Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Candidate for Best Worst Movie

The Disaster Artist
Director: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron
Released: December 8, 2017

Oscar nominations:

Best Adapted Screenplay - Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (lost to James Ivory for Call Me By Your Name)

I have never seen The Room (not to be confused with Room!), but I am well aware of it from the many reviews (mainly the video one from the Nostalgia Critic) I've read about it. When it came out in 2003, I was not aware of it because it was a very small movie, but over the years its gained a cult following and this is how I became aware of it. I've never seen it because it's more interesting to watch other people's interpretation of it (like the NC review and this movie). I've also never had any interest in watching Troll 2, but the documentary Best Worst Movie is absolutely fascinating. (And while The Room has terrible acting and a lot of things don't make sense, I think Troll 2 may have it beat as worst movie ever).

The Disaster Artist tells the story of the making of The Room. It begins in 1998 where aspiring actor Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco) meets a fellow actor in his acting class, Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco) and they become fast friends and move from San Francisco to L.A. to make their acting dreams come true. Tommy says he has an apartment they can both stay in. There are a few shady things about Tommy: he says he's from New Orleans, and while he has an accent, it's not a Southern one. Throughout the movie it's discovered he has a lot of money (hence the reason he's able to afford an apartment in San Francisco and Los Angeles, he drives a Mercedes, and he's able to finance the movie they will eventually produce which will cost about $5 million). He also tells Greg's mother (played by Megan Mulally) that he's nineteen, the same age as Greg and he is definitely way older than Greg!

It is a little weird that real-life brothers are playing friends because even though James Franco is made up to look like Wiseau, he still looks like himself and Dave Franco looks a lot like his brother.

When Tommy and Greg have a hard time succeeding in Los Angeles (did they think it would be easy?), Tommy decides that they should make their own movie. He writes a script which will become The Room (terrible name for a movie; but since I haven't seen the movie, I don't know why it's called that.) The movie is about a guy named Johnny (who Tommy will play) who has a girlfriend named Lisa who he's madly in love with, but she sleeps with his best friend, Mark (to be played by Greg). Tommy makes the comment that Mark is named after "Mark Damon" from The Talented Mr. Ripley, ha! Johnny is so overcome with grief, that he kills himself. Oh, and Tommy's not sure if he's going to make Johnny a vampire or not. (What?) I'm assuming he didn't go down the vampire path.

Production begins in June 2002 and while Johnny and Greg cast the other parts for the movie (and let's just say the actors they got to play those actors in this movie are much more well known than the actors in The Room!), they also buy the filming equipment they need. Since they are buying instead of renting, they are allowed to use the studio. Tommy wants to shoot the movie on both digital and film which is unheard of as both are lit differently and there are other variables that don't make sense to shoot both. I didn't know if he wanted to shoot the movie twice; once on film, and once on digital; or if he wanted to shoot some scenes in film and others in digital. But from day one the movie is set up to be an odd one and it will only get stranger from there.

I noticed that Jason Mantzoukas plays one of the guys who sells them their equipment, Paul Scheer plays the first DP on the movie, and June Diane Raphael plays an actress within the movie. If you know all these names, you are probably familiar with the podcast, How Did This Get Made? where they take a terrible movie (like The Room; I'm sure they've done an episode of it, but I haven't listened to it, but now I really should!) and make fun of it. It's a very funny podcast; I highly recommend it. It can't be a coincidence that all three have parts in a movie based on one of the worst movies ever made when they have their own podcasts about terrible movies.

On the first day of filming, Tommy, the director (he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Room), insists on them shooting a scene that takes place in an alleyway on a set made up to look like an alleyway when there is an actual alleyway right outside they could use. He insists on shooting on the set because it's "a real Hollywood film". This is the kind of eccentric person Tommy is. Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron play the two actors playing the characters (it's kind of weird that they're playing the actors who are playing the characters! It's almost like a double layer of acting - they have to be good as the actors, but terrible as the characters those actors are playing) and I did not recognize them at all until I saw that they were in the movie, then had to go back and re-watch this scene. I have no idea what is up with the character of Denny that Hutcherson is playing (within the movie's movie; God, this is so confusing!) As the actor, he is also confused and asks Tommy how old his character is supposed to be (since he acts very young and juvenile) and Tommy replies, "Fifteen, sixteen, your age" and he replies, "I'm twenty-six." Ha! Oh, please, tell me this is a true story and Tommy Wiseau thought a 26-year-old was a 15-year-old! Of course, most of the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 were almost in their thirties when they played high school students so it's not the craziest thing! Other humorous elements adding to the scene is that Denny has the worst haircut ever so Josh Hutcherson has to wear this hideous wig (I'm assuming it was a wig!) so that's probably why I didn't recognize him. Also, Efron's character's (character's!) name is Chris R. and Hutcherson is asking Tommy why he has to call him Chris R., why not just Chris?

Other problems with the filmmaking include Tommy making everyone wait for hours when he is late one day and it is so hot that an elderly actress playing Lisa's mother (played by Jacki Weaver) faints from heat stroke; Tommy makes everyone uncomfortable during a sex scene when he walks around the set wearing only a sock to cover himself, then starts berating the girl playing his girlfriend (played by Ari Graynor) because she has blemishes on her skin; and Tommy being such a terrible actor that it took him 68 takes to get his lines right the first day of shooting. Seth Rogen plays the script supervisor who has to keep feeding him his lines.  In a funny scene we see the entire crew reciting the lines for him. This is the (completely terrible) line: "I did not hit her. It's not true. It's bulls***.  I did not hit her! Oh, hi, Mark." The "Oh, hi, Mark" cracked me up every time. Like I said, I've never seen The Room, so I have no idea what the context of this line is, but WHY does he say, "Oh, hi, Mark" at the end of this rant? Was he ranting and just then saw his friend? I am vexed; it vexes me. Oh, and I should also add that Tommy Wiseau is a terrible actor and has this weird, flat delivery. Check it out for yourself. To be fair, everyone seems to deliver their lines flatly. He also keeps laughing during a scene when Mark is telling him about a girl he knew who got beat up. They try getting takes where he ISN'T laughing (since that's what they want to use), but he just laughs every time. When they film the scene where Johnny kills himself, he shoots himself in the head, falls back, but then keeps on moving and moaning even though that gunshot to the head should have killed him!

When they eventually premiere the movie and are watching the scene when Johnny goes into a flower shop and the woman who works there says (in a flat tone), "Oh, hi, Johnny. I didn't know it was you." Seth Rogen's character says out loud, "Who doesn't recognize that guy?" since Johnny has long black hair and is wearing sunglasses inside.

During a lunch break, after she's had her heat stroke, Jacki Weaver's character tells Greg and the other young actors "Even the worse day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else." I don't know if I agree with this logic, but let me try my own examples using this template:

The worst Taylor Swift song is better than the best Ariana Grande song. (Yeah, not a fan of the Grande.)
The worst Jurassic Park movie is better than the best Transformers movie. (At least JPIII is one hour shorter than the first Transformers movie!) That was fun. Try your own!

Soon after Greg moves to L.A., he starts dating another inspiring actress (played by Alison Brie) and they run into Bryan Cranston at a coffee shop. Now since this is 2002, Greg is awestruck because he recognizes him from Malcolm in the Middle. His girlfriend introduces them since she knows Cranston from her pilates class and he tells Mark he's directing an upcoming episode of MitM and they're still looking for someone to fill a guest role and that Greg would be perfect for it. However, when he tells Tommy this news, he tells Greg he can either do "the little TV show" or their movie and guilts Greg into forfeiting the guest spot. I was thinking, if Greg did MitM and did a really good job, Bryan Cranston might have remembered him when Breaking Bad was about to start and maybe, just maybe he would have recommended him to Vince Gilligan for the role of Jesse Pinkman (Greg Sestero and Aaron Paul are about the same age), and the rest, as they say, could have been history. But alas, this never happened; Greg was never offered a guest role on Malcolm in the Middle and never met Bryan Cranston. I read it on the trivia page for this movie.

Throughout the shooting of the movie within this movie, we see what day they are on out of the forty days they have for shooting and I laughed when they were on day 52 of 40! It was released in one theater in June 2003. Tommy paid to keep it there for two weeks to qualify for the Academy Awards. Is he really that delusional? Did he really think this piece of dreck could qualify for the freaking Oscars? It grossed $1800 on its opening weekend (and I'm surprised it even made that) and has since made seven million dollars due to its cult following. This movie doesn't really go into HOW it became to have a following which I felt was a missed opportunity.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Baby Steps

What About Bob?
Director: Frank Oz
Cast: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty, Kathryn Erbe, Charlie Korsmo
Released: May 17, 1991

I have seen this movie a couple times before, but it's been awhile since I've last seen it and while I remember the basic premise and it being a comedy, I had completely forgotten about just how dark it gets towards the end, and wow, does it ever get dark! I just remembered this being a laugh-a-minute riot.

The Bob in question is Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, hypochondria, germaphobia, high anxiety, and who knows what else. I almost feel bad for the guy (I easily become anxious, so I can relate), but my God, is he ever f***ing annoying! He also does some pretty abhorrent things, though many not as bad as what his therapist will do later on in the movie! 

Not surprisingly, with all his conditions and phobias, Bob has a therapist and in the first scene we see him calling Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), telling him he's leaving his practice and moving out of town and wants to know if he can take on one of his patients. He strokes Dr. Marvin's ego by telling him that Bob needs someone "brilliant" and assures him he is not psychotic. When he hangs up the phone, he grins and says "Free!" I think it's safe to say that Bob also drove his first therapist crazy like he will Dr. Marvin.

Bob meets with Dr. Marvin and their first session seems to go well. Leo gives him a copy of his book called Baby Steps, telling Bob he just needs to get somewhere "one step at a time" after Bob tells him he gets a bunch of symptoms of anxiety when he's out in public. We learn that he was once married, but divorced her because she didn't like Neil Diamond. (Or maybe it's because she did like him. I forget.) Yeah, I was a bit shocked to find out he was once married, but not at all surprised that he's divorced! When their session ends, Bob freaks out when his new doctor tells him he won't see him until after Labor Day when he'll return from his family vacation. He'll be gone for a month, which seems a little extreme to me especially since they're not going to Europe or any place far away. They're only going to New Hampshire where they have a house overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee. It's a quaint little town, but really, what is there to do for a month? Dr. Marvin assures him he'll be okay and if he does need someone to talk to, he can call one of the other psychiatrists.

Bob tries to get in touch with Leo through the operator but she tells him he is unavailable and can't forward his call. Bob tries to con her, saying that he was supposed to call Dr. Marvin, but lost his number. (Please. Who would fall for that?) She firmly tells him she can't give out the number, but when he asks her if she can call Dr. Marvin, then patch him through to him, she does, which I'm pretty sure is unethical. However, not as unethical as something Bob will do a few scenes later. Bob tries unsuccessfully to figure out where Dr. Marvin is, but to no avail.

In the next scene, the operator calls Dr. Marvin again telling him that his sister is on the other line with an emergency when actually its' a prostitute whom Bob had asked to pose as Leo's sister, then taking the pay phone from her once Leo answers (after thoroughly wiping the receiver with a cloth...after all, he IS a germaphobe!) Wouldn't his sister already have his phone number to his vacation house anyway? And this isn't even the unethical scene I was talking about. No, that comes in the next scene when Bob goes to visit the operator posed as a detective and tells her that he has "questions about a Bob Wiley" and that he had committed suicide, but had left a note mentioning Betty (the operator). First question - why didn't Betty recognize "the detective's" voice as Bob's? Bill Murray didn't change his voice during this scene. Second question - shouldn't Betty be suspicious that Bob supposedly mentioned her in his suicide note? If I were her, I would want to know why he had mentioned me. Obviously this is "Detective" Bob's excuse as to how he "found out" about Betty because that's who he needs the information from. It works too, because Betty immediately gives him the information he needs (I guess that badge he had looked legit!), telling him that a Bob Wiley had called, wanting to talk to his psychiatrist. When Bob tells her he needs his information too because he'll need to ask him questions, Betty says she can't give him his phone number, but she can at least give him a mailing address and that more than satisfies Bob. (Hmmm, I think Betty is going to get fired!) I understand that she can't give him the phone number, but why couldn't she just call Dr. Marvin herself (like she did in the scene two minutes earlier!), explain the situation, and hand over the phone to "the detective"? And if this was really legit and a patient of Dr. Marvin's had killed them self, I'm sure he would rather deal with it over the phone then having the cops come to his vacation home. But I digress.

So Bob takes a bus to New Hampshire and the town the Marvins are vacationing in must be the smallest town in the world because when Bob steps off the bus and starts calling Dr. Marvin's name, the whole family is coming out of a grocery store that is right where Bob is. Leo is surprised to see Bob because he thought he was dead (Betty called him to tell him about Bob). It's obvious Bob has no concept of personal boundaries and at this point I'm thinking they could have easily gone the horror/thriller route. This movie is the comedic version of Cape Fear (which also came out the same year). While both scenarios are my worst nightmare, I'd rather have annoying Bill Murray stalking me than scary Robert De Niro!

Leo is furious when he sees Bob and tells him he needs to get back on the bus and go back to New York. Bob starts freaking out and Leo makes a deal with him that he'll have a quick session with him in two hours, then he has to go back. Yeah, things don't go exactly as Leo plans! When he tells Bob to take a vacation of his own, Bob decides to stay and take his vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee as well. Leo's family do not help matters at all. They seem to encourage Bob to stay and are overly friendly to him. I don't have an issue with them being nice to Bob, but it seems they go out of their way to include him. For example, Bob's teen daughter, Anna (Kathryn Erbe) decides to take Bob sailing with her friends. Then he gets involved with helping Leo's young son, Sigmund (Charlie Korsmo) overcome his fear of diving. Leo's wife, Faye (Julie Hagerty) invites Bob to dinner. This is actually a pretty funny scene and one I remember where every time Bob eats something, he goes, "Mmm, mmm, MMMM!" He literally does it after every bite he takes. It's really annoying, but also really funny. His family should have known better and not interact with a patient of Leo's. At this point, I am 100% on Dr. Marvin's side.

There's a big rain storm the night Bob has dinner with them and Leo is in a rush to get him out because the next morning Good Morning, America is due to arrive and do a live interview (I understand why they want it live for the context of the movie, but a piece like this on GMA would never be live; they would have recorded it in advance). They're going to be there at seven, which doesn't make any sense. Doesn't GMA start at seven? So if they were doing a live story at Dr. Marvin's vacation home, wouldn't they arrive much earlier for time to set up? Unless they were going to do the story at eight. Who knows. I'm probably putting too much though in this, anyway.

So Bob spends the night (and sleeps in the same room as twelve-year-old Sigmund which seems highly inappropriate) and while Leo is trying to get him out of the house before GMA arrives, it does't work. (Of course it doesn't!) In fact, when one of the producers finds out that Bob is a patient of Dr. Marvin's, she wants Bob to stay and be part of the interview. By this time, you can almost see the steam coming out of Leo's ears. Right away we see why the show is aired live; otherwise we wouldn't see Bob having a panic attack on live TV! When he recovers, the hosts asks him how long he's been a patient of Dr. Marvin's, and he replies, "Three or four days." He claims that Dr. Marvin's book (the reason they're there to interview Leo in the first place) has been helping him, despite only being a patient of his for a few days! Bob ends up taking over the interview, even introducing the other Marvins.

Leo tricks Bob and drives him to psychiatric ward where the director tells him that she can only hold him for 24 hours, then she will need staff corroboration. Leo is not worried in the slightest, because he knows that they will see just how crazy and erratic Bob is, but Bob seems perfectly normal to the staff, telling jokes and talking easily and he is released. This is around the time the movie turns really dark. Since whatever he does to try to get rid of Bob doesn't work, Leo now turns into a murderer. Or at least an attempted murderer since his plan doesn't work. (Probably for the best for everyone). Taking Bob by gunpoint, he leads him into the woods where he straps twenty pounds of explosives to him, both of which he stole from a store (I told you it gets dark!). Bob thinks this is all part of Dr. Marvin's therapy and after Leo leaves after he sets a timer for ten minutes, he is talking it out to himself, thinking the ropes tied around him refer to the emotional knot he has inside himself and if he doesn't untie it, he will explode, hence the explosives. He manages to untie himself, and proud of himself, he walks back to the Marvin's home.

While Leo and Bob were gone, Leo's family had been looking for him and he happily reunites with them, telling them they won't have to ever worry about Bob again. But, surprise! Here comes Bob! Leo's screaming, "No! No!" He's not wearing the explosives anymore and tells Leo that he freed himself from the ropes. Leo asks him where the bags he was wearing are and not even five seconds after Bob tells him they're in the house, we see the house blow up. And it was a nice house. Luckily nobody was inside of it!

The movie ends with Leo in a catatonic state and the family is afraid he will always be this way, but when Bob marries Leo's sister, Lily (who he met at Leo's birthday party....guess they hit it off pretty well if they're getting married so quickly) and during the wedding when the priest asks if anybody objects to this union, Leo stands up from his wheelchair (wearing a robe...they couldn't put him in a suit? I know he's catatonic, but still...) and yells, "NOOOO!" His family, which includes Bob now, are all excited that he's back and can now communicate again.

It almost felt like they didn't know how to end the movie. To be honest, I was surprised that Faye decided to stay with Leo after he tried to murder a man. I feel like that would be a deal breaker! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Teen Tropes

Not Another Teen Movie
Director: Joel Gallen
Cast: Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans, Jaime Pressley, Randy Quaid
Released: December 14, 2001

You might find Not Another Teen Movie amusing if you are familiar with '80s and '90s teen movies. I saw this movie about a year after its release and while I remembered most of the '90s teen movie references, I did not remember there being any '80s references, although I did remember that Molly Ringwald makes a cameo toward the end, so that should have been my first clue! This may be because I've only seen two of the '80s movies parodied in this: The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (the latter is probably one of the more funnier scenes of the movie as it has the parents of "Ferris" telling their son not to have a party while they're gone and people are literally bringing in speakers and kegs as they tell him this). On the other hand, I've seen all of the '90s teen movies that are spoofed in this two or more times except for Varsity Blues which I've only seen once. (Isn't that the movie Michael Scott shows to his employees in The Office when they have a movie day?) I do love that the characters in this movie attend John Hughes High School. That was a nice touch.

While many teen movies are made fun of (and, for some reason, American Beauty is part of this. I know there are teens in it, but that doesn't make it a teen movie. They make fun of the weird neighbor kid and his fascination with the plastic bag.), She's All That gets the most ribbing which is more than fine with me, because, my God, that movie is TERRIBLE! And this movie shows just how ridiculous it is. Seriously, go back and try to watch that movie. It is unwatchable.

Our main character, Janey Briggs, is played by Chyler Leigh (she played Lexie on Grey's Anatomy). She is 90% Laney Boggs from She's All That (look at her name and she follows most of Laney's storyline) and 10% Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You (her father (Randy Quaid) won't let her younger brother date until she does). And I guess she's also whichever Molly Ringwald character has a best friend who's in love with her (I really need to brush up on my '80s teen comedies!) as she has a best friend named Ricky who literally tells Janey that he's in love with her every chance he gets (not to mention he reads a poem aloud in class titled "10 Things I Love About Janey", heh).

It's really weird seeing Chris Evans (easily the most well-known actor in this) in this because I'm used to seeing him in a)big blockbusters or b) more serious movies and not stupid stuff like this. While there are some funny and clever elements to this movie, I gotta say the bad outweighs the good and there's a lot of cringeworthy moments in this movie. I especially felt bad for him during theVarsity Blues spoof. But this was his first movie and I guess you gotta start somewhere when you're not yet an established actor. I also felt bad for the girl playing the foreign exchange student, but we'll get to her later. Chyler Leigh also has a really embarrassing first scene (think American Pie). I suppose there'a a reason why this is the first movie (or one of the first) for many of the main actors!

Evans plays Jake who is modeled after Freddie Prinze Jr.'s She's All That character. His girlfriend, Priscilla (Jaime Pressley) has broken up with him, and, just like in She's All That, he makes a bet with his friends to find the most unattainable and unattractive girl at their school to transfer into the Prom Queen. This scene is quite humorous as he's suggesting truly hideous girls to his friends for them to choose for him such as a hunchbacked girl with warts all over her face, conjoined twins, and an albino girl with red demon eyes, but when they suggest Janey Briggs he is so repulsed by the very idea of trying to make her into someone popular and that it will never works. Janey is deemed ugly because she has glasses, wears her hair in a ponytail, and has paint-splattered overalls. Despite all these terrible aspects of her physical appearance, she is obviously a very attractive girl (just like Rachael Leigh Cook is in She's All That) and I do give the movie props for pointing out just how stupid it is.

Jake does whatever he can to get Janey's attention and this includes serenading her (obviously taken from 10 Things) and he picks Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" since her name is in the title and when he starts singing it in front of her and the entire school, all the students start freaking out and Janie is tackled by the campus security. Yeah, something tells me they would never be able to get away with that scene in today's world!

Of course, Janey will get a makeover courtesy of Chris's sister, Catherine where she literally takes Janey's glasses off and lets her hair down and she is automatically "hot". Catherine is modeled after Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in Cruel Intentions (they even share the same name, just spelled differently) and she has some weird attraction to her brother. When she's trying to make out with him and he tells her they can't do that because they're related, she replies, "Only by blood." Of course in the movie it's spoofing, she responds, "Only by marriage" since they're step-siblings. Still gross in both scenarios. There's also this really weird scene where, after Jake's dad learns the his girlfriend broke up with him, offers to let his own mother "comfort" him if you know what I mean. Ewww...and what movie is that spoofing from? I mean, I at least get the Cruel Intentions joke, but what teen movie has a mother being attracted to her own son? Because I've never seen that one, luckily!

Almost Famous is another non-teen movie they spoof when Janey jumps off a roof and into a pool at a party (again, I know there are teens in Almost Famous, but that doesn't mean it's a teen movie!) and when she climbs out of the pool, SOAKING wet, Priscilla pours water on her and she runs away, crying. This is similar to a scene in She's All That when Freddie's ex-girlfriend pours her drink on Laney and she runs away, crying.

One of the worst scenes is when Janey's younger brother and his two friends are crawling in the vents to have a peek at two girls taking a shower together (and, of course, they are lathering each other up) in the girl's locker room. They also spy on a girl using the toilet and let's just say it's not as erotic as the two girls sudsing each other up. Now while this is going on, it cuts back to an English class where the teacher is about to read a poem but when a student makes a fart noise with his hand and everyone laughs, the teacher makes the comment, "Is this what your generation considers humor?" He continues to go on about what real comedy is and how this generation only seems to find toilet humor funny. I don't know what's wrong with the girl, but she has a very bad case of diarrhea; so bad that both she and the toilet end up falling through the floor and landing in the classroom where all the excrements land on the teacher (and there are a lot!) I do get the joke of this scene, but it was really gross (I, for one, do not find toilet humor to be funny, especially when it's that disgusting) and if this is a spoof from a teen movie, I don't think I've ever seen it. I know there are sometimes gross scenes in those movies (like that one from She's All That - if you know it, you know it; if you don't, I'm not going to make you lose your appetite to tell you. It wasn't as visually disgusting as this one, but it was still really gross and unnecessary.) The logistics of this scene doesn't make any sense. I have never heard of/seen a gym on the second floor of any school. Gyms are always on the ground floor! I felt bad for the girl on the toilet. The actress, I mean.  I don't know who she is or if she went on to have some sort of career. I don't see anyone credited as "Girl on Toilet" in the credits so I can't look her up. Can you imagine taking this role and having your friends and family watch it? You could not pay me enough money to do that. I still have some dignity! Of course, maybe she took the role and didn't tell anyone and persuaded everyone she knew that she heard this movie was terrible and not to see it!

But she's a non-character and her role is a small one. The girl who plays the foreign exchange student (who is based off of the overly-sexualized Nadia from American Pie) is in a few scenes and she is from some random country because her accent seems to change in every scene. She is also naked in every single scene. At first, I thought she was just topless because we first see her sitting down, but no, she is completely nude. When she is standing, they do have certain object strategically placed in front of her so not everything is showing. I don't know the actress, but she's gone on to have a pretty good steady career (so maybe that helped her!) and I know it was her choice to be in the movie. I don't have a problem with nudity in movies, but this was a little much and they just wanted it in there (along with the toilet scene) so it could be as raunchy and gratuitous as they could make it. I feel like the movie goes for shock value more than actual humor.

Since Molly Ringwald represents the '80s teen movie cameo, they needed someone to represent the cameo for the '90s teen movies and that person would be...Melissa Joan Hart. Now, she's more affiliated with '90s teen TV than movies as the only movie I can think of her in is Drive Me Crazy, which might be just as terrible as She's All That. I don't think they even made fun of it in this movie, so all the more puzzling why she's even in this. She makes her appearance during the pool party scene when a kid starts slow clapping after Janey runs away and tells him that he can't start a slow clap at any moment: it has to be the right moment and he'll know when he sees it. (Which will happen when our two leads realize they have feelings for each other). Is the slow clap a trope in teen movies because I can't think of any examples. Unless it was in Drive Me Crazy and I don't remember (I will admit that movie didn't always hold my attention!) I know the slow clap is a thing in inspirational sports movies like Cool Runnings when they crash, but then they are able to get up and walk to the finish line carrying the bobsled.

When I reviewed Independence Day, I said if I could make my own edited version with just the really good scenes, that's what I would recommend to people. It's the same with this movie. There are some really funny and clever things in this movie and if I could just make an edited version with the truly great scenes from this movie, that's what I would do and leave all the other crap (literally, in some scenes!) behind.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I'm Dreaming of a Netflix Christmas

It's time for another review of original Netflix Christmas movies!

Our first review will be The Holiday Calendar which stars Kat Graham aka Bonnie (aka the witch) from The Vampire Diaries as Abby a photographer who dreams of one day owning her own studio where she can work on selling her own photos instead of just taking photos for people's passports and Christmas cards which she only does "to pay the bills." Well, that job not only helps her pay those bills, but it helps her afford a super nice apartment! Seriously, for a girl who's moaning about not having enough money to pay the rent for an open space she wants for her own studio, she sure has a beautiful and spacious apartment with some super nice furniture. Though her dad is a lawyer, so I'm sure he's helping her with some funds. Her parents don't approve of her photography passion and want her to find a "real" job. Her dad wants her to work at the law firm like her older sister does. 

In the first minute of the movie we are introduced to Josh. At first I thought he was her brother, but he is introduced as her "oldest friend." They have a very sister/brother relationship, you know, goofing off with each other, but there will be a romantic relationship between them later on which I just don't see because he is always so goofy around her and they act more like siblings than a romantic pair. In fact, I didn't have any reason to suspect that they liked each other that way until Abby starts dating someone and we see Josh get jealous. I guess that's our cue we're supposed to be rooting for those two to end up together at the end. (Spoiler alert: they do). Josh is a successful travel writer and has been all over the world living this wonderful and fabulous life, making some major bank as we will find out later. 

Abby's gramps (played by Ron Cephas Jones aka Randall's biological father on This Is Us) gives her an antique advent calendar (in the shape of a house) that belonged to her (now deceased) grandmother and Gramps tells her Grandma wanted her to have it. I remember having advent calendars when I was little. It was fun to see the little surprise behind the door when you opened it; I remember one year there were little pieces of chocolates behind each door. (I'm pretty sure my mom got my brother and me each our own that year so we wouldn't fight over who got the chocolate piece that day!) When Abby takes it back to her (beautiful and spacious) apartment, she tries to open a few of the doors, but they won't budge, so she just assumes her gramps gave her a piece of junk. That night (which is the first of December), the clock strikes midnight and the calendar glows and the first door pops open to show a small wooden pair of black boots. The rest of the figurines will be more related to Christmas/winter such as a Christmas tree, candy cane, nutcracker, ice skate, snow flake, etc. Though I guess you could argue that black boots are what Santa wears. 

So the point of this calendar is that it is possible a magic calendar. Each item of the day correlates with something that happened to Abby that day. For instance, the first day with the boots, Abby also receives black leather boots Josh bought for her in Italy. Even though this is before she starts dating the other guy, this is probably the first clue that Josh is into her. A guy does not buy a girl Italian leather boots (which you know cost a couple hundred bucks!) if he is not into her. This is the only instance of the calendar where there seems to be an eerie connection, but honestly, everything else just seems to be pure coincidence. I mean, everything is generic Christmas stuff, so of course you are going to encounter a Christmas tree or candy cane or a snow flake. There is nothing magical or supernatural about this calendar at all as Abby seems to think. (Hmm, I think she spent a little too much time in Mystic Falls!)

The second day the calendar reveals a Christmas tree and that's how she meets Ty (played by Ethan Peck aka Gregory Peck's grandson) who she will eventually start dating. They have a meet cute when she knocks the tree off of his car, then the next day when her advent calendar reveals a nutcracker, she finds out that his second grade daughter is a nutcracker in the school Christmas pageant. This has to be the smallest town ever because when Abby and Ty (Tabby!) go on their first date, who should walk up and see them when they share their first kiss? That's right, Josh. What are the odds of that? We see a montage of Tabby going on all these wonderful and magical dates and of course each one correlates with what little trinket the calendar reveals. When it reveals carolers, they are serenaded by carolers at a restaurant; when it reveals a wreath, Ty gifts Abby with one; and when it reveals a reindeer they go on a horse-drawn carriage ride. Eh, close enough.

Everything seems to be going great until Abby has a date with Ty on the same day that she promised Josh and another friend that she would go see A Christmas Story with them. Now what she should have done is canceled the date with Ty since she made the plans with her friends way in advance. But she assures her friends she'll be able to make the movie since it starts at 3 and the date is in the early afternoon. Ty doesn't tell Abby where they're going and he takes her to a soup kitchen, which seems a little weird for a date, especially a surprise one. While Abby is talking to some of the regulars, she learns from two guys that Ty often brings the women he's dating to show them what an altruistic person he is. Abby is late getting to the movie theater and it's sold out and Ty reassures her that her friends will understand because she was doing something much more important. Abby tells Ty about the calendar and when he mocks her about it, she breaks up with him.

There's a few more mishaps and misunderstandings between Abby and Josh (because they can't get together just yet since we still have half an hour left), but eventually they get together AND Josh pays for the studio she's always wanted since he's done so well as a travel-blogger or whatever he does. Abby also displays her photos and they get lots of attention and her parents tell her they were wrong about not backing her dream. We see Abby and Josh in their new studio one year later hosting a Christmas party (with some terrible hip hop "Christmas" music) and when they tell their guests they have an announcement to make, I'm thinking they're going to announce they're engaged, but nope, all the say is, "Merry Christmas!" Seriously, you're hosting a Christmas party and your big announcement is "Merry Christmas!"? Lame.

Before the end up together, there is some Inception-style flashback Abby has of the calendar and all the little trinkets and everything that had corresponded with it and realizes the fate of the calendar was pointing her in the direction of Josh this entire time. Remember when she thought the Christmas tree meant tree she knocked off Ty's car? It was actually her own Christmas tree she was hanging out by with Josh that same day! Or something like that.

So here's a fun little Easter egg (Christmas cookie?): there's one scene where Abby is about to watch something on Netflix (again, shameless promotion) and these are the movies/shows that are on her list: Christmas Inheritance (what a coincidence as you will soon see!), The Kissing Booth (SO terrible!), Set it Up (haven't seen), Glow (still need to see the second season), and Stranger Things (always a good choice). What, no A Christmas Prince of The Princess Switch?

Speaking of Christmas Inheritance, that is exactly what my next review is. It came out last year and it's about a spoiled party girl named Ellen Langford who's the heiress to her dad's gift business. Yes, that's right, a gift business called Home & Hearth. What does a gift company sell? Little trinkets? Kitchen gadgets and appliances? Jewelry? Bath and body supplies? Clothes? All of the above? I mean, literally anything you buy and give to anyone is a gift.

To teach her a lesson about where she came from, her father sends her to the small town of Snow Falls where he's from (she lives and works in NYC) to deliver a box of letters for Santa to his former business partner. She only has $100 with her for a 24 hour trip and can't tell anyone who she is, so she uses the alias Ellie London. Apparently the folks in the small town would know her name, but they wouldn't recognize her. Which is kinda weird if you think about it because you think they would know what the daughter (who appears on social media all the time) of one of the citizens who went on to have great success would look like. As soon as she gets there she doesn't have any cell phone reception, yet there is an Apple store in this really tiny town.

Ellen thought she would only spend a night at the Inn and give the letter to Zeke, her dad's former business partner, but he isn't there and there's a huge snowstorm that keeps her trapped there for a few days so she has to work as a housekeeper to pay for her room. Ellen already has a rich and handsome fiance back home who's a douche, but you know that's not going to last because she meets Jake, the owner of the inn and when they don't get along at first, you know they're going to end up together at the end. (Spoiler alert: they do.) Jake has this (unintentionally) hilarious backstory where whenever he hears "Silent Night" it makes him angry. This is because his ex (who's from NYC so when he finds out Ellie is also from there, he immediately  dislikes her) broke up with him at a restaurant while that song was playing. He must really hate the holidays because you can't escape that song. Can you imagine if Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" was playing? Now that's a Christmas song you can't escape around the holidays!

So Jake thinks Ellie is just a spoiled rich city girl and blah, blah, blah, but he has a change of heart when she shows her compassionate side: letting the homeless man in during a bad winter storm, making Christmas cookies with And McDowell who runs the local bakery, and gathering nice items for the silent auction. This is how I know the small town has an Apple store because she persuades the guy to donate a computer. In the end she proves to herself she can handle the business (which she will inherent) and find the true meaning of Christmas. She breaks up with her douchy finance and ends up with Jake. There's even a cheesy line where he says, "Is this the part where we're supposed to kiss?"

Oh, and Andie MacDowell sings "Silent Night" at the end and it doesn't send Jake into a rage because he's in love now! Thank God for that! 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Elf Discovery

Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Peter Dinklage
Released: November 7, 2003
Viewed in theaters: November 8, 2003 and November 28, 2003

I know what you're thinking: How could I have this movie blog for nearly ten years (!!) and have never done a review on Elf, one of the most beloved Christmas movies of our time and a movie I've mentioned on several occasions (especially around this time of the year) as being one of my favorite holiday films? Well, the truth is, I DID write a review for this movie back in 2009, the year I started this blog. But it was a terrible review and only about two paragraphs long. Yeah, my early reviews are pretty terrible. I wouldn't recommend going back and reading them; seriously, don't. So I just deleted that one. But, shhh! Don't tell anyone! It will be our little secret.  So now I'm giving this beloved Christmas classic the review it deserves.

I would be shocked if there's anyone out there who has never seen this movie. It's not just one of the funniest holiday movies I've ever seen, but one of the funniest movies I've seen, period. I'm sure I have seen it well over ten times (possible even more!) and I still laugh at certain scenes even though I know what's coming up. I can pretty much recite the dialogue verbatim and have used many of the lines in my own life. Who haven't we called a "cotton-headed ninny muggins"? And while there are many important things in this world that I SHOULD know, but don't, I can proudly recite the four main food groups of elves: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup. Because God knows when you're going to need to know that! (By the way, wouldn't candy canes and candy corns be lumped in with candy? Why do they get their own special group? I kinda get candy canes because they're synonymous with Christmas, but candy corn is more of a Halloween confection. If you really think about it, elves only have one major food group and it is SUGAR! We know Buddy LOVES sugar! I love the scene where he pours syrup all over his spaghetti, then  crumbles a Pop Tart over it.)

It's fun to see the North Pole and Santa's workshop in the beginning of the film. I loved the way they created the North Pole; it's very reminiscent of those classic holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. You could have almost had a spinoff movie just based on that. Not only do you have Bob Newhart as Papa Elf (hmm, I guess The Smurfs don't have a trademark on that!) and Ed Asner as Santa and all the other elves, but you have Leon the snowman, the Arctic puffin, and Mr. Narwhal. The North Pole seems like this wonderful place to visit, however, I don't think it would be such a great place to work! Seems like those elves aren't getting a fair deal; not that I think they really care as they all seem to really love what they do. I love that the head elf tells them that Christmas was a success and that it's time to prepare for next year. It's literally Christmas Day and now they have to get ready for next year. Do they not even get a week off? I suppose when you have to make toys for all the kids in the world, you're going to be pretty busy and won't have any time to rest. Like in The Christmas Chronicles, this also seems to be another Christmas movie where kids only get one present from Santa as we see there's only one toy described next to their names in Santa's naughty/nice book. But to be fair to Santa, if you have to make every single kid in the world several toys, that could take quite a long time as I'm sure making all those kids ONE toy takes plenty of time as it is!

The elves kinda seem to be jerks because they shame Buddy when they learn he's only built 85 Etch-a-Sketches, making him 955 off pace. I remember having an Etch-a-Sketch as a kid. Come to think of it, was it even possible to draw anything but a few squiggles? I love that Buddy draws the Mona Lisa on one later when he's preparing for Santa's visit to the department store ("SANTA! I know him, I know him!"), but there's no way anybody could ever do that, right?? I think the worst part of being an elf would absoluetly have to be testing the Jack in the Boxes. I would be like Buddy, cringing ever time the creepy figurine would pop up and it would be even worse if it popped up later than expected. Jack in the Boxes are the devil's toy!

When Buddy learns he's actually a human and not an elf (took him awhile to figure that out and he only found out because he heard the elves talking about it), he decides to trek to New York City to find his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan) who's on the...DUN DUN DUN....naughty list. I love how immediately after we're told this, we cut to a scene where we see Walter, who works at a publishing company, telling a sweet frail old nun he has to take back the books because they missed the payment and the nun says, "But the children love the books!" They're really showing us this guy is a real a-hole!

Will Ferrell is infectious and has a childlike earnest as Buddy that you can see why he's so likable, but you can also see why people would get impatient with him! A few years after this movie was released, I wrote a Harry Potter fanfic called Hogwarts' Next Top Witch (obviously a parody of America's Next Top Model) and there's a chapter where Harry, Ron, and  Ron's dad go to Harrods and I blatantly stole a lot of things out of Elf  (don't worry; I gave the movie credit) when Buddy goes to Gimbel's: I had Arthur go through the revolving door about four times just like Buddy; I had him eagerly except passion fruit spray, spraying it in his mouth just like Buddy; I had him afraid to go on the escalator, again, just like Buddy; and I had him push all the buttons on the elevator, just like Buddy does when he pushes all the elevator buttons when he's at the Empire State Building. ("It looks like a Christmas tree!)  I told you I blatantly stole a lot of lot of things from Elf while writing that chapter! I visited New York a year and a half after Elf was released and I'm sure I mentioned something about that scene when we went to the Empire State Building. I have a feeling there's no way you could do that as they have people who work there manning the elevators, right? I don't remember for sure, but they must so people can't mess with the buttons. My friend and I once did that at a hotel in Denver (but there was, like maybe ten buttons instead of the 100 or so buttons the ESB probably has.) We also didn't do it while someone was in the elevator with us, but when we saw someone was getting on the elevator as we were exiting, we sure ran as hell!

I love when Buddy first meets Walter dressed in his green elf uniform and yellow tights and Walter tells him, "You look like you came from the North Pole" and Buddy's eyes light up and he replies, "That's EXACTLY where I came from!" Also, when he meets Walter's wife, Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and his son, Michael (Buddy's half-brother) and Emily asks him how long he'll be staying at their house, Buddy replies, "I haven't thought about it, but I was thinking forever." Hehe. That is the worst answer any house guest could ever give you!

Another great scene is when Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) is taking a shower in the Gimbel's restroom (do most department stores have a shower? Maybe it's just for employees) and Buddy is right outside and starts singing along with her. Normally this would be a totally creepy scene, but because it's Buddy and he doesn't know any better, it comes off as completely innocent. While it is cute that he falls for Jovie because she's wearing an elf uniform, it is a little weird that she falls for him since he has the mind of a child. It's like in Big when Elizabeth Perkins falls for a twelve-year-old who looks like a thirty-year-old Tom Hanks. But Jovie is important to the story because it is the mantra Buddy supplies her with, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear" that she uses when she gets all the people to sing Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town so Santa's sleigh can run on Christmas spirit. I'm not ashamed to tell people that I cry during Elf, especially during that scene. That scene gets me every time. EVERY TIME!

And of course another great scene is when a pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage plays Miles Finch, a popular and highly-regarded children's author who has agreed to write a book for Walter's publishing company. Of course Walter's worst nightmare comes true when Buddy ends up coming in the room and is excited to see another elf and asks Finch if Santa knows that he's here. Rightly this should make any small person angry, but Miles, as we already saw in a previous scene is very high maintenance and thinks himself to be the greatest children's author since Dr. Seuss. He already has a very high ego so when Buddy calls him an elf, it really irks him and he dares Buddy, "Call me elf one more time!" and when Buddy declares, "He's an angry elf!", Miles runs across the table and kicks him in the chest. I loved that Buddy was certain he was a South Pole elf.

Lots of great scenes and great actors with great Christmas music makes this film a Christmas classic.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Netflix Christmas

It's December. You know what that means...Christmas movie reviews! I'll first begin with a couple of Netflix original Christmas movies that were released just this year. It seems like Netflix loves to churn out Christmas movies.

We'll first begin with The Christmas Chronicles which stars Kurt Russell as Santa. It also stars Oliver Hudson and Kimberly Williams-Paisley (mini Nashville reunion!) as the parents of the two kids we follow, Teddy and Kate. When the movie opens we see a montages of Christmases the family has spent together from 2006 to 2017. In the current day, we find out that their fire fighter father is no longer alive and later we will learn the he died saving a family from a fire. Teddy and Kate seemed to be close when they were younger, but have seemed to drift apart. Well, what does Kate expect? Her brother is a teenager...why would he want to hang out with his little sister who is between the ages of seven and eleven years old? (I seriously have no idea how old she is). It is implied that they drifted apart after their father died. Tell me if you think this is weird: they used to call each other nicknames (and will resume calling each other once they inevitably reconcile at the end of the movie (like you didn't know that was going to happen!)) Kate called her brother "Teddy Bear" and Teddy called his sister "Kitty Cat." Is it me or do those sound like nicknames significant others would give each other, not siblings?

Kate is recording a video message for Santa (so that's what the kids are doing these days) and Teddy is about to let her in on a devastating truth, but he doesn't have the heart to disappoint his little sister, so he tells her, "There is no.....chance he's gonna watch your video." Kate wants to hang out with her brother, but he just ignores her and goes to hang with his hooligan friends. Kate follows him and records him helping his friend steal a car. She uses this as blackmail to get her brother to help her with finding out if they can catch Santa in the act. While reviewing some old Christmas footage, she sees a red-sleeved arm reach towards the Christmas tree. She is convinced it was Santa and wants to set up the camcorder, that night, which is Christmas Eve, to record him. She tells Teddy she'll destroy the incriminating tape if he helps her. Yes, that's right, it is Christas Eve and Kate was just recording  her video message to Santa. No kid would ever procrastinate when it comes to telling Santa what they want.

Sure enough, they catch Santa and unbeknownst to him, end up in his sleigh. This is actually the first Christmas movie where the dangers of hypothermia and hypoxia are brought up when riding in Santa's sleigh. Of course you're going to get cold if you're several miles up in the sky going really fast. When Santa sees that there's two kids, he loses control of his reindeer and Kate is flung out of the sled and starts falling. Of course, Santa saves her, but you think that would have been the most traumatizing thing that has ever happened to her and she would just want to go home, but no! She wants to help Santa! His sleigh has crashed and he has lost his reindeer. The two kids from Massachusetts find out they're now in Chicago....(wait, why did Santa go from MA to Chicago without giving any presents to all the places in between?)

I did like the look of this Santa. Because he's played by Kurt Russell, he's more of a "cool" Santa (and we'll get this more in a later scene when he sings a blue-sy Christmas song with a bunch of convicts at a jail. Don't ask). He's not your typical "jolly fat Santa." Everything that is usually a snowy white is matted and gray (like his hair and beard and the fur trim on his coat. It looks like he's wearing a reindeer pelt around his neck...which is a bit messed up if you think about it! He also tells the kids he doesn't say "Ho, ho, ho" and that's "fake news." Ha-ha!

Santa tells the kids if he doesn't get his sleigh up and running in half an hour, then half the continent won't get their presents. We learn that it's important for Santa not to miss Christmas because, according to him, all the wars that have ever started were started the years he missed Christmas. WTF? Good job, Santa. So you're the reason for every single war that ever started! He tells them, "People need Christmas to remind themselves of how good they can be." This line and a following scene made me think this movie was going to be different that what it turned out to be. When they enter a restaurant, Santa knows the hostess (because he knows everyone) and that she wanted to be a fashion designer (because he knows what everyone wants), but she never had the money to pay to attend Parsons. I thought this movie was going to go an altruistic path and Santa and the kids were going to grant wishes for people they met along the way. For instance, giving the waitress the tuition money for Parsons. But alas, the movie doesn't go in that direction. Santa needs to fix his sleigh and find his reindeer and bag of toys so Christmas can go on (and so everyone doesn't wake up to World War III in the morning!)

They need a ride into the city (where the reindeer are) and Santa ends up stealing a car (it's okay because the car itself was stolen by someone who's always been on the naughty list). Kate finds and coaxes the reindeer out of hiding and she and Teddy fly them away while Santa is taken to jail for grand theft auto. That's when he sings with the other convicts.

Meanwhile, the siblings have discovered the bag of toys. It looks like a normal bag, but considering it's holding all the toys for all the children in the world, it turns into a Mary Poppins bag that can hold just about anything and everything. Kate crawls into the bag and is able to crawl further and further until she's in this black hole of gifts flying around. I laughed when an actual car is circling around her. This vortex takes her to the North Pole where she meets some interesting elves. They don't look dissimilar to the House Elves from Harry Potter. This movie was produced by Chris Columbus who also directed the first two Potter movies so maybe that was the inspiration. Also, there's a scene where the two kids stop outside a church to hear a choir and I'm pretty sure it's the same church from Home Alone, but we only see the exterior of it.

I need to touch on a minor fashion note for a sec: Kate wears this purple coat with a hood...and also a winter hat with a pom pom. (The winter hat is really cute by the way, it looks like a lot of confetti has been sprinkled on it; I would totally wear that hat). But what is the point of wearing a winter hat when your coat already has a hood attached to it? Seems a little redundant, no?

When Kate is in the North Pole she comes across a huge area filled with drawers upon drawers where Santa has apparently kept every single letter that every single child has ever written him. First of all, even though they only show us the "P" section (for Pierce, the surname of the kids) and even though what we see is pretty impressive, that thing would be MUCH bigger. Also, why does Santa save every single letter from the previous years? I understand why he would keep the letters of the current year, but why is he hanging on to Teddy's letter from, say, 2006? Also, does he keep all the letters from adults and senior citizens who wrote them when they were kids or do those get tossed when they reach a certain age? Does this mean Santa Claus is a hoarder? This is all very confusing.

So Kate convinces the elves to fix the sleigh, Santa is released from jail, and the kids help Santa deliver his presents to the rest of the continent because he's unsure if he will have time to do it himself. As a tearful Kate tells him, "There can't be Christmas without presents!", Santa tells them he'll be able to deliver the gifts twice as fast if he's not carrying his bag (and the movie has already established he's pretty fast when he is carrying his bag) and Kate will be the one to call out the names and addresses and throw the gifts to Santa while Teddy takes the reins, literally. It seems in this world kids only get one gift from Santa which seems pretty bogus to me. Can you imagine if you only got one present from Santa as a kid? Oh, man, I would be so ticked. We see a montage of all the cities they visit and this is the order they go in after they're done with Chicago: St. Louise, New Orleans, Denver, St Paul, Calgary, Anchorage, Honolulu, Vancouver, Seattle, Boise, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, L.A., and San Francisco. Is it me or do some of these seem out of order? Shouldn't Honolulu be your last stop? Why did he hit Seattle before Boise? I think Santa needs to learn some U.S. geography!

Teddy's letter to Santa was that he wanted to see his dad again and for a moment I was thinking, is the movie really going to go there? Are they going to bring back the kids' dead dad? No, he gets an ornament and when he puts it on the tree he sees a reflection of his dad who tells him he's proud of him. The movie ends with Santa back at the North Pole and he's with Mrs. Claus, who is played by, of course, Goldie Hawn. I should have seen that coming! And that's when I realized that Oliver Hudson is Kurt Russell's stepson. Now where was Kate Hudson's appearance?

This movie was fine, but nothing I would put in my must see movies to watch every holiday season. It's probably going to get lost in the slew of Christmas movies Netflix already has out and no doubt will keep churning every Christmas.

Speaking of the slew of Christmas movies Netflix churns out every year, our next Christmas movie  review will be The Princess Switch which stars a double dose of Vanessa Hudgens. Seriously, whoever pitched this to Netflix must have just finished watching The Parent Trap (the Lindsay Lohan version) because there are too many similarities. Vanessa plays Stacey, a baker from Chicago who finds out that her sous chef and best friend since high school, Kevin, and his daughter, Olivia (also Stacey's god-daughter) have enrolled her in a fancy schmancy world baking competition that takes place in the fictional country of Belgravia which I'm sure is near Genovia and Andovia. Hell, I'm sure they're all the same country! And don't worry, I'll get to A Christmas Prince in a minute. I was listening to a podcast review of this movie and someone called it "Bel-mashed potatoes and gravia" which made me laugh so hard.

We find out that Stacey recently broke up with her boyfriend of three years and just wants to mope around, but when she runs into him on the street (literally like two minute after she leaves the shop) and finds out he's seeing someone new, she changes her mind and decides to go to Belgravia with Kevin and Olivia. There seemed to be some hint that Kevin was into Stacey, but Stacey didn't reciprocate those feelings. As the movie progresses this seems more evident and it's clear that Stacey has put Kevin (who looks and sounds a lot like former POTUS Barack Obama) firmly in the friend zone. Olivia really wants her dad to get together with Stacey and even tells him that she wishes "they were a thing." Kevin tells her that they've been friends since high school and if sparks were going to fly, they'd know by now. To which the little brat replies, and I'm not joking, "You're not trying hard enough." Oh, no you did not, little girl! Stop trying to meddle in your dad's personal relationships.

They should have just called Belgravia "Christmasville" because that's what it is. Everything is decorated for Christmas, there are carolers, a Santa village, an ongoing performance of The Nutcracker,  gingerbread making hut, etc. While Stacey is touring the studio where the competition will be filmed and held, she runs into Margaret Delacourt, the Duchess of Montenero (another fictional my computer automatically changed it to "Montenegro" the first time I typed it!)  who is set to marry Prince Edward, the Prince of Belgravia (who is played by the guy who played Gunner on Nashville...seems like everyone on that show is finding their way to Netflix Christmas flicks! Can't wait to see Hayden Pannetierre in the next one!) Oh! Did I mention they look exactly alike? Except that Margaret has shorter hair and some faux British accent going on. (Just like in Lohan-style Parent Trap!) Surprise! She's played by Vanessa Hudgens too!

There is somewhat of a (super lame) explanation of why the girls look so much alike. Margaret's great-grandmother's cousin ended up in the United States and his daughter married someone with the surname DeNofrio which is similar to Stacey's last name, DeNovo. So that would make them, what? Second or third cousins? Even if they were related, they wouldn't look exactly alike. Who has ever heard of identical cousins? At least in The Parent Trap, they're identical twins.

Margaret's only wish it to be a real girl and she wants to switch places with Stacey for two days so she can see what it's like to be "normal". She assures Stacey that Edward won't even be in town and the only thing she'll have to do is have tea with his parents. Stacey agrees to this and the only person who knows about this is Margaret's assistant. However, Olivia quickly figures out Stacey's not really Stacey when she can't do their complicated handshake (another bit taken from The Parent Trap). And also the fact that when Margaret makes breakfast the next morning, she burns everything, something Stacey would never do. She agrees to keep the secret, though.

Guess what? Edwards doesn't go out of town and end up staying in Belgravia. Ruh-roh! Also, guess what? Stacey falls for Prince Edward and Margaret falls for Kevin. Insert groan here. There's a close call where the two couples almost run into each other at a toy store but the crisis is averted by the kindly man who keeps appearing throughout the film at just the right time and seems to know everything that is going on, almost like he has magical powers. You would think his character is going to have some kind of revelation in the end, but nope.

There's a really stupid scene where Kevin, Olivia, and Margaret-as-Stacey are painting ornaments in Chistmasville and Margaret has painted a heart on hers and claims, "Christmas should be about love." Kevin tells her that he's never seen her so sentimental and she actually has the gall to reply, "Maybe you don't know me that well." Yeah, no s**t. Of course he doesn't know you BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT WHO HE THINKS YOU ARE! And I'm guessing the real Stacey would never draw a heart on an ornament and get all sappy because he does know her. Duh!

Then we have another stupid scene where Stacey-as-Margaret is attending some royal soiree with the Prince and she is invited to play the piano as the Duchess is known for her remarkable piano playing skills. Of course Stacey doesn't know how to play the piano, not even the simple repeated four notes to "Carol of the Bells" when Edward suggests they play that as a duet. She blames it on "stage fright," but gimme me a freaking break! An accomplished pianist would be able to play four simple notes to a well known song. Yet nobody seems to find this very odd.

The best part of the movie (and when I say best, I really mean worst) is when Kevin and Margaret-as-Stacey decide to watch A Christmas Prince because that's Stacey's favorite Christmas movie. What the huh? That movie has only been out a year and it's her freakin' favorite Christmas movie? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? A Christmas Prince? Has this girl never seen Home Alone or Elf or It's a Wonderful Life? Has she never seen ANY Christmas movie if A Christmas Prince is her favorite? No shade to A Christmas Prince, but, c'mon! We even see them turn on the TV and scroll through the Netflix movies. Shameless promotion there, Netflix. However, I think they could have gone with two other options. The first is that they could have promoted the sequel to A Christmas Prince, which I believe was released a week or two after this one. They could have Margaret-as-Stacey say that she loved A Christmas Prince and that she's so excited to see the sequel and they could even show a little clip from the movie. But personally, I think they really missed the mark by not combining the two worlds together and having them exist in the same universe! Hello, Netflix! You could have had Vanessa Hudgens x 2  and her two beaus attend the wedding of whatstheirnames in A Christmas Prince 2 and you could have whatstheirnames attend Duchess Vanessa and Prince Edward's wedding at the end of this movie! I have no doubt that Belgravia and Andovia are right next to each other. There could even be a crossover movie called The Christmas Princess Switch. Obviously I am a genius! Whoever missed this at Netflix really dropped the ball. A missed opportunity in the Netflix universe if there ever was one.

When it is revealed that the girls have been impersonating each other, neither man is upset in the slightest that they've been deceived for the last two days. In fact, Edward proposes to Stacey and they get married at the end of the movie (which is about three minutes away from that point, although in the course of the movie it's the next year.) It is just ridiculous that she agrees to marry someone she's only known for TWO FREAKING DAYS!! I guess she really wanted to be a Princess! I must say, their wedding cake is on point. Even though they don't mention it, I'm sure Stacey made it. Who the hell makes their own wedding cake, especially one that elaborate? Who has time to when they're planning a wedding? And they all lived happily ever after. I especially love how Olivia wanted her dad to get together with Stacey, but is just as content with her dad getting together with Stacey's doppelgänger.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My 12 favorite Disney Renaissance songs

With the recent release of the "live action" Lion King trailer, I was inspired to make a list of my favorite Disney songs from their animated movies. I'm only doing songs from movies that came out during the Disney Renaissance era which are the movies that came out from 1989-1999. I'm doing this for a few reasons:

1) This is the era of Disney I grew up with and I am very familiar with these songs and own most of the soundtracks, so therefore I already had the songs available!

Yeah, that's pretty much the only reason. I do have a few of the older well-known songs but, honestly, they wouldn't even make my top 12 anyway. And the only songs from the 21st century animated Disney movies that I can remember liking are "Let it Go" and a couple from Lilo and Stitch.

It was difficult ranking these (believe me, I did a lot of switching around before I settled on my final list) and I still had to leave out a few that I really like but just didn't make the final cut. So don't get mad if your favorite isn't on here! I'm sure it would have been #13!