Tag Archives: Netflix and chill

El Camino Christmas

El-Camino-Christmas-featureI count Die Hards 1 and 2 as two of my favourite Christmas movies, so I’ve seen a hostage situation or two play out on-screen during the holiday season. But El Camino Christmas proves that not all hostage situations are created equal, mainly because not all cops are Bruce Willis. Some cops are Dax Shepard or worse, drunken Vincent D’Onofrio (who is either a very good actor or has a serious alcohol problem, or maybe both). El Camino Christmas is the opposite of a how-to hostage negotiation video, as things start bad and somehow get worse.

With Dax Shepard involved with the film, I expected some dumb comedy but El Camino Christmas seems to not even be trying to be funny. And if it was trying, well, it failed miserably.

On the “plus” side, if you have been suffering from Tim Allen or Jessica Alba withdrawal, El Camino Christmas will give you a shot of both. Neither needed to be here but they both showed up anyway for a little Christmas green. Really, why not say yes, when Netflix is throwing money at everyone else?

Some of those other Netflix originals have been pretty good but El Camino Christmas is not even middling.  It’s a totally predictable, cliched, and boring film.  It’s not the least bit entertaining, not even unintentionally. There is really nothing to recommend about El Camino Christmas. It is bleaker than a stocking full of coal, so just watch those Die Hards again instead. Especially if you can catch the dubbed for TV versions for the true holiday experience. Yippie-ki-yay, Mister Falcon!

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The Worst Thing on Netflix

There’s good stuff on Netflix, and plenty of bad, and then there’s the stuff that only Sean could find during his endless scrolling – find, and watch. What he subjects me to on Netflix could probably be defined as spousal abuse, and there’s no better evidence than Pup Star: Better 2gether.

Now, as the rest of you can probably guess from the “clever” use of the number 2 in the word together, this is a sequel. Have we seen the first? No we have not. Did we even know that a first one exited? No we did not. Did we start with the first? Of course we did not: we jumped right in to the complex world building of the Pup Star universe and took our chances.

Tiny is an adorable little Yorkie who apparently in a previous film, won the hearts of MV5BZTk4MjMwNWEtMmVhNy00YTdmLWIzNmYtNWE5MDU5OGNmYWU5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDQ0MDI4OA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_America and the Pup Star singing competition. This film she’ll have to defend her championship BUT some gangsters are getting in her way! They dognap Tiny and replace her with a street-smart rapping Yorkie who looks identical, called Scrappy. Scrappy says “yo yo yo” a lot, usually in front of “rap lyrics” that sounds like they’re being read directly from a Hallmark card. But anyway, Scrappy’s a ringer who will pose as Tiny only to throw the competition at the last minute. Meanwhile, Scrappy gets pretty comfy cozy in Tiny’s lavish lifestyle, and Tiny makes some new friends hanging with Scrappy’s rap crew.

This is NOT a cartoon, folks. They’re real dogs with moving lips superimposed onto their faces. They speak English and are understood by humans. There are dog characters with racially-based personalities and names like Guido and Rasta. There’s a disconcerting amount of human-based slapstick. And there’s a very confusing ‘cameo’ by Dave Coulier. I found I could only take the nonsense for a max of about 10 minutes at a time so we actually watched this movie over a series of 7-10 nights, over a period of maybe 2 months.

Why though? Especially when we have our very own cute and cuddly Yorkie at home.

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That’s Fudgie. He was a unicorn for Halloween. He’s an amazing dancer.

 

 

What’s the worst thing you’ve been duped into watching?

A Christmas Prince

This movie is so fabulously, unashamedly horrible I want to go into an eggnog-induced coma after slitting the throats of all involved with reindeer antlers and mistletoe whittled down to shivs.

It is EVERYTHING you know it will be, every damn cliche in exactly the right order. An American editor-wannabe-journalist for an unimportant magazine is for some 7ab3c50a33e196331a602d78c376a5996e35266breason sent to a fake European country for her first big assignment to cover some royal crisis. Last year on Christmas the king died, leaving his throne vacant. It should rightfully go to his son, who never wanted it. He’s spent the last year being a shitty playboy millennial across the globe and but he’s only got until Christmas this year to claim the throne or risk it going to his cousin, who actually wants the job and only seems to be marginally less a dick than Prince Richard.

Meanwhile, Amber’s big, serious journalist tactic is to lie her way into the palace and pose as a tutor to Richard bratty little disabled sister and then surreptitiously take pictures of the royal family with her iphone while wearing Converse to prove she’s quirky AND relatable AND out of her depth! And she’s accident prone, the plight of all beautiful heroines because it’s the only flaw that doesn’t cause ugliness. Of course she falls for the Prince because not only is he blandly white boy handsome, he’s also kind to orphans! But her lies are quickly snowballing and she’s also not very good at her job so her cover could be blown any day now – especially with a conniving Lady Something or Other trying to make sure she’s the next crown Princess, no matter which dude becomes King.

I know you’re wondering this so let me get it out of the way: YES, there’s a makeover. Yes there are horses. Yes there’s a cookie baking montage.

So get your ass in gear, A Christmas Prince isn’t going to watch itself! Then come back here and use the comments section to roast, roast, roast.

What We Did On Our Holiday

Abi and Doug take their kids on a little holiday to Scotland where grandpa Gordie is celebrating a big birthday – and possibly his last. It’s the cancer, you see, which is why Abi and Doug are determined to keep a wee little secret from his dad: they’re divorcing. Have been acrimoniously separated for quite some time. So of course they’ll have to enlist their three precious children into this lying scheme of theirs, and of course that’s not going to be easy. The eldest child is just starting to think that lying is wrong, and being forced to lie by the people who have always taught you not to is just a little hypocritical. The two littler ones are just straight up liabilities. So this is going to be a fun holiday!

I clicked on this because I saw Rosamund Pike plays Abi (and David Tennant her ex-husband) but was most pleased to find Billy Connolly playing grandpa Gordie. He brings such a unique energy to things, I was immediately swept off my feet. And this MV5BMTc0Mjg1OTAxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgxNjYwNjE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_is not exactly an excellent movie. But Connolly is pretty much everything you could ask for and more, and the kid actors are a goddamn delight. They’re mouthy and disarming – the kind that completely enchant you, unless they’re yours. But they’re not, so you can sit back while your own are in bed and watch their antics, guilt-free. Because oh yes, there will be antics. It’s a silly little film that, in the end, I enjoyed quite thoroughly. It’s a notch above a time-waster; a movie that doesn’t need to be seen with any pressing urgency but if you come across it randomly you might find yourself pleasantly surprised, as I did.

Billy Connolly was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and prostate cancer right before filming began. He kept that to himself. He has stepped out of the spotlight since and his health is failing; he shocked people with his altered appearance when he made time to do a Red Nose video for charity earlier this year. I can’t quite bear to contemplate a world with Connolly in it. If you’re a fan of his, maybe watch this movie now, while the memories are still good.

Ben’s At Home

Ben is a whiny son of a bitch and I hated him almost on sight. But then he confesses he’s a movie reviewer who really likes the movie Mary and Max – watching him explain stop motion to blank-faced 20-somethings is an agony I related to all too well. And then that moment of synergy faded and I went back to hating the asshole. First impressions: there’s something to them.

maxresdefaultIn the wake of a bad breakup, Ben decides he just won’t leave his apartment anymore. His friends think he’s a dick but aren’t as concerned for his mental health as they perhaps should be. His world condenses down to shouting at 11 year olds over video game platforms, gaming internet dates with the same Richard Attenborough material, and chatting up whatever cute delivery persons cross his threshold.

Dan Abramovici as Ben (and the film’s co-writer, with director Mars Horodyski) is perfect for the role. I hate him as much as I hate the character. Ben is a loathsome guy who genuinely hurts his friends when he chooses his new “lifestyle” over celebrating their big milestones. And yet the film believes he is still worthy of love, still worthy of all the undercooked female characters they can throw at him. To say this movie fails the Bechdel test is misleading; you can’t administer a chemistry test to a remedial gym class and expect anyone to do well. And giving him a dog just made me feel sorry for the dog.

The one good thing I can say about this film is that it tops out at 70 minutes. Taking a page from Ben’s At Home, I’ll keep this review short too: nope.

 

The English Teacher

Julianne Moore is The English Teacher. That she is 40-something and unmarried seems to be a major plot point, one that made me immediately vomit into my mouth. Apparently because her standards are too high, a prim, stick-up-her-ass voice-over lady informs us. And indeed we witness several of Ms. Linda Sinclair’s dates, during which she mentally marks them up with red pen and assigns them grades – mostly failing. She is much more comfortable in front of a classroom of teenagers, discussing the authors, stories and characters who never disappoint her.

But then an older student returns, having failed to make a living writing plays in New York City. Linda adores his play of course, loves it so much she steps out of her comfort MV5BMTA3MDcyOTY0OTdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDQwNjczMjk@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1505,1000_AL_zone to help mount it at her school, with the help of drama teacher extraordinaire, Mr. Kapinas (Nathan Lane). Things do not exactly go smoothly. The play is costly; Mr. Kapinas is demanding; the leading lady (Lily Collins) is a temperamental trouble-maker; the school board objects to the violence. All the while Linda keeps clashing with Jason’s dad (Greg Kinnear), believing that the play’s dark themes have been inspired by their real life.

The thing is, Julianne Moore is great, but the movie that surrounds her is not. It’s kind of a mess. The movie begins and ends with the prissy narration, but forgets it entirely otherwise. These little gimmicks only detract from a movie that’s already a bit hard to follow. It’s a modest movie about a playwright being forced to insert a happy ending into his work – which then forces a happy ending on itself, which feels completely improbable and doesn’t fit with the underlying sadness of the film’s tone. I didn’t hate this film but I cannot figure out the point of it. Only because I was hot for teacher will I generously give this a grade of C-.

The Outcasts

Jodi and Mindy are a couple of … nerds? geeks? kids who just don’t fit in? But they do have each other, which is not quite enough when their high school’s resident Mean Girl pulls a nasty prank. They vow to get even, and their brilliant plan involves uniting all the school’s Great Unwashed – every band geek, gamer, stoner, and whoever else resides on the outskirts of the Popular Clique. The popular gang only exists because the rest of the outsiders are fractured. Put them all on the same team and suddenly they’re the dominant group. Whoa, reversal! Will high school ever be the same again?

5x3tw-Y6XMQG2KXH5-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1490285390734._RI_SX940_Jodi (Victoria Justice) and Mindy (Eden Sher) are our bike-helmet wearing heroes, but that doesn’t mean we know much about them. Even in a movie that champions the outcasts, we still relegate them to the thing that labels them: Mindy is the supersmart, MIT-bound nerd, Jodi is the aimless dreamer, there’s the guy who wears a cape to school, the guy who exists just to dance, the girl who’s obsessed with Paris, the girl scout…lots and lots of one dimensions.

The Outcasts can best be described as “harmless” – it adds nothing to the high school movie genre and is light on its message of inclusivity. The only mild amusement I derived from the movie was in reading the slogans on everyone’s tshirts. I was forgetting it before it was even done, and that’s probably for the best.

Buster’s Mal Heart

Buster is a mountain man on the run from authorities. He survives the cold winters by breaking into vacation homes and living off the spoils. He’s pursued by the police but also by flashbacks to his prior, family-man life, and by persistent daydreams of being adrift at sea. He calls radio shows to warn others about the impending “Inversion”.

The film, which eschews conventional story-telling, seems to have three distinct time lines, if I may call them that. 1. Buster (Rami Malek) as an overworked father and husband. He works as the night manager at a creepy hotel and the shift work is killing him. He lives with his in-laws, which might be killing him too, come to think of it. At the MV5BMzgzNjFhMmUtZDNmYy00N2M2LThiMzMtYjkwMjA4NjlkZjIwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUxMjc1OTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,735_AL_hotel he encounters a drifter (DJ Qualls) begging for a room for the night, and this encounter will change the course of Buster’s life forever. 2. With matted hair and a dirty beard, Buster’s mind appears to be cracked. He lives off grid, barely surviving, almost no semblance to his former self. 3. He is half-starved, lost at sea in a small rowboat, sending letters in bottles overboard. We don’t know how long this has gone on for.

How many, if any, of these time lines is real? Are they manifestations of his wormhole conspiracy theory, or the product of a mind broken with grief and guilt, or just the insomniac’s daymares? That’s for you to figure out, without much help from director Sarah Adina Smith, who is perfectly comfortable with an audience full of head-scratchers and what-the-fuckers. In fact, she’s going to throw in a whole bunch of biblical allusions just to fuck with you some more.

One thing’s for sure: Rami Malek is ready to be a leading man. His minimalist style still conveys mental instability and eccentricity across all timelines. He contributes to the film maker’s ruse by making each version of Buster equally believe and unbelievable. All three feel authentic but all three cannot be. He gives away nothing. And in the end, if you’re going to enjoy this movie at all, you’ll have to be comfortable with that, with not getting any answers. By having bold questions shoved in your face and living with just discarding them. Is any version of Buster a real person, or are they all just metaphors for disillusionment? Or am I, the viewer, the one who’s disillusioned?

 

Little Evil

Little Evil is not an exceptional entry into the genre, but it’s a quirky little horror-comedy hybrid that’s just clever enough. This film is of the ‘possessed child’ variety but the focus is on Gary (Adam Scott), the demon child’s stepdad. Step-parenting is hard, y’all! And it’s slightly harder when your new wife’s kid is the spawn of satan. You really get put through the ringer. And of course his Mom (Evangeline Lilly) is always going to take her darling son’s side – how dare you suggest that he might be, you know – a little evil? He’s an angel! Besides, how much trouble can a 6 year old really get into, even if he is the Antichrist?

99e58ff3fb9373b5bb8760617c7674f23bddd0d1Director Eli Craig clearly has some fondness for the genre, and little odes to other possessed-kid movies pop up from time to time. Another thing that pops up is Craig’s own mother, Sally Field, as a social worker who thinks Gary just isn’t trying hard enough. It’s a small but terrific role for her – possibly the kind of role only her son could ask her to play.

The film’s weakness is that it never fully embraces its own identity. It doesn’t go full goofy, but it can never be full horror. The result is perfectly watchable but a little frustrating knowing what it might otherwise have been. It also sort of neglects little Lucas (Owen Atlas, the titular Evil himself). We don’t know him well enough to judge whether he truly wants to bury people alive, or whether he’s just not fond of Mom’s string of boyfriends. Our early impression is that he likes to dress like he’s in ACDC and he’s mostly silent, only talking through a creepy goat hand puppet. He’s only just turned 6, still small enough for us to feel naturally protective over, so if you want me to contemplate stabbing him through his unholy heart, you’d better give me good reason and some to spare.

All in, this is a fairly throwaway movie. The beats are familiar, it’s just that Gary’s merry band of misfits consists of a step-dad support group. There are some laughs to be had here, and if you’re a fan of horror, it’s fun to play Where’s Waldo with the references. This is Netflix original content, and it’s streaming there right now.

It Had To Be You

It Had To Be You is an interesting gender-role reversal. For once it’s the boyfriend who’s the serious one, ready to make a commitment and put a ring on it, and it’s the girlfriend who is reluctant to do the whole marriage thing. Unfortunately, Sonia (Cristin Milioti) and Chris (Dan Soder) haven’t really talked about their differences, so when he blindsides her with a romantic proposal, he’s pretty hurt when she balks and can’t accept.

She doesn’t exactly say no, but the ‘time to think’ required stretches on into infinity and MV5BNzg0NzE3ODUzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY5OTgyMDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1776,1000_AL_pretty soon Chris is fed up with waiting. In the wake of their inevitable breakup, Sonia is inspired by a fellow subway rider’s thong (no I am not making that up, thankyouverymuch) to fly to Italy to find herself, and by herself, I mean some Italian guy’s dick.

I won’t pretend this is a super great movie, but I gave it a try because I really like both Milioti and Soder (any other campers out there?) as comedians, and it turns out, worth the risk. The script is just clever enough to revive a genre that usually stinks like a four day old walleyed fish, and the two leads are un-actory and quirky enough to be likeable, relatable, and not quite predictable.

So there you have it: It Had To Be You is like a nice, refreshing glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day. Sangria would have been better, but lemonade will do. 😉