A Christmas Prince (2017)

HERE HAVE A CHRISTMAS MOVIE REVIEW SINCE I STILL HAVEN’T DONE ONE I’M SORRY I’VE BEEN BUSY!!!

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  • Directed by Alex Zamm
  • Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Honor Kneafsey
  • Written by Nathan Atkins
  • Romance, Holiday
  • Rated PG
  • 1hr 32mins
  • 17 November 2017

Synopsis

A copy editor yearns to become a journalist, and when she is assigned to the press pool of a conference the reputed ‘playboy’ prince of the fictional country of … some country I forget …. is holding, she takes the opportunity given to her by his refusal to show himself and insinuates herself into the royal household under the guise of the disabled princess’s American tutor.

How’s the Story?

It’s alright. It’s nothing special but the “well-intentioned reporter who only wants to have a career until they discover it will hurt real people” trope is a fun one. Honestly, this movie is Hallmark Christmas Never Been Kissed basically, but it’s still a cute story. I particularly liked the choice of having the little princess be disabled.

How’s the Acting?

I mean…. it’s not abysmal? I’ve seen worse in serious movies, not Hallmark-level-but-not-really-Hallmark movies, so that’s something positive. Definitely not the worst acting in a movie I’ve ever seen, but far from the best.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Honestly? Not that bad. I can’t think of anything that stands out as poorly written or badly directed. In general, the writing and the direction choices are pretty solid for what it is. It’s no Arrival but it’s got better writing than American Assassin. (Not that that’s too hard to do.)

How’s the Cinematography?

It’s decent. It’s not bad, but it’s clearly very low budget. It’s very straightforward filmmaking. I particularly like some of the outdoor scenes. It’s not easy to get a forest scene filmed well on a low budget, and they did a pretty decent job.

Is It Worth Watching?

It’s Christmas season, so of course it’s worth watching! Sappy ass, iffy quality Christmas love stories are perfect for this time of year, and this definitely fits the bill for that. There’s not much more to say about this movie, because it’s straightforward: Christmas Love Story. That’s just it.

It’s still better than Love Actually.

My Rating: 5/10

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Coco (2017)

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  • Directed by Lee Unkrich, Adrien Molina
  • Starring Anthony Gonzales, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
  • Written by Adrien Molina, Matthew Aldrich
  • Animated, Family, Comedy
  • Rated PG
  • 1hr 45mins
  • 21 November 2017

Synopsis

Miguel, a boy who loves music even though he lives in a family where music is forbidden, takes a trip to the land of the dead after a fateful accident on El Día de los Muertos. In order to get home, he must have his dead relatives make a deal and give him their blessing. However, when their blessing comes with a condition, he decides to search out someone from his family that will send him home and let him live his dream.

How’s the Story?

This story is just beautiful. My God, I didn’t know this movie was going to be so complex and well thought out. I mostly wanted to see it because I have a special place in my heart for Mexican culture since I spent a long time working for a Mexican family and they were so wonderful as to include me in their celebrations, an I wanted to see how Disney managed to tackle such a beautiful holiday as this one. In the end, I feel like they absolutely nailed the culture in the way this story is told. They even had the grandmother throwing her shoe at people, which I’ve witnessed firsthand since my former boss had three little girls, lol. This story just just so detailed and so well told.

How’s the (Voice) Acting?

I was actually surprised to learn who all were the voice actors in this one. I recognize several of these people, and yet I never placed the voices. I have to say, the boy that plays Miguel, Anthony Gonzales, did such a fantastic job with conveying the depth of emotions that Miguel goes through. It was just such a great job. And honestly, Benjamin Bratt was Ernesto de la Cruz?! I would’ve never guessed that listening! You know it’s a good performance if you can’t identify the actor in the role. This movie is just really well cast and well delivered with the voice acting.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

I could go on for days about how beautifully written this is movie is, and yet there are some things in it that are so amazing there are no words. I would say the most beautifully written part in this entire film is the progression from our perception of ‘some bum’ Héctor to Héctor the hero. The way he never really changes who he is and BECOMES a hero, but rather the shift is in the way we perceive him through the interactions he shares and the information that’s revealed to us, it’s just fantastic. It’s so cleverly written that I can’t think of much else that is comparable in character development to this.

The way that the reasoning behind calling the movie Coco after Miguel’s great grandmother unfolds from ‘why is it named after her if he’s the main character?’ to the entire audience being sobbing, blubbering messes is just masterful. It’s brilliant and I cannot give enough love to that entire thread of the story.

How’s the Cinematography Animation?

This is one of the most beautiful looking animated films I’ve ever seen. Full stop. The end. I could go into all the colors and the details and the skin textures and how they’re done so perfectly in this movie, but I think it’s succinct to say that this outdoes any movie I can think of that I’ve seen before in my whole life. It’s just absolutely breathtaking to look at.

Is It Worth Watching?

Coco is not only one of the best animated films I’ve seen this year, not only one of the best animated films I’ve seen in my lifetime, and not only one of the best films of this year; Coco is one of the most beautifully moving films I’ve ever seen. I love this movie. I love everything about this movie. The way that the story tackles family and the dichotomy of expectation versus love, the way it handles generational differences, and the way it handles tradition is just so carefully done and so absolutely beautiful. I cried so much watching this movie. There were about 4 times I was reduced to tears during this movie, and some of them were just from happiness.

It’s rare that a film comes along that is so transcendently beautiful in so many ways that I want to take everybody I know and show them this film, but Coco is one of those films. The only flaw in the entire movie is how predictable the biggest twist of them all is, and honestly? I don’t even really care that much about that. I was okay that I saw it coming. I was okay knowing what to expect. It was so enjoyable to watch the characters discover what I had figured out that I didn’t even care. I think if it weren’t for that very minor flaw, this would be my second 10/10 movie of the year. As it is, I wish I gave half-points, because it feels like a disservice to this movie to give it the rating I am giving it.

See this movie. I don’t care if it’s been out for several weeks now. I don’t care if you’ve already seen it. I don’t care if you didn’t think it would be your style. Just go see it or see it again. This is the type of film that touches people in a way that’s so special, and I love every bit of this movie. I’m sure you will/did, too.

My Rating: 9/10

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The Uninvited (1944)

Part 12 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Lewis Allen
  • Starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Gail Russell
  • Written by Dodie Smith, Frank Partos
  • Horror, Mystery
  • Not Rated
  • 1h 39mins.
  • 1 September 1944

Synopsis

A brother and sister on holiday find a house they adore and decide to buy it. However, when they move in, they discover the house has a dark secret. The man who sold them the house had a daughter who met her untimely death in that house, leaving behind his only grandchild, Stella, and an empty home that nobody wants to live in.

How’s the Story?

Dude, this story is really interesting. Also, without spoilers it’s hard to say much, but I’m very surprised at the subject matter and the sympathy for the people in the situation they were in being permitted in this time period. I’ve studied film history, and showing sympathy for the final revealed situation is very surprising. I like that this movie had a very human story along with the ghost story, and part of that human story involves the very amusing characters in it.

How’s the Acting?

It’s very time-period-specific. It’s no secret that this era of Hollywood involved wild over-acting, which is exactly what you get. It’s good for what it is, but it wouldn’t really hold up in today’s film industry. That said, I’m a fan of classic Hollywood cinema, so I appreciate the acting in this movie very much.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Honestly, this one is pretty well written. I like the little humorous moments included in the seriousness. It breaks up the overbearing ‘things are life and death!’ vibe that gets heavier and heavier as the film goes.

Also, I’m not sure if it was written this way on purpose, but there’s a very queer-coded woman in this movie that I find very amusing in this situation.

How’s the Cinematography?

It’s nothing special, but it’s good. I like the special effects. They’re really good for this time period. The ghosts are very scary for the tech of the time.

Is It Worth Watching?

It’s definitely worth watching if you’re into old Hollywood. It’s a really, really interesting one. I didn’t figure out the twist until right before it was revealed, which for a movie of this age, is pretty impressive, because in this era, they really wanted to hammer stuff home. It’s one I would highly recommend for sure.

My Rating: 7/10

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Ghostbusters (1984)

Part 11 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween

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  • Directed by Ivan Reitman
  • Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver
  • Written by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
  • Comedy
  • Rated PG
  • 1hr 45mins
  • 8 June 1984

Synopsis

Three friends who study the paranormal come together with plans to start a business around catching and removing ghosts for the residents of New York City. Along the way, they meet a woman whose building is built in such a way that it might resurrect a god and bring about the end of the world.

How’s the Story?

It’s a fun story that’s very amusing. This movie is a classic. A bunch of friends trying to catch ghosts for people, how much of a distance from the usual ghost story? It’s just fun.

How’s the Acting?

It’s pretty good. Typical acting for each of these lovely comedic actors. Sigourney Weaver is my favorite performance in this one. But then again, Sigourney Weaver is always my favorite in basically anything. She’s just really good.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

I love how clever the comedy of this movie is. It’s very loud and in your face sometimes and at other times subtle and quietly amusing. It’s the perfect mix of over the top comedy and an endearing measure of wit.

How’s the Cinematography?

It’s dated in this day and age, but I’m sure at the time, it was very impressive. I, for one, really love the gross dog monster things. So creepy and gross looking.

Is It Worth Watching?

C’mon, it’s Ghostbusters. How can anybody say it’s not worth watching? It’s a classic, and by classic I mean ‘everybody has seen this movie’. So honestly, why bother asking if it’s worth watching when everybody has already seen it?

My Rating: 8/10

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Crimson Peak (2015)

Part 10 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
  • Starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowski, Jessica Chastain
  • Written by Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Robbins
  • Fantasy, Horror
  • Rated R
  • 1hr 59mins
  • 16 October 2015

Synopsis

A young woman has been haunted by ghosts her entire life. However, when a mysterious man and his sister enter her life, the ghosts seem to become more frequent than ever before. After the death of her father, Edith marries Thomas, her mysterious lover, and moves back to England with him and his sister, Lucille. What she finds there is even more sinister than what she left behind in America.

How’s the Story?

I’m biased, as I’ve said in several of these reviews now, but I love Gothic genre, and this movie is absolutely, without any comparison, the quintessential Gothic romance film. It is a lit-nerd’s dream. It has every element of that eerie yet romantic, creepy yet charming, scary yet sexy Gothic genre style going on and it’s all so good. I love this story, and I think that the reason so many people disliked it is that they were expecting a straight up horror movie and instead got a Gothic romance horror movie.

How’s the Acting?

Mia Wasikowski has never done a bad performance that I’ve seen, and this is just another good one from her. She as Edith is so believable and lovable and you want good things for her. Tom Hiddleston also can hardly ever do any wrong in my eyes. He brings such humanity into his characters, good and bad, so there is no straight up ‘good or bad’. Thomas isn’t a villain, he’s a dark anti-hero. We want him to pay for his wrongdoings but we also don’t blame him for them. Jessica Chastain, however, is the real star here. She is a scene-stealer in the best way. I love how subtly terrifying she plays Lucille. It’s just fascinating to watch and so, so good.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This movie is very much a Guillermo Del Toro movie. The man knows how to write a love story within a greater picture. Everything about how this movie is written sucks you in. The small moments bring you so deep into the characters lives that you don’t realize it has happened at all. That’s good writing and directing right there.

Also, side note: Guillermo Del Toro knows how to write women. I haven’t seen all of his work, but in everything of his I have seen, women aren’t just shoved in the story, they are people. He makes them complex, very interesting characters and this is very much a movie about two women. Thomas is not relegated to a sexy lamp, but he is the ‘object’ in this one. There’s very little more satisfying than a movie where a woman makes her own choices, her own mistakes, and essentially is the maker of her own destiny a dozen times over. It’s just so refreshing to see a movie written and directed in such a way that the main character who is a woman feels like a real woman. I would honestly believe a woman wrote and directed this movie, that’s how realistic Edith and Lucille are.

How’s the Cinematography?

Again, it’s a Guillermo Del Toro movie. He’s all about working with cinematographers who are great at using vibrant colors and extravagant visuals and this movie is no exception. The use of shadow and light is so good here, not to mention the boldness in everything red. It only ups that ‘creep’ factor and is a nice departure from the normal dark and drab style used in so many horror films.

One scene in particular that just thrills me to death is the scene where Edith’s father dies. The water and the steam and the blood swirling around, it’s all just so reminiscent of something like Hannibal with its cinematographic quality of making the macabre beautiful. It’s just such a pretty film to look at.

Is It Worth Watching?

This is one of my favorite movies. Full stop. One of the best of 2015 by far. Honestly, I think this movie is a love-it-or-hate-it and I’m so far on the ‘love it’ side that I cannot comprehend not loving it. I know taste is subjective, but Jesus, this movie is just so, so good.

My Rating: 9/10

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The Haunted Mansion (2003)

Part 9 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Rob Minkoff
  • Starring Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Nathanial Parker
  • Written by David Berenbaum
  • Comedy, Family
  • Rated PG
  • 1hr 28min
  • 26 November 2003

Synopsis

A real-estate agent and his family go to view a mansion someone wants to put on the market and get rained in and have to stay the night. They learn of the tragic history of the mansion just before things start to get a little creepy…

How’s the Story?

Based off the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World, this movie has a really solid story, in my opinion. I was shocked to discover that this one is so widely hated, because I like the story! Long ago, the master of the manor planned to run away with the woman he loved the night of a masquerade ball but instead, she took her life. After losing her, he took his own and, in doing so, cursed all the staff and guests to walk the earth as ghosts until the day he and his beloved should be reunited.

What a compelling backstory. I honestly find it heart-wrenching and the end of the movie (no spoilers) makes me tear up every time. The story is about a family becoming closer through the adventure in a haunted mansion with a haunting that’s based on a tragic event, and it’s just a really fun story.

How’s the Acting?

It’s okay. There’s nothing to write home about, but nothing is terrible. I like most of the actors in it, as cheesy and over the top as the characters are, and that’s a good thing! It’s a kids movie, not an Oscar contender.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The same as the acting, it’s good enough. Nothing special but nothing bad. It’s a fun movie told in interesting enough ways. It’s moving enough to make me tear up, so that means it’s not the worst written or directed movie, and has to be at least pretty good to get that much of a reaction.

How’s the Cinematography?

While the CGI is dated, this movie has some really cool practical effects. The thing with the door is always terrifying. I also really love the way the camera moves in this one. It makes it feel like a ride at times, which is obviously an appeal to the Disney World lovers out there.

Is It Worth Watching?

Definitely worth watching. It’s fun, funny, moving, and pretty much a Halloween staple in my house. We own the DVD and it gets watched in July half the time, when we’re all Jonesing for that sweet Halloween vibe. It’s not the best movie ever, it’s not the most important movie ever, but it’s a hell of an entertaining movie, and after all, isn’t that what film is about?

My Rating: 7/10

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The Shining (1980)

Part 8 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Stanley Kubrick
  • Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
  • Written by Stanley Kubrick
  • Horror
  • Rated R
  • 2hr 26mins
  • 13 June 1980

Synopsis

A man gets a job as the off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a remote hotel high in the Rocky Mountains. As he and his family settle in to their isolated home, things around the hotel start to get strange.

How’s the Story?

Based on Stephen King’s best novel – my opinion, maybe not a fact, but I’m saying it – , The Shining is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Again, as you will notice is a trend with my favorites, it’s another that really fits that gothic lit mood, with the slow-burn build up to a truly spectacular and fast climax. I love this story, because again, it’s scary as hell but in an eerie way. While this one does have some blood and gore and gross stuff, it is still scary because of the anticipation and the inability to be sure what’s happening. Honestly, this one could easily be argued to not be a ghost movie, because that’s part of what makes it great! The question of is it or isn’t it? Is it haunted? Are they just seeing things? Is it all in Jack’s head? Nobody knows, but there’s a compelling argument for ghosts, so it fits!

How’s the Acting?

This movie has legendary acting. It’s partially because the actors are good and partially because the direction is sketchy as hell. But honestly, this is the most iconic Jack Nicholson role there is. Obviously, the acting is good. That goes without saying.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

The writing is good if you don’t know the original. I’m not a stickler for “THE MOVIE HAS TO BE LIKE THE BOOK!” but the movie goes out of its way to change some shit for the worse, not the better. I don’t generally compare books and movies, but I prefer movies change things to fit a story told better in a film because that’s the whole point of adaptation, to tell the story best in film version. However, there are things from the book that would have worked better than what they chose to do in the movie, and I really find that annoying. However, at face value, it’s a well written film with a lot of really intricately woven plot points that make it a very uncomfortable film in the best way possible.

The directing is pretty sketchy, honestly. It’s very effective, but psychologically torturing your actors into giving you the performance you want is some of that sketchy old Hollywood bullshit (that isn’t really ‘old Hollywood’ at all, that stuff still happens) and I’m not into that. Kubrick made good films, but the guy was abusive as hell. Kinda sucks that it worked so well, because I hate enjoying the results of employee abuse.

How’s the Cinematography?

This film is stunning. The use of long-takes, long shots, and open areas makes the idea of isolation apparent from the very beginning. The long, ominous drive shown from overhead really builds on the very gothic theme of isolation and being far away from help, and it’s just sooo good. This movie is more atmosphere than anything, and I looooove it. There are shots in here that are more terrifying for their feel than for what’s in them.

Is It Worth Watching?

Oh come on. It’s The Shining. Of COURSE it’s worth watching.

My Rating: 9/10

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