MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Last Christmas’ a twisty Christmas movie with the possible makings of a classic

Last Christmas / Courtesy

“Last Christmas” is an odd movie with a twist that might well become a Christmas classic, but then again it might be forgotten before next year.

Only time and the fates will tell.

On the surface the movie is enjoyable, featuring a story about a young woman named Kate (Emilia Clarke) who has lost her zeal for life after a health scare and a critical operation the previous year.

She is dealing with depression and possibly other mental health issues when she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a handsome and mysterious man, who helps Kate regain her zest for living by teaching her to reach out and give of herself to others, during the Christmas season.

Clarke, who starred in “Game of Thrones” and “Solo” A Star Wars Story,” is solid and likable despite some of Kate’s more unlovable traits. Golding is playing a prince charming of sorts, which suits the fairly restrictive on-screen persona he’s developed in his recent efforts.

Kate, who dreams of being a performer, works as a clerk in a Christmas ornament shop, where she is required to dress as an elf. She struggles to make ends meet, and is too proud to accept much help from her family until she is desperate.

Her life becomes a bit more manageable when she meets Tom, who encourages her to be more thankful for the life she has rather than being frustrated by chasing the life she believes she wants.

The movie only really comes together when you either learn or figure out the twist, but even with that knowledge in play, the movie left me with a strange aftertaste.

The film fits squarely into a box influenced by director Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the all-time champion of Yuletide storytelling Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol.”

Throughout the movie, the music of George Michael is used to set the tone, including “Last Christmas,” of which the lyrics influenced the plot. Though I never was much of a fan of his music, director Paul Feig used it well.

The film is ultimately uplifting, but there is an underpinning of melancholy that also fits into the Christmas season. Overall, I liked the movie, but I’d like to see it again — perhaps next year — to see if it’s worthy of making my regular Christmas-movie rotation.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 43 min.
Grade: B-

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Classic Corner – When Harry Met Sally

Has it been 30 years? Surely, three decades haven’t past since “When Harry Met Sally” first charmed audiences, but I guess it has.

In celebration of the milestone, the Malco Razorback Cinema has two special showings at 4 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday of the rom-com that remains as sarcastic, sad, funny, and charming as it did then it first opened.

I have to admit my bias with the film. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s easily one of my top three comedies, and at the right moment, a part of my ever-shifting Top 10.

Billy Crystal as Harry and Meg Ryan as Sally are perfectly, adorably cast in the movie that was directed by Rob Reiner from a wonderful script by Nora Ephron. Billy Crystal and the late Carrie Fisher, who plays Sally’s pal Marie, took turns at punching up the dialogue.

The story takes place over a 12-year period when Harry and Sally meet and re-meet each other at different points in their lives. There’s an immediate spark between the two even though they can’t stand each other after their first encounter on a road trip to New York.

On that trip, Harry drops his classic bit of wisdom that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.

With each meeting, Harry and Sally’s relationship grows and matures. They do actually become friends, and yes, the sex part does get in the way before the two ultimately realize that friendship is at the heart of the best relationships.

The movie contains many great scenes, but the showstopper, of course, is when Ryan fakes an orgasm in a deli to prove a point to Harry. The kicker comes when an older lady quips to her waitress that, “I’ll have whatever she’s having.”

Fisher is great in what is perhaps her best role as Sally’s friend, who falls for Harry’s best friend Jess (Bruno Kirby) on a double date.

The soundtrack of the film is also one of my very favorites of all time, featuring Harry Connick Jr. jazzy take on a number of standards. It garnered him is first Grammy for Best Male Jazz Performance. Other artists’ voices featured in the movie include Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra.

The movie truly is a delight that set a high bar for romantic comedies that hasn’t been equaled since.

Christmas with Turner Classic Movies – Holiday Affair

Ready or not the Christmas season is almost upon us, and Turner Classic Movies isn’t messing around getting the party started. The channel is dedicating Sundays to yuletide fare this year starting this week.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, the Philip Marlowe mystery “The Lady in the Lake” leads off with Robert Montgomery starring as the detective on the case that’s set on Christmas Eve.

Next up at 1 p.m. is the 1949 version of the Louisa May Alcott classic “Little Women” with an all-star cast including June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, Peter Lawford, and Margaret O’Brien.

At 3:15 p.m., “Holiday Affair” stars Robert Mitchum as retail clerk who falls head over heels in love with comparison shopper Janet Leigh during the Christmas season.

At 5 p.m., Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan star in 1940’s “The Shop Around the Corner” by master director Ernst Lubitsch. At work the two can hardly stand each other, but in their private lives, the pair are pen pals who are quickly falling in love with each other. If the plot sounds familiar, you might know it from remakes “The Good Old Summertime” (1949) and “You’ve Got Mail” (1998).

At 7 p.m., the Alastair Sim-version of “A Christmas Carol” from 1951 plays. Many feel this is the best version of Charles Dickens’ inspired novella that is as much a part of the season as lights, decorations, and dear old Santa Claus, himself.

“The Bishop’s Wife” closes out the evening at 9 with the delightful tale of Dudley the guardian angel (Cary Grant), who falls in love the lovely Julia (Loretta Young), the wife of the Bishop (David Nevin), whom Dudley is sent to help.

Each of those movies are “grade A” movies in my book, and a jolly way for TCM to kick off the month of December.