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Showing posts from December, 2017

Why the American Dad! Christmas Episodes Are Worth Checking Out

There are a lot of television shows that have done Christmas episodes. And many of them are so good that we keep coming back to them. Some of my favourites come from Futurama, Community, The Simpsons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, Recess, Blackadder, and even M*A*S*H (a little-known gem called “Dear Sis”). But there’s one animated show with a number of really good Christmas episodes to its name that never gets recognized for them, and that is American Dad! By far the best of Seth MacFarlane’s shows (perhaps because he’s not as involved in the production), American Dad! is no stranger to slipping under the radar, either by being eclipsed by its sibling series, Family Guy and even The Cleveland Show for a while; or by its comic sensibilities being just more clever and surreal than its network competitors to achieve cult status, but not enough that it’s in anyway groundbreaking. Regardless, it’s a series that’s turned out some pretty funny and creative episodes, and among some of the…

Richard Linklater Pays Tribute to Military Service

The title of Last Flag Flying sounds unfortunately like the kind of thing you’d hear at the RNC or worse still, a Trump rally. It’s a phrase that seems to imply that kind of nationalistic nonsense about how the American flag and their military need to be glorified that leads to a distorted sense of values. This movie could almost be a propaganda piece. But it’s not; in fact it actually criticizes these very notions while remarkably at the same time being a genuinely patriotic love letter to the U.S. military and its veterans. And no less is expected from a master filmmaker like Richard Linklater. Here, he tells a very heartfelt story about three veterans and their relationship, both good and bad, to the institution that changed their lives. Set in 2003, Vietnam vet Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carrell) has recently lost his son in Iraq and seeks out his old military buddies to accompany him to the funeral. Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) is a crass alcoholic running a shoddy bar in Virginia,…

A Portrait of a Most Bizarre Artist

Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is, in its own way, a masterpiece. Often called the Citizen Kane of bad movies, it’s mesmerizing in how every choice, be it in the writing, directing, acting, or editing, is the wrong one. Thus it’s a movie unlike any you could ever experience; an incredibly entertaining, beautiful mess. And The Disaster Artist, based on the 2013 book by Greg Sestero (“Mark” in the film) is the story behind how that movie was made, as well as an insight into Sestero’s relationship with the bizarre Wiseau. And it’s a film made with a lot of heart by James Franco, who clearly has an enamoured fascination with the people who made The Room. Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is a struggling actor in San Francisco when he meets the strange and mysterious Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in 1998. Forming a friendship based on their mutual dream, the two then move to Los Angeles. But after Wiseau’s erratic behaviour and lack of talent fail to get him any jobs, he decides to make his own movie, writi…

The Trouble With this Dickens Christmas

The Unexpected Story of Christopher Robin

A. A. Milne wrote the first Winnie-the-Pooh book in 1926. In 2017, that silly old bear is still a household name. He’s one of the most enduring and timeless childrens’ characters and for good reason. He, his friends, and his world are a perfect capsule of child-like innocence, happiness, and imagination. Goodbye Christopher Robin, directed by Simon Curtis, is not really the story about the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh; it’s about the relationship between a father and son that was defined for good or bad by the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh. And it was this very thing, particularly the bad, that I wasn’t expecting out of a story seemingly as wholesome as this. A.A.Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) is trying to replenish his career as a writer after fighting in the First World War, but still experiences PTSD. To curb this, he uproots his family, moving them to the Sussex countryside. After a debilitating writers block, Milne is inspired by playing with his son Christopher Robin, nicknamed “Billy” (Wi…

Lady Bird Sees the Debut of a New Great Director

Greta Gerwig’s been one of indie filmmaking’s brightest stars for a few years now. With Lady Bird though, she’s making her directorial debut and it’s a role she imparts a sense of comfort in. Because not only is this movie quite clearly very personal, and probably semi-autobiographical, but Gerwig shows she has a very natural directorial eye. A coming-of-age story, Lady Bird follows a year in the life of free-spirited Sacramento native Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) who insists on being called “Lady Bird”. Namely, it’s her final year of high school, as she plans for her future and dreams of going to university in New York, while also dealing with typical teen drama in her friendships and love life. Most notable, is her troubled relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), whose concerns and frank expectations often clash with Lady Bird’s own values and lifestyle. Lady Bird is certainly a Greta Gerwig film. If it’s title character had at any point taken up dancing, this might have…

Why to Look Out for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The relationship between the public and the police is one of the major things under scrutiny in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a film which is ruthlessly brutal and affecting. It’s directed by Martin McDonagh whose previous films, the fantastic In Bruges, and the pretty good Seven Psychopaths, are known for combining serious, usually lethal actions, with black comedy. And while there is a darkly comic edge to this film, it’s by far his most serious project, and his most excellent. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), in an effort to raise awareness and reopen the rape-murder case of her daughter, pays for three billboards outside the town of Ebbing, Missouri that explicitly shame the law enforcement for not solving it. This is met with backlash considering the billboards specifically attack Chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), who in addition to being a well-liked figure in the community, is suffering from terminal cancer. The film focuses on Mildred becoming a pariah bec…