Klaus


This is not your daddy’s Santa Claus.

(2019) Animated Feature (Netflix) Starring the voices of Jason Schwartzmann, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Norm McDonald, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso, Sergio Pablos, Mila Brener, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sydney Brower, Teddy Blum, Emma Shannon, Kendall Joy Hall, Julian Zane, Amanda Philipson, Finn Carr, Tucker Meek, Hailey Hermida, Jaeden Bettencourt. Directed by Sergio Pablos and Carlos Martinez López

 

We’ve all seen origin stories of the big guy in Red before. No, I’m not talking about Shazam! I’m talking about the real big guy. Santa. Claus, even.

This delightful animated feature has the distinction of being the first animated feature to be distributed by streaming giant Netflix (after a brief theatrical run) and it will have the added bonus of making animated feature aficionados wish that Netflix would have made it more widely available in theaters, because the animation is that gorgeous, with a hand-painted look that hasn’t been seen since the halcyon days of Disney, which is where director Sergio Pablos cut his teeth, by the by.

The film is about Jesper (Schwartzmann), the indolent scion of a politically connected and wealthy family. Jesper, the son of a Central European country’s postmaster general, is coasting his way through life, shirking work whenever possible and looking forward to using his family’s political connections to maintain his lifestyle of personal butlers, espressos on demand and silk sheets. However, his father has different ideas. He exiles his son to Smeerensburg (which is based on a Finnish town that no longer exists), a town above the Arctic circle where no letters have been mailed in years.

It turns out there’s a reason for that. The town is run by two families that have been feuding for centuries, the Krum family whose matriarch (Cusack) absolutely hates the patriarch (Sasso) of the Ellingboe family. The two family heads have recruited the children into a vicious cycle of hate and pranks which gives the film a kind of Looney Tunes feel and also a kind of warped satisfaction as the lazy Jesper is often the butt of the children’s tricks.

Through a convoluted set of circumstances, Jesper meets Klaus (Simmons), a lonely and isolated woodsman who has deliberately isolated himself for reasons that are made clear later. He has a gift for wood carving and eventually delivers a toy to a young child whose melancholy drawing touched his heart. Jesper, recognizing a scam when he sees one, induces the kids to write letters to Klaus to get him to send them toys; he just needs six thousand of them to be released from his exile. He utilizes Alva (Jones), a teacher who came to a town where none of the kids attend school, to teach the kids to write letters. She has resorted to converting the school to a fish market in order to make ends meet and save up enough to get out of that crazy town. But as the kindness of Klaus begins to affect the children, Mrs. Krum and Mr. Ellingboe begin to plot to end this change which threatens the status quo.

The movie starts out a bit slowly and the early Looney Tunes section might pale in comparison with classic cartoons, but it picks up steam as it goes along and never fails to charm. Kids will be entranced with the lovely images and adults will find the movie heart-tugging – the ending in fact is likely to generate more than a few tears from sensitive viewers. I, myself, loved it.

As Christmas films go, this one is certainly superior to the glut of direct-to-home video projects that make up the bulk of what’s available at this time of year. Klaus is the kind of movie you and your kids will want to see again and again, year after year. That’s the kind of Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

REASONS TO SEE: The animation is magical. The film is charming throughout, with the ending being absolutely wonderful.
REASONS TO AVOID: It’s a bit of a slog during the first third.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some rude humor as well as mild animated action.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first hand-drawn animated film to make use of CGI lighting techniques to give it almost a 3D feel.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/8/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 92% positive reviews: Metacritic: 63/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
The Boy, The Dog and The Clown

New Releases for the Week of November 1, 2019


TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

(Paramount) Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, Tristán Ulloa. Directed by Tim Miller

After having prevented Judgment Day, Sarah Connor is presented with a new threat from the future and must turn to an old friend/nemesis if she is to save the human race once again.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence throughout, language and brief nudity)

Arctic Dogs

(Entertainment Studios) Starring the voices of Jeremy Renner, Heidi Klum, James Franco, Alec Baldwin. An ambitious arctic fox, dreaming of becoming the top dog – number one courier in the Arctic – stumbles upon a nefarious plot to release greenhouse gasses to further melt the icepack and establish an evil walrus as the supreme ruler of the planet.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for some mild action and rude humor)

Harriet

(Focus) Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, Joe Alwyn. Harriet Tubman went from being a slave to a heroic figure who rescued thousands and who would become a symbol of African-American pride.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets)

Inside Game

(iDream Machine) Scott Wolf, Eric Mabius, Will Sasso, Lindsey Morgan. A small-time con-man teams up with two childhood friends – a bookie and a referee for the NBA – to bet on games his friend is working and make millions.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs. Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: R (for language and drug use throughout, and some sexual content)

Motherless Brooklyn

(Warner Brothers) Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale. A private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome must use his obsessive mind to solve the murder of his friend and mentor.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pavilion Port Orange, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square
Rating: R (for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Adopt a Highway
Badland
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
For Sama
Greener Grass
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra
Paradise Hills

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

Jojo Rabbit
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Dark Justice
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Give Me Liberty
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Badland
Harriet
Jojo Rabbit
Motherless Brooklyn
Terminator: Dark Fate

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale

New Releases for the Week of April 13, 2012


April 13, 2012

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

(Lionsgate) Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver, Jodelle Ferland, Amy Acker, Tom Lenk. Directed by Drew Goddard

A group of young people, friends all, head into the mountains to a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying. There’s something strange about the cabin however and soon it becomes obvious that the cabin is not what it appears to be and neither is this movie. Produced and co-written by fan favorite Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the upcoming Avengers movie) and Goddard, who hit it big a few years back with Cloverfield.

See the trailer, clips and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity)

Blue Like Jazz

(Roadside Attractions) Marshall Allman, Claire Holt, Tania Raymonde, Jason Marsden  A young Texas sophomore at a junior college with a restrictive religious background decides to forego further piety and enrolls in one of the most progressive institutions of higher learning in the Pacific Northwest Reed College of Portland, Oregon. He finds himself among free thinkers and eccentrics, putting challenge to all of his beliefs.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, sexuality, drug and alcohol content and some language)

Bully

(Weinstein) David Long, Tina Long, Kirk Smalley, Ja’Maya. Emmy-award winning documentary director Lee Hirsch examines the epidemic of bullying in this country and the collateral effects of it on the families of both the bullies and the bullied.  The film was initially rated R by the MPAA which would prevent the audience that really needs to see it – school kids – from seeing the movie but after a national outcry the MPAA finally relented. If you have kids in middle or high school you should take them to see this movie as soon as possible.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: PG-13 (for language and subject matter)

Lockout

(FilmDistrict) Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Lennie James.  It is the near-future in America and the President’s daughter is trapped on an orbiting maximum security penitentiary with the worst scum on the planet doing time in suspended animation. The inmates have taken over the asylum and a desperate father sends the only man who can get in there and extract his daughter alive – Snake Plissken. Wait – he’s not available? It’ll have to be the other guy then.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and language including some sexual references)

The Raid: Redemption

(Sony Classics) Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian. An elite police tactical unit infiltrates a dilapidated apartment building being used by a crime lord as a fortress is spotted and must fight their way from floor to floor to get out. This movie made a huge splash at film festivals and has gotten rave reviews to the point where a Hollywood remake has already been fast-tracked.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, and language)

The Three Stooges

(20th Century Fox) Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso, Sean Hayes, Jane Lynch. A trio of dim-witted but ultimately good-hearted orphans are released into the wild….err, civilization. There they will have to find a way to save the orphanage where they were raised from greedy developers. This one’s a definite sign of the impending apocalypse.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG (for some slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language)

Woman, Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day

(Codeblack) Blair Underwood, Sharon Leal, Pam Grier, Nicole Beharie.  When their child is kidnapped, a successful African-American couple suddenly find themselves under a media microscope. And as the clock ticks, old secrets that may have some bearing on their kidnapping begin to come out, threatening to tear the couple apart.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for sexuality, drug and alcohol content, mature thematic material, language and violence)

Life As We Know It


Life As We Know It

Josh Duhamel is only glad there's no poop on HIS face.

(Warner Brothers) Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Hayes McArthur, Christina Hendricks, The Clagett Triplets, Sarah Burns, Jessica St. Clair, Britt Flatmo, Kumail Nanjiani, Will Sasso, Majandra Delfino, DeRay Davis, Melissa McCarthy, Rob Huebel, Andrew Daly. Directed by Greg Berlanti

Is there a secret to life? Most people agree that if there is, it is elusive at best, but there is one secret that’s fairly graspable; change is inevitable.

Uptight upscale bakery owner Holly Berenson (Heigl) has just exited from a long-term relationship that went nowhere. Her best friend Allison Novack (Hendricks) has set her up with her husband Peter’s (McArthur) best friend Eric Messer (Duhamel).

It would have been the date from hell had it even gotten that far. The laid-back lothario Messer (who prefers to be addressed by his last name) arrives an hour late, sans dinner reservation and to top it all off takes a booty call that he sets up for the same night. Amused at first, Holly is at last infuriated and storms back into her apartment, having not even pulled away from the curb.

Three years later they are celebrating the first birthday of little Sophie Novack (Clagett). While the date went sour, Messer and Holly still remain best friends to the Novacks and while Messer annoys Holly terribly, they remain civil for the most part for the sake of their friends. All that goes by the wayside when they get the phone call that Peter and Allison were killed in an auto accident. However, that’s almost equal to the shock they receive when they find out that their friends named them as guardians of little Sophie in the event of their demise.

The will specifies that Sophie remain in the suburban Atlanta home…or maybe estate would be more accurate…that the Novacks lived in. With the mortgage pre-paid for a year, the two godparents take up uneasy residence in the house and try to somehow be parents.

It’s a rough go, as they are completely clueless about childcare and they still get along like Yankees fans and Red Sox fans, only less violent. However their love for little Sophie and their feelings of obligation towards their dead friends keep them plugging away, despite Messer’s attempts to seduce half of Atlanta, Holly’s ambitious expansion plans for her bakery and her own romantic interest in Sophie’s handsome pediatrician whom Messer names, not unkindly, “Dr. Love” (Lucas).

While there is clearly tension between Holly and Mess, there is also just as clearly attraction between the two as the social caseworker Janine (Burns) notices. However, what little connection they have is stretched to the breaking point when Messer gets a job offer for his dream job – which will take him out of Atlanta and into Phoenix if he accepts.

This is a movie that careens from romantic comedy to drama, sometimes in a jarring fashion, but I get the sense that overall the filmmakers saw this as the former. Somewhat ironically, I think the dramatic sequences tend to work much better than most of the comedic ones, which rely on baby poop, baby vomit and sleep deprivation for most of the gags. Had the movie steered itself away from the romance, toned down the comedy and concentrated on the bringing up baby aspects a little bit more, I think this would have been a really great movie.

Unfortunately, the romantic comedy formula is followed nearly to the letter; boy and girl meet, dislike each other intensely, come together and then are split apart before coming back together in the final reel. It seems like every studio romantic comedy follows the same bloody formula without exception and I for one am tired of it, but it seems the appetite for such formula romcoms is endless so until Hollywood stops making money hand over fist with them we will continue to see them churned out one after the other into multiplexes all over the world.

That said, the chemistry between Heigl (who is the mistress of uptight professional women roles) and Duhamel, who has become a pretty decent romantic lead in his own right, is undeniable. The two are believable as a couple which is at the heart of any romcom. Lucas, who is one of those actors who just does a good job every time out but never gets the credit he deserves, is solid as the third part of the romantic triangle.

I am not big on babies in the movies, but I will say that Sophie may be the most charming baby I’ve ever seen onscreen. She is portrayed by triplets (and then at the film’s conclusion by twins as she ages in the film) and they all seem to have a fairly expressive facial palate.

While I would have liked to have seen either less formula in the romantic comedy aspect, or more of the serious drama of picking up the pieces after the death of the parents, the filmmakers seem to settle for a little bit of both and wind up with a playing-it-safe mish-mash that ends up curiously unsatisfying, despite all the items on the plus side of the ledger. I don’t know if Berlanti and his writers went the taking-no-chances route of their own volition, or if studio bigwigs hamstrung them but I wish they had been a bit bolder in their choices.

REASONS TO GO: Nice chemistry between Duhamel and Heigl; the baby may be the most charming movie baby ever.

REASONS TO STAY: The script is awfully formulaic and doesn’t really send any surprised the audience’s way.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a little bit of sexuality, a little bit of bad language, a little bit of drug humor and a good deal of baby poop. Pretty much acceptable for most reasonably mature teens.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Those who stay to the very end of the movie will hear a currently unreleased Faith Hill song (“All I Needed”) on the soundtrack.

HOME OR THEATER: Quite frankly this is a movie that will make you want to cuddle with your loved one; definitely worth seeing at home.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Amreeka