Friday, December 8, 2023

'Tis the Season - Krampus (2015)

Streaming Service: Peacock
Movie Name/Year: Krampus (2015)
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Length: 1h 38min
Rating: PG-13
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Actors: Emjay Anthony, Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, Conchata Ferrell, Allison Tolman, David Koechner, Maverick Flack, Queenie Samuel, Lolo Owen, Sage Hunefeld, Luke Hawker, Seth Green, Thor
Blurb from IMDb: A boy who has a bad Christmas accidentally summons a festive demon to his family home.

Selina’s Point of View:
Since we’re having some trouble getting into Christmas rom-coms this year, I’ve filled the ‘Tis the Season calendar with mostly other kinds of holiday films. Starting here with a comedy horror, Krampus.
This wasn’t my first watch-through of Krampus. I love campy horror comedies. Especially when they have a bit of warped Christmas magic in them. This particular Christmas flick reminds me most of Gremlins (1984). Admittedly the 80s film is a bit better, but Krampus has that same kind of campy, over-the-top, childhood nightmare feel.

Krampus takes a cue from the better low-budget horror films out there and lets the majority of the scares exist in the viewers imagination. I’m not saying it is low-budget, it’s not, but it’s still a trick that elevates a horror film even when the money is there to spend. There are still a few scenes with hokey CGI, and full-on views of the titular character, but it’s really only the last 20-minutes of the film (approximately). It still manages to be an exceptionally tense movie, without skimping on the comedy.
I was impressed. Nothing took me out of the film at all. The settings were spooky, the actors played their parts well – all at roughly the same level, and the ending took a bit of a left turn.
Altogether, Krampus was a solid holiday horror flick. I have every intention of watching it again.

Cat’s Point of View:
Every year there are so many bright and shiny Christmas movies, sometimes it can just be a bit much. For that reason, I do enjoy mixing it up and watching a few Christmas horror movies or thrillers. Good ones are hard to come by, but most are at least entertaining. I also really enjoy movies that are based on bits of folklore that come to life. Krampus peeked into German and Austrian folklore entwined with the holiday season and delivered a dark, yet relatable, fairytale.
When Krampus first released, I remember that I was excited to watch and enjoyed the experience as soon as it was available On-Demand or via one of my streaming services. Watching in preparation for today’s review was my second viewing. While Krampus no longer held the element of surprise for how the movie’s story played out, I still found myself invested in the experience all over again.
It’s really a terrifying idea – that there’s a dark being out there to balance out Santa’s light; just waiting to come for the ultra-naughty people that coal would be too good for.

I think Krampus delivered this concept fairly well. The opening credits scene of commercialized holiday chaos as a backdrop to the warm vocals of a Bing Crosby Christmas song set the tone for what was to follow. I connected and empathized with the main character, Max, as he had to deal with bullying and his dysfunctional family.
Krampus also had help from an outstanding cast. David Koechner (Vicious Fun, National Champions, American Dad!) is skilled at embodying nutty doofus characters that drive you crazy. His character reminded me a lot of Randy Quaid’s (Independence Day, The Ice Harvest, Real Time) Cousin Eddie character in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). Krampus felt like the horror version of that movie – whether the parallel was intended or not.
There were flashes of levity laced into the shock and cringeworthy moments that kept Krampus from feeling too bleak or heavy.
I still enjoyed watching Krampus for the 2nd time. It had just the right blend of naughty and nice to lift my spirits while I’ve been working on getting better from the seasonal ‘creeping crud.’ If you’re looking for a little thrill this Holiday Season to enjoy with a nice mug of hot chocolate, Krampus wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 66%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 52%
Metascore – 49%
Metacritic User Score – 7.6
IMDB Score –6.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 3/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

'Tis The Season - Best. Christmas. Ever! (2023)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Best. Christmas. Ever! (2023)
Genre: Holiday, Romance, Comedy
Length:  1h 22min
Rating: TV-PG
Director: Mary Lambert
Writers: Todd Calgi Gallicano, Charles Shyer
Actors: Heather Graham, Brandy Norwood, Jason Biggs, Matt Cedeño, Wyatt Hunt, Abby Villasmil, Madison Skye Validum, Nadia Sine, Janet Lo, Camille Cadarette, Chase Ramsey
IMDb Blurb: Friendships are put to the ultimate test over a boastful holiday newsletter.
Selina’s Point of View:
Tis the season for cheesy movies. I need to get into the headspace for it, which is proving difficult this year. A Christmas magic rom-com should have been what I needed, but Best. Christmas. Ever! went a little too far past the campy line to make much of a positive difference to me.
I’m going to start with the good, though.
Brandy Norwood (Cinderella, Star, The Game) simply hasn’t aged. Not only that, but she was built for parts like these. Although cheesy, she puts enough heart into characters to make them feel worth watching. I’m also fond of Jason Biggs (Orange is the New Black, Loser, American Pie), I always have been. He has an ‘effortless’ quality to his acting that makes him perfect for family roles. I almost always instantly buy him as the dad, or husband, in any story. He feels normal. In a good way.
The beginning of the flick made sense and felt cute to me, as well, but it devolved from there.
All the rest of Best. Christmas. Ever! felt cringy – at best. The main character was absolutely obnoxious, and Heather Graham (Suitable Flesh, The Rest of Us, Boogie Nights) did nothing to help that first impression. There were scenes where she did things that felt so forced that I found myself actively making faces at the screen.
Then there was the ending.
For a moment, I thought they were taking an impressive route. Unfortunately, they left every thread of plot from that moment dangling. Even the short scene just before the credits didn’t close the holes they created. It wound up feeling ridiculous instead of magical.
There are better cheesy Christmas movies than Best. Christmas. Ever!
Cat’s Point of View:
The title of Best. Christmas. Ever! set a very high bar for expectations regarding this new Christmas movie offering. This is the time of year, after all, that we tend to get inundated with cheesy and saccharine movies full of the Spirit of the Season and magical romance experiences. We all know about the networks that shift to pretty much round-the-clock Christmas and holiday romance movies. There are so many within this genre out there that there’s no shortage to fill up their programming spots for the entire month and then some. Best. Christmas. Ever! felt like it could have been in the mix with that rotation – this one just came from Netflix instead of Hallmark.
I’m on the fence with how I feel about this movie.
On one hand, Best. Christmas. Ever! delivered what felt like a fresh concept with a holiday check-in letter becoming the catalyst for Christmas shenanigans. Rather than the typical meet-cute or crisis because something is in trouble and someone or the community needs to save whatever it is tropes. this film does offer something relatable that I can’t remember seeing before.
I love getting letters from friends and relatives around the holidays. I try to keep tabs on how everyone is doing via social media if not directly, but it’s that little personal touch of a letter in my hand that feels special that they took extra time to think about sending it to me that gives me warm fuzzies. Sometimes I can’t help but compare where my own life status is to the adventures and milestones shared. It’s human nature, I think. Best. Christmas. Ever! takes that sentiment and spins an elaborate ‘what if’ scenario for us.
It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, though. Perhaps there was too much cringe involved, or maybe the fact that the families on screen lived in this super-rich fantasy land. It was a feast for the eyes from a set-dressing standpoint, but it was hard to connect with the characters. Too much was going on at once, perhaps. I was even afraid this was about to turn into a swingers situation with these couples, but the rating helped me hold on to hope that it wouldn’t – and it thankfully didn’t. There were just some weird vibes going on.
For a movie about embracing and pushing through life not working out perfectly, there was too much of a glossy perfect sheen on everything. The message was there, but it was like someone gave me candy rather than a cough drop for a sore throat.
I’m afraid that I have to agree with most of the critical reviews that I’ve seen for Best. Christmas. Ever! which pretty much state that this movie works better as a TV holiday special rather than a feature film. Of course, if we consider Netflix as a non-traditional TV network, then that’s exactly what this was.
Best. Christmas. Ever! has its fun and heartwarming moments and wasn’t a total travesty, mind you. It just didn’t live up to the sales pitch its own title offered. Brandy Norwood’s voice remains spectacular, though, so having this playing in the background wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 42%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 19%
Metascore – 34%
Metacritic User Score – 1.8/10
IMDB Score – 4.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2.5/5
Movie Trailer:


Monday, December 4, 2023

'Tis the Season - Candy Cane Lane (2023)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: Candy Cane Lane (2023)
Genre: Holiday, Comedy, Fantasy
Length: 1h 57min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Amazon Studios, Eddie Murphy Productions, Imagine Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Amazon Prime Video
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Writer: Kelly Younger
Actors: Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell, Genneya Walton, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Madison Thomas, Nick Offerman, Chris Redd, Robin Thede, David Alan Grier, Ken Marino, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Lombardo Boyar, Timothy Simons, Danielle Pinnock, D.C. Young Fly, Iman Benson, Belle Le Grand, Tiago Roberts, Trevante Rhodes, James DuMont, Ali Astin, Riki Lindhome, Catherine Dent, Kimberly Christian, Amanda Schoonover, Haiden Pino, Tom Lindsey, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Kevin Olusola, Matt Sallee, Aidan Kennedy, Amy Johnston
IMDb Blurb: A man is determined to win the neighborhood's annual Christmas decorating contest. He makes a pact with an elf to help him win--and the elf casts a spell that brings the 12 days of Christmas to life, which brings unexpected chaos to town.
Cat’s Point of View:
When I first watched the trailer for Candy Cane Lane, I was fairly bouncing in my seat with anticipation for its release on Prime Video. Every time I see a movie billing Eddie Murphy (Mr. Church, Coming 2 America, You People) in a comedy, it gets all my nostalgic feelings of glee stirring. When paired with the concept of a fun family Christmas movie and the rest of the star-studded cast, Candy Cane Lane was a no-brainer to add to my must-watch list for a December “Family Movie Night.”  (It was a foregone conclusion that this film would land on my personal Top 20, as well.)
I’m a bit frustrated with the low-trending rating scores I’ve seen for Candy Cane Lane. Was it the best Christmas comedy movie I’ve ever seen? No, and yet it was a fun experience. I certainly didn’t feel like my time was wasted. My family and I watched together and we had a great time.
There were some sketchy CGI effects in the opening sequence of the film that set up expectations for potential wonkiness, but it honestly didn’t seem to repeat itself. A few of the comedic moments were a little cringe, but it had less of that flavor of comedy than quite a few recent well-received movies. The themes of family, the Christmas spirit, and putting loved ones over “keeping up with the Joneses” and the commercialization of the holiday all fit within the story without feeling like someone was preaching.
Seriously, Candy Cane Lane was far more entertaining than most of the recycled Christmas romance stuff that plays nonstop this time of year on the Lifetime and Hallmark networks. My daughter and I were also very excited about how the story worked our favorite a capella group Pentatonix into the tale.
I do feel that with a team such as Murphy and Tracee Ellis Ross (Little, Black-ish, American Fiction) playing his his on-screen wife, there was considerable potential for more of Murphy’s trademark comedic style. There was, however, nothing wrong with his more straightforward character who was working at being a good dad and family provider - even if slightly Christmas-obsessive.
Jillian Bell (Green Eggs and Ham, Fool's Paradise, Good Burger 2) has been firing on all cylinders playing villains this year, too.
Over all, Candy Cane Lane had an interesting concept that felt fresh where its Christmas Magic was concerned while delivering relatable family content. It was a bit of a bonkers ride, but it was easy to just go with the flow. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Candy Cane Lane to anyone looking to add something fun to a family movie night this Holiday Season.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 39%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 42%
Metascore – 47%
Metacritic User Score – 4.4/10
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
P.S. – There are some bloopers and an additional scene mid-credits.
Movie Trailer: