Tag Archives: Films

Thankful for What We Have: A Review of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Poster for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Image shows Charlie Brown and Snoopy standing next to table with a turkey and pie on it.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a 1973 animated Thanksgiving film about Charlie Brown, the famous animated character from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, throwing an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner for all of his friends.

The other films in this holiday trilogy in it include A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965 and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown from 1966.

They all work as standalone stories. There is no need to watch them in a specific order.

I decided to review A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because it’s the least well known part of this trilogy. It wasn’t something I was aware of growing up even though I knew about and liked the other films.

This review won’t contain a list of characters for spoiler reasons. The run time was only 25 minutes for this film, so I don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to discussing the plot without giving away what happens in it.

My Review

The premise was one of the other reasons why I wanted to review this film. I can’t imagine throwing together a Thanksgiving dinner on the same day I discovered such a thing was expected of me. Ugh!

Charlie Brown (who is pictured in the film poster above) didn’t even have the advantage of knowing how to roast a turkey or make all of the traditional side dishes for this holiday. He was a child who was just beginning to learn to make simple dishes like toast and popcorn, so his predicament was even worse than I originally assumed it would be.

I was intrigued by what a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by a kid his age would be like and if he’d figure out how to get everything warm and on the table at the same time. Seeing what that process was like for him was a great deal of fun.

One of the other unexpected twists in this film had to do with what happens when Thanksgiving doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. That message is just as relevant now as it was nearly fifty years ago. Honestly, it’s even more relevant now in some ways than it was when it first came out!

I loved the way the filmmakers approached the concept of feeling disappointment about the holiday festivities you’d planned and how to handle that emotion.

There are so many more things I want to say about the expectation of having a “perfect” Thanksgiving…but they’ll quickly wander into spoiler territory if I’m not careful.

It was also interesting to note how the culture of Thanksgiving has evolved since 1973. The ways the characters talked about the first Thanksgiving and this holiday in general weren’t exactly the same as they’re often discussed these days, although they did remind me of how these topics were handled when I was a kid.

I wonder what kids today would think of this tale?

Do note that the preview I included below for this short film is an original one from 1973 and does include some spoilers.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is available on Apple TV.

Never the Same Again: A Review of The Cured

Film poster for The Cured. There are three characters on the poster. Two are former zombies, and one is the sister-in-law of one of them.Content warning: Blood, violence, the death of a child, mental illness, and trauma. I will be mentioning these topics in my review.

The Cured is a 2017 Irish horror drama about former zombies being reintegrated into society after being cured of their disease.

While there are some violent scenes in it, this film is much more about how society stitches itself back together after a pandemic has ripped everything apart.

In short, this wasn’t about watching characters get hurt. It was about how everyone dealt with the traumatic aftermath of this sort of event several years after order was restored and everyone went back to work and school.

I’ve never seen a zombie film focus on this part of that story arc before. It was so unique that I had to watch this despite rarely being into zombies or post-apocalyptic fiction these days.

The character list is quite small this time because the vast majority of the scenes centred on this one family and how they coped.

Characters

Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne
Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne

Senan Browne was a former zombie who was cured. He was deeply traumatized by his experiences and struggled to find any sense of normality even after he was deemed to no longer be a threat to society.

After his release from the treatment centre, he was sent to live with his sister-in-law, Abbie, and young nephew, Cillian, who can be partially seen in Senan’s arms in the above photo.

Senan’s social worker assigned him to work as a porter at the same treatment centre that cured him. He was such a quiet, withdrawn man that I really wondered how he’d respond to this work environment.

Ellen Page as Abbie
Ellen Page as Abbie (Abigail) Reynolds

 

Abbie was Senan’s sister-in-law. Cillian is her son. Her husband, Luke, died early on in the zombie outbreak, so she raised her son alone in a violent and unpredictable environment.

She was just as traumatized as her brother-in-law, but she expressed it in completely different ways. Abbie was hyper-aware of everything going on around her and insisted on always knowing where her loved ones were for obvious reasons.

My Review

This is one of those rare zombie films that I’d wholeheartedly recommend to people who hate that genre. The zombies could easily have been substituted for real-world issues like pandemics or war and come to almost the same conclusion. It was the characters’ reactions to them that pushed the plot forward in the vast majority of cases.

Actually living through a zombie attack would be traumatizing for anyone, and the plot did an excellent job of showing how the two main characters reacted both in the moment and several years later when they were safe and together again.  Both of them showed clear signs of mental illness as a result of these experiences, including flashbacks, panic attacks, guilt, rage, anxiety, mood swings, serious trouble focusing, and avoidance of things that reminded them of those terrible days. All of these scenes were handled sensitively.

Senan’s experiences had been unique ones. Without giving too much information away, life for people in his position was extremely difficult. Not only did he have to deal with prejudice and mistreatment from people who’d survived the initial outbreak without being turned, he also had to come to terms with what he’d done while he was a zombie. The social commentary on how we treat people whose choices have disgusted and terrified us was filled with food for thought. It almost reminded me of how some folks responded to people who had AIDS in the 1980s or to people who abuse drugs in the present day.

It would have been nice to see more time spent on the backstories of Abbie and of the doctor who cured Senan. Both of these women gave small hints about their experiences during the zombiepocalypse, but there was so much more room there for development. Yes, Senan had a unique tale to tell, but so did a woman who kept her baby alive for four years as a single parent in such a harrowing environment as well as a doctor who bravely treated and eventually cured many of the zombies while paying a terrible price for her courage.

I liked the way this film explored how Senan’s life  had been forever altered by their pasts. Finally having a cure is by no means the same as an outbreak never occurring at all. While he had found a new sense of normalcy, he’d never be able to forget the events that set his story into motion in the first place.

I’d recommend The Cured to anyone who likes dramas.

(If you decide to watch the trailer below before watching this film, do keep in mind that it gives away some big plot twists. Someday I should write a post about why trailers shouldn’t do that!)

The Cured is available on Netflix.

Dodging Doppelgängers: A Review of Us

Film poster for Us. Image on poster is a photograph of one of the main characters holding a mask that is identical to their face. Their real face is crying. Content warning: mental illness, blood, violence, and trauma.

Us is a 2019 American horror film about a family who was terrorized by their doppelgängers while they were on what was supposed to be a peaceful beach vacation.

It was directed by Jordan Peele, the same director who released Get Out in 2017.

This is one of those films that works best in my opinion if you know as little about the storyline in advance as possible.

For this reason, my review is going to skirt the fine line between avoiding all spoilers and still managing to discuss the important social messages in this story.

Save this post to read after you’ve finished watching Us if you’re the sort of viewer who wants to know nothing at all about it in advance.

For everyone else, this will be a 99% spoiler-free review.

Characters

Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson (née Thomas)
Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson (née Thomas)

 

Adelaide had never fully recovered from a traumatic childhood experience she had at the same beach her family now wants to visit on their vacation. Her hyper-vigilance and flashbacks were now threatening to derail the cheerful trip her husband and kids had been looking forward to for so long.

She was an intelligent, dedicated person who always thought through every possible scenario before making a decision.

 

Winston Duke as Gabriel "Gabe" Wilson
Winston Duke as Gabriel “Gabe” Wilson

 

Gabriel was Adelaide’s fun-loving husband. He had a trusting, kind personality and usually looked for the best interpretation of possibly unsettling events.

Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson

 

Zora was Adelaide and Gabriel’s exasperated teenage daughter. She was just a little too old now to still fully enjoy family vacations, especially when they involved a cottage that didn’t have Internet access.

Her hobbies included jogging and googling everything before she believed it.

 

Evan Alex as Jason Wilson
Evan Alex as Jason Wilson

 

Jason was Adelaide and Gabriel’s son. He was approximately ten years old and still thought family beach vacations were the highlight of the summer.

His hobbies included practicing magic tricks and pushing the limits on which words his parents would add to their list of forbidden swear words if he said them with the right intonation.

 

Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler
Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler

 

Kitty was Adelaide’s saucy childhood friend who always spoke her mind. Her hobbies included finding the humour in everything and dreaming of what her life would have been like if she’d waited until she was older to become a mother.

 

Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler
Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler

 

Josh was Kitty’s husband. Finding the right drink for every occasion was his favourite hobby. I understood him as someone who genuinely enjoyed alcohol but who did not have an unhealthy dependency on it. He simply loved the challenge of matching drinks to people’s moods and current activities.

My Review

Some of the films I’ve reviewed in the past can be watched while doing other things that briefly take your attention away from the screen. The first clue about what was really happening here technically popped up before the first scene even started, so I strongly recommend giving this your full attention from beginning to end. In other words, grab your snacks and mute your cellphone ahead of time!

Adelaide clutching her children in fearOne of my favourite type of horror is anything that comes embedded with a social message. The preview for this film makes it look like a slasher flick. While there were certainly elements of that horror genre, there was a lot of thought-provoking material that couldn’t be included in that clip for spoiler reasons.

I find it difficult to say much about what that social message was or why it was so thought-provoking because of how late in the storyline it was fully revealed. What I can say is that it is a good idea to have a basic grasp of U.S. history before watching Us if you’re not already familiar with it. Don’t worry about memorizing dates or names or anything like that. Just get a feel for how that country was founded and how it’s developed over the past few hundred years.

This was the sort of story that can be interpreted in multiple ways. There are at least four of them, and maybe more than that depending on which viewers are polled. Don’t worry, I won’t be listing those theories here. What I will say is that the plot gives varying levels of evidence for all of them and I personally suspect more than one of them is right. (Maybe all of them are right!)

The doppelgängers were simultaneously frightening and fascinating. Yes, there were  logical reasons given for their existences. Somehow figuring out what those reasons were only made them scarier to me. I really liked the way they quickly evolved from generic bad guys into something much more than that.

Gabriel and Adelaide singing in the car. There was one subplot that I wish had been given more attention and development. It involved the inclusion of rabbits of all things. I still haven’t been able to figure out why that particular animal was added to such a dark storyline. It’s a minor criticism of something I really enjoyed, but I do wish they’d either been cut out of the plot altogether or, even better, given more opportunities to get tied in with everything else.

The characters occasionally pivoted from terrifying experiences to brief moments of humour. That was a pleasant surprise, and it was one of the many reasons why I enjoyed Us so much.

So long as none of the content warnings involve things that you personally avoid watching, I recommend Us to all adult viewers.

 

Us is available on Crave and Apple TV.

Love and Regret: A Review of The Curse of La Llorona

Film post for The Curse of La Llorona. Image on cover show La Llorona holding the hands of the main character's two children in a candlelit room Content warning: deaths of children. I will be discussing this in my review. 

The Curse of La Llorona is an American 2019 supernatural horror film set in 1973 about a mother who tries to save her children from a malevolent spirit who is trying to keep them for herself.

La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman, is a famous spirit in Mexican and Latin American folklore.

She was a spurned wife who got revenge on her philandering husband by drowning their two young sons. After she died, she was refused entry to heaven because of this act.

I will make no comment about the rest of her story or any similarities or differences between it and this film. Feel free to read more about the legend of La Llorona ahead of time or start watching this with no additional knowledge of her tale at all. The plot works nicely either way.

The Curse of la Llorona is also part of The Conjuring universe, but it is a standalone tale in that series.

Characters

Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia

 

Anna was a young widow who was raising two children as a single parent. A social worker by trade, she was well-versed in normal child development and how children react to frightening experiences.

Roman Christou as Chris Garcia
Roman Christou as Chris Garcia

 

Chris was Anna’s imaginative and impressionable son. He loved pretending to chase away bad guys.

 

Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Samantha Garcia
Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Samantha Garcia

 

Samantha was Anna’s independent daughter. She loved dolls.

Patricia Velásquez as Patricia Alvarez

Patricia Velásquez as Patricia Alvarez

Patricia was the mother of two of the children Anna had on her caseload. When Patricia was accused of abusing her children, Anna attempted to figure out what had really happened.

 

Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera
Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera

 

Rafael, a former member of the clergy, was the person Anna turned to for help when all of her other attempts to figure out what really happened to Patricia’s children and why her own children were in danger had failed.

 

Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona
Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona

La Llorona was the spirit who had killed her own children in a fit of rage.

Her identifying features are obscured for spoiler reasons.

Sean Patrick Thomas as Detective Cooper
Sean Patrick Thomas as Detective Cooper

 

Detective Cooper was a police officer who sometimes worked on cases with Anna. He had also struck up a friendship with her and her children over the years.

 

Tony Amendola as Father Perez
Tony Amendola as Father Perez

 

Father Perez was a local priest who had experience with La Llorona.

My Review

I had mixed feelings about this film.

The foreshadowing was strong and easy to spot. If not for the grim subject matter, this is something I’d play for young film buffs who wanted to learn how to pick out clues about future plot twists early on in a storyline. There were plenty of examples of this scattered throughout the early scenes.

Obviously, La Llorona’s story must involve the deaths of children given the legend that inspired this film. The backstory of why La Llorona began killing other people’s children after she died was shared with the audience clearly. I’m being a little opaque on the topic for spoiler reasons, but know that much of it was implied instead of outright shown. Honestly, murdered children is a grim enough topic that I’m glad the filmmakers stopped where they did.

I wasn’t a big fan of the way the plot ignored previous character development and rules that had been set up earlier on about how this haunting worked.  For example, one of the minor characters developed a grudge against someone else in the storyline. This conflict built up for a large part of the storytelling process only to be suddenly abandoned for reasons that were never explained. It lead to plot holes that I found unhelpful.

There was also  contradictory information about what the living could and couldn’t do when interacting with La Llorona. Sometimes she was written as a spirit so consumed by rage and regret that every shred of rational thought had been torn out of her centuries ago. In other scenes, she behaved in ways that directly contradicted that character development. Either interpretation of her could have worked, but it was confusing for me as a viewer to never know which Llorona we were going to get.

With that being said, this was a wonderfully scary and atmospheric tale. There was never any doubt in my mind that La Llorona was a malevolent spirit. Her intentions were straightforward and easy to understand even if her cognitive abilities were not. This was refreshing, especially in a genre that sometimes veers too far in the direction of romanticizing ghosts.

It would have been nice to have stronger character development in general. No, I wasn’t expecting the characters to spend the first half hour talking about their hobbies or dreams. This was a heavily plot-based story, and I respect that. But knowing about who the characters were as individuals would have made the storyline more memorable.

If you really love ghost stories and can overlook a few plot holes, I would recommend The Curse of La Llorona.

The Curse of La Llorona is available on Crave and Apple TV.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Movie Quotes (and Why)

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Four blocks that spell out the word hope I narrowed down this week’s topic to movie quotes only.

 

“Just keep swimming.” -Finding Nemo (2003)

Why I Love It: Sometimes this is the best advice for a hard day, week, month, or year!

 

“If you build it, he will come.” – Field of Dreams (1989)

Why I Love It: I’ve had multiple experiences in life that showed the value in putting in hard work long before you have any inkling if, how, or when that effort will pay off. More often than not, you will be rewarded when you least expect it.

 

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” – Back to the Future (1985)

Why I Love It: This makes me giggle. It’s as simple as that.

 

“There’s no crying in baseball!”  – A League of Their Own (1992)

Why I Love It: Not only does this make me giggle, the context gives me hope as well. This film was loosely based on the first women’s baseball teams in the United States during World War II. The players dealt with many naysayers who thought women shouldn’t play baseball, especially professionally. I truly enjoyed seeing how they and their coach responded to that and rose above everyone who tried to stop them.

 

“This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” – Casablanca (1942)

Why I Love It: There’s nothing like meeting someone and realizing that you two would make excellent friends.

 

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always.” – Gandhi (1982)

Why I Love It: Hope is something that should always be cultivated.

4 Things That Make Science Fiction and Fantasy Shows Worth Rewatching

Raise your hand if you love rewatching your old favourite sci-fi and fantasy shows! Over the last few months, I’ve slowly become more reticent about watching new films and TV shows in these genres. I’m sure many of them are going to be amazing once I return to chipping away at my humongous to-watch queue,… Read More

Wholesome Adventures: A Review of Frozen II

Frozen II is the 2019 animated fantasy sequel to Frozen. It is about Elsa and Anna’s attempts to figure out the origin of Elsa’s magical powers and save their kingdom from being destroyed by the elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. It isn’t strictly necessary to watch Frozen before checking out Frozen II,… Read More