DECEMBER 2020 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

Hello everyone!! Happy New Year! Wow, I’m still not used to saying that, ahah. Well, do you feel different now that 2020 is behind us? No? Well, me neither. But hey, I am hopeful for 2021, I mean there is only one way but up after the year we’ve had right? It has to!!

Ok well, I watched quite a few movies/series in December, partly because I had a few days off and as the weather turns colder, we stay in more often.

So here’s what I watched in November:

New-to-me Movies

Mulan (2020)

I had been anticipating this for sometime but I wasn’t going to pay 30 bucks to watch it, so I finally watched it when it became available for free on Disney+. Well, I’m glad I didn’t pay for it… I mean, it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I just wasn’t moved by it. So overall it’s not a terribly memorable film, I’m not sure I’d even review it.

Much Ado About Nothing – ShakespeaReTold (2005)


I saw this at my friend’s house, mostly because Tom Ellis is in it. It’s alright, it’s an amusing take on Shakespeare with famous Brits.

Last Christmas (2019)

I was a big fan of George Michael growing up so naturally a movie based on his Christmas hits intrigued me, esp. when it’s written by Emma Thompson. It’s a charming rom-com, a bit on the frothy site but it has a big heart. Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding have a sweet chemistry and the scenery definitely gets me in the Christmas mood.

Effie Gray (2014)

Ok, I was curious to see this one as it’s also written by Emma Thompson, but I’ve never even heard of it before. Well, this one turns out to be really, really slow and dull, there’s barely any spark in this movie to make you want to be invested in the story. Despite the beautiful scenery, it’s almost unwatchable. I wouldn’t even recommend this to fans of period dramas.

Wander Darkly (2020)

This romantic drama is well-worth a look for the two leads. Read my full review

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Check out my Music Break with songs from this jubilant Christmas movie.

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

To be honest, I only watched this one because of Ethan Peck (yep, Gregory’s equally dashing grandson). ‘Twas the season, so I was up for watching more Christmas-themed movies than usual. Unfortunately this one turns out to be one of the meh ones with a corny and predictable story. Kat Graham seems to be popular in this genre, as she’s also in Operation Christmas Drop. Nope, not going to even touch that one.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas (1965)

I live in Minnesota but for some reason I’ve never seen this movie! Yes I know, crazy right? Well, I’m glad I finally did. It’s such a cute movie and it’s actually refreshing to watch a simple, traditional animation style.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

The Movies that Made Us – Elf (2020)

I really enjoy watching this Making-Of series that explored the journey of how some famous/iconic movies got made. As a filmmaker, it’s entertaining as well as insightful… it’s amazing that most of the producers were relative newcomers. David Berenbaum had definitely written a brilliant script, and they were able to get Will Ferrell AND director Jon Favreau, who’s proven to be one of the most talented filmmakers working today.

News Of the World (2020)

Tom Hanks is one of the most reliable actors working today. Apparently this is his first Western and it’s a good one. Full review upcoming.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)


Check out my full review of WW84

Soul (2020)

Full review upcoming

WolfWalker (2020)

Full review upcoming

Death To 2020 – Mockumentary (2020)

I was intrigued to watch this because it’s by Black Mirror‘s creator Charlie Brooker, and it’s got some big name stars as talking-head ‘experts.’ A parody of a year that’s been beset with, well too many things really, is a provocative premise, but overall this mockumentary isn’t all that funny and pretty lame. Heck, it’s more amusing to just watch real news!


TV Series

The Mandalorian Season 2

Bridgerton

Two very different shows but both are worth watching for different reasons. As a fan of period dramas, obviously I enjoy Bridgerton, which is far juicier than any Jane Austen movies, ha! It’s more in line with Outlander in terms of its juicy sex scenes, but no blood/violence to speak of… yet.

I’m still thinking about the finale of both shows, thankfully they have been renewed for season 3 and season 2, respectively. Too bad we have a long time to wait for this as they probably haven’t even started shooting yet.


Rewatches

Notting Hill

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Return to Me

It’s A Wonderful Life

Wow, I must have been feeling quite sentimental as I watched mostly rom-coms, ahah. Well except for that last one… it’s been ages since I saw the Frank Capra classic and last year was definitely the perfect time to rewatch i.


MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

Soul + Wolfwalker

I saw these two back-to-back, and both are visually spectacular. They’re completely different in terms of narratives and animation styles but I love each of them in its own unique way. I highly recommend both of them if you haven’t already.


Per tradition, I usually wait until mid January until I post my Top 10 Films of the year… so stay tuned for that!


Well, what did you watch in December and what’s YOUR fave movie you saw last month?

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NEW YEAR Special: Five memorable scenes set on New Year’s Eve

Well folks, it’s just hours before we’re done with 2020. I think the less said about this year we’re about to leave behind the better. I know I am looking forward to the year ahead… I mean, looking at how we spent most of the year during a pandemic, I sure hope there’s only one way but up!

Now, as most of us likely aren’t gonna be ringing the new year in a festive way, we can always live vicariously through characters in the movies. So here are five memorable New Year’s Eve scenes that have proven to be quite timeless…

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

Leave it to Nora Ephron to write/direct tons of memorable scenes set during the holiday season. There are even two indelible ones from her most famous rom-coms, one being When Harry Met Sally in 1989, then this one a few years later, also with Meg Ryan as the lead.

I have a soft spot for Sleepless In Seattle so I included this one. There’s just something so sweet and charming in the whole story, no matter how fantastical the premise may be. It’ll melt even the most cynical people as the dialog and performances are just so amazing. I love this ending scene at the top of Empire State Building, inspired by Ryan’s character beloved romance An Affair To Remember … it’s perhaps one of the greatest rom-com scenes ever. From the moment Tom Hanks‘ Sam says to Annie ‘it’s you…’ to when she looked at him and says, ‘Sam, it’s nice to meet you’ which makes Sam’s kid Jonah grinning widely… it’s simply magical.

Snowpiercer (2013)

Well, not every New Year’s Eve can be all romantic, fun and festive… but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be memorable. Given the year we’ve had, I simply had to include this scene from this post-apocalyptic film to counter balance out the jubilant ones. Don’t we all wish we could bludgeon Covid-19 virus to death like these guys?

The movie is set in the year is 2031 (heck that’s just a decade later!) and the world has been destroyed in a climate disaster where survivors had to live on a massive train named Snowpiercer that circles the globe. There’s a celebration of the New Year to mark each time the train make one circumnavigation of the globe. It’s on one of those days that the lower-class passengers on the back of the train force their way to the elites on the front. A fierce, brutal battle ensues… let’s just say we’d all likely coming out unscathed compared to these guys, yes even in 2020!

In any case, if you haven’t seen Bong Joon-ho‘s brilliant English-language debut, well it’s never too late to do so.

The Age of Adaline (2015)

I love, love this underrated romance drama. Yes, I realize the ‘science’ behind how Adaline became ‘immune to the ravages of time’ isn’t exactly legit, after all most people would certainly perish if the car they drive plunges into a lake and got hit by lightning. But hey, in an era of superhero movies where people gain superpowers for all kinds of weird reasons, I’d think we can easily suspend our disbelief for this one.

This is the first time I saw Blake Lively and I have to say she’s breathtakingly beautiful here and there’s an air of mystery about her that is bewitching. The costume design is simply stunning, especially the red velvet gown Adaline wears to the NYE party. She catches the eye of hunky Ellis (Michiel Huisman) which leads to one of the swooniest movie meet-cute ever.

Phantom Thread (2017)

I have to admit that the first time I saw this movie I wasn’t immediately won over. As I mentioned in my review, I wasn’t moved by it as it’s definitely not a conventional love story, in fact it’s a twisted one. But still, it’s a film I appreciate and Paul Thomas Anderson and a thought-provoking one as well. I read an article analyzing the psychological aspect of the film, and the relationship expert said that Daniel Day Lewis‘ Reynolds is a perfectionist and is all about precision. But love is not precise and unlike a piece of fabric, a wife isn’t a ‘thing’ a man can mold however one likes.

The film is visually gorgeous, which is astonishing as PTA himself shot this, he did not work with a DP. The New Year’s Eve scene is a moment of defiance for Alma (mesmerizing Vicky Krieps) who leaves her humdrum husband at home and goes to a costume party. He in turns follows her, watching from a distance at first… and the scene of the two of them dance alone in a deserted concert hall with balloons, confetti everywhere is simply exquisite. A spotlight beams down on them as they embrace… and though we don’t know if their marriage would survive, it seems there’s a sliver of hope. Complemented by Jonny Greenwood‘s evocative score, this scene leaves an indelible mark in cinema history.

The Apartment (1960)

It’s been ages since I saw this classic rom-com, still regarded as one of the best classic romance of all time. There’s a similarity to Sleepless In Seattle, where the female protagonist suddenly realizes that the man she is spending NYE with isn’t the one she wants to spend her entire life with.

Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon have such a lovely chemistry in this Billy Wilder‘s classic. Apparently the writer/director was inspired to write this after seeing Brief Encounter (1945), a beautiful romantic drama I still need to review one of these days.

I’m posting two clips here as I love the contrast of a festive NYE party, with the crowds ringing the new year as Auld Lang Syne is playing… and she ponders that there’s somewhere else she’d rather be. Then cut to Fran running to Baxter’s apartment… away from crowds and all the festivities, it’s just a party of two, playing cards. As he finally declares his love for her, the only reply she gives is: “Shut up and deal.” Not exactly a romantic gesture, but it’s absolutely perfect.


THANK YOU to all of you who have visited/commented and supported this blog all these years!

Here’s to a much better 2021!

FlixChatter Review: WANDER DARKLY (2020)

The story of Wander Darkly centers on new parents Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna), who are suddenly forced to deal with a traumatic incident amidst their troubled relationship. In fact, the characters are in right in the middle of an argument when an accident happens. It wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that the film deals heavily with themes of death and existence, as it’s been revealed the trailer and the promos.

It’s never clear though if the characters walk among the living or the dead, particularly in regards to Adrienne. Is she dead or isn’t she? The film weaves in and out of ‘cinematic consciousness’ if you will, as you’re not quite sure what’s real and what’s in the character’s head. Adrienne is seemingly stuck in purgatory as she sees her physical body in the hospital gurney. But then Matteo ‘joins’ her and he’s hellbent in convincing her she is still alive.

The film shows various montages of the couple revisiting memories of their past. Again, I don’t know if these are memories or actual flashback of their lives together, from the time the first met, that is their ‘honeymoon’ state even though they’re not married. In fact, the fact that they’re not married is one of the point of constant argument and it’s clear Adrienne is quite resentful of the fact that Matteo never proposed.

Miller and Luna have a wonderful chemistry and the two talented actors gave their all to their respective roles. They are believable as mis-matched couple who struggle to make things work, taking us on their emotional roller-coaster. Though the couple seems in love, but they constantly bicker and at times their arguments get pretty heated as they lash out at each other. There’s a certain distrust between them that’s played out in a pretty realistic way, given how chummy Matteo is with a sexy female ‘friend’ of his. Matteo is not exactly portrayed like a Don Juan type, but he doesn’t exactly assures his girlfriend and mother of his child of his fidelity.

Glad to see Luna portray a non-stereotypical Mexican man (at least not the kind that’s often portrayed in Hollywood) and this is the first time I see him in a dramatic role. I also appreciate that the filmmakers honor his heritage, as there are scenes during the Day of the Dead, which is a Mexican holiday. I haven’t seen Miller in too many dramatic leading roles either, but she’s quite convincing here in a deeply-emotional performance. You could say Adrienne is the heart and soul of the movie and her heartbreak is quite heart-wrenching. Adrienne becomes almost lifeless at times, perhaps the filmmaker’s trying to illustrate that she’s been ‘dead inside’ the whole time, I’m not sure. The bit of her watching a zombie movie is a bit on the nose, but it’s one of those rare droll moments in this film.

I read that writer/director Tara Miele had suffered a car crash that became the inspiration for the film. Interestingly, and perhaps that’s how these talents end up working together, Luna’s mother died when he was only two in a car accident, so this story is clearly a personal one for the two of them. The car crash itself, and the moment leading up to it is quite nightmarish to watch, even though you knew it’s going to happen.

This is pretty heavy movie told in a non-linear way from start to finish, which made the relatively brisk 1.5 hour running time feels much longer. We spend practically the entire film with just two characters who aren’t exactly likable, filled with constant bickering between them, as well as the resentments towards Adrienne’s mother (Beth Grant). Now, I don’t mind slower movies, and I think the non-conventional storytelling style gives this movie an edge. I just wish there’s a bit of levity or sense of humor to give us a break from the constant dread and somber tones. It doesn’t help that the cinematography also looks too dark at times. I guess it’s possible that the filmmakers are trying purposely making things feel disoriented as that’s how the characters are feeling, but it doesn’t exactly make it a pleasant viewing.

At times the film felt experimental, which is fine in and of itself but it doesn’t always work well here. The visual transitions between the two worlds Adrienne is seemingly trapped in gets confusing at times, which adds to the frustration. There’s also one particular scene towards the end that feels like an unnecessary jump scare, which feels at odds with the rest of the film.

That said, I always appreciate seeing a film about love, especially a character-driven one that’s poignant and heartfelt. I commend Miele for taking such a harrowing personal experience of her car crash into an art form. I’m not familiar with her work, but this is her fourth feature film and she’s also done directing work for TV series (Hawaii Five-O, Arrow). She’s definitely a talented filmmaker who can bring out fantastic performances out of her cast. I’d love to see more of her work in the future.

Have you seen WANDER DARKLY? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Wonder Woman 1984

There are few 2020 movies that are as anticipated as WW1984. No wonder, it’s apparently got seven release dates, as far back as last December 2019, then it got moved around several times mostly due to Covid, then Warner Bros shifted its entire upcoming movie schedule until it’s got its dual premiere in theater and HBO Max. Well, I live in a state where there’s a state mandate to close movie theaters, so I saw it on streaming.

The opening sequence on Diana Prince’s paradise island Themyscira is quite a visual spectacle displaying the prowess of the Amazons as young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competes in an olympic-like athletic competition against those who are much older than her. It’s a cool sequence that harken back to the amazing Amazons vs German army battle in the first movie. Now, unlike the first one, I’m not sure this sequence actually fits in this movie this time around. More on that later.

After that competitive scene ends, we’re then transported to an entirely different world – 1980s Washington D.C. We’re suddenly hit with all kinds of 80s throwbacks – leg-warmers, bat wing tops, 80s sport cars, etc. It’s actually quite fun to reminisce on 80s nostalgia, especially in the shopping mall sequence where we see places/stores that no longer exist, particularly Waldenbooks as I always made a stop in that store (or B. Dalton) before Amazon (as in the retail giant, ha!) blew its competition out of the water. I think the period world building is pretty convincing, albeit not as immersive as the WWI period that Diana was thrown into in the first film.

Our heroine now works as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian, and she exudes elegance amongst the more campily-dressed rest of the world, but then again, only Gal Gadot would look lithe and graceful in loose-fitting pleated pants. There she meets her colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a bumbling nerd who’s a bit outcast. Barbara is quite star-struck by Diana, even as the two forms a tentative friendship over a new project brought by the FBI to identify some ancient gems. As it turns out, there’s something about one mysterious stone that ties both of them with an aspiring businessman (focus on the aspiring part) named Maxwell Lord (perfectly slimy Pedro Pascal) who sells his brand of Gordon-Gekko greed with aplomb–”Life is good! But it can be better!”–even when his empire is crumbling in a mountain of debt.

The 80s is all about being loud, blatant and showy, but it seems that the movie has adopted the ‘go-big-or-go-home’ mantra from that era as well, where subtlety and nuanced seems to be deemed a bad thing. The conversations between all the characters, Diana & Barbara during lunch, and all the scenes involving Lord is campy to the max, which at times is comical. I have to say that the action scenes post the opening sequence are all big, bombastic, but largely uninspired. In fact, it’s was like a big clanging cymbal that feels empty and repetitive, which you could also say the same about the film.

The entire plot is built upon this Dreamstone that can grant wishes to anyone. Unlike Aladdin’s magic lamp, it not clear how this stone actually works but we’re supposed to just go along with it. When someone in the museum office wishes for coffee in front of the thing, then voila! it magically appears. Apparently Lord’s been searching for this magical stone for a while and naturally he sees it as the solution to his economic problems, that is to get all his investors to believe in his oil investment schemes. Interestingly, the stone would grant any wish, big or small, no matter how incredulous it might be.

Thanks to this mysterious Dreamstone, everyone’s life changes in an instant. Director Patty Jenkins, who also co-wrote the script with Geoff Johns & Dave Callaham uses the moments post wish-granted as comic relief. From Barbara at the gym being all hot, sexy and super strong (channeling Jane Fonda in her leotards, rawr!) to ALL the scenes when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is all bewildered by everything in the 80s. As to those asking why in the world is Trevor back from the dead? Well, trust me, that’s not the only thing that’ll get your suspension of disbelief stretched to its snapping point, at least he was amusing in the 80s getup. Plus, Pine and Gadot have an effortlessly-playful chemistry that’s fun to watch.

I try to make most of my reviews spoiler free, but from time to time I simply have to talk about it. One of my biggest beef about Diana’s character here is the irritating inconsistency of who she’s supposed to represent. She’s supposed to be one the most powerful woman person in the world, but yet she’s shown as lonely and reclusive, unable/unwilling to make friends. SPOILER ALERT! (highlight to read)Despite initially not believing that the stone has magical powers, she made a wish anyway and that is she wants her lover back. Diana/Steve love story was beautifully-realized in the 2017 movie, but in this timeline, that was more than six decades ago, and she hasn’t moved on in all that time?? Now, I’m not against romance or anything, but bringing Steve back in this way is problematic. Somehow the movie makes Diana comes across like a lovelorn woman, which is disappointingly at odds with the message of female-empowerment.

Thus, I feel like Jenkins just want to work with Pine in the sequel and she ended up sacrificing story integrity, or worse, the integrity of the character we’ve come to love in the first film. I’m all for bringing Pine back, I just feel like his character should’ve been written in a different way. It’s also odd that the biggest action spectacles involving Wonder Woman is at the most dynamic when Steve was around as her side-kick. I’m not saying that Steve becomes Robin to Diana’s Batman necessarily, but it feels as if he was more instrumental to her ‘saving the day’ than he needed to be. He also becomes her voice of reason, which again is a re-tread to what we’ve already seen in the first film.

Which brings me to the two villains in the movie, which is definitely not created equal. With his inherent campiness and absurdity, Lord is an entertaining character to watch. Pascal is having a moment right now and I’m glad because he’s a terrific actor who finally gets his due. His character is clearly modeled after Donald Trump (“I’m not a con man but a respected television personality” ha!) but with much, much better hair. You can almost visualize Lord twirling his invisible mustache. I think the fact that Pascal is without any facial hair makes him look unsettling, like something is off, which I guess is the point.

At the same time, Pascal is still able to make the character grounded instead of making him a full-blown caricature of a modern genie. He hits the emotional moments required that makes you still sympathize with him despite the massive chaos he’s caused all over the world. I do have to mention though, I was a bit distracted by the fact that the boy who plays his son looks more Asian (like Thai or Filipino) than Latino, but perhaps I was a bit more distracted by his unconvincing acting. His nefarious plans are so grandiose and incredulous, i.e. inadvertently starting a nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union, seem to play out like SNL skits that they’re unintentionally hilarious.

Barbara, aka Cheetah, on the other hand, suffers not only from poor character development, but also from horrible special effects. I was still scratching my head as to how she suddenly became Cheetah when suddenly she’s dressed in the furry cheetah getup, slinging and taunting Diana who’s now donning the legendary Amazon warrior Asteria’s all-gold armor that she’s kept in her home. Despite being almost as powerful as Wonder Woman, Cheetah is barely menacing nor even the least bit threatening, partly because of bad CGI, but also largely because of the shaky character motivation. Barbara is more of an ugly-duckling-turned-swan run amok as she’s consumed by her own beauty and power. I like Kristen Wiig generally, but I have to say her character makes me cringe from start to finish. Her giggling and crushing over Maxwell Lord is as hard to watch as all the Cheetah action sequences.

To be fair, none of the action sequences is all that great apart from the opening sequence. That’s why I said it doesn’t fit this movie as it feels tonally different and doesn’t really advance the story forward as we have already seen how bad-ass young Diana was in the first film. It would’ve worked better as a special feature in the blu-ray instead, as it’s still spectacular to watch. To make matters worse, the music by Hans Zimmer is too loud, boisterous and irritating… I can’t even remember any of its motif/melody at all, just the fact that I wish it could be toned down (hello Dreamstone/Maxwell Lord? Were you not listening to my wish?)

At an overlong 2 hours and 31 minutes, WW84 feels derivative and preachy, which is made worse as it’s a rehash of the same virtues that’s been delivered in the first movie. So she’s basically ‘preaching to the choir’ over and over again with her lasso of truth, adding a clichéd ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage on top of that.  I guess the one improvement that can be said over the first movie is the villain is far more memorable this time around (anyone even remember Ares God of War?). Unlike The Dark Knight where the villain upstages the hero, that is in fact part of the plan and fits the Batman story as a whole. It’s quite ironic that despite showing an extended flying sequence here, Wonder Woman fails to soar.

It pains me to write this review… though I had a bad feeling after watching all the trailers, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong. Alas, that did not happen. I still like the character and Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana though, so I’m hoping this is just a singular misstep and we’d see the character rising to greatness again in its inevitable third installment.


Have you seen Wonder Woman 1984? Well, what did YOU think?

10 Favorite Movies To Watch at Christmas Time

There are certain movies that become family tradition around Christmas… from classics like White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life to more contemporary fare like Scrooged, Home Alone, Elf, and of course, the ‘honorary’ Christmas action flick of all time, Die Hard. Some people might opt for the plethora of Christmas rom-coms, which if you are one the you are in luck as Netflix has a bazillion of them that rival even the Hallmark channel!

I have to admit, I did watch three Christmas rom-coms in early December – Jingle, Jangle: A Christmas Journey (which I’ve blogged about here), The Holiday Calendar (meh!) and Last Christmas. That last one is not perfect but given it’s written by Emma Thompson and I grew up loving George Michael’s songs, the movie has its charm and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I might even do a Music Break post at some point.

Now, I’ve written about some of the movies on this list, but hey, they’re still my faves so I’m including them again here. Some of them on this list aren’t exactly Christmas movies per se, but there are some memorable scenes that you associate with the season that gets you in the holiday spirit.

LOVE, ACTUALLY

I love many Richard Curtis’ movies and this one is chock full of my favorite British actors so naturally it’s one of my go-tos around the holidays. The sappy cards-on-the-doorstep bit is everyone’s favorites, but I have to say Emma Thompson is the scene stealer here and her storyline as a dutiful wife who suspects her husband (played by the venerable Alan Rickman) is cheating on her with his hot co-worker never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

YOU’VE GOT MAIL

I’ve mentioned this movie oh-so-many-times on this blog for obvious reasons. NYC is particularly festive and lovely during Christmas season with all the sparkling lights. But it’s the quiet moments that always gets me… Katherine misses her mother as she decorates the Christmas tree at the store her late mom had built. We all miss our loved ones during the holidays, and this year is particularly tough as we can’t even spend time with our family/friends because of the lockdown.

THE HOLIDAY

Ok so this movie has issues and I have to say I have a hard time watching Cameron Diaz’s character at times. But the Kate Winslet’s storyline is much more intriguing of the two. I sure can relate to her falling hopelessly in love with a hot-but-caddish co-worker at a Christmas party… and I love her reaction when she found out just how amazing Diaz’s LA house is.

Speaking of house, Jude Law’s home is one of the dreamiest Christmas homes that actually looked believably lived-in. It’s got that warm + cozy feeling right from the entry hall.

According to this article, apparently this enchanting Mill House is located in Wonersh, Surrey. Another reason I can’t wait to go visit the UK again once this pandemic is all over!

JOYEUX NOËL

Based on a true story of an unofficial Christmas truce in December 1914, this film truly conveys the real meaning of Christmas. Such a wonderful film that shows an uplifting lesson in humanity, though the truce is such a brief one and the troops from three countries had to pay the price for their disobedience.

I highly recommend this one if you haven’t already. Here’s a clip of the singing scene.

Per IMDb, the character of the opera singer is based on that of German tenor Walter Kirchhoff (1879-1951), who travelled to the front in order to perform for the troops. His performance was met by cheers from the French lines, where upon he decided to climb on to no-mans-land to see who was cheering.

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY

I actually just bought the blu-ray of this one. I figured I’d get a lot of watch out of it that it’s better to buy it instead of renting. Helen Fielding created such a fun, relatable character in Bridget and the movie still made me laugh after all these years. Fielding wrote the screenplay along with two of my fave British writers, Andrew Davies (responsible for a bunch of Jane Austen adaptations) and Richard Curtis (natch!). Texas-born Renée Zellweger is simply marvelous as Bridget, which proves she’s quite a versatile actress who made the iconic British character her own. It’s quite fun seeing Hugh Grant playing a cad, too, which I think is closer to his own persona than the goody-two-shoes roles of his other rom-coms.

KLAUS

This Oscar-nominated animated movie is such a wonder. Per IMDb, director Sergio Pablos had wanted to do a traditionally animated feature film, so the studio used CGI lighting techniques with hand-drawn animation to create a unique animation style for the story. The visuals are simply amazing to behold, but it’s the story that warms your heart. An imaginative take of a classic about a postman who befriends toymaker Klaus, whose friendship ends up changing the lives of the people in two feuding towns. The quintessential feel-good family movie that’ll make you laugh and cry… I know I’ll be watching this for years to come.

THE FAMILY MAN

I saw this quite a while ago and despite it being a mash-up of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, it’s still got its charms. Nic Cage is basically Scrooge, a successful, narcissistic business man who thinks he’s got it all. Then he meets Don Cheadle one fateful night and he’s given a glimpse of an alternate universe of what might’ve been if he hadn’t leave his college girlfriend and married her instead. Funny and heartwarming, it’s the kind of movie that makes you reflect on your own life and figure out just what’s really important to you.

ELF

I just watched Netflix’s The Holiday Movies That Made Us documentary series which shows the real stories behind these iconic Christmas blockbusters, thanks to insider interviews and behind-the-scenes peeks. The ELF episode is especially fascinating for me who’s struggling striving to make a feature film, as it shows just how challenging it is to make a movie. Everything had to align just right and even so, there’s no guarantee the movie would be a hit.

It seems Will Ferrell was born to play the Elf who travels from North Pole to NYC to locate his father after discovering he is a human. Beautifully written by David Berenbaum, who made this as an homage to his own father, this movie has the crucial ingredient for a Christmas classic: a big, huge heart. I forgot that Jon Favreau directed this, which further proves he’s one of the most talented and versatile filmmakers working in Hollywood today.

VICAR OF DIBLEY – CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2006

I actually just watched this a couple of days ago and though it’s not a movie, I simply had to include it on this list. This popular British sit-com is yet another one of Richard Curtis‘ creations and it’s so brilliantly funny and irreverent. Dawn French is hilarious as the boisterous female minister (vicar) Geraldine Granger who serves in an eccentrically-conservative small town’s church.

This Christmas episode is actually the final season, consisting of just two episode where Geraldine gets swept off her feet by a handsome stranger (Richard Armitage) and finally becomes the bride after officiating thousands of weddings. I love that Geraldine also loves Sense and Sensibility, she’s in fact shown to be watching the Ang Lee version on the show! Interestingly, James Fleet, who plays Hugo Horton in the series, played John Dashwood in the Jane Austen movie.

I found some excerpts of this episode in Vimeo, so enjoy!

 

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

I saw this a decade ago for the first time and I haven’t re-watched it since, so some details were quite hazy to me. Well, I’m glad I rewatched this two days before I wrote this list, as I’ve come to appreciate this Christmas classic even more!

I love James Stewart‘s moving performance as George Bailey, despite the character being originally developed at another studio with Cary Grant in mind. Apparently this was Donna Reed’s first starring role as she’s wonderful as Bailey’s love interest Mary, who I think is as much a savior in Bailey’s life as Clarence the angel. Frank Capra cited this as one of his favorite films and it’s certainly has stood the test of time. Yes it’s melodramatic at times and some of the scenes are a product of its time, but the uplifting and inspiring message is one that generations to come would still enjoy and relate to. Given the pandemic and many of us feeling down and perhaps even desolate, this story resonates even more.

This is the most iconic scenes in the film and perhaps ranks as the most indelible one in all classic films. Even though I had seen this before and it’s one of the most shared clips/gifs, I still can’t help feeling really emotional watching this. Bailey’s problems of being $8,000 short still remains, but his outlook on life has drastically changed. The part when he wished the evil Mr. Potter a Merry Christmas through his office window is both funny and touching.

Per IMDb, the set for Bedford Falls was constructed in two months and was one of the longest sets that had ever been made for an American movie.

Despite being set around Christmas, the film was filmed during a heat wave, in fact this exact scene was actually filmed on a scorching July day. It got to be so hot that director Frank Capra gave everyone a day off to recuperate.


In the spirit of Christmas AND his love for Star Wars, my hubby made this mash-up arrangement. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂


Here’s wishing all of you

a BLESSED & JOYFUL CHRISTMAS…

Stay safe + healthy!


Guest Post: MINARI (2020)


Editor (Ruth)’s note: This is a guest review from my friend and fellow movie lover Jessie Zumeta, who saw this at Sundance Film Festival last January. 


A charming exploration of what holds people together, Minari is a semi autobiographical story of a Korean American family trying to sustain their farm in rural Arkansas. Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, the film is set during the 1980’s during the heyday of agricultural subsidies. Like many Asian American films it follows a family in search of the American dream. The parents, Monica (Yeri Han) and Jacob (Steven Yeun) immigrate many years previously and their children have been raised stateside however they are still working hard to create the life they envisioned for themselves.

The set design was lovingly and painstakingly created from memory and the way the film is shot and lit creates a nostalgic and dream-like quality. The cast did a lot of preparation in order to create realistic and natural kind of dynamics between each family member. This care to the smallest of details elevates this film from a cutesy film about an individual family to a deeply moving, nuanced portrait of people finding their place in the world.

In a clever and charming juxtaposition, the young son David (Alan S. Kim) and his maternal grandmother Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn) form an unlikely bond. Their playful and prank-fueled relationship serves as a bridge between what the parents (particularly Monica) left in their homeland and what they were able to create in their new life. This intergenerational relationship serves as a fusion of their biculturalism. As grandma shows David minari, an herb used in Korean cooking, David shares his Mountain Dew. It is these interpersonal moments that sets this film apart.

Throughout the film each member of the Yi family is negotiating who they are in their new home, balancing aspects of their Korean identity with new traits they acquired while living and working in the United States. Chung explores this beautifully with kindness but also an unfiltered rawness of someone with personal knowledge of this experience. The one constant through everything is their constant love and care for one another.

This film, named for a hearty vegetable common in Korean cooking. This veggie is well known for growing back stronger the second season. Like the plant that can easily be transplanted and grows without too much difficulty, the Yi family uproot themselves to America and through determination are able to create a new life. This shows with careful tending, people and relationships like minari have the capacity to grow anywhere.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Per Wikipedia, the film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2020, winning both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. It began a limited release in the US on December 11, prior to its wide release on February 12, 2021, by A24.


Have you seen MINARI? Well, what did you think? 

Thursday Movie Picks: Films Directed by a Female Director

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Films Directed by a Female Director.

I have to admit I hadn’t seen as many films by female directors as much as I should. There are still a few movies I’m hoping to see later this month that are directed by women: Promising Young Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, One Night in Miami, to name a few.

Well, for this week’s TMP, I thought I’d pick two movies I saw in 2020 and one underrated movie by a female director that I haven’t talked about on this blog but I really think people should check out.

In any case, here are my three picks:

On The Rocks (2020)

Directed by Sofia Coppola

A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.

I mentioned this on my November recap that I decided to watch this after listening to a review of it on NPR. The idea of seeing a movie set in NYC where the characters roamed around Manhattan and having drinks at a swanky speakeasy bar like the 21 Club just sounds so enchanting during lockdown. I was living vicariously through Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, who play father and daughter in this Sofia Coppola dramedy.

I mentioned that there’s a bit of a Woody Allen-ish vibe to this movie. Now what I mean by that is Coppola seems to only make movies about affluent people and their problems just seem so trivial, perhaps even more so during a pandemic where people are dealing with live and death situations. In any case, I think the movie has its charm, but not exactly the director’s best work.


Nomadland (2020)

Directed by Chloé Zhao

After losing everything in the Great Recession, a widow embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

This was my pick of Movie of the Month in October. I was going to do a review of it this month but since its wide release is delayed until February 2021, I’ll delay my review until next year. I first saw Chloé Zhao‘s work in The Rider which was such a pleasant surprise. I love that she immerses herself in the subject matter and tackle her films with a curious mind that makes her films so thought-provoking. Mixing veteran actors (David Strathairn has a supporting role here) with non-actors, it’s an intriguing character study with a serene, quiet grace.

Confession: I still haven’t seen Frances McDormand‘s Oscar-winning turn in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but judging from its trailer, this is quite a different role for her. Her character Fern is taciturn and reflective, requiring McDormand to act with her eyes and mannerism alone. If you don’t mind a slow-paced film, and there is not much going on here, your patience will be rewarded. Plus, the visuals of Zhao’s films are always astounding.

 


Their Finest (2016)

Directed by Lone Scherfig

A former secretary, newly appointed as a scriptwriter for propaganda films, joins the cast and crew of a major production while the Blitz rages around them.

This movie has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet it flew so much under the radar. It’s too bad as it’s such a terrific film set during the London Blitz of WWII, starring the lovely Gemma Arterton who I also think is an underrated actress.

I like films about filmmaking and this one centers on the making of propaganda films. Arterton’s character Catrin Cole ends up investigating the story of two young women who supposedly piloted a boat in the Dunkirk Evacuation. The always-watchable Bill Nighy is fun to watch here as an actor named Ambrose Hilliard who’s hired as the leading man. There’s a tentative romance between Catrin and screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) but I wouldn’t categorize this as a rom-com, more of a dramedy.

I highly recommend this one which is available on streaming and free on HBO Max. In fact, I just might have to watch this again soon!


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?