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: