A Pentatonix Christmas by Pentatonix

Pentatonix, the hit a cappella group, strikes again with another holiday album. Covering even more classics, and some modern Christmas tunes, they deliver another incredible listing of festive favorites.

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Pentatonix didn’t stop their jolly jams at That’s Christmas to Me. They decided to keep the yule log burning with A Pentatonix Christmas, their second holiday album. Much like its predecessor, I have some solid favorites from this album so it’s also a regularly-played album for me.

Rather than just covering the songs, PTX really focused on recreating them with unique touches. This album brings a lot more personality to the table than the original. Because of this, some songs stand out as incredible and others as awkward failed attempts at uniqueness. While this album may fall flat for a few numbers, it truly shines in its stronger covers.

Here’s a run-down of each song:

  1. O Come, All Ye Faithful. Much like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” PTX takes a religious classic and makes it an exciting song to rock out to. With a choir in the background and heavy use of beat boxing, it takes a grand and seemingly tropical tone.
  2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. PTX decided not to alter the arrangement of this song much. They do use more background vocals to add intensity and urgency that works quite well with the original makeup of the song.
  3. White Christmas. What begins as the same cover you’ve heard from every artist quickly explodes into a jazz number. Complete with scatting and harmonizing, this tune transforms one of the most boring holiday songs into an exciting favorite.
  4. I’ll Be Home For Christmas. PTX strikes again with an interesting cover of a traditionally boring song. They give this song a modern 50’s vibe complete with doo-wops and beat boxing. Its mellow and slow, making it a very romantic version of this song.
  5. Up On The Housetop. I really wish I could enjoy their version of this song. I love this song normally but their pop rendition just doesn’t sound right. Their “yeah, yeah” part just stand out in such an awkward way that it drives me to change the song whenever it comes on.
  6. This Christmas Sing-Along. With its cutesy vibe, this song sounds as if the Muppets should be in the background pitching in. That’s the kind of cartoonish, innocent feeling that comes along with this song. I think its strength comes from its backing chorus and reggae-influenced sounds from the verses that truly does give you that joyous Christmas feeling.
  7. Coventry Carol. I’m always a sucker for haunting vocals. “Coventry Carol” delivers that ghostly sound that I adore from Pentatonix. When listening to this song, you feel as though you should be sitting in a cathedral taking in the holiness of Christmas.
  8. Hallelujah. I think we can all agree that we never considered this song to be one for Christmas. While it is my favorite song in general, when I first saw this on my album I was thrown off. I was shocked to find that I fell in love with this version almost as much as Rufus Wainwright. While it lacks the raw, unpolished emotion of his version, it makes up for in how emotionally piercing it is. You’ll feel the highs and lows of this song in your heart.
  9. Coldest Winter. Being one of my favorite Christmas songs, this version, much like their “Hallelujah,” ebbs and flows with emotion that you’ll feel yourself. They made sure to keep the atmospheric vibe of its fathering song, “Memories Fade” by Tears for Fears.
  10. Good To Be Bad. Stepping away from the slow songs, they pick up the beat with this song. They try to mimic the doo-wop vibe from “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and it doesn’t fit quite as well. While it’s cute, it lacks the same depth or excitement as previous songs on the album.
  11. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. With an R&B vibe with a heavy beat boxing base, this song also falls flat for me. They haven’t really been heavy with the R&B in previous songs so this one doesn’t seem to flow with the album.
  12. Deck The Halls. Taking a modern twist on a classic, this song is somehow even more upbeat than it is normally. I love their new arrangement of this song. Rather than the same caroling song we’re used to, they really show off their talents vocally with their unique spin on the song.
  13. How Great Thou Art. Another song I’ve never considered to be a Christmas tune makes an appearance. While this hymn has some great emotional value for many people, I find that this version is overwhelming for me. With Jennifer Hudson featuring on the track, it’s a vocally excellent but a bit over-the-top. I think the amount of singers took away from the religiously sentimental aspects of the song. While it is technically beautiful, it just doesn’t affect me the way it should.
  14. Away In A Manger. While I’ve never been fond of this song, I do really enjoy the way PTX turns it into a lullaby. Their soothing vocals makes it a relaxing and calming song.
  15. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! With a very modern take on a holiday classic, they combine a lot of the sounds from the rest of the album. They use an R&B influence on the vocals and even add in some doo-wops. Alternating styles between chorus, verse, and bridge, this song delivers a lot of variety that still stays true to the jolly theme of the song.

Overall, I still gravitate more to That’s Christmas to Me than this album. I do still love this one and I do listen to it quite frequently. This album has some strong singles that I absolutely adore and couldn’t imagine going the holiday season without listening to. My favorite, surprisingly, is “Hallelujah,” the one song that isn’t really a Christmas song. I also really appreciate the lack of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” That’s one holiday song I could go a lifetime without hearing another cover for.

What do you think of A Pentatonix Christmas? Which holiday PTX album do you enjoy most? What’s your favorite track from this album? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you have for me. See you soon!

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The Muppet Christmas Carol Review

Love Actually wasn’t the only holiday classic I had been neglecting. When my friend found out I had never seen The Muppet Christmas Carol, she set out to change that. After our first merry movie marathon of the season, I’m happy to say that I finally understand the love for this classic film.

It’s the same story we all know. Scrooge’s work partner passes away and his greed is left to wreak havoc. Three ghosts appear and take him on a journey of self-discovery to learn the true meaning of Christmas. But this time, the Muppets get their turn to spice things up.

I think one of my favorite things about this movie is the fact that it’s a musical. It would be a bit odd if the Muppets didn’t fill this with their own show tunes. The opening number reminds me of a wildly happier version of “At the End of the Day” from Les Mis. It’s a grand opening that starts the film off with a bang. The only song I find that lulls is “When Love is Gone.” I wasn’t swept away by the romance in general so I used this song as quick social media break from the movie.

I think having two narrators for this flick was a fun choice. I loved getting a break form the plot and watching Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat argue or crack a joke. Their humor was self-aware and would even make fun of the story itself.

I had a lot of fun playing the “which Muppet will be who” game. My favorite surprise was Statler and Woldorf playing Marley and Marley. I thought having two Marley characters was a great idea and they could only be played by these sarcastic old men. I enjoyed the Christmas Past party scene where we could see the majority of the Muppets all together. I loved Fozzie Bear as the employer and I always look forward to seeing Swedish Chef.

I will say, there were some times where I wish there had been more Muppet magic. I think the first ghost was a letdown for me as she was a creepy angel-like creature. I also found her to be scarier than the Ghost of Christmas to Come, who was unfortunately also not a Muppet.

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Of course, this story wouldn’t have been as enjoyable if not for Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine as Scrooge. It was neat to see Caine as a slightly younger actor than I’m used to. Kermit played a sweet Cratchit who demanded sympathy for Tiny Tim. I even got misty-eyed during Kermit’s scene after Tiny Tim had passed away.

I didn’t think this version of A Christmas Carol would be as touching as it is. With the amount of cute comedy and wit that comes along with everything the Muppets do, It’s also the most enjoyable version of this movie. What is usually a dull traditional Christmas movie now has a fun alternative.

What do you think of this movie? Do you prefer the older versions, like my father does? Or do you prefer this musical Muppet rendition? As always, if you have any recommendations, let me know. See you soon!

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas Review

I’ve always been the kind of person who obsessively re-watches favorite movies. Being the time of year where the same few movies are played nonstop, Christmas is right up my alley. Growing up, I had one favorite that I was devoted to. Now, I may not watch it every day, but it is a yearly must-watch for me. If I’m in the mood to feel nostalgic, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is what I turn to.

Yes, it’s a movie for children but I couldn’t skip over it on my first Blogmas. It’s got a special place in my heart that has withstood the test of time. This movie is actually a collection of three mini stories with Disney’s classic characters.

Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas

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Donald’s three nephews are so excited for Christmas that when the big day comes, they feel as though it has whizzed right by them. They wish upon a star for the holiday to last all year and, lo and behold, a Christmas miracle happens and their wish comes true. In order to break the spell, the boys must learn the true meaning of Christmas.

In what is basically a retelling of Groundhog Day, Disney adds their magic touch. It’s a cute short with a good meaning. Christmas isn’t meant to be a holiday dominated by presents and food. We should cherish our time with loved ones and find joy in giving and not receiving.

This isn’t my favorite short of the trio, but I do always look forward to it. Admittedly, I really only think I like it as much as I do because it reminds me of DuckTales, an old Disney series about Huey, Dewey, Louie and the rest of Donald’s crew. I don’t remember much of DuckTales anymore, only that when I saw that VHS tape come out of the movie cabinet, I knew it was going to be an action-packed night for my 5-year-old self.

A Very Goofy Christmas

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Goofy and Max are on a mission to get their letter to Santa when Pete steps in to ruin the day. Max is told that Santa isn’t real and his whole holiday is thrown off because of it. Goofy tries to lift Max’s spirits to no avail. But when even Goofy starts to lose faith, Max takes matters into his own hands.

This is one short that seems like it could be made into an entire movie. Unlike the other two, this story, from what I can find, is original. Its originality shows in how much personality is present in the story. It’s heartwarming and full of Disney charm.

I’m also mainly attached to this short because it reminds me of A Goofy Movie, which has always been a favorite of mine. Yes, this entire Christmas special really just feeds my love of old Disney movies. I really loved seeing Goofy, a single father, raising Max during the holidays and demonstrating their hard but close relationship. The older I get, the more I appreciate this short in particular.

Mickey & Minnie’s Gift of the Magi

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Both Mickey and Minnie are facing financial difficulties heading into the holidays. Mickey wants to buy Minnie a gold watch for her special watch heirloom. Minnie wants to buy Mickey a case for his beloved harmonica. However, for each to buy the gifts they want, they have to sell those two items that matter most.

This is a retelling on that classic story about the poor married couple who sell their prized possessions for gifts for each other. I much prefer this adorable Disney version, especially since Minnie doesn’t sell her hair to a creepy woman in an alley. Watching this as an adult, I really enjoy the commentary on corporate greed and how this can be one of the hardest times of year for people struggling with money.

This has always been my favorite short. I’m a sucker for Mickey and Minnie and love the cutesy version of this classic tale. I also just really like seeing Mickey and Minnie go through life like a normal couple. It’s a striking difference from the fantastical life we usually see them lead.

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Let me know what you think of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas! Was it a childhood favorite for you? Which is your favorite short and why? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you may have for me. See you soon!

That’s Christmas to Me by Pentatonix

When it comes to Christmas albums, there is one that I always gravitate to. While I’m not a huge fan of everything Pentatonix has done, That’s Christmas to Me is my holiday jam. They do some classic remakes and some fun remixes of both seasonal and regular songs. I may not stick to every song on the album but I do have some that have landed a spot on my Holly Jolly playlist.

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Pentatonix are an a cappella group that have reached major levels of fame in America. They’re well known for their collaborations, remixes, and mashups. PTX now has two Christmas albums out but since this is the first, I figured we’d start with this one.

If we’re talking about Christmas albums, not just songs, this one is hands down my most played. Even songs that I’m not jazzed about still get played year-round by me. It’s because of this album that every single year I check to see if they’re doing another holiday setlist. While the songs on this alum vary in quality to me, I think their interesting spin and gorgeous voices on each tune makes it a refreshing favorite of mine.

Let’s get into the breakdown:

  1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Beginning with an homage to its usual choir styling, this song picks up into a modern, upbeat carol. Beat boxing and soulful touches turn this religiously humdrum song into a party.
  2. White Winter Hymnal. This song steadily remains in a higher range and has a nice build up to it. Their version of this song uses voices and also their hands for percussion. While their arrangement isn’t anything new, their take on the song certainly is.
  3. Sleigh Ride. PTX plays it safe for this overdone holiday hit. It’s relatively basic compared to some of their other works. It has their usual beat boxing as the base formula with their vocal over it. It’s good and upbeat, just not a stand out piece compared to some other works.
  4. Winter Wonderland / Don’t Worry Be Happy. The album picks back up here with a mash up between two iconic and catchy songs. While I never would have thought these songs could work well together, PTX makes it work. Aided by Tori Kelly, this song has a smooth, jazzy vibe that’s a fun change from PTX’s usual clean-cut style.
  5. That’s Christmas to Me. This is one song that I love hearing covers of because I think anyone can bring a personal touch to it. When I heard their soft, sentimental version, I thought it was very touching. While this song is usually very exciting and pop oriented, their version slows it down to emphasize the heartwarming qualities of the song.
  6. Mary, Did You Know?. Alright, I won’t lie to you, this song is the main reason I love the album so much. Their vocals are haunting and their arrangement is powerful. It’s as if you can feel the song as you listen to it.
  7. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I’m a big fan of The Nutcracker so I’m a natural sucker for this. I loved hearing this song with vocals rather than just instruments. It gives new life to an old song.
  8. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Much like “Sleigh Ride,” I’m not taken away by this cover. It stays very close to how it always sounds which isn’t a bad thing, just unexpected from them. While I think they do a great job, it’s just not a spectacular as some of their other pieces to me.
  9. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. While I’m madly devoted to the Jackson 5 version of this song, PTX does a good job with their cover. They stay true to the song without trying to copy anyone else’s remake. While it’s not one I’ll gravitate to, I don’t think it’s bad either.
  10. Silent Night. Back to the classics, their version of this song is beautiful. It stays true to the way the song was written. Their cover highlights each member’s voice beautifully and, much like White Winter Hymnal builds in intensity.
  11. Let It Go. I’m sure we’ve all Idina’s version of this song a few too many times. This version of Disney’s hit song is a refreshing change from what we’re all used to hearing.
  12. Joy to the World. As if this song couldn’t be more positive and uplifting, Pentatonix amps up the jolly factor in this song. Their arrangement of it is fresh and modern. It’s a great twist on this caroling classic.
  13. Just For Now. Admittedly, I’ve never heard any other version of this song before. It’s a bit cutesy for my taste but I think this song would be great for a holiday party soundtrack. It’s a crowd pleaser with an uplifting tone that really puts you in the Christmas spirit.
  14. The First Noel. Again, PTX rocks the traditional arrangement of the song but also add in some backing vocals and a beat boxing rhythm. It’s a nice middle-ground between contemporary and classic. This is another song with a great build up. Much like “Mary, Did You Know?” this is one song you can feel as they sing.
  15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. What starts out as a striking rendition calms down into a soulful take on this classic. Instead of that night by the fire relaxed tone of the original, this one is bound to get you on your feet with its holiday excitement.

I find that I gravitate to their covers of classics and holy songs more than any other style they do. Their powerful voices deliver so much control over the songs that they’re extremely impactful. Their unique style shines on this album with their interesting remixes and mashups. It’s a nice change from the usual songs replayed on the radio year-after year. The crowning jewel of this album really is “Mary, Did You Know?” Even if you aren’t a big fan of a cappella, I can’t imagine anyone not being touched by this song. I get chill just about every time I hear it.

Let me know what you think of the album! Are you a Pentatonix fan? Is this style of music right up your alley or something you avoid? As always, let me know if you have any recommendations for me to check out. See you soon!

The Santa Clause Trilogy Review

I think it’s just about time that we talk about a series packed with holiday fun. Branching from an original and unique concept, these movies all have widely varying outcomes. Let’s dive into The Santa Clause trilogy.

The Santa Clause

Tim Allen In 'The Santa Clause'

Scott, a struggling divorced father, has custody of his son, Charlie, for Christmas Eve. What started as a disaster of a Denny’s dominated evening quickly turns into a festive frenzy. When Scott scares Santa, causing him to fall off the roof, he enacts the Santa Clause. It’s an ancient law stating whoever knocks Santa off the roof must take on the role that comes with the red suit, willing or not.

Tim Allen plays his usual sarcastic shtick but is much more bearable in this than Christmas with the Kranks. Paired with Eric Lloyd as his adorable son, the two of them have a fun dynamic as polar opposites. Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson were absolutely wonderful to hate. They’re straight-up irritating down to their very last scene.

The first half hour or so of this movie is a great time. It’s cute-yet-self-aware aided by Allen’s wit. The last thirty minutes becomes a festive fun time with a happy ending that anyone can enjoy. However, the middle portion of the movie is a giant custody battle over Charlie. While this movie is a classic, it’s also one that can leave you feeling tapped out of cheer.

The Santa Clause 2

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Scott has accepted his fate as Santa and does a killer job as the jolly-old-man. Years have passed and his time away from Charlie shows as his son has landed a spot on the naughty list. As distraught as he is by this news, Santa finds out about the Mrs. Clause. An oversight by his elf Curtis gives Scott until Christmas Eve to find a wife or he’ll cease to be Mr. Claus.

While ratings for this movie decreased compared to its predecessor, I still really enjoy it. Allen’s biting tone took a backseat to his new jolly persona. Charlie becomes a wannabe bad boy rather than that lovable young kid everyone adored. Elizabeth Mitchell’s character seemed to change drastically through the movie but she was still an adorable addition to the film.

While this movie is hokier and the love story may be melodramatic, I find it to be much more enjoyable overall. It’s much more of a comedy than the original is. Writing-wise, it may falter but it makes up for that in how fun it is to watch.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

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Jack Frost makes an appearance at the North Pole at the same time Santa’s in-laws are in town. Chaos ensues.

Jack Frost is a forced addition to the movie. There’s nothing about his storyline that makes me want to watch the film. Bernard, the previous head elf, is no where to be found in this movie. This is quite sad to me as he was a favorite character of mine. There really is nothing fun or enjoyable about this movie. It lost the warmth the other two had and in its place was a typical Hollywood money-grab.

This movie was a huge let down compared to the other two.

Wrapping it all up:

The first two movies are on my yearly must-watch list. The first one is such a unique concept and a solid classic. I don’t see that movie going anywhere anytime soon, even if it might be a bit of a downer. The second is great for a laugh and a good time to turn on for holiday baking and decorating. As for the third, I pretend like it doesn’t exist and continue my merry movie binge.

Let me know what you think of these movies. Do you like the third? Am I too harsh? Did you feel as betrayed as I did when you realized Bernard wasn’t in The Escape Clause? If you have any recommendations, let me know. I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Love Actually Review

It’s hard to believe that, as a movie fan and a lover-of-all-things-Christmas, I’ve never seen one of the most over-hyped holiday movies of the 2000’s. For years I’ve heard the words of praise from devoted fans, seen all of the cringe-worthy gifs, and watched the adorable film clips that people share every year. Finally, after all of these years of stubborn avoidance, I watched Love Actually.

Following the lives of multiple people through their quest for love, we’re taken on a roller coaster of emotions. Through the whirlwind of romantic cuteness, we discover that these stories all weave and clash together at the climax of the movie. Spoilers to come.

This movie takes just about every cheesy trope, stereotype, and overdone plot point and throws it in the viewer’s face. As tragic as that sounds for audience, it somehow works. From the moment the movie started, I was sucked in by the heartwarming sappiness. Even though it’s highly predictable and hopelessly mushy, this movie really touches the heart.

While a lot of this love overload is acceptable, some of the characters and ideas just seem forced. Makatsch’s character comes to mind first when I think of contrived characters. She plays a pivotal role but she’s so brass that it’s not believable. One of the more annoying stories was Marshall’s which unfortunately ended happily-ever-after. Of course we can’t over look the King of Cringe Lincoln’s sign-holding scene is just as bad, if not worse, than that gif you’ve seen floating around.

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Yes, it’s campy and some characters would be better-off forgotten, there are some solid stories that I got very attached to. I was most invested in Neeson and Brodie-Sangster. Sure, it’s slightly disturbing how nonchalantly both of them act in response to their wife/mother’s death, but that’s one doozy of a cuteness overload. Heck, that story alone could be its own movie. I also, surprisingly, latched on to Grant and McCutcheon’s little love fest. Even though it was put on a back-burner for the middle chunk of the movie, it was one I was constantly wondering about.

Of course this movie wouldn’t have come together if it weren’t for Bill Nighy. Not only was his character vital for the resolution to Sam’s journey, he was a much needed rest from the lovey-dovey nonsense. His character’s self-awareness and blunt honesty made him a joy to watch. Even his big epiphany scene was sweet in a trashy rock star kind of way.

There are two storylines in this movie that I believe deserve some justice. Two of the most compelling women in this rom/com fest of happy endings and Christmas miracles were left out to dry with a resolution no where near satisfying. Laura Linney’s character just seemed to disappear after a plot-twist of romantic interest sprung into her life. Instead of giving one of the hardest-working and self-sacrificing characters a happy ending, they give it to Colin Frissel, the epitome of Nice Guy culture.

Emma Thompson’s story also ended in a genuinely upsetting manner. While she stays true to her character, I wanted to see her shine as an independent mother. She gives her kids the world and in return she has to sacrifice her fiery gut instincts and her chance at finding loyal, true love elsewhere. I’m probably just too passionate about this because I love Emma Thompson but Karen deserves better and I stand by that.

While there were other characters and romances that I didn’t mention, I enjoyed watching them all. Even if some were slightly infuriating and others unrealistically sentimental, it was all a joy to watch and discover how they all weave together. I’m sad to sad to say I waited so long to watch this movie. Much to my surprise, I actually love Love Actually.

Let me know what you think of this movie. Are you sucked in by its charm or revolted by its overdone shenanigans? As always if you have any recommendations, let me know. I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Die Hard Review

It’s time we answer the question that has torn families apart, separated lovers and turned brother against brother. Today we settle this feud over festivity once and for all. Let our quarreling stop as we finally resolve the rivalry. Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

When John McClane flies to LA for his wife’s holiday office party, the New York cop doesn’t quite get the greeting he was hoping for. Rather than eggnog and gingerbread men, he’s met with Alan Rickman-style terrorism with a side of psycho henchmen. In a quest to save 30 hostages and mend his failing marriage, McClane must save the day with cheesy one-liners thrown in.

Die Hard is the quintessential 80’s action movie. You’ve got the tight wife-beater tank, machine guns, explosions, and, of course, massive hair. It has the stereotypical European bad guys and an all-American hero to bring them down. There’s nothing new to the makeup of this story compared to that of others of this era, but it just does everything right.

Bruce Willis is the perfect lead for this movie. He’s a lovable heartthrob that can pull off the outlandish sarcasm of 80’s action stars. He makes it just believable enough that the viewers can just sit back and enjoy it. Had any other actor been cast, I doubt this movie would have done as well as it has. Bruce Willis is really what makes this movie a classic.

Of course you can’t have an 80’s movie without some absurd villains. Yes, the gang of Europeans strike again with the help of a zany computer genius. Rickman leads the pack as the classy yet ruthless criminal. Oddly enough, he isn’t the most hate-able character in the movie. That title is undoubtedly reserved for Hart Bochner (Harry Ellis). He’s the “I can’t wait for you to die” character of Die Hard.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is the budding friendship between McClane (Willis) and Sgt. Powell (VelJohnson). Keeping the movie grounded, VelJohnson gave some relief to the insanity of the situation and let us see a different side of McClane. He has his moment in the spotlight too when he ends up saving McClane and the crowd from the last surviving terrorist.

Hearing characters use the word “terrorist” to describe Hans and his team was something that really struck me. When this movie aired in 1988, they obviously had no clue as to how the idea of terrorism would change so quickly in America.  We’re at a point in history where tensions are so high over this word with its twisted new meaning that this movie shows just how rapidly its connotation has shifted. It’s an interesting peak into how this time in history will be viewed by future generations based solely on one word.

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Okay, so this isn’t a cookie cutter holiday movie with presents or sugarplum fairies. Its main theme isn’t Christmas. It’s not a festive flick. So why is it a Christmas movie? Because we all need an annual excuse to watch Willis and Rickman battle it out while almost bringing down a building. It’s got a Santa hat, a Christmas tree, and I’m pretty sure there was a holiday song in the background at some point. We can all use a break from the same twelve movies we re-watch every year so why not pop in Die Hard and enjoy?

Let me know what you think of Die Hard. Which side of the holiday feud are you on? Personally, I love this movie and I’ll use any excuse to watch it. Regardless of what side you’re on, let’s all come together and have a moment of silence for John McClane’s feet. See you soon!

Everyday is Christmas by Sia

With so many great Christmas songs out there, it’s hard to imagine that at one point, they were brand new. Those classics we hold so dear were once a risk taken by an artist that somehow stood above the sea of mediocre holiday tunes and lasted for generations. This year, Sia took that risk with an entirely original seasonal album, Christmas is Forever.

Before I get started, there are two things I’d like to warn you about. For starters, I’m picky about Christmas music. I have my versions of the songs that like best and I play them on repeat every year. I’m the last person you’d find picking up a newer holiday album to try out, but I do have a few friends who love Sia and recommended I give it a listen for Blogmas. That being said, while I find her to be a good singer, Sia’s music just isn’t my style. She has some good hits but other than that, this is my first full-album introduction to Sia.

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With big hits like Chandelier, The Greatest, and Dusk Till Dawn, Sia has made quite the name for herself. A pop-jazz sound put her on the map and she’s carrying it with her through her new Christmas album.

Alright, let’s look closer at each song:

  1. Santa’s Coming for Us. This song is almost exactly what I expected from this album. It’s peppy, has a repetitive beat, and has her typical jazzy vocals that are difficult to understand the first time you hear it. While I love the festive touches with horns, this song doesn’t scream Christmas for me.
  2. Candy Cane Lane. Taking a cuter turn, this song uses horns, bells, and some adorable imagery for a fun holiday song. With a bit of a typical Sia down-swing around the chorus, it sadly takes away from the bubblegum vibe that suits Sia really well.
  3. Snowman. Stepping away from the cutesy pop, we’re led into a piano-based slow song. On surface level this song can be about a snowman, a love song or could even be commentary on living with mental health during the holidays. I really enjoy the duality in this song.
  4. Snowflake. Keeping the vibe mellow, snowflake is another piano based slow song. It’s both melancholy and sweet, pairing her wistful vocals with whimsical music. I think this song is very similar to Snowman in that you can interpret it any way you want.
  5. Ho Ho Ho. Sia brings out her playful side with this song. It’s a fun jump out of the slower music with its repetition and simple lyrics. This takes the title of “Christmas party song” on the album.
  6. Puppies Are Forever. As you may have guessed, this song is bound to be a cute one. While this song is very random and somewhat childish, I think it could do a lot of good around this time of year. Paired with some organizations like the ASPCA or shelters around the U.S., this song could be a great tool to get the word out about animal adoptions. Since a lot of animals are returned shortly after the 25th (sad, I know), the message that these are animals are family members and aren’t just your one-day gift can also instill a better mindset around the classic puppy surprise on Christmas morning.
  7. Sunshine. This song is another uplifting one that I think can help a lot of people. The thought of sharing happiness and kindness around the holidays, one of the hardest times of year for people suffering from mental illness, is an awesome message to get out. While I’m personally not crazy about the song, I love how she’s using her platform to do something that could be meaningful.
  8. Underneath The Mistletoe. Here it is, the major love song on the album. Yes, some other tunes on the album are love songs but this takes the crown for romance. I love how this song makes the feeling of being in love on Christmas such a massive and religious experience. It’s empowering and humbling and I think she captures that perfectly.
  9. Everyday is Christmas. As the album winds down, Sia keeps things mellow with a jazzy love song. Kicking it up during the chorus, this song ebbs and flows with the not-so-festive backtracking. I do like how she’s touching on Christmas being a feeling and not a financially-fueled holiday, but it just doesn’t seem like a holiday song to me.
  10. Underneath The Christmas Lights. Ending it on a sad note, Sia pulls out some haunting vocals for this love song. This song also loses that holiday vibe that she had incorporated into her earlier songs.

As a stand-alone album, I’d say it’s good while it still isn’t necessarily my style. Yet as a holiday album, this one just doesn’t scream Christmas to me. I love the topics she touches on and I love the good that these songs could do around this season, but I don’t see myself cranking up this album to get jolly.

Let me know what you think of the album! Is this new a holiday classic for you? As always, if you have any recommendations, let me know! I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Christmas with the Kranks Review

Keeping the theme of “meh” holiday movies going, it’s time we talk about the critically-accosted Christmas with the Kranks.

After their daughter joins the Peace Corps, Luther and Nora Krank realize their Christmas will be hollow with an empty nest. To keep their spirits high, Luther convinces the tradition-loving Nora to skip Christmas and take a 10-day cruise instead. The community takes action against their neighborhood Scrooge to force him into the holiday spirit with no avail.  It isn’t until their little girl calls on Christmas Eve with the surprise that she’s coming home for Christmas with her new fiancé that Nora breaks out the red vest and kicks Christmas into full swing with the help of the once-begrudging neighbors.

Tim Allen strikes again as the sarcastic grump that has to learn the meaning of Christmas. Practicing his usual shtick, Allen plays one of the most unpleasantly-selfish characters ever. In contrast to Jamie Lee Curtis’ sweet housewife with a heart for charity, the two seem like an impossible match. Using more traditional family values, Curtis’ character takes a back seat to Allen’s with decision-making. This makes sense in context for her character but that doesn’t make it any less infuriating to watch.

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Following the couple through their Christmas tug-of-war between vanity and tradition, we get to see a series of ridiculous situations. Out of the tanning bed and into the botox chair, Allen digs himself deeper and deeper into cringe-worthy scenes that force that uncomfortable chuckle out of you. Hiding behind curtains and corners as she watches Luther stomp over the meaning of Christmas, Curtis expresses everything the audience is feeling through her comical reactions to her embarrassing spouse.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was their neighborhood. Their over-the-top reactions to the Krank’s holiday protest is what gives the movie a much-needed break from the discomfort caused by Allen’s attitude. Dan Aykroyd plays the unofficial leader of the community, Vic Frohmeyer. With his son Spike Frohmeyer, played by Erik Per Sullivan, the duo terrorizes the Kranks.

The ending of the movie was supposed to be a nice way to wrap up the movie and show that Luther can change his ways. I say “supposed to” because compared to the prior hour of selfish behavior, Luther’s one decent act just doesn’t hold up. Giving his nonrefundable cruise tickets to a couple he pities for one moment just doesn’t scream selfless to me. This was probably what sealed the deal on my opinion of this movie.

While this movie meant well and mimicked the main idea of every other Christmas classic, it just doesn’t hit the spot for me. Instead of finding it humorous, I’m too uncomfortable with the awkward scenes and too angry over Allen’s character selfishly overshadowing his wife’s wishes for his own vanity and greed. I wouldn’t say it’s a horrible movie by any means, but I can probably go a few years before pressing play on this flick again.

Let me know what you think of the movie. Do you enjoy this movie and find that it suits your sense of humor? Or are you like me and just feel too uncomfortable by it to really get taken away with it? If you have any recommendations for me, let me know. I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Krampus (2015) Review

When holiday turns into horror, things are bound to get a little funky. Blending old Christmas folk-lore with modern traditions, Krampus (2015) attempts to satisfy both festive freaks and jump-scare junkies resulting in a movie that for months I could only describe with one word: weird.

When Max Engel’s letter to Santa gets read aloud by his bully cousin, his true wish is revealed. He just wants Christmas to be like it used to be, everyone a part of one big, happy family. When he throws away his wish, an ancient holiday beast turns up to teach this broken family a lesson.

As I mentioned before, this movie is just weird. It has moments of holiday cheer, snips of humor, and some horrifyingly unsettling scenes. Because of this strange juggling act, I wouldn’t say this movie is strictly horror or comedy.

The opening scene is very reminiscent of Jingle All the Way. It has people charging through a department store door only a few days before Christmas. People are going wild to get their hands on that last-minute fuzzy sock sale and frivolous festive trinkets for stockings. This satire on society’s approach to the holidays stays true throughout the majority of the movie. It’s a fun reflection of the audience at home.

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That underlying humor paired with some genuinely goofy scenes makes this movie a comedy throughout the entirety of the film. Even some scary scenes, like the one in the kitchen, were hilarious. Made to be a self-aware, hokey flick, it tones down some of the creepily dramatic scenes that pop up as the journey continues.

As a blizzard blocks them inside, they’re trapped under the control of Krampus and his cronies. Almost parallel to the kitchen scene is every horror movie’s classic attic monster reveal. This is where the nightmarish aspects of the movie kick in. From this point on, the line between horror and humor begins to blend together until you aren’t really sure how you should be feeling. Should you jump? Should you laugh? It gets harder to decide the longer the movie continues.

As conflicted as this movie makes me feel, I find this to be a refreshing break from the regular old Christmas movies we’re used to. When I watch this movie, I get the feeling that Casey, Dougherty, and Shields all had a blast writing this quirky yet polished script. Being a lover of mythology, folklore, and stories in general, this movie strikes a chord with me. While I still have mixed feelings about it, I can see Krampus being added to my seasonal Must Watch list.

Let me know what you think about the movie! Do you find it too weird or cheesy? Are you disappointed that it isn’t just a horror flick? Or are you with me and still feel conflicted but overall enjoy the ride it takes you on? As always, if you have any recommendations, let me know. See you soon!