Friday, December 2, 2022

'Tis the Season - Christmas in Mississippi (2017)


Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: Christmas in Mississippi (2017)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Length: 1h 30min
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Active Entertainment, Factory Underground, Lifetime Television, Videoland
Director: Emily Moss Wilson
Writer: Marcy Holland
Actors: Jana Kramer, Wes Brown, Faith Ford, Trace Masters, April Asbury, Barry Bostwick, Gary Grubbs, Richard Karn, Avery Lynn Lewis, Davina Reid, Jordan Salloum, Roger J. Timber, Karina Willis
IMDb Blurb: Photographer Holly Logan (Jana Kramer) returns to her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi for Christmas. The town is resurrecting their traditional holiday light show for the first time since a terrible hurricane struck five years earlier. Holly volunteers to pitch in, but has second thoughts when she discovers that the festival is run by her high-school sweetheart Mike (Wes Brown). Now Holly must spend the next few days with the man who broke her heart. With the help of her matchmaking mom Caroline (Faith Ford) and Mr. Kriss, the kind man who will play Santa in the town's celebration, Holly begins to fall in love with her hometown, and Mike, all over again.

Cat’s Point of View:
Okay, I know I’ve been a bit hard on the made-for-TV movies that show on the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. They just tend to be basic melodramas. There’s nothing wrong with that. I grew up watching soaps with my great-grandmother and my paternal grandmother. I get it. It’s just not always my thing.
These TV movies tend to be sappy and predictable, so it’s really easy to say ‘been there, done that’ when one of these come up for review. In fact, the way the spoiler-ridden trailers tend to go, I recently called them speed-runs of the movies. It tends to take some of the magic out of the movie experience for me when everything becomes paint-by-numbers like that.

I wish I could say that Christmas in Mississippi was a film that bucked the trend of the Lifetime movies that have come before it. Alas, this was all of the things – except over-the-top. That was one element that was blessedly absent.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Christmas in Mississippi was enjoyable and gave me all of the appropriate warm fuzzies for the season. There just really weren’t any surprises. I called the twist very early on.
Even so, there was an extra element to this production that felt like a warm hug. The nostalgia of familiar faces was on a high level. Of course, these familiar faces belonged to highly competent actors, as well. The cast certainly elevated this little tale of Mississippi Christmas magic.

I’ve adored Jana Kramer (One Tree Hill, Approaching Midnight, Support the Girls) since she was a resident of Tree Hill, Faith Ford (Prom, Escapee, Killing It) played my second-favorite character on Murphy Brown (1988-2018), Barry Bostwick (Christmas in Louisiana, Rocky Horror Show: Livestream Theater, Love by Drowning) is the man, and Richard Karn (F*&% the Prom, Assembly Required, Carrie amd Jess Save the Universe!) played the only character I really liked on Home Improvement (1991-1999) back in the day. I could go on… there are a few more.
Be that as it may, I couldn’t find fault in any of the performances within Christmas in Mississippi. It makes things so much better when the cast in these dramatic romances isn’t asleep at the wheel.

Christmas in Mississippi encapsulates community resilience, family, finding yourself, the challenges faced during the holidays when having military service members in the family, reconnecting with roots, romance, some humor, and even a smidge of Christmas magic.
All told, it’s not a bad way to start off the sparkling season of lights. If this sort of movie is your cup of tea, then Christmas in Mississippi shouldn’t disappoint – and you don’t have to check your TV listings to find it, as it’s available now on Amazon Prime Video.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 47%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Top 20 Movies to Look Out For In December (2022)

According to: Selina
20 – Rolling Into Christmas (12/1)

Production/Distribution: Swirl Films, BET+
Director: Trey Haley
Writer: Gregory Anderson
Actors: Rhyon Nicole Brown, Donny Carrington, Jazmine Robinson, Sean Poolman, Danielle E. Hawkins, Laila Pruitt, Tyler Richardson, Kerri J. Baldwin, Gary Dourdan, Al Mitchell
Genre: Romance
Rated: Unrated
Length: Unknown Length
IMDb Blurb: Two Childhood sweethearts who shared a passion for roller skating are reunited 15 years later during the holidays, forcing them to question their love and life choices.
The worst thing about sitting through all the Christmas movies coming out in December is that the trailers don’t leave me with any curiosity. Whether the film looks good or bad is usually a moot point, because the trailer tells us the whole story from beginning to end. Why bother watching? There’s no surprise.
In these movies there’s always a love triangle and one love interest is always painted as the asshole and the other one is painted as the right choice. How could you possibly not know exactly who is going to be chosen going into that flick? You can’t.
In the case of Rolling into Christmas, there’s a lot of those Christmas tropes that you expect to see, but it’s marketed a million times better than any of the others. I have no idea who the main character is going to choose at the end, because both love interests are painted as decent dudes. That gives me more cause to see the actual film.
I realize this kind of portrays the bar I have for this kind of Christmas movie as very low. Mainly because it is. That said, I do actually see potential here.
19 – Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (12/21)

Production/Distribution: DreamWorks Animation, Pacific Data Images (PDI), Universal Pictures
Director: Joel Crawford, Januel Mercado
Writer: Paul Fisher
Actors: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, Olivia Colman, Da’Vine Joy Rudolph, Anthony Mendez
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG
Length: 1h 40min
IMDb Blurb: Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for adventure has taken its toll: he has burned through eight of his nine lives. Puss sets out on an epic journey to find the mythical Last Wish and restore his nine lives.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Puss in Boots (2011) series, even though I do enjoy most of the Shrek (2001) films. That said, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish does look kind of cute. In a series where the protagonist is never really in danger, it’s interesting to see what happens when he does have to face real mortality – or as real as it gets in a kids film.
I still feel like it’s going to be the kind of flick adults just kind of have to tolerate while their kids watch, instead of enjoying it along side them.
18 – Broker (12/26 limited)

Production/Distribution: Zip Cinema, Neon
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda        
Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda
Actors: Song Kang-ho, Dong-won Gang, Bae Doona, Ji-eun Lee, Lee Joo-young
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Length: 2h 9min
IMDb Blurb: Boxes that are left out for people to anonymously drop off their unwanted babies.
I don’t have a lot of insight into what Broker is about. Cat thought it might delve into human trafficking, but I think it’s going to go into adoption and charging people for it. It is, technically, people buying people – which I believe is what’s referenced in the trailer. Add onto that the heartbreaking reality of a woman having to give up their child, and this story is going to be anything but light-hearted.
There’s no doubt in my mind that whatever is at the depths of Broker, it’s going to be a difficult watch. Anyone who takes it on is going to need several boxes of tissues on hand.
I still think it will be worth it.
17 – Joyride (12/23 limited/internet)

Production/Distribution: Embankment Films, Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland, Ingenious Media, Subotica, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Magnolia Pictures
Director: Emer Reynolds
Writer: Ailbhe Keogan
Actors: Olivia Colman, Charlie Reed, Lochlann O'Mearáin, Elaine Kennedy, Seamus Kennedy, Olwen Fouéré, Sean Crowe, Sam Crowe, Sé O'Neill Hasik, Aislín McGuckin
Genre: Drama
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 34min
IMDb Blurb: A headstrong solicitor's plan to offload her new born baby to her sister, is derailed when a vulnerable but opinionated teenager steals their taxi.
I am so amusingly confused about what is happening in the trailer for Joyride. The film seems to be about a young teen accidentally kidnapping a mom and her child, who kidnaps him in return, to not delay giving up her child to her sister. That is just… a mouthful.
There is no telling what road Joyride will take. Anyone on screen is eligible for arrest at any time, the woman could adopt the teen, the teen could bring the woman’s kid home… I really have no idea what to expect and I LOVE it.
Plus, it is starring the overworked and stunning Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter, Heartstopper, Ron’s Gone Wrong), who’s in the majority of films coming out in December. I’m glad she’s good at what she does, or it’d be a bit of a boring month.
16 – Mindcage (12/16 limited)

Production/Distribution: Boomtown Media Partners, BondIt Media Capital, Buffalo 8 Productions, Daniel Grodnik Productions, Lionsgate
Director: Mauro Borrelli
Writer: Reggie Keyohara III
Actors: John Malkovich, Martin Lawrence, Melissa Roxburgh, Jacob Grodnik, Aiden Turner, Chris Mullinax, Ritchie Montgomery, Jeremy Turner
Genre: Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 1h 36min
IMDb Blurb: When a copycat strikes, two detectives ask a top serial killer for help.
I’m not a fan of the true crime stuff going around these days. However, I do love shows like Criminal Minds (2005 -). Mindcage looks like it could be a long episode of something like that with the added bonus of having John Malkovich (Shattered, The Survivalist, White Elephant) in an antagonist role.
Is there a better part for Malkovich to play?
On the other side, the part Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys for Life, Death at a Funeral, The Beach Bum) plays is a touch out of his wheelhouse and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with it.
15 – Your Christmas or Mine? (12/2)

Production/Distribution: Banijay Entertainment, Shiny Button Productions, Amazon Prime Video
Director: Jim O'Hanlon
Writer: Tom Parry
Actors: Asa Butterfield, Daniel Mays, Lucien Laviscount, Cora Kirk, Angela Griffin, Natalie Gumede, David Bradley, Ram John Holder, Harriet Walker, June Watson
Genre: Comedy
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 35
IMDb Blurb: It's Christmas Eve-Eve. After waving goodbye in Marlyebone Station, new lovers Hayley and James can't bear to be apart for Christmas, so both decide to surprise each other and unwittingly swap trains by mistake. The snow begins to fall and with it they realise they are trapped with each other's family for the whole of Christmas. Will their love survive as their secrets get unwrapped?
Pretty much every sitcom, and kids show, has the story line where people switch places. They’re not usually my favorite episodes, but this film makes it seem a lot more interesting. There’s not just that ‘seeing life through the eyes of someone different’ aspect, but something about human connection and the complexities of a relationship between two people with drastically different backgrounds.
People like to think background doesn’t matter when choosing a mate, but it does. My husband came from a very different world than I did and it has led to conflict. It can feel impossible to see someone else’s perspective when it includes situations that you’ve never experienced.
Your Christmas or Mine seems to delve into that while still offering a humorous, holiday feel.
14 – Christmas Bloody Christmas (12/9 limited/internet)

Production/Distribution: Channel 83 Films, RLJE Films, Shudder
Director: Joe Begos
Writer: Joe Begos
Actors: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jonah Ray, Dora Madison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Abraham Benrubi
Genre: Horror
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 21min
IMDb Blurb: It's Christmas Eve and Tori just wants to get drunk and party, but when a robotic Santa Clause at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, she's forced into a battle for survival.
Christmas horror movies just do it for me. I love that little twist that almost seems to extend Halloween into the end-of-year holidays. They’re just a whole lot of campy-good fun.
Where Christmas Bloody Christmas is concerned, it comes in the form of a murderous robot Santa Claus.
What’s not to love?
I don’t expect this to be a serious horror film, of course. There’s going to be a lot of laughs. And what is more Christmas than gathering together as a family and enjoying something? Of course, I mean the adults in the family. I imagine kids should be in bed before this goes on.
13 – Darby and the Dead (12/2)

Production/Distribution: Footprint Features, 20th Century Studios, Disney+, Hulu
Director: Silas Howard
Writer: Becca Greene, Wenonah Wilms
Actors: Riele Downs, Auli’I Cravalho, Chosen Jacobs, Asher Angel, Wayne Knight, Derek Luke, Tony Danza, Nicole Maines, Kylie Liya Page, Genneya Walton, Dean Goldblum, Kim Syster
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Rated: PG-13
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: Followed by Darby Harper, who is granted the ability to see ghosts after suffering a near death experience in her childhood. Then, she runs a side business counseling local spirits in her spare time.
The trailer for Darby and the Dead wasn’t out yet when we hosted our monthly stream. Just before writing this article, it finally arrived. I had to restructure the whole thing just to get it on here.
I regret nothing.
What has the building blocks of a typical teen movie is elevated by not only the supernatural story, but by a self-aware nature that caricaturizes the tropes. There is not a single thing in that sentence to dislike. My cynical little heart is absolutely in love with the trailer.
I have almost no knowledge of anyone in this film, except for Auli’I Cravalho (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Elena of Avalor, All Together Now). You may not know her by face, but her voice is unmistakable. Her full-length feature film debut was in Moana (2016) as the titular character. I’ve also seen her in Crush (2022), where she absolutely rocked her part. The fact that she’s not the lead in Darby and the Dead speaks volumes for Riele Downs (Henry Danger, The Adventures of Kid Danger, Tiny Christmas). She must be incredible.
I have high hopes for Darby and the Dead.
12 – The Eternal Daughter (12/2 limited)

Production/Distribution: Element Pictures, A24, BBC Films, JWH Films, Sikelia Productions
Director: Joanna Hogg
Writer: Joanna Hogg
Actors: Tilda Swinton, Carley-Sophia Davies, Zinnia Davies-Cooke, August Joshi, Louis, Joseph Mydell, Alfie Sankey-Green
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Rated: PG-13
Length: 1h 36min
IMDb Blurb: In this ghost story from acclaimed filmmaker Joanna Hogg, a middle-aged daughter and her elderly mother must confront long-buried secrets when they return to their former family home, a once-grand manor that has become a nearly vacant hotel brimming with mystery.
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Snowpiercer, Suspiria) playing both mother and daughter was the first thing about The Eternal Daughter that grabbed my attention. Swinton is an incredible actor and the kind of chameleon that could absolutely pull something like this off.
After convincing myself that my eyes were not playing tricks on me, I went back and watched the trailer again.
It seems like a solid ghost story with a heart grounded in mystery. I love this kind of thing, especially when the suspense is played up to the max. I want to be on the edge of my seat, terrified by more than just the cat knocking over a garbage can. (If you love horror films, you know what I mean.)
It feels like there’s substance in The Eternal Daughter and I cannot wait to get to the bottom of it.
11 – Spoiler Alert (12/2 limited, wide 12/9)

Production/Distribution: Semi-Formal Productions, That's Wonderful Productions, Focus Features
Director: Michael Showalter
Writer: David Marshall Grant, Dan Savage, Michael Ausiello
Actors: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Josh Pais, Allegra Heart, Jeffery Self, Sally Field, Tara Summers, Nikki M. James, Sadie Scott
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: 1h 52min
IMDb Blurb: The story of Michael Ausiello and Kit Cowan's relationship that takes a tragic turn when Cowan is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Christmas romance movies are usually so typical that I watch through the trailers with a permanent eye roll. Even the previous ones on this list are plagued by over-used tropes, even if they do look good otherwise.
With Spoiler Alert we don’t even get the basic trope of only seeing a single part of the story. We get to see the lives of the main characters play out from when they fall in love to when they face a huge trial. As a Christmas movie, I’d expect the ending to be happy, but as a drama I’d expect to need a ton of tissues. As a result, I don’t even know which path this flick is going to take.
Whichever way the story goes, it’s going to be a heartfelt and beautiful tale that feels much less overdone than other Christmas films.

10 – Troll (12/1)

Production/Distribution: Motion Blur Films, Netflix
Director: Roar Uthaug
Writer: Espen Aukan, Roar Uthaug
Actors: Ine Marie Wilmann, Kim Falck, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Gard B. Eidsvold, Anneke von der Lippe, Fridtjov Såheim, Dennis Storhøi, Karoline Viktoria Sletteng Garvang, Yusuf Toosh Ibra, Bjarne Hjelde
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 41min
IMDb Blurb: Deep in the Dovre mountain, something gigantic wakes up after a thousand years in captivity. The creature destroys everything in its path and quickly approaches Oslo.
When I first heard about this story, I thought it would be like most of the other large-creature films that have been put out by big companies lately (Jurassic series not included). You know it well. The gentle, misunderstood giant protected by the innocence of a child.
The trailer shows something very different, and I’m actually really looking forward to it.
I love this kind of creature feature. Especially when they have the financial backing to afford to take themselves seriously. I want to know everything about this troll and what becomes of him.
9 – Babylon (12/23)

Production/Distribution: Paramount Pictures, C2 Motion Picture Group, Marc Platt Productions, Material Pictures
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Actors: Margot Robbie, Olivia Wilde, Brad Pitt, Samara Weaving, Tobey Maguire, Eric Roberts, Max Minghella, Katherine Waterston, Jean Smart, Phoebe Tonkin, Lukas Haas, Spike Jonze, Flea, Sarah Ramos
Genre: Comedy, Drama, History
Rated: Unrated
Length: 3h 8min
IMDb Blurb: A tale of outsized ambition and outrageous excess, it traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood.
Babylon is set during the golden age of Hollywood and gives a look at the lives of actors just as the profession was starting to really get that prestigiousness attached to it. On one hand, it’s fascinating to see, on the other it’s going to be a wild romp. I imagine it’s only loosely based on the kind of stuff that actually went down, but I’m willing to bet there’s some truth in it.
It feels like Babylon will be a hilarious watch, though I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sure where it’s going. I’m looking forward to finding out.
8 – A Man Called Otto (12/25 limited, wide in January)

Production/Distribution: 2DUX², Playtone, SF Productions, SF Studios, STX Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Columbia Pictures
Director: Marc Forster
Writer: David Magee, Fredrik Backman, Hannes Holm
Actors: Tom Hanks, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Kailey Hyman, Mike Birbiglia, Cameron Britton, Lavel Schley
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: Unkown
IMDb Blurb: A grumpy widower whose only joy comes from criticizing and judging his exasperated neighbors meets his match when a lively young family moves in next door, leading to an unexpected friendship that will turn his world upside-down.
Tom Hanks (Elvis, Greyhound, Toy Story) is a national treasure. It’s easy to want to follow him to just about any project he does. That doesn’t necessarily mean the film is going to look good enough to be this high on the list, though. In this case, I think A Man Called Otto looks funny and heartwarming.
I suspect that it’s not mistake that this flick is coming out for a limited run on Christmas day (the wide release is in January). I think it’s got the feel of the story of Scrooge. There’s potential here for a good Christmas movie that is rooted in the power of human kindness.
7 – Avatar: The Way of Water (12/16)
Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, TSG Entertainment, Lightstorm Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman, Shane Salerno
Actors: Zoe Saldana, Kate Winslet, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Bailey Bass, Chloe Coleman, Jemaine Clement, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated: PG-13
Length: 3h 12min
IMDb Blurb: Jake Sully lives with his newfound family formed on the planet of Pandora. Once a familiar threat returns to finish what was previously started, Jake must work with Neytiri and the army of the Na'vi race to protect their planet.
For a great many people, Avatar: The Way of Water should be much higher on the list. I think that’s a perfectly valid frame of mind. For me, it’s a bit different.
I liked the first Avatar (2009) just fine. It was gorgeous, and easy to sit through. But that’s where it stopped for me. I never put my whole being into what it was, and I didn’t entirely understand the level of hype behind it.
Aside from that, I know the sequels were all planned from the start, but that was over a decade ago. At this point, it’s considered a nostalgia sequel.
That fact alone doesn’t discount it. After all, Top Gun: Maverick (2022) was about as close to perfect as a nostalgia sequel can get. That said, it is a bit of an outlier. MOST sequels of this nature don’t live up to the feeling of the first. Too much time has passed or there are too many, or not enough, differences.
There are, simply put, a lot of ways for a film like this to fail.
I do have hope. The trailer looks great. We’ll see how it goes.
6 – Matilda the Musical (12/9 Wide, 12/25 on Netflix)

Production/Distribution: Working Title Films, Netflix, TriStar Pictures
Director: Matthew Warchus
Writer: Roald Dahl, Dennis Kelly
Actors: Alisha Weir, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Katherine Kingsley, Meesha Garbett, Charlie Hodson-Prior
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Rated: PG
Length: 1h 57min
IMDb Blurb: An adaptation of the Tony and Olivier award-winning musical. Matilda tells the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a sharp mind and a vivid imagination, dares to take a stand to change her story with miraculous results.
I had every expectation that I’d want to see this flick. I thought it was going to be campy and cute. I thought it’d be Hamilton-esk – a video of a stage-play. What the trailer showed me was something better than I could have ever imagined.
It’s going to be a fully developed, taken seriously, musical. And it’s gorgeous.
Now, I’m looking forward to Matilda the Musical even more than I was. I may even see it in theaters.
5 – Violent Night (12/2)

Production/Distribution: 87North, Universal Pictures
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writer: Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Actors: David Harbour, Beverly D’Angelo, John Leguizamo, Leah Brady, Cam Gigandet, Edi Patterson, Brendan Fletcher, Alex Hassell, Mike Dopud
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Rated: R
Length: 1h 41min
IMDb Blurb: When a group of mercenaries attack the estate of a wealthy family, Santa Claus must step in to save the day (and Christmas).
I cannot tell you how much the trailer for Violent Night had me cackling.
Not only do I love a Christmas movie that doesn’t travel the basic rom-com or typical lesson routes, but I love a good, bloody, pun-filled flick. In this case, I get both. Not only that, but the cast is outstanding.
Between David Harbour (Stranger Things, Black Widow, No Sudden Moves) and John Leguizamo (Encanto, The Menu, Dark Blood), there are two exceptional leads. Little Leah Brady (The Umbrella Academy, Relax I’m from the Future, Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls) is also starting to build up a decent filmography, and her presence in the trailer is promising.
If you enjoy arguing about whether or not Die Hard (1988) is a Christmas flick, I feel like you might enjoy this John Wick-style holiday viewing.
4 – Emancipation (12/2 limited, 12/9 internet)

Production/Distribution: Apple TV+, CAA Media Finance, Escape Artists, McFarland Entertainment
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Bill Collage
Actors: Will Smith, Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Owuor, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Aaron Moten, Jabber Lewis, Michael Luwoye, Steven Ogg, Grant Harvey, Mustafa Shakir, Imani Pullum
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: A runaway slave forges through the swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey to escape plantation owners that nearly killed him.
Any issues I’ve heard about Emancipation have not been about the film itself. Just about Will Smith (Bad Boys for Life, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Men in Black). That means people would have had this on all the lists of movies to look out for if not for the slap heard ‘round the world.
Let me tell you why I think that’s a bunch of bullshit.
Will Smith has had a squeaky-clean record since I was a kid. During his time as a rap artist, his reputation was so beyond anyone else’s, that he didn’t even curse. That was unheard of. It’s still unheard of. He’s a great actor that has had nearly 50-years of a public life with minimal scandals – even less that put him on the side of wrong.
Now, was he in the wrong for slapping Chris Rock (Chris Rock, The Longest Yard, Spiral)? Sure. It was a error in judgement. He let his anger get the better of him and he fucked up. Tim Allen (Toy Story, Assembly Required, 3 Geezers!) straight-up smuggled coke, and he’s still throwing his voice into one of the most beloved characters in children’s movies. Snoop Dogg (Day Shift, Good Mourning, Doggyland) was on trial for murder. He’s incredibly beloved now and baking with Martha Stewart (Bad Moms, Pixels, 2 Broke Girls) – who has been in jail.
I don’t think he should lose his entire career over a single mistake. He apologized. Now it’s between him and Chris Rock, they are big boys and can work this out themselves.
Emancipation is a movie that tells an important story. I don’t think Will Smith’s worst public decision should be the reason anyone discounts this flick.
3 – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (12/9 internet)

Production/Distribution: Netflix Animation, The Jim Henson Company, Pathé, ShadowMachine, Double Dare You (DDY), Necropia Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale, Carlo Collodi, Matthew Robbins
Actors: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman, John Turturro, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Tim Blake Nelson, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, Tom Kenny
Genre: Animation, Drama, Family
Rated: PG
Length: 1h 57min
IMDb Blurb: A father's wish magically brings a wooden boy to life in Italy, giving him a chance to care for the child.
I know, we’ve already seen a Pinocchio remake this year. However, that one sucked. So, I think that leaves the door wide open for this one.
It was made by Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley, The Witches, Pan’s Labyrinth) which means that this Pinocchio will not lose its lessons by trying to lighten it up like the other remake did. Del Toro is incredible at making these dark fable-based films. In fact, there’s no one I would trust more with this particular project.
Like all his films, this one suffered setbacks and bad luck that have postponed it time and again. It had a very small, limited release in November, but with its wide release in December comes the end of its bad luck plague. I cannot wait to see it. I have every faith that Guillermo will bring it to a level we cannot even comprehend.
2 – Empire of Light (12/9)

Production/Distribution: Neal Street Productions, Searchlight Pictures
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: Sam Mendes
Actors: Olivia Colman, Michael Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, Monica Dolan, Ron Cook, Sara Stewart
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rated: R
Length: 1h 59min
IMDb Blurb: A drama about the power of human connection during turbulent times, set in an English coastal town in the early 1980s.
On its own, the trailer for Empire of Light is intriguing. It’s a look into human nature and connection with some intense and amazing acting from Olivia Colman and Michael Ward (The Old Guard, Beauty, Blue Story). It feels like it will be harsh, but awe-inspiring.
It probably would have made a lower spot on this list, except that it’s being directed and written by the absolutely glorious Sam Mendes (Spectre, King Lear, Revolutionary Road). This man could direct a documentary on nose-picking and I would still be there, with bells on.
He was always known as a decent director, but after 1917 (2019) he rose to legendary status in my mind. Those beautiful long shots will live forever in my dreams. It’s a shame it came out the same year as Parasite (2019), because it deserved so many more awards than it got. (Not saying the awards Parasite won were unearned, just that 1917 likely would have won them in a year where Parasite wasn’t in the running.)
In the case of 1917, Mendes was working with younger, less experienced actors in the lead role. They wound up being amazing, and together they all made something beautiful. In this case, he’s working with Colman, who’s about as experienced as they come. I suspect it is going to be a match made in heaven.
Even without any trailer at all, I would have had Empire of Light in my top 5. It would have been #1 most other months. This time, it’s beaten by an indie flick I’ve had my eye on for a while.
1 – The Whale (12/9)

Production/Distribution: A24, Protozoa Pictures
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Samuel D. Hunter
Actors: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, Sathya Sridharan, Jacey Sink
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Length: 1h 57min
IMDb Blurb: A reclusive English teacher attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.
I’ve been waiting for this film to come out for a while.
There was a video going around showing Brendan Fraser’s (No Sudden Move, Doom Patrol, The Mummy) reaction to the 6-minute standing ovation this movie got at the Venice Film Festival.

Now, if you’re a fan of Fraser’s, then you probably know why seeing him this happy is a BIG deal. I won’t go into it too much, but he was basically blacklisted for pointing out the issues in Hollywood that the Me Too movement highlighted. In a post-Me Too world, that blacklist has been lifted and he is starting to pop up in cinema again.
There’s more to the story, but I’m not going to harp on it.
The point is that fans never turned on Brendan Fraser. We loved him back in the 90s, and when Tom Cruise tried to bring back his biggest movie franchise without him, we spoke at the box office. As loud as we’ve been since the beginning that his blacklisting was unfair, it wasn’t until the current incarnation of the internet where we were really heard.
Not only am I looking forward to seeing The Whale because Mr. Fraser is back at the top of his game, but because it got that 6-minute standing ovation.
I expect it will be a hell of a tear-jerker, though. Bring tissues.
Movies to Look out For
According to: Cat
A Hollywood Christmas .20
Rolling into Christmas .19
Renegades .18
The Eternal Daughter .17
Your Christmas or Mine? .16
I Wanna Dance With Somebody .15
Spoiler Alert .14
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol .13
The Pale Blue Eye .12
Emancipation .11
Mindcage .10
Troll .9
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish .8
Matilda the Musical .7
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio .6
 A Man Called Otto .5
Babylon .4
The Whale .3
Violent Night .2
Avatar: The Way of Water .1
          What makes a movie eligible for Trust the Dice’s Top 20?

Monday, November 28, 2022

Blue's Big City Adventure (2022)

Streaming Service: Paramount+
Movie Name/Year: Blue’s Big City Adventure (2022)
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Family
Length: 1h 22min
Rating: TV-Y
Production/Distribution: Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies, 9 Story Media Group, Nickelodeon Network, Paramount+
Director: Matt Stawski
Writers: Liz Maccie, Angela Santomero
Actors: BD Wong, Alex Winter, Steve Burns, Ali Stroker, Steven Pasquale, Joshua Dela Cruz, Donovan Patton, Taboo, Jacob Soley, Ava Augustin, Amanda Dela Cruz, Brianna Bryan, Traci Paige Johnson
IMDb Blurb: Josh and Blue head to New York City to audition for a big Broadway musical.

Cat’s Point of View:
If I had to sum up my experience with Blue’s Big City Adventure, I’d call it an adorable big-screen-worthy addition to the wholesome franchise. This is the sort of movie you can watch with very little kids and feel 100% confident that they’re not going to be watching anything questionable at all. The bonus is that there was enough going on that adults shouldn’t be too bored watching along, too!
Admittedly, I’m far outside of the demographic Blue’s Clues (1996-2020) is geared towards. My daughter has even outgrown the inquisitive blue pup and her sidekicks. All the same, I wasn’t bored to tears watching Blue’s Big City Adventure.

This full-length movie felt like an extended special feature for the Blue’s Clues show that condensed a small Broadway production into a format palatable for the very young. The singing and dancing were spot on and highly entertaining, even though they were working through problem-solving and hunting those iconic blue paw print clues.
Blue’s Big City Adventure even presents methods of combating performance anxiety through de-stressing techniques and preparing for the task at hand adequately. In this case, vocal warm-up exercises were an apt preparation. There’s also a lot to be said for the teamwork lessons here, too. I don’t want to give it all away, but I was pleased with the ‘lessons’ couched in fun, song, and dance.

Of course, there’s also the matter of a Blue’s Clues host reunion of sorts taking place on screen. Steve Burns (Netherbeast Incorporated, Christmas on Mars, Blue's Clues & You) and Donovan Patton (Team Umizoomi, Super PupZ, Gabby's Dollhouse) join forces to help current host Joshua Dela Cruz (Point Man, Adam Bloom, The Tiny Chef Show) and Blue find their way through New York City in hopes of making it in time for Josh’s Broadway audition.
I was even giggling over the cameo appearances.

The Holiday Season tends to be rather hectic and kids tend to have large chunks of time away from school during this time period. Blue’s Big City Adventure was well timed in its release to Paramount+ so that it presents a constructive option to offer kids while adults are busy with holiday preparation and chores. I’ll say, though, that it would work wonderfully as a family experience together as well. An added bonus is that Blue’s Big City Adventure is streaming on Paramount+ so it doesn’t require all of the hassle and wrangling to get little ones to a theater.
Either way, I’m thrilled that this adorable little blue pup can frolic through our homes this year, and absolutely would recommend anyone with young kids to check it out. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 80%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 95%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score6.4/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5

P.S. - There is a mid-credits scene, as well as a small song and dance number immediately afterward. 
Movie Trailer: