REVIEW: “LAST CHRISTMAS” (2019) Universal

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If Emilia Clarke was looking to step out and reinvent herself after eight years as Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen, then “LAST CHRISTMAS” would be that vehicle. Along with her character choice of Kate, a wayward and dysfunctional wanna-be actress in her 20’s, who spends her day working as an Elf selling year round Christmas monstrosities – well you couldn’t be further removed from the queen of dragons herself with this one.

Her boss, in what is sure to be London’s gaudiest Christmas store, conveniently goes by the moniker “Santa” (Michelle Yeoh), constantly admonishes Kate for her shortcoming, and there are many of them. As a matter of fact, Kate is simply just the worst. Her nights are devoted to getting plastered, trying to find one in the endless array of couches to crash on – and mornings, well mornings are spent trying to recall the who/what/where of the previous evening shenanigans. “It’s not my fault” is almost a battle-cry for Kate. She just can’t seem to get it together, oddly enough, even when she somehow forgot to lock the door and the store gets robbed, incredibly she keeps her job.

One day the super dreamy Tom (Henry Golding) enters the picture, helping her piece her life back together just in time for Christmas. Magically he enchants her in every way from little dances in the street, to taking her to his little private garden spot. But everything just seems to be a bit to convenient here.  Showing up at the most random of moments, Tom is just too good to be true. And this is only a partial list of things that just make no sense here.  Katie even goes so far as to out her sister Marta (Lydia Leonard), yet instead of facing actual repercussions for these things, seemingly things get better for her. It’s like magically overnight she becomes a good person.

It’s never a good sign when the film’s trailer feels like the whole movie, but you would be right on the money with ‘Last Christmas,’  and those holding their breath for something more will leave sorely underwhelmed.  Sure, you don’t go into a film like this expecting to be surprised but neither do you want it feeling like it’s three steps behind you just because you’ve seen the trailer. Yet, as soon the film delivers its climactic plot twist with the earnestness of a kid tying their shoelaces for the first time, the film quickly trips over its own feet. Your only small highlights in characters here are her parents Petra (Emma Thompson), who delves into heavily into a Eastern European accent, and Ivan (Boris Isakovic) her taxi cab driving dad, both of whom supply a laugh or two but not much more.

It’s hard to know who to lay blame on here as there’s not much to work with in terms of the film’s story. Taking its title from the 1984 Wham! pop song Last Christmas, the film treats George Michael’s music with the same depth as Yesterday treated the Beatles; as window dressing. When it comes to the actual film, it’s nothing more than your typical Hallmark movie of the week. Watching Clarke bumble around is endearing enough for the first half or so but it wears thin quickly and the predictable story line does little to keep things interesting.

So, the question remains: how far can a film go based on charm alone? Well, your mileage will undoubtedly vary based on your tolerance of saccharine love stories as ‘Last Christmas’ is as sweet as they get. Its lack of cynicism and Clarke’s infectiously bubbly lead performance will likely be its saving grace for many, but overall it’s ‘Christmas’ story feels like a lump of coal wrapped up in pretty packaging.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, October 5, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“LAST CHRISTMAS” IS OUT IN THEATERS IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

 

REVIEW: “MORGAN” (2016) 20th Century Fox ~ Q & A – Ridley Scott/Kate Mara/Luke Scott/Anya Taylor-Joy

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Realizing I’d completely forgotten the review embargo for this upcoming film was off as of 9pm PST on Monday, and here it is Wednesday, is sort of how I’m guessing filmgoers will feel after seeing it. They will just forget. Titling off the movie, we meet “Morgan” (Anya Taylor-Joy), an ‘It’ as we are not allowed to call human nor female, though both the forms are made clear to us. It/Morgan was made in a lab from synthetic DNA so as not to confuse you, we learn it’s the third in a line of synthetic species in an old ramshackle plantation-type home in the middle of nowheres-ville.

We get the basic introduction of the characters, aka the people who have created and work with Morgan. Dr. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones) and Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) being the main ‘creators’. Dr. Amy Menser (Rose Leslie), Dr. Brenda Finch (Vinette Robinson), Dr. Darren Finch (Chris Sullivan), Ted Brenner (Michael Yare) are all kind of caregivers to her. Throw in the very unnecessary character of handsome personal chef/nutrionist Skip Vronsky (Boyd Holbrook) to round it all up at the laboratory and all is complete. Well except for Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), the risk-management corporate consultant who is sent down to the remote, top-secret location, where she is to investigate and evaluate a terrifying accident or as Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti), the psychologist sent to evaluate her notes, the ‘issues’ that have occured between Morgan & Dr. Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Lee) who is literally on the screen for a total of about 1 min 30sec.
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We never find out why Morgan turns into a killing machine at age 5 in synthetic years, teenager in human years. Or why she can suddenly drive a car or shoot a gun. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it. The only character you might get somewhat vested in is Amy because she is really the only one you get some background on to relate to. Possibly some will relate to Mara’s character as there are a lot of over the top fight scenes between her & Morgan. But you get no feel in general for this film. There is a supposed surprise shock ending which will probably surprise absolutely no one as it’s plain to see what it is way before hand.

First-time film director Luke Scott, son of Ridley Scott, the producer here this time, really needed to have more under his belt and develop this story much more. I think he was trying to show flares of Alien, ExMachina of Firestarter with no success in doing so.

Grade: D+

Q & A – Ridley Scott- Producer; Luke Scott-Director; Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy

With possibly the worst moderator I’ve ever experienced from Rotten Tomatoes, asking some of the most ridiculous questions. Sample: she had Ridley Scott to ask questions to, one of the most iconic Film/TV people of our times, and it took her 8 minutes to ask a first question to him. When she did, she actually used the word ‘dope’ to Ridley Scott, as in “yeah that scene was really dope” and no, she was not a 20-something. Another sample: Asking Kate Mara about a scene when her character throws a chair against a unbreakable window enclosure, does she see that also as possibly being the ‘new fitness craze in L.A.” *sigh – we barely made it through this.

The actresses were both fun and noted how they had to remain separated mostly not only from each other, but Kate noted she also remained a bit detached from all because of what her character had to be. Luke Scott went on the explain how he had directed a short film called “Loom” and FOX then asked him to make more of a feature film take on it. It’s also always wonderful to hear Ridley, when the moderator gave him a chance to speak, give pointers and tell stories about some of his projects. All in all, I do wish this film had been better because I have and do, so enjoy almost all of Ridley’s projects.

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, August 23, 2016 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, September 2, 2016