Friday, December 21, 2018

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Number Rolled: 42
Movie Name/Year: The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Tagline: Santa’s in town early this year.
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production Companies: 1492 Pictures, Ocean Blue Entertainment, Madhouse Entertainment, Netflix, Wonder Worldwide
Producers: Chris Columbus, Bill Andrew, Anna Barnathan, Michael Barnathan, David Guggenheim, Geoffrey Hansen, Adam Kolbrenner, Monica Lago-Kaytis, Lyn Lucibello, Robyn Meisinger, Michelle Miller, Tracy K. Price, Mark Radcliffe, Karen Swallow
Director: Clay Kaytis
Writers: David Guggenheim, Matt Lieberman
Actors: Kurt Russell, Darby Camp, Judah Lewis, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Oliver Hudson, Lamorne Morris, Martin Roach, Jeff Teravainen

Blurb from Netflix: After accidentally crashing Santa's sleigh, a brother and sister pull an all-nighter to save Christmas with a savvy, straight-talking St. Nick.

Cat’s Point of View:

I have to admit that I have been geeking out a bit since first seeing the trailers for The Christmas Chronicles. I mean, Kurt Russell (Death Proof, The Art of the Steal, The Hateful Eight) as Santa?! Pinch me.

Seriously. Who else would be Saint Nick in a Christmas movie that’s practically an action flick sans explosions? OK don’t answer that question. I’m sure there are a few action film staples that could do the job – but this was a bit of kismet right here.

The part was practically written for him, given that Santa’s list included names of some of his real-world grandkids. Just saying.

My gushing aside, this was actually a really good movie. The effects were on point, and the way the story spun the Santa Clause mythos was thoughtful and believable. How does Santa get down the chimneys? How does he visit the whole world in 1 night? How does he fit all the presents into his bag? Well, watch and see because I’m not spoiling it for you!

There were references to The Night Before Christmas poem sprinkled throughout, as well. I thought they were really nice touches that brought a lot of warmth to the already lovable character.
Hands down, though, Russell makes the coolest Santa ever.

Darby Camp (The Summers Sisters, Benji, Big Little Lies) and Judah Lewis (Demolition, The Babysitter, Summer of 84) were also well-cast as siblings. Their story tugs at your heartstrings without going over-the-top on the maudlin stuff. They’re cute as a button but really had the acting chops to embody their characters well.

I really wasn’t kidding when I mentioned action movies. Flying reindeer, crashes, chases, and a race to save Christmas… it’s all in there. Don’t forget a hefty dose of holiday magic and wonder on top of that!

Unfortunately, I had to watch the movie after my family was already in bed. You can bet that I’ll be watching this again with them – probably even on Christmas Eve. 

Speech Available: English, German, Spanish, French, Mandarin
Subtitles Available: English [CC], Spanish, French, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 71%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 81%
Metascore – 52/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.7/10
IMDB Score – 7.2/10

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Spirit of Christmas (2015)

Number Rolled: 85
Movie Name/Year: The Spirit of Christmas (2015)
Tagline: This holiday could be the start of a new beginning.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production Companies: MarVista Entertainment
Producer: Andrea Ajemian, Sharon Bordas, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew
Director: David Jackson
Writer: Tracy Andreen
Actors: Thomas Beaudoin, Kati Salowsky, Steven A. Miller, Jen Lilley, Alexander Gauthier, Christopher Tarjan, Neil Casey, Robert Walsh, Bates Wilder, Brett Leigh, Joanna Herrington, Jon DiVito

Blurb from Netflix: As Christmas approaches, attorney Kate Jordan travels to Vermont to oversee the sale of an inn, where she falls for a handsome but cursed ghost.

Selina’s Point of View:
I found this film to be very unique. It’s not the first kind of storyline I think of when I know I’m about to watch a Christmas film.

The blurb made me think it was going to be another one like How Sarah Got Her Wings (2015). Even worse, it could have easily been a retelling of a weird version of A Christmas Carol (1843). Don’t get me wrong, I love A Christmas Carol… but there are some BAD and WEIRD remakes out there.

I digress.

The Spirit of Christmas was nothing like either of those films. There were some really interesting mystery aspects to the movie. A few creepy horror moments, too. Never-the-less, it was without-a-doubt a Christmas film. The entire script, the settings, the plot… it all tied in with Christmas so easily that the holiday didn’t even have to be at the forefront of everything to be felt.

I got completely absorbed into the story. It reminded me of a version of something written by an author like Kresley Cole (Sutherland, MacCarrick Brothers, Immortals After Dark). No, there was nothing erotic in this movie, but with the mix of supernatural and romance, the same feeling was there.

Both Thomas Beaudoin (The Trouble with Mistletoe, Off the Rails, Finding Julia) and Jen Lilley (Off the Menu, Days of Our Lives, Crossing Streets) were amazing in their parts. Their chemistry was believable and would have done wonders for the film even if the plot or script was bad. In this case, they were making more gold out of gold… so it was even better to watch.

The ending was kind of expected, but it left a lot of questions. I actually like that. They let the ending be whatever you needed it to be. Sad or happy. Dark or light. Bitter or loving. It’s really interesting how what they did could change from perspective to perspective. Just on my own I thought up several ways to interpret what happened and they all led to a very different emotion. What you make of the ending of The Spirit of Christmas comes from within you. Which just feels even more Christmas-y to me.

So far, this is definitely my favorite of the month. I highly recommend it.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of a sap, right?

Well chalk this one up to that very fact. I recognize that this was a Lifetime Channel movie, but it far exceeded my expectations for a production of that origin. I bought in on the story, its characters – the whole shebang. I was even getting teary-eyed towards the end.

I loved the supernatural elements that were incorporated into the story without leaning too heavily on the ghost story tropes. I really enjoyed the way they spun it into something that felt fresh.

I’ll be honest. It felt like I was reading one of those guilty pleasure romance novels – and one of the good ones at that…just considerably more PG than they tend to be.

There was a decided lack of cheese here. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. I wasn’t choking on smarmy lovey-dovey stuff, and there was no neat little bow to tie everything up. I’m left with questions, but in the case of this story I think it’s a good thing!

I found myself relating with the feisty red-head, Kate, played by Jen Lilley (The Zoo, Yes I Do, Evil Doctor). Her on-screen chemistry with co-star Thomas Beaudoin (Blue Moon, Love's Last Resort, Victor Lessard) was fairly palpable, as well. There was more to Beaudoin than his unmistakable smolder and tall, dark, and handsome status. I could envision him stepping out of his character’s time period.

I also need to give kudos that the story didn’t end as I thought it would. It was refreshing to be surprised.

If you’re a fan of romance and mystery with a little splash of the fantastical, this movie is sure to warm you up on a cold night.

Speech Available: English, French
Subtitles Available: English, French, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 65%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.5/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Inheritance (2017)

Number Rolled: 12
Movie Name/Year: Christmas Inheritance (2017)
Tagline: None
Genre: Comedy
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production Companies: Motion Picture Corporation of America (MPCA)
Producer: David Anselmo, Vince Balzano, Mickey Gooch, Eric Jarboe, Amy Krell, Brad Krevoy, Amanda Phillips Atkins, Jimmy Townsend
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writer: Dinah Eng
Actors: Eliza Taylor, Jake Lacy, Andie MacDowell, Neil Crone, Michael Xavier, Lori Hallier, Mag Ruffman, Bill Lake, Anthony Sherwood, Martin Roach, Lindsay Leese, Joanna Douglas, Mikayla Radan, Dash Dobrofsky, Laura Miyata, John Tench, Jonathan Langdon, Eric Parks, Ben Rosenbaum, Telysa Chandler

Blurb from Netflix: To inherit her father’s company, socialite Ellen must first visit his small hometown, where she learns the value of hard work and helping others.

Selina’s Point of View:
Initially I felt like Christmas Inheritance felt a little too much like Sweet Home Alabama (2002). Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that, I just feel like this film was done better in general.

That’s the thing about recipes. Just because it already exists doesn’t mean someone can’t do it better.

This movie did stick to the recipe, very closely, but it was just easier to watch. I got absorbed in it. The characters that were supposed to be likeable, were; and the story felt more honest than the one used in Sweet Home Alabama.

In a film like this, you also get the possibility of being very offensive to people who aren’t from the big city – or vice-versa. I feel like this movie showed both sides of both places. No one really came off as a hick or someone overly rude (except for one person and that was kind of the point).

There were a few times I caught the feels. I didn’t cry or anything, but I did get a little warm inside. A good Christmassy warmth. I do prefer that my holiday films have a touch of magic in them, but even without that supernatural edge, I felt it: the weight of the season.

I’d recommend Christmas Inheritance. Even if it does have a dumb name.

Cat’s Point of View:
I don’t care what anyone else says. I really like this movie, ok?

I can’t help but have a slight bit of a knee-jerk reaction to defend this film. This stems from the fact that I fudged and glanced at a few other review articles around the ‘net while looking for appropriate images. I don’t know why it sounded like those writers were beaten with a cranky stick; but they need to eat their Wheaties…or something.

I digress.

This Netflix original movie hit all the right notes to be endearing without falling into the trap of blatantly trying too hard. It was funny as well as heartfelt without being corny. Sure, there were parts that fell right in line with the predictability of the genre; but there were also moments that were a pleasant surprise.

I’d say that this film definitely achieved its goal of spreading a lovely Christmas message about the spirit of giving, and so much more.

I was head over heels about this cast, too. I absolutely adored Andie MacDowell (Beauty Shop, Breaking at the Edge, Only the Brave) in her role as Debbie. She just embodied this wisdom and warmth in her character. I was nearly jealous when she hugged Ellen Langford. Speaking of Miss Ellie, the casting of Eliza Taylor (Patrick, The November Man, The 100) in the role was also a good fit.  

I did have a bit of a giggle, though, when I saw Jake Lacy (Love the Coopers, How to Be Single, Johnny English Strikes Again) in the role as Jake Collins. It wasn’t because of anything he did, or didn’t do. I simply just watched Rampage (2018) last week and the character he plays there is completely the opposite of the small town good-guy we see here.

Out of the movies we’ve watched so far this month, this one has made it into my top 3 for sure.  Needless to say, I would have no trouble recommending this movie in a heartbeat. 

Speech Available: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, French, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 50%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 34%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.7/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer: