Movie Review – Four Christmases

Four Christmases (2008)
Written by Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, Jon Lucas, and Scott Moore
Directed by Seth Gordon

I hardly ever enjoy disparaging another fellow Seth, but for Mr. Gordon, I will make an exception. He made quite an entertaining pop documentary in The King of Kong, giving us one of the great villains of the 2000s, in video game veteran Billy Mitchell. And to be fair, I don’t place the blame for this movie squarely on the director’s shoulders. Watching Four Christmases, something was happening in the background that most viewers likely didn’t notice. Even with my attention to detail, it took me a few days after watching the picture for all the pieces to come together. It was a Christmas movie starring Jon Favreau and Mary Steenburgen, and the cartoon level slapstick and the proliferation of cameo performances by well-known faces and…is that Peter Billingsley (A Christmas Story) as a ticket agent? When I saw New Line Cinema distributed the picture, it all suddenly made sense. Four Christmases was an attempt (as ridiculous as this sounds) to squeeze more money from the audience that loved Elf. 

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Movie Review – Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls (2006)
Written by Matt Corman, Chris Ord, and Don Rhymer
Directed by John Whitesell

Surviving Christmas is objectively the worst holiday film I have ever seen. However, Deck the Halls does not lag far behind. What redeems it only the slightest is Danny Devito. Without him, the movie would have been unwatchable. I try not to shit on directors too much; just like actors, movie-making is a job for them, and you often take work you aren’t excited about because it affords you opportunities down the road. However, John Whitesell has just cultivated a career of utter shit. Before directing this Christmas flick, Whitesell gave us such gems as Jamie Kennedy’s Malibu’s Most Wanted and Big Momma’s House 2. You’ll be happy to know that Whitesell was able to keep cranking ’em out and went on to direct Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. Unfortunately, we face this pedigree when sitting down to watch Deck the Halls.

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Movie Review – The Holiday

The Holiday (2006)
Written & Directed by Nancy Meyers

I don’t really enjoy much of Nora Ephron’s work. It’s just not my taste, but I acknowledge there are things I like. Despite knowing it is such a flawed picture, I have a soft spot for My Blue Heaven. Ephron’s closest contemporary is Nancy Meyers. Both women were gaining steam during the same period, and they made films targeted at women…well, white women. Where Ephron can be playful & inventive, even if it doesn’t always work (see Bewitched), Meyers consistently wallows in indulgent upper-middle-class fluff. I actually went into The Holiday with a moderate amount of open-mindedness. For years, I heard people defend the movie citing the Kate Winslet/Jack Black half of the picture as worthwhile. I like both those performers and decided to include this in my A Very 2000s Christmas series and was looking forward to them.

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Movie Review – The Family Stone

The Family Stone (2005)
Written & Directed by Thomas Bezucha

To say The Family Stone is the least bad movie out of the seven I have watched for this series would be accurate, but also not a sign that I enjoyed watching it. I just suffered the least amount during this one. Everything about the story would work better as part of a television series. You have a family dynamic with one person coming from outside, conflict arises, and we get a maudlin sitcom-ish happy ending. The movie is confusing in who this is trying to appeal to as it features incredibly unlikable characters (even the ones we are supposed to like) but then is also wall-to-wall unfunny when it attempts comedy yet also poor at its attempts for pathos. 

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Movie Review – Christmas With The Kranks

Christmas With The Kranks (2004)
Written by Chris Columbus
Directed by Joe Roth

There is an air of nastiness, spitefulness & meanness in the Christmas films of this era. It wasn’t just in the holiday pictures, but if you looked at comedies and action flicks of the period, you find the same simmering hatred of humanity just oozing out of every pore. It could be argued that Chris Columbus is one of the chief architects of this trend. His duology of Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York seeded American holiday cinema with an air of cruelty. But cruelty has always been present in America, especially in our stories. Look at the deluge of racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc., et al., ad infinitum. Americans (and I am one of them) are mean people because of social conditioning under capitalism. Competition supersedes cooperation. Cruelty outweighs kindness.

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Movie Review – Surviving Christmas

Surviving Christmas (2004)
Written by Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan, Jennifer Ventimilia, and Joshua Sternin
Directed by Mike Mitchell

It began in 2000. Sony Pictures wanted to develop a film for actress/comedian/director Betty Thomas. By this time, she’d directed films like The Brady Bunch Movie, Howard Stern’s Private Parts, and Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Doolittle. These weren’t ground-breaking movies, but people out there feel compelled to watch at least one of these if they come across it on television. The Brady Bunch Movie is mine. The more the film developed, the more Sony became hesitant to make it and eventually washed its hands of the project. So, Surviving Christmas found its way to Dreamworks. Ms. Buckley also smartly walked away from the movie.

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Movie Review – How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman
Directed by Ron Howard

Why? This is a question I often ask when going back and looking at older films, especially those adapted from popular IPs. These days it’s surprising when a film playing in the theater isn’t a cash grab on a well-known character or a single piece of an endlessly sprawling cinematic universe. In 2000, we were by no means in a golden age of cinema, but at least you could see something and be surprised by it. For years, Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, had refused to sell the film rights to his children’s books. He’d okayed some cartoon shorts but held fast that he didn’t want movie theaters to be showing bloated versions of his simplistic texts. Then he died in 1991. “Take that, you book-writing bitch!” Hollywood seemed to cackle. By 1998, the boys in LA had convinced Geisel’s widow to sign over the film rights of The Grinch. She stipulated in a letter that whoever plays the Grinch must be of the stature of “Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, and Dustin Hoffman.” All this makes me want is a Nicholson-led Grinch. Can you imagine?!

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Movie Review – Scream 3

Scream 3 (2000)
Written by Ehren Kruger
Directed by Wes Craven

The success of the first two Scream movies made it inevitable that a third would be coming down the pipeline, and sure enough, it dropped with the new millennium. With his original script, writer Kevin Williamson provided treatments for two potential sequels. By the time production on the third film rolled around, Williamson had garnered a full plate of work and was unavailable to pen the script. He was writing & directing the short-lived tv series Wasteland and his feature film debut, Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Miramax decided to move on without Williamson. Then Columbine happened, and suddenly Hollywood executives started wondering if they should make films that were playful with murder & violence. The result was a mandate that Scream 3 lean more into the satirical elements than the murderous parts resulting in a tonally strange entry into the series.

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Comic Book Review – Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns & Agent Orange

Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns (2009)
Reprints Green Lantern #26-28, 36-38 & Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Mike McKone, Shane Davis, and Ivan Reis

Green Lantern: Agent Orange (2009)
Reprints Green Lantern #39-42 & Blackest Night #0
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Phillip Tan, Eddy Barrows, Ivan Reis, Rafael Albuquerque, and Doug Mahnke

In the wake of The Sinestro Corps War, Geoff Johns was fleshing out the rest of the color spectrum in a build-up to the even more significant Blackest Night event. If you notice the gap in the issues Rage of the Red Lanterns covers, it’s because those issues appeared in Green Lantern: Secret Origin. Going back to that story, you see the importance of Atrocitus and the seeds being planted for Blackest Night. Secret Origin has also done a great job establishing the more complex relationship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro. We get a great scene in Rage, where Hal talks with Sinestro. The villain was captured at the end of The Sinestro Corps War but seems completely confident he’s in no harm. It’s an ideological war between these two, with Sinestro holding a far more complex and nuanced view of the universe and justice than the rather blunt Jordan.

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Comic Book Review – Green Lantern: Wanted-Hal Jordan and The Sinestro Corps War

Green Lantern: Wanted – Hal Jordan (2007)
Reprints Green Lantern #14-20
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Daniel Acuna

The Sinestro Corps War (2007)
Reprints Green Lantern #21-25, Green Lantern Corps #14-19, Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special
Written by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, and Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ethan van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Angel Unzueta, Pascal Alixe, Dustin Nguyen, and Jamal Igle

In the wake of Infinite Crisis, all DC mainline titles leaped forward by one year. That gap year was covered in the year-long weekly series 52, which you can read my reviews for. While Johns was one of the chief architects of the whole affair, it’s clear from reading Wanted – Hal Jordan he didn’t necessarily want this for the Green Lantern. In some ways (the Sinestro Corps), it gave time for threats to reasonably build in intensity, but Johns also tells a similar story to Revenge of the Green Lanterns. While that story was about Jordan dealing with the fallout from his actions as Parallax on the Corps, Wanted keeps him on Earth against the Global Guardians and Rocket Red Brigade as he deals with the consequences of violating foreign airspace. 

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