Podcast: SJ 258: American Horror Story; RuPaul UK; Modern Family; South Park; QE Japan; The Little Mermaid; Daybreak; Jenny Slate: Stage Fright; Last Christmas

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about American Horror Story; RuPaul UK; Modern Family; South Park; QE Japan; The Little Mermaid; Daybreak; Jenny Slate: Stage Fright; Last Christmas.

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Last Christmas

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As with all good Christmas stories, they either follow the selfish person, much like Scrooge, or they are a person who does realize how good their life actually is, like George Bailey. This film actually follows a bit of both. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) plays Kate, a twenty something who has lost her way. She wants to be a singer, but because of her crappy attitude, she rubs everyone the wrong way. Most of her friends have turned their backs on her because of her “It’s all about me” way of acting, and casting people don’t think she’s all that. Enter Tom (Henry Golding), a young man Kate meets at the Christmas store where she works.

Tom is everything thing she isn’t and Kate finds herself falling for this stranger, which brings on the much needed changes she has been lacking in her life. I’m a sucker for a good Christmas story, and Last Christmas doesn’t disappoint. They give us a character desperate for change, and a charming leading man to spark those changes. Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) directs from a screenplay by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings. The film takes place in London during Christmas, and if London looks this way during the holidays…then I’m going. The film is as magical and beautiful as one might hope. It’s also very funny and sentimental. Yes, you will cry, so plan for it.

Outside of the cast mentioned, the supporting cast brings the film together with the characters who make Kate realize the error of her ways. As her heart grows, so does the love for the people around her. Is it all because this new man has entered her life? Maybe a little, but maybe it’s just a bit of Christmas magic. Emma Thompson, Boris Isakovic, Michelle Yeoh, and Lynia Leonard round out the supporting cast, and they all give lovely, touching performances. The film plays as a romantic comedy, but there is so much more than just that. It reminds us that we need the people around us, the family we have, and the extended family we choose. I’ll be watching Last Christmas again for many Christmases’ to come.

Swanner: 4 stars

Terminator: Dark Fate

This new sequel takes place after the 1991 film, Terminator 2. All the earlier films that took place after the 1991 sequel don’t apply here. The film starts up in a present day, where all the things Skynet were supposed to never happened and life has gone on. Now, a new terminator has arrived from the future to find, and terminate, a young woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes), who lives with her father and brother in Mexico City. There is also a champion sent from the future named Grace (Mackenzie Davis), who has come to make sure Dani lives to fulfill her destiny. Tim Miller (Deadpool) directs. 

The film also brings back two characters from the early films: Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton), and the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Sarah Conner still waits for terminators to return so she can kill them. When Dani is attacked by this new terminator, Grace saves her with the help of Sarah, who has found them, and a team is formed to destroy this latest killer. Once again the action in the film plays a big part with sequences that will have you on the edge of your seat. The special effects are also a huge part of the film, and never disappoint. 

What really makes this work so well is bringing Linda Hamilton back to play this older, bitter Conner. Davis and Reyes do a great job with their performances, but the Terminator films with Hamilton have always been better because her gritty, yet sensitive, no-holds-barred performance gives the film the heart the later films have been missing. It’s great having Arnold back, if for no other reason than to give Sarah the motivation to go on. He’s still got the whole package, and the two validate making this film. The two leads are in their 60’s. and although they look older, that never affects the movie. If you’ve never seen the first two films, you really need to, and then check out this new film. 

Swanner: 3 ½ stars

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil starts up pretty much where the last film ended. Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now the queen of the fairylands and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) watches over all, and everyone is happy. In this time period there is no news or social media, so even though Maleficent is now good, and their land is at peace, that doesn’t mean other kingdoms know this. So, in their eyes, Maleficent is still the mistress of evil. Enter Queen Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), she hates the magical creatures, and after her son Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora, she sees her way to destroy all magical creatures.

Genocide seems to be an unusual story-line choice for a kids movie, but that’s the direction the filmmakers went in here. I understand that magical creatures are easy characters to use as victims, but in our Hobbit/Harry Potter/Star Wars galaxies, magical characters are not expendable. Since none of these creatures do any harm, it once again makes ‘Man’ the bad guy. Maleficent was clearly the bad one in the first film, now Man has to destroy everything he doesn’t understand, or that scares him. Lovely moral lesson for all of the children who are watching to be mesmerized. On that note, the film is gorgeous with lush scenery, fantastic makeup, and incredible special effects work.

Jolie gets to give a bit more of an emotional performance, since she is the hero this time around, and that was refreshing. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the “real” evil queen with such vile perfection that it may be one of her best performances. It reminded me of Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter films, and that is a great compliment coming from me. The filmmakers need to hope that the target audience doesn’t see past the bright colors and action to the ugliness of this story of hate and murder that is really at the heart of this film. Too bad. because it was so pretty.

Swanner: 1 star