Category Archives: Movies

Earth to Echo (2014) Movie Review

Earth to Echo

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Jason Gray-Stanford
Director: Dave Green
Release Date: 2 July 2014
Language: English
Length: 91 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: DVD
My Rating

Synopsis:

“ When a construction project begins in their neighborhood, four friends (Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt) start receiving bizarre encoded text messages on their cell phones. Setting out to find the origin of the texts, the group stumbles on an astonishing answer. ” — Netflix.com

Review:

I was disappointed with this movie.  I thought the previews looked like fun and was expecting an action-packed sci-fi adventure only to find a amateurish, unfulfilling mess.  Echo is a cute little alien who ends up Earth to Echo Movie Posterstranded on Earth and needs help repairing his ship to go home.  He communicates through our cell phone technology.  For some reason, he targets three friends (Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig) in a neighborhood that has been taken over by eminent domain to make room for a government project.  I was expecting the movie to take off from there and be a rip-roaring Goonies-like adventure with an alien thrown in or maybe an intense alien thriller with child stars like Super 8, but I felt like I was watching someone’s home movie instead.  The camera was really shaky.  I know that it was supposed to make us feel like we were part of the action, but I still think it is an unprofessional choice for a major motion picture.  If you are a brand new filmmaker and making your first movie, maybe I will give it to you, but Earth to Echo was released by Disney and I am used to a higher quality product.

The CGI on Echo was good, when he was shown, which was infrequent.  The child actors did a fine job, but I hated the ending and felt like the whole movie was pointless.  Ella Wahlestedt is thrown in the mix as a the token hot girl whom one of the boys like and this opened up the action to some more mature content than I was expecting.  The kids are hanging out in bars and the action took us to some teen parties with drinking and making out.  I was a bit surprised as I thought that the movie was targeted to preteens as a sci-fi action thriller just for their age group.  It would have been a stronger film if they focused on the group being split up, but getting together to help Echo, which someone changed their situation.

I watched this movie at home with my sister, her husband and their five children.  While I did not care for the movie and would have returned it Earth to Echo Skylinemostly unwatched, the rest of the group was much more interested and watched the whole movie without interruption.  The children, in particular, seemed riveted on the movie so maybe I am being too harsh.  This might be a case of the movie really hitting its target demographic as my nieces and nephews are 12, 11, 10, 9 and 4 and they seemed to enjoy the whole movie.  If you have children at home, they may enjoy this movie, but I feel that there are many better movies out there to watch with your children.

Content:

This movie contains some scenes of drinking, smoking, and underage partying with teenagers drinking and making out.  The kids break a lot of laws to help Echo, lie to their parents and are running around at night to try to get Echo’s ship repaired.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Death in Paradise: Season 1 (2011) Review

Death in Paradise: Season 1

TV Review by Debbie Winkler

Watch Season 1 Full Episodes on YouTube!

Series: Death in Paradise Season 1, Episodes 1 – 8
Starring: Ben Miller, Sara Martins, Danny John-Jules, Gary Carr, Don Warrington
Director: Various
Release Date: 2011
Language: English
Length: 466 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb86_thumb1_thumb[4]

Synopsis:

“Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Richard Poole (Ben Miller) is sent to the Caribbean island of Sainte Marie to solve a fellow policeman’s (Hugo Speer) murder.  Having done so, he finds himself seconded to the local police force as the dead man’s replacement.” — Netflix.com

Review:

I fell in love with the Death in Paradise series from the first episode!  I love a good crime drama series and this one not only has some great crimes, but it is funny, which is an increasingly rare combination.  In Season 1, Ben Miller stars as Detective Inspector Richard Poole.  He is Death in Paradisea brilliant detective, but very exacting and not very well liked.  In fact, his office throws a party to celebrate his absence when he is transferred to the Caribbean.  Poole hates the Caribbean.  He insists on wearing his British suits complete with tie and formal lace-up shoes.  This leaves him sweating in the heat, refusing to walk on the sand and trying to avoid the laid-back hobbies of the Islanders at all costs.  Poole can’t stand seafood, has no love for the French, who colonized the island generations ago, and is frustrated by his inability to find a proper cup of tea.  So, of course, the gorgeous Caribbean island of Sainte Marie holds no appeal for him.  I found it very entertaining to see Poole try to adapt to his new surroundings.  Everything that tourists know and love about beach life is available to Poole, but he doesn’t enjoy any of it!

The supporting cast here in Season 1 ably supports Ben Miller and his character.  Sara Martins plays Detective Sergeant Camille Bordey.  She is a beautiful female officer with French roots who never understands Poole.  Camille is bright and a little bitter that she is constantly passed over for promotions based on her sex.  There is a hint of romance that Death in Paradise Crewdevelops between Poole and Camille, but I am not sure that it will ever come to anything as these two have nothing in common outside of their jobs.  Danny John-Jules plays Officer Dwayne Meyers.  He is an experienced policeman who likes to have a good time.  Dwayne knows all of the bad guys on the island and is a fount of information about local music and religion.  Officer Fidel Best (Gary Carr) is the newbie.  He is eager and willing to prove that he has what it takes to be a great policeman.  I was charmed by Gary Carr’s portrayal of a young person starting out in a tough profession.  He tries so hard to impress Poole and to become a great investigator.  These four form the core of the first season and really worked well together in a full believable, organic unit.

The first season of Death in Paradise features a lot of gorgeous Sainte Marie scenery and plenty of tidbits about the local culture and island life.  There are 8 episodes in this season and they are each about 1 hour-long (about 56 – 57 minutes each).  Each episode is fully encapsulated Death in Paradise Two Leadsand can be watched as a standalone unit, which is a refreshing change in a crime drama series.  All of the mysteries are varied and unexpected.  I rarely was able to guess who the murderer was, which was wonderful!  I was delighted to learn about everything from voodoo, destination weddings, the local music scene, smuggling, real estate scams, tropical fever, and more!  It was nice to have a touch of the exotic added to the crimes and I liked learning about the less-attractive side of paradise.  My favorite was the third episode where the group is investigating the death of a voodoo priestess who daughter disappeared 15 years earlier.  It was wonderful to see Poole put together the pieces to solve an unsolvable crime!

If you enjoy crime dramas, you will be sure to enjoy Death in Paradise.  It is definitely lighter fare and Poole reminded me quite a bit of Monk, but in a good way.  Poole always manages to solve the crimes by putting together seemingly insignificant details that everyone else overlooks.  My favorite part about the series is that Poole finally finds a place where he is accepted and belongs, even though he doesn’t realize it.  Poole is fully accepted by the Sainte Marie team and they not only respect his process, but are fascinated by it.  The cinematography is gorgeous and the mysteries are interesting.  Death in Paradise is another great series put out by BBC.

Content:

This series contains murders in every episode.  The victims’ bodies are shown briefly.  The police discuss forensic details, methods, means and motives for murder, etc. in regards to each crime.  The characters drink and hang out in a local bar.  Other characters have extramarital affairs, illegitimate children, smuggle people/drugs/diamonds/weapons, participate in crimes such as murder for hire, money laundering, blackmail, etc.  Nothing is too salacious or inappropriate for younger viewers.  The series is relatively clean in comparison to other crime dramas.  There is no bad language.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002) Movie Review

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: A Peanuts Movie
Starring: Wesley Singerman, Serena Berman, Corey Padnos, Megan Taylor Harvey, Chrystopher Ryan Johnson
Director: Larry Leichliter
Release Date: 8 December 2002
Language: English
Length: 18 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

The Peanuts gang is ready to celebrate Christmastime again in this new holiday special.  Lucy (voice by Serena Berman) tries to persuade Schroeder (voice by Chrystopher Ryan Johnson)  to go ice skating.  Snoopy gathers money for charity while dressed as Santa Claus.  Linus (voice by Corey Padnos) doesn’t know what he wants for Christmas and struggles to write a letter to Santa Claus.  Sally (voice by Megan Taylor Harvey) decides to make everyone a gift this year.  Charlie Brown (voice by Wesley Singerman) attempts to make a Christmas card for the cute little red-haired girl in his class.  Join your favorite Peanuts characters as they prepare for Christmas.

Review:

This Christmas special was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I enjoyed it, but it was very abrupt and quite brief.  It clocks in at app. 17 minutes (you can watch the whole video above!) so it couldn’t even be broadcast on TV as a half-hour Linus Writes a Letter to Santaspecial unless they padded it with a lot of commercials!  They had some really funny ideas to present in the cartoon, but they were all so short!  Instead of trying to come up with some longer plot lines to thread through the smaller vignettes, they just kind of lump them all together and jump from character to character and idea to idea without any link between them.  It felt like I was watching all of Charles Schultz’s Christmas comic strips in an animated form.  Each thought could have been rather easily adapted to a Sunday comic strip format, which works great in a newspaper, but is not quite as entertaining in a cartoon.

All of the main characters have an opportunity to participate in several brief sequences.  Charlie Brown (voice by Wesley Singerman) pops up quite frequently, but he is not really the star in this special.  He is mainly the foil for other characters as they need his help with other activities.  Charlie Brown is Snoopy as Santa Clausembarrassed to walk Snoopy (voice by Bill Melendez) to the corner where he plays Santa Claus to gather funds for charity.  He also wants to know why Lucy (voice by Serena Berman) cannot agree to be nice to him all year long when Lucy approaches him to say that one of her holiday resolutions is to treat him more kindly.  Lucy seems to be the star here and she and her brothers, Linus (voice by Corey Padnos) and Rerun (voice by Timmy Deters), appear in most of the cartoon.  In the beginning, Lucy ignores Snoopy, a wonderful ice skater, to try to persuade Shroeder (voice by Chrystopher Ryan Lucy Watching Snoopy SkateJohnson) to partner her in the skating show, but Shroeder is a hockey player and refuses to join her.  Rerun asks Snoopy (thinking he is Santa Claus) why Santa didn’t bring him everything on the list the previous year, only be scared off by Snoopy.  Linus tries several times to write a letter to Santa Claus – including giving Santa permission to skip their house! – until he finally gives up and just tells Santa to bring him a surprise.  Linus then tries to send a Christmas card to a girl that he likes in his class who sits behind him, but the little girl changes her name every day and he doesn’t know who to address it to!

Sally (voice by Megan Taylor Harvey) provides some of the funniest sequences as she is young enough to not really understand everything that is going on.  She decides to make paper airplanes for everyone as a Christmas gift this year.  Sally then proceeds to write a letter to Samantha Claus and, rather than correcting Sally's Treeher, Charlie Brown just lets her go on believing what she wants to believe.  It is the other children at school who set her straight!  Sally also tries to get a Christmas tree for her family, but she doesn’t know how to cut down a tree.  She decides that she will just stare at a tree until it falls down and then bring it home.  However, the owners of the tree do not quite agree that the tree belongs to Sally.  This was one of the longer stories and it was quite entertaining.  I feel that the writers of this Christmas special could have done a bit more to extend any and/or all of these subplots into a 2 – 5 minute sequence instead of a 30 seconds – 1 minute sequence.  It just felt like all of the stories were so rushed!  I didn’t even have a chance to do more than smile in reaction before the next story was up on the screen!

This Christmas special will appeal to little children most of all as I am sure that they will appreciate the brevity.  The Peanuts gang is also given a face-lift and the colors are brighter with a slightly different style of animation than the Charlie's Christmas Cardoriginal Peanuts specials.  The characters are all still recognizable, however, and the vocal talents are similar enough to the originals that none of the new voices jumped out at me in a negative way.  Even though this is not my favorite Peanuts special, there is still a great deal to enjoy.  This special is so short and moves so rapidly that there is always time to squeeze it into my holiday viewing, which is a definite plus.  If you are a fan of the Peanuts gang or looking for a fun cartoon to share with some little kids around the holidays, this is a nice little filler.

Content:

This cartoon features some mild violence and rather stunning verbal put downs.  Appropriate for viewers of all ages.  Recommended for ages 2 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Christmas

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008) Movie Review

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Henry Winkler, Brooke Burns, Warren Christie, Connor Christopher Levins, Woody Jeffreys
Director: Michael Scott
Release Date: 13 December 2008
Language: English
Length: 88 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Retired policeman, Ralph (Henry Winkler), is on his way to his niece’s house for Christmas when he makes friends with a stranger, Morgan (Warren Christie), at the airport.  Morgan has no place to go for Christmas and is ready to sleep on the airport floor while he waits for a flight to Colorado and his new job, but Ralph has other ideas.  He persuades his niece, Jennifer (Brooke Burns), to let Morgan stay with them for a few days.  Jennifer isn’t happy about it, but she desperately needs help cooking her first Christmas turkey and Morgan is a chef so she lets Ralph talk her into it.  Morgan isn’t in Jennifer’s home for long before he realizes that she doesn’t seem to have much of a Christmas spirit.  Morgan, Ralph and Brian (Connor Christopher Levins), Jennifer’s son, band together to make this Christmas one that Jennifer will never forget.

Review:

I always enjoy watching the Hallmark Christmas movies during the holidays, but Henry Winklermost of them are just average.  The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better ones.  I tuned in to watch it because Henry Winkler is the movie.  It was so fun to see him in a movie again!  Henry Winkler  plays Uncle Ralph and is a real character.  He is a retired policeman, so he is tough, but he definitely has a soft, squishy center.  Honestly, Ralph’s character seemed to be a grown-up Fonz from Happy Days, which is probably why I liked him so much!  I also appreciated that Henry Winkler was not afraid to act silly and have fun with his role.  No sense in resting on your dignity at an old age, I say!

The main plot deals with the romance developing between Morgan (Warren Christie) and Jennifer (Brooke Burns), who are polar opposites.  Morgan is a free spirit who has worked all over the world and has no permanent address.  He loves the Christmas season and quizzes Jennifer down on why she doesn’t enjoy Jennifer and Morganthe holiday as much.  Jennifer is a hardworking single mom who doesn’t have time for Christmas.  She sees no point in opening Christmas cards when the person’s name is on the outside of the envelope, has been sending Christmas cards to people she can’t remember for years and has the only undecorated house on the block.  Jennifer is seriously involved with a jeweler, Richard (Woody Jeffreys), but, of course, we all know that Jennifer and Morgan will end up together somehow.  Before the movie starts, you know how it will begin and it doesn’t take long before you know how it will end, but that doesn’t mean you know what happens in between.  It was a lot of fun to see these two characters interact and argue.  Jennifer creatively manages to locate the hot Hanging the LightsChristmas toy for the season for her son, Brian, but it is Morgan’s quick-thinking that enables them to actually get the toy in time for Christmas.  My particular favorite was the Christmas decorating.  Jennifer’s next-door neighbor is extremely upset that Jennifer’s house is the only one that is not decorated on the block.  Morgan gets drafted to hang the lights and very carefully inserts a single red bulb into the strand of white lights to drive the woman crazy – love it!

Morgan makes several good points about the holidays in this movie and it reminded me of how much I love the Christmas season.  I look forward to December for weeks and then, when Christmastime is upon me, it is so stressful that I can’t wait for it to be over.  This is such a horrible attitude to have and the Most Wonderful Time of the Yearwriters of this movie totally called me on it!  Watching this movie reminded me of all of the crazy things that I do not enjoy about the holiday like the pressure to decorate because your neighbors are, the huge feast that we force ourselves to make for guests we don’t even like, the eternal debate between real and fake Christmas trees, sending countless Christmas cards to people who don’t remember you and don’t care, and spending countless hours shopping for the perfect gift.  What I loved about the movie was Morgan and Ralph’s handling of the stress and pressure of the holidays.  Yes you can look at it as a huge list of things to do, but there are so many wonderful things that happen around Christmastime that it is totally worth it and this movie reminded me of that.  There are ways to have fun while performing all of these chores and Brian’s character, played by an adorable Connor Christopher Levins, helped me remember why it is all worth it.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better made-for-TV movies made in recent years and I am confident that your family will enjoy watching it Most Wonderful Time of the Year 2together.  There are plenty of little laughs and funny sequences for the younger children to get a giggle in, a handsome hero and beautiful girl who fall in love for the teens and a little bit of everything for the adults.  The DVD is very inexpensive for this movie, but I recommend catching it on TV around Christmastime so that it is something special to look forward to.  If you need a bit of a boost to feel the Christmas spirit and are looking for something new and different, this movie will be sure to fit the bill.

Content:

This movie contains a scene with partial nudity, but the actress is completely wrapped up in a towel so nothing is really shown.  There are some verbal arguments and disagreements, but nothing violent.  There is some drinking of alcohol and very mild swearing.  Recommended for viewers ages 5 and up.

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The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) Movie Review

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: a Rankin Bass Christmas Classic
Starring: Mickey Rooney, Shirley Booth, Dick Shawn, George S. Irving, Bob McFadden
Director: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Release Date: 10 December 1974
Language: English
Length: 51 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb86_thumb1_thumb[4]

Synopsis:

Santa (voice by Mickey Rooney) wakes up one morning and decides he is too old, too tired and too sore to deliver Christmas presents this year.  Even his doctor assures him that no one will miss him if he doesn’t go out on his yearly sleigh ride to deliver presents.  But Mrs. Claus (voice by Shirley Booth) knows that the children around the world will miss Santa!  So she sends two elves (voice by Bob McFadden & Bradley Bolke) on a baby reindeer to find some holiday spirit.  Will Mrs. Claus and the elves be able to save Christmas?

Review:

This is one of my favorite Christmas specials to watch.  I look forward to seeing it every year around the holiday season and never tire of watching it.  I believe Sick Santa Clausthat these old Rankin-Bass Productions are the best Christmas shows to watch for children young and old.  This special has the old-fashioned stop-motion animation and it is the animation style that I equate with the best Christmas specials.  They make the motion look pretty dang good for claymation figurines!  It is a little jerky, but I think that it only adds to the charm.

The vocal talents are top-notch.  Mickey Rooney spoiled every other holiday special for me as it is just not the same to hear a Santa speaking that does not 00302291have his voice.  I am not very familiar with the woman who plays Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth).  She narrates and sings in the special and has the perfect voice for Mrs. Claus – old, but spritely and a little mischievous.  The other characters were chosen for their memorable, unique sound.  Jingle (Bob McFadden) & Jangle (Bradley Bolke) are very distinct and I feel like their voices added to the charm and character of the film.  And who can forget Heat Miser (George S. Irving) & Snow Miser (Dick Shawn)?!  They are simply perfectly cast, as are all the speaking parts in this film.  Even the children’s voices add that special touch of charm and distinctive sound.

The best part of the Rankin-Bass specials is the music.  There are 8 distinctive songs in this 41-minute special, plus 1 reprise and they are all fantastic!  The special begins and ends with “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” a peppy little number that has some talky/singy action to explain what is going to happen in the special.  Mrs. Claus shines in “I Could Be Santa Claus,” where she sings about Heat Miser, Snow Miser & Mother Naturehow anyone can be Santa if their hearts are in the right place.  She is concerned that Santa won’t get up to deliver presents and is considering doing his job for him, but gives up on the idea after the elves think it’s a bad idea.  “I Believe in Santa Claus” is a beautiful, heartfelt number that I did not appreciate when I was a kid.  It is a ballad that talks about believing in Santa Claus like believing in love – as more of a feeling than a real person.  “It’s Gonna Snow Right Here in Dixie” is a fun, upbeat song that helps move the plot along as well as pick up the pace and make you tap your toe along.  The mayor is making fun of the fact that the elves promised them snow in Southtown, which is in Heat Miser’s territory and has never had a white Christmas.  “The Snow Miser Song” and “The Heat Miser Song” are probably the most famous songs that came out 00323473of this special.  They are such a fun addition to the show and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t get a smile on their face while these two stepbrothers are singing about their hatred of each other.  The last two songs are not written by Rankin & Bass, but they are some holiday classics that I never tire of hearing.  “Blue Christmas” gives the children of the world a chance to let Santa know that, while they understand him wanting to take a year off, they are going to have a sadder Christmas without him.  “Here Comes Santa Claus” was the perfect ending to this special as Santa Claus comes sailing into Southtown and all of the children cheer as they realize that Santa didn’t let them down after all.

The story is absolutely wonderful and has a positive message as well as plenty of silly moments.  By thinking about Santa Claus taking a year off, we realize that presents are not the most important part of the holiday.  In fact, when the children realize that Santa is serious, they all send Santa gifts and let him know that they understand, which I thought was really cute.  Of course, Santa saves the day in the end, but he also brings about some extra subplots that kept me Children Giving Presents to Santa Claussmiling throughout the special.  Mrs. Claus sends Jingle and Jangle, two of their dimmest elves, to find some examples of the holiday spirit, but they get into all kinds of trouble.  Their baby reindeer, Vixen, ends up in the pound, where she gets really sick, and they try to ask the mayor for help, but he doesn’t believe they are really elves.  To convince him, they have to make it snow in the southern US, where it never snows.  So Mrs. Claus, Jingle and Jangle travel to the Miser brothers and from there to Mother Nature (voice by Rhoda Mann) to make that happen.  Meanwhile, Santa Claus is trying to find the elves and the reindeer in Southtown, where he meets Ignatious Thistlewhite (voice by Colin Duffy), who is too old and too cool to believe in Santa.  Bottom line is, this special touches on one of the hot spots of Christmas: are you ever too old to believe in Christmas and Santa Claus?

If you have not seen this Christmas special, you are really missing out on a special holiday treat.  It is on TV every year on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas event and is also available on DVD.  Even though it was made in the ‘70s, it is still a classic and has held its age very well.  A must see for the December Christmas holiday!

Content:

There are a few scenes of mild peril.  Recommended for viewers of all ages.

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Jake and the Neverland Pirates: It’s a Winter Never Land! / Hook on Ice! (2011) Movie Review

Jake and the Neverland Pirates: It’s a Winter Never Land! / Hook on Ice! (2011)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: David Arquette, Colin Ford, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Loren Hoskins, Madison Pettis
Director: Kelly Ward, Howy Parkins, Mickey Corcoran
Series: Jake and the Never Land Pirates Season 1, Episode 24
Release Date: 2 December 2011
Language: English
Length: 25 minutes
Movie Rating: TV-G
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

“It’s a Winter Never Land” – Hook and his pirates don’t want to go to all of the work to decorate a tree and get presents for Merry Winter Treasure Day so they steal everything from the Lost Boys.  Jake and his pals track the pirates through icy conditions, but are unable to recover all of their decorations and gifts.  Can they all remember what is really important about Winter Treasure Day?  Will the pirates learn the true meaning of Winter Treasure Day?

“Hook on Ice!” – In the spirit of the holiday, Captain Hook asks Jake and the Lost Boys to join the pirates on the hunt for the Snow Day Treasure.  Bring your slippery, slidey things (sleds, skis and more!) and get ready for adventure!  With Jake and his team helping out, can the pirates travel down the snowy slope, trick their way past the ice ogre, and save Hook (multiple times) so they can claim the treasure?

Review:

This is a popular and fun Disney Jr. show for toddlers and preschoolers.  It is a learning show and they teach counting, critical thinking skills and other lessons in a fun and interactive way.  I typically find something in the Disney shows that entertains me as an adult and I have tried to watch this show a few times, but it is solidly made for young children and does not really have anything in it for older kids or adults.  That said, it is beautifully made and my little nephews look forward to watching it every morning.  My favorite characters are the two real-Bones and Sharkeylife pirates (Loren Hoskins and Kevin Hendrickson) who sing all of the songs for the show.  If there is anything for adults in this series, it is these two and the funny songs they sing.  Typically the songs are at the beginning and end of the episodes, however, so there is dead space in between.  If you have little boys or girls at home, this is a great show for them to enjoy watching in the mornings before they go to school.  The main character is Jake, a little devil-may-care boy who is a lot like Peter Pan, but his crew has girls, boys and animals so everyone is covered and has someone to root for.  The adult pirates are bumblers and never seem to do anything right so it is easy for the children to defeat them all the time.  Good times for kids.

This particular episode is as close to Christmas as you get with this series.  Disney has been trying really hard to make some of their children’s shows non-Hook on Icedenominational holiday celebrations and this one is no exception.  The “c” word (Christmas) is not mentioned, it is all about treasure days.  Now, children who celebrate Christmas will recognize the decorated Christmas tree and presents that Hook stole from the kids, but for those who celebrate another holiday, it is just a decoration in the series.  The spirit of the holidays is found in this show, however, and I think that it offers a great lesson about valuing friends and family and being a better person around the holidays.  Captain Hook in particular did a great job illustrating this point as he is never willing to share with anyone and is much more likely to steal.  In “It’s a Winter Never Land!,” Hook regrets stealing the presents and cannot It's a Winter Never Landeven enjoy his ill-gotten gains.  Instead, he gives them back and then Jake and his crew invite the pirates to celebrate with them.  In “Hook on Ice!,” Captain Hook asks Jake if they can help him find the treasure so that they can borrow all of their snow gear (snowboard, sled, etc.).  Then he shares the treasure with the kids at the end.  Even though it seems like every Christmas show talks about sharing and the value of giving, I don’t think that you can show your children too many examples of this in action, especially for little kids who focus so much on the getting around this time of year.

With bright, friendly colors and simple storylines, Jake and the Never Land Pirates is definitely a show that is welcome in my home for young children.  They speak slowly and clearly and have some fun, piratey songs that kids will 122428_0026enjoy.  The characters try to encourage the children watching to participate by doing motions and cheering/talking in appropriate places.  I always encourage the kids watching to follow along (usually by doing it myself) as I love that they are trying to make shows interactive.  This is a great choice to watch around the holidays, especially if you are looking for something without Santa in it (Peter Pan sent the gifts).

Content:

Appropriate for children of ages, recommended for ages 2 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Christmas, Disney

A Christmas Carol (1994) Movie Review

A Christmas Carol (1994)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Tony Ail, Nathan Aswell, Chera Bailey, Kathleen Barr, Lillian Carlson
Director: Toshiyuki Hiruma Takashi
Release Date: 1994
Language: English
Length: 49 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb80_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

A Christmas Carol, produced by Jetlag Productions in the year 1994 and released on DVD format by Goodtimes Entertainment in 2003, is based on Charles Dickens’s timeless Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol“.  This animated tale relays the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s experiences with three ghosts on Christmas Eve that transformed his life from a mean, miserly man to a man of generous spirit.

Review:

I am a huge fan of A Christmas Carol and make an effort to watch as many different versions of the story every Christmas season.  I found this one available to watch online on Hulu.com and gave it a go.  I confess that I was disappointed with this version.  I am accustomed to watching full-length movie versions of A Christmas Carol and this animated version is about half of the Three Ghosts in a Christmas Caroltime, but with almost all of the story.  Needless to say, the story is quite rushed and a lot of details and character development are left out.  Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, is introduced at the beginning of the story and then we don’t see him again until the end, when Scrooge attends Christmas dinner there.  Scrooge does not visit Fred’s part with the Ghost of Christmas Present.  Also, during the Ghost of Christmas Present segment, we are barely introduced to Tiny Tim and it does not really make sense when we are shown his grave at the end of the film.  The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Ebenezer breaking up with his long-time fiancé, Belle, but we do not meet her at Fezziwig’s party and we never even learn her name in this version.  The story is strung together with the same familiar quotes and scenes that you will enjoy in other versions of A Christmas Carol, but they are so abbreviated here that I did not find myself caring about Scrooge’s transformation at all.  There was no depth and no real emotion contained in this version.

I was a bit disappointed with the animation and vocal talents, as well.  The colors are flat and there are many dark scenes, as suits Victorian London, but there are no interesting details and shading to make it visually appealing.  Most characters and backgrounds are flat, solid colors and do not really seem alive.  I also did not enjoy the vocal Ebenezer Scroogestylings of this animated feature.  Ebenezer Scrooge’s voice is particularly grating.  There was just something about the way he talked that really bothered me.  Also, they wrote in a lot of whiney lines for Scrooge’s character and he sounds like a spoiled 2-year-old at times.  “I don’t want to go,” and “you can’t make me” actually feature into the dialogue, which I felt was going a bit too far.  The Ghost of Christmas Past has a deep, lovely voice, but he is this short little old guy in the cartoon and I didn’t think that the voice fit the character.  And don’t even get me started on the younger Ebenezer Scrooge!  I don’t know if they had the main vocal try to “sound younger,” but it was as high-pitched as a girl’s and did nothing to aid the scene between Scrooge and his younger sister.

There are three songs included, but they are more of a detraction than a help.  I enjoyed the first song more than the other, rather sickly sweet efforts, but it is because it was so strange that I liked it!  The singer reminded me of David Bowie in one of his earlier songs and, as this is sung during Marley’s appearances, it really didn’t fit the setting at all.  The other songs were so inconsequential as to be completely forgettable.  Unfortunately, the music did not do anything to add to the quality of this production.

I feel that the creators of this version were trying to introduce this familiar classic to a younger audience and so they purposefully kept it short and to the point, but I did not enjoy it as much.  This particular version is created with a Christmas Carol CharactersChristian background in mind, but I did not notice anything that they changed or added to make it more appealing to a Christian audience.  If you are looking for an animated version of A Christmas Carol for a younger audience, Mickey’s Christmas Carol gives a nice introduction in less than 30 minutes that is entertaining, well-animated and has lovely music.  If you have children that are a little older, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol has some very funny scenes and some excellent music and still comes in at under an hour.  Both of these versions are crowd pleasers for old and young alike and tell the entire story of Scrooge’s transformation in a much more appealing way.

Content:

This cartoon features ghosts in chains, graveyard scenes and a ghost that looks like a skeleton.  Recommended for ages 7 and up.

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Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004) Movie Review

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Bill Farmer, Shaun Fleming, Tress MacNeille
Director: Carole Holliday, Matthew O’Callaghan, Theresa Cullen
Series: sequel to Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas
Release Date: 9 November 2004
Language: English
Length: 68 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb85_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

This fun-filled holiday extravaganza features all of your favorite Disney characters in holiday cartoons created just for this collection!

“Belles on Ice” – When Minnie Mouse is introduced first on the ice-skating rink, Daisy Duck’s feelings are hurt.  Both Minnie and Daisy want to be the star of the ice-skating show, but their scene-stealing antics could end up ruining the show for everyone!

“Christmas: Impossible” – Huey, Dewey and Louie haven’t been very nice this year and they ended up on Santa’s naughty list.  Deciding it is impossible to do enough nice things to change Santa’s mind, they decide to break into Santa’s office in the North Pole and put their names on the nice list!

“Christmas Maximus” – Max is second-guessing his plan to bring his girlfriend home for Christmas.  He just knows that his dad, Goofy, will find new ways to embarrass him!

“Donald’s Gift” – Donald Duck is not feeling the Christmas spirit – especially when Daisy and the boys drag him off to the Donald Duck Trying to Get Hot Chocolatemall for Christmas shopping!  Everywhere he turns, someone is playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and it is driving Donald crazy!  All he wants to do is go home and enjoy some hot chocolate.  Can Donald find a way to show he has the Christmas spirit before it is too late?

“Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas” – Mickey Mouse is upset when Pluto accidentally ruins the decorations for his Christmas party.  While Mickey goes shopping to find new party gear, Pluto runs away and ends up a pet for Santa’s reindeer!  But as wonderful as Pluto’s new home is, he just misses Mickey – and Mickey is missing Pluto just as much!  Will these two find their way back together to enjoy a Merry Christmas?

Review:

This is a great Christmas special to watch with children of all ages.  Little children will marvel at the amazing death-defying tricks that Minnie and Daisy Minnie Mouse & Daisy Duck on Iceperform on ice in “Belles on Ice.”  Teenagers will empathize with Max as Goofy does nothing but embarrass him while he is visiting for the holidays.  Parents will appreciate Donald’s struggle to find the Christmas spirit amidst all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  The entire special is created in CGI graphics and, while this is not my favorite format, the cartoons here were well-suited to the brightly colored, bubbly animation.

“Christmas: Impossible” is the longest cartoon in this collection at 20-25 minutes with “Christmas Maximus” the shortest at 5-7 minutes. I found something to enjoy in all of the segments, but I did enjoy the story and spirit of “Christmas: Impossible” the most.  It is always fun to travel to Santa’s workshop and see how the elves make all of the toys and get ready for the Christmas holiday!  In this cartoon, Huey, Dewey and Louie are definitely not playing nice Huey Dewie and Louie in Santa's Workshopand almost ruin the holiday for everyone to selfishly try to get more presents for themselves!  “Christmas Maximus” also struck a chord with me.  I can definitely remember being mortified by some of the things that my parents said or did – though they did nothing as embarrassing as what Goofy does! – and could appreciate Max’s position.  I couldn’t help but smile at the crazy things that happened to Goofy and particularly enjoyed the popcorn-popping scene in the kitchen!  This cartoon is the most similar to the classic Disney cartoons in length and layout.  There is very little dialogue, but Max is singing “Make Me Look Good” the whole time and it was a great way to present this cartoon.  If you pay close attention, you can hear how the song changes to match the way Max’s attitude changes towards his father.

“Belles on Ice” features Minnie, Daisy and the crocodiles and hippos from Disney’s Fantasia.  It seemed a little over-the-top and rather unbelievable, but I could definitely empathize with the attitude of the two divas featured here.  It is really difficult to step back and let someone else enjoy the spotlight!  “Donald’s Gift” provides a valuable lesson for all of us.  Donald Duck is one of my favorite characters and he is at his best/worst in this cartoon!  I look forward to Pluto with Santa's ReindeerChristmastime all year long and start watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music in November so by the time Christmas is actually here, I am totally over it!  Granted, it is my own fault for starting so early, but I just can’t help myself!  This cartoon makes fun of this trend by playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” everywhere Donald goes – on the radio, on the phone, at the mall, etc.  It is important to remember that, while Donald may not be feeling the Christmas spirit, that does not give him – or us – the right to spoil the holiday mood for those around us, particularly our loved ones.  “Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas” has a similar message.  Pluto wrecked the decorations for Mickey’s party, but that doesn’t mean that Pluto ruined the holiday, despite what Mickey said to him.  Tensions often run high during the holidays and it is easy to overreact when something doesn’t go the way we planned, but it is important to remember how much we love our family and friends and forgive.  If Mickey had reacted differently, Pluto would not have run away and they would have been able to spend the holiday together rather than searching for each other.

There were some wonderful lessons to learn in Mickey’s Twice Upon a Disney Gang at ChristmastimeChristmas.  The best part about the lessons is that they are wrapped up in such entertaining trappings that children will not even know that they are learning!  This Christmas special is one that I look forward to seeing every year and I hope that it will become a holiday favorite in your house, too!

Content:

This movie is appropriate for viewers of all ages.

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A Magical Cartoon Christmas (2004) Movie Review

A Magical Cartoon Christmas (2004)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

A Magical Cartoon Christmas

Starring: Various
Director: Various
Release Date: 2004 (DVD Collection)
Language: English
Length: 75 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Join Jack Frost, little penguins, silly dogs and dancing cakes in this Christmas cartoon collection!  With a total of ten classic cartoons, including “Somewhere in Dreamland” and “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” these cartoons from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s will be sure to bring a nostalgic smile to your face and give you a chance to share your childhood entertainment with the next generation.

Review:

There are a total of ten cartoons in this collections including:

“Ginger Nutt’s Christmas Circus” (1949) – A sneaky parrot steals a circus ticket from a weasel and then heckles all of the circus performers.  Includes Santa Claus in the circus parade & a Peace on Earth sign at the end, otherwise a regular cartoon.

“Peeping Penguins” (1937) – Four curious little penguins climb down the chimney into a human house and explore.  Features “Curiosity Killed the Cat” song.  Takes place during winter and there is snow outside, but no mention of Christmas.  A cautionary tale about not getting into dangerous items around the house.

“A Waif’s Welcome” (1936) – When a poor little orphan boy is welcomed into the home of a family, their spoiled brat of a son does everything he can to get him in trouble.  This cartoon doesn’t feature any Christmas touches (aside from some sleigh bells jingling on the roof), but it is a good message for all little children to remember how lucky they are to having a loving family, food to eat and a roof over their heads.

“Christmas Comes But Once a Year” (1936) – It’s Christmastime again and all of the little orphans at the orphanage are excited to play with their toys.  Unfortunately, all of the toys break the first time they try to play with them!  Can a talented inventor save the day and create new toys?  This is a cute little Christmas cartoon that I can remember seeing when I was a little girl.  I love the toys that the inventor creates – I wish I had that kind of ingenuity!  This cartoon also reminds us that it really doesn’t take that much to make a young child happy and to remember to give around the holiday season to those who are less fortunate.

“Jack Frost” (1934) – When Jack Frost arrives to warn the animals about winter’s approach, one young grizzly bear cub believes that he doesn’t need to be afraid of winter.  He decides to run away from home, but he soon learns that even grizzly bears need to have a warm den for wintertime.  This cartoon features some very cute scenes showing a gnome-like Jack Frost preparing the forest for winter.  There are no specific Christmas references, but the little bear does lick some candy canes and the cartoon takes place in a snowy forest.  While we all feel like running away at times, this cartoon reminds us that being at home with our families is often the best solution.

“Hawaiian Birds” (1936) – When a group of flashy birds arrives from the big city, a local island girl leaves her hardworking boyfriend to follow them to their nightclub.  Unbeknownst to her, the girl’s faithful boyfriend follows her to try and persuade her to return home to their island paradise.  This cartoon features the instrumental version of “Jingle Bells” playing while it is snowing in the city.  Otherwise, it is a normal cartoon about being happy where you are at and not running away from those who love you.

“Hector’s Hectic Life” (1948) – Hector, a dog, is warned by his owner that if he makes one more mess, he is out on the street!  Determined to be good, Hector is doing all he can to stay out of trouble.  But when three little puppies show up on his doorstep, Hector will have his hands full trying to keep the house clean!  The puppies destroy a Christmas tree and make a mess of the Christmas presents, eventually ending up in the Christmas stockings.  I really enjoyed the creative ways that Hector cleans up the puppies’ messes – I wish cleaning in real life was that easy!

“Snow Foolin’” (1949) – Different animals show off their ice skating skills in funny and creative ways.  There is also a sing-a-long with a bouncing egg for the song “Jingle Bells.”  This cartoon doesn’t feature a plot, but it was one of my favorites in the collection.  It was just cute, fun and short.  I love the different animals ice skating and got a kick out of their antics.

“Little Audrey: Tarts and Flowers” (1950) – Little Audrey bakes a gingerbread man whom she follows to the magical land of Cakeland, where the gingerbread man is going to be married to the angel food cake.  But the devil’s food cake wants angel cake for his own and will do anything to keep her!  This is a cute little fantasy cartoon that features many cakes and sweets that children dream about.  Not a Christmas cartoon, but a sweet treat for little ones.

“Somewhere in Dreamland” (1936) – A poor boy and girl work hard to try to help out their single mother put food on the table, but they are always hungry.  On Christmas Eve, the children dream sweetly of a special place called Dreamland full of new clothes, toys and all the delicious food they can eat!  When they wake up on Christmas morning, they find that their hovel has been magically transformed into a Christmas dreamland thanks to a few local merchants.  This is probably the most well-known and beloved of the cartoons in this collection and there is something really moving about it.  Not only do we get to see the lovely dreamland that the children have created to escape their bleak reality, but we get to see some good, kind-hearted people reach out to help those in need during the holidays.

One of my main complaints still remains the fact that they are always trying to cram non-Christmas-themed cartoons into a Christmas cartoon collection.  Other than that, these cartoons did give me a sense of nostalgia.  I remembered some of these cartoons from TV when I was a little girl.  These cartoons are definitely simpler and more basic than the cartoons that children watch today.  I am not sure if little children will have the patience and interest in watching these older animated features.  These have not been cleaned up or brightened to appeal to a new generation of viewers.  The colors are quite muddy and dark.  Also, these animated cartoons are sorely in need of a clearer soundtrack.  The volume is quite low and you can hear the feedback from a poor quality soundtrack as you listen to the songs and speaking.  Still, it was fun to see these cartoons again and, while they cannot really compare to the Disney cartoons (which have been digitally remastered in most cases), they do possess a certain charm and are enjoyable.

Content:

These cartoons feature parents spanking their children, the threat of blows, poverty, and some rather scary looking villains.  Recommended for children ages 3 and up.

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Home for the Holidays (1995) Movie Review

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott
Director: Jodie Foster
Release Date: 3 November 1995
Language: English
Length: 103 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Claudia (Holly Hunter) just lost her job, made out with her ex-boss, sent her daughter off to have sex with her boyfriend at his parents’ house, and is on her way to another fun-filled family Thanksgiving.  Her chaos-creating brother, Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.), does everything he can to make waves and her sister, Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson), is extremely uptight and unrelatable.  Her parents are older and seem even less likely to understand what their children are up to than ever and, to make matters worse, there is a handsome stranger (Dylan McDermott) there to witness every humiliating moment!

Review:

When I watched this movie for the first time, I hated it.  I did not really see the humor in a completely dysfunctional family getting together to celebrate Home for the Holidays Movie PosterThanksgiving together.  However, as I grew older, I came to realize that there is a sick, twisted type of laughter that can come from watching a movie like this one.  Even families that get along well have a touch of dysfunctionality in them.  I am fortunate that I come from a family where we grew together as we grew older rather than far apart.  This is not to say that we all get along all the time, but, for the most part, we are all good friends.  I genuinely enjoy seeing my family around the holidays, but I also enjoy coming home to my peaceful little apartment afterwards.

Whether you enjoy the holidays with your family or not, I must point out that this is not the type of movie that I would feel comfortable watching with my family over the holidays as you are going to offend some, hurt others and bore the remainder.  Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) just got fired (a touchy subject in these economically down-turned times), made out with her 60+ ex-boss, was informed by her teenage daughter (Claire Danes) that she is ready to have sex Tommy, Mom & Dadwith her boyfriend and does not fit in with her family at all any more.  It doesn’t help that she got pregnant as a young teenager, never got married, has been pursuing a career in an art-related field, but has given up on herself as far as becoming a true artist is concerned and now she is going to be confronted with her conventionally successful sister, Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson).  Joanne and her husband, Walter (Steve Guttenberg), are the normal couple in this movie, but they are presented in an abnormal, rather rigid way.  They stress about making the holiday perfect and are definitely by-the-book, live-life-by-the-rules type of people.  Sadly, this is probably the way many of us react around the holidays and it makes me think that I need to cut loose and have a bit more fun around my family – its not like they can change their minds and trade me in for someone else!  Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.), Claudia’s brother, swoops into Aunt Gladytown to liven things up.  He just got married to his partner, Jack (Sam Slovick) and gives up all of Claudia’s secrets while seriously antagonizing Joanne & her family.  For the older generation, Adele Larson (Anne Bancroft), their long-suffering mother, is hanging onto the vision of a perfect family, but is way too weird to be able to expect her children to turn out as “normal.”  Henry Larson (Charles Durning), the sweetie of a father, is still trying to do everything he did when he was younger and stronger.  He is forgetful, hard-of-hearing and clinging to his vices like a lifeline.  Throw in crazy Aunt Glady (Geraldine Chaplin) and you have a real party on your hands!  Those of you who dread going home for the holidays and really have to go through situations like the one portrayed here, you have my deepest sympathies.  For those of you who have relatively normal holiday experiences (all things considered), you can get a glimpse of why so many people dread the holiday season.

The more that I watch this movie, the more that I come to appreciate some of the subplots and classic holiday sequences.  Holly Hunter plays a likeable loser who is crushing on her gay brother’s friend, Leo Fish (Dylan McDermott), but Tommy Leaves Claudia Strandedshe thinks that they are a couple.  By the time that she discovers that her brother is setting her up, most of the holiday is gone and their relationship is left hanging, but in a hopeful way.  Robert Downey Jr. is a scene-stealer as the outrageous brother, Tommy, of the Larson clan.  He bends the rules when it comes to play football with the rest of the family, makes over-the-top comments guaranteed to garner everyone’s attention and create maximum embarrassment and is generally a pain in the neck!  He is also the source of almost all of my favorite scenes!  Robert Downey Jr. is so young and handsome in this movie.  This is back before life stomped all over him and he looks fresh, unlined and mischievous.  Two of my favorite scenes revolve around his antics.  The first is when he argues with Claudia, who storms out of the car.  He apologizes and, when she turns to get back in the car, he drives away.  Granted, this would drive me crazy in real life, but it is pretty funny watching it happen to other people.  Turkey Falls in Joanne's Lap at ThanksgivingThe other scene is where he is carving the turkey (see the video clip above) and “accidentally” jettisons it into his sister, Joanne’s, lap, who is completely horrified.  The only character who manages to stand up to Tommy’s antics is Geraldine Chaplin, who plays their Aunt Gladys.  She is just nuts!  She views life through her coke-bottle glasses and clearly, her vision is distorted through them!  I love that she is always giving away lamps to people and trying to tell stories, but getting them all mixed up so that no one knows what she is talking about.  Dylan McDermott is a charmer and it is just a shame that we don’t see more of him on TV or in the movies these days.  Sparks were flying between him and Tommy and him and Claudia so we were kind of kept guessing for a while until you realized who he was really going after.  Charles Durning, who plays Claudia & Tommy’s father,  has most of the touching moments in the movie.  There is a really nice scene at the end that gave me warm, fuzzy feelings like I Claudia and Leohave come to expect from most holiday movies.  Their father is down in the basement, watching old home movies, while he remembers their childhood and his younger years.  It made me remember Christmas a few years ago when my father decided to put all of our old pictures and home movies on DVD for us as a gift.  I had completely forgotten most of the embarrassing moments that were captured when I was a child and was totally horrified to see them on my parents’ huge, flat-screen TV!  After watching this scene, I realized that my dad watches these movies and remembers all of the good times and the hopes and dreams that went along with them, while I was just mortified. I guess that I am glad that there are some moments that were captured for all of us to remember what we looked like and sounded like when we were kids, I just hope that any future boyfriends of mine will never see these!

Anyway, this movie is a bit of a mess, but it was still fun to see how strong family bonds are.  They argue, play, embarrass, support and love each other.  This film will remind you that your family members are your best friends and your worst Claudia, Mom & Dadenemies.  The reason why I dread the holidays is because they are never perfect.  That may be why I hated this movie so much at first.  The holiday shown here is so much less than perfect that it makes me feel infinitely better about my own Thanksgiving experiences in comparison.  I doubt that this movie will become a regular holiday staple for me to watch, but there are so few Thanksgiving movies that they play around the holidays that it is for the best that I have found a way to enjoy this off-beat holiday film.

Content:

This movie really pushes the PG-13 rating.  There is a lot of swearing, including the *f* word.  One of the main characters is an out-and-proud gay man.  There are several scenes of drinking and smoking.  Most of the scenes include some kind of fight sequence between siblings, many of them over-the-top and pretty hurtful.  There are scenes that include discussions of teen & out-of-wedlock pregnancies, having sex for the first time, and some heavy petting.  Recommended for ages 16 and up.

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