The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Review

While the first two Santa Clause films were ranging from very good to great, the third installment ends things off on a whimper. It just isn’t able to compete at all. The reason for this is that the human areas have effectively stopped appearing. Almost the whole film takes place in the North Pole this time and let me tell you, that’s not a good idea. That’s where the weakest characters are after all so it’s just not going to work. The best part of the film is sadly a very short set of scenes.

The movie starts with Santa doing his best at Christmas as usual but this year things are extra hectic. There are delays in the present supplies which means that Santa has to inspect these things a lot closer than he usually would. Then his wife Carol is starting to miss being at home. Scott figures if she can’t go home then he’ll just bring her parents to the North Pole. They’ve never liked Scott though so the whole thing is a little tricky. With Christmas getting more and more stressful Scott is reminded that he can use the Escape Clause to make it so that his adventures as Santa never actually happened. Should he really undo everything that has already occurred?

I should mention, this is already part of the plot that seems forced. Why can’t Carol just go and spend some time at home? I feel like that should be an option as a little vacation of sorts. At the very least it’s an alternative to consider as opposed to going through an elaborate set up to bring her folks and then pretend that this is Canada. It’s never even considered though and based on what the parents say, Carol hasn’t been home in years. That’s pretty crazy when you think about it.

There’s also another plot in the air. So, I didn’t mention them in the previous review but there is a council of Supernatural creatures such as the Toothfairy, Mother Nature, Easter Bunny, and more. They were fairly pointless in the second movie just as in this one so there’s not a lot to say about them. It’s a fun concept but the film doesn’t actually do anything interesting with them so you can definitely be forgiven for forgetting them entirely.

That being said, this time they play a bigger role because of one member known as Jack Frost. He’s upset because he’s the only member not to have his own holiday so he keeps trying to steal Christmas. Scott is ready to expel Jack but then decides to give him a second chance. He’ll let Jack Frost observe Santa’s workshop during the busiest time of the year with no real supervision. Jack accepts since this is the perfect time for him to sabotage Christmas. Throughout the movie we see him breaking equipment and messing with everyone the whole time. Unfortunately nobody is able to stop him.

It leads to a pretty rough scene where Lucy figures out the gameplan but isn’t able to tell anyone before being defeated along with Neil and Laura. You’d think they would have put up a better fight but they end up getting frozen without even landing a hit. It was definitely a pretty shameful appearance for them. Jack’s an interesting villain but one who gets away with far too much. Pretty much any scene with the guy is one where he is just messing up another piece of equipment with no actual punishment for his actions. You’d think that someone would catch him but that’s not the case. Even by the end he’s barely punished for everything he did.

That’s definitely one of the more annoying parts. That said, it does lead to the best part of the film which is the part where he and Scott have to time travel back to the past where the first film took place. Scott’s definitely been slacking off on his fighting ability though given how he was easily defeated by Jack. From there we get to see an alternate past where he never became Santa and how badly it turned out for everyone. At least this now gives Scott closure that he made the right move all along. My only problem with this is that the plot doesn’t appear until near the very end of the movie so there is almost no time to actually explore this. It’s an incredible premise and not one that could be explored in a few moments like that. I dare say that most of this film should have involved this premise.

After all, Jack learns about this trick from Curtis near the beginning of the film so we know it’s going to happen at some point or another. Instead of buying time with Jack breaking everything just cut to the chase. That way we’d have more time in the human world and that would have been a blast. The movie absolutely would have benefited from going down this route. Of that I definitely have no doubts. Ah well, I guess it wasn’t to be. It’s not that this film did a whole lot wrong but one of its main weaknesses is that it’s not all that funny anymore. I can’t think of any really humorous moments in this film and for a comedy that’s pretty bad. It’s definitely going more for crude humor this time around which doesn’t work well.

Most of the characters aren’t quite as reasonable either. If you thought Curtis was bad in the last film then he’s way worse here. Scott and Carol’s disagreements felt contrived as Scott was completely out of character with how much he was ignoring Carol and Christmas. Meanwhile Carol was fairly quick to escalate things as well especially with her parents antagonizing Scott the whole time. Then you have Neil and Laura who really don’t get to do much of anything here. You could say they are just along for the ride but that’s about it. Lucy gets a bigger role at least as she gets to have a blast at the North Pole. She didn’t do too well in the fight against Jack though.

Bud and Silvia are decent characters but definitely some of the meanest ones here. They’re always taking a lot of shots at Scott. I suppose they should be upset though. I’ll give Bud some props for being quick to help fix things though. He was definitely a solid handyman while Jack was busy messing the place up. I still can’t get over how Scott just let the guy run wild without a care in the world. He wouldn’t have made this mistake back when he was a business exec. Scott would have been on that guy right away and ready for a win.

Overall, Santa Clause 3’s mistake is very simple. It decided to focus on the North Pole which is consistently the weakest part of each film. Now, you can certainly have a good film at the North Pole I’m sure but then the writing has to be quite good and I can’t say that it was here. The writing is decent at best but most of the jokes don’t land and the character cast isn’t great. The difference between this film and the first one is pretty massive. It’s a decent end to the trilogy I guess but there’s very little replay value and you’ll likely be disappointed if you expect it to be on the same level as the first two.

Overall 6/10

The Santa Clause 2 Review

Time for the big Santa sequel! This time we’ve got more of a focus on the North Pole as they get their own subplot but there are still enough human scenes to keep you going. This one goes for more of a 50/50 blend so while it can’t quite touch the original, I’d still call it a pretty good film. The human world stuff is really solid as expected while the North Pole action isn’t as engaging. It is pretty fun to see the fake Santa’s facial expressions though as he reminds me a lot of the Cat in the Hat.

Scott is now an expert Santa who has done well at Christmas over the years. Unfortunately there is now a snag in the operation since a new Clause has been discovered in the contract which states that he has to get married or lose his powers. The whole thing is pretty suspect and forced for drama but I guess we have to roll with it. Santa heads back to the human world to find someone to marry while Bernard and Curtis stay back to look over the Pole. Unfortunately they are unable to do this on their own and create a Santa robot to rule until Scott returns. Unfortunately the robot has other plans.

Right from the jump there is an issue with this premise. Before Scott showed up in the first film, Bernard was perfectly able to look over everything without help. Why do they need a fake Santa at all? Also, keeping the secret of the real one being away doesn’t serve any real purpose if you ask me. I don’t see how the Elves would panic without Santa being around and this led to the circumstances of the fake taking control. So no part of the North Pole subplot was thought over all that carefully. None of it makes all that much sense so that was unfortunate.

This plot just isn’t very interesting in part because I don’t like Curtis as a character. He’s got to be the worst elf as his plans tend to be terrible and he always gets in the way. Bernard would do a lot better without him. At least fake Santa was fun by the end when he really thrived on being the villain. Still, he’s a bright point in what’s otherwise a bit of an uninspiring plot.

Back at home, Scott has to deal with a lot of drama such as Charlie being a rebel at school now. He has started defacing school property and has just become a delinquent. The film tries to show that it’s because he wanted to stand out a lot so Scott would come home but when you remember that he has a globe which summons Scott at will..the whole thing seems odd. It also seems to hint that Scott would just never visit him which doesn’t seem to be in character. I don’t see him suddenly losing track of time and staying at the North Pole. That just wouldn’t make any sense at all.

I’d say what I’m getting at here is that the writing was particularly weak. There are still a lot of fun moments here and I would call the movie a pretty good one, but it’s no longer great. There are enough things holding it back where it just has to settle for being a bunch of fun where you don’t look at the story too hard. It’s the definition of a forced sequel in that regard. The writers clearly needed an excuse to have the characters back again so this is how they went with it.

Fortunately Neal isn’t written out entirely so we get some nice scenes with him and Scott. The dynamic is a little different now since Neal likes Santa a lot and Scott has less disdain for the guy. He still does make sure to interrupt Neal and constantly mock him though so I can definitely appreciate that. Their scenes together are still a lot of fun. Scott is also able to instantly control the room once he arrives at school and defends Charlie well.

Of course there has to be a romance plot here based on the premise of the film. So at the school there is a tough principal by the name of Carol. She runs a tight ship so naturally the rebels at school don’t like her. Well, Scott is on her side with this and eventually the two start to get together but the main issue is that Scott will have to break the news to her about being Santa. As a kid she had a traumatic experience about that so it won’t be easy. Can Scott really convince her of this?

In a way that shouldn’t be hard because Scott performs a bunch of miracles during the film. One of the better moments for him was definitely at the work party where he gets everyone exactly what they wanted for Christmas. Fortunately he did it as a bulk order so it only cost him a magical point. It’s nice because Scott is always a very good natured guy and he just wanted everyone to have fun. He certainly accomplished that very well and I do feel like that’s proof enough for Carol to believe him. I do understand not wanting to believe Santa is real though because it’s hard to wrap your head around that.

Carol’s a solid character throughout and she was definitely in the right with all the school scenes. There’s no way to defend Charlie and that’s why the kid is a terrible character here. Carol isn’t even being mean or doing anything extreme. She’s just laying down the law that you can’t post graffiti everywhere and expect to get away with it. Carol’s stern but a very fair character and never for a moment did I think that she was in the wrong during any of her appearances. If she doesn’t create some law and order now then it’s only going to get worse for the kids later on.

Overall, The Santa Clause 2 is a weaker follow up to the first one but it’s still a good movie in its own right. If the first one didn’t exist then this would still be a fun standalone film to recommend checking out. The continuity boost helps at least boost the fun factor since it’s always nice to see the characters return. If you really liked Charlie in the first movie then the character assassination of him suddenly being a rebel may hurt the film more for you but otherwise you’ll be fine. There’s still a good amount of humor here and solid scenes in the real world. As long as we have that then the film is set. Now if the third film removes that…well we’ve got a problem. You’ll see my review of that one shortly.

Overall 7/10

The Santa Clause Review

The Santa Clause film is certainly a pretty well known one from back in the day. It’s an entire trilogy now and the idea of being forced into the Santa Claus role is pretty intense. There’s a good amount of humor and fun characters here so the film stays operating as a pretty high level. In particular Scott gets a lot of good insults in against Neal which are always fun to see. That guy really didn’t stand a chance here.

This film picks up with Scott running late to get home after a big party but ultimately arriving home. It’s his day of the week to hang out with his son Charlie. Charlie isn’t thrilled about being at Scott’s place during Christmas season and thinks they’re going to have a bad time. It doesn’t go extremely well at first with dinner getting burnt but then Santa Claus falls off of the roof and Scott is forced to take up the mantle. Yes, completely forced here as he didn’t want anything to do with the Santa gig but the sleigh just ended up taking off with him. Now this adventure is poised to ruin his life and possibly get his son taken away. Can Scott prevent this from happening?

A lot of the fun in the movie is all about the snappy dialogue. Scott has a lot of clear disdain for Neal and you can’t be surprised by that. Who ever ends up liking the replacement? Not to mention that Neal’s always pretty full of himself and tends to talk down to everyone else. Scott just ends up flipping this around and makes Neal look silly each time. Neal just can’t even begin to keep up with Scotty’s retorts which is probably part of what makes him get so furious. The banter just can’t be beat and the film keeps the humor operating at a high level throughout.

Another great moment is when Scott’s company starts to prepare their marketing campaign for Santa being in a tank. Scott points out the obvious flaws in such a marketing tactic but does so in a very comical way which I definitely appreciate. The whole gag of him growing to look more and more like Santa is also handled well and you can even see how that would be rather scary since nothing he tries works when preventing this new design. There’s just no way to avoid his fate and the worst part is that people actually think he’s doing this intentionally to delude Charlie into seeing Santa as being real.

Of course the film is a comedy first and foremost so the characters don’t tend to take a very rational look at this kind of thing. They just all pile on Scott and give him a hard time here. Even the court case is pretty rough towards him although I blame Charlie on that one. So Scott’s definitely a very solid main character. He tried really hard to give Charlie a good Christmas. He may have taken a little while to really get in on the action on how being Santa can be fun but at the end of the day he did really well.

What I have to give him extra credit for is ultimately not agreeing with the rest of the characters and trying to convince Charlie that the whole thing was a dream. He came close to doing this a few times but each time he ultimately ended up finishing strong and resisted the temptation. That’s why he’s a quality character here. He didn’t let Charlie down and he also helped make sure everyone got their presents. He adapted pretty well to the evolving technology at the North Pole as well and by the end of the film you could even call him an expert.

As for Charlie, he’s definitely not my favorite character. He really let Scott down at the hearing and gets very emotional throughout the movie. At least he’s a nice kid though. Charlie does his best to do the right thing even if he doesn’t always make the smartest decisions. Then you have Laura who definitely doesn’t get along with Scott super well at times although their various disagreements tend to feel pretty minor. They have some good banter as well and she’s a lot more agreeable to everything going on than Neal. It’s hard to see how she ever got together with that guy in the first place. He’s always getting completely dominated by Scott in all of their meetings. He also has a lot of resistance against Santa Claus to the point where he really tries to get Charlie away from that.

That said, I can’t fault Neal for that. I don’t think it’s necessary to have your kids believe in Santa from the start. He is fake so getting your kid to learn the true meaning of Christmas can be a good starting point instead of all the fables. As long as you break it gently then I’d say that’s fine. While I mostly describe Neal as a punching bag, it’s part of what makes him a quality character here. No matter how many times Scott insults and humiliates the guy, Neal is ready to get right back up again. Now that’s some solid determination if I’ve ever heard of any.

One of the more enjoyable scenes of the film as well is when Neal and Charlie have a discussion about Santa Claus where Neal brings up all the classic counters as to why Santa doesn’t exist with Charlie countering each one. His counters make a lot of sense after all since the whole time manipulation is a crucial part to Santa’s character. It is absolutely essential that he be able to stop time if he is to visit every child on Christmas in one day. So the fact that Charlie already knew about that trick was really good. If I were Neal though I would have quickly brought some receipts for the items Charlie had asked for in the past to prove that I had bought them instead. I think that would have been a winning argument.

I haven’t talked much about Scott’s adventures at the North Pole but there’s less to talk about there. Bernard is one of the chief elves there and he makes sure that all tasks are being performed correctly. He’s good at his job and a stern, but nice guy. Then you’ve got another elf who is really good at making hot chocolate. Both of these characters do well at the North Pole but I have to say that whenever the heroes are there I’m ready for them to just head back to Earth. We even get some scenes where the cops get involved and start causing mayhem against Santa.

Overall, The Santa Clause is a really solid movie. It’s definitely a title that I would highly recommend checking out. This is a Christmas comedy that has aged exceptionally well. The idea of Santa being a binding contract is very interesting. You’ll be having a great time watching the film because it just has a lot of fun moments and quality character interactions. The whole thing goes by in a flash. I’ll have reviews for the sequels up soon but they fail to quite capture the exceptional balance that this film had. In large part this is because this film ironically didn’t focus on him being Santa Claus for too long. If you’ve noticed, all of the positives that I have listed above barely have anything to do with that job. It’s really more about Scott doing his best to make the end of the year fun for Charlie and the hijinks that comes from this is really what makes the film work so well. Watching this for Christmas is ideal but you still have time to check this out for New Year’s if you haven’t yet.

Overall 8/10

Krampus Review

A Christmas film that’s actually a horror title is pretty interesting. It’s certainly not a blend you see very often. I can understand that though as ideally when you think of Christmas movies you’ll think of items like Jingle All The Way or Christmas With The Kranks. After that then you gear up for Halloween in October with the big spooky titles. Well, Krampus is a pretty interesting idea and the film executes it fairly well. The human characters tend to mostly be unlikable though so it’s easy to see why Krampus arrived.

The movie starts with Max getting ready for Christmas. He’s determined for it to be a good year but unfortunately it does not start out well. He gets into a fight at the school play and then when he gets home his parents start bickering a bit. Nothing serious but then his cousins arrive and they’re a bunch of the meanest characters you’ll see around. They torment him for a while until Max throws his letter to Santa out the window. This ends up summoning the demon known as Krampus. He is accompanied by the Elves, Gingerbread Man, A bear who is basically Freddy from Five Knights at Freddy’s, A Jack in the Box, and more. Can the family unite to take these guys down or are they ultimately all about to meet their end on Christmas?

The family is incredibly split apart right at the start so you can probably guess that they aren’t good at the whole teamwork thing. As mentioned, most of them are just pretty awful. Even by the end you aren’t going to like many of the characters. The kids from the cousin’s side are all pretty painful of course so I don’t even need to talk about them. Their entire purpose in the film is to just be annoying and get in the way the whole time. You know that they don’t truly stand a chance at any point in the game. It’s just the way that it goes.

For the real main characters, Max gets one of the biggest roles for sure. He at least believes in Santa a lot more than the others. Of course for Krampus it’s more about personal sacrifices and all with his understanding of what Christmas is. Regardless, he was not pleased with Max by the end and made sure this was known the whole time. The others were really on his hit list from the start but it’s interesting because in a way you’d be safe if you never believed in Santa from the start. He only shows up once you turn away. Then if you’re just an innocent bystander outside you’re really doomed. Those guys were just minding their own business and still got mixed up in all of this.

Tom and Sarah do a decent job trying to get things back on track the whole time. I wouldn’t say they do a superb job but at least they talk back to the cousins at times. Tom half heartedly defends himself a bit like with the whole scouts thing and at least he said Sarah’s cooking was done. He doesn’t really get to shine further until the villains arrive and he fights with his gun. He does last for a bit which is good although ultimately he is heavily outnumbered. The villains not being bullet proof at least gives the heroes some hope. Meanwhile Sarah also steps up when needed. She doesn’t fight with the axe as long as her sister Linda but everyone does get to contribute in the end.

I do think Max brings up a good point of why they had to invite the rest of the family if they don’t get along at all. It sounds like that’s just asking for trouble. Maybe have more of a quiet internal Christmas celebration especially if they’ll be inviting other members who were not invited. Tom didn’t really have a good counter to that question and I think it was worth bringing up. Inviting everyone simply out of tradition is a bit iffy.

Howard and Linda are definitely not meant to be all that likable either. Howard’s whole obsession about being a tough guy and having a lot of guns does come in handy though. At least it meant that the heroes would be properly armed for this scenario. Tom was surprised that Howard brought guns on Christmas but I wouldn’t blame him there. If you’re equipped with guns then the whole point is so you can have them if you really need them. Of course that should include road trips. Both of these characters have some really solid moments during the action segments but it isn’t enough to make you forget what went on earlier. That’ll still be fresh in your memory.

Dorothy is the crude aunt of the family who is always ready with a dicey line. She says what’s on her mind at all times no matter what kind of damage it could do to everyone. I definitely can’t say that there’s anything admirable about that though. Being honest is great but it’s no excuse to be rude either. Then you have Beth who is low key the most reasonable member of the family. At least she tries to stick up for Max at times although she should have just let him snatch the paper back and run interference. At least she was doing something though. Going out in a huge snowstorm is also pretty intense especially by herself.

Then we have Omi but she did not do very good here. She withholds the truth from the rest of the family for way too long until it’s basically too late. Then at the end she didn’t have much of a plan and didn’t look so good. She definitely could and should have played that situation a lot differently. That about wraps up the human cast. So it’s a pretty weak cast to be honest. That’s intentional of course because they try to not let you sympathize with the characters too much in horror titles like this where the villain is going to bump them all off anyway. At least this way it’s a little less emotional right?

One thing the film does really well is with how the snowy backdrop is handled. It’s definitely very eery to see everything covered in snow and so desolate. The place is a true ghost town. The most effective scenes are definitely when the heroes are outside in the cold. Beth’s first adventure out there was certainly intense that’s for sure. Throughout the whole movie there are a ton of solid effects and visuals though. The movie does a good job of that. Even all of the villain designs are on point. Krampus looks intense and his best minion has to be the Gingerbread Man. All of the minions show up from time to time to contribute though. One of the more intense moments was when the whole group attacked at once. I didn’t think I’d see a group vs group fight in a horror title like this so that was a pleasant surprise.

There are some pretty solid action scenes here. It’s a full horror movie from start to finish for sure but the movie has a lot of good atmosphere and isn’t relying on shock value and over the top violence. Most of the violence here is implied rather than shown. So all in all this would be one of the best modern horror films that I’ve seen. The execution was definitely on point. The only aspect of the film holding it back would be the writing. I can’t say that it was all that great or even very good. The characters are mostly all pretty bad of course so that also means a lot of terrible dialogue gets through as well. The characters are always hurling around insults and getting in the way. This is really all from the cousin’s side of the family but it makes for a very drawn out beginning.

Naturally the film does have a twist ending so make sure you watch all the way through. It’s a pretty hype one for sure. I do think there are a few ways you can interpret this one but I certainly know the one I’m going for. Lets just say it involves a loop and I think it’s a nice way to end things off. I could certainly see more Kampus titles just with different characters. It would make for a pretty hype film either way as long as it doesn’t jump the shark. With one like this you always imagine it going off the deep end since the film makers always have to be careful to get a solid thriller atmosphere without things going too crazy.

Overall, Krampus is certainly a different take on the classic Santa Claus kind of films that’s for sure. The idea of a Krampus who shows up to take everyone down is definitely something. If you’re looking for some good thrills and action scenes then this is a decent one to check out. The first act is a little on the painful side though with the characters being as awful as possible. So long as you can get past that then the rest is on point. There’s even a dog who helps out and the film avoids any animal violence so consider me impressed there. If you want to check out a horror Christmas movie then this is definitely the best one to start with.

Overall 6/10

It Happened on 5th Avenue Review

You know the old saying about how more money just means more problems? Well, in this case the money does end up giving Mike a lot of problems only he doesn’t know it. He is so rich that people actually stay at his mansion when he isn’t around which is a pretty interesting premise. The film’s definitely fun and while Mike may end up putting up with way more than he should, there’s a good amount of humor here.

The movie starts out by introducing us to McKeever. He’s an older man who has given up on working and just ends up taking refuge in abandoned houses. He has a pretty tight system where he visits Mike’s mansion when the guy is away at his other base. See, Mike is the second richest person in the world at the moment so he has a lot of mansions to upkeep. McKeever has kept this system up for 3 years but a complication comes up when he encounters Jim, a veteran who is out of luck at the moment. He isn’t able to afford a place to stay because all of the houses have been bought up.

McKeever allows Jim to stay with him but then a girl named Trudy shows up. McKeever isn’t thrilled about expanding the ranks further but he allows her to stay. Little does he know that she is Mike’s daughter and Trudy doesn’t intend to tell them. Still, her silence will be put to the test as Mike shows up and slowly Jim invites other veteran families to stay with them. The house is getting busier and busier which is something to consider.

You know, there’s actually quite a lot of plot to think about here. In addition to all of that, Mike also goes into the house undercover. He works as a servant while he is trying to look after Trudy and find out more about Jim. Then you’ve also got his ex-wife Mary who joins in on the fray. Effectively everyone is undercover leading to a lot of mix-ups and comedic shenanigans. It’s a pretty fun dynamic on the whole and the characters are all pretty reasonable.

As mentioned, I do think that Mike puts up with a lot more than he needed to though. McKeever drives him really hard next to the other characters perhaps in part because he wasn’t totally on board with Mike joining the house as well. Then having to see this guy wear all of his clothes and smoke his cigars is pretty tough. I suppose McKeever has enough restraint where he doesn’t use too many since nobody’s ever noticed before but that’s a lot to have to just endure. The broken bed is really just being extra. It’s all done in fun of course but after a point you feel like Mike was well within his rights to break up the whole thing. Technically he wouldn’t have been in the wrong to do it from the start since they were using his house without permission.

Mike’s a tough guy but I do think he was a good man even from the beginning. He drives a hard business and buys up as much as he can but we never are given any indication that he is doing anything illegal or unethical. One of the main dilemmas of the film is how it is tougher for people to live anywhere since the houses are going up in price though. I suppose you could make the case that Mike is directly responsible for this but I would argue that as CEO of the company he wouldn’t be as knowledgeable on the day to day stuff. He knows that he is buying everything up but I doubt he intends to put everyone on the street either. Regardless, Mike definitely has a lot of character development through the film and worked really well as the lead.

His ex-wife Mary also gets a sizable role once we’re around halfway through the movie and she joins in on the fun. She definitely helps Mike get through a whole lot of this. The film doesn’t dwell too much on why they divorced in the first place but there’s enough material for you to draw your own conclusions. This is one case where again I’m probably on Mike’s side since it seems like the idea was that he was too involved with his work. Sometimes that can be too extreme but at the same time he is a super rich CEO with a lot of responsibilities so I would have to see more to really determine if it was unreasonable.

Then we have Trudy who is the real main character here. She’s a solid character and definitely has fun trolling Jim and McKeever. I thought it was pretty entertaining how easily she messed with them. She definitely became good friends with Jim right away although I would understand why the other characters may be a bit skeptical since they didn’t know each other for very long before getting serious. Mike even issues a challenge, one that I would say Jim failed in the end. He ultimately put money first and while the decision isn’t as black and white as all that, I don’t think it was the correct decision. Effectively he would have left Trudy there and I don’t see how you can reconcile that.

I ended up liking Trudy a lot more than Jim for that reason as she stayed strong throughout all of this. Additionally she was just a fun character with a lot of good dialogue. Jim did handle himself well for most of the movie aside from the challenge though. He was always willing to help the others out and his business idea wasn’t bad. It’s a pretty decent plan so maybe he will find some success with it in the future. Just knowing that you have someone you can count on is always pretty big.

Finally you have McKeever. He’s definitely the most experienced member of the group and offers up a lot of good advice. The whole bidding above your paygrade bit is probably the only bit that doesn’t really fly but otherwise he’s a charismatic character. He may not be heroic as he does illegal things like living in other people’s houses all the time but he tries not to do any harm as he mentioned. His dog is also a lot of fun so it’s always cool to see him around.

At the end of the day I’d say that what really makes this film is the strong writing. At its core the film is really thriving on its solid humor and good character interactions. The cast are all pretty likable and the idea of someone being undercover is always pretty fun. It’s a nice way to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes and all told, Mike did pretty well. Considering how rich he is I doubt he would have had a chance to do many of the activities he had to complete before now.

Overall, It Happened On 5th Avenue is a film I would definitely recommend checking out. The pacing is nice and tight and the most important factor here is that there isn’t anything bad to say about the film. It’s just a very pleasant ride from start to finish. Whether you’re here for the comedy or the drama you’ll be satisfied. Mike certainly gave up a whole lot in order to help the characters by the end so you certainly hope it works out for them. Of course, he’s so rich that he’ll be fine even if this operation were to go belly up.

Overall 7/10

Christmas Waltz Review

Time for the last of the big Hallmark Christmas titles. The Christmas Waltz is a fun title although I would say that it has more weaknesses than some of the others. In particular both the main heroine and the main guy aren’t great. They allow themselves to be manipulated really easily and buy into rumors too fast. If they don’t trust each other much that doesn’t bode well. Still, it’s got the usual positive themes going which is always good and it’s a wholesome film to check out.

The movie starts with Avery getting ready for her upcoming wedding. She has been engaged to David for a long time and knows that he’s about to pop the question. Unfortunately he does not and instead says that he has accepted a job abroad. The exact thing he had agreed not to do earlier even after they had discussed it. Well, Avery breaks up with him and decides to pursue her old hobby of dancing. Unfortunately she falls for her instructor Roman pretty quickly and is on the rebound course. Complicating things is the fact that David is back and wants Avery to come back to him.

So the romance angle is unsurprisingly the weakest angle here. It just really stands out this time because of how indecisive Avery is the whole time. So, she breaks up with David at the beginning which is the right move because the guy wasn’t being serious at all. The issue is that after that when he arrives again she actually thinks about giving him another chance. If he hadn’t mentioned that he went over to threaten Roman then she may have actually gone with him. Even if she had said no later on, the fact that she entertained the idea after starting an affair with Roman is pretty bad. You definitely can’t have this kind of thing both ways.

Meanwhile Roman is just as bad here. He is very quick to believe David when the guy shows up saying that he and Avery are back together. Why would you believe what the Ex has to say so easily? At the very least he should have quickly asked Avery about it directly when they met up again instead of giving her the cold shoulder and ignoring her altogether. You can’t just go from 0-100 instantly like that. It shows that Roman is incredibly gullible. even in real life you see people accepting one side of the story very quickly without getting all of the facts and it always ends up being a bad idea. So right away both characters looked pretty bad here.

The cast is fairly self contained. Avery and Roman both have a best friend who gives them advice during the movie and the advice is pretty sound. At least those two were pretty reasonable which is good because if they were as impulsive then that would not have been a good dynamic for sure. The writing as a whole is still solid though. The script is good and if you take away the romance drama the movie’s pretty upbeat as expected. Hallmark has always done a good job with that so you can expect some Christmas songs, dances, and even slight cooking although not the usual desserts but Avery does make a burnt breakfast.

Whether this one can keep up with the other Hallmark titles for you will perhaps depend on how much you enjoy dancing. Dancing is the primary focus here as that’s how the two of them meet and begin their friendship. A subplot here is that Avery is a super busy executive who rarely has time for herself but she has decided to take up dancing. Her parents are a little skeptical at first but ultimately take it well. I’m glad they weren’t exaggerated or something like that. Being a little surprised is understandable since she hadn’t shown any interest in 20+ years.

One thing you can blame Avery on though is not having effective time management. She actually ends up forgetting about a task project that was due. Fortunately she did manage to submit it in the end but that definitely wasn’t fair to the job. She really left them in the lurch there so that does reinforce that the main characters here weren’t the best. It’s definitely a chance of pace though since you’re used to the main characters here being fairly exceptional at everything they do.

Overall, Christmas Waltz is a solid film. While it doesn’t quite match the average Hallmark film that I am used to watching, I would still give it passing marks here. It’s got a good story and at the end of the day the characters are nice even if they are a little gullible. The writing is solid and while dancing may not quite be my thing, I’m sure the choreography was good. Now if they can incorporate some dance dance revolution in one of these films that would definitely be pretty neat. Now that’s competitive dancing that I can get into. It could be a while before my next Hallmark experience so we’ll see how those stack up. It’s always a pleasure watching Hallmark movies so I’m sure they will bring their A game.

Overall 6/10

The Grinch Review

The Grinch is a pretty classic story although it’s been a pretty long while since I’ve seen any version of it. It’s a story that holds up though and I would have to say that this is the best adaption of it that I’ve seen. The characters are really solid, the animation is on point, and the story is good. When you mix that all together then you’ve got yourself a really solid combo and the movie just flies by.

The movie starts by introducing us to the Grinch. He lives in a pretty fancy cave with his dog Max. They have a pretty nice set up with everything running automatically and Max oversees the whole thing. In general it’s just hard not to like these guys at least with this first impression. Unfortunately for the Grinch he did not have enough food to survive Christmas without going into town. He heads out and decides to make life miserable for everyone else as well. When the Grinch learns that Christmas is going to be even bigger this year he decides that it’s time to shut it down. If he steals everyone’s presents then that should end things right?

Meanwhile Cindy is the main human here. She’s a little girl who is always spreading cheer around and having a pretty good time. Her Mom has to work really hard in order to support her though. Her only Christmas wish is for Santa to help the Mom out but it’s been tough to get in touch with him. She decides that she will have to lay a trap for Santa so that she can explain the wish. She gets some help from the rest of the kids in her neighborhood but will she really be able to take Santa down for the count? Only time will tell.

One thing that stands out about the film right away is the bright and colorful environment. The whole film just looks amazing. It’s some of the best animation I’ve seen in one of these films in a while. Maybe it comes down to the city’s design and the Christmas decorations but either way it really stood out. The characters are all really solid as well. Let’s start with Bricklebaum since he’s more of a side character.

He’s a nice neighbor who always ignores the Grinch’s slights and keeps minding his business. I can definitely respect this guy and his dedication to his craft. That’s the kind of drive that you really want to see from him. He’s also just fundamentally a good person. Naturally to the Grinch he is seen as quite extreme and over the top but it’s all very genuine. So he just really clicked as a supporting character. Then you’ve got Cindy’s Mom who is also solid and does a good job of managing everything at home. Even the other kids at least help Cindy even if they’re all ingrates for having to be guilt tripped into doing it. You know that Cindy would have helped them out with no questions asked.

Cindy is a pretty reasonable character. I’ll give her credit for being such a pro-active character. She was always right there in the thick of things. Her route from home to the cave or town was also a lot of fun. She’s got serious sledding skills that’s for sure. Then we get to the main two. Max is a really solid dog. He’s smart and very loyal. I was glad that the Grinch and Max had a really good dynamic here. They get along and make each other even better. They do have a disagreement in the film but it’s a pretty small one and they get on the same page again.

As for the Grinch, he is an antagonist at first of course. He’s mean to people for no reason like pushing the food that they want away or popping balloons. Whatever inconvenience the Grinch can cause you, he will do it. It makes him a pretty fun villain though. It’s not like he does anything too crazy either. Most of what he does is pretty mean spirited but amounts to just inconveniences here and there. Fortunately the townsfolk are so nice that they don’t pay him a whole lot of attention. It does mean that his character arc can feel a bit cheesy towards the end though. Anyone who knows about the Grinch story knows exactly how this is going to go of course. I thought the execution was pretty good though.

There are other side characters of course like the lone reindeer who hangs out with Grinch. The Grinch wasn’t thrilled about having him at first but ultimately relented which was the first indicator that maybe he had a heart after all. It’s just a nice story with some good emotional beats and quick pacing. The film never drags on or anything like that and the writing is good. At the end of the day those are the key ingredients to having a good movie. The ending is satisfying so then you’ve got a full product.

If there’s any part of the film that wasn’t needed then I would say that I could have done without the narrator. I know that rhymes are a staple of the Dr Seuss adventures so that’s probably why he is here but you don’t really need him. In my mind the film would have been just as complete without him and you can understand what is going on well enough without the play by play. I wouldn’t call it a negative though. It’s just one thing that I would tweak but it’s not something that holds the film back either.

Overall, The Grinch is a pretty good film. It’s always nice to see a quality Christmas film at the ready. This is definitely the definitive Grinch movie in my mind so if you haven’t seen any version yet then I would recommend starting with this one. It really embraces how Whoville is a lot different from a usual town. They go all in on Christmas and with the solid animation they’re able to show how much fun people have when travelling around town.

Overall 7/10

Arthur’s Perfect Christmas Review

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen this Arthur Christmas special that’s for sure. It’s definitely a very well made special that’s for sure. It’s nice to see all of the celebrations and the nostalgic Arthur characters running around. This special has aged very well and will continue to be a solid watch each year. It’s definitely rough when a gift doesn’t go the way you think it will so you can understand Arthur’s plight.

The film starts us off a few days before Christmas. Each of the characters are getting ready for the day in their own way. Arthur is determined for this to be the best Christmas yet. I understand the feeling as I always go in expecting each year’s Christmas to surpass the last one and this year will be no different. Arthur is thrown a lot of curveballs though as the tree doesn’t tur out the way he had hoped and the menu is also a lot different. Still, Arthur is willing to give these changes a chance. The only thing that could ruin the day for him now would be if his Christmas present for his Mom were to break…

Then we’ve also got subplots for most of the other members of the cast. Binky is going to be cooking dessert for a soup kitchen he is volunteering at during Christmas and is testing out his recipes on everyone. It’s a pretty noble gesture but his cooking needs a lot of work. He makes rather basic mistakes in each of his dishes. It’s good that he’s trying but the first step of cooking is to try the food out yourself and it seems like Binky is not doing that. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in trying out his dishes now does it?

Muffy’s plot is about how she has scheduled a party while Francine will be observing Hanukkah with her family. Francine told her many times that attending the party would be impossible but Muffy wouldn’t hear about it. In a lot of these cases usually the mix up is because the character was unable to work up the courage to explain this. There is no such issue here as Francine told Muffy over 20 times. I liked how direct she was so the fault is entirely with Muffy this time around. There was no way that Francine could have been any clearer. So Muffy’s got to take the loss here.

Then you’ve got Buster who’s mother has been traumatized by Christmas and always celebrates it a few days early each year. It’s definitely a rather odd situation but at the end of the day she just wants to make sure that the day is a success for Buster. She is clearly trying pretty hard even if the whole thing is pretty exaggerated. Even the fancy restaurant food doesn’t look as good as what Buster would usually get at the Sugar Bowl. There are a few other characters having their own adventures like George, The Brain, and Mr. Ratburn but I wouldn’t consider those subplots so much as quick scenes to show us what they’re doing. They didn’t have any trail to go through which makes sense since the film can only squeeze in so many plots during its run time.

The movie is a little under an hour so there’s only so much it can do. The animation is pretty solid and consistent as always. The character designs are on point and the whole thing is nice to look at. This is the kind of hand drawn animation that will always age well. You can just feel the effort that was put into this. As this is a musical there are also a number of songs included. I wouldn’t say that any of them are all that solid though. It’s not really my style of music but it does still help to get the Christmas vibes in there.

Arthur’s Perfect Christmas also separates itself form other Christmas specials in that it does include some pretty key details like having the group go to Church in one scene and even having the Dad come up with the idea of having an authentic Christmas dinner like what they would have served in Bethlehem. While the dishes naturally may not sound the best next to some classic staples like Mac and Cheese, I like that the topic was broached. The film was clearly acknowledging the history of celebrating Christmas due to Jesus Christ’s birth. It’s always great to see that.

The special is high energy throughout and coupled with the solid writing that naturally makes for a fun adventure. Arthur tends to dream about the worst case scenarios as always. He really lets his imagination run wild even when it’s a positive event. Then you have DW who still panics quite a lot. At least she tried to be happy about the Duck at first even if she wasn’t able to stay strong in the end. I suppose if you’re hoping for a cool toy and get something else that can be tough. She was nice enough to think about Santa by leaving the cookies out which was neat. All of the characters are pretty solid at the end of the day.

Overall, Arthur’s Perfect Christmas is a pretty fun special. It’s definitely a fitting one to check out as Christmas quickly approaches and I’d recommend it. I’ll give Arthur points for being pretty tolerant of all the different things that could have sabotaged his Christmas. He was okay with the menu change, the Christmas tree change, and even handled the songs decently even if they did set him off pretty quick. He definitely doesn’t seem to like any of the fast paced music tracks that DW tends to enjoy which is unfortunate. Who knows, maybe one day he will get on board with these although I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Overall 7/10

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Review

It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything relating to the Nutcracker. It’s definitely a pretty classic story though so it’s nice to see it being brought out again. This story does a fun job with it. You get a little action, a little adventure, and a lot of emotion. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly noteworthy like I won’t be remembering it in the future much but I like to think each movie leaves you something to remember. In this case that would be the living rat monster which was pretty intense. Definitely not someone you’d want to have to bump into in a life or death situation.

The movie starts off by introducing us to Clara who has been dealing with a lot now that her mother has passed. Her father has tried to recreate Christmas the way it would usually be but this has not worked. In part this is because it comes off as him trying to get everyone to get on with their lives which is all happening too fast. At the very least Clara does not want to be at a party and doesn’t feel like dancing. She manages to escape into the land of the 4 realms when a rat escapes with her key. She needs this key in order to unlock the last memento from her mother. It turns out that the key has another purpose as well. It’s the only way to unlock the machine needed to bring the toy soldier army back up and operational. The kingdom needs this army to stop Mother Ginger from wiping them out.

Extra pressure is here because Clara’s mother used to help the Kingdom as its queen and has quite a lot of experience here. Clara feels like she can’t live up to such a legendary example. Still, Clara does step up when needed. The beginning of the film also introduced her as a very intelligent character who really knows how physics works. This comes into play later on in the film so it was nice foreshadowing. It’s also hard to blame Clara in the opening scenes because the party didn’t feel appropriate. She was fairly respectful in trying to deny the event so all in all I give Clara a thumbs up as the lead.

The other major character in the film is the Nutcracker Phillip. Phillip has always performed his job really well. He stays at his post and only moves when ordered. He is a very faithful fighter at Clara’s disposal and does pretty well when having to go up against an army. He offers his own advice as well and helps keep Clara on the right path. He ends up having a nice bond with one of the Mice and they even get a good team up. The idea of a Rat monster made from tons of little rats is definitely pretty fun. Certainly a disturbing monster to have to go up against though. You really wouldn’t want to have to square off against such an opponent.

As for Mother Ginger, she’s a pretty interesting character. She can definitely fight really well with her whip as well which definitely comes in handy. She was able to take on several fighters on her own which is really good. I was glad to see action scenes of any kind here since that’s definitely not going to be the main priority here. The film had a good balance of action and adventure though. The heroes may not fight all that much but the climax has several action scenes at the ready. The giant mecha Ginger had was also pretty neat even if sheer numbers were definitely enough to overwhelm it in the end though. That’s the thing about having a giant robot, it’s pretty susceptible against many opponents.

In general the movie goes down a rather predictable path but I always say that’s not a bad thing as long as the execution is good and I’d say it was. The writing is good and the pacing is solid. The visuals throughout the film are also nice. While the soundtrack is rather forgettable I wouldn’t say there were any bad tunes here either. That definitely ends up being an experience I can be satisfied with. It’s certainly more interesting than something like the Lord of the Rings. That’s why it’s good that we mostly stuck in the world of the Realms because the real world definitely wasn’t quite as interesting. Whenever a fantasy world is an option that’s absolutely where you want to spend your time.

There isn’t much more to talk about with spoilers. I will say that the villain’s motivations while not justifiable are pretty understandable. Sometimes offense is the best defense. If you think about it, defense just isn’t good enough if you are always being attacked. If someone attacks you every month, it doesn’t matter that you are able to repel the attacks if you take a lot of hits in the meantime. The best way to get out of the situation is to take the opposing side down and that way you will have the peace needed to get victory right? Of course it’s not so simple but at least the base reasoning makes sense. There are a lot of deceptions involved so you shouldn’t take anything at face value though. I just like when a villain at least has some rationale so I appreciated that.

Overall, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a pretty solid adaption of the classic story. It brings in all of the classic elements you would want to see and we get a nice cast of characters. I’d definitely be game for a sequel someday. There are definitely ways you could go about it. Clara also should come back to visit the kingdom at some point. I don’t see any reason why she would have to stick to the human world, especially since time seems to stop while she’s gone. That’s really the perfect excuse to go back in since there is no risk thanks to that. That’s just how I see it at least.

Overall 7/10

Mr. Soft Touch Review

Mr. Soft Touch is a film about a guy deciding to get revenge on some gangsters for taking over his shop. It’s a different spin than usual though as he just wants his money back and isn’t going around shooting them all down. While the film has some pretty good writing humor, I ultimately wouldn’t give it a thumbs up because of some suspect characters and the main character just not being all that likable even by the end.

The movie starts by introducing us to Joe. He has stolen a ton of money and is trying to escape the country but unfortunately his friends were unable to find a boat that leaves before Christmas. He needs to survive for a night somewhere but that won’t be easy since the Mob is everywhere. Joe is able to masquerade as a criminal and get taken to a settlement home where a social worker named Jenny will look after him. Joe figures this will be a decent safehouse as a last resort since there is literally no alternative but when he sees how much help these people need, will he really be able to leave? Some tough choices will have to be made.

Soft Touch has some fun moments and good bits of humor throughout. One nice moment was when the tough guys at the home try to scam Joe out of some money with the dice. He takes them down and clearly has some kind of experience with these games from a while back. He knows a scam when he sees one but does a good job of playing dumb the whole time. This lets him claim the upper hand. It was a nice subversion where usually the main character would have gotten suckered. The main tough guy also reminded me a lot of Spider-Man from the recent movies so it was interesting to see him in more of a villainous role.

You can tell that the people at tis place all meant well. It was a nice cast of characters here. At first they weren’t all happy to see Joe and it was hard to blame them since he wasn’t playing ball but eventually they all formed a pretty good group. In particular I liked Rickle. He had a tendency to go off on long rants about everything but that’s the kind of character who is always good to add levity to the equation. It’ll help keep everyone’s spirits up there which is really important.

Then you have Jenny who is a solid heroine. She does a whole lot for her community and really tried to help Joe out when she thought he was someone else. I would make the case that she is far too lenient though. Her job is about mercy and it’s an important function but since the guy who was charged was an abusive drunk then it seems like he was already too far gone for any of this to help. Jenny also had a traumatic backstory as a kid which makes it all the more impressive that she is putting herself out on the front lines and helping out a bit. She may be a little extreme but I would definitely say that she is a good person.

Then we get to Joe. I just couldn’t find myself being able to root for him. I understand him taking the money back after the mobsters stole it. That makes perfect sense since it was his and the whole thing seems unfair. Why does he not help Clara get away from Victor though? That seems like a pretty toxic relationship that he just looks the other way with. The film would have been a lot better without those two characters since they just hurt Joe a whole lot by extension. Then you’ve got the fact that Joe doesn’t do anything to help out the people in the settlement house before it’s too late. Byrd offered him a rather decent deal at the time but Joe wouldn’t hear of it.

Joe tries to make things right by the end but it is far too late for that. Even the scene where he gives his jacket and the money to the little girl comes off as rather suspect. At first it seems like a nice gesture but then Jenny points out that it was also a way to take the risk off and it’s hard to see it any other way at that point. The girl’s life was in serious jeopardy with the mobsters finding that kind of cash on her. Joe just puts too many people in harm’s way. He has some good plans but they all end up putting people in more danger while he escapes. It’s not a very heroic approach at all.

As for Byrd, I thought he was a pretty solid reporter. The guy put the pieces together a lot quicker than you would have initially expected. He clearly has some bad history with Joe but the guy did make a good offer to call the cops in. He just wanted some intel. I wasn’t really sure why Joe wouldn’t tell him at this point since his partner is dead and the mobsters are everywhere. Maybe it was a pride thing or just because Byrd was partially responsible for his partner dying since he didn’t do anything. Byrd did save Joe’s life a few scenes earlier though which is hard to forget. Byrd surprisingly doesn’t take this all that personal later on when they meet up again.

At times the movie seems to move really fast with characters sort of going through a character arc off screen. One example is the romance between Jenny and Joe. It goes from nowhere to suddenly she’s begging him to stay and some of the big speeches you would expect if they had been together for a long time. It doesn’t always flow as organically as you would expect. I suppose the film just wanted to move straight on ahead to the next moment but some scenes would just happen really suddenly like that.

Overall, Mr. Soft Touch would have been better with a better main character. Someone who was actually standing up for justice to stop the mobsters, not just because they crossed him. I would have liked better reasons for why he didn’t accept Byrd’s help or also a scene of him helping Clara out of just confirming Victor’s innocence. From what we saw of Victor he just seems like a very bad guy and Joe not doing anything about it doesn’t help in the slightest. The film’s pretty light hearted for the most part I’d say and has a nice Christmas theme going. It mainly just gets serious at the end with the ending being a little surprising. Definitely not the smartest move on both Joe and Jenny’s part. I think they could have handled the whole thing a lot better. Either way you can do better than this if you’re looking for a good Christmas film to watch this year.

Overall 5/10