Tag Archives: Christmas

Ho-Ho-Hokum

‘Love the Coopers’ is snow-covered Christmas gloop

(Left to right) Diane Keaton and John Goodman in LOVE THE COOPERS to be released by CBS Films and Lionsgate.

Love the Coopers

Starring John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, Ed Helms & Olivia Wilde

Directed by Jessie Nelson

PG-13

In the early moments of this sprawling Christmas comedy, characters somehow appear to end up “inside” a snow globe, frolicking in the crystalline white flakes.

There’s a lot of snow in Love the Coopers; the stuff never stops falling. I was surprised by the end of the movie that it hadn’t shut down every road in Coopersville, or Cooperstown, or Coopers Knob, or wherever it is the story takes place. Instead, like a gigantic snow globe, the movie just seems to regenerate the same precipitate, shaking it up over and over again—so it doesn’t pile up, it just flies around and re-lands, making everything look like a big, fluffy white winter wonderland, snow on snow.

Love the Coopers indeed looks like a picture-perfect Christmas: sumptuous cookies and cupcakes, colorfully coordinated sweaters, coats and scarves, holiday carolers, red poinsettias, green mistletoe, twinkling lights on impeccably trimmed trees. Even the dogs are decorated.

LOVE THE COOPERS

Marissa Tomei

But all the cheery Christmas decorations cover up a big, dysfunctional mess: The Coopers are falling apart, in just about every way. Mom Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and dad Sam (John Goodman) are planning to split after 40 years of marriage. Their grown kids (Ed Helms and Olivia Wilde), Charlotte’s younger sister (Marissa Tomei) and her dad (Alan Arkin) all have issues of their own.

There’s also a jaded waitress (Amanda Seyfried), a foul-mouthed urchin granddaughter (Blake Baumgartner), a cop with an identity crisis (Anthony Mackie), a couple of teens working out the sloppy, tongue-twisting kinks of French kissing, a say-anything septuagenarian aunt (June Squibb), and a strapping young soldier (Jake Lacy) who gets roped into the Christmas Eve family reunion as a pretend boyfriend.

And a partridge in a pear tree—no, not really. But it does get very, very crowded, and that’s not even counting the narrator, who turns out to be…well, someone whose name you’ll certainly recognize, in a form you’ll in no way be expecting, in a manner that makes absolutely no sense at all.

LOVE THE COOPERS

Producer-director Jessie Nelson, whose previous projects include the heart-tugging, high-pedigree gloop of I Am Sam, Stepmom and Corrina, Corrina, remains true to form here, with an all-star cast fumbling around in a deep-dish holiday goo of dumb dialogue, silly shtick and artificial sweetness that feels like a concoction created with ingredients ladled from other, far better cinematic Christmas crock pots—a dollop of It’s a Wonderful Life, splashes of Love, Actually, sprinkles of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Snow on snow on snow.

Ed Helms and Alan Arkin sing, a dog gets blamed for a fart he didn’t make and Marissa Tomei hides a brooch in her mouth. There’s mashed potato slinging, Christmas carol mangling, streets full of Santas, gingerbread men in G-string frosting, and a joyous, swirling dance to a Bob Dylan song.

And so much snow. But it never piles up—and like the movie, it never adds up, either, to anything more than a slushy, mushy holiday heap of ho-ho-hokum.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Christmas Grooves

Music to warm your spirits & shake your booty

ItFeelsLikeChristmas_BigBadVooDooDaddy

It Feels Like Christmas Time

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

CD, $13.35 (Savoy Jazz)

 

Working their way to national recognition after becoming a L.A. club fixture in the 1990s, this Grammy-nominated swing-revival band—which took its name from an autographed note from blues legend Albert Collins—locks into a hip, happy holiday groove for this collection of traditional favorites flavored with a sprinkling of jazzy, snazzy ’tis-the-season originals. Bandleader and founding member Scotty Morris leads his crew through “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Jingle Bells,” “Run, Run Rudolph,” “Frosty The Snowman” and seven other tunes guaranteed to warm your spirits as it shakes your booty.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Make a Joyful Noise

Movie musical puts soulful new spin on familiar Christmas story

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Black Nativity

Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Basset and Jacob Latimore

Directed by Kasi Lemmons

PG, 93 min.  

If you’d like going to the movies to be a little more like going to church, then you’ll probably like going to see Black Nativity.

Based on a 1960s musical by acclaimed poet/novelist/playwright Langston Hughes, it’s a modern embellishment of the Nativity story as told through the converging lives of various characters coming together for the staging of a Christmas Eve pageant at a Harlem house of worship.

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Jennifer Hudson & Jacob Latimore

Writer/director Kasi Lemmons fleshes out Hughes’ stage play with a wider drama about a down-on-her-luck single Baltimore mom (Jennifer Hudson) who sends her teenage son (Jacob Latimore) to live with his grandparents in New York during the holidays while she works two jobs and tries to figure out how to keep her and her son off the streets.

For the displaced teen, Langston (named after the famous poet), it’s clearly not the most wonderful time of the year. Mere minutes after stepping off the bus in downtown Harlem, his backpack’s snatched, he has a run-in with the law, and he meets a toughened street hood (Tyrese Gibson) that we’re sure he’ll come across again. Welcome to the big, bad city, kid!

Langston also bristles at the rigid God-centric rules laid down by his strict pastor grandfather (Forest Whitaker), but warms somewhat to his beaming, gracious grandma (Angela Bassett).

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The original Black Nativity stage production was a rich tapestry of traditional Christmas music and hymns, African-American rhythms, jazz and poetry. The movie version weaves in all of those elements, too, sprinkling throughout its dozen performances some contemporary hip-hop and rap for today’s ears.

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Mary J. Blige

Everybody sings, but it certainly helps that the cast includes a gut-busting tune-belter like Hudson, the Grammy and Oscar-winning American Idol finalist, and  an appearance by Mary J. Blige, the electrifying “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.”

It’s Whitaker, though, who truly surprises. The Oscar-winning actor doesn’t often get a chance to show off his old college chops as an opera tenor, but he does here when he cuts loose in the “Black Nativity” pageant, as the reverend leads the congregation in a soulful burst of preachin’ and praisin.’

This modest little feel-good movie probably won’t contend for any major awards (unlike Whitaker’s other movie this year, The Butler). It’s pretty basic in its production—although some of the handsome shots by veteran cinematographer Anastos Michos are top-notch—and its drama tends to get a bit syrupy as it’s trying to soar.

But its heart is in the right place. And it can put yours there, too, if this holiday season you’re seeking a wholesome story with a joyous, tune-filled message about forgiveness, second chances and the true, timeless meaning of Christmas.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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