Home Alone 3

home-alone3-reviewHome Alone 3 (1997)   20th Century Fox/Comedy   RT: 102 minutes   Rated PG (language, slapstick violence, mild sensuality)   Director: Raja Gosnell   Screenplay: John Hughes   Music: Nick Glennie-Smith   Cinematography: Julio Macat   Release date: December 12, 1997 (US)   Starring: Alex D. Linz, Olek Krupa, Rya Kihlstedt, Lenny von Dohlen, David Thornton, Marian Seldes, Kevin Kilner, Seth Smith, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Curry, Baxter Harris, James Saito.   Box Office: $30.6 million (US)/$79 million (US)    

Rating:fullstar1fullstar1halfstar1star-empty1

Okay, I have to admit that Home Alone 3 isn’t a complete stinker. It’s actually better than I remember it being when I saw it at an advance screening on a Saturday morning in December ’97. I’m trying to decide whether or not it counts as a holiday movie since the action takes place right AFTER Christmas. Aw, what the hell! I’m calling it a holiday movie. Why not? After all, the franchise has more or less become synonymous with Christmas. Although Home Alone 3 follows the same basic formula as its two predecessors, it’s a completely different movie with an entirely new set of characters. Other than title and location (Chicago, Illinois), it has NOTHING to do with the first two movies. By this time, original lead Macaulay Culkin was too old (17 years old) for the role, so the producers brought in Alex D. Linz (One Fine Day, Max Keeble’s Big Move) to replace him. Original director Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire) also decided to sit this one out. First-timer Raja Gosnell (The Smurfs), who served as editor on the first two movies, takes the directorial reins for this mildly amusing installment of the popular franchise. Like I said, Home Alone 3 isn’t too bad. It’s relatively harmless and will likely please the grade school audience for which it’s intended.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 20:06

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Reindeer Games

Reindeer Games revReindeer Games (2000)   Dimension Films/Action   RT: 124 minutes (Director’s Cut)   Rated R (language, strong violence, sexual content)   Director: John Frankenheimer   Screenplay: Ehren Kruger   Music: Alan Silvestri   Cinematography: Alan Caso   Release date: February 25, 2000 (US)   Starring: Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron, James Frain, Danny Trejo, Clarence Williams III, Donal Logue, Dennis Farina, Dana Stubblefield, Ashton Kutcher, Isaac Hayes, Ron Jeremy.     Box Office: $23.3 million (US)/$32.1 million (World)    

Rating: fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1star-empty1

The only noteworthy thing about John Frankenheimer’s Reindeer Games is that it’s the director’s swan song. Having helmed such riveting thrillers as The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz, Black Sunday and 52 Pick-Up, he should have quit while he was ahead with 1998’s Ronin. In and of itself, Reindeer Games isn’t that bad of a flick. It’s an almost passable B-movie actioner that pales in comparison with Frankenheimer’s other movies, the most obvious exception being his woefully misconceived 1996 remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau. It has a decent premise, but gets bogged down by a terrible performance from Affleck and plot holes big enough for Santa to drive his sleigh through. There’s one really gaping plot hole, but I’d be dropping a major plot spoiler by describing it. It happens at the end and the movie basically rests on this plot twist. The problem is that it’s unexplainable. How exactly does this character pull it off?

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 19:45

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Angels Sing

angels-sing-reviewAngels Sing (2013)   Lionsgate/Drama   RT: 87 minutes   Rated PG (brief mild language, thematic elements, nothing offensive)   Director: Tim McCanlies   Screenplay: Lou Berney   Music: Carl Thiel and Scott Warren   Cinematography: Kamal Derkaoui   Release date: November 1, 2013 (US, VOD)   Cast: Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Chandler Canterbury, Fionnula Flanagan, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Eloise DeJoria, Dylan Summerall, Brennan Baker, Deborah Cole.    

Rating:fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1star-empty1

In defense of Angels Sing, a holiday-themed movie that’s sure to have even non-diabetics reaching for the insulin, I’ll say this. I’d rather be subjected to pure schmaltz like this than the many crass, unfunny Christmas comedies that have infected the multiplexes like a virus over the past decade. It’s a sincere comedic drama about family, coping with tragedy and regaining one’s Christmas spirit. While I admire and appreciate its sincerity, Angels Sing is fairly mediocre. It’s no better or worse than any given Christmas movie made for the Hallmark Channel. However, I’ll gladly take that over another rotten comedy in the vein of Surviving Christmas, Deck the Halls, Four Christmases and Christmas with the Kranks (my choice for worst Christmas movie EVER!). What’s most disappointing about Angels Sing is that it brings together many great singing talents (Connick, Kristofferson, Nelson, Lovett and Britton) yet contains precious little music. By all counts, this should have been a Christmas bonanza for country music fans.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 November 2013 22:05

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Prancer

prancer-reviewPrancer (1989)   Orion Pictures/Drama-Fantasy   RT: 103 minutes   Rated G (mildly scary moments and upsetting themes)   Director: John D. Hancock   Screenplay: Greg Taylor   Music: Maurice Jarre   Cinematography: Misha Suslov   Release date: November 17, 1989 (US)   Starring: Sam Elliott, Rebecca Harrell, Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda, Michael Constantine, Rutanya Alda, John Joseph Duda, Ariana Richards, Mark Rolston, Johnny Galecki.   Box Office: $18.5 million (US)    

Rating:fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1

Now here’s a sweet little holiday treat, a perfect stocking stuffer for the kids! Prancer came and went unnoticed in theaters in ’89; I didn’t see it until it hit home video the following Christmas. I wanted to see it (mainly because of Sam Elliott), but I was too embarrassed to be seen buying a ticket for a kids’ movie. As I watched Prancer, I was reminded of a story I once heard about a man debating the existence of Santa Claus with a three-year-old girl. He asked her how one man could deliver presents to all the children of the world in one night. She replied, “Because he’s magic!”. There’s nothing more special than a child’s strong belief in the magic of Christmas and I would think that Santa’s flying reindeer belongs at the top of the list of miraculous things. It’s this system of belief that has the young heroine at the heart of Prancer convinced that the injured reindeer she encounters in the woods near her house belongs to old St. Nick himself.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 20:06

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The Best Man Holiday

best-man-holiday-reviewThe Best Man Holiday (2013)   Universal Pictures/Comedy-Drama   RT: 122 minutes   Rated R (language, sexual content, brief nudity, drug use, mature themes)   Director: Malcolm D. Lee   Screenplay: Malcolm D. Lee   Music: Stanley Clarke   Cinematography: Rogier Stoffers   Release date: November 15, 2013 (US)   Cast: Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, Harold Perrineau, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Melissa De Sousa, Eddie Cibrian, John Michael Higgins.    

Rating: fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1

What better way to kick off the Christmas season than by getting together with a few old friends? The Best Man Holiday allows audiences to catch up with the gang after more than a decade. Much has changed and yet some things remain exactly the same. For instance, Lance (Chestnut, Boyz n the Hood) still holds a grudge against Harper (Diggs, How Stella Got Her Groove Back) for sleeping with his future wife Mia (Calhoun, The Players Club) back in college. It’s wholly fitting then that writer/director Malcolm D. Lee has set this belated sequel during the season of forgiveness. A healing of this rift between the former best friends is long overdue.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 November 2013 22:06

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One Magic Christmas

One-Magic-Christmas-reviewOne Magic Christmas (1985)   Buena Vista Distribution Company/Drama   RT: 89 minutes   Rated G (some violence, mature themes, upsetting scenes, might be too much for small children)   Director: Phillip Borsos   Screenplay: Thomas Meehan   Music: Michael Conway Baker   Cinematography: Frank Tidy   Release date: November 22, 1985 (US)   Starring: Mary Steenburgen, Gary Basaraba, Harry Dean Stanton, Arthur Hill, Elizabeth Harnois, Robbie Magwood, Michelle Meyrink, Elias Koteas, Wayne Robson, Jan Rubes, Sarah Polley, Graham Jarvis.   Box Office: $13.6 million (US)    

Rating:fullstar1fullstar1halfstar1star-empty1

‘Tis the season to be ….. gloomy? Despite the happy-sounding title, One Magic Christmas is far from cheery. It’s depressing! After watching this, I needed a double dose of extra strength Zoloft. To be fair, One Magic Christmas isn’t a bad movie and while I don’t want to give anything away, the movie’s final moments do chase away most of the dark clouds. Still, it hardly erases the 80 minutes of misery that we just endured. The movie carries a G rating which surprises the hell out of me since this clearly isn’t something you’d bring a small child to see. It doesn’t contain any offensive material, but I would think that the film’s mature themes and upsetting scenes would have earned it a PG. I don’t think that any mortal man will ever understand the enigma that is the MPAA. I was a high school senior when One Magic Christmas hit theaters in November ’85 and had no desire to shell out my money to see a kid’s movie. I know that I caught it on the Disney Channel one year, but it must not have left much of an impression since I couldn’t remember anything about it.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 20:06

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The Ice Harvest

the-ice-harvest-reviewThe Ice Harvest (2005)   Focus Features/Comedy-Thriller   RT: 92 minutes   Rated R (language, strong bloody violence, nudity, sexual content, alcohol abuse)   Director: Harold Ramis   Screenplay: Richard Russo and Robert Benton   Music: David Kitay   Cinematography: Alar Kivilo   Release date: November 25, 2005 (US)   Starring: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, Randy Quaid, Oliver Platt, Mike Starr, Ned Bellamy, T.J. Jagodowski, David Pasquesi, Justine Bentley.   Box Office: $9 million (US)    

Rating:fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1

The Ice Harvest is definitely not the kind of light uplifting affair one expects to find in their Christmas stocking. More Blood Simple than It’s a Wonderful Life; it’s a darkly funny tale of murder, greed, blackmail, booze and betrayal set in an icebound Wichita, Kansas on Christmas Eve. It would be my educated guess that all of the major characters in The Ice Harvest hold permanent spots on Santa’s naughty list. It takes a really warped mind to come up with a Christmas story this dark and twisted, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise that it’s directed by Harold Ramis, the man behind comparatively lighter fare like Caddyshack and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Yes, I’m fully aware that Ramis also directed the Mob comedy Analyze This. Believe me when I say that the sleazy, morally bankrupt characters in The Ice Harvest make the wise guys and hired killers in the 1999 movie look like choirboys. Call me Mr. Grinch if you will, but I really liked this movie. Strangely enough, I didn’t get around to watching it until this year. Hard to say why I put off watching it so long, but I’m glad that I finally sat myself down and watched it.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 January 2013 21:35

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Four Christmases

four-christmases-reviewFour Christmases (2008)   New Line Cinema/Comedy   RT: 88 minutes   Rated PG-13 (language, sexual humor, violent content)   Director: Seth Gordon   Screenplay: Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson, Scott Moore and Jon Lucas   Music: Alex Wurman   Cinematography: Jeffrey L. Kimball   Release date: November 26, 2008 (US)   Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Chenoweth, Jon Favreau, Tim McGraw, Katy Mixon, Dwight Yoakam, Carol Kane, Colleen Camp, Patrick Van Horn, True Bella, Skyler Gisondo, Zak Boggan, Jeanette Miller, Jack Donner.     Box Office: $120.1 million (US)/ $163.7 million (World)    

Rating:NO STARS!!!

The nicest thing that I can say about the spectacularly unfunny Four Christmases is that it’s not quite as bad as Christmas with the Kranks. That’s still not saying very much, so please don’t take that as any form of praise. Praise is the very last thing that I want to heap upon this mean-spirited bit of holiday entertainment. Derision, that’s another story! Four Christmases deserves as much scorn as one can muster. It’s terrible beyond belief! I HATED this movie with every fiber of my being. I got angrier and angrier as I watched it. The way the families behave towards the main characters doesn’t just border on abuse, it is abuse! It’s easy to understand why Brad (Vaughn, Wedding Crashers) and Kate (Witherspoon, Walk the Line) don’t want to spend Christmas with their families. Their respective families are horrible. I’ll go more into that in a moment. First, let me just say that there is nothing even remotely entertaining about Four Christmases. Apparently, a lot of people disagree with that based on its $120 million box office take. I did a double take when I saw that figure; I can’t believe that anybody would find this movie even mildly amusing. In the words of my dearly departed mother, it’s not even a little bit funny. I’ve never really been a fan of movies or TV shows where families are mean to each other. I had to stop watching Married with Children and Malcolm in the Middle for this very reason. Al Bundy is a hilarious character, but I got sick and tired of watching how horribly he was treated by his wife and kids.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 20:22

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The Bishop's Wife

the-bishops-wife-reviewThe Bishop’s Wife (1947)   B&W   RKO Radio Pictures/Comedy-Drama-Fantasy   RT: 109 minutes   No MPAA Rating (nothing offensive)   Director: Henry Koster   Screenplay: Leonardo Bercovici and Robert E. Sherwood   Music: Hugo Friedhofer   Cinematography: Gregg Toland   Release date: December 9, 1947 (New York)/February 16, 1948 (US)   Starring: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Wooley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper, Elsa Lanchester, Sara Haden, Karolyn Grimes, Regis Toomey, Sarah Edwards.   Box Office: N/A    

Rating:fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1halfstar1

I finally got a chance to sit down and watch The Bishop’s Wife and thoroughly enjoyed it. As big of a movie lover as I claim to be, I have to confess that I really didn’t watch too many old movies until about 15 years ago. As it turns out, I was really missing out on a lot of great movies. I had been meaning to watch The Bishop’s Wife for a long time, ever since I saw the Penny Marshall remake back in December 1996. I rewatched The Preacher’s Wife earlier this year, right after the sudden death of lead actress Whitney Houston. I promised myself that I would watch the original movie when Christmas rolled around as I don’t really enjoy watching holiday-themed movies like this until Thanksgiving rolls around. I think that this may be one of the best Christmas movies that I watched for the first time this year. It’s a delightful romantic fantasy comedy about an Episcopalian bishop who receives spiritual and romantic guidance from an angel over the Christmas holiday. Unlike Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, Bishop Henry Brougham’s (Niven, The Pink Panther) life doesn’t flash before his eyes. Rather, the angel Dudley (Grant, The Philadelphia Story) is only there to point the clergyman in the right direction.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 19:41

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