Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020) - 'Tis the Season


Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Musical
Length:  122 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Golden Girl, Get Lifted Film Company, 260 Degrees Entertainment, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, Netflix
Director: David E. Talbert
Writer: David E. Talbert
Actors: Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose, Lisa Davina Phillip, Kieron L. Dyer, Miles Barrow, Diaana Babnicova, Ria Calvin, Kenyah Sandy, Tobias Poppe, Abraham Popoola
Blurb from IMDb
: An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is destined to become a holiday classic.
Not only did I absolutely adore this movie, I believe that it will resonate well with most audiences. All the ingredients for a rousing and magical family Christmas miracle are present within this film, and it does, indeed, take you on quite the emotional journey to get there. (I also love the play on words with the title.)
I can certainly relate to Mr. Jangle in many ways. Sometimes wonky things happen and it’s easy to crawl into a little hole while distance grows between yourself and those you love. At least, it’s been known to happen for me. I find my way under a rock even without disastrous life events sending me scurrying for cover. It’s the heaviness of depression whispering in one’s ear, weighing you down, and not knowing what to say or how to spark yourself out of the funk. After what happens to Mr. Jangle, I can certainly empathize with his situation.

When you’re stuck in a rut of just going through the motions, sometimes it takes a good kick in the pants by someone that cares for you to get you motivated to pick yourself up and get going again. A fire requires some sort of spark to ignite, after all. I loved the nuances of how the persistent young aspiring inventor and the granddaughter become that catalyst as they chip away at what’s holding Jangle down.
Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a story that not only involves miracles but also justice and redemption?!
For the icing on the Christmas cake, the cast was absolutely phenomenal. Forest Whitaker (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, How it Ends, Godfather of Harlem) was remarkable. This part called for quite the emotional gauntlet and, as always, he rose to the occasion with grace. I always enjoy seeing Phylicia Rashad (Do No Harm, Creed II, Black Box) involved in projects as well. Unlike the last movie we reviewed that she was involved with, here, she got to evoke those warm and wholesome motherly vibes that I fell in love with back in the 80s and 90s during her sit-com run.

I really enjoyed this break-out performance for Madalein Mills, who plays Jangle’s granddaughter. This is her first feature film role, having previously been a model for children’s clothing and a young Broadway star. She brought joy, wonder, curiosity, and heart to her character, lighting up the screen with her presence. Ms. Mills is certainly a talent to keep an eye on for the future.
I wondered how the musical aspect was going to work into this movie. Sometimes the song and dance numbers can make a film feel choppy if it’s not done correctly. In this case, everything flowed so well. While the large group dances aren’t something you’d necessarily see happening in real life, they felt organic to the story or even brought in little pops of humor here and there.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey was everything that a cinematic treatment of what could be a successful Broadway production should be. I would recommend this movie in a heartbeat for family holiday viewing, and I intend to watch it again with my daughter before this season is over. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 90%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore –  69%
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

P.S. - Additional scenes are shown in the form of posed toys during the final credits. 

Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 28, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Streaming Services: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Length: 151 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Atlas Entertainment, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, The Stone Quarry, Warner Bros., Karo Premiere, Kinomania, NOS Audiovisuais, Vertical Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore, HBO Max, Sky, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham, William Moulton Marston
Actors: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, Natasha Rothwell, Ravi Patel, Oliver Cotton, Lucian Perez, Gabriella Wilde, Kelvin Yu, Stuart Milligan, Lynda Carter
Blurb from IMDb: Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman's next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.

Selina’s Point of View:
There’s only one review left to complete our ‘Tis the Season’ series for this month, but it’s going to have to come after this. I saw Wonder Woman 1984 this weekend, I feel the need to remark on it. So, we’re just going to have to finish our Christmas movies on Wednesday.
I’ll start by saying that I’ve always been a fan of Wonder Woman. My mom and I used to watch the TV show. It’s both nostalgic for me, and something I actually just enjoy in general. I also loved the first movie. One of my favorite superhero movie visuals is Wonder Woman walking through no man’s land. That was just superbly done and still gives me goosebumps.
I was expecting something like that when I sat down to watch WW84. My expectations were bolstered by the official trailer for the film. It looked like it would be a serious DC-style film with just a couple of basic jokes thrown in now and then – like the first one.

However, that’s not really what WW84 was.
If anything, this sequel feels more like the original TV show than anything that DC has put out lately.
It leans further into a campy and corny interpretation of Wonder Woman. In fact, the CGI leaves something to be desired in a lot of places, but it almost kind of fits because of just how campy the story is.
The way I feel about the film goes far beyond just liking the first one better. I feel like this is another movie where DC tried to be the MCU instead of leaning into its own dark persona. People who like DC better, don’t want to see them become the MCU.

Granted, for the most part, I’m a Marvel girl. But I believe there’s space in our popular culture for the quippy films of the MCU and something darker that makes us think more, like what DC should be. They have the heroes and the villains to make that work.
In the first film, they gave us a world war. They dropped us into a time that was serious by nature and wove in a couple of funny scenes. They dropped the ball on the ending, but otherwise gave us a film that made us feel something. It was gorgeous to look at. It was empowering.
Now, in WW84, they gave us something that had none of those goosebump-inspiring moments and was pretty much behind the times.
It’s not a bad flick on its own; if you enjoy the older, campy handling of superhero films. However, in our big-budget superhero-blockbuster times, especially with how good the first film was, it’s almost insulting that it got this kind of treatment.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore – 59/100
Metacritic User Score – 4.3/10
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3/5
P.S.: There’s a quick mid-credits scene.
Movie Trailer: 

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020) - 'Tis the Season


Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: TV-G
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Motion Picture Corporation of America, Brad Krevoy Television
Director: Mike Rohl
Writers: Robin Bernheim, Megan Metzger
Actors: John Jack, Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Mark Fleischmann, Mia Lloyd, Nick Sagar, Suanne Braun, Lachlan Nieboer, Ricky Norwood, Florence Hall, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell, Giles Taylor, Juliet Cadzow, Ewan Somers, Sandy Welch, Rose McIver, Ben Lamb
Blurb from IMDb: When Duchess Margaret unexpectedly inherits the throne to Montenaro and hits a rough patch with Kevin, it's up to her double Stacy to save the day before a new lookalike, party girl Fiona foils their plans.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been super excited to watch The Princess Switch: Switched Again. I absolutely adored the first movie, and I was intrigued as to what angle they’d take for the sequel to ensure this wasn’t just another rinse and repeat of the original swap-up tale.
While the film starts off appearing to follow the same sort of trajectory, don’t worry. There are plot twists aplenty as events progress. The key to enjoying these movies, however, is to just let go of judgment and just have fun with it. It's a fairytale full of the First World Problems of fictional royals, after all. 
I definitely want to tip my hat to Vanessa Hudgens (Polar, The Knight Before Christmas, Bad Boys for Life) for her triple roles here. Each character was nuanced and distinct, even while switching with each other. She evoked changes in carriage, demeanor, and speech that were each unique. You don’t often find actors that can pull that off so flawlessly. Of course, there are a few outstanding examples – such as Tatiana Maslany’s (Destroyer, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia, Perry Mason) 14 on-screen clones in Orphan Black (2013-2017).

Thankfully, Hudgens only had to juggle 3 look-alikes.  I find she’s often underrated as an actor, due to her beginnings with Disney, appearances in movies such as this, as well as off-the-wall projects. All the same, she’s one of those that I’d watch, regardless of the nature of the project she’s involved with.
I digress…
The settings and scenery were gorgeous and on-point. I loved the decorations and the whole movie just exuded the spirit of the holidays. I was also blown away by the costuming – especially for the coronation.

According to IMDb, there seems to be a third movie in the works. I have no idea how the production team is going to raise the bar without too much redundancy in the concept – but I’m eagerly anticipating finding out what they have up their sleeves.
As for The Princess Switch: Switched Again, this is the perfect movie to watch while curled up with a cozy blanket and a mug of hot cocoa. In fact, I’m probably going to get my husband to scare up some firewood so we can light the fireplace and I can watch this film again with my daughter. If you enjoyed the first movie, I’d wholeheartedly recommend watching this sequel. If you haven’t seen The Princess Switch (2018), maybe it’s time for a double-feature night!

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 40%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.3/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Santa Jaws (2018) - 'Tis the Season

Streaming Services: Amazon Prime Video, FuboTV, Hoopla, DirecTV, Syfy
Movie Name/Year: Santa Jaws (2018)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 88 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Active Entertainment, Syfy
Director: Misty Talley
Writer: Jake Kiernan
Actors: Reid Miller, Courtney Lauren Cummings, Jim Klock, Carrie Lazar, Arthur Marroquin, Miles Doleac, Haviland Stillwell, Hawn Tran, Scott Allen Perry, Ritchie Montgomery, Lindsey Michelle, Creek Wilson, Sherri Eakin, Dylan Westfall, Danny Cosmo
Blurb from IMDb: Trying to survive the family Christmas, Cody makes a wish to be alone, which ends up backfiring when a shark manifests and kills his entire family.

Selina’s Point of View:
This was bound to make an appearance on Trust the Dice eventually. The only reason it didn’t happen sooner is because I didn’t know about it before a couple of months ago. I figured it would be a great movie to watch in December to break up the rom-com monotony. Of course, I also figured it would be a super-typical creature feature.
It was not.
Santa Jaws is what you get when you take a corny, live-action, Disney Channel movie and give it to a creative team that specializes in creature features and Christmas movies. Then, just have it produced by Syfy.
It really took me by surprise. It had everything I loved from all the genres it meshed together. The teen main character took charge and learned a lesson. Family was shown as important and came together. The creature in question was ridiculous and the script was hilarious in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way.

I really just enjoyed it a lot more than I should have.
I hunkered down for some serious Asylum bullshit and wound up with a charming B-movie creature flick.
I had a great time.
Santa Jaws knew what it was and leaned into it. It never tried to make the audience buy any more than it had to offer. It’s not deep, it’s not reinventing the wheel, and it’s not going to be pulling in any of the high-class, stick-up-their-ass, critics. It will, however, be shown during all my holiday marathons.
Also, “Ho ho ho, you son of a fish!” is right up there with “Meow, Bitch!” – from Zombie Apocalypse (2011) – as one of my favorite lines from a B-movie ever.

Cat’s Point of View:
When you have a movie title like Santa Jaws, it almost guarantees groans and eye-rolls. You just know it’s going to be a B-movie, and quite possibly bad. The question always remains, however, whether or not it falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category or the dreaded ‘simply awful.’
To be honest, Santa Jaws fell somewhere in the middle for me. It’s bad. You really can’t get around that. It does have a few redeeming qualities, though.
I’ll start with the positives.
This won’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a lover of puns and dad jokes.This movie is loaded with them from opening credits to final scene. Zingers such as “you better watch out, you better not die,” are par for the course in this holiday horror-comedy.
Another item in my plus column is the special effects. Let me be clear that it’s the shark I’m talking about. Some of the practical effects, such as props, were absolutely abysmal – such as weapons that were clearly plastic. Santa Jaws, herself, was actually fairly well rendered.

There’s a decently thought-out story behind the red-hat-wearing beast and the way it targets one specific family amongst its opportunistic chomping. That element of the 1975 movie, this film’s namesake, is clear.
I start running out of things to appreciate, however. I can’t really praise the acting – though, some may have been doing the best they could within the parameters of the direction and writing. Everything was fairly predictable along the ‘adults are dumb, so it’s up to us kids’ recipe, as well.
Now don’t get me wrong – while this movie definitely won’t be an award contender, it’s actually the perfect bit of mind-numbing fluff for this year’s Holiday Season. There’s too much serious stuff going on right now, and most of us are in need of some relaxing escapism more than ever.
If you could set aside the things that make this movie absolutely horrible, and focus on the lighter elements of this dark tale, then this movie might actually be an enjoyable experience. Besides, if you’re sick of Hallmark rom-coms and all the saccharine smarmy productions that flood screens and TV channels this time of year, this is a decent selection to provide a welcome intermission.
If horrible holiday puns and cringe-worthy family interaction makes you want to flip tables, however, then maybe go fishing for a good title elsewhere.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 56%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 14, 2020

Happiest Season (2020) - 'Tis the Season

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Happiest Season (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: TriStar Pictures, Entertainment One, Hulu Originals, Temple Hill Entertainment, B&H Film Distribution, Sony Pictures Releasing Argentina, Sony Pictures Releasing Australia, Sony Pictures Releasing, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures International, Hulu
Director: Clea DuVall
Writers: Clea DuVall, Mary Holland
Actors: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Dan Levy, Burl Moseley, Aubrey Plaza, Sarayu Blue, Jake McDorman, Ana Gasteyer, Caroline Harris, Jenny Gulley, Dominique Allen Lawson, Michelle Buteau, Timothy Simons, Lauren Lapkus, Jerick Hoffer, Benjamin Putnam, Anis N'Dobe, Asiyih N'Dobe, Chelsea Banglesdorf, Daryn Kahn, Matt Newell
Blurb from IMDb: A holiday romantic comedy that captures the range of emotions tied to wanting your family's acceptance, being true to yourself, and trying not to ruin Christmas.

Selina’s Point of View:
I need to start off by saying that I hate the trope this film covers. I hate it, because there shouldn’t be a norm for it to be imitating. No one should have to deal with the fear of how someone is going to react to them because of who they love.
That said, it was a really great movie.
This is only Clea DuVall’s (The Intervention, The Handmaid’s Tale, Veep) second writer/director full-length feature film credit. Still, it’s incredible. I haven’t seen her first, but I can tell you that this made me want to. Happiest Season is one of the best rom-com dramas that I have seen in a long time, maybe ever. I felt the situations as though they were nearly first hand, and it dug into that part of me that has never felt like I belonged in a family.
I’d be surprised if DuVall didn’t write the script, at least partially, from her own experiences. It was too honest.

The family is built up to show this unsupportive group of people, but it goes deeper to show that most of them don’t realize how awful they are to each other. It exhibits a family trying so hard to seem one way that every individual person involved can’t see beyond their own little picture. In that way, it almost feels like there is no antagonist. It’s the situation itself that wears that label.
The poster actually shows each character’s perspective extremely well, just through facial expressions. I normally don’t even bother to mention the poster, but this one gets better the longer you look at it.
As a Christmas film, Happiest Season feels like it properly portrays the anxiety of masking for your family and worrying that if you slip even a little bit, that everything will go wrong. I can absolutely relate to it. I know a lot of people can.
Most films in the holiday genre aren’t really directed toward people who find the entire season anxiety-inducing. When they are, it labels the main character as uncaring, or emotionally constipated. Here, we see the protagonists as people who care so much that they can’t help but be terrified. I think that’s something that’s not represented well enough in holiday films.
I would absolutely recommend Happiest Season for anyone looking for a Christmas setting in a well-written story. 

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ll be honest. I owe Happiest Season an apology. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – but it was certainly not the glorious emotional gauntlet I actually experienced.
This felt so grounded. It doesn’t surprise me at all that writer/director Clea DuVall (Argo, American Horror Story, The Intervention) pulled from her own experiences to create this story. While the tale focuses on the gay couple, it also illustrates well that you don’t have to be queer to find yourself wearing a mask in life and the complications of such. While presenting a solid LGBTQ+ story as the focus, this film went the extra mile to give everyone a little something to relate to - all without minimalizing the core issues. 

Like most offerings in the holiday rom-com genre, Happiest Season hit on most of your staple tropes that one would expect to see and then upped the ante by blending in the wonderfully awkward ‘meet the family’ moments. While generally predictable, I found that I didn’t even mind. I was just enjoying being in the moment and along for the ride.
The entire cast of Happiest Season is chock-full of talent. I couldn’t find fault with anyone’s performances – not that I was looking. I was happily immersed in the story and wasn’t even taking mental notes. If pressed to pick a favorite among the cast, however, it would be Dan Levy (Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Stage Fright, Schitt's Creek) without question. Though, I do also want to tip my proverbial hat to Kristen Stewart (American Ultra, Seberg, Underwater). The last several movies I’ve seen her in have been a refreshing change of pace from her earlier work – this film included.

While I don’t feel like this movie will make it into my annual rotation, I certainly wouldn’t mind watching it again and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score –83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 80%
Metascore – 68/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
P.S. – A small epilogue, represented by a character’s Instagram posting, is shown during the beginning of the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Friday, December 11, 2020

Falling for Christmas (2016) - 'Tis the Season

Streaming Services: Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, DirecTV, Hallmark
Movie Name/Year: Falling for Christmas (2016) – [aka Snowcapped Christmas]
Genre: Romance
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: TV-G
Production/Distribution: Annuit Coeptis Entertainment II, Johnson Production Group, Snowing Productions, Corus Entertainment, UPtv
Director: Christie Will Wolf
Writer: Barbara Kymlicka
Actors: Leah Renee, Niall Matter, Lisa Whelchel, Michael Teigen, Lochlyn Munro, Jocelyne Loewen, Gracyn Shinyei, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Blaine Anderson, Howard Storey, Natasha Woods
Blurb from IMDb: An injured figure skater is sent to the mountains to recover from an injury. Once there, she meets an ex-hockey player and his young daughter and begins to realize that something is missing from her life.

Selina’s Point of View:
When someone says they’re going to stay in and watch Christmas movies, it’s rare that they’re talking about the Die Hard (1988) variety. This tends to be closer to what they are envisioning. In fact, it’s exactly what I would picture.
Falling for Christmas is corny, saccharine sweet, and exactly the kind of heart-warming nonsense I want from a typical Christmas film. Would I be feening for it the rest of the year? No. Chances are, I wouldn’t even see it as good if it was set during any other time.
That’s the thing. Christmas flicks like this are fine, because the time of year makes us crave miracles. We want the happy ending. We need to see the stories that tell us taking time off work is ok, making time for family is ok, because the rest of the year we’re told it’s not. We’re made to believe that following our dreams is irresponsible – even if we can afford it, and not everyone can.

So, yeah, this kind of film is predictable and mostly unrealistic, but we allow ourselves to believe in its premise during the season of miracles.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Movies like this feel like a spa for the soul. They’re not life-changing, but they’re a great break from the stress and pessimism of a much darker real world.
Falling for Christmas was cute. It wasn’t better or worse than expected, and it left me feeling like I want to feel on a cold December morning with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.

Cat’s Point of View:
Falling for Christmas was not a movie that was previously on my radar. If it weren’t a made-for-TV movie, I’d be shocked at this – considering it combines two things I really love: figure skating and Christmas. I will admit that it’s been harder for me to keep up with skating in recent years, but I used to watch competitions religiously.
Needless to say, when I realized what this movie was going to entail, I was super excited to see what it had to offer.  Was it the best figure skating movie I’ve ever seen? No, but I’d say that would have been asking a lot from this production. Was it any good? I don’t really have any complaints on substance. It was solid. The only thing I could really poke at would be the legitimacy of the medical information – but, hey, this wasn’t a procedural. We’re not watching for that sort of thing, right? It’s a holiday TV rom-com.
This Christmas ice-capade follows the predictable rom-com recipe to the letter. While originality and defying expectations are things we like to see in movies, it’s not a make-or-break requirement to enjoy something.

Watching this film made me feel like curling up in a warm blanket with some hot cocoa. It was familiar enough to be comforting because I already knew where it was going. It also got bonus points for some nice examples of figure skating. It felt a little bit like if The Cutting Edge (1992) was remade as a Hallmark movie and without the extra competition. The plots are really only superficially similar, but it was nostalgic enough for me.
The only thing I’m frustrated about, really, has nothing to do with the film itself. I am dying to know if Leah Renee (Blue Mountain State, My Babysitter's a Vampire, Sailing Into Love) really did all of her own figure skating. Alas, IMDb’s trivia only mentions the locations where the movie was filmed.
In a nutshell, I believed the dynamics between characters, nothing felt forced, and it was a cute wholesome experience that explored some life lessons. It would even be appropriate for the whole family.
If you’re in the mood for a feel-good story with gorgeous scenery and a side of figure skating, this could be just the movie you’re looking for.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work (2019) - 'Tis the Season

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work (2019)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 78 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Hulu, Horrify
Director: Charles Hood
Writer: Paul Soter
Actors: Molly Hagan, Natalie Hall, Kyle Howard, Dustin Milligan, Julian Sands, Angela Sarafyan, Nico Greetham
Blurb from IMDb: The boss of a private equity company invites a couple of his employees over to a Christmas party that turns out to be an intense competition for a promotion.

Selina’s Point of View:
Into the Dark has been very inconsistent for me, but that’s to be expected with an anthology series that utilizes different creative teams. No two stories are going to look, or feel, the same. It means that hating one episode doesn’t mean you won’t love the next.
That’s what I’m seeing here.
I wasn’t overly fond of our last look Into the Dark. This one, however, was phenomenal.
I loved A Nasty Piece of Work. The plot was intriguing from the beginning.

The story had a chance to turn into something very predictable. In fact, I thought it would wind up being a straight-forward revenge-type plot. It morphed, within the first 10 minutes, into something that felt completely new and fresh.
It had some really dark, fucked-up, moments mixed in – but a lot of it comes to a head in a way that makes it feel less awkward.
I did expect a couple of the twists, but not nearly all of them.
In a month where rom-coms reign supreme, I’m thrilled that I got to see a really well-made horror-comedy in the mix.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 7, 2020

Operation Christmas Drop (2020) - 'Tis the Season


Streaming Services
: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Operation Christmas Drop (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Family, Romance
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: TV-G
Production/Distribution: Netflix Studios, Netflix
Director: Martin Wood
Writers: Gregg Rossen, Brian Sawyer
Actors: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Trezzo Mahoro, Bethany Brown, Rohan Campbell, Virginia Madsen, Jeff Joseph, Janet Kidder, Aliza Vellani, Aaron Douglas, Xavier de Guzman, Linden Banks, Eileen Pedde, Brittany Willacy, Audrey Wise Alvarez, Reese Alexander, Sara Nicole Duke Untalan, Penelope Jo Borja Sabla, Michelle Clarice Blas, Edward F. Taimanao Jr., Bruce Best, Harrison Cho, Felipe Viana
Blurb from IMDb: Congressional aide Erica (Graham) forgoes family Christmas to travel at her boss's behest. At a beachside Air Force base, she clashes with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Ludwig), who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility.

Cat’s Point of View:
Operation Christmas Drop was everything I expected it to be, and it was just what I needed to shore up my eroding sense of Christmas cheer this year.
2020, man. It’s not even for the birds. I wouldn’t wish 2020 on anyone. I digress.
Things in my neck of the woods have been super stressful, so having a lighter bit of holiday fare really hit the spot and left me feeling a little better about the world. Sure, it’s currently a garbage fire at the moment but let’s not talk about that. I think too many Grinches have been writing reviews for this film so far, unable to see past the funk that the year has left most of us in.

The primary complaints seem to be that the movie is very formulaic and predictable. Ok, and? With a new crisis around every corner this year, is having something follow a recipe closely the worst thing that could happen? (Don’t answer that.)
Others seem to be chalking the film up to military propaganda and just writing it off. To that, I say, really? Were it not a controversial election year, would they feel the same? I don’t see it that way at all.
I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. I’ve grown up as an avid air show attendee, visiting various Air Force bases near wherever I was living at the time for the stunning aerial displays. That, folks, is military propaganda. They’re boots-on-the-ground recruitment fairs. This movie featured military humanitarian operations, sure – but calling it propaganda is taking it a bit too far.

I love a movie with cool planes in it almost as much as an aviation enthusiast. This wasn’t what Operation Christmas Drop was about, though. There’s more heart to the matter – and I’m not talking about the romance story. When a military base is up on the congressional chopping block to be closed, it’s a scary thing for the communities that depend on it. I live just over the river from Barksdale Air Force Base, here in Louisiana. Not a day goes by that I don’t see the giant B-52s running operations in the local airspace. There are businesses that thrive and depend on air force personnel. Closing a base only means asset relocation to the military and the Washington number crunchers – but to the place the base is located, it’s a devastating blow. Thankfully, Barksdale has been ‘important enough’ that it’s unlikely that would happen here. Other places haven’t been so lucky.
Aside from the connection between the main characters, this movie also highlights that community aspect as well as the balancing act regarding stewardship of the taxpayer dollar. What’s better is that the movie was filmed at the real air base on Guam, and is even the first Hollywood studio film to be shot there. I adored that actual locations on the base which are really used in the real-life Christmas Drop operations were utilized in the movie, as well as some of the actual people working with the project.

Back to the movie, though.
I’ll be honest. I adore Kat Graham (All Eyez on Me, The Poison Rose, Cut Throat City). It seems like starring in a Netflix Christmas movie has become a holiday tradition for her, as this is the third such offering we’ve reviewed in as many years. (The previous films were The Holiday Calendar (2018) and The Knight Before Christmas (2019).) I am hoping this was intentional and she continues to do so moving forward. I couldn’t find a single flaw with her performance.
Alexander Ludwig (Lone Survivor, Midway, Vikings) has been growing on me in recent years. He portrays military personnel well, and his salute would have made my grandfather proud. (My maternal granddad used to grumble about the sloppy salutes he’d get from actual airmen as we drove past the main gates of the base when I was little.) I’m digressing again…
The chemistry between the pair was organic and I bought in on the story from their perspectives. The scenery from Guam was stunning, and I appreciated the information woven into the story about the annual drops that actually happen. Further, my angsty teen wouldn’t even be opposed to watching this movie again.
My advice is simple. Forget the nay-sayers and watch the trailer. If the film appeals to you after that, by all means, watch it and soak in that tropical island Christmas cheer. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score –47%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 39%
Metascore – 47/100
Metacritic User Score – 4.2/10
IMDB Score – 5.8/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – G

P.S. – Photos from the real Operation Christmas Drop are shown in conjunction with related trivia during the credits. 

Movie Trailer: