Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies shares another batch of reviews!
SINGLE ALL THE WAY (Netflix)
Every year Netflix doles out their Christmas movies cashing in on the craze set by Hallmark and Lifetime. One of my favorites of this season is the gay rom com Single All the Way. Michael Urie leads a wonderful cast as Peter. He would love to take his boyfriend home to New Hampshire for Christmas but finds out he’s actually married to a woman and promptly leaves him upon learning the truth. Peter’s parents have always been super supportive and loving, but he doesn’t want to deal with their poking and prodding about single at the holidays. He convinces his roommate, Nick, to come home with him posing as his boyfriend, but even his Plan B goes awry.
-Starring: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Kathy Najimy, Barry Bostwick, Jennifer Coolidge, Jennifer Robertson
-Single All the Way is being billed as Netflix’s first gay Christmas movie. Some day we hopefully won’t have to classify movies like this, but it’s commendable to have a Christmas movie about gay characters in the lead roles without making them the cliched supporting character. This film is unabashedly positive and hopeful, and the story isn’t about the characters being gay, this isn’t a coming out story, or a “pretend to be straight around the holidays” story.
-I want to applaud proper casting with having three out actors with Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, and Luke McFarlane playing gay characters.
-Single All the Way presents some of the standard Christmas movie tropes along the way, and if you’re familiar with the framework of the genre, you’ll know exactly how this will end. It’s a funny journey to get there thanks to its supporting cast and the wonderful chemistry between Michael Urie and Philemon Chambers.
-The film becomes a lesson in matchmaking hijinks for Peter’s family when they realize there are sparks between Peter and Nick despite his insistence against that idea.
-Jennifer Robertson is a delight as Peter’s snarky sister, and it should come as no surprise that Jennifer Coolidge completely steals every scene as Aunt Sandy. Not only does she make a grand entrance, but she’s a hoot when she’s directing the kids Christmas pageant. She is in prime Coolidge form to the point where I paused the film, as I was laughing so hard.
-Single All the Way is a complete joy if you’re willing to go along for the fun. I was grinning ear to ear, and I hope you’ll also feel the warm Christmas fuzzies. Here’s to more LGBTQ+ representation in Christmas movies moving forward.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THE BEATLES: GET BACK (Disney+)
There’s no shortage of footage of The Beatles from any moment in their career, and yet, Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson has made the new documentary The Beatles: Get Back a riveting, probing look at the Fab Four. It was early January 1969 and the Beatles hadn’t performed live together in nearly two years but were set to record a new live album and a TV special. They were on a tight schedule with merely two weeks to write and record 14 new songs and film this TV special as Ringo Starr was set to start production on a movie that happened to be shooting in the studio they were using. Despite their career and their catalog of hits, it was a rocky couple of weeks as tension rose between everyone involved.
-Peter Jackson has worked through 60 hours of film footage and 150 hours of audio recordings from the Get Back sessions, which were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg back 1969.
-The videos have been largely unseen and kept in a vault since then and you would think by watching The Beatles: Get Back that this was all shot last year given the painstaking work Peter Jackson and his crew went into restoring the old footage. It’s unbelievably clean and crisp with a color palette that pops in every frame. You know there’s no way to the old reels looked a quarter as good as they do here.
-The end result is a gorgeous eight-hour film spanning three parts. Jackson knows precisely how he wants to divide this story up. He demonstrates his eye for storytelling all while using someone else’s footage that he then had to assemble in a cohesive manner.
-Jackson lets his audiences sit in as the Beatles tinker around in the first week of rehearsals. They’re casually playing together as they test out potential lyrics, song ideas, and more. It’s quite clear they’re missing some needed direction and motivation to keep them on track. Paul McCartney unofficially takes on that role leading to tension between him and George Harrison who finally wants to have his say in the songwriting process.
-Jackson never races through this slow rough start allowing us in on the dynamics of the group. It’s a treat to sit and see their creative process flow out as their unfiltered dialogue ponders their success, the act of performing live again, the future state of the group and what’s happened over the last year and a half.
-It’s evident they enjoy making each other laugh as there’s a deep love and admiration they have for one another. That also comes with some complications as part one ends with a big bombshell potentially altering the course of the project and the future of The Beatles. The other two parts offer a different mood and tenor and clips along a bit quicker despite their length.
-It’s easy to get swept away in awe of The Beatles: Get Back. You’re offered an opportunity to sit in with some of the finest musicians of all-time in an intimate way that’s not always captured in a rock documentary. It comes at an emotional time for the band which permeates onto the viewer to varying degrees depending on your connection to The Beatles.
-For me, they’re my favorite band. I felt in the presence of greatness and something to cherish for years to come with multiple viewings knowing I’ll pick up something new each time.
RATING: 5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
ENCANTO (in theaters)
Disney has released two new animated films in 2021. First was Raya and the Last Dragon, and now Encanto is in theaters and delighting families with the traditional Disney magic. Both films continue Disney’s efforts at showcasing other cultures and traditions with Encanto centering on a magical family who live in the mountains of Columbia. The Madrigal Family has been gifted a special everlasting candle that has provided life’s blessings for generations. There are special gifts and talents passed down from one generation to the next. That is until young Mirabel has been skipped over. She’s grown up feeling ordinary and like the odd one out compared to the rest of her family. On the night of her cousin Antonio’s blessing, Mirabel starts to see the walls of the family estate start to crack jeopardizing their special Encanto. It’s up to her to find a miracle and save her family and the foundation.
-Features the voices of Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderamma, María Cecilia Botero, and Jessica Darrow.
-Encanto kicks off a lively beginning drawing the audience into the magical world within Encanto and each member of the Madrigal family with Mirabel acting as the story’s protagonist. She’s spunky and unique thanks to Stephani Beatriz who was also in In the Heights and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
-Mirabel doesn’t always fit in and it’s a journey of self-love and discovery for her to understand and appreciate her own self-worth outside of others around her. Each family member comes with a big personality like her sister Luisa who was given the gift of strength or sister Isabela who is perfect and successful in every way. Stephanie Darrow is a scene-stealer as Luisa.
-Encanto feels like a smaller, more intimate story for Disney. Don’t expect it to be the grand epic like Frozen, Raya and the Last Dragon or Beauty and the Beast. Mirabel is not your standard Disney princess, nor are there talking animal sidekick characters, and surprisingly it doesn’t even have the traditional villain character, but there’s still plenty of magic and humor throughout.
-Lin-Manuel Miranda provides the film’s catchy music in his style we’re all familiar with. There are some fun numbers, but none stood out to me as the next Disney classic like “Let It Go” or “How Far I’ll Go”.
-Encanto is a lovely story that the whole family should easily enjoy, and it’s wonderful to see Columbian characters represented. There are obvious metaphors throughout providing good talking points for kids about how the walls of our house and family foundation can come crumbling down if one person doesn’t feel like a member of the family.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS