Last Christmas – Paul Feig

 

Emilia Clarke in the movie Last Christmas.

Last Christmas starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, and Emma Thompson.
Photo credit: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures

Last Christmas, named after the iconic Christmas song by Wham!, is the first “real” holiday movie of the season to hit theatres. The term “real” is used in this review to emphasize that it is not produced by Hallmark and features a storyline different from the typical single-and-snowed-in-at-an-idyllic-country-lodge narrative that we are all used to by now. Last Christmas introduces us to Kate (Emilia Clarke), a young woman who seems to be stuck in a rut and can’t find her way out of the cycle of bad decisions that has become her life. Last Christmas is a romantic comedy through-and-through, complete with witty banter and laugh out loud moments, but – unlike a lot of Hallmark movies – the caliber of the actors allows the story to go a little bit deeper without losing the interest of the audience.

As the title leads one to believes, the film takes place during the Christmas season, which means the London streets are often filled with soft, romantic lights; a few light snow flurries; and people bundled up in warm clothing – the perfect scene for falling in love. But Last Christmas isn’t just about one character falling in love with another, it’s actually more about Kate learning to love herself and really existing instead of just being. Admittedly, it sounds pretty cliché, but you likely won’t be going to see this movie if you aren’t at least a little bit prepared for that type of thing. Over the course of 1hr and 43 mins we learn more about why Kate is the way she is and are introduced to the people who inspire her to climb out of the life-ditch.

A photo of Emilia Clarke, star of Last Christmas (movie) released in November.

Kate (Emilia Clarke) dressed as an elf for her job at a year-round Christmas shop in London.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures

Kate works as a cashier/elf at a year-round Christmas store run by an Asian woman (Michelle Yeoh) in the heart of London and seems to have lost all passion for her job, her family, and (in most cases) her dignity. At his point she is living off of the generosity of her friends and the patience of her boss and seems to have hit something close to rock-bottom. Enter uber-hunk Tom (Henry Golding). The mysterious Tom pursues Kate and the two seem to complement each other as they go on late night treks through the city streets – Kate is a disaster surrounded by constant drama and Tom seems to have it all figured out. Per the no spoilers policy, there’s not much more that can be said in terms of plot, but it’s certainly worth watching for those who generally find these Christmas-themed romantic-comedies appealing.

One of the highlights of this movie is Kate’s mother (Emma Thompson), who is a Yugoslavian immigrant who is overbearing, critical, and generally depressed with her own life. It is not unexpected given her track record, but Oscar-winner Emma Thompson (who also happened to be the producer and screenwriter) steals every scene she is in. The dynamics between her and the rest of the family feel very real and every interaction is fun to watch. There may be critics that say her accent isn’t correct or it’s too stereotypical – if that’s something you care about then this movie probably isn’t for you in the first place.

Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson star in Last Christmas, a romantic comedy.

Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson play mother and daughter in Last Christmas.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures

The beginning of the movie, particularly the first interactions between Kate and Tom, feels a little forced and not quite natural at times – which may be a result of the writing – but Last Christmas quickly finds its rhythm. In fact, it’s something that many viewers will not even notice (or will soon forget) as the story unfolds. The runtime is perfect and as long as this type of film is your cup of tea, you won’t ever be bored. If you liked the trailer, you will like the movie. It’s as simple as that. The (right) audience will love it and most (if not all) critics will condemn it – which is echoed pretty clearly in the Rotten Tomatoes scores.

Paul Feig (A Simple FavorSpyThe HeatBridesmaids) directs this charming tale in a way that’s a lot more family friendly than some of his other films. There’s no raunch and no awkward scenes that would make you want to avoid watching it with parents and children. All characters in this movie are loveable and were created with that notion in mind, even the ones who only appear for a couple of minutes at a time.

If you’re looking for a wholesome story, a few laughs, a couple tears, and some really good-looking people, Last Christmas will fit the bill. Oh, and if none of this convinces you, the entire soundtrack is George Michael hits. Yes, including the beloved “Last Christmas”.

Last Christmas was released on Nov 8th, 2019.

Last Christmas movie reviews according to Rotten Tomatoes

Watch the official trailer here:

Red Sparrow – Francis Lawrence

Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton.
Photo Credit : Twentieth Century Fox

If you’re looking for an R-rated film with a take-no-prisoners female lead, graphic violence, and full frontal nudity, look no further – Red Sparrow has it all. Unlike most spy movies, this one does everything it can to deglamorize the spy world. Red Sparrow tries to shock you at every turn, and for the most part it succeeds. This is the main reason the film’s reception was hot and cold for the most part. Some found it intriguing and suspenseful, while others were overwhelmed with the violence and thought it cheapened the bleak tale of survival.

The story features a secret Russian government training program that trains its agents to use their bodies and intellect to extract intelligence information from unsuspecting marks. In this case, the mark is a C.I.A agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) who is caught up in a complicated Russian-American intelligence battle. It turns out former ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is something of an expert in the art of seduction and is tasked with getting Nash to reveal his source, a high-ranking Russian mole. The plotline starts out simple enough, with Egovora being unwillingly thrust into the spy world,  learning the ‘tricks’ of the trade, and beginning her mission. It gets more and more complicated as it goes on as you aren’t sure about anyone’s motives (but that’s the deal with spies, no?). All you do know is that Egovora wants out of the life, and at any cost. Despite the mind-boggle, Red Sparrow stays interesting and – in true spy-thriller fashion – concludes with an epic triple-twist.  It also features the most realistic knife fight ever to be seen on screen. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but altogether a really impressive scene for all involved.

Director Francis Lawrence, best known for three Hunger Games films (Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 & Part 2) and I Am Legend, has worked with Jennifer Lawrence and is clearly familiar with her talent. Her craft is certainly on display in Red Sparrow – from her Russian accent to her brief stint as a ballerina to a disturbing rape scene, she is undeniably one of the best actresses of our time and is as far away from being typecast as possible. While he may have directed a number of music videos in the early 2000’s for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Will Smith (for real…), Francis Lawrence clearly has a passion for darker, dystopian-style films, and Red Sparrow is an obvious example of that. Supporting actors include Jeremy Irons,  Matthias Schoenaerts, and Charlotte Rampling

All in all, Red Sparrow is a good watch. But while some people may have raved about it (in a positive way), it isn’t likely they (or anyone else) will be in the mood to watch it more than once. However, if you can withstand the wrenching torture scenes and typically enjoy a good thriller, taking the time to see it at least once is recommended. You will more than likely be satisfied with the ending – it’s one that sticks with you – and it’s almost-always exciting to see the darker side of the intelligence game. As mentioned before, the spy life depicted in this thriller is anything but glamorous. It turns out it’s not all disguises and martinis after all.

Watch the official trailer here: