Spider-Man_Into_PosterA few years ago, after the big Sony hack, Sony and Marvel resumed the failed talks about  Spider-Man films. It resulted in the very fun Spider-Man: Homecoming, pretty much run by Marvel. But Sony still holds the rights to do with the Spider-Man characters what they want.  And so…that gives us this animated feature.

Miles Morales lives with his mom and dad, but is starting life at a new school. After a frustrating week, he goes to see his uncle Aaron, who takes him to a hidden place where he can do some street art. Miles gets bit by a Spider-Man. When he witnesses a tragedy and finds himself having to make a promise to Spider-Man moments before he is killed…with no idea how to do it. Until he stumbles across Peter Parker…Spider-Man???

They discover that whatever the Spider-Man of Mile’s Morales’ world was trying to thwart has actually brought several Spider People into Miles’ world. But the world may end and so they have to team up to send everyone home and stop the destruction of the Spider-Verse.

And you know what? This only sounds confusing.  Because the movie manages to make everything pretty darn simple. Our focus is on Miles, and even the Spider-Man we meet in the beginning is a celebrity. We don’t get to know him. We just get glimpses, enough to know he was a real hero.

The film also gives us intros to each character that are a whole lot of fun. Each Spider-Man has a unique look and artistic style. And it even impacts how they interact with the world they are in. Spider-Man Noir speaks in dark pulpy fashion and is always in black and white. And he is perplexed by color.

Jake Johnson’s Spider-Man is one whose life went a bit off track compared to the Spider-Man of Mile’s world.  Spider-Gwen is keeping the world at bay, avoiding really connecting to people. And Spider-Ham is just hilarious.

This movie has a lot of heart, there are genuinely touching moments. Moments between Miles and his father, Peter and the life he has left in his universe (wondering if it is even worth going back to). Miles and Gwen, Miles and Peter….

But the film is also ridiculously funny.  I mean, seriously funny. And part of that is in how the movie makes use of its medium. I cannot recall another animated film that took such grand opportunity to put it’s possibilities on full display.

In my book? This has been the best of all the Spider-Man movies. I want more with these characters. I want more movies with this version of Miles and his family and all the other Spider-People. This was a genuinely fun movie and I recommend checking it out. Sony raised the bar here…And I did not expect that.  But Marvel better pay attention.

 

AMBER AND THE PRINCE ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!!

Christmas_Prince_Royal_Wedding_posterSo, Amber has made a name for herself blogging about her relationship with the Prince and his family. But, surprise, surprise, none of this is sitting well with the Royals. Well, the Queen and the Prince are a bit distracted by unrest in the country. But the employees of the royal family are dead set on keeping the protocols as the wedding looms.

Amber’s New York bred father is in town and things are off to a rocky start (a new actor is in the role and there is a sort of funny gag where Emily tells Amber that he looks different without his goatee). As the country is in turmoil, the problems become bigger as Amber’s blog gets taken down by the royals and her plans to pick the royal Christmas tree is constantly getting interrupted.

The problem is, the austerity subplot kind of undermines Amber. She seem’s downright petty at times. People are losing their jobs and she is mad about her wedding dress. However, the film does try and fix this, as it does show Amber trying to get to the bottom of just why the country’s infrastructure program is performing so abysmally.

They try and do some surprises, both with returning characters and new ones…but I have to say, the biggest twist was pretty easy to anticipate.

I think if you loved the first one, you will enjoy this one. I found the first film perfectly light entertainment, but I do feel like this film hurts itself with its attempts at real world issues being forced into a fairytale format. I did not hate it, but I cannot recommend this one unless you were a die-hard fan of the first film.

Christmas_Prince_PosterAmber is a journalist with big dreams to break a big story. She gets the assignment to go to a small country and cover its playboy prince, who seems far from ready to inherit the throne.  She arrives, only to find that the story she was sent there for is pretty much canceled. But as she expects to return home, she is instead mistaken for the new tutor to the prince’s younger sister, Emily.

Amber plays along but as she gets to know the family, she finds herself torn between her ambition and their welfare. In the middle of this is a scheming cousin who seeks to take the throne for himself.  As with all deception based stories, this all blows up with Amber looking to be the bad guy on the surface, especially after the schemers find paperwork she had uncovered regarding a secret with the prince.

The film sticks closely to a very romanticized portrayal of royalty. The Prince is a pure heart who loves children (in one scene he misses a big event, leaving Amber and Emily to find him having a snowball fight with kids at the orphanage). Emily starts out as a pretentious brat, but is quick to warm to Amber and the two develop a rebellious friendship. And the Queen seems cold at first, but we soon learn she is much kinder than she lets on.

On the other side, Amber is the kind of reporter you expect in this type of story. She really wants the story, but she is also kind and sweet, and the idea of destroying lives for even the biggest story eats at her.  The film tries to mine its emotional content from the trope of “Career or Doing What Is Right”. And yet, it feels pretty pedestrian connected to the fact that her real problem is tied to romantic feelings for the prince. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole “If I Do This Am I Sacrificing My Soul” is a totally valid trope.  But it seems like whenever we see women facing a dilemma of “doing the right thing, even if it means giving up what you want most”, it always is tied to romance.

That said? I was amused in the film.  I like Rose McIver (from watching four seasons of iZombie) and Alice Krige does a solid job as the Queen…she is able to sell the turn from stern to kind quite well. The film does nothing new for it’s genre…but I did enjoy it as a cute bit holiday entertainment.

Desperately_Seeking_Santa_PosterMeet Jennifer. She is a hard working executive who oversees the mall that she has worked at since she was 17. She is trying for a promotion within the company.  She also only sees Christmas through the lens of profits for the mall. This year to bring people in, she devises the plan to have a Sexy Santa.

On her way to work one day, she jumps to the front of the line for her coffee, and runs into conflict with David. Of course, she finds out later that David is in the competition for the Sexy Santa.  Against her wishes, the committee settles on David. At the same time, he is trying to save his father’s restaurant from being destroyed for a condo development.

The two slowly start to become smitten with each other as they spar.

This is…well, a pretty standard rom com. Two people meet and do not get along, but you know from moment one that they are going to fall in love. But they follow the formula pretty well.  I mean, it is TV movie level largely light entertainment.

The film hangs heavily on Laura Vandervoot and Nick Zano. Zano’s David is pretty much the perfect guy…he is kind, helpful and remarkably selfless.  Zano brings the boyish charm that fans of Legends of Tomorrow are likely to recognize. Vandervoot is given the harder role…she is supposed to be both a bit cold but sympathetic. A lot of this is done through small moments showing her love for the employees and shop owners in the mall. They do make an attractive couple.

Overall, Desperately Seeking Santa is a cute film that does try and have a bit of heart with it’s conflicts. It is not a deep dive, but it did entertain for the most part.

Is it the End of an Era?

The_Holiday_Calender_PosterAbbey Sutton is a photographer who has been scared to ever take the same risk as her best friend Josh, a famous globe trotting photographer. He comes back to town for Christmas and starts helping her at the local Santa Display as an assisting photographer. Meanwhile, her beloved Grandfather gives her a gift from her late Grandma… an old Advent Calendar that Grandma believed led her to the love of her life.

Each day, the calendar magically produces a little toy, and Abby starts to connect them the events of the day. This leads to her meeting Ty, a very eligible single father and a doctor. A romance begins…but is he really the guy for her?

You probably can put it all together based on that.  I wanted to like this film when I saw the trailer featured Ron Cephas Jones as the grandfather…but he cannot save it, because the script pushes back. The film also kind of completely forgets about the calendar a lot. In spite of clearly being magical, the rest of the film is just standard mistaken knowledge rom com during Christmas stuff.

At one point, Abby asks Ty what he knows about her…his answer is basically that she is hot and talented. Understandably, his lack of deeper reasons frustrates her…but truthfully? They movie fails to give us much of anything more. There are no compelling characters. Ty is first the blandly decent guy, but turns into the blandly shallow guy. Josh is her best friend who she should probably really be in love with…her parents are apparently pushing for her to take the safety of a job with the law firm they own, but there is little conflict in the film.

It feels like the movie just wants you to take the queues from all the other movies like this that you have seen, and nobody seems invested in giving it a lot of heart, which is disappointing.

The_Princess_Switch_PosterStacy is the owner of a small but popular bake shop. Stacy is a nice but constantly trying to control her future. Right before Christmas, her sous chef Kevin and his daughter Olivia that they entered her in a contest… and she won the opportunity for an all expense paid to a European country to participate in a bake-off. Initially, she refuses.  But after running into an ex, she impulsively decides to go on the trip. Kevin and Olivia join her (as he is Stacy’s Sous Chef).

After arriving, her friends push to enjoy the trip, but not Stacy. She is focused on not making mistakes. Especially after a rival from her past appears on the scene. Stacy bumps into Lady Margaret, who is there as a judge and is due to marry the Prince in a few days.

They find they are practically identical twins (well, yeah, they are both played by Hudgens). Lady Margaret convinces Stacy to switch places so she can experience life as a commoner. Of course, after they switch, both women start to discover what they felt was missing in their lives…including Kevin and the Prince. While Stacy has never been more than friends with Kevin, Margaret is smitten almost instantly, and the same for occurs when Stacy meets the Prince. There are hijinks as the women try and keep their switch a secret.

The movie takes the Fairy Tale approach, where there is very little complexity…for example, at no time do the women have trouble keeping their accents in check. And everything works out perfectly in the end. There is a rather unnecessary addition of a kindly old man who magically shows up randomly whenever a character needs a “push”. Is he some sort of Christmas spirit? An angel? Santa? Who knows. Is he even magical? Or is he just a big time world traveler.

The cast is okay, but nobody rises above the material, instead, all fitting perfectly into the standard roles this kind of story calls for.

So, the film is…alright. I mean, if you love Hallmark style Christmas movies? This is actually pretty fun.

Christmas_Chronicles_PosterTeddy and Kate grew up in a happy home with joyful parents and a truly festive father. Through a series of home videos we meet the family, first Doug and Claire, then Teddy and soon Kate. But by the time we reach the present, the happy family is in a different state…Claire is a nurse struggling to keep her fraying home life together at all. Doug is nowhere to be seen and the once tight-knit Teddy and Kate are in constant fights, in part because Teddy has become withdrawn and started to follow a path of crime.

When he is forced to babysit his sister on Christmas eve, Teddy gives into Kate begging him to watch an old Christmas video. Insisting she sees Santa slip into the picture, they set up to watch for Santa.  But rather than just get video proof, Kate slips into Santa’s slay. The two are soon revealed and after a crash landing find themselves having to help Santa successfully get his reindeer, hat and presents and everything delivered within a few hours or ruin Christmas.

It is a pretty simple story with common beats, kids who need to learn the truth about themselves and Christmas…redemption.

Does this mean it is bad or even just boring? Actually, no. The film actually is pretty entertaining. It is light and fun, but still can hit some emotional resonance.  The reveal of why their father is no longer there and how this drives Teddy.

Of course, the biggest help for the film is Kurt Russell as probably the toughest hunk of a Santa Ever. Russell plays the role with a nod to the notion that he is not really the most likely candidate for Santa…but he brings his own kindly tough guy charm to the film. This is a modern Santa, yet still a very magical one.

For me, this one mostly hits the right notes, enough to find it an entertaining holiday film.

Plus, while obviously animated, it was kind of nice that they did not just put a bunch of kids in pointy ears and call them elves.

Holidaze

Well, here we are. Another year has almost passed. for December, a friend made a suggestion this year that maybe I should review a bunch of Hallmark Christmas movies. I hesitated, but decided to go forward. I am not sticking with just Hallmark films…instead, I am just going to dive into the (mostly) Christmas Rom Com TV movie world. Uh…wish me luck…

Kurt_Clause

So, Stan Lee has passed away. For a lot of us that was a bummer, and we all were tweeting and posting about Stan. Then Bill Maher had two step into it and blamed us for Trump.