Snowed-Inn Christmas Review

Posted December 30, 2017 by johnjamesdamico
Categories: Uncategorized

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Snowed-Inn Christmas is one of the latest entries in the by-the-numbers Lifetime original Christmas films. Yes, this is definitely one of those movies where you can predict most of the plot points before they happen. Having said that, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to enjoy.

The story focuses on two journalists, Jenna (Joy Lenz), an intelligent, organized young woman who could probably benefit from lightening up a little and Kevin (Andrew W. Walker), an immature, irresponsible young man who can be a bit of jerk. Their personalities clash when their boss pairs these two polar opposites together on an assignment to take a trip and write a story on the true meaning of the holiday.

Things go wrong when their plane gets diverted and the bickering coworkers get stuck in the real-world town of Santa Claus, Indiana. Fortunately for them,  an older woman invites them to stay at the small Inn owned by her and her husband, the immediately obvious real Santa and Mrs. Claus (which for some reason, the film sort of treats it like a twist later on).

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The two start spending a lot of time together building up to their inevitable if not somewhat charming romance. You can tell exactly how this is going to play out: they fight at first, then they have a couple nice bonding moments and eventually develop feelings and get together. It’s nothing new but the leads have some charm and we do get one interesting and unexpected development with Jenna’s character.

Although, the development we get with Kevin’s character doesn’t really make a ton of sense. We know at the start of the film that he doesn’t want to spend Christmas with his family. And his reason doesn’t really end up being all that believable.

Additionally, the movie didn’t really need to include the real Santa and Mrs. Claus portion. It didn’t really add anything and the romance was much more enjoyable. It was like they just felt the need to add another Christmas element to the story, which wasn’t necessary.

Overall it’s definitely a watchable TV movie that keeps your attention. There’s plenty of better Christmas movies out there but there’s also plenty of worse ones. I suppose it can get a very mild recommendation (but just barely). It’s the kind of thing you can half-pay attention to and you’ll get some entertainment out of it.

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Underrated Christmas Specials (Part II)

Posted December 24, 2017 by johnjamesdamico
Categories: Lists

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Three years ago, I put together a post spotlighting some underrated holiday specials. It was definitely a fun entry to put together. So let’s talk about a few more of these lesser known specials worth checking out this time of year (in alphabetical order).

 

11 Louds a Leapin’ (The Loud House)

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For our first entry, we’re going with last year’s Christmas special from Nickelodeon’s The Loud House, their biggest hit since the talking sponge. Although popular among cartoon fans, it’s likely not known by those of you who aren’t part of that community. But yes, The Loud House is  a good show and this is easily their best episode. It’s funny, well-animated, touching and has a great song with a nice if not cliched message.

 

Christmas (The Wonder Years)

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I adore this show. And this is just a great episode. It starts off as a pretty simple if not really funny story about a family who wants a color TV for Christmas. But it becomes so much more than that by the end. I won’t give it away but trust me when I say that it’s some  emotional stuff. This is a great example of a story that balances comedy and drama flawlessly. Definitely the best special on this list and well-worth seeking out.

 

Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

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Pretty much everyone likes Sesame Street. And this 1978 Emmy-winning special gives you pretty much everything you’d like from something like this. There’s three different plots. The main one focuses on Big Bird and gives us a unique take on the whole “does Santa really exist?” story. Bert and Ernie do their own take on the classic “Gift of the Magi” story and it’s an enjoyable one. And finally, Cookie Monster gets an uproarious little plot about trying to write Santa a letter. The special isn’t without some problems. But it’s still worth spending an hour of your time watching on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF4XRQwzls8

 

The Most Adequate Christmas Ever (American Dad!)

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Considering this is a Seth MacFarlane show, you might expect this to be a really dark, twisted Christmas episode. And don’t get me wrong, there’s some of that. But compared to a lot of his other specials, this is pretty tame. It’s about protagonist Stan Smith dying and trying to convince Jesus to give him another chance at redemption. A lot of people prefer their season 5 special ‘Rapture’s Delight,’ but this is the one for me. It’s one of the funniest episodes of the show and has some nice moments too. Check it out.

 

Night of the Meek (The Twilight Zone 1985)

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This one right here is a remake of the 1960 classic episode starring Art Carney (which I included in my previous list). And surprisingly, this is about as good in its own way. This episode keeps the basic plot and themes of the original. But it makes enough changes to give it its own purpose. One difference is that this one focuses more on the idea helping children during the holiday. And Richard Mulligan is great as the drunken yet kindhearted Santa Claus. Watch it here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXYWEswofc0&t=1564s

 

 

Baby Driver Movie Review

Posted July 15, 2017 by johnjamesdamico
Categories: Movie Review

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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In Baby Driver, the newest film from writer/director Edgar Wright, a getaway driver played by talented newcomer Ansel Elgort, who goes by Baby, desperately tries to get out of his relationship with a crime boss (Kevin Spacey).

The film starts with a clever, well-directed introduction to our protagonist, featuring a typical morning for him getting coffee and whatnot, all expertly filmed with a nice tracking shot. One important takeaway from this scene – Baby is a genuinely cool guy.

We then get into a well-shot and well-choreographed action sequence which Wright impressively crafted using nothing but practical effects. It’s a fun scene for the audience. But Baby hopes it will be his second-to-last job ever.

We soon learn that Baby has a sad backstory involving his parents, one that also led to him developing a condition that requires him to constantly listen to music to drown out the noise in his head. Wright makes good use of this unique character trait by adding a good score that plays over pretty much every second of the film.

Another smart touch Wright adds to the movie is what appears to be an intention for the film to either take place in or at least have the feel of taking place in the 2000s decade. I can only assume he did this to add a level of timelessness to the film, or perhaps to contribute to society’s obsession with nostalgia.

Baby later meets a charming love interest named Deborah (Lily James), who doesn’t have much going on in her life other than a likely low-paying waitress job that she doesn’t seem to enjoy. The two of them have pleasant chemistry. And their romance actually adds to the plot and to Baby’s character development.

We get an entertaining, sometimes funny, and well-acted film overall. It doesn’t quite reach the highs I hoped. The story definitely felt a little basic and by the numbers at times. Although the ending went in a couple of unexpected directions, I’ll give it that.

And when all is said and done, it’s a very good movie overall, and one of the best I’ve seen so far this year. I give it an 8 out of 10.

The Wizard of Lies HBO Review

Posted June 29, 2017 by johnjamesdamico
Categories: Movie Review, TV Review

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Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) puts forth an impressive and thrilling story in this recent HBO original drama film The Wizard of Lies, which tells the true story of the aftermath of Bernie Madoff (Robert De Niro)’s infamous Ponzi scheme.

De Niro is perfectly cast as the slimy Madoff, in a role that will likely earn him an Emmy nomination (if not a win). The film introduces his character already locked in prison for his crime.

Here we see a New York Times reporter interviewing Madoff about the events surrounding his scheme. This serves as a framing device for the non-linear story which they present through flashbacks.

The story here is presented well. The film goes all out with the realism by using actual archive footage of TV journalists and comedians reporting and commenting on Madoff’s pyramid scheme.

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A little later, we get to see a bit of Madoff’s extravagant lifestyle before he got caught. We see him as the kind of person who views himself as superior to others. The thing is, at times, the film attempts to portray him as somewhat sympathetically.

It’s similar to 2015’s The Big Short where they try to portray it like he didn’t really know what he was doing and how much harm it would cause. It was effective in that film and it works pretty well here too.

Then about half-way through the film, we get a particularly emotional scene where something big happens. This scene is expertly elevated by its use of ironic music. This is easily the strongest part in the movie. Speaking of music, Levinson makes good use of an intense score coming from composers Evgueni and Sacha Galperine.

There’s a lot of powerful, well-directed, well-filmed and well-acted scenes here that make this TV film a real treat to watch. For instance, one clever scene a little later into the film uses drums to play with diegetic vs. non-diegetic music.

Overall, this movie is definitely worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet. It gets an 8.5 out 10 from me.

Master of None Season 2 Review

Posted June 13, 2017 by johnjamesdamico
Categories: Netflix, TV Review

Tags: , , , ,

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Netflix’s original dramedy series Master of None is one of the best shows currently airing and season 2 definitely brings back everything you enjoyed about the first season. The show repeats a lot of the same kind of plots dealing with friendships and relationships in the life of struggling actor Dev (Aziz Ansari). Having said that, this season throws a few changes our way when it comes to style.

The season premieres with a bang with the entire first episode taking place in Italy. Writer/director Aziz Ansari really emphasizes the old-fashioned, simplistic feel of Italy in this one, partly with the clever choice to film the whole episode in black and white.

We get a lot of interesting experimentation this season. One episode is presented from the point of view of three separate never before seen characters who just happen to live in New York City. And in another that may have just been the greatest of the season, we get a story that takes place over about 20 years of Thanksgivings with Dev and his childhood friend Denise.

As far as running plotlines throughout the season go, the most intriguing of them was likely the potential romance Dev has with his friend Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi). Mastronardi plays the role very convincingly. There’s a lot of good chemistry between the two of them. And it’s easy to see why the characters care for one another.

The best of the episodes that focuses on this would have to be the hour-long special “Amarsi Un Po,” which actually plays out more like a movie. The episode even begins with its own unique opening credits sequence with the cast and crew’s names displayed over establishing shots of New York City.

Speaking of good performances from new characters, two-time Emmy Award winner Bobby Cannavale gives a really fun portrayal as Chef Jeff, Dev’s new boss, and eventual friend. Overall, you get pretty much the same level of quality this season that you got from the first season. It’s all definitely worth checking out.

Watch the series on Netflix here: https://www.netflix.com/title/80049714

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – A Ton of Fun

Posted May 19, 2017 by johnjamesdamico
Categories: Movie Review

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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If you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 yet, then what are you doing sitting here reading this? Yes, you can trust me when I say that it’s some of the most fun you’ll have at the movies all year (or at the very least all summer).

So Guardians 2 brings back our cast of unlikely heroes including the awesome Chris Pratt as Peter/Star-Lord, who it turns out has some daddy issues this time around. But lucky for him, he finally gets the chance to meet his real father, a god named Ego, played by the charismatic Kurt Russell.

Ego wants a real relationship with his son this time. But Peter is understandably skeptical about whether he can trust this guy. You can probably take a few guesses about where this story is going to go from here. But this doesn’t really take much away from the entertaining experience.

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Other than the beautifully detailed CGI, the real highlight of this film is the characters. And although one or two of the relationships could have definitely used some more development, writer/director James Gunn makes you feel for these characters and does a solid job with the themes of family and friendship. Not to mention the killer funny performances from Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista.

And unlike what we’ll likely get with the newest Michael Bay Transformers film later this summer, this one was actually surprisingly light on overly drawn out actions sequences, which was refreshing, to say the least. Combine all of that with the heart in addition to the perfectly fitting song to end the movie on, and we get a really strong film that easily surpasses the original and may just be one of the most enjoyable MCU movies.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets an 8 out of 10. Go see it in theaters. Just don’t expect too much from Sylvester Stallone’s small role.

The Fundamentals of Caring Review

Posted August 27, 2016 by johnjamesdamico
Categories: Movie Review, Netflix

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You know, I wasn’t originally sure if I wanted to review this movie. But after seeing that a lot of other reviews weren’t all that positive, I decided that this one could use a little more attention.

The Fundamentals of Caring premiered back in June on Netflix and stars Paul Rudd as Ben Benjamin (what an awesome name), who starts off the film by finishing a 6-week course in caregiving and then gets a job helping Trevor (Craig Roberts), a teen with muscular dystrophy.

Right off the bat, we learn that Trevor is a very enjoyable character to watch. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t let his disability stop him from getting a little enjoyment out of life (at least to a certain extent). And by that, I mean he at least has a certain sense of humor about it. And writer/director Rob Burnett uses this to add some good comedy to the film.

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On the other hand, Trevor has let his disability control him in the sense that he lets it stop him from ever going outside and truly experiencing life. That is until Ben comes up with the idea to drive him across the country to fulfill one of Trevor’s life goals of seeing the world’s biggest hole.

From here on, we get a typical yet still very well-written indie road trip drama-comedy film. We get a lot of interesting character development with each of the main characters.  I won’t spoil it, we get some good backstories that give these characters some real depth and make them feel like real people that we can connect with.

I would actually consider this one of the better 2016 movies I’ve seen so far. And I was definitely surprised that the reception hasn’t been as good as I expected. So if it sounds like your kind of movie, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

So I give The Fundamentals of Caring an 8 out of 10. Check the movie out here: https://www.netflix.com/search/the%20fundamentals?jbv=80097349&jbp=0&jbr=0


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