Saturday, December 23, 2017

Quartet of Christmas Movies

I've been watching some Christmas movies on Netflix, so I thought I would share my thoughts about them. Spoilers ahoy (if you really care that much!)

A Christmas Prince (2017) - If you have Netflix, you are probably familiar with this because they've been promoting it hardcore. It was okay, but nothing great. It stars Rose McIver as a journalist named Amber who is suppose to travel to the fictional country of Andovia to get a story on Prince Richard. When I heard "Andovia", I thought for sure they had stolen the country from The Princess Diaries, but I guess that's Genovia. They sound exactly alike except for the first syllable! The King has recently died and Prince Richard, his oldest son, is suppose to be taking the throne and the crown on his coronation, which is Christmas Eve. He has a reputation with the press for being a play boy and is never around to take questions from them. To worm herself into the Palace, Amber pretends to be the tutor for Princess Emily, the little sister of Richard. They were expecting a tutor from Minnesota, but thought she wouldn't be arriving until AFTER the New Year. Amber just tells them she's the tutor without having to show any proof of ID and they believe her. Lucky for her, they don't seem to know what a Minnesotan accent is suppose to sound like! At first Princess Emily is a little snot to Amber and doesn't like her, but that only lasts one scene and in the next scene they have become friends. Emily also has found out that Amber isn't really a tutor (I'm sure she figured out that really fast because it was obvious she had no idea what she was doing when she was trying to teach Emily calculus) and finds out she's a journalist. She makes a deal with Amber, saying she won't say who she really is as long as Amber writes "the truth" about her brother. Apparently, Prince Richard is very kind-hearted and generous, giving to charities and playing with the homeless children. I'm not sure why the press says he's a playboy if there's no evidence of him ever being one. As you can guess, Amber starts to fall for the Prince. Of course we can't have a movie without having a couple of villains. This includes Simon, the cousin of Richard and Emily who is second in line to the throne, and Sophia, Richard's ex, who was only dating him in hopes of becoming the Queen someday.

There is this scene that is totally stolen from Beauty and the Beast (animated or live action, take your pick) where Amber is horse back riding by herself (she's following the Prince) and gets thrown from the horse while in the woods. A wolf growls at her and comes towards her and all she can do is just sit against a tree. Guess who comes by and saves her? Yep, the Prince. He shoots his gun to scare away the wolf. I thought it was going to be revealed the wolf was a family pet and it was going to start licking her face and being all cute, but nope.

Amber happens to stumble across some documents that reveal Richard is actually adopted (but Emily is still their own child) and therefore he wouldn't be able to take the throne. She tells her newspaper co-workers/friends back home in New York and they tell her she has a great story, but she doesn't want to betray the Prince like that. Like a moron, she leaves the papers out in the open in her bedroom, so while she's gone, Sophia and Simon start snooping around in there cuz they know something is up with her. They find the papers and at Richard's coronation, just before it is asked if anyone has any objections to him being the King (does it really work that way?), Simon brings out the adoption papers and the Queen admits it's true. Richard cannot be King, thus making Simon the rightful owner of the crown and throne. He marries Sophia the next day, Christmas, and demands to be made the King right that moment.

Meanwhile, Richard is angry at Amber because it is revealed she found the papers. She's on her way back home and calls her dad at the airport who tells her something that makes her think of something. In a previous scene when the Royal Family was decorating the tree, the Queen tells her about an acorn ornament her husband loved and Amber thinks there is a clue inside of it. She is right and there is a message from the King before he died saying he wants his son, even though he was adopted, to inherit the throne. Amber makes it just in time right before Simon is knighted and Richard becomes the rightful King! Yay!

The end scene was so bad. Amber is now back in New York at her dad's diner. It's about ten minutes to midnight on New Year's and guess who happens to be in town? Yep, the Prince, er King. And he asks Amber to marry him, telling her "There can't be a King without his Queen." And even though they only knew each other for a month, Amber says "yes." But then she tells him she can's leave her dad and he's like, "Bring him along too! We'll build a diner in Andovia." It is sooo ridiculous.

Get Santa (2014) - This was my favorite of the ones I'm reviewing. It's a cute family British movie about a young boy, Tom, and his dad, Steve, who are trying to get Santa out of prison. Steve has been in prison for the last couple of years because he was the get away driver in a burglary, but, as his parole officer pointed out, he was not able to get away. It's the day before Christmas when Steve is released and he gets a call from Tom, telling him that Santa (Jim Broadbent) is in their garden shed and needs help finding his sled. It's the middle of the night when Steve gets this call, so of course he's very concerned that his son is alone with a man claiming he's Santa and tells him to get his mother, but Tom refuses to wake her up. Steve comes over and dismisses the man's claims saying he's the real Santa and tells him to leave.

Santa is arrested when he's trying to get his reindeer out of the animal pound. It was a big story in London that a few days earlier a bunch of reindeer were wandering around the city. The news reporter joked that if these were Santa's reindeer, then a lot of kids were going to be disappointed on Christmas Day. If she only knew! Santa being arrested makes the news and on their first day together since Steve's released from prison, Tom wants him to take him to see Santa. Although when his son told him that, he just assumed he wanted to see Santa at the mall, but, no, his son wants to go to prison (the same one where Steve was held) to visit the man from the night before. Santa, now dressed in prison garb, tells them he wants them to save Christmas and he needs them to find his reindeer, who can communicate and they'll know what to do. I think it's Dasher who's the head reindeer and will be able to help them. Steve is still not buying any of this. There is a funny moment where he calls the old man "Nick" and he tells him that he sometimes go by that name and how did he know that?

To humor his son, they drive around until they find the reindeer. They don't talk, but they start farting and Tom is convinced this is the way they communicate. He asks a question and they all start farting. Yeah, it's pretty juvenile, but it made me laugh. I don't know what it is about farting reindeer. This was also a reoccurring theme in The Santa Clause movies . They find Santa's sled and this is around the time Steve thinks that this actually COULD be the real Santa. He accidentally dumps out all the magic powder, but, Santa tells him on the phone that he keeps a manual in his glove department (which is an oversized mitten, haha). There's a map to a tower that will help them. Meanwhile, Steve has already missed his parole meeting, has trespassed on the grounds where the reindeer were, and has knocked out a police officer (although it was the reindeer that did that), so the police are after him. While all this is going on, I'm thinking, Wouldn't it be kinda crazy if this were like The Game, (don't read ahead if you don't want to be spoiled by that movie!) that David Fincher movie where all of this crazy stuff is set up to make Steve believe it's all real, but in reality, EVERYBODY is in on it? That would have been so cool! They need to make a Christmas themed The Game movie! But I knew that wasn't what was going on because a) this is a kid's movie, and b), the next scene completely demolished any notions of that because Steve and his son find a magical slide that takes them to the North Pole (aka Lapland). I don't think there's any way you could explain that! When they arrive, they meet Santa's elves who tells them they can't ride in the sleigh because if they go more than a thousand feet in the air, they'll explode! With only one reindeer (poor reindeer!) to fly the sleigh, the elves instruct Steve how to control it. It's pretty cool how they get started because they start on a huge platform with a giant slide and go down it to gain momentum. There's also a loop-de-loop which I don't understand, but it's all part of the fun and charm, I guess. They're on their way to prison to get Santa. There's a really funny moment where Santa, with the help of  Sully, a littler person (Warwick Davis) escapes and they find a hole that Sully had dug through. There's a poster of a woman in a bathing suit and it's ripped to reveal the hole ala The Shawshank Redemption. Very clever movie, very clever. Of course they are able to get Santa back to his sleigh and save Christmas. This is a very cute movie and I just happened to stumble across it because it was the first movie that popped up when I looked for Christmas movies!

The Christmas Project (2016) - This is a movie that you could tell wanted to be A Christmas Story because there a lot of moments that totally reminded me of that film, but misses the mark. It was a fine movie, but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it or anything. It's about a group of four brothers, the Buckley's, who are bullied by the Hagbart kids. There's three girls and one boy and they're really only bullied by the boy, Finn. The two older sisters aren't very nice, but they don't beat anyone up or do any mean pranks like their brother and the little sister is pretty harmless.

Mrs. Buckley, who is pregnant with her fifth child (who, to her delight, will be a daughter), wants them to "Elf" the Hagbart family this year. To Elf someone is to leave gifts like candy and mittens on someone's porch, ring the bell, and then hide to watch their expressions. It's clear that the Hagbart family is poor and their mother left them a long time ago. I thought we were going to find out that the father is abusive, but that wasn't the case. He just works a lot so he's never home. In fact, even though we hear about him, we never see him in the movie. Whenever they Elf the Hagbart family, they see the happy expressions on their faces and it makes them feel good, but Finn keeps on being a bully to all of them, especially Matthew, the kid in his grade and the one narrating the story as an adult (another reason this reminded me of A Christmas Story). Finn is a pretty sh*tty kid. He beats up Matthew's older brother, he steals cookies from his younger brother, he pins Matthew's underwear to a map so the class sees it when the teacher pulls the map down and it says "Buckley's bloomers" and he steals and takes credit for the project Matthew made for the egg drop challenge (you know, when you build something to protect an egg when you drop it from a certain height. I never had to do it in school, but this seems to be in a lot of movies and TV shows). However, we're supposed to feel bad for Finn because he's poor and has no mother or something like that. Yeah, he and Matthew become friends at the end, or at least he stops tormenting Matthew all the time, but gimme a break! This kid was a little twerp and never got in trouble for what he did. Everyone (like the teacher and Mrs. Buckley) felt sorry for him.

That was the main storyline, but there were also little subplots such as the Buckleys' getting new neighbors and Matthew and his older brother falling for one of the daughters, Juniper, who looks like Blake Lively's not-as-pretty younger sister.  Her older sister bakes them cookies and they are nasty because there's no sugar in them and very hard when they bite into them. It was a really weird scene because when Matthew's older brother was eating the cookie, the girl was standing really close to him, watching him intently as he eats it. Like, who does that? Later in the movie, Matthew tricks Finn by making cookies that have toothpaste in the middle so when Finn steals them and gives them to his teacher, she'll get mad at him. However, why didn't they use these gross cookies the older sister made? That's where I thought the movie was going with that, but nope. There were some little vignettes peppered in, like one where one of the brothers becomes attached to a chicken (they have chickens for some reason) and his dad accidentally kills it and serves it for dinner because he couldn't tell that one apart from the other ones. And there's an ongoing storyline about "the Christmas catalogue" and if it came in the mail yet and who has it.

It wasn't a terrible movie, but it was clear it was trying too hard to A Christmas Story.

Christmas in the City (2013) - This had to have come from Lifetime or the Hallmark channel. It was a very paint by numbers Christmas movie. It's about a young single woman, Wendy, and her six-year-old daughter, Grace, who move to the city after her dad's candy store is going under foreclosure. It's about three weeks until Christmas, so she decides if she gets a job at a department store (where her friend from the city, Angie, works) then she can make enough money to send home to her mother so she can keep the store running. I thought the city in question was New York, but it was Los Angeles. I was wondering why there was no snow until I realized this. When you think of Christmas city settings, you think of New York or London or Chicago. You don't think of L.A.! But I'm guessing it was set there because it was filmed there, so therefore it was easiest to do that. The only person in this movie who I was familiar with was Ashanti (and even then, even though I know she's a singer, I couldn't tell you the name of any of her songs) who plays this really bitchy woman who has been brought on by the head of the department store to fix things so they can achieve higher sales. Nobody likes her because she's a real hard-ass and everyone calls her Cruella DeVil because she wears a lot of furs. Her ideas to fix the store is to get rid of all the Christmas-y stuff like the decorations, the piano, the carolers, even Santa! She then proceeds to put up more sexy decorations like posters of buff, shirtless guys wearing Santa hats and she has models in slinky dresses serving h'or doeurves on platters. This is a little weird, but whatever, sex sells, right? But what's really weird is that she puts the posters of shirtless buff guys and has shirtless buff male models walking around in the TOY department (the department where Wendy starts because that's where Angie works). WTF? No kid would care about that, unless they're trying to get the attention of the mothers? It's so weird. Everyone is mad at all these changes, but nobody will do anything to stop Ashanti (I don't remember her character's name), so they pretty much let her get away with making the toy department a male stripper show. Wendy falls for the son of the guy who is the head of the Department Store (whose name I've also forgotten) and of course, they fall in love. The little girl is pretty cute (and a good little ice skater, I'm guessing that's why she was cast because that's a little subplot of the movie), but she would whore her mother out to any single dude they came across. This includes the son of Department Store Guy and her bus driver. She would just tell the guy, "Isn't she prrrreeettttyyy?" Wendy's mother ends up selling the candy store, but guess what, Wendy's new boyfriend buys them out and wants to set up their own candy store at the department store where he wants Wendy to be the manager of, so she ends moving back to L.A. so she can live her happy life. Blah. And Ashanti was fired, in case you were wondering. But we all knew that was coming. Terrible movie, but kinda fun to watch because it was so bad. 

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