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Happy 2023! Movies for New Year’s Eve

Posted on December 30, 2022 at 8:22 am

Happy New Year! Wishing you and your families a happy and healthy new year.

Copyright 1999 Castle Rock

If you’re home on New Year’s Eve, try one of these:

Garry Marshall’s “New Year’s Eve” shows us a variety of happy, poignant, and romantic encounters on the night of December 31.

When Harry Met Sally” has a memorable New Year’s Eve dance.

In “Holiday,” Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn “step into a waltz as the old year dies” while the fancy society engagement party for him and her sister goes on downstairs.

Other movies with New Year’s Eve scenes: “About Time,” “The Holiday,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Rent,” and “The Apartment” — plus the completely bonkers Madam Satan. Here’s a glimpse:

My Top Ten Films of 2022

Posted on December 23, 2022 at 7:18 pm

Copyright A24 2022

As usual, I’ve picked a favorite and the other nine are tied for second place, with some runners-up.

1. “Everything Everywhere All at Once

Aftersun
The Banshees of Inisherin
The Fabelmans
Living
Nope
The Outfit
“Skies of Lebanon”
TÁR
Turning Red

Copyright 2022 20th Century

Runners-up: “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “The Bad Guys,” “Bullet Train,” “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” “Devotion,” “Fire Island,” “Glass Onion,” “The Inspection,” “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” “The Legend of Molly Johnson,” “Spoiler Alert,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Strange World

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Posted on December 23, 2022 at 5:41 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, strong language, and thematic content
Profanity: Some strong language
Nudity/ Sex: Sexual references and situation
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkeness
Violence/ Scariness: A murder mystery with peril, homicide, and fighting, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 23, 2022

Copyright Netflix 2022
I have very conflicting ideas about this review. Part of me wants to tell you all about “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” but a bigger part of me wants you to find out all of its secrets and surprises on your own. So bear with me if I lean too far in that direction. I’m doing it for your own good. “Glass Onion” is an enormously entertaining delight and I want you to enjoy it fully. In fact, go ahead and watch it and then come back here if you want to see what I think about it.

Like its predecessor, “Knives Out,” it is a deliciously twisty remix of the classic British-style murder mystery, with a fabulous location and a group of suspects who all have motive and opportunity. Also like its predecessor, it has an all-star cast clearly enjoying themselves enormously.

The very large cast is efficiently and wittily introduced as each of them receives an elaborate invitation to a party at a fabulous glass mansion on a remote island, the home of a billionaire named Miles Bron (Edward Norton). In a brilliantly edited sequence, we see each of the characters trying to open the box, telling us a lot about who they are and how they think. Jackie Hoffman, as one character’s mother, is hilariously bored and sharp at the same time.

Receiving the astonishingly crafted puzzle box with the invitation:

Kate Hudson as Birdie Jay, a flamboyant, selfish, famous-for-being-famous celebrity whose outspoken remarks are often offensive.

Kathryn Hahn as Claire Debella, the governor of Connecticut.

Dave Bautista as Duke, an obnoxious, gun-toting social media star. He brings his girlfriend, Whiskey (Madeline Cline).

Leslie Odem as Lionel, a scientist working with Miles on a secret project.

Janelle Monae as Andi, formerly Miles’ girlfriend and partner.

These people were all friends before Miles became wealthy and they get together once a year. This year, Miles has something special planned, a murder mystery game.

Also arriving on the island — the one carry-over character from the earlier film, the brilliant detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

We learn about the connections that tie this group together, with some hilarious cameo appearances (two very touching from huge stars we recently lost) and celebrity references. Miles’ glass palace is filled with the kind of gauche art displays you would see in the home of an ultra-rich guy who wants bragging rights. (Genuine art lovers will notice that the “Rothko” is hanging upside down.) Amidst the twists and turns of the story are some clever digs at those we consider “influencers” and “disrupters.”

The performances are all spectacular. Hudson nails the selfish, superficial fading star desperate for attention, pretending that she does not know the difference between being outspoken and having something to say. Norton is just right with the false geniality of of a man who has given up everything to think of himself as a winner. Craig is a hoot (one of the movie’s best surprises is the reveal of his romantic partner). Monae masters a role that requires a lot of subtlety as the estranged member of the group and looks like a billion bucks as she does so.

What song will Johnson pick for the next one? Which superstars will appear? I can’t wait to find out.

Parents should know that this is a murder mystery with homicides and betrayal. There are some graphic images, characters use strong language and drink and get drunk. The movie also includes sexual references and a sexual situation.

Family discussion: What was the biggest surprise in the movie? How does the Beatles song “Glass Onion” relate to the film? Who should star in the next chapter?

If you like this, try: “Knives Out” and “See How They Run” as well as some of the stories that inspired them: “And Then There Were None,” “The Thin Man,” and the original “Murder on the Orient Express”

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Posted on December 21, 2022 at 12:40 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for action/violence, rude humor, language and some scary moments
Profanity: Mild schoolyard language and almost-language
Nudity/ Sex: Some potty humor
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended fantasy peril and action, comic "deaths," some scary monsters, a character embodies death
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 23, 2022

Copyright 2022 Universal/Dreamworks
The swashbuckling fairy tale cat Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) likes to remind everyone of his heroic, adventurous spirit, his skill with a sword, and his gift for singing. When pressed, as he is in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” by a doctor, he will admit that he is not much at math. And this is relevant because, as we know, a cat has nine lives, and if Puss had been keeping score he would have realized that he has used up…eight of them. It does not require a lot of math skills to figure out that means he is on his last one and has to be careful.

And that is how, after an opening scene filled with swordplay, acrobatics, and valor, including the defeat of a superbly designed tree giant, Puss ends up living with a cat lady (Da’Vine Joy Randolph, warm-hearted with just a touch of dottiness). “I’m always on the lookout for a new lap cat!” she says. Puss sadly buries his feathered hat and boots and resigns himself to the indignities of blue booties, eating cat chow from a trough, and using a litter box.

But then he discovers there is one chance to reboot his lives. It involves a magical map to the location of a fallen star that can grant just one wish. He is not the only one who wants that wish, though. Goldilocks (a hilarious cockney-accented Florence Pugh) and her three bear crime family (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman, and Samson Kayo) and Big (formerly Little) Jack Horner (John Mulaney in full sneer mode) want the wish. And so does Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), whose fearlessness and swords(wo)manship are every bit a match for PiB, with a history together that makes them both wary and attracted to one another.

And so, Puss is off on a journey and in a race with the other groups trying to beat him to the wish. And as we expect from the SCU (Shrek Cinematic Universe), there will be humor ranging from sly references for the grown-ups to slapstick for the young and the young at heart. And there will be action, adventure, some heartwarming lessons about friendship and a little bit of romance. It is always fun to see or rather hear “Desperado” co-stars Hayek and Banderas together again.

The character design and movement is very well done, especially the tree giant, the wolf/bounty hunter who represents Death, and Goldilocks. And the animation style is wonderfully dynamic and expressive. I especially enjoyed the mix of animation styles. We are all used to the hyper-realism of CGI, with every hair in a cat’s fur rendered individually. So it was especially nice to see the contrast between that realism and a more impressionistic depiction of fur on the coats of the three bears or the bark on the tree giant. The combination works surprisingly well and a slight strobe effect on some of the action scenes gives them a joyfully dynamic comic-book pop.

This new chapter keeps the best of the series’ humor and heart and adds new touches to keep the story and characters vibrant. If they can keep this up, Puss should have many more lives.

Parents should know that this film has some mild schoolyard language and some almost-language, some potty humor, and extended fantasy action with some peril and violence that almost reaches the PG-13 level, including flashbacks of Puss in Boots’ first eight “deaths.”

Family discussion: If you had nine lives, what chances would you take? What was different about what Golidlocks and Jack Horner wanted to wish for?

If you like this, try: The other Shrek and Puss in Boots movies and the fairy tales and nursery rhymes that inspired them.

Disney’s Hannukah Treets

Posted on December 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm

8 Disney Hanukkah Specials to Stream This Holiday Season

The holiday season is here… and while there is no shortage of holly, jolly films and shows to stream on Disney+, we thought we’d highlight some of the Hanukkah specials that are also available right now! Whether you’re getting ready for a winter-break streaming marathon or just looking for something to watch to learn more about the holiday itself, we’ve listed eight things to watch—one for each night of Hanukkah.

1. The Ghost and Molly McGee – “Festival of Lights” (Season 1, Episode 10)

In this adventure, the entire McGee family and Scratch the ghost visit Libby Stein-Torres and her family for the final night of Hanukkah. When a sudden blackout occurs across the town of Brighton, Libby’s mom boots up their bookstore’s generator, but she only has enough gas for one hour. Inexplicably, the generator keeps running for eight hour—during which Libby and her family teach the McGee’s, and later the entire town (who come gather at the bookstore for warmth)—about their Hanukkah traditions!

2. “Puppy for Hanukkah”

In 2020, Hamilton star Daveed Diggs partnered with Disney to create a new Hanukkah anthem — “Puppy for Hanukkah.” Written by Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, “Puppy for Hanukkah” tells the story of a little Jewish boy wishing for a puppy each night of Hanukkah before finally receiving one on the last night of the holiday. The song also explains some of his Hanukkah traditions, with Diggs reciting a Hanukkah blessing in Hebrew mid-rap. You can enjoy this Hanukkah bop by streaming the adorable music video for “Puppy for Hanukkah” on Disney+!

3. Firebuds – “Hanukkah Hullabaloo” (Season 1, Episode 13)

One of Disney Channel’s newest holiday specials is this episode of Firebuds, where Bo wonders why his mother doesn’t put up Hanukkah decorations like his father does for Christmas. To share how special Hanukkah is with his community, Bo goes overboard with decorations for Hanukkah, including a gigantic dreidel balloon that flies off in the wind and causes mild destruction across town. In the end, Bo learns that Hanukkah is special for reasons other than flashing lights and balloons—and that people choose different ways to celebrate the holidays.

4. Even Stevens – “Heck of a Hanukkah” (Season 1, Episode 15)

In this episode of the Disney Channel classic Even Stevens, troublemaker Louis Stevens can’t wait to open presents and searches for the Hanukkah gifts his parents have hidden somewhere in the house. When he ultimately finds them and ruins the family gift exchange for everyone, he ends up grounded for the entirety of Hanukkah. In an homage to 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, the ghost of Louis’ great-great-great-great-grandmother, Bubbe Rose, appears to show him what his family would be like if he had never been born.

5. Full Court Miracle

Based on the true story of the University of Virginia Cavaliers basketball star Lamont Carr, this 2003 Disney Channel Original Movie follows a Jewish basketball team in Philadelphia who need a new coach. Set during Hanukkah, this group of high school athletes find college student Lamont Carr and convince him to be their basketball coach. When the power goes out during the team’s final championship game, they make an agreement with their opponents that whoever has the most points when the generator runs out will win. In a true Hanukkah twist, the generator goes out and our heroes are losing, but the power miraculously comes back on and allows them to score the winning basket.

6. Puppy Dog Pals – “Latke Kerfuffle” (Season 1, Episode 20)

In this episode of Disney Junior’s Puppy Dog Pals, Bingo and Rolly go on a mission to help their owner, Bob, make latkes for their neighbor Chloe’s Hanukkah party! While on the hunt for eggs and potatoes, the pups sing a song about the “festival of lights” and how delicious latkes are. Bob makes enough latkes for everyone at Chloe’s party and Bingo and Rolly even get to attend, participating in the lighting of the Chanukiah when they spot the first star in the night sky.

7. Pepper Ann – “A Kosher Christmas” (Season 3, Episode 11)

Pepper Ann is another Disney character who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, and in this holiday episode she mistakenly believes that her parents want her to choose only one holiday to celebrate. She begins to make a list of what she loves most about each holiday to help her decide. In the end, she tells her parents that she loves Hanukkah and Christmas, and that choosing between them would be like choosing between her parents themselves! Of course, it was all a misunderstanding, and her parents were never asking her to choose between the two holidays. Together with her family, Pepper Ann has a great holiday season celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas.

8. Elena of Avalor – “Festival of Lights” (Season 3, Episode 18)

When Princess Rebecca of Galonia and her grandmother shipwreck on the shores of Avalor, it is up to Elena and her family to give them the best Hanukkah celebration possible! Rebecca and her family teach Elena all about Hanukkah, as well as some and Yiddish words like “nosh” (to have a snack) and “mitzvah” (a good deed). When Rebecca gets caught up in making their Hanukkah party absolutely perfect, it’s her bubbe (grandmother) who reminds her that Hanukkah is about carrying on even through the toughest challenges and making the most of what you have.