Samurai and Christmas: This week’s movies (#SFWApro)

Normally my movie viewing is 100 percent Christmassy in December, but I needed to free up a Netflix slot (too many non-Christmas DVDs on hand at the end of November) so I watched KILL! (1969), a Japanese send-up of both samurai film sand spaghetti Westerns (the music is very The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) as samurai, ronin and Yakuza battle over control of a small town. This definitely didn’t work for me — possibly the Japanese parody of Italian-made Westerns lost something in translation. “He sent me a love letter once.”

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) isn’t a great Christmas movie (it’s one of the many films that could as easily be set at some other time of year) but it’s a solidly entertaining film with Irving Berlin songs, Vera Allen and Danny Kaye dancing and Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing, so what’s not to like? The story, for anyone who doesn’t know, involves Kaye and Allen trying to matchmake Crosby and Clooney, while Crosby and Kaye also try to help out their old CO. Fluff, but like a lot of older movies, it’s very well made fluff. “‘Wow’ falls somewhere between ‘ouch’ and ‘boing.’”

By contrast, A PRINCE FOR CHRISTMAS (2017), another movie arbitrarily set at Christmas, is weak across the board. Wannabe reporter Rose McIver attempts to get the inside dirt on a playboy prince and winds up both romanced and caught up in the struggle for succession. It’s an obvious Didn’t Like The Movie reaction that I kept nitpicking at stuff that normally wouldn’t bother me — why do all these Europeans have Brit accents? Why does the film treat control of this postage-stamp kingdom as if it were the British Empire at the height of its power? With Alice Krige as the current queen and Sara Douglas as her factotum. “She’s the queen — so zip it.”

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT (2015) is even less impressive, a dull fantasy in which a woman falls for an obnoxious ghost and tries to lift the curse that makes him materialize every Christmas. Apparently just blindly picking every streaming Christmas movie Netflix offers is not a winning strategy. “Do they have chicken vindaloo in the hereafter?”

Jason Bateman and TJ Miller hold the ultimate OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY (2016) in hopes of convincing investor Courtney B. Vance that their corporate culture is about Having Funny instead of The Bottom Line, and pay no attention to CEO Jennifer Aniston threatening to shut them down. This was the DVD I watched Kill! to get and it proved worth it — not as outrageous as it wants to be (the hook is seeing them do all the stuff at the party that HR never allows in the real world), but fun. With Kate McKinnon as an uptight HR executive (“I filed a sexual harassment complaint on myself.”) and Olivia Munn as a tech whiz. “If you’re planning to have intercourse tonight, please go beyond the floodlights at the edge of the property and into the Rite-Aid parking lot.”

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