Review: Spirit Untamed

Spirit Untamed (2021)

Director: Elaine Bogan

Writers: Aury Wallington and Kristin Hahn

Starring: Isabela Merced, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, Walton Goggins, Julianne Moore, and Jake Gyllenhaal

Plot: A young girl moves to a new town and befriends Spirit, who has been captured by locals trying to break him in.

Review: Man, movie studios are getting desperate with trying to keep their IP alive! Remember Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron? The Dreamworks movie about the horse that came out in 2002? I was 10 years old at the time, which is arguably the target audience for such a movie. I saw it once. I promptly forgot about it. Then, for the next twenty years, no one really talked about it again. And I hang around with people who talk about animation CONSTANTLY. Still, somehow, that movie inspired a Netflix show that has 12 SEASONS AND TWO SPECIALS! What? And, now, here we are. In 2021, we finally get a Spirit 2. Yet, this isn’t really a sequel to the original movie. In fact, it’s not even really a sequel to the show. It’s more of a reboot/remake… I guess. I don’t know. And I’m not really all that interested in doing the research either. All I know is that it sounds like a desperate cash grab to me.

Honestly, I don’t have all that much to say about Spirit Untamed. It wasn’t good. I wasn’t entertained. Everything that’s on screen you’ve seen before. And, honestly, a lot of the ground covered was in the original movie. That being said though, there’s nothing necessarily atrocious about this movie either. It is sort of a big old nothingburger. I will never call the original forgettable again because this is FORGETTABLE. I got out of my showing just a few hours ago and I’m not sure I could accurately recap the plot for you.

You know how in the mid-2000s Disney just pumped out a ton of sequels to their animated classics. Decades later we’d get a Bambi II that didn’t fit the tone or even the story of the original. The animation would be several notches down in quality from the original too. That’s what this feels like. Except it’s worse. Because apparently this story already exists. And you could watch it at home. But someone at Comcast got greedy so it’s on the big screen now for $15 a pop. Other than that though, the analogy is spot on. The story conflicts with what we saw before. The animation is way worse, which is sad because that’s the one thing I’d argue the first movie had going for it. And, the voice acting feels phoned in, despite some big names like Jake Gyllenhaal being attached.

So, in case you couldn’t tell, I would not recommend seeing Spirit Untamed. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s nothing special either. You’ve seen every plot point and joke it has to offer. They’re not breaking any ground here. The only reason I can rationalize going out to see it is if you’re kids are obsessed with the show. But, like I said, I’ve heard it’s just a redo of the show, so even those kids might be a bit bored with it. Probably best to just play the show on Netflix again instead.

TL;DR: Spirit Untamed feels like a lazy, uninspired cashgrab… probably because that’s exactly what it is.

Score: 4/10 (Bad)

Review: Cruella

Cruella (2021)

Director: Craig Gillespie

Writers: Dana Fox, Tony McNamara, Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis

Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong

Plot: A young Cruella De Vil develops a villainous streak as she works to upstage her fashion rival.

Review: Man, there are few things as unpredictable as a Disney live action remake. Or, at least, whether it’s going to be good or bad. They’ve pretty much covered the spectrum to me. From some of the worst movies I’ve seen (Alice in Wonderland) to pleasant diversions (The Lion King) to some truly great movies that stand on their own (The Jungle Book). So, honestly, I never really know how to feel going into one. Cruella was especially hard to predict. The trailers looked fantastic, but, to me, they bombed so hard with translating Maleficent that I thought there’s no way it could be good. I’m glad I was wrong. Because Cruella is a really fun, wicked ride.

Most important thing first, I actually felt that Cruella stayed true to her character. Unlike in Maleficent, they didn’t turn her into some kind of behind the scenes hero. Sure. She’s a bit more sympathetic than she has been in previous iterations, but I never thought they went quite far enough to make you believe she’s a good person. She’s still rotten to her core. Even when you see her as a young kid, she’s constantly causing mischief. Even if she does feel a bit of guilt. The fun comes from watching that guilt start to fade as she becomes more and more the villainous icon we all know and love. There’s even one particularly evil crime that she’s accused of and, at first, you’re not quite sure if she actually did it. It’s honestly believable that she would, which is a huge testament to how sinister this movie was actually able to get. By the end, you can definitely see how this character and the animated version are the same person.

The portrayal of these characters is spot on as well. (No pun intended.) You can tell that Emma Stone is having the time of her life playing Cruella. She absolutely nailed everything about the character. She’s got the swagger, the pompous attitude, the laugh, the accent, the smirk, everything. She looks and acts like she came right off of the animator’s page. (The only thing noticeably absent is the cigarette.) Yet, it’s more toned down than Glenn Close’s iconic performance from the 90s. While that was campy in all the right ways, Stone’s does feel a bit more grounded. Like she could exist in the real world. It’s quite the achievement.

Honestly though, everyone in this movie did a fantastic job. Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser absolutely crush as Jasper and Horace. And it wasn’t just their lines or actions. It was their body language. The way Jasper sort of hunches over to talk to someone shorter than him. The way Horace waddles instead of just walking. It’s the little things like that which make me happy. I’ve seen the original more times than I care to admit. (It’s one of my comfort Disney movies.) So to see my two favorite goofy sidekicks preformed so passionately and accurately when they could’ve been just throw away characters makes my heart soar. Likewise, all of the new characters were welcome additions. Emma Thompson as the mentor/rival/bigger bad that turns the big bad bad was terrific. I loved the way she chewed the scenery. She’s so cold, vile and heartless. Every moment she was on screen, I was smiling. But, the cast list is so strong that even the third or fourth rate sidekicks were highlights. Even the smallest of parts got to shine here.

My adoration for this movie doesn’t stop at the cast though. Fittingly, the movie has a ton of style. And I don’t just mean fashion wise. It’s got this punk rock 1970s aesthetic that just feels great. Think David Bowie, Queen or Hedwig and the Angry Inch and you’re pretty much there. The look, the feel, the soundtrack? All top notch. It’s an environment that I absolutely loved spending time in. This movie is just overflowing with glamorous shots, especially as Cruella is trying to get her name out there. She works as a performance artist, crashing high class fashion events in elaborate manners while wearing some killer outfits. She’s a troll but she looks damn good doing it. Speaking of, there’s no way this movie isn’t AT LEAST nominated for both Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling at next year’s Oscars. Because these looks are jaw dropping. But, I mean… what else would you expect in a movie based on Cruella De Vil, right?

So, like I’ve said, I really dug a lot about Cruella. I thought it was a really good villain origin story. Unfortunately, it does suffer a bit from prequelitis. Like most prequel movies, it suffers from cameos, over explaining, and foreshadowing that really didn’t need to be there. Some of the stuff in her origin didn’t bother me so much, but others made me cringe. Hard. Without going into it too much, Dalmatians should not have made an appearance in this movie at all. It’s completely unnecessary. It reeks of someone trying way too hard to remind you of the first movie. And Cruella’s connection to this particular breed of dog is absolutely laughable. I don’t want to spoil anything, but that tie-in alone was almost enough to knock it down a point on my rating scale. Then, there’s a mid-credit scene that just makes it worse. Like, it contradicts the first movie it’s so bad. They really should’ve just let this movie stand on it’s own. Don’t even reference the animated version. It’s fine. We don’t need the fan service. Luckily, these moments are small enough that they didn’t ruin the movie for me.

Overall though, I really enjoyed Cruella. I thought it was a fun, wicked, kick-ass movie. I was surprised with how well they captured the essence of the character without really pulling any punches. Plus, the tone was pitch perfect and super stylish. There are a few things that don’t really work, but those are minor details. I’d still definitely say that you should check it out, especially if you love 101 Dalmatians as much as I do.

Score: 7.5/10 (Good, Almost Great)

(I’ve don’t usually do .5s but both neither 7 or 8 felt right.)

Review: A Quiet Place Part II

Title: A Quiet Place Part II

Director: John Krasinski

Writer: John Krasinski

Starring: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou, and John Krasinski

Plot: After figuring out how to kill the aliens in the first movie, the Abbott family looks to spread their knowledge to others.

Review: John Krasinski has openly said that he didn’t want to make A Quiet Place Part II. And, while I’m overall happy that this movie exists, I can kind of understand why at the same time. I just don’t think he had much story left to tell. If A Quiet Place is a perfectly made pilot that instantly wraps you up into the world of a new TV show, Part II is the followup episode where everything slows down. It’s the one where you realize that not every episode is going to be a home run. It’s aiming to just get on base. Their goal is to just move the plot forward. It’s not that you’re not enjoying yourself. It’s still super high quality. It’s just not the same dose of dopamine you got the first time around. But, this is also a movie, not a TV episode. And with movies sometimes “good enough” feels just a tad disappointing.

Before I make this sound too negative, I did enjoy A Quiet Place Part II. There’s quite a bit to like here. First of all, it’s just as well made as the first. Krasinski has not lost any skill behind the camera. He’s knows how to direct the hell out of a scary scene. The cinematography is excellent. The sound design still continues to steal the show with every single broken twig making you wince. The performances are all still top notch too, especially considering the limitations the cast is under. It’s a really expertly made piece of cinema. It’s crazy to think that Jim from The Office had this in him the whole time. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Actually, I was super duper on board for roughly the first half of this movie. The opening in particular I thought was really cool. It goes back to show us Day One of this whole situation. There’s a lot of confusion and pandemonium as the aliens arrive and immediately start fucking shit up. It’s tense. It’s scary. It’s action packed. And, there are a lot of cool, original setups as the town is basically demolished by these creatures. Not to mention that it’s really our first time seeing these aliens live up to their full destructive potential and it’s brutal.

Right as the second act begins, my interest started to wane a bit. Without getting into spoilers, our group ends up splitting up. And Krasinski decides that we need to split the time evenly between all of the groups. The problem? Only one of these stories is super interesting. The others can be summed up in a sentence or two. It’s super obvious which character Krasinski wanted to be the centerpiece of this movie, yet the focus felt all of the place. I understand that we’ve grown to care for each of these characters, but I think the story would seem more streamlined if you pushed a few of them to the side a bit. You could’ve really focused on the main story instead, beefed it up a bit, and made a really solid road/horror film. Instead, to me, it felt like a handful of rather minor underdeveloped adventures set in the world of the first movie. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it felt like a anthology movie but it was approaching that territory.

The other complaint I had is that the aliens don’t feel like as much of a threat now that we know they can be killed. In the first, I was constantly on the edge of my seat because it was just normal people versus these intense forces of nature. It was about survival, not necessarily fighting back. But, now, when they’re caught in those same scenarios, they can pretty much get out of it pretty easily. And we’re not quite to the action portion yet. This isn’t Aliens. It’s like a weird in-between chapter for Alien and Aliens. I know that it’s a natural progression. Everything makes sense story wise. I just missed that sense of tension. There were parts of the first movie where I was stressed the eff out. I never really felt that here. And I definitely missed it.

Overall, I did enjoy A Quiet Place Part II. I’m really glad we got to spend more time in that world. And, like I said, director John Krasinski is still at the top of his game. I just wish that writer John Krasinski had given us a beefier, more streamlined story. Because, while enjoyable, it never quite felt as essential as I wanted it to. The first movie is an iconic sci-fi/horror flick that’ll be revisited for decades. This just felt like a fun followup.

TL;DR: A Quiet Place Part II is an expertly directed, slightly unfocused but fun followup to the original movie.

Score: 7/10 (Good)

Dyl’s Favorite Movies of 2020

Hiya folks. Welcome to Dyl’s Movie Stuff’s yearly countdown of the best movies the year had to offer.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, 2020 was a weird year. The whole world was kinda turned on its head. I’m not really sure why. (Sarcasm.) But, that turn seemed to hit the movie industry especially hard. I didn’t make a most anticipated movies list this year, but, if I had, I’m not sure more than a handful of them actually came out. Honestly, not a lot of the big blockbusters did. I saw less than a third of the movies listed in theaters. That hurts. Also, that leaves Top 10 lists like this one in an interesting predicament. For example, the Oscars were supposed to be held tonight. They’ve since pushed back until nearly May. Many of the top contenders are coming out now instead of several months ago as the Academy has adjusted their window to allow for some 2021 movies to be eligible. But, not I. No. Even when the world throws everything into a tizzy, I believe the top 10 movies of 2020 should be made only of movies that, well, came out in 2020. So, I’m not gonna sit around any longer. I’m ready. I’ve seen most of the movies I think will qualify. I’ve arranged them nice and pretty. It’s go time. Let’s take away the Oscars spotlight. Oh… the Golden Globes are tonight? Eh, who cares? I feel like I have more street cred anyways. (Can you believe they put Minari in the best foreign language film category? It’s an American movie made by Americans in America about America! Anyways, moving on.)

Lastly, before we get into it, I feel like I need to put the same disclaimer that I do on every list. This is MY list. It’s super subjective. I do not claim to speak for everyone when I make this list. Therefore, your favorite movie of the year might not have made it. I’m sorry. I’m glad you liked it, but I either didn’t care for it as much as you did or I straight up haven’t seen it. If you bring it up in a fair and agreeable manner, I’d love to discuss it with you. On the flip side, there’s a decent chance that you hated one of the movies on my list. Again, sorry, but it’s MY list. Got it? Good.

As always, I’m gonna do a couple of smaller awards and then move onto the Top 10 list. Without further ado, let’s jump into it.

Worst Movie of 2020

Normally, I don’t like to do a “Worst of” but this year has had an especially long line of stinkers. This dawned on me as I was watching New Mutants and realized it wouldn’t even come close to making the list. Because I’d rather watch New Mutants five times in a row before I’d put on any one of these.

Imagine what it’d be like if Tommy Wiseau directed Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s 365 Days in a nutshell. Honestly, Disney was saved a lot of embarrassment by quietly posting Artemis Fowl on Disney+, because this is easily one of the worst movies the company has ever made. Fantasy Island is an absolute joke of a movie. Easily the worst time I had in theaters last year. The Turning just pisses me off royally, because I was semi-enjoying it until that out of nowhere twist ending that threw everything else out the window. And, finally, Robert Zemeckis is one of my favorite directors of all-time, but every single decision he made in The Witches felt like the wrong one.

And the winner is…

Honestly, it was a close call, but too much of Artemis Fowl is just permanently seared into my brain for the rest of eternity. You’ve got one of the least likeable leads in Disney history. Josh Gad doing this weird gravely Batman impression, which only becomes more terrifying when you see his real nature. Dame Judi Dench trying to be a badass while saying “Top of the mornin’ to ya.” That stupid, stupid looking unicorn. The god-awful special effects. And, the fact that the whole thing reeks of a Men in Black ripoff. Part of me wishes this had come to theaters like it was originally planned to, because I would’ve loved to see how hard this thing bombed. I haven’t read the books, but I’m guessing they deserved a lot more respect than this piece of garbage.

Now, onto the praise

Best Supporting Actress of 2020

Maria Bakalova somehow managed to hold her own against Sacha Baron Cohen, while also bringing a lot of the heart to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Barbie Ferreira absolutely nailed the socially outcast friend with the heart of gold in Unpregnant. In Hamilton, Phillipa Soo brought life to a character who’s often just a footnote in history. Youn Yuh-jung played probably the coolest grandma ever to come across in the big screen, portraying her as both playfully coy and lovingly earnest. Helena Zengel‘s role as a non-English speaking child who was raised by Native Americans and is forced to integrate back into American society could not have been an easy one, but she pulled it off tremendously.

And the winner is…

Easily THE breakout star of 2020, Maria Bakalova did the impossible. She stole the spotlight from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat. Do you know how hard that is to do? But, she managed to be just as funny, while also imbuing her character with a lot of heart. She can do it all. From ruining Ruddy Giuliani’s career to making herself look like a fool at a gala to having a authentically moving moment with her would-be babysitter. All of this without ever hesitating. In fact, it was Cohen that had to save her from Giuliani because she refused to break character. Overall, I do believe that Tutar is a more rounded character than Borat ever has been and a lot of that praise should go to Bakalova.

Best Supporting Actor of 2020

Chadwick Boseman‘s death is going to sting for quite some time, but, luckily, his last performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was also one of his best. I was blown away by Bo Burnham in Promising Young Woman, as I found myself both loving and hating his character over the course of the movie. 2020 was 100% the year of Sacha Baron Cohen, as The Trial of the Chicago 7 gave him a chance to show of his serious side and he hit us with one of the year’s more powerful performances. Humanizing the man who killed one of our founding fathers out of jealousy is not a simple task, but it’s one that Leslie Odom Jr was perfectly suited for. I spent my Independence Day sobbing over his performance, which was definitely unexpected. And, lastly, Robert Pattinson gave the most villainous performance of the year in The Devil All the Time, as a scummy Southern preacher who preys on young girls.

And the winner is…

Chadwick Boseman was so good in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Honestly, even with how brilliant everyone else in this category is, it wasn’t even close. In fact, I’d probably say Boseman’s performance was THE performance of the year. The character he portrays in just so tragic. He’s had an arduous past and, unfortunately, will have an even worse future. And, Boseman portrays all of that pain and suffering wonderfully. You can feel the years of strain, as every single minor slight or inconvenience pushes him closer to his breaking point. He’s arrogant, brash, violent and more than a little foolish, but you still can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. It’s a beautifully complex character and an excellent example of Boseman’s natural ability. He was definitely taken from us too soon.

Best Actress of 2020

Haley Bennett managed to justify her character’s weird obsession with swallowing things by showing the realistic heartbreak in Swallow. In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Viola Davis showed us that Ma Rainy wasn’t going to let the system play her, even as a black lesbian in the 1920s. Frances McDormand gave us probably the most realistic look at the grieving process in Nomadland. Promising Young Woman gave Carey Mulligan the perfect opportunity to stretch her acting legs as someone trying to get revenge on men who take advantage. And, lastly, I didn’t realize that Aubrey Plaza had such strong dramatic chops. I’m glad she showed them to us in Black Bear.

And the winner is…

Carey Mulligan was an absolute force to be reckoned with in Promising Young Woman. First of all, she was intimidating as hell. I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to pull of the badass vigilante aspect but she definitely proved me wrong. How suddenly she managed to go from blackout drunk to stern and judgment was absolutely staggering. And the absolute savagery she’d lay down at the men’s feet was fantastic. I found myself rooting for her in the same way I root for Batman or John Wick. But, like most roles built on vengeance, it’s not enough to portray your character as badass. You’ve got to be a bit vulnerable too. And, Mulligan, of course, knocks that part out of the park. You can feel the years of distrust and heartbreak in every decision she makes. Getting into a relationship is especially hard for her, because she more or less has PTSD. She manages to hit that perfect balance between heartbreak and ass-kickery. It’s a wonderful role and I can’t imagine anyone other than Carey Mulligan playing it.

Best Actor of 2020

In The Trial of the Chicago 7, Yahya Abdul-Manteen II steals the show as a black man trying to get a fair trial while getting anything but. I know that he was essentially just playing himself, but Pete Davidson‘s emotional range in The King of Staten Island completely blew me away. Delroy Lindo‘s monologue towards the end of Da 5 Bloods alone would get him a nomination from me. There weren’t many cool action movie guy vibes in 2020, but, luckily, Matthew McConaughey brought enough to fill out the whole year’s quota as a marijuana entrepreneur in The Gentlemen. And, of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda stole all of our hearts as the young, scrappy, and hungry revolutionist who did not throw away his shot.

And the winner is…

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is filled to the brim with Earth shaking performances. Seriously, all of the cast deserves recognition. However, it was Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who really stood out to me. He is just a man who’s trying to get a fair trial. He doesn’t want to be tried with the others. In fact, his lawyer isn’t even present during the trial. And, the judge won’t even allow him to speak. These repeated racist injustices build on him and break him down until he eventually snaps. What follows is one of the most hearbreaking and memorable scenes of the year. The judge wants to sell this guy as a big, scary Black Panther, when all he’s looking for is to be treated like a regular human being. It’s truly heartbreaking stuff. And Abdul-Mateen portrays all of that anguish and heartbreak perfectly. I don’t see his name brought up too often in this year’s Oscar race and that’s a shame, because he elicited more emotion out of me than most.

Best Director of 2020

Judd Apatow has a special gift for taking standup comedians and telling their stories in really meaningful ways, which he did again this year in The King of Staten Island. After decades of directing some of Pixar’s most moving films, Pete Docter may have went out on a high note with Soul. Even without all of the scares, The Lodge felt so cold and claustrophobic, which is a credit to Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. Aaron Sorkin somehow manages to tell us exactly the political story we need right now. This year it was The Trial of the Chicago 7. Great performances don’t mean a thing without a great director. In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, George C. Wolfe is that director.

And the winner is…

For decades now, Aaron Sorkin has been taking what should be relatively boring subject matter and turning it into cinematic gold. And, he definitely did it again with The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s a movie filled to the brim with passion and intrigue. Managing to make a story that’s almost fifty years old feels as fresh and vibrant as if it just happened yesterday. Sorkin manages to make the court room sequences just as tense as the passion boiling over during the riots on the streets. Every single performance, every single line, every single moment: they all land perfectly. While it may not feature as much flair as some other movies that came out this year, I can’t think of a more perfect directing job than Sorkin’s.

The Best Movies of 2020

Honorable Mentions

The Devil All the Time is probably the most epic feeling movie of the year with a story spanning decades featuring tons of memorable characters and jaw-dropping moments. Like I said earlier, we didn’t get a lot of kick-ass cinema this year. Luckily, Guy Ritchie took care of us early with a good old fashioned violent, funny, adrenaline rush in The Gentlemen. It was honestly a blast. Never Rarely Sometimes Always was heartbreaking. Telling the story of two teens who travel to New York to get an abortion in one of the most realistic movies of the year, it’s not a fun movie. But, it’s definitely one of the most important of the year. (Side note: If you want a less heavy version, see the also incredible Unpregnant. Though, honestly, you should see both.) No movie I watched at home made me miss theaters more than News of the World. Between its intense shootouts and the moving story, I wish I had seen this with an audience. Swallow manages to make one of the weirder premises of a movie (a girl has an addiction to swallowing dangerous items) work really, really well by hitting you hard on the head with emotions.

10. Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman is an absolute thrill ride of a movie. I think I felt every possible emotion over its runtime. From the pure vindication you feel as she’s getting revenge on these scummy dudes to the heartbreak and anger as you learn more about why she’s doing it, it’s a real roller coaster of emotions. Plus, as you can tell in my actor nominations section, I thought the performances were phenomenal. There has been some discourse about the ending. Some people don’t think it quite works. And, while I see where they’re coming from, I had no problems with it. Everything rang true to me. But, again, different strokes for different folks. I, for one, very much enjoyed Promising Young Woman. I think it’s almost the perfect movie for our times. I think it’s a strong, feminist statement. And, most telling, it’s one I plan on revisiting soon.

9. The Invisible Man

Now, this is how you remake a classic monster movie! Don’t turn it into a bad, modern day action movie. Don’t just remake a classic almost beat for beat. You take what still works about the original, the scariest core concept, and you see how it would fit into today’s society. Make it scary for today. And, if you can, make it impactful. Give it a message. In short, do exactly what you did in The Invisible Man. This remake really drives home why you should be afraid of him. Not only can he literally attack you from anywhere, he can make you seem crazy by just as easily pretending not to be there. They’ve turned a campy, quirky villain into a homicidal, gaslighting psychopath. It’s very effective, managing to be both timeless and super timely. Plus, Elizabeth Moss knocks it out of the park as always. Just an all around, perfect, scary, movie. Now don’t screw it up, Universal.

8. Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods has a lot to say. It’s tackling our involvement in the Vietnam War, PTSD, what it meant to be black in the 70s, what it means to be black now, Trumpism, racism, manliness, and, honestly, probably a lot more that I’m not remembering. For most filmmakers, that would be a lot to tackle. Probably too much. But, for Spike Lee, it’s just right. Each of these is covered gracefully in really impactful ways. And, most surprising of all, this movie is a lot of fun. These characters are people I’d want to spend time with. They all feel real. And, there are some outlandish, hilarious moments that are going to stick with me forever. So, yeah, for it’s mix of poignant messages and laugh out loud moments, Da 5 Bloods easily earns it’s spot on my list.

7. The Lodge

The Lodge is one of those movies you recommend to people just so you have someone to talk to about it. I feel like it’s all I could think or talk about for two weeks after my viewing. I started so many conversations with “I saw the craziest movie the other day.” In fact, because I knew that my little sister isn’t much of a scary movie fan so she’d never see it, I explained the entire plot to her during a car ride one time. The entire thing. I didn’t miss a single beat. That’s how memorable all of this was to me. I haven’t been hit like this by a revelation in a very long time. Seriously, go watch The Lodge. If you like The Shining, it’s a lot in the same vein as that. Just a little different in ways I can’t quite comment on without being spoilery. And, the less you know the better. I loved it. I think you’ll love it too.

6. Soul

I’m not gonna lie. As a massive Pixar fan, I kinda sorta trashed Soul a bit after watching it for the first time. While I did enjoy it, I was reluctant to give it my full praise because it felt a tad too similar to Inside Out and Coco for my taste. I just felt that the movie was going over ground Pixar had already covered so beautifully. Luckily, none of that criticism stuck on my second viewing. I almost ended up having to look at it as its own independent experience and not part of the larger Pixar brand. And, on its own, Soul is an absolutely beautiful movie, both visually and emotionally. The animation in these movies keeps getting better. You could take a background frame from one of the city scenes, remove the cartoon characters, and pass it off as a photograph. It’s breath taking. Then, on an emotional level, I think this is one of the most grownup Pixar movies yet as it focuses on dreams and the meaning of life. Ultimately, it teaches us that it’s the little stuff that makes life truly worth living. That just being alive is worth it. That’s beautiful and resonant. And it’s exactly what we needed in 2020. Oh, and, of course, it’s got that Pixar charm with hilarious characters and a unique world building. If it’s not nominated for Best Picture, I will be quite disappointed. While still not my favorite Pixar flick, I don’t believe one has earned its nomination more than this one.

5. The King of Staten Island

As I said before, Judd Apatow has a gift for taking his comedian friends and telling their stories for everyone to see on the big screen. Take that and mix it with Pete Davidson’s really unique world point of view and you’ve got something special in The King of Staten Island. Also, like I said, I was blown away by Davidson’s remarkably honest portrayal. You could feel the sadness radiating off of him as a man struggling to take life seriously after the loss of his father. But, he also did a really good job of showing that spark he got when hearing about all of the wonderful things his dad did. It was a really poignant portrayal and one that impressed me quite a bit. And, he’s not the only one that brought the heat either. Both Marisa Tomei, as his heartbroken mom ready to finally move on, and Bill Burr, as the step-father figure trying to do his best, brought some of the best performances I’ve seen either do. Both were contenders for the best performances of the year and I’m still kinda upset neither made it. (It was just a really strong year though.) Also, surprisingly, Maude Apatow, Judd’s daughter, really gave a convincing performance as Pete’s little sister that was both disgusted by and wanted the best for her brother. That was really believable stuff. Honestly, the whole movie was filled with heartfelt and funny performances. I’d recommend it to just about everyone. Even if you’re not a fan of Pete Davidson’s, I think you will be by the time the credits roll. It’s one of the best feel good movies of the year.

4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

It would be really easy to say that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom coasts on some fantastic performances. After all, Viola Davis is a national treasure who brings her A-game playing a diva who knows how talented she is and isn’t going to take any shit even though she’s a black, gay woman in 1927. And, as I’ve already gone on about plenty, Chadwick Boseman gives the best performance of his life and possibly the year. So, yeah, the performances in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom are really, really good. But, I wouldn’t say that’s all it has. The script is nearly perfect. It laments on the struggles of African Americans during that time period without ever feeling preachy. Everything that’s occurring here feels like it would happen on your typical summer afternoon. Nothing feels like it was written specifically for the screen on stage, even though there are monologues aplenty. Plus, there’s the one-two punch of heart shattering moments at the end that’ll stick with me forever. I’ll never forget Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and I’m glad it exists to cement Chadwick Boseman’s legacy.

3. The Trial of the Chicago 7

When the Academy Awards are given out on April 25, I fully expect The Trial of the Chicago 7 to win Best Picture. Because, in my ways, it’s kinda the perfect movie. It’s wonderfully directed by Aaron Sorkin. The cast is made up of all-stars who each deserve praise and admiration. The script is beautifully elegant with each character getting their own moment to shine and plenty of quotes that could rallying cries. And it covers some of the most important topics that are relevant today. Are protesters patriotic? Are they to held responsible when certain factions of that group become unhinged? Is there automatically a tinge of racism in today’s justice system? These are all questions that were huge in the 70s and are still major struggles today. This is a movie that feels like it as written specifically for this moment in time. It’s both inspiring and heartbreaking. I would definitely call it mandatory viewing. I hope the Academy pushes it in front of as many people as possible.

2. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Sometimes the year-end Top 10 all comes down to timing. And no one has better timing than Sacha Baron Cohen. In fact, in the future, whenever someone asks me what 2020 was like, I’ll probably just show them Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Because it’s all here. Trumpism. Racism. COVID. Sexism. QAnon. #MeToo. It’s all here. It’s all on display. And, in ways only Cohen’s Borat can do, it’s all on display for us to laugh at. It’s both deeply disturbing and gives us a chance to lighten our loud a bit. And it’s exactly what I needed in late October of 2020. And, honestly, it’s kind of impressive how well this improv heavy script held its story together. Like I said before, there were parts of this movie that genuinely moved me. Now, of course, there’s the question of timelessness. Will Borat 2 still be funny when it’s no longer relevant? Personally, I think it will be. It’s just a perfect time capsule for what this shitshow of a year was. I think even future generations will get a kick out of laughing at our misery in the same way we can revisit Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. I hope we never need Borat again. But, I’m glad he’s always around if things get too bad. And, I’m more than grateful he gave us his Subsequent Moviefilm.

  1. Hamilton

Honestly, I’m a little reluctant to have Hamilton on here. Because I can’t stop asking myself “Is Hamilton really a movie?” I mean… it’s a recording of a Broadway show. Surely that’s not cinema in its purest form. I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth on this for months now. This went on until literally the last second. I had a version of this list made up without Hamilton on in. And it felt weird. It was like making up the invites to your birthday party without your best friends. How was I going to leave out the moving experience I had all year? The movie that reignited my patriotism right when it was being tested the most? That restarted the flame that is my love for both musicals and history? The soundtrack that defined my entire year? No. There’s no way I could leave Hamilton off. And giving it an honorable mention didn’t feel right either. After all, it was my favorite movie of the year.

And, well, that’s it. Time to officially put 2020 to bed for the most part. I’ll probably write up one more piece on the Oscars, since they’re sure to be interesting. Other than that though. Yeah. We’re finally done with that shitshow of a year. Honestly, not bad movie wise though. There weren’t a ton of big releases but that gave the smaller stuff a chance to really shine through. And, overall, I’m not at all unhappy with my Top 10 list. It’d be solid any year, let alone one where I only saw two of them in theaters.

Hopefully 2021 will be even better though. I’m hoping to get back to the theater on a regular basis. Start reviewing stuff again. You know, the normal stuff. We should have more than enough movies in the pipeline to keep the theaters open. Unless everything turns to shit again, which I, optimistically, don’t think it will. But, either way, I’m looking forward to what movies 2021 has to offer. And, as always, I’ll be here to talk about them.

I’ll see you guys next time. Thanks.

Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: The 10 Worst (and 5 Best) Movies

Hello. Hello. Hello. Merry Christmas! We made it all the way through Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever! For those of you who don’t know. I spent the whole month of late November/December watching and reviewing some of the worst Christmas movies ever made, because Christmas 2020 was bound to suck anyways. It was quite the challenge. There was a lot of bad stuff to parse through. But, we’re here now: on the other side. And, well, that was fun. I don’t think I’d ever do it again… or at least not something of that size. This was just too much, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

28 truly awful pieces of cinema have been seen by me. And, I figured I’d recap and celebrate by counting down the worst of the worst. But, then I got to thinking, I enjoyed watching a couple of these though. So, what counts as a truly bad movie? Is it one that I can laugh at or one that was absolute torture to get through? Then, I thought “hey, why not do both?” And that’s just what I’m going to do. First, we’re going to go through some of the most painful movies I’ve ever seen. Seriously, my critera here was pretty much “what would I never, ever want to watch again?” Then, we’ll cover the more fun entries. I would have no problem gathering some friends together, having a couple of drinks, and laughing about how these movies are so bad, they’re good. Because, as I’ve said, sometimes it’s just fun to enjoy a bad movie. But, first,

THE WORST OF THE WORST

10. Jack Frost (1997)

This is the “scary” Jack Frost movie for those keeping track at home. It’s also the one I didn’t really spend much time reviewing. Because this movie is bad on purpose, which, quite frankly, I hate. So, I guess congratulations Jack Frost creators. You did what you set out to do. You made a bad movie. I bet you wish you were on the other list though. Too bad. Your movie sucks. Moving on.

9. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Frankly, I don’t like that I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus made this list. I really respect the Sprouse twins. They’ve made me laugh a lot over the years. But, their performances here were god awful. Actually, everyone in this movie is bad, which led to one of the longer, more painful viewing experiences of this entire month. Plus, it wanted too badly to be Home Alone or Jingle All the Way so bad. Sorry, Dylan and Cole. You’re still cool in my book. This movie sucks though.

8. Black Christmas (2006)

So, I’ve never seen the original Black Christmas, but I still completely hated this version. I hate when horror films are more interested in gore than they are effective scares. That’s definitely the case with this unscary remake. This whole movie just kinda feels icky and gross. Plus, the villains are two of the least frightening in horror history. I’ll probably go back and watch the original at some point, but I’m forever staying far, far away from this disaster.

7. Elves

My sister recently asked me about Elves. After reading my review, she was very confused about why this had a Nazi subplot. I didn’t know what to do other than shrug. Honestly, this was one of the weirdest backstories I’ve ever seen in a horror film. If only it were more entertaining, I’d call it good bad. But, holy crap, this movie is booooring. Still, I recommend that YouTube video that summarizes the whole movie in five minutes. That’s a good viewing experience. The actual whole movie: not so much.

6. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Now we’re getting into the movies that actually give me PTSD. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is so bad that 70% of it’s runtime is a completely unrelated movie. Seriously, we kind of just leave this story behind and are told the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk instead. I should be grateful though because both Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny are terrifying in this. The less of them the better. This feels less like a movie I watched and more like some bizarre drug induced nightmare I had.

5. Santa’s Slay

I’ve never seen a movie as mean spirited as Santa’s Slay before. Seriously, all the way down to it’s core it’s mean. This movie hates absolutely everyone. It’s like watching a mad man make a movie that plays out all of his worst, perverted fantasies. I’m all for a sick, demented time, but this just felt angry.

4. An American Carol

Speaking of offensive and angry, An American Carol. I challenge anyone with decent taste to watch this movie and laugh. All of the jokes fall extremely flat. They brutally mock entire religions and political beliefs. And, the moral goes completely goes against Charles Dickens’ original. It’s sad that Zucker, one of the funniest film makers of all-time, has fallen this far. In fact, it makes me love Airplane and Naked Gun just a little less.

3. Santa Buddies

Woof. You see that image up above? See how it’s just dogs staring blankly into the camera? Like, there’s obviously someone with a treat right behind the camera guy. Well, now imagine their mouths moving and some horrible child actor’s voice coming out. And they’re trying to save Santa. Now, imagine this goes on for 90 minutes. That’s Santa Buddies. When I review it originally, I called it pure torture. I stand by that remark, yet somehow there are still two movies coming that are worse.

2. Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas barely counts as a movie. It’s just Cameron lecturing you for an hour about the “War on Christmas” and then they dance. That’s it. Seriously. It’s terrible. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

1. Santa’s Christmas Elf (Named Calvin)

Say what you will about any movie on this list. Heck, any movie in this challenge. Or, you know, any movie ever made. But, AT LEAST THEY MOVE. I can’t say the same about Santa’s Christmas Elf (Named Calvin). This is just 75 minutes of creepy, vintage, still images with an annoying voice, very reminiscent of Mr. Bill talking over them. And it feels like it lasts an eternity. This has to be against the Geneva Conventions or something. I have to be owed compensation after watching this. Can I call my lawyer? Someone has to make these people pay for forcing this cruelty upon the world. They can’t just keep getting away with it! (Side note: the producers also made Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, so, yeah, they deserve two spots in hell.)

The Best “So Bad, It’s Good” Movies

5. Silent Night, Deadly Night

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about Silent Night, Deadly Night. I have no idea if it was bad on purpose. Heck, I don’t even know if it’s bad. So, putting this on the “so bad, it’s good” list might be cheating a bit. This might be a legitimately good movie. I can’t tell. I just know that I enjoyed myself tremendously while watching it. I saw a decent amount of Christmas themed horror this month and this one definitely was my favorite. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for alternative programming this Christmas season.

4. Magic Christmas Tree

First of all, Magic Christmas Tree is absolutely insane. You never know where this plot is going to go. It just jumps from one extreme occurrence to the next. Second, it can be easily be read as a super villain origin story with one of the main plot points being to kidnap Santa Claus. And, then finally, it features one of the greatest fourth wall breaks in the history of cinema. Seriously, gather some friends up, have a couple drinks, and enjoy this bizarre, out of this world trip.

3. Santa Claus

Santa Claus, a Mexican film from 1959, definitely takes the cake for weirdest interpretation of a famous fictional character I’ve ever seen. This Santa is just so freaking weird. He’s creepy. He lives in space. He uses children from different countries around the world instead of elves. He has robot reindeer. I don’t even know how to describe the nightmare fuel of a machine he uses to watch over all the kids. And, he fights Satan himself. Seriously, you’ve got to see this to believe it. Definitely a highlight from the month.

2. The Star Wars Holiday Special

If you’re a Star Wars fan with a sense of humor, you’ve got to subject yourself to The Star Wars Holiday Special. It’ll make everything else seem so much better in comparison. Seriously, the decision to put Jar Jar in Episode I doesn’t seem so weird when you’ve seen a Wookiee grandfather watching VR porn in the middle of his living room. Or Bea Arhtur as a singing bartender on Tattooine. Or Luke Skywalker in an insane amount of makeup. Or, heck, realizing that this is the first time audiences saw Boba Fett. It’s a weird trip. But, with the right group of friends, it can be a very rewarding one.

1. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

Now, Part 2 I have no problem putting on the list. It is absolutely a “so bad it’s good” movie. First of all, the entire first half of the movie is just a recap of the first one. So, technically, you don’t have to have seen Part 1 to understand this one. Though, I definitely still recommend it. Second, this features one of the most over the top, campy lead performances in horror movie history. Seriously, I was dying laughing at the way this guy delivered his lines. Pair that with some ridiculously over the top kills and you’ve got yourself a good time. The two night adventure of Part 1 and Part 2 was easily the highlight of this whole experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if I revisited these two movies over and over and over again.

So, that’s my list. I checked it twice. I would absolutely not recommend anything on that first list. They’re all complete trash. And, there’s a couple of hidden gems on the second that almost made this challenge worth it. I’d say to get in the right mindset and maybe give a couple of those a try.

Either way, thank you! This month has been a lot of fun and I appreciate those of you who’ve been reading along at home. Like I said, I probably won’t do anything quite like this ever again. Though, I can definitely see more “so bad, it’s good” reviews coming in the future. Until then, Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And, most importantly, Happy Life Day.

Now it’s time to catch up on some of 2020’s best movies I missed for my Top 10 list, which should be up in a couple of weeks.

See you guys soon.

Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: Jingle All the Way 2

Merry Christmas, one and all! Welcome back to Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever! We made it! It’s Christmas! This is the last review for this challenge. I hope you had as much fun reading these as I did writing them. Wait. Let me take that back. I hope it wasn’t as torturous for you to read about these movies as it was for me to watch them. Anywho, don’t worry. This isn’t the last write up for this series. I’ve got a special Top 10 list coming tomorrow. I’m gonna try and actually rank some of these, which should be incredibly difficult. They’ve all been incredibly bad. But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about the latest nightmare first.

I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in the almost 30 movies I’ve watched for this challenge. Christmas sequels just aren’t very good. Whether it’s a holiday spin on something that wasn’t very Christmasy in the first place (Star Wars Holiday Special, Santa Buddies) or a belated sequel to a beloved Christmas classic (Home Alone 3, A Christmas Story 2), they’ve all been pretty darn bad. And, well, I just had the “pleasure” of watching another one. Jingle All the Way 2 is in the later category. It’s another belated sequel that has almost none of the charm or iconic imagery of the first one. (Side note: Is Jingle All the Way a classic? I feel like it’s kind of in this in-between, grey area. Some like it. Some hate it. I don’t know what the consensus is.)

I will give Jingle All the Way 2 a tad bit of credit though. Compared to all of the other sequels on this list, it’s not horrible. It’s the fact that it’s called Jingle All the Way 2 that hurts it so much. When I think of Jingle All the Way, I think of big, over the top, ridiculous action-comedy set pieces. I think of Arnold noises, Sinbad yelling, and silly superhero costumes. It’s big. It’s bombastic. It’s, well, the type of movie they don’t really make anymore. In short, it’s kind of Arnold. But, Jingle All the Way 2 kind of grounds it in a weird way. They’ve kept the parents trying to hunt down the biggest toy of the season, but there’s no action here. It’s just your typical Larry the Cable guy comedy. There are a few punches thrown, but I wouldn’t call any of them fights. I don’t know. Maybe I’m alone on this. But, this isn’t Jingle All the Way to me. It’s basically a completely different movie.

Also, when I say that it’s the best of the sequels watched, please don’t mistake that for me saying Jingle All the Way 2 is good. It’s most definitely not. It is a Larry the Cable Guy comedy through and through. There are no less than three jokes about him pooping his pants. Git R Done is said. And it’s very much a Blue Collar vs White Collar story. Plus, not a single character in this movie is likable. The kid especially annoyed me quite a bit. It’s definitely a bad movie. It’s just not the travesty that a lot of other belated Christmas sequels are. Heck, it’s probably even the best Larry the Cable Guy movie I’ve seen outside of the Cars franchise. But, that really says less about this movie and more about Larry and Christmas sequels.

Overall, I didn’t have the worst time watching Jingle All the Way 2. I still definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It does not live up to the status of the first one. And, honestly, it’s still a bad movie. But, what I do recommend is watching the original again. Because I want to have that discussion. Right here. Right now. Is Jingle All the Way a classic? I don’t even know how I feel about it. So, please, answer my question so I can make my mind up. It’s bothering me. I think I like it, but also the nostalgia is heavy on that one. I’ve gotta go. Otherwise, I could talk about this all day.

See you tomorrow for my Top 10 Worst Christmas Movies list!

Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

Hello. Merry Christmas Eve! Welcome back to Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever. For the last month, I have been watching and reviewing some of the worst Christmas movies of all time. And, well, it’s kind of sucked. In fact, you might say it’s turned me grumpy. Nah. I’m just messing. I’m not going to be that lame. It really has put me in quite the mood though. But, I’m almost done. Like, really, really close. So, let’s get this over with shall we?

Do you remember those super corny meme commercials Wendy’s made a couple of years? You know, the ones where the sandwiches were so good that it made people strike meme poses. They sucked. Everyone hated them. They felt so out of touch and dated. Clearly made by someone who doesn’t understand meme culture beyond knowing that it’s popular. It was cringe personified. Well, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is pretty much the movie version of that.

First of all, a meme is never going to be enough to carry a whole movie. They’re relatable images. In this case, it’s funny because the cat is making a grump face. Then, you throw a line in there like “Mondays suck” or “I hate waking up” and everyone giggles because #relatable. There’s no plot to a meme. No real character. Heck, even the image itself isn’t all that important. You just take something and make it relatable to your life. If it clicks with others, you have a popular meme. And, everyone else does the same. Within a week, you’ve got thousands of versions of the same joke. Over and over and over. It’s great. Until it’s not. Because of the repetition, these jokes also go stale incredibly fast. Within a couple of days, we’re onto the next joke and there is no looking back. Thus, it’s ridiculously naive to try and make a movie out of a meme. First of all, like I said, there’s only one joke to tell. She’s a grumpy cat. Second, by the time you finish making your movie, the joke has been dead for months. No one cares anymore.

But, since they made the movie, how is it? Well, it’s simply not good. Because, uh, the plot is super similar to Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Like, shockingly so. In this, Grump Cat belongs to a suffering pet store in the mall. It’s about to saved from going out of business when they get their hands on a million dollar dog. Two thieves then learn about this canine and try to steal him. So, it’s up to Grumpy Cat and her new human friend, who can understand her after being granted a wish by Santa, to stop them after the mall has closed. Que a lot of running between stores, using the merchandise to take the crooks down. The only thing this movie has that Paul Blart doesn’t is talking animals. Well, talking and paint ball wielding. And car driving. Yes, we see Grumpy Cat drive a car. So, let that be a reminder the next time you’re suffering through a Kevin James movie. At least it doesn’t have a talking cat in it.

Shit! I mean… at least Paul Blart doesn’t…

Anyways, if Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever was just a bad movie, I could maybe give it a pass. It definitely wouldn’t be a movie for me, but I could see how maybe someone out there might enjoy it. Nah. What makes it truly horrific is the fact that it’s constantly interrupting itself. I understand that this was originally a TV movie with commercials. I get that. But, do we really need Grumpy leading us into and then easing us out of every commercial break? Seriously, she’d pop up in the middle of a scene and say something clever about how they’re never going to escape this, the screen would go black, and then she’d pop back up to catch you up on where you just were. Or, worse, there would be an extensive gag pretending that it’s a different program or just straight up plugging her merch store. Would this have worked better when watched in its original format on Lifetime? Maybe. I doubt it would be less annoying, but I can see how it might work. But, when watching this as a commercial free rental on a streaming service, it’s absolute torture. On one or two of the intros, Grumpy Cat broke the fourth wall, asking why I was still watching, and I was honestly asking myself the same question.

So, overall, I definitely would recommend skipping Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. It’s just not funny at all. It feels like it was written for 15 year old girls, but somehow missed and is a favorite among Karens who share Minion memes on Facebook. It’s ridiculously uncool and I’m shocked they got Aubrey Plaza to be part of it. That must’ve been one heck of a paycheck. And, if Grumpy Cat stands for anything, it’s milking something for a profit. Go to grumpycats.com for more information.

Also, yes, I named this challenge Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever specifically to pay homage to this movie. Was it worth it? Is it funny? No. Not really. But, now you know.

Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: A Merry Friggin’ Christmas

Merry friggin’ Christmas, everybody! (Sorry. I had to.) Welcome back to Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been going through and reviewing some of the absolute worst Christmas movies of all-time. Because it’s 2020 and everything sucks anyways. Today’s entry might be the least bad movie I’ve watched all month, which, you know… isn’t saying all that much to be honest.

I’m not going to lie. I walked into A Merry Friggin’ Christmas wanting to like it. I know I’ve watched a lot of comedically talented people make some really unfunny movies this December, but I still held out hope. There’s no way this cast could make something all that bad. After all, I’ve been a die hard Robin Williams fan my entire life and Joel McHale starred in Community, which is probably my favorite sitcom of all-time. So, yeah, I had decently high hopes for this. And, you know what? It didn’t really disappoint. It’s by far the best movie I’ve seen come out of this challenge (with the possible exception of Silent Night, Deadly Night). Now, would I have liked it if I went in with normal expectations? If it wasn’t on my list of the worst Christmas movies ever? Probably not. But, with those lowered expectations, I thought it was a decent time.

It all comes down to enjoyment factor. I found myself doing something during this movie that I haven’t most of the rest of the month. I was smiling and giggling at jokes that the movie was telling me. I actually laughed at a movie… for things that were intentionally funny. That’s a brand spanking new emotion. Or at least one I haven’t felt in a long time. Don’t get me wrong though. This movie has it’s fair share of cringe. It’s got more than average. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that most of the jokes here don’t work. In fact, it gets a tad unnessecarily dark towards the end with the guys thinking they accidentally murdered a guy and now have to hide a body. Williams’ character even busts out a chainsaw to cut them up. Then, it’s followed by a scene where a little boy dreams that a snowglobe is telling him Santa doesn’t exist. It’s maybe the weirdest transition in any movie I’ve ever seen. And, that’s kind of the norm for A Merry Friggin’ Christmas. It’s all over the place. But, this cast is so talented and so generally likeable that you’ll still feel like you’re having a good time. Or not a bad one.

The only real, genuine complaint I have against this movie is that it feels a tad melancholy due to the fact that it came out after Robin’s suicide. This is, of course, in no way the movie’s fault. As I’ve said before, most of his work has a weird aurora of sadness over it for me now. I just can’t help it. This one in particular feels extra dark though, as he’s playing a depressed man who feels their entire life has been a failure. It’s not too much of a stretch to put this and real life together. And, well, it kind of brings the mood down a bit.

So, overall, would I recommend A Merry Friggin’ Christmas? I honestly don’t know. This month of shitty movies has screwed with my taste so much. I think I almost liked it. But, like I said, it could just be that my expectations are all out of whack. Take that however you want I guess. All I know is that I’m going to need to recalibrate my taste buds once this challenge is over. I don’t even know who I am anymore…

Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! Welcome back to Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever! This holiday season, we’ve been counting down some of the worst Christmas movies ever made. And, guess what? We’re almost done! Yep. We’re only a few days away from the big day and, therefore, only a few bad films away from the end of this challenge. Unfortunately though, we’ve got quite the hurdle to overcome today. Let’s get to it.

Upon it’s release in 2014, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas became the lowest rated movie on IMDB. Think about that. Worse than The Room, Birdemic, every shitty horror film you’ve ever seen. The worst movie of all-time. (FYI: It’s since fallen to #6.) If you’re like me, the question is simple: is it really that bad? And, the short answer is yeah, kinda.

Honestly, there’s really not a lot to Saving Christmas. The “plot” is one of the simplest I’ve ever seen. We open with a huge monologue from Kirk Cameron about how important Christmas is and how we should be fighting the “War on Christmas”. This goes on for about ten minutes. Then, we cut to a Christmas party. Everyone is having a good time except for Cameron’s brother-in-law, who isn’t feeling the holiday spirit and is hiding in his car. Cameron then follows him into the car and they debate about how many of the commercial elements of Christmas actually do have roots in Christian beliefs. It’s a whole of Cameron pushing up him metaphorical glasses as he goes “uhm, actually” while stock footage plays in the background. Then, rejuvenated in his love for the holiday, the brother-in-law leads the party in a hip hop musical number, which goes on entirely too long. Then, our story wraps up with them enjoying dinner as Cameron narrates to us what the point of it all was. Seriously, that’s it. This movie is 95% Cameron talking directly to the camera about how we don’t “get” Christmas.

Here’s the thing. Having been born in 1992, I barely know who Kirk Cameron is. The only thing I know about him is that he’s super religious and had an actress fired from his show after she posed for Playboy. So, screw him. I don’t care for him spending a whole movie telling me how I should celebrate Christmas. This is literally the same as going to a party, getting wasted, and then accidentally starting a conversation with the wrong guy. You know the feeling. You just feel so trapped. You don’t want to be rude, but, also, you’re desperately looking for an out. That’s the whole movie. Kirk Cameron is mansplaining Christmas to you, while you beg for the credits to start rolling. Then, there’s a dance. And it may be worse than the lecture.

So, yeah, that’s all I have to say about Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. Sorry it’s not a lot. This isn’t a whole lot of movie though. I would avoid it if at all possible. Unless you’re looking for this sort of thing. Then, by all means, you do you. Just leave me the hell out of it please.

Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: A Christmas Story 2

Hello. Welcome back to Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever, where I’m going through and reviewing some of the absolute worst Christmas movies ever made. I’m running behind and you know the drill so let’s skip the foreplay.

Why do they insist on doing stuff like this? Can’t a movie just stand on it’s own? With it’s legacy in tact? Why must they ruin everything? Or at least try? Basically, why does A Christmas Story 2 even exist? I mean… come on! You know that lightning isn’t going to strike the same place twice. Heck, you even say that line a couple of times in your own movie. The original was such a classic, such a masterpiece, that anything you made would pale in comparison.

The first mistake this movie made was the fact that it exists at all. Ralphie’s an annoying teenager now. Instead of ducking bullies and begging for toys for Christmas, he’s fantasizing about cars and girls. I’m sorry, but no one cares what a teenage boy wants for Christmas. It’s just not cute. Plus, the actor who plays him is somehow worse than the kid that did it before. In fact, every single performance is worse than the iconic originals. Ralphie’s mom and dad in particular seem to have been hit extra hard. The performances aren’t necessarily awful. They’re just not the characters we know and love. If you absolutely had to do another Christmas Story, why not make it an anthology thing? Follow a completely different group of characters like Home Alone 3 did. But, unlike that movie, it’d probably work here, because there’s nothing specific about Ralphie that was special. He’s just an average boy having a slightly above average Christmas. If this movie had been about teenage Steve who lives three doors down from Ralphie, I probably would’ve liked it a lot more. You don’t have to change anything else. Just make it slightly detached from the original.

Don’t worry though. If you were one of the few people who wanted to see an actual sequel to A Christmas Story, this movie has you covered. It brings back every single joke you laughed at the first time to be recycled once again. Only everything is significantly worse and less funny the second time around. Remember the kid sticking his tongue to a telephone pole? Well, now he sticks his whole damn mouth into a suction tube. The slightly over it Santa? He’s straight up Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa now. The bunny suit is swapped out for both a goofy reindeer costume and a sailor suit for his little brother. Ralphie says fudge when he wrecks his car. The Chinese restaurant is dragged into this for no real reason. And, gosh darn it, you knew they had to shove that leg lamp in there somewhere. Most sequels are guilty of this to some degree. South Park calls them “member berries,” where you show the audience things they liked before and go “member A Christmas Story?” But, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done quite so obviously as it is here. These don’t feel like clever callbacks. It feels like they forced references to the original in wherever they could. It’s lazy. It’s cheap. And I don’t like it.

To wrap up this review, I thought I’d do something a bit different. This isn’t my first time watching this travesty. In fact, it’s not even my first time reviewing it. Back in my Tumblr days, I wrote up a short little piece on this. And, I thought I’d let 2012 Dylan take this one home. So, here it is: A sequel no one wanted? Crappy acting? Reenacting scenes from the first one? Taking a cute little kid and turning him into an annoying teenager? Completely missing the fun of the first one? Actual cussing? Ridiculous plot? Potentially ruining one of the best Christmas traditions ever? I don’t think you even tried at all. Oh, and FUCK YOU! I will be pissed if they try to show this on Christmas Eve and it breaks up the awesomeness that is A Christmas Story marathon. Grade: F

Well put, 2012 Dylan. Well put indeed.