Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Faceful of Christmas Shrapnel

Since time for Christmas reviews is rapidly running out and I want to give full reviews only to my favorites, here are some mini reviews of the onslaught of holiday films we've been watching lately.  Buckle up and hang on tight as we powerdive through a flock of yuletide cheer!

Part of the Kentucky Fried Popcorn Christmas Review Series.

This Christmas

NetFlix 3.6/5
IMDB 5.5/10
My Rating: 6.5/10
Sincerity Factor: 7/10
Treacle Factor: 5/10

This was probably our best unexpected surprise of this year's holiday movies.  On casual glance, it looked like another hideously dumb Queen Latifah "Bringing down the house"-style comedy, but it's actually a lot more serious than you'd expect, and a lot better.  A large family gathers under one roof for the first time in years, and everyone has issues.  There's a domineering, philandering husband, a black sheep musician, the cheerful young guy with a secret, the matron with an unaccepted new lover, the...  Well, hell, I could write a paragraph just listing their individual issues, but it's really a film about family and the ties that bind families together, even when they drive each other insane.  As you'd expect in any Christmas film, things tie up semi-neatly to a sugarcake ending, but it's a lot more believable and rocky along the way than your typical holiday fluff.  Besides, how many other seasonal movies give you a full-blown rolling-in-the-yard catfight?  Funny, suspenseful, dramatic, inspiring, and even a bit sniffle-inducing.  A Must See.

Mrs Miracle
NetFlix 4.1/5
IMDB 6.2/10
My Rating: 2/10
Sincerity Factor: 4/10
Treacle Factor: 10/10

From the sublime to the mind-melting...  I'm amazed that this has higher IMDB and Netflix ratings than This Christmas, because I thought there was really no reason for this movie to exist. This Christmas gives you a lot of plotlines that go to unexpected places and show us believable characters.  Mrs Miracle is the sort of holiday movie that an automated holiday movie machine would stamp out on an assembly line for a 500-per-week quota.  A couple of young & beautiful people are somehow lonely at Christmas (Despite the fact that both of them are attractive enough to have their own personal harems), and the guy is incapable of disciplining his children because they have no mother there to apply her magical mother guilt powers.  In walks Mrs. Merkle, the standard crotchety old bat/angel who whips the house into shape, brings the kids in line, and sets up these two wayward 20-somethings as a socially-certified breeding couple.  Mission accomplished, Mrs. Merkle touches the kids with her glowing finger, says, "Beeeee goood", and goes back into space.  5 minutes into this, you'll wonder if the whole movie is going to be so predictable.  Yes.  Go do something else with your time, because you're not getting any surprises here.  The best thing about this film is the ease with which it could be converted into one of those fake YouTube horror trailers.  Picture this edit:
Aged, vaguely caustic old lady eyes two identical children.
"What a mess this room is!", she says.
In the next room, cut to the young father on the phone - "What do you mean, the employment agency has no record of her?  But Mrs. Merkle told me your office sent her!"
Cut to a close-up of old lady's eyes narrowing.
Cue scene of children's bedroom, tidy and neat, but empty of children.
Fade to scene of old lady walking off down dark street to eerie piano music which gets creepier as she fades magically from view.

NetFlix 3.9/5
IMDB 5.8/10
My Rating: 4/10
Sincerity Factor: 5/10
Treacle Factor: 8/10

It's time for young Nick Snowden to take over the reins as the new Santa Claus.  Unfortunately, one of his reindeer falls into a plot device and ends up at a zoo run by inexpressibly perky Sandy, who has a secret closet full of Bobby socks and poodle skirts.  Madcap antics and television-quality CGI ensue as Nick tries to rescue his reindeer with the help of jive-talkin' young Hector, the most annoying "sassy black kid" in a film since that child that played Jude in Swamp Thing. Fortunately Sandy's perkiness and ability to fill out a tight sweater prove distracting, and the whole thing is painless enough as bubblegum fare goes.  "At least it's not as dull as Mrs. Miracle" is not exactly groundshaking praise, but it's the best I got. It has a few moments where you'll go, "Awww, that's almost sincere", and conservative viewers should be pleased when this bright young professional woman makes the life choice to abandon her career and become a stay-at-home mom at the North Pole.

A Christmas Romance

NetFlix NA
IMDB 6/10
My Rating: 5/10
Sincerity Factor: 6/10
Treacle Factor: 9/10

It's Olivia Newton-John!  Everything bad about this movie is forgiven.  It's not great, but males of my generation will be hopelessly devoted to Olivia because she's the one that we want.  Olivia plays a struggling single mom trying to keep her mountain farm and give her kids some semblance of Christmas, which in her case means going into her attic to find old toys to wrap, and hope the kids will appreciate this gesture because it's all she can afford.  When a banker shows up on Christmas Eve to deliver her foreclosure notice, all seems lost until he wrecks his car in the snowstorm and Olivia takes him in to spend his Christmas among wholesome country folk.  This movie is charmingly innocent and very much of its time, because after the behavior of our banks today, most people would let that fucker freeze to death.  "I can't keep up the payments right now, so tough luck for me?  Well, I guess you're going to spend Christmas Eve freezing to death in your car, tough luck for you."  Adding to the insult, our banker is a royal SOB who bitches and complains once rescued and we spent the middle part of the movie urging Olivia to introduce him to the secret pit in her barn basement.  A couple months of, "It puts the lotion on its skin" should set that guy's values in order.  Alas, instead we get the most uncomfortable and forced romantic attraction ever...  When these two finally hook up, you'll be WTFing all the way to the foreclosure office because they're so hopelessly mismatched and the guy is such a bag of liver.  But Olivia makes everything OK when she sings, and later there are a few genuinely heartwarming moments involving rescue by horses.  There are worse ways to spend your holidays than Christmas with Olivia.