Friday, December 20, 2019

'Tis the Season - Holiday in the Wild (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Holiday in the Wild (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Advantage Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writer: Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky
Actors: Kristin Davis, Rob Lowe, Fezile Mpela, John Owen Lowe, Colin Moss, Keeno Lee Hector, Thandi Puren, Waldemar Schultz, Hayley Owen, Lynita Crofford, Kgahliso Solomon, Tapiwa Musvosvi, Renate Stuurman, Faniswa Yisa, Chanelys Garcia Nyapisi

Blurb from IMDb: Jilted by her husband on the eve of embarking on an African safari, a woman travels to the continent alone where she meets an elephant conservationist.

Selina’s Point of View:
This was exactly the kind of movie I needed to watch today. As much as I love Christmas movies, they all seem to run together at some point during December. I give the majority of them the benefit of the doubt, though. My thought has been that you can’t really do much different when you’re working with the same themes over and over. There’s bound to be overlap.

I’m not saying there wasn’t any of that overlap in this film, just a hell of a lot less than usual.

Holiday in the Wild, first of all, takes place mostly in Africa. That means there’s only a few scenes involving snow and none of them revolve around it. That setting, alone, changes things up so much. Instantly, I felt like I was getting a break from the typical Christmas movie.

Add on to that the plot. You will find no Santa in this film. No shopping for gifts or materialism. The main characters will not fall in love after only three days. There’s no love triangle and there’s minimal family drama, even though it seems like there’ll be more in the very beginning. Some of the movie doesn’t even take part during the holidays, though I can still confidently call it a holiday film.

This movie embraces all the ideas that make me enjoy Christmas flicks. There’s the importance of loved ones, the feeling of miracles and joy in the air, internal betterment for the main character, charity, and love. Not just romantic love, either. There’s love for other living creatures/family, sure, but it also focuses heavily on love for oneself. I think that’s a lesson some of us will be trying to learn for the rest of our lives: how to love ourselves.

I found Holiday in the Wild to be so much more realistic than most holiday films. Time passes. People change – but not overnight. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, really.

The actors were amazing in their parts. Kristin Davis (Sex and the City, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The Knight Before Christmas), Rob Lowe (The Knight Before Christmas, Super Troopers 2, The Grinder), and Fezile Mpela (While You Weren’t Looking, A Million Colours, Shadow) were perfect choices for their characters. There was not a flawed moment between them. By the end, they had me absolutely verklempt.

I’d be remiss to not discuss the social commentary aspect of the film. But I don’t have much to say about it. Elephant poachers are some of the scum of the Earth and if you have a chance to donate to a sanctuary or help save one of those majestic, hunted, creatures, you should. That’s all I have to say about that. The movie didn’t come off preachy, and it raised awareness. Nothing else needs to be said.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 43%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 49%
Metascore – 49/100
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

'Tis the Season - The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Knight Before Christmas (2019)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Length: 92 minutes
Rating:  TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Motion Picture Corporation of America, ABC Medical Service
Director: Monika Mitchell          
Writer: Cara J. Russell
Actors: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Isabelle Franca, Ella Kenion, Jean-Michel Le Gal, Arnold Pinnock, Scott Ryan Yamamura, Harry Jarvis

Blurb from IMDb:  A medieval English knight is magically transported to the present day where he falls for a high school science teacher who is disillusioned by love.

Cat’s Point of View:
This is such a busy time of year. Sometimes it just seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done – especially when it’s less than a week away from Christmas.

I was so very glad for this movie to offer a bit of pleasant escape after a long day. I had high expectations from the outset based on the trailer and the cast I recognized. I have to say, I was not disappointed. Not only was The Knight Before Christmas a welcome respite from the day, but it kept a smile on my face throughout.

Netflix was also sneaky and slipped a few Easter eggs into this film that reference other Netflix Original holiday movies. Okay, perhaps they weren’t on the subtle side of sneaky. The blurb that Netflix provides owns up to one of them and encourages viewers to figure it out. I caught 2 outright while watching this first time. I’m going to need to watch again to spot the others.

I certainly don’t mind watching this again. I haven’t even removed it from my list because that second viewing may very well happen before Christmas. I wasn’t able to watch with my teen this time, but I think she’d get a kick out of this film.

The rating of TV-PG does seem appropriate here, but only due to some very mild language. The word ‘douche’ gets bandied around a bit. Other than that, it’s rather a wholesome family movie. You really can’t get much more wholesome than a knight’s chivalric code, after all.

I would give The Knight Before Christmas a hearty recommendation for anyone just in the mood to smile along with a nice holiday-themed movie. (As a side note, I now have new #goals for Christmas decorations. The set pieces were absolutely gorgeous.)

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 48%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score –  None
IMDB Score – 5.5/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

P.S. There is an additional scene during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 16, 2019

'Tis the Season - A Puppy for Christmas (2016)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: A Puppy for Christmas (2016)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Brain Power Studio, Nova Life
Director: Justin G. Dyck, Myles Milne
Writer: Melissa Rundle
Actors: Cindy Busby, Greyston Holt, Christopher Russell, Allison Price, Derek McGrath, Victoria Snow, Toya Alexis, Grant Roll, Nadine Roden, Tamara Almeida, Liz Gordon, Brigitte Kingsley, Michael McCrudden

Blurb from IMDb: After adopting a cute puppy, Noelle's world is turned upside down when her boyfriend breaks up with her. After accepting an invitation to spend the holidays with a co-worker, she is surrounded by the Christmas cheer of a happy family and soon sparks begin to fly.

Selina’s Point of View:
I hate to admit this, but my view of this film is at least a little colored by the fact that I was grumpy going into it. I was a little bitter because I had fallen asleep with my daughter and we were both comfy and cuddled up and I just wanted to sleep through the night, but I had to get up and watch a movie instead. I know. It’s a little stupid. I did try to keep an open mind, though.

A first, the plot wasn’t really helping me with that. A large part of the core of the main character is built around her need to write a featured article on what keeps married people together. However, the character is not married, or engaged, and is from a broken home. No real-life popular magazine would even think of assigning that subject to that person unless they were going for a different spin, such as: “What Doesn’t Work in Marriage.” In this internet age, it’s too easy to find out that the author has no first-hand experience on what she’s writing about and the magazine wouldn’t bet its credibility.

Once I got past that bullshit, though, I did kind of warm up to the story.

The acting wasn’t bad.

In a lot of movies like this there can be some seriously wooden performances, but I didn’t see that here. A couple of the characters were lacking in depth, but the actors did what they could.

In the end, it was predictable, but kind of comforting and filled with Christmas spirit. It’s not the first movie I’d choose to watch for the holiday, but it’s acceptable.

Cat’s Point of View:
What’s not to love about puppies? Okay, let’s set aside the whole mess factor pre-training. The cuteness dwarfs all other potential issues. I digress…

Made-for-TV movie aside, I began my viewing of this holiday film with a sense of optimism. When you add adorable animals, and Greyston Holt (See No Evil 2, Bitten, Batwoman), there was just no other option than to anticipate something interesting. I would settle for aesthetically pleasing if I’m being honest, but who’s counting?

I have to say that A Puppy for Christmas exceeded my expectations. Adorable was a good call, but it turned out to be pretty good, too. The cast was well chosen. There were secondary characters that just jumped from the screen and stole my affection. You could tell that everyone was comfortable with each other and had a good time during production. A glance at IMDb told me that there’s a lot of criss-crossed history between many of the primary cast members.

It was easy to let myself just sink into the story and go with the flow of it. I bought enough of what they were selling that it didn’t matter that the movie was following a tried and true, and thus highly predictable, recipe.

It’s even a fun movie to share with family - generally wholesome and featuring heartwarming family interaction. I watched this one with my daughter. She was sold on the puppy but also had fun guessing how things would turn out as the story unfolded.

I wouldn’t mind watching this one again. It might not be at the top of everyone’s list, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a recommendation all the same.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 29%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer: