Christmas 2018: The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Christmas Chronicles

Director: Clay Kaytis

Cast: Kurt Russell, Judah Lewis, Darby Camp, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Oliver Hudson, Lamorne Morris, Martin Roach

The story of sister and brother, Kate and Teddy Pierce, whose Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera turns into an unexpected journey that most kids could only dream about. – IMDB

An adventure this one definitely is. The Christmas Chronicles is a fun little adventure full of everything that we love. I have to say that Kurt Russell as Santa is a pop of difference. Judah Lewis and Darby Camp are great as kids. It gave me this whole vibe of what great Christmas movies that we love had especially when tackling the power of to believe in Santa. The story is a bit generic and expected but the enthusiasm and the pure humor of the whole thing along with all the fun action-packed bits definitely set it apart whether its racing down the streets in flashy race cars or commandeering a sleigh ride and the different aspects that gives it some fun moments makes it never forget what it is and stays true to its purpose.

Christmas Chronicles

The highlight of The Christmas Chronicles definitely hands down goes to Kurt Russell who truly takes us for a fun little Christmas ride as after the kids scare him and make him crash land in Chicago, to chase down his Santa hat, his reindeers and his bag of toys. With the help of Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp), this adventure is kind of an interesting way to see Santa portrayed in a rather non-traditional way. Its refreshing and Kurt Russell’s version is so memorable.

Other than that, what I did like a lot also has to go to the computer graphics and how it makes up for all the cute designs here and just how everything comes to life. For one, the reindeers are done so lively and the expressions in their eyes are fantastic. Just like when we get to see these North Pole elves who have their fantastical language but all so unique in their design just like how they look so cute but have this very hilarious ugly side when the situation is needed. They are so cute and charming.

Overall, The Christmas Chronicles is a fun Christmas adventure. It has a lot of the Polar Express feels, especially because a few parts takes the music from that movie, especially with the same concept of believing in Santa and the power of this belief and trying to get someone (in this case Teddy) to regain belief. At the same time, it also has these musical moments where Kurt Russell has a singing moment. There are a ton of elements here. Its festive and fun and honestly, its been a while that I’ve felt like any holiday films released in the last few years has made it onto our annual holiday movie marathon, but this one definitely fits all our criteria.

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Double Feature: Central Intelligence (2016) & Rampage (2018)

What better way to start the week than with a Dwayne The Rock Johnson double feature, right? That is really all I have to say. Today’s pairing is one that happened to work out so I deliberately delayed Central Intelligence to pair with Rampage which I rented a few weeks ago.

Lets check it out!

Central Intelligence (2016)

central intelligence

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Smith, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul

After he reconnects with an awkward pal from high school through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage. –IMDB

Jumping into comedies is a scary thing because you never know what type of humor is going to be on the other side. Baywatch (review) is a fine example of how humor didn’t work but the action did. Central Intelligence reminded me a little of Get Smart. There is a lot of over the top humor and somehow a part of me enjoyed it because Kevin Smith and Dwayne Johnson paired up and reminded me of the good old days in Hong Kong cinema when Stephen Chow and Andy Lau did God of Trickery (one of my fave films ever). Before long, I did buy into the humor and the random action and how great Dwayne Johnson’s character is and how scared and random reactions Kevin Smith had.

On top of all that, you get some great cameos with Jason Bateman and Aaron Paul which is pretty cool as well. Plus, there is this secondary story of how high school affects the present with a message about bullying and a positive message about standing up for who you are and all that good stuff. Its an action comedy and it remembers that all the time which makes it pretty well-paced with some exciting moments.

Rampage (2018)

rampage

Director: Brad Peyton

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Malin Akerman, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello

When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago. – IMDB

Rampage was on my anticipated list (I think) but my cinema track record this year is not too good so its all down to rentals to catch up. While Rampage didn’t get really good ratings, this sort of film is always up my alley. Big creatures, check. Dwayne Johnson in action, check. Video game adaptation, check. I went into this with the only expectation to have fun and let me tell you, I had some really pleasant surprises. It isn’t a masterpiece but there are some key things that I found here which I liked a lot and for those points, this one was entertaining.

Lets start with the elements I like, all the things I wanted delivered worked out really well. Three big creatures were done so well with the effects and graphics especially with Joe’s facial expression. Dwayne Johnson is also so charismatic in films and this one is no exception. There are some odd forced parts however, overall he wasn’t the issue. As a video game adaptation, it has the reputation to be a guilty pleasure and this one does fit into that category but then I do argue that most of The Rock’s films fall in that mindless entertainment category and it works for that purpose especially as I love not having to think too much during a film and just have fun.

Now, some good and some bad follows that part. I loved Malin Akerman as the villain here. She was quite impressive especially since the last thing I remember her in was 27 Dresses. I’m sure I’ve seen her in other things but I don’t remember right now. She did a fine job here. Now, I’m a little lukewarm on Jake Lacy, someone I thought did a fine job in Miss Sloane albeit a fairly smaller role. Here, he bordered a little on the annoying part. Talking about short roles though, Joe Manganiello has a cameo here and it comes and ends so quickly but his presence is always appreciated. My fave part though, has to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his role. Same goes for Naomie Harris who is an admirable actress that I really like in a lot of the roles she’s done. The cast here gave a lot of life to Rampage along with its creatures. Everything else was something of a generic sort of set-up but it managed to keep me interested and entertained so its a fun time overall.

That’s it for this Double Feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

Christmas 2018: The Princess Switch (2018)

The Princess Switch (2018)

The Princess Switch

Director: Mike Rohl

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar, Alexa Adeosun, Suanne Braun, Mark Fleischmann, Sara Stewart, Robin Soans

A Chicago baker (V.Hudgens) is competing in a Christmas baking competition in Belgravia. There she bumps into the prince’s fiancee. They look alike and switch for 2 days. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – IMDB

If we talk about something along the calibre of last year’s A Christmas Prince (review) for this year, I would say that I’m not sure any movie in the Hallmark by Netflix category going to beat out this one. A Princess Switch is pretty much the familiar formula of Parent Trap and It Takes Two and movies of that sort except this time, we don’t have teenagers but rather young adults or in their 30s or mid20s or something like that. You know, marriage and romance age sort of story. It has a good bit of laughs and while some parts were kind of a little eye-rolling worthy, there is this charm to Vanessa Hudgens’ interpretation of both of these characters, whether it is Margaret or as Stacy that makes it so entertaining to watch. Plus, there is no doubt that this is a holiday film in the sense that it is set during Christmas and there is an overflowing amount of Christmas activities and endearing moments about the value of Christmas. Its a heartwarming and fun effort as a whole which makes it so much fun to watch especially as a guilty pleasure.

Whenever we talk about these sort of romantic comedy style holiday films, I have to always talk about chemistry. While I maintain that a lot of the really good acting had to go to Vanessa Hudgens, she did have pretty good chemistry with both of the male leads. Both Sam Palladio and Nick Sagar are charming in their own ways that fit the type of man that they portray in this movie so it works out. At the same time, there are some pretty fun moments between  each of these pairs that seem fitting for their situation if not sometimes a tad over-exaggerated but in this genre of film, it is sometimes okay to be like that and still really emphasize the chemistry and some warm laughs with the characters.

As a side note though, I do love how the King and Queen, especially the Queen’s role here as they question the Duchess character making it feel more realistic as sometimes there is always these moments where the silliness things get looked over like everyone else is stupid. At the same time, the guard or whoever we call him ends up getting caught in figuring it out but also having these really hilarious moments of ending up in the most awkward situations like he’s a servant and not the higher ranking that he is supposed to be. Aside from the two assistants of sorts to the Duchess and the Prince who bring a lot of humor, we have the classic character who miraculously shows up everywhere as a magical element that strings together the character and the pieces. In some ways, it makes the movie on rails but it kind of pokes fun knowingly at itself that it works somehow.

Overall, I liked the Princess Switch a lot more than I expected I would. Vanessa Hudgens was on point with both her roles and the male leads were both very charming. There was a lot of heartwarming moments and fun moments and even some meaningful moments. Its really well put together for a holiday centered romantic comedy. It both had the romantic chemistry and holiday spirit in equal parts to make it feel enjoyable.

Christmas 2018: The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar

Director: Bradley Walsh

Cast: Kat Graham, Quincy Brown, Ethan Peck, Ron Cephas Jones, Genelle Williams, Ali Hassan, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll

A struggling but talented photographer inherits an antique holiday advent calendar, the contents of which seem to predict the future. Will this magical calendar lead her to love this holiday season? – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I really only gave this one a chance because I really like Kat Graham in The Vampire Diaries. However, I wasn’t as much of a fan of her in Honey 2 so while I don’t know what The Holiday Calendar was about, I decided to take a chance anyways. I do want to say that on one side, I did work for what it was trying to deliver but if you really don’t have much tolerance for these kind of Hallmark films, then it might not be for you. I’m just going to lay it out so you don’t waste your time. I say this because The Holiday Calendar does nothing special. Everything you predict will probably happen right down to who she ends up being with in the end and even how she pieces together the “magic” calendar to the things she missed to leading her to the one. However, while being predictable isn’t particularly a good thing, there is enough fun bits here to make it enjoyable. Its heartwarming and talks about family and dreams and careers and taking chances and not just romance.

The Holiday Calendar

While the antique calendar itself has something of a spirit here in the background with a lot of presence because the film flows with what pops up in the window everyday, the movie does benefit a lot from Kat Graham who does a great job as Abby, a girl who is stuck at a day job that pays her bills but scared to live her own dreams. There’s this really fun element to her character and her friendship with Josh (Quincy Jones) has a lot of sweet moments to it also. Surprisingly, the parts that I liked the best are the ones where Abby talks to her grandfather because there is a lot of genuine and good bits to it all. The family moments and the picture moments and those bits also add to the experience.

The only thing I did feel about The Holiday Calendar is that there is this turning point moment in the middle which felt kind of awkward. It was this weird epiphany moment that kind of felt out of spot but it didn’t really last too long before things got back on track. If you like Hallmark holiday films, this one is pretty alright. Its pretty predictable but also has a nice heartwarming element and emphasizes on more than romance but also on family moments and a lot of Christmas-y moments.

Christmas 2018: A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)

A Christmas Prince The Royal Wedding

Director: John Schultz

Cast: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Sarah Douglas, Theo Devaney, John Guerrasio, Andy Lucas, Simon Dutton, Katarina Cas

A year after helping Richard get to the throne, Amber is about to become his wife. But is she really made to be queen? – IMDB

Following last year’s A Christmas Prince (review), its been a year for us as we watched Amber and Richard fall in love and be engaged. This time, we’re watching Amber get ready for the Royal Wedding while Richard struggles with the modernization of the country whose initiative has made the country bleed money affecting jobs and such. To be fair, the only thing Christmas-y about this one is really that its set during Christmas and they do a lot of Christmas things like getting a tree and baking and Christmas pageants and such. This story is a romantic comedy about Amber as she struggles with following protocol and getting caught up in the whirlwind of everyone but herself having a say on her own wedding and we know what’s going to happen after that. A Christmas Prince (even the first one) is those stories that are predictable romantic comedies however, it seems the second one here still has a few laughs but has lost a bit, scratch that, a lot of the chemistry and charm.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

We can start with some of the good stuff. The Christmas decor was really nice. There was an overly exaggerated toboggan ride that I could get along with since it gave a link from the first to the second movie. There was a lot of Christmas activities which also worked since I am watching this for the holidays marathon so it matched the theme. It also emphasized family and friends a lot and that was fun. Some supporting characters like Mr. Zabala (Andy Lucas) adds a nice little twist to it. Then, I really like the little sister, Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey) who adds a good deal of sharp humor here. Amber’s time with her friends also was pretty fun since it was a lot more natural, be it out investigating in disguise or be it having her mini bachelorette party.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

Then, everything else falls apart. Most of you who have been around here know that I’m pretty lenient on rom-coms. Last year’s A Christmas Prince was a pretty alright one in the current state of romantic comedies, well as of last year. There were some nice moments and romantic chemistry and such. But this year, it wasn’t really about that anymore. Amber and Richard were rarely on screen and when they were, it was not exactly full of chemistry. I mean, I guess the ending kind of hinted that they could do a third one if this one is a success although after this one which was rather boring to watch for the most part and pretty predictable and let’s say, a little over the top especially with the Count Simon and her best friend moment that had so much cringe. Not to mention, they really wanted to add in the twist and smoke screen thing going on with why the kingdom was bleeding money and it was just so obvious who was behind it all.

I didn’t expect much from this one in the first place but A Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding was a big disappointment from the first one. It does tick the Christmas holiday film bit but in the romantic comedy department, it no longer is that kind of category because the chemistry was pretty much not there since the two were not really on screen together much. It was more of a wedding planning movie. I guess I wasn’t too surprised since it panned out like I expected it would. I don’t hate it or like it, I’m kind of indifferent to be honest.  Although, I’d definitely hesitate on watching another sequel if they ever do one because there was something mentioned at the end in the movie that hints at maybe visiting this property again if this one works out.

BITS 2018: The Hoard (2018)

The Hoard (2018)

The Hoard

Directors (and co-writers): Jesse Thomas Cook & Matt Wiele

Cast: Lisa Solberg, Tony Burgess, Barry More, Ry Barrett, Elma Begovic, Marcus Ludlow, Justin Darmanin, Charles Ivey, Jesse Thomas Cook

THE HOARD is a comedy/horror mockumentary that chronicles the unravelling of a production team who are attempting to produce the ultimate reality TV show pilot ‘Extremely Haunted Hoarders’. – IMDB

Mockumentaries are a tough subgenre to crack. They have to carry a certain comedic value to them as they go and mock a certain style. In this case, The Hoard tackles mocking reality TV in the likes of ghost hunting combined with house flipping shows. The movie is a comedy for the most part but takes a turn for something more in the horror area near the end as the plot takes a sudden turn. The main hurdle for The Hoard is honestly on how much its viewers enjoy mockumentaries in general. It embraces what it is trying to achieve fully both with its ragtag team of “experts” with each of their specialities and the way the entire movie is executed.

The Hoard

Looking at the characters, they are the heart of The Hoard. The most comedic being that of the pompous Dr. Ebe (Tony Burgess) who takes his role as the resident psychiatrist to solve this hoarding habit of their subject to another level with both impractical and ridiculous ways. Another highlight is the divorced paranormal experts Chloe (Emma Begovic) and Caleb Black (Ry Barrett) who have their incredibly hilarious interpretation of ghost hunters both making fun of the scenario in an indirect way in an over the top manner that offers lots of entertainment and plenty of laughs. It is quite a treat to see Emma Begovic switch from the really intense main role in Bite to this comedic role which shows her acting chops. The professional organizer, Sheila Smyth (Lisa Solberg) is the leader of the team and while she is simply the glue and grounded person here and the one who goes through a lot more situations and dramatic moments, she somehow doesn’t have quite as much impact as the previously mentioned ones. Same goes for the construction/renovation trio, Duke (Marcus Ludlow), Falcon (Justin Darmanin) and their temp worker Ivey (Charles Ivey). They do cover a bit of the over the top dumb humor which lands less because it sometimes overstays its welcome.

Humor is a subjective thing. It is what makes the mockumentary comedy genre sometimes hard to talk about. What works for me might not tickle your funny bone. In this case, the humor lands enough for this film to work and as a mockumentary, it is done in an entertaining way with enough to keep it intriguing. However, it does feel slightly disjointed at times and some other bits felt not so necessary. It’s a short run time and sometimes it feels like it circles too long in a lot of the same movements before switching the plot up. There are some good and some lacking elements here especially in terms of the horror coming a little too late. For those who do appreciate mockumentaries, this one is worth a shot.

Side note: I can appreciate what it does here but I’m not the audience for this one so I can see that it does a good job but I didn’t quite get as involved as other who enjoy mockumentaries would.

Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon: Joe versus the Volcano (1990)

Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon

This review is a part of The Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon. You can see all the details HERE.

Joe vs. the Volcano (1990)

joe versus the volcano

Director (and writer): John Patrick Shanley

Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya

When a hypochondriac learns that he is dying, he accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island, and along the way there, learns to truly live. – IMDB

Joe versus the Volcano

There’s always a special spark to watching Meg Ryan in any movies. Joe Versus the Volcano gives us three awesome helpings of this wonderful actress as she takes on three roles. In her first collaboration with Tom Hanks, which follows through a few years later with Sleepless in Seattle and then a few years after that You’ve Got Mail, its nice to see where it all started. While I can’t say that Joe versus the Volcano is especially better than her later works, its definitely one that has quite a fun little vibe to it. Tom Hanks, of course, delivers a fairly funny man role as he plays a hypochondriac. Right from the get-go, its kind of refreshing to see Tom Hanks in an earlier role especially since I have to admit that I’m not one that has followed his movies as closely as others have, despite thinking that he is a talented actor. In this one, its a side of Tom Hanks that I rarely see as he starts off in this gloomy character but still manages in all his unfortunate events to make it pretty funny to watch just through his expressions and reactions. In fact, with Joe being the title of this film, there is no doubt that anyone other than Joe, played by Tom Hanks is just a supporting character even if this film is considered a romantic comedy.

Joe versus the volcano

However, seeing as I am reviewing this for the Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon, its hard to ignore Meg Ryan who goes through three characters and three transformations for each. The way the character dresses and the vibe that the character delivers all differ and are unique. In fact, when she firsts enters the movie as an office worker or secretary of sorts called Dede, she sports this fantastic accent and is almost hard to recognize. However, there is this fun character wrapped in this role that we see right before she leaves that role and the movie moves into the next part when we see her show up again in her second role as Angelica, the daughter of the rich man who asks Joe to jump into the volcano. This character is conflicted in her own way and is somewhat quirky because of her artistic nature or so we think she is until she shares some of her work and has this odd delivery. However, the final role as Angelica’s half sister, Patricia who ends up taking Joe to the island is the one that is the Meg Ryan that we all know as her elegant, fun and charming self but yet so very competent and beautiful. You can’t say that Meg Ryan doesn’t show off some great acting skills just through this one film. Impressive as always.

Joe Versus the Volcano

Overall, Joe versus the Volcano is a fun little romantic comedy. I’m not sure there’s so much romance as its a comedy and something of an adventure for Tom Hanks character Joe to embrace life more unafraid. However, as fun as Tom Hanks is, Meg Ryan is the reason I watched this movie and she definitely does an outstanding job, impressive as she always is as she takes on multiple roles in one movie. I can’t say its my favorite Meg Ryan film but its one that I’m happy that I finally caught up with. You can see my Meg Ryan Roles Ranked List HERE.