If you follow movie news at all you no doubt have heard what a messy awards season this year has been. From ending up hostless, to a withdrawn Best Popular … Continue reading Oscar Party Fun
It’s 3:20am and I should be sleeping but alas I am just not tired so I figured I might as well update my blog. I should have updated it sooner but I have been in over my head with podcasting. Today I literally watched my 50th Christmas movie, both Hallmark and other networks and amazingly enough I am still on board for more holiday films! The Hallmarkies Podcast has been doing great this year with us making the top 120 TV and Film Podcasts on Itunes and getting over 16k listens in the month of November! Wow! I am still blown away by all of that. It has been an insane amount of work but I am so proud of what we have built.
We have a new merch store for the first time which is so much fun! You can get all kinds of holiday and Hallmark inspired gear:
I’ve managed to have a little bit of fun doing other things for the holidays including setting up my traditional holiday decor. Each year I have a memory tree that is full of ornaments that symbolize different parts of my life:
My memory ornament to symbolize this year is all about podcasting and I found this adorable headphones ornament! I was so excited!
I also fulfilled my dream of getting a white tree (4 ft) for my office. I love it!
I also have already kind of celebrated Christmas. My brother and 2 nieces came into town for a weekend and so they came to my house and we had a baked potato bar, exchanged gifts and had a great time!
It was a really great time to be together and celebrate Christmas. My parents are going to be gone for most of this month so I’m planning on just working on my podcasts as much as I can and do a few fun things (Thursday I am going to see Christmas Carol at Hale Theater).
The one crazy thing about the podcast is there is always more work to do. There are people to contact for interviews, movies to watch, notes to prepare, the list goes on and on. Never a dull moment! I want to be ready to reach out to sponsorships in the new year and maybe develop a patreon account but I want it to be done right and not just thrown together. I’m very excited to see what the New Year has in store for our podcast and to have survived Countdown to Christmas 2018.
Also we have 2 hour church coming in January which I am over the moon excited about! Yay!
How have you guys been? I hope the beginning of your holiday season has been going great!
The last few years I have been able to attend Salt Lake City Comicon and have had a blast. This year because of a moronic legal decision it is called FANX18 and like most years I also had a blast. Unfortunately this report is late because I also got a classic case of Comicon cold where I was sick for a week after but it was still a ton of fun.
One thing I have learned from going to a number of these conventions is I like panels. I don’t like photo ops or getting autographs (they are so expensive, poorly organized and just overall unpleasant). I also don’t love being on the vendor floor. I venture out a few times during a con but the crowds and lines are overwhelming.
Nope I like going to panels! I like hearing what the actors or panelists have to say about the property or their career. Even if they are somebody I don’t know much about or don’t follow their work I think it is interesting to hear about their experience. I am sure that some of it is showmanship for a very zealous crowd but even that can be fun.
With that in mind this year I went to 21 panels over 3 days and they were amazing! The particular standout was in Friday where I got a perfect seat in the Grand Ballroom and stayed there all day through 10 panels! The highlight was a Smallville panel with Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum who were hilarious. I want a Welling/Rosenbaum road trip comedy movie!
It was also really neat on Thursday I got to hear from Paige O’hara and Robby Benson who of course voice Belle and the Beast in the animated Beauty and the Beast. I loved hearing about their story and experiences working on one of my favorite movies. It was cool because Paige said she had aged out of voicing Belle (which shocked me!) but she was brought back for Wreck-it Ralph 2. This made me more excited for the princess scene in Wreck-it Ralph 2 because it meant so much to her. Also it was kind of funny because you could tell they weren’t too high on the 2017 remake. LOL
The other panels I attended were Luna Lovegood panel, Star Wars fan film, Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary panel. Superman 78 tribute, Lucy Lawless/Renee O’Connor, Evangeline Lily, Rainn Wilson, David Tennant, Jeff Goldblum, Manut Bennet (who I was unfamiliar with but was very sweet with a very compelling and sad story), Karl Urban, Gaten Matarazzo, Chuck Norris, Jennifer Morrison, Star Wars Rebels panel including James Arnold Taylor and Freddie Prinze Jr, Ian McDiarmid (yes the emperor and he was great!), Brandon Routh, Brent Spiner and the Twisted Toonz which are always a highlight of the con.
I also got to meet up with my friend AJ which was a ton of fun. I didn’t do cosplay this year and I regret that a little bit but it was great to see all of the other cosplay participants. It’s amazing how creative and original people are with their costumes.
I know some people who did photo ops were very frustrated with FANX18, but I had a great time! It was informative, fascinating and just a ton of fun. I also won a free multipass to next years event so that’s just awesome!
Have any of you been to comicons? I know there is the big one in San Diego but it’s hard to imagine it is much better as far as guests than SLC and the lines are certainly more manageable. But let me know your experience at cons.
Take care and happy nerding out!
I did updates on my youtube channel after each day. Here is the recap of day 2:
Tonight I went and saw the new romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians and it is delightful. I read the book of the same name prior to seeing the film and they change a bit but it is a pretty dead-on adaptation. I will post my full review on either my youtube channel or my other movie blog but I thought it would be fun to share something here first. With the success of Crazy Rich Asians you will definitely hear about the ‘return of the romcom’ and while I agree with that there have been some fun films that went under the radar that I think are worth checking out. Some aired on Hallmark Channel (check out my Hallmarkies podcast if you haven’t already) and some were feature films.
So here is my list of recent romcoms you should check out! (in no particular order)
Everybody Loves Somebody
I feel like this film should have been a bigger hit than it is. You have Karla Souza playing a doctor who has put romance on hold after a disappointment with a love played by Jose Maria Yazpik. She convinces her coworker played by Ben O’Toole to accompany her to a family wedding and when her ex shows up things get complicated. One of the coolest things about this movie is it is effortlessly bilingual. Clara speaks in Spanish with her family and then English with Asher and others at work. This is very unique and made the movie feel special. Clara can be a bit unlikable but she eventually won me over. It’s really sweet and fun.
All for Love
All for Love comes from Hallmark and it is one of the best from last year. It stars Sara Rue as a romance novelist named Jo who has lost her mojo. Her last book didn’t go over well and she is facing a deadline that her manager needs to do well. Since the book is about a navy seal Jo’s manager gets her brother (Steve Bacic) to put Jo through boot camp. They spar at first of course but they have a sweet chemistry and there are really cute scenes like when Colin teaches Jo how to swim and when he writes her a letter because he is too scared to tell her how he feels. It’s really sweet and the supporting cast is very charming.
Despite getting decent reviews, The Rewrite flew under people’s radar. Hugh Grant teams together with Marc Lawrence again (2 Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics) and make a really good romantic comedy. Hugh Grant plays a screenwriter who won an Oscar early in his career and has struggled to duplicate that success. Desperate he takes a job as a screenwriting professor at a small college in New England hoping something else will come along soon and get him out of there. A big key in enjoying this movie is if you can put up with his terrible behavior at the beginning of the film and if you feel like his change is sincere. I did. I love him and Marisa Tomei who plays one of his students. I love Allison Janney who is his Jane Austen loving supervisor. I love J.K. Simmons as a fellow professor who loves his family so much he cries whenever he talks about them. It’s a movie that has something to say about writing, reading, movies and work which I appreciate. It’s a good one!
Off the Menu
Off the Menu actually came out in 2018 and I think I’m the only one championing it. I thought it was so sweet and winning. It stars Santino Fontana as Joel a trust fund kid who works for his family Mexican fast food chain and is sent to the Southwest to find some new flavors. There he meets the fiery chef Javiera (Dania Ramirez) who is protective of her recipes but has instant chemistry with Joel. The food porn is great. The romance is sweet and funny. I just really enjoyed it.
Woody Allen can definitely be hit and miss but I enjoyed his 2016 offering Café Society. This film stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young man named Bobby who goes out to Hollywood in the 1930s to make it big. Along the way he meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) who is dating a married man and the stunning Veronica (Blake Lively who is the classic shiksa goddess in this). It’s light and breezy and has great performances. Corey Stoll steals every scene he is in as Bobby’s mobster brother.
Bridget Jones’s Baby
While not as strong as the original Bridget Jones movie this 3rd installment is a significant improvement over the terrible 2nd film. Renee Zellweger is back as Bridget and this time she has gotten herself pregnant and she isn’t sure is it Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) or the super sweet Jack (Patrick Dempsey). To be honest, the shenanigans involving the father and being pregnant didn’t do much for me but what I loved was every scene with her at her work for a television news station. Sarah Solemani as an anchor was hilarious and a scene where she mistakes a limo driver for the North Korean ambassador made me laugh. It’s not the greatest movie but I enjoyed it!
The Birthday Wish
One of the best films to come out of Hallmark in recent years is The Birthday Wish. In a very clever screenplay by Julie Sherman Wolfe, the delightful Jessy Schram plays Gwen a woman who takes her career seriously as a commercial director and has been in a relationship with someone she seemingly has lots in common with (the always great wrong guy Marcus Rosner). Meanwhile her assistant director Dave played by Luke MacFarlane is just a friend she hasn’t paid much attention to. Well one day she makes a wish on her birthday and gets a glimpse of her life in 10 years and to her shock Dave is there! I like that it doesn’t go all Family Man on her and that her career and dreams are always respected by the screenplay. Luke MacFarlane and Jessy Schram have great chemistry and it’s really sweet and pleasant. I love it!
Love and Friendship
Honestly it feels a little unfair to have Love and Friendship in the same conversation as these other films as it is so far superior but oh well! Kate Beckinsale is so great as Lady Susan Vernon a woman who delights in manipulating and getting the best out of her friends and relatives. This might make her unlikable but as her relatives are stupid it is just hilarious. I love Whit Stillman’s adaptation. Someone like Lady Susan isn’t supposed to win in Jane Austen and yet I found myself rooting for her especially in her scenes with Chloe Sevigny’s character (so funny). It looks gorgeous and the entire cast does a great job. The fact that it got snubbed at the Oscars is ridiculous.
Dash of Love
One of my biggest take-aways from covering Hallmark last year was how great director Christie Will Wolf is and how much I love Jen Lilley. I wasn’t crazy about their recent collaboration Yes I Do but Dash of Love and Eat Play Love from last year were delights. In Dash of Love Jen Lilley plays Nikki an aspiring self-taught chef who dreams of working in a fancy kitchen. Through various contrivances she ends up getting a job at her culinary idol’s (Peri Gilpin from Frasier) restaurant. There she meets chef Paul (Brendan Penny) and they start a really sweet engaging romance. Some of the conflict involving Paul’s family is a little much for me but this is classic romcom executed very well. The leads have chemistry and all the food porn is great. It’s very romantic and enjoyable.
So there you go! That is my recommendation for recent romantic comedies. Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments section and if you’ve seen any of these I’d love to hear your thoughts.
This month for book club we are reading a novel called Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta and once again like most fantasy novels I am struggling. My whole life I have never enjoyed fantasy novels or movies as much as most people do. Some are so good they have won me over as an adult- Lord of the Rings and Wrinkle in Time come to mind, but most I find deadly dull. And it’s so strange because most people get lost in all the imagination and creative world building where I am just dying. It makes me wonder why?
Even as a little girl I preferred books like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women over Lord of the Rings or Redwall. The only genre I dislike more than fantasy are dystopians which sometimes are an off-shoot of fantasy. One exception is The Giver because that is really about a person and his coming to understand who he is and what it means to be human.
I remember a few years ago everyone was super into Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and I found it very slow and stretched out. It seemed to me a simple fairytale had been expanded well beyond where it should have been. Maybe my problem with fantasy is that I’m not the most imaginative reader in the world. So where other people are envisioning Hogwarts or Middle Earth I’m waiting for the story to start. Movies are better because we can forgo all that nonsense by seeing the images and get right to the story and characters (but honestly many fantasy movies are tough for me to get through such as The Hobbit movies KMN).
I like the Lord of the Rings movies because they have a clear moral goal of destroying the ring and the characters are compelling. I like half of the Harry Potter movies (3, 4, 5 and 7) and the rest bore me. I like Time Bandits because it’s funny and weird. I like fairytales because they are usually romantic and have good music (which brings up a good point that women in fantasy are usually pretty lame and the romance is weak). Most fantasy stories have really bland characters that don’t interest me and so no matter how cool the world building is or fun the dragons are I can’t engage.
People act like I am really missing out on Game of Thrones because I chose to not watch it for its content but I know I would not like it. I know it even kills off its characters rather mercilessly which I would not enjoy as I get very attached to characters. Last year I read the first Dark Tower novel and I enjoyed that because the Man in Black and the Gunslinger were pretty engaging characters. I have been meaning to read more of them. The movie was terrible and turned them into total caricatures with a script that was very sloppy. I also was very disappointed in the recent movie version of A Wrinkle in Time that took a character driven story and made it muddled and preachy.
The last fantasy movie I can think of that I really loved is 2015’s Song of the Sea. This is a beautiful movie about a young boy grieving his mother who goes on a quest with magic and the lore of the selkie to help save his sister. It’s perfect! (Watch my review here) I also love both book and movie of Watership Down but that’s more of an allegory than fantasy in my opinion.
It’s just a strange thing when something that seemingly has so much excitement and creativity is so dull for me. What do you think about fantasy novels and movies? What am I missing? Do any of you feel that way?
Currently in US cinemas there is a new film called The Greatest Showman very loosely telling the tale of PT Barnum in an extravagant musical. I have seen the film twice now and after my recent visit I tweeted out:
I have to admit Greatest Showman‘s flaws are more obvious on rewatch but in many ways I think it is the Ultimate Mormon Movie
I then promised to explain this tweet and so here I am to elaborate!
First, I should state that I enjoyed the film. It’s an old school, classic family musical. It is written by the same people who made La La Land, and I honestly prefer it. I like the songs better. I like the message better, and I just think it is more of a fun time. Take your family and go enjoy yourselves at the movies!
Obviously The Greatest Showman has no Mormon characters and is not a faith-based film, so how can I say it is the ultimate Mormon movie? Well, it comes down to themes, style and messaging that will ring true for many Mormon people (obviously speaking in broad generalizations here but I have yet to find a Mormon who dislikes the film…).
So let me explain why I think The Greatest Showman particularly resonates with a Mormon audience:
Mormons are Misfits
The first reason is that Mormons see themselves as ‘peculiar people’. Several times in scriptures we learn that the “Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself” (Deut 14:2). This is something Mormons take very seriously and wear with a kind of pride. For example, each year BYU is voted “the most stone cold sober school in the US.” Most of us are are very proud of this designation and boast of it when promoting the church. Look at this video BYU put out heralding the accomplishment.
But this idea of the Mormon Misfit goes back to the church founding where such practices as polygamy and communal living certainly made the people peculiar.We were literally expelled from several states and an extermination order written against us by a state governor (another source of pride).
However, this ‘rebelliousness’ obviously takes a very PG rated form and this is what makes The Greatest Showman so perfect for Mormons. The peculiar people of Barnum’s circus are different from the world but in a sweet, very clean cut way. This is a PG rated movie but it has a ‘freak show’ the whole family can enjoy
If you watch this video on ‘This is Me’ you will see what I mean about the clean cut misfits of The Greatest Showman
Mormons Love Marriage
Mormons have unique views on marriage that helps them bond with The Greatest Showman. We believe that marriage in the temple can be for time and all eternity and that the bond between a couple lasts forever. Children are an important and sacred calling for a couple but it is a marriage between 2 people that the highest ordinance of the church is based. There is nothing more important than a faithful marriage to most Mormons.
In The Greatest Showman PT Barnum is shown as a young child who is the son of a poor tailor. He meets a young girl named Charity who he bonds with immediately and the two are obviously destined to be together. These children grow up to be Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams and they leave her parents, get married and have two beautiful daughters. This is literally the dream of nearly every Mormon person.
In the movie Barnum’s marriage is tested by a woman named Jenny Lynde played by Rebecca Fergusson. In most Hollywood movies he would give into the temptation and betray his marriage. Not in The Greatest Showman. He stays true, even after she publicly shames him and implies scandal. He is true to his wife and the two make up and stay committed to each other. This is very appealing to a Mormon audience. It’s certainly more appealing than say the characters in La La Land who have premarital relationships and give up on their relationship fairly quickly. No such luck in a Mormon musical fantasy! LOL
Barnum is also very sweet with his daughters creating a world that shelters them from the troubles of his work and other stresses. This is encouraged in Mormon households as we have Family Home Evening and other family time to teach, fortify and bond as a family. The scene where Barnum gives the girls a special lamp might as well have come out of a church movie.
Mormons Are Theatrical
People that did not grow up in Utah or Idaho may not be aware of the theatrical traditions of the Mormon people. In fact, when the Saints arrived in Utah one of the first buildings they erected was a theater. Along the pioneer trek the Saints were known for having dances, reciting poetry and singing in choirs.
Today there are few places that support regional theater the way Utah does. Literally every town has their own little theater. We also have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony, Utah Opera, Ballet West and the Utah Shakespeare Festival- all institutions that have received national recognition (to name a few).
Utah is very dance focused and whether it is team dance or ballroom dance students are taught young and are encouraged to display their talents. These performances are usually clean cut, boisterous shows that are very similar to what you get in The Greatest Showman.
Look at this video of the BYU Young Ambassadors and tell me it does not seem right out of The Greatest Showman playbook:
Before every temple dedication there are cultural celebrations with grand theatricals and BYU is famous for its acapella, dance and show choirs. People eat that stuff up and it’s just part of the culture.
This is totally the style of The Greatest Showman. Big boisterous and cheerful:
You could argue that Zac Efron became a star based off of the Mormon template of entertainment. All the High School Musical movies were filmed here and are very emblematic of the type of musical that is popular.
Mormons have a Pioneer Spirit
I am well aware that the version of PT Barnum we get in The Greatest Showman is mostly fictitious, but I think that is largely irrelevant for the effectiveness of the musical. Nobody cares that The Sound of Music is wildly inaccurate to what happened with the von Trapps. Certainly no one should be looking at a fluffy musical for historical accuracy.
So, if we just take the character presented in the movie it is a very appealing for a Mormon audience. He is literally the man who invented the phrase ‘show business’. He gathers his group despite everyone laughing in his face and Mormons relate to that spirit. I mean most Mormons are either returned missionaries or related/married to one. The idea of being a bold thinker and being rejected is very attractive.
He is also kind of a prophet type character that leads with great charisma and enthusiasm. This type of evangelism is encouraged as we have no paid clergy and must all be responsible for public speaking and motivating our fellow church members. Barnum might as well be a bishop in this movie! LOL
The Greatest Showman is not a perfect movie. The script could be better, but it does a good job selling itself to a Mormon audience and evidently the producers thought so as well because they did a very early screening of it in September here. Whether that will turn out to be a good approach to take across the country will be interesting to see. It certainly selling out here! Pretty much all my local friends on facebook and twitter who have seen it, loved it. Just it being a PG live action film alone is enough to excite people here but you add in grand musical spectacle and you have a winner!
It’s not often we get an old fashioned family friendly musical so go see it! Have fun and enjoy it whether Mormon or not. My Dad hasn’t seen a movie in the theater since Les Miserables but I know he will love this. 🙂
Hey guys! Merry Christmas starts early in the world of Hallmark movies- even before Halloween! I thought it would be fun to give you, my lovely readers, quick mini reviews … Continue reading Hallmark Christmas Week 1 Reviews