Category Archives: Holiday

REVIEW: “DEAR SANTA” (2020) IFC Films

Being in somewhat of a bad mood due to the rise in Covid cases here and another complete lockdown – I dived into this film all the while thinking I was going into a Christmas film about Santa and his reindeer. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“DEAR SANTA” is a lovely new documentary from Dana Nachman telling us the story of ‘Operation Santa‘ – a lovely program that the United States Postal Office has been operating since 1912 when it was realized something must be done with all the letters children, and yes sometimes even adults, write to Santa each year. There is nothing sweeter than watching the opening where kids excitedly talk about Santa Claus and the letters they write to him. There is nothing that can bring a smile to your face and a lift in your heart more than listening to a young child’s ideal and belief that someone is dedicated to delivering some happiness to each and every one of them. In the 1940’s this wonderful program opened up to the public and has recently has gone online as well. It’s remarkable watching the efforts of everyone from individuals, to families, to companies both large and small, and even other children all join together in this massive effort to bring everyone a little bit of joy during the holidays.

We follow the film as it takes us through big cities and small ones on Christmas day showing us the impact these “Santa’s Elves” have on their communities. We watch as they interview several ‘elves’ in the postal service itself who ‘work with Santa’ to read, sort and deliver the letters received every year. Some of the letters are heart-wrenching as we see families who have been displaced by the huge fire in Paradise, CA or adults who are struggling with just getting beds for their kids. We also follow several of the ‘adopter’ elves i.e., those who go through letters and pick the ones they wish to ‘adopt’ and get the requested gifts and help Santa get those gifts to children and adults all across the country. Some are even past recipients of this wonderful operation and are now giving back in return.

The only beef anyone could possibly come up with about this film is that it’s a bit lengthy, but the end result of it all is this thoughtful, heart-warming, and honest look that proves that not everything is lost in humanity. It’s exactly what’s called for and the world needs back right now, some good old compassion and empathy for others. So if like me you were feeling Grinchy at all this Holiday season – Dear Santa might be just what is in order to remember what makes the season so special.. it’s called giving.

Grade: B+

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Review screening: Courtesy of IFC FILMS

“DEAR SANTA” NOW AVAILBLE ON VOD/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILBLE  

 

 

REVIEW: “DADDY’S HOME 2” (2017) PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Well hang up your christmas stockings and get your eggnog ready as we are headed into the holidays, and that means the family holiday movies are starting up. With the trailer for “DADDY’S HOME 2”, as with most comedies these days, giving away many of the funny moments, no need to expect any additional spoilers here.

As for the film itself – we pick up two years later, after the fierce daddy competition between Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) had throughout the first film. We start off sweetly, with what looks to be a very healthy co-dad environment for all involved. In comedy-based cinema, the best way to disrupt a happy family synergy is to introduce the Christmas season and the sure-to-follow family turmoil. And with that – enter Mel Gibson as Dusty’s estranged dad – Kurt, and John Lithgow as Brad’s so-close-it’s-too-close dad – Don… and let the holiday escapades begin.

It’s clear that these two grandads have completely different ideas of well, being grandads. Gibson’s character’s idea of being a father has been around for many generations. Toughen up the kids and make sure they are strong and independent. Keep those emotions close to the vest. On the other side is John Lithgow and his over-hugging and blubbering true feelings approach. The familiar supporting cast, (notably missing Griff (Hannibal Buress)) holds up their end admirably. Sara (Linda Cardellini) and Alessandra Ambrosio as Karen, are back as Brad’s and Dusty’s wives, respectively. Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, and Didi Costine are back as the kids: Megan, Dylan & Adrianna – each with their own quirks and growing pains. Even John Cena returns as Adrianna’s biological father – Roger, and also delivers one of the film’s best punchlines, as well as a bit that might forever ruin Christmas caroling for you or maybe like me, where I thought it was actually simply sweet.

With the additions of Gibson and Cena, the sequel ups the ante on the debate of masculinity that anchored the first film. The female characters are still seemly just afterthoughts, and some of Gibson’s antics (considering his rep and the current revelations coming out of Hollywood) seem awkwardly ill-timed. He makes inappropriate jokes, he makes sexist jokes about hookers, he laughs at nearly everything stupid Ferrell does.

Could I slam this film for having Mel Gibson in it..yes I completely could, and legitimately so because honestly, it doesn’t flow well with me on a personal level. Neither does when trying to make light of kids with shotguns or using them as props to getting drunk. It’s not. Especially in light of everything going on here now. But if you step away from that, this film was also a bit on the sappy-sweeter, emotional side than the original ‘DADDY’S HOME’ (which I thought was NOT appropriate for kids) for me and that’s what redeemed it. This one – if they are over the age of 12 or 13, yes, as I think back to my 12 or 13 year old self, and would be okay with it.

Grade: C
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“DADDY’S HOME 2” will be released in theaters nationwide on Friday, November 10, 2017

REVIEW: “OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY” (2016) Paramount

“OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY” delivers exactly what we all need right now.. some much needed laughs. With 2016 so far being the probably one of the worst years in the history of well..ever..this film is just what the ‘Office’ ordered.
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This over-the-top fun ensemble comedy about what happens when a company holiday party goes way, way, way out of control and things start flying out of windows and reindeers are drinking from toilets.

Basic storyline: uptight sister/CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down the Chicago office of father’s company, Zenotek, mostly because of the antics of her hard partying brother, Clay Vanstone (T. J. Miller) and cancel the office Christmas party. Branch manager Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) plans an epic bash against her wishes to win over a big client Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) to prevent the axe from falling on all the employees. OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
But of course, the party quickly gets way out of hand, leaving the office in mess of chaos and destruction. Oddly enough, there is a relatable plot in this movie also, and a somewhat decent one at that. Yes, Bateman is Batemen and Anniston is Anniston, but truly, we aren’t looking for Oscar’s here – we are looking for a laugh and we do find those. With the top-notch supporting cast which includes Kate McKinnon as the hysterical HR manager Mary, Olivia Munn as tech/coding expert Tracey Hughes, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Fortune Feimster and so many more. It’s truly a full ensemble comedy in the truest sense of the word.
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It leaves out the super crass and vulgar, which is nice, though it does have a few ‘huh’ scenes, it definitely doesn’t go down the worst of roads in that extreme. Teens will likely want to see this movie and I recommend it as a PG-13. It also has a momentary sweet homage to Prince and David Bowie that gets a round of cheers from me and most of the screening I was in.

Can you disect this movie piece by piece and find all it’s flaws..sure you can..but why? Just go have fun with it and laugh at the ever-devolving scenario of a party gone nuts.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Nationwide Release: Friday, December 9, 2016