Christmases, they’re also meeting each other’s parents for the very first time. And what a MV5BMTg4Nzg1MzE1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTI1NzMyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1492,1000_AL_motley crew that turns out to be! Kate has a cougarrific Mom (Mary Steenburgen) who’s currently dating a rockstar pastor (Dwight Yoakam) and a sister (Kristin Chenoweth) who is dead set on dredging up her entire embarrassing past and a father (Jon Voight) who’s trying to turn over a new leaf. Meanwhile, Brad hippie Mom (Sissy Spacek) is dating his childhood friend who’s aggressively trying to stepfather him despite the non-existent age difference, and his Dad (Robert Duvall) is rough around the edges, to put it nicely, while his brothers (Tim McGraw, Jon Favreau), UFC wannabes, take rough-housing to an uncomfortable level. So I guess the question is for Brad and Kate: do they know each other well enough to survive this family tornado? Or does their relationship depend on constant fun and no entanglements?

The truth is, every family is a juggling act. I remember the first time I brought Sean home to meet my crazy family. I had prepared him as well as I could: someone will cry, someone will lock themselves in the bathroom in a fit of drama, someone will overshare, someone else will shock him with a highly inappropriate question or six. And you know what? ALL of those things happened that first Thanksgiving, as I knew they would, because they always do. But we had a grand time because they’re a fun if dramatic bunch and the problem with families is not really what they reveal of themselves but what they reveal of YOU – as in that hidden part that you shield from new dating partners. But your Mom will inevitably drag out an old photo album that she refuses to cull of your bad haircut phase, and your sister will you call you by your highly unflattering childhood nickname, and your carefully curated cool girl persona will crumble faster than Mom can say “Who wants seconds?”

Anyway, that’s the holidays. They don’t always bring out the best in us, but maybe they bring out our true selves, for better or worse. And if you can’t let that guard drop in front of your partner, then maybe you aren’t really as close as you think. Four Christmases isn’t a great movie, not destined to be a holiday classic, but you can do worse, I suppose, and around the holidays, any excuse to cuddle up on the couch is a good one.

Noel

This movie’s got more Oscar winners and nominees than most, so I can’t quite figure out how I’ve never heard of this movie before. Alan Arkin plays a creepy cashier who’s obsessed with Paul Walker, who plays a cop who’s crazy-jealous over his super hot girlfriend, played by Penelope Cruz, who thinks she may be pregnant with her crazy-jealous boyfriend’s baby and she’s feeling so insecure she confides in a lonely woman played by Susan Sarandon, who’s completely alone for the holidays other than her comatose mother and a complete stranger she meets while visiting another patient, played by Robin Williams, who’s an ex-priest having a crisis of faith.

penelope_cruz_noel_still_2004_OGXxLss.sizedThis holiday movie has something for everyone: spirituality, homophobia, reincarnation, crippling depression, dead babies, and more. But in its heart of hearts it’s really just about a bunch of people who don’t want to end up alone – on Christmas, on their deathbeds, in the world just generally. Some of us feel encumbered by all our obligations to friends and family over the holidays but others are completely bankrupt when it comes to people who care, and for them, the holidays can be really, really hard.

If you’re one of those people, maybe opt for something a little more cheerful. And if you’re already feeling cheerful, why bring a good mood down? This is possibly just too depressing for Christmas fare, and that’s not even counting the fact that it stars two men now dead in real life, one of whom also expires on camera. It’s a real corker! Contrived doesn’t begin to cover it; Noel is a stocking full of sadness hung by the chimney with despair. But it does have Penelope Cruz dancing around in lingerie, so.

 

Santas For Everyone!

My Santa

Santa’s son Chris is on the prowl. He needs a wife, for some reason, and he’s searched thirstily in “Chicago, New York AND  Miami” – which seems like an unusually wide net, though I suppose if a humble little Asshole such as myself could have visited all of those gleaming metropolises, I guess Santa must have at least as much access. Anyway, the point is he’s hard up, until he meets plucky single Mom Jen, who’s bitter about Christmas ever since her ex chose that exactly holiday on which to leave her. Anyway, the more Chris falls for Jen, the more magical Santa powers he inherits from his Dad – like uncooking turkeys, and upcooking cookies, that kind of thing, super logical stuff.

Anyway, Jen’s heart remains unconvinced until her dead mother sends a sign, and then guess what: she becomes Mrs. Claus? Yeah, I don’t know: but fun fact – Chris is played by Matthew Lawrence…you know, Blossom’s Joey Lawrence’s younger brother? Star power!

 

Dear Santa

As you know, every good Christmas movie needs one of two things: a single mom, or a dead mom. In this case, there’s a dead mom, with the mom slot open and waiting to be filled – that’s the one and only thing Olivia is asking from Santa this year. And so it turns mail fraud into a fortunate situation! It just so happens that on the very day Crystal is cut off from mommy and daddy’s vast fortune, she happens to find Olivia’s note to Santa on the sidewalk (thanks a lot, negligent mail carrier!), and since the only way she can think of to fund her lifestyle is to marry, she decides to pursue the widower for all he’s worth.

The hilarious thing is that handsome widower Derek “owns a soup kitchen” cause, you know, that’s a thing that people own. Just the kind of small business that would keep a family comfortable. So spoiled Crystal sets about impressing Derek by donating her best fedoras and Walmart-brand spices to the homeless – and then competing shamelessly and degradingly against another woman she believes to be a love interest of Derek’s. It’s a humiliating movie for women and humankind, but a real boon to the makeup and costuming departments, who outfitted all the homeless extras with real nasty teeth. But fun fact: it’s directed by your teenage crush, Jason Priestly.

Small Town Santa

Dean Cain is  small town sheriff Rick (real heroes don’t wear capes – wink) and a real Christmas grump. When Santa “breaks” into his house on Christmas Eve, he pulls a gun on him before throwing him in the clink! But Santa’s got his number: Rick wasn’t a good husband and is maybe even deluding himself about being a good dad. All his daughter wants this Christmas is for him to be around but he’s too busy feeling sorry for himself to come through for her.

Can “Doctor” Santa successfully shrink sheriff Rick from inside his cell? And can he escape it in time to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls the world over? And why is he wearing acid-washed jeans? It’s nail-biting thrills, thrills, thrills. AND WILL ANYONE FIND JESUS? (He’s missing.) A not-so-fun fact I’m totally stretching for: this movie co-stars Christine Lakin, one time star of Step By Step, a forgettable part of ABC’s TGIF Friday night lineup.

 

So what we’ve learned today: Christmas movies must have a single mother or a dead mother, and both if they’re serious about it. Some sort of eviction\foreclosure scenario is also preferred, as is some sort of 90s teen sensation you forgot existed. But if your standards are low, low, low, you just might find yourself entertained for the holidays. But probably not.