Holiday Marathon: A Castle For Christmas (2021)

A Castle For Christmas (2021)

Director: Mary Lambert

Cast: Brooke Shields, Cary Elwes, Lee Ross, Andi Osho, Tiny Gray, Eilidh Loan, Stephen Oswald, Vanessa Grasse, Desiree Burch

To escape a scandal, a bestselling author journeys to Scotland, where she falls in love with a castle – and faces off with the grumpy duke who owns it. – IMDB

Looking at A Castle For Christmas, I couldn’t help but ask two questions. The first is when was the last time I saw Brooke Shields and the second, when was the last time Cary Elwes was in a romantic comedy? Was it The Princess Bride? On top of that, this film is directed by Mary Lambert who has directed plenty of horror films but not so much romance (as I take a quick look over her filmography and yet, she is at the helm of this film.

Set in the small town Scotland setting and mostly in a castle, A Castle For Christmas is really not all that bad. The cast helps a lot and the whole tone is pretty nice. The plot points do have some odd moments that feel like it edited out a scene or two that was supposed to link it all together. The romance at times is a little bit on the cringey side of things but the setting is really nice for Christmas as it brings these two characters together. The holiday element is also done pretty well also as they transform the castle into a more festive setting and giving it a little more life.

The cast is really the highlight here. Whether we look at the main leads or the supporting cast, they all add a lot of charm to this small town and breathe more life into the film as a whole. The little discussions as they knit or decorate together. It makes the famous author on the run feel accepted when this group understands her point more than the others in the big city. There is a very positive feel-good vibe from those moments alone. It somehow puts the romance element in the background. However, thats not saying that Cary Elwes and Brooke Shields in their respective leading roles should be ignored. Brooke Shields fits into this role nicely whereas Cary Elwes feels at times a little awkward. However, his character is set as a bit of a loner so where he shines is before the whole romantic bits start with their little feud as he tries to get her to leave and she works hard to fit in and stay.

Overall, A Castle For Christmas is an alright holiday romantic comedy. Its cast does it the most favors and makes it a fun feel good film. The romance gets lost a little in the whole setting and the holiday and the supporting cast from the small town and yet, that does do the film a lot of favors as the romance element isn’t its strongest but Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes does fit relativelt well in their individual roles.

Double Feature: A California Christmas (2020) & A California Christmas: City Lights (2021)

A California Christmas (2020)

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Cast: Lauren Swickard, Josh Swickard, Ali Afshar, David Del Rio, Katelyn Epperly, Amanda Detmer, Natalia Mann, Gunnar Anderson, Julie Lancaster

With his carefree lifestyle on the line, a wealthy charmer poses as a ranch hand to get a hardworking farmer to sell her family’s land before Christmas. – IMDB

Being from a place where a white Christmas is usually how it goes, these snowless holiday films sometimes do feel a little strange as it focuses more on the actual romance than the holiday but I suppose that’s how it goes with these sort of Netflix-style “Hallmark” films. A California Christmas is really rather basic. In fact, everything is very simple and predictable whether its the characters to the whole plot itself. It doesn’t carry a whole lot of depth. In these cases, its saving grace will be the chemistry and its setting which the whole small-town farmland has its little fun moments while the chemistry does work seeing as the two leads are actually married in real life which definitely helps things and makes it feel rather natural.

What saves this movie a little bit is that the rich spoiled brat male lead comes to this town to try to pretend to be someone else and use that as a manipulative plot to get them to sell as per his company and his mother the CEO’s request, with that plot comes the blending together and a somewhat fish out of water story as he learns how to do all these farm tasks, posing as a farm hand called Manny who ends up trading up that life for a rather relaxing one with his assistant, Leo. Where the film did have its most fun was the ridiculous and rather comedic moments between Leo and Manny as their friendship grew throughout. Of course, the romance wasn’t all too bad either considering they pulled in a family angle that tugged a little on the heartstrings.

A California Christmas is really everything that you’d expect from this type of holiday romance. Its acceptable for those who enjoy these films but nothing too special for anyone looking for something more.

A California Christmas: City Lights (2021)

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Cast: Lauren Swickard, Josh Swickard, Ali Afshar, David Del Rio, Natalia Mann, Raquel Dominguez, Laura James, Noah James, Julie Lancaster

Follows Callie and Joseph one year after they fell in love, now running a dairy farm and winery, but their romance is threatened when business and family obligations call Joseph back to the city. – IMDB

The sequel of last year’s A California Christmas moves the farmland setting to the city lights of San Francisco as Joseph is summoned back to the city to take care of the company as his mother runs off and passes the duties over to him. Faced with the upcoming nuptials and fitting into the city as well as the different person that Joseph seems to be in the city as well as a lot of revelations about his past life there, Callie starts to have her own doubts.

A California Christmas: City Lights is a step down from the first film. While the first was predictable, this sequel actually feels a lot more unnecessary. Some things in the script feel like a stretch and there is this very odd tone especially with some very cheesy and over the top moments, specifically one where its probably meant to be humorous but didn’t quite hit that way with Manny’s character as he tries to capture the attention of Callie’s best friend Brandy. Its a rather empty sort of pursuit as the connection goes from nothing to something in a very short amount of time. The family element also gets traded out as Callie and Joseph is away in another city but still trying to get those moments in.

The focus is still on Callie and Joseph, the main couple here who is caught up in this new location and new responsibilities respectively. Between the plots of the ex-girlfriend and this whole other side of Joseph comes to light for Callie, it creates these moments of tension as the city undoubtedly tears them apart literally, making it hard to find time to spend together. This plotline actually is one that I’m not a huge fan of in general. Call it a romance film issue that is used so frequently with just secrets and lack of communication which is usually the source all the problems. While its inevitable that it needs to be used to create conflict, it also feels like for the frequent viewer of such films, it such a simple solution whether its talking things through or just commuting to see each other to sort things out whether than each sulking in their own corners.

Sure, I didn’t have high expectations for A California Christmas: City Lights since the first movie was a rather average sort of viewing experience. This film however took some very odd and silly plot points that just felt like while the backdrop of San Francisco has some really nice cityscape, and the world they shift to is rather glamorous, the film in general is dull. It actually took quite a few sittings to get through it. Some of the issues once resolved were pretty decent but the script and the execution was just not too balanced.

Holidays Marathon: Love Hard (2021)

Love Hard (2021)

Director: Hernan Jimenez

Cast: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, Darren Barnet, James Saito, Rebecca Staab, Harry Shum Jr., Althea Kaye, Mikaela Hoover, Matty Finochio, Heather McMahan

An LA girl, unlucky in love, falls for an East Coast guy on a dating app and decides to surprise him for the holidays, only to discover that she’s been catfished. This lighthearted romantic comedy chronicles her attempt to reel in love. – IMDB

As Netflix steps up its game a little, its kind of a mixed bag when it comes to holiday films. Love Hard was one that caught my eye immediately for 2 reasons. The first being Nina Dobrev that I’ve been following since The Vampire Diaries which is a show that I did love (not so sure about how much I love it now but maybe it’ll be a fun experiment to see how I feel about it now that I’m in my 30s). The second reason being Jimmy O. Yang who seems to be popping up on my radar a lot and I do like his humor quite a bit. While I didn’t expect him to be casted in a romantic comedy, it is nice to see him in it especially when Love Hard is pretty cute when it brings the whole modernized dating scene up front for people looking for love online and the many dangers that could happen as well as the concept of what perfect love is while also making a play on two movies I do like a lot: Love Actually and Die Hard.

Love Hard is a pretty fun romantic comedy. Its not exactly unpredictable as most rom-coms nowadays tend to be lacking on that front. However, with the small town vibe and bringing in the family element in terms of expectations and love on all fronts, Love Hard is pretty well-crafted. It has its heartwarming moments and also some silly ones as well but the chemistry between Nina Dobrev’s Natalie and Jimmy O. Yang’s Josh is pretty decent. They have some really meaningful conversations about romance and encouragement towards being themselves but also uses its comedic comebacks especially for Jimmy O. Yang’s character pretty well also. The whole cast is pretty cool with Harry Shum Jr. playing the attention seeking brother but also getting to flex those singing skills, that I personally haven’t heard since his Glee days. Much like the whole family dynamic of the Lin household, plus all these family holiday films needs a wild grandma and they had one here as well.

Is Love Hard something really out of the ordinary? The plot itself definitely isn’t. It has some of the “How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days” plot where in this case is a blogger with her column on failed online dating but also adds that different ethnic backgrounds angle as they play with some of the Asian backgrounds even if the family feels pretty much assimilated to the small-town US lifestyle. A lot of the Asian household values whether its family business or following dreams or family expectations all come into play here which does feel rather realistic. If there was one thing that I’d nitpick on this was that the film spent a lot of time on Natalie’s angle, probably for most of the film and then suddenly near the end, it switches over to Josh’s angle in the final act which felt a little odd to do since Natalie felt like the character to connect with throughout and then suddenly, the switch with that one scene with Josh near the end felt a little misplaced. Its still a good scene and adds to his character.

Overall, its a harmless holiday romantic comedy. It has a lot of Christmas elements. There’s a good balance between comedy and romance. It also has some fun Christmas moments from putting up the Christmas tree to family moments to Christmas caroling, etc. It does tick a good few of those boxes for what this film sells itself as which all works together in a fun way. Of course, for people who don’t really enjoy romantic comedies, probably not for you but if you like Jimmy O. Yang’s comedy style and romantic comedies are acceptable to you, its a worth a watch.

Double Feature: Operation Santa Drop (2020) & Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

I’m super behind on these Christmas reviews going out so I figured that I’d double down to get all of them out. Back to the double feature reviews, we’re in for a Netflix Original double feature for holiday films.

Hope everyone’s having a Merry Christmas Eve and lets check out these two movies!

Operation Santa Drop (2020)

Director: Martin Wood

Cast: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Trezzo Mahoro, Bethany Brown, Rohan Campbell, Virginia Madsen, Jeff Joseph, Janet Kidder

Congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) forgoes family Christmas to travel at her boss’s behest. At a beachside Air Force base, she clashes with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility. – IMDB

Operation Christmas Drop takes a tropic setting for Christmas, much like last year’s Holiday in the Wild (review). In this case, its about the Air Force base doing a good deed on their own means but the facility being on the verge of possibility defunded because of it. Its pretty much a holiday romantic comedy with a bigger cause at heart which has all the right intentions however also feels very familiar. Of course, if these types of movies are your cup of tea, its definitely going to work other than perhaps the computer animated gecko sitting on the wall that looks the most out of place. In the current state of pandemic across the world, it perhaps helps that this sort of destination is one to look forward to in the future when things get back to some form of normal.

Its hard to criticize Operation Christmas Drop. In many ways, the meaning of Christmas and the good deed makes this a rather feel good movie. However, putting it in the context of the romance at heart, it feels a little light. The chemistry is on and off between the two main leads and yet, the whole exploring the place and mostly the character Erica, played by Kat Graham does change her heart as she would have to for to movie to have to fight against her boss, the congresswoman played by Virginia Madsen. The charm is really in how it portrays the villagers and the people in it, plus the setting gives it a lot of extra points. The whole Christmas Drop scene might be the most fun to watch.

Operation Christmas Drop is an alright movie. Its pretty harmless overall and has a decent story to tell especially since its based on a true situation which it makes a point to highlight at the end of the movie. Nameless heroes are the best ones to talk about and possibly the most heartwarming stories. Its very fitting for a holiday film, even if it doesn’t hit all the notes for the romantic arc.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Director (and writer): David E. Talbert

Cast: 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

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. – IMDB

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a musical fantasy film. I’m all about Netflix putting together these musical films. I also caught up with The Prom shortly after this one but that’s for another post. While its not exactly a Christmas movie in the conventional way, it is one that’s full of magic: the magic of creation especially in terms of toy creations. Its about family and making peace. There’s a bit of silliness to the whole situation as well and some imagination elements but its a fun journey to say the least.

There’s a lot to love about Jingle Jangle even if there are some small pacing issues perhaps and the story is rather predictable in where it will go. However, the musical numbers are really fun and I’m also a sucker for those big musical scenes which almost feels like flash mob. The music itself is good as well. The cast performs it very well. There are some memorable songs in the mix.

Perhaps one of the things that also stand out is that the cast is exceptional, at least to me. Forest Whitaker takes on the main inventor role Jeronicus that has lost his magic after his creation ideas are stolen from his apprentice and at the verge of losing his store that has now turned into a pawnshop, his granddaughter is sent over with the same type of inventive bone as him to warm his life up and also bring back his magic. With a new young boy that wants to be his apprentice in the mix and the postal service lady that wants to win his heart in the most entertaining way and so much personality, it also brings into the mix of Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson, his apprentice that was actually mislead by Jeronicus’ invention Don Juan Diego who has so much of a human conscious that it doesn’t want to be replicated. Don Juan Diego is animated and voiced by Ricky Martin who does a fantastic job as well. Not to mention that the young stars including the main lead of the granddaughter Journey by Madalen Mills.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is really quite the fun spectacle. The magic and the music and the characters all are quite the charming. Not to mention the setting of the village is nice as well as the toy design that is in the making turns out to be this uber cute Wall-E-esque looking robot. There may be some flaws with this and it has some overacting here and there but then musicals always seem to have that sort of feeling to it and its those moments that blend well with the musical numbers and boosting the story elements.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Chris Columbus

Cast: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Julian Dennison, Jahzir Bruno, Tyrese Gibson, Judah Lewis, Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Kate Pierce, now a cynical teen, is unexpectedly reunited with Santa Claus when a mysterious troublemaker threatens to cancel Christmas – forever. – IMDB

We’re big fans of The Christmas Chronicles (review) so suffice to say, we were looking forward to the sequel. The sequel takes place a year after the events of the first film again during Christmas season where the family is on vacation in the south with the mother’s new boyfriend and son. There’s resistance to both the new relationship and where they are by Kate who ends up scheming a way to escape but ends up falling into a trap that takes her to North Pole.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a bit of mixed feelings. On one hand, there are some very fun bits and the characters including the elves and exploring Santa’s Village plus Kurt Russell as Santa Claus and Goldie Hawn having a bigger part this time around as Mrs. Claus are all very entertaining bits for the movie. The animation of the elves and how they are designed is so cute that I went trying to see if somewhere sells these plush but with no luck.

Along with the pros, there were some cons. Most of it had to do with the plot and the whole revenge bit from Belsnickel, an elf that gets punished for doing misdeeds after Santa doesn’t pay attention to him that he act out and gets turned into human. The main issue is the Belsnickel character that is rather an annoying character design and feels a little disjointed in general. Perhaps, its supposed to fit with a child lashing out and being bratty but the execution just felt lacking on his development. The character is more of an issue in the first half and does feel better as it goes further although his character still just feels like the means of creating issues for Santa and his village.

Playing with tech a little as it moves through time travel a little and morphing through locations, The Christmas Chronicles 2 still had the adventure bit locked down and the young characters finally reaching Santa’s village as a means for Belsnickel turns out to get them involved which also brings on some fun characters and adventures. Starting with cameo characters, Tyrese Gibson plays the mom’s boyfriend which is pretty fun and the first time that I’ve seen him out of the Fast and Furious franchise. With Judah Lewis’s brother falling into a smaller role, Kate is paired with a tag along of the boyfriend’s son, Jack played Jahzir Bruno who ends up bonding the two but giving him a journey as he starts fighting his wide array of fears and finding his courage all with the help of Mrs. Claus. Probably the character everyone has been waiting for since the surprise appearance at the end of the first film is Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus, who turns up on quite the role. She creates this balance for Santa. Plus, the whole village’s elves going nuts was quite a hilarious turn of events in a brutally cute way.

Overall, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is alright. It still has the entertainment level and the tone especially with the comedy and family film is done pretty well. The real selling point is in Kurt Russell as Santa who holds up his role really well while expanding it to a memorable Mrs. Claus by Goldie Hawn. It takes on this message about discovering Christmas spirit and a bit like the story of The Grinch where it doesn’t matter so much about where it is but its in their hearts sort of deal. Not quite as outstanding as the first film but still a fun enough one to enjoy for the holidays.

TV Binge: Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

dash & lily

Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Leah Kreitz, Keana Marie, Glenn McCuen, Agneeta Thacker, Jodi Long, Diego Guevara

A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. – IMDB

Dash & Lily arrives at a suitable time in our current pabdemic landscape. Dash & Lily is a building connection between two young strangers as they exchange dares in a notebook stashed at a local bookstore all in an attempt to bring in some joy during this holidays by Lily whose normal family holidays plans have been thwarted due to a business trip. On the other hand, Dash despises the holidays especially without a girlfriend to smooth the situation between him and his father while fooling both his divorced parents about his wherebouts. The notebooks ends up being a new start as it takes them both to extend out of their circle and learn and try new things. A runaround New York doing all kinds of unique activities and meeting some a variety of people gives both of them a slight change in their original mindset.

Running at a swift 8 episodes, Dash & Lily is based on a book series called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn (which I haven’t read before). Running very much like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on a book also by David Leviathan), this is a journey through New York. Where it differs that this time, the story is about two separate characters and their own journeys that help them find themselves and find companion in each other and eventually, a stronger connection/romance. Dash and Lily are opposites. Lily sits in her comfort zone and doesn’t really get along with people her own age but remains close to her family and is somewhat of a brighter character where Dash has a more incomplete family and lives with less family guidance but also doesn’t have a friend circle in fear of mentioning his break-up and in turn both needs their own change in view to get back in touch with the space around them. What brings them both together is that this dare notebook turns into something of a tree hole where they can share their thoughts and find their own excitement in life.

As much as Dash and Lily’s characters are pretty fun, the supporting cast pulls in other factors like family and friends. Lily’s family is quite the amusing bunch especially with her grandfather played by James Saito and her great aunt played by Jodi Long, both colorful characters. Lily is also left with her brother who is spending a lot of time with his new boyfriend that makes for some fun moments as they help and encourage her to do the dares and step out of her comfort zone. Dash’s group is more focused on friends with his ex-girlfriend and her group of friends that he meets here and there but mostly his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown) who works at the local pizza place and ends up being a link between Dash and Lily secretly. There was even a little cameo with Nick Jonas which makes for a pretty fun scene.

Overall, Dash & Lily is pretty fun. It doesn’t take place over a long period of time but at the same time, it takes us for an adventures around New York while getting to know these two young characters. There are times and that they seem a little older than they should be but then, the little activities and dares they get sent on are rather unique. This time, its a lot of cutting between the two characters and flipping between them so its less their chemistry together but rather more like friends that builds into more. Its set around Christmas time so there’s a lot of inserts of Christmas themed elements and uses it as a foundation of the difference between the two: one that loves it and one that doesn’t and that’s all rooted from their view about how they view life at that point. Its a fun and bingeworthy Netflix series for sure!

Double Feature: Jigsaw (2017) & Jack Frost (1997)

Up next for double feature is the J selections!

Jigsaw (2017)

Jigsaw

Director: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig

Cast: Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Cle Bennett, Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein, Mandela Van Peebles, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black

Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for over 10 years. –IMDB

Seven years after the seventh movie of this franchise, Jigsaw arrives. I’m not going to lie that I was a bit skeptical about how this could go considering that I found the last few movies of Saw a little bit meh. It still had some fun elements but it had a significant drop in horror value since the first Saw movie. To be honest, what is there to expect from Jigsaw? Its an attempt to revive the franchise and it picks up over 10 years after John Kramer is expected to be dead. For the most part, it does work pretty well and exceeded my expectations from it. It was a fun time with some decent traps and the whole twist at the end really comes together as its both a police chase and the game playing out together.

Jigsaw’s good bits are definitely in the escape room style and goes somewhat back to its roots. In this one, the group all start chained together and starts to realize that they all have some crime that has caused them to be in this position and its their way to admit those faults, whether they can get out or not is of course, pretty much set in the game. Each of these games as they move from one room to the next is a step more dangerous than the previous one and its a good structure. It brings in a lot of tension mostly from how each of these games play out because honestly, the outcome of these characters are fairly predictable for the most part. Plus, the gruesome and extremity of each trap is usually where movies in this franchise excel and this one is no exception.

The whole police section of the movie that plays as the outside factor of tracking these captured victims is a whole other level. It all dials down to figuring whether its Kramer behind all this as well as finding each of these victims and ends up where it all starts and cycles back into a twist as the story comes together. The story itself, especially the twist, was quite fun as a reveal. It became a little more apparent where it was going but then there was still a bit of surprise and cleverness which is always appreciated. Jigsaw was a fun comeback for the franchise and it’ll be interesting to see where they take it from here.

Jack Frost (1997)

jack frost

Director: Michael Cooney

Cast: Scott MacDonald, Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker, Ellen Seeley, Rob LaBelle

After an accident that left murderer Jack Frost dead in genetic material the vengeful killer returns as a murderous snowman to exact his revenge on the man who sent him to be executed – IMDB 

I’ve been some pretty odd choices for Shudder, most of them being quite random. The J selections on Shudder is rather limited and it was between Jack Frost and another French horror that I’ve heard mostly bad things about so here we are, heading back to 1997 to watch the horror Jack Frost. This one is silly and low budget. There’s not a whole lot to be scared about and its not extreme or anything.

There’s a lot of overacting and a lot of it is really odd, especially in buying into a killer snowman deal. Sure, there’s a little more to it than that but still, its watching a snowman, cut to a puddle of water and then hear some sound effects of it moving into another area. The connection of water and snow all comes into play in its different forms and in that sense, it does make a snowman a pretty lethal deal if it can move like it does. At the same time, its a bit hard to buy into it since this is some guy who gets hit by some experimental acidic solution.

Luckily, the movie itself doesn’t seem to take itself very seriously as this is categorized as a horror comedy. The whole idea of it is being mostly entertainment and the so bad its good variety. Jack Frost is very bizarre and I’m not exactly a huge fan of it. It has its fun moments because of the obvious low budget and how its all executed. Its mostly pretty ridiculous in some of those plot points and how the people get killed which makes it all the more funnier, in the laughing at the movie way and not the having a lot of fun way.

That’s it for this double feature!
A good pick and a meh pick, right?
Have you seen either of these movies? Thoughts?

What’s Up 2019: Week 51

 

Tranquil Dreams (4)

Welcome to the second last What’s Up for 2019! Man, this year has gone by fast. As with any year-end, its always busy. So with that said, this one is a bit slow on all fronts but I am working out some fun things for 2020 so its all in almost last minute planning mode plus work has been wrapping up the year-end crazy and before holiday rush as well so its kind of lowered the energy and time a little.

READING

legends of the exiles

Currently reading: Legends of the Exiles

I am still working on wrapping up this book as its one of the final commitments of 2019 that I haven’t finished yet for this year. Currently sitting at almost the 20% point, its a much longer book than I expected it to be. I may have stumbled into a category that I was trying to avoid but I have lived up to avoiding it in 2019 for the most part so I guess a final book that touches on that genre is okay. I am going to take some time to read on the few days off so look forward to this review before the end of the year. I’m pretty confident that I will finish it.

PLAYING

This week has been mostly mobile gaming and watching streams of other people playing games: Dead By Daylight and Bloodborne mostly and even caught a stream midway of Donut County which has gotten me interested in checking out the entire game so hence why not seeing the whole thing was a good thing. Mobile gaming wise, I’ve been playing a lot of Alto’s Odyssey until it decided to not work on my phone anymore so I’m playing some word games like CodyCross and back to Color Piece Out. I will talk about all this in the next Mobile Games Roundup to wrap up the last 2 months of mobile gaming.

WATCHING

michelle wolf joke show

  • Super Monsters Save Christmas (2019, Review)
  • My Little Pony: Best Gift Ever (2018, Review)
  • Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America! (2019)
  • Michelle Wolf: Joke Show (2019)
  • Christmas Evil (1980, Review)
  • All The Creatures Were Stirring (2018, Review)

Hmm…so holiday viewing hasn’t really been as outstanding this year as I’d like. Surprisingly, I was in the mood for some stand-up comedy Netflix specials and checked out Ronny Chieng which I can’t say is my type of humor. I get his humor because I know the whole language thing but his style didn’t really give me a laugh more like a small chuckle. What did land really welll is Michelle Wolf’s Joke  Show! That was a total blast! It was a ton of fun and had some solid jokes from start to finish. Its very  her style and still works really well.

BINGING

viva la romance 1

viva la romance 2

  • Viva La Romance (Season 1, 2018)
  • Viva La Romance (Season 2, 2019)

Currently binging: The Brightest Star in the Sky, Who’s the Murderer 5, Viva La Romance 3

I simultaneously decided to watch the Viva La Romance all three seasons at the same time and then slowly it fell off the map due to other things. I decided to go back to finish it all up. First with Viva La Romance, where it all started and how the original show’s first version was with some really nice Chinese celebrities, one of which is the wife of Jordan Chan, Cherie Ying who I love them both as a couple so that was a ton of fun. The first season was a lot of fun because the couples themselves together and individually had so much contrast to their personalities that it worked well. Season 2 was a lot of fun also because now there’s Anita Yuen who I really liked back in the 90s and I like her husband Chilam Cheung as well and it also had the first time Ziyi Zhang joined a variety show and its a side of her that was very new and I really liked that part.

As for ongoing stuff, The Brightest Star in the Sky has only a few more episodes before it finishes (as it has finished as this post goes up). I love the series so much and will work on working on some of my favorite series of 2019 since I’ve really pushed those TV binges back. Either way, the other two are variety/reality shows and currently ongoing and Who’s the Murderer 5 is the one that I’m current on whereas now that I’m done Viva 1 & 2, I will be continuing the Season 3. That’s really it for this week’s recap.

Its Christmas Eve so Happy Christmas Eve to everyone!
Have a great time with family if you celebrate Christmas!
I will have a fun little post tomorrow for Christmas day..lighthearted, short and fun! Its why this was boosted a day earlier than usual.

Double Feature: Christmas Evil (1980) & All The Creatures Were Stirring (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (82)

Welcome to the last holiday double feature for this year. Not double feature because that is staying, just before Christmas, no more holiday reviews. So we are ending with a nice change of pace to alternate Christmas horror found via Shudder: 1980’s Christmas Evil and 2018’s Christmas horror anthology All The Creatures Were Stirring.

Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil

Director (and writer): Lewis Jackson

Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Marc Neville, Joe Jamrog

A toy factory worker, mentally scarred as a child upon learning Santa Claus is not real, suffers a nervous breakdown after being belittled at work, and embarks on a Yuletide killing spree. – IMDB

Christmas Evil is really a Christmas film as its not only set in Christmas but a horror story of a mentally unstable man who was scarred so deeply as a child that Santa Claus isn’t real that he chooses to make himself into Santa and takes revenge on all those who did him wrong. Being 1980 film, there is definitely that 80s slasher vibe that goes with it which actually is quite endearing to watch. However, the film does suffer from some issues of being rather slow in the first half of anything happening other than setting up all the bad things that happen to Harry and then his desire to become Santa.

Deal is, there is still this unsettling feeling with Christmas Evil especially in the second half when Harry loses it completely and from the moment that he commits to turning into Santa and starts all the actual killing spree parts, it gets rather fun to watch in an 80s horror way and as much as I don’t find them particularly scary, it has the entertainment element. This is pretty much where Christmas Evil fits in.

All The Creatures Were Stirring (2018)

All The Creatures Were Stirring

Director (and writer): David Ian McKendry & Rebekah McKendry

Cast: Graham Skipper, Ashley Clements, Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite, Jocelin Donahue, Mark Kelly, Matt Long, Amanda Fuller, Catherine Parker, Morgan Peter Brown, Michelle DeFraites, Stephanie Drake, Peter Cilella, Makeda Declet, Megan Duffy, Brea Grant, Matt Mercer, Diva Zappa

When an awkward date on Christmas Eve leads a couple into a strange theater, they’re treated to a bizarre and frightening collection of Christmas stories, featuring a wide ensemble of characters doing their best to avoid the horrors of the holidays. From boring office parties and last-minute shopping, to vengeful stalkers and immortal demons, there’s plenty out there to fear this holiday season. – IMDB

All The Creatures Were Stirring is a horror anthology with five horror stories set during Christmas and revolves around the central story of two people going on their first date on Christmas Eve to see a play where these five stories are being acted out. As with more horror anthologies, its a hit and miss deal with a lot of the stories. There’s an obvious indie low budget thing going on here as well which for some does add to the charm. If anything, its a lot more about some of the interesting creative elements added into the scenes than the stories as a whole which at times were downright odd or hard to get into while there were two that did stand out.

Dash Away All and In A Twinkling are the two that definitely were highlights of the anthology. Dash Away All is set in a parking lot where a man locks his keys in his car and ends up asking two girls to borrow a phone and ends up having this really fun twist. In A Twinkling is about a bunch of friends going to visit for a surprise Christmas party and the night takes a turn for a worse when they enter into a black and white loop from outer space. These two were a tad funny and had a hint of creepiness.

The Stocking Were Hung was okay with an Secret Santa party at work which turns into a Jigsaw killer sort of thing. There are some clever bits here but it feels a tad familiar (especially with Saw having so many movies in that franchise already). All Through The House is a horror Christmas Carol sort of deal which is pretty much the same sort of stuff but they did have one thing that I remembered kind of gave me a little jumpscare. It just feels a tad weird in its pacing. The last one to talk about is Arose Such A Clatter which really was the least appealing BUT it had the whole “killer” point of view going on that kind of made it a little more unique in the way they executed it.

The central story which is generally called To All A Good Night is what links these pieces together. It does capture the awkward element well but then it seems to lack some substance to it as it does try to have a twist ending and ends up leaving it as an open-ended deal which is a good and bad thing, leaving the mystery but then makes it feel incomplete especially since this being the piece that connects the stories together means the story itself isn’t fleshed out in between the stories. Some good, some decent and some meh stories here making this one that I might not want to revisit considering it took me a few sittings to get through it this time already.

That’s it for this holiday double feature!
Have you seen these two films before? Thoughts?
Are Alternate Christmas films part of your holiday viewing?

Double Feature: Let It Snow (2019) & Holiday Joy (2016)

Christmas is less than two weeks away and we’re working hard on these holiday viewings.  Netflix does have a nice selection of new movies and some that aren’t as new but still new additions.

Here we go!

Let It Snow (2019)

Let it snow

Director: Luke Snellin

Cast: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Odeya Rush, Liv Hewson, Mitchell Hope, Kiernan Shipka, Matthew Noszka, Jacob Batalon, Miles Robbins, Joan Cusack, Anna Akana

In a small town on Christmas Eve, a snowstorm brings together a group of young people. – IMDB

Based on the novel of the same name with 3 stories by 3 authors (which I haven’t read), Let It Snow is a surprisingly fun little film intertwining the three stories together to make one movie. Its style is in the style of Love Actually. It doesn’t land quite as well as Love Actually does but the three stories depending on which one you like more works more or less in the context of the story. Its main groupings goes to the childhood friends Angie “The Duke” (Kiernan Shipka) and Tobin (Mitchell Hope) and JP (Matthew Noszka); Dorrie (Liv Hewson), her best friend Addie (Odeya Rush) and Dorrie’s crush Kerry (Anna Akana); and lastly, Julie (Isabela Merced, previously known as Isabela Moner) and Stuart (Shameik Moore). All of these characters eventually end up, along with some friends and other supporting characters end up because of being snowed in during Christmas Eve at this local restaurant called Waffle Town.

Let It Snow is rather basic and simple and yet with the snowscape background and its interesting characters and stories about different types of friendships and relationships and a variety of different issues, these characters all end up having a Christmas Eve that becomes rather memorable and changes some of their things in life as they figure out how to be honest to themselves about their feelings and their future. It has the rather feel good elements present that makes it a decent watch. Is it something that is spectacular or very stand-out as a holiday film? Probably not. But to satisfy a simple little holiday watch, this one does deserve a chance. And that’s coming from myself who isn’t really much of a John Green fan (which explain why his segment of relationship is the one I liked the least) whereas my fave with genuinely fun moments although a few wooden acting moments between Julie and Stuart however the story itself is fairly charming.

Kiernan Shipka has definitely found herself an actress with a few Netflix films at this point. She does have quite a nice fun element to her characters. At the same time, the start of this one that plays a rather funky character, the Tin Foil Woman and the narrator is Joan Cusack who while a little odd somehow has this glue effect to the three stories.

Holiday Joy (2016)

holiday joy

Director: Kirk D’Amico

Cast: Bailee Madison, Jennifer Robertson, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, French Stewart, Ethan Pugiotto, Luke Bilyk, Natalie Ganzhorn, Darren Eisnor, Kolton Stewart, Jeni Ross

A shy high school student’s Christmas wish comes true only it isn’t exactly as wonderful as she’d hoped. – IMDB

Take a little of changing identities and the holidays and we have this film Holiday Joy where Bailee Madison’s character Joy becomes a member of the next door neighbor’s  family, a wish that she has of breaking away from her lacking family. The grass is greener on the other side is definitely used here as comparison and literally but it also gives the valuable lesson that what you see on the surface of the beautiful appearances sometimes aren’t really as you expected. The whole reality vs. expectations is the main basis as everything that Joy believes is better all turns out to be very much the opposite. It also emphasizes on everyone’s part having a crucial effect despite her feeling of insignificance and such. Holiday Joy is more about the message it carries but has a rather lacking execution with some questionable acting and some plot points that might not make a ton of sense as with such plots that bring in the whole identity change and incoherent things that just leaves it one that shouldn’t really be questioned to begin with.

Holiday Joy is a rather simple sort of story. Its not exactly a Christmas story but is set during the holiday season. There’s some nice elements of using “change” as its main focus and then takes a fun little play on how the accident that makes Joy’s reality change also eventually finds her figuring out how to change it back but not really at the same time. Its a nice little change on the usual formula. Its not an outstanding movie but for people okay with some simple and straight-forward type of TV movie, its an alright choice. For myself, I do enjoy Baileee Madison (mostly when she was in younger roles) so it had an appeal for me but a lot of performances here left a little bit to be desired.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? What are your thoughts?