Well I guess we can say, "'tis the season."
The annual onslaught of Christmas movies has begun. In what has almost become an early Christmas present, these movies come at us as soon as Halloween is over. You can find these all over on Hallmark or Netflix. But this year, if you watch Lifetime, you won't be able to miss the Central Coast in a starring role in the film A Very Charming Christmas Town.
These types of movies have become a genre onto themselves, and they bring along a dedicated following of people who love them. During the premiere, almost a million people tuned in to watch this TV movie set in the real famous Danish style village of Solvang. This review might be slightly different than our rest, since we actually had a hand in helping the production, which you may know by now. But we still want to give an honest review of the movie.
There's no spoiler warnings for this movie, because as with this genre, there really is no spoilers. They are so formulaic that you can tell what's going to happen based on just the log line description of the movie. There is going to be a "meet cute" moment, eventual romance, a breakup and then coming back together; all the while there's going to be snow or Christmas lights in every shot possible. This movie does not stray from that formula. But the question is, does this matter? Short answer is, "no!" Because of the skill of the writer and director, we are able to look past the formula and buy into the experience, no matter how familiar it may be. We love to watch happy movies, and this is a happy movie served with danish pastries and chocolate. What's not to love?
I have a personal connection with this film on many levels. Being the official Solvang Film Liaison at the time, I worked with the production company and took them on their first tour of the town and told them all about the history and culture of Solvang. I also explained what Christmas was like as I was the one who would play the Christmas events there, including the parade, tree lighting and tours. So watching this movie hit home, because it follows a reporter from LA who comes to "tourist trap" Solvang to do a story and is taken on a tour by the local community coordinator. It only sounded vaguely familiar. Of course, in the end she falls in love with the town and charming tour guide as it begins to snow.
But what blew me away was how much of the script incorporated the true history and elements of Christmas in Solvang. The Nisse (Danish elves) scavenger hunt, the story about why there are storks on rooftops and even why the architecture is the way it is was all things I loved sharing with guests and they're in the movie! From sampling chocolates and pastries, to walking on candlelight tours and riding the horse trolly, they captured the special elements of the town. Also, the production took care in not hiding or making up names of the businesses. Those are the real names of the stores and not made up. You can actually go there and experience what they did in the movie.
One of the other things that I was blown away by was the credits of this movie. Sure it was nice to see my cameo get a on screen credit and have special thanks shouted out to me, but I was so happy to see the local extras who came out to fill the streets of Solvang get named as well. What production company does that? When CCFS put out the call for extras, I had no idea they were going to do that and it means a lot to us here.
Was it cheesy? Yes. Was it sappy? Yes. Was it a bit jumbled together? A little. Could you tell the snow on the ground was just layers of cotton? Sure. Was it a heartwarming Christmas movie showing off a charming and unique Central Coast town? You bet.
Hopefully this movie will help serve as inspirations of millions of people to visit Solvang in the future in a post Covid-19 world. Solvang is funded 51% by overnight tourism (hotel tax), not including sales tax from all the shops and restaurants. The Solvang hospitality industry, its life force, has been hit hard this year. I personally hope this film helps in some fashion to bring people back when it is safe.
In the meantime, watch this movie and you'll be warmed up by the charm. Have some chocolate while you watch too and it'll almost be like you were actually there. Remember, it's just a Christmas movie... you'll enjoy it.
Overall, 3.5/5 stars from me!
PS: You can also watch this four minute clip below and get a sense of the film.
Yes, it is still October and there is a little election that's still going to happen in a few weeks, so we might be a little preoccupied. BUT there is something for us all to look forward to. The Lifetime Christmas movie, A Very Charming Christmas Town is set to air in exactly one month, on Sunday, November 8th at 8pm.
This film is about a city girl and travel and lifestyle blogger, Aubrey Lang, who goes to the little town of Solvang for her next holiday vlog piece after it’s voted Most Christmassy Town in the USA. She soon meets Sawyer Larsen, a local community coordinator and chocolate shop owner assigned to show her around the small town. At first, the unlikely pairing is at odds but soon start to fall for each other amidst the twinkling lights of the romantic little Danish village.
The Central Coast Film Society's Executive Director, Daniel Lahr had the pleasure of acting as the film liaison for the production and with Solvang. "Getting to help the production prominently showcase one of the most Christmasy towns in America was so much fun. I was involved early on in pre-production, before a script was even written, and helped give the writer and director, Jake Helgren, a sense of the spirit people experience in Solvang during Christmas time," explains Lahr. "I haven't read the final script, and haven't seen it yet, but I'm looking forward to it."
Lahr was also asked by the production to help find extras to fill the background of the busy streets of Solvang. "We put out a call on our Central Coast Film Society social media pages, and the response was huge! So many people wanted to be a part of it. I know there's a lot of locals from the Central Coast who will appear in the movie." Lahr also has a cameo appearance during the finale of the film. "I do make a quick appearance at the end. It was super quick, so it may have been cut. I guess we'll find out on November 8th."
Lahr also commented that he hopes the movie will help support the tourism dependent town regain some of it's visitors after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Liftetime Christmas movies will get at least 1 million views for each film.
Were you a part of the shoot? Did you see them filming during December 2019? Are you looking forward to it? Check out some behind the scene photos and trailer below.
This photo is not a still from the movie TENET, it's the film's stars trying to explain the script to one another. I, of course, am just kidding about the photo, but this movie was just a "whoa."
I was SO excited to finally get my butt in the theaters again. It was all totally safe and other guests are really far out and spread around, nowhere near me. Plus we all had masks on when we did not have popcorn going in out mouths. But I wish my first movie in over six months was a little better than this.
It starts out as a decent action flick, but immediately you see the issues with this movie will lie in the writing and editing. The pacing is so fast you'll break your neck and then get lost while you're at it. What seems to be Inception 2 turns out to be even more disjointed than Inception. There was very little time taken to develop any sort of relationships with the characters. Writer and Director Christopher Nolan has his unique touch of cinema, which is sleek and stylish, but here he wanted to cram so much into an already crammed movie. This one movie needed to be a trilogy, and perhaps he's burnt out on trilogies.
Some of the ideas and concepts put into the film were great, but were delivered at lightning speed. All it takes is a blink and you missed it moment and you're lost totally. You have to remind yourself in the theater you can't pause, rewind and listen again to what you missed. This is the movies, people. Put your game face on! But other parts of the story began to be telegraphed and very predictable.
But really, the three acts of this movie were three totally different movies. The first was so grounded in reality that you're on the edge of your seat trying to keep up with high stakes art dealer talk, over tea with a splash of MI-6 thrown in for good measure. Then it's a mobster type movie with our villain, which was actually the highlight of the movie, played by Kenneth Branagh. And finally it's an all out time war with mind splitting open action that you're trying to comprehend before you're smashed out with a new shiny plot device altogether.
All in all, it had its cool moments, but way too much cinema packed into a two and a half hour movie. We need to be eased back into movies after quarantine, and this didn't really do the trick. So if you were to ask me "how was the first blockbuster of 2020?" I'd say, "It was very 2020."
A part of the Central Coast is breathing a little easier today with news coming from the San Luis Obispo County Health Department okaying some indoor businesses to reopen, which includes movie theaters at 25% capacity. Other businesses are restaurants, gyms and places of worship.
The question is will theaters still open up with the modifications for just 25% coming in, if that's enough to make their shortfalls. There's still not any word as to what modifications will be in place at theaters, or when any will open. CinemaSafe is an organization that helps promote safe cinema experiences and has laid out a plan for theaters to follow.
Will you be going to the movie theaters as soon as they re-open?
Check out San Luis Obispo County Health Department's video on the "Red Tier" status below.
I love going to family owned theaters, and I love going to the Park Cinema Theater in Paso Robles. First, if you haven't been, the park and square in Paso Robles has almost a "Hill Valley" feel with their iconic downtown "Courthouse Square." But this is real. There are many great shops and restaurants all around the square, and of course there's a movie theater where they play first run movies. It was a perfect place to spend the evening. The Park Cinema Theater is the only one in the city of Paso Robles, a city of over 32,000 people and a booming city for wine tourism. But with the onslaught of Covid-19, the days of the theater may be numbered.
The owners of the theater, the Roush Family, have put out a desperate call for help. An open plea for them to save their theater, which has been operated by the family since James Cameron's Titanic sailed on the screen. They have set up a GoFundMe account with the hopes of raising a quarter of a million dollars to help save the theater. They also have a lot of other ways you can help support the theater in these unprecedented times. Such as:
Please consider helping this business, who also greatly support local charities. Visit their website and GoFundMe pages for more information.
So I'm not going to lie...
I've got the movie theater blues, bad! I've been wanting to get back into a theater and watch movies, just like we used to back in the good ol' days, pre COVID-19. But alas, the world is a different place and I don't get to do that yet. Hopefully soon there will be a way we can all get together again and watch movies in theaters and laugh and cry all together. It's really a cathartic experience, which is also why I truly believe movie theaters will live on. But for now, I get to watch new releases from the comfort of my home.
Bill and Ted was one of my favorites growing up as a kid in the 80's. Just enough zany antics to keep any young boy giggling away. The pop culture references of the 80's was all throughout it. It was just a fun ride and got to do something fun that school kids could connect with, which is putting on a history report with the real people to do it for you. The sequel was another fun adventure but dealt with heaven and hell, and even aliens. It was fun.
So when Bill and Ted: Face the Music became available, I had a good feeling this would rekindle my old love of the series and help me get through my movie theater blues. After watching, I declared this movie to be "most non-triumphant."
The movie is pure fan service, from beginning to end. That can only get you so far. There was so much more Bill and Ted traveling in time to go talk to themselves, which got old really fast. Their kids are just female versions of themselves and nothing to do with the princess babes they rescued in the first movie, other than they are females. The "historic" musical figures they collect to put the band together was just kind of "meh." I wanted more Genghis Kahn savaging a mall wearing football pads, or Napoleon going down waterslides.
Instead we're treated with "hey you made music in the past, come with us for a jam session." This is what Bill and Ted's daughters do while they are off trying to steal the universe saving song from themselves. To not spoil anything of note, they all end up dead and on Death's doorstep, literally. But then they get into an argument about how Death was breaking up the band and argued about the falling out. It's a shame that all the returning characters from the old movies didn't really get a chance to shine. Bill and Ted also seem to have no character arc at all in the past 20 years since we have seen them. Ted maybe a little more so, but maybe that's because Keanu Reaves is a much seasoned actor, who can thank the original movie for giving him his stardom, so he put in a little more effort here... just a little.
I was expecting zany, stupid and off-the-wall things to happen. That's just what this is. But I was left disappointed that it all seemed so rushed. The pacing is rushed, including the finale which almost cuts to credits with a murderous slash in the middle of the song. The production looks like it was rushed with far too many green-screen shots than I bet any of the past movies combined. It also looks like it was cheaply made. But then again, that was true to the style of the first two movies, but I feel they could have tried a little harder. There's a part where they go to ancient China and you can easily see camouflage netting just through the trees and fog. They obviously shot somewhere like the gardens of the Huntington Library in Los Angeles and needed to block out all the modern buildings and used that. Again, it seemed rushed and cheap. And don't get me started on the "murder robot" that was trying to be a Terminator.
To be fair, I still giggled at some parts. I smiled and laughed when there were inside moments that built on the past movies. But to me, it was too few and far between. If the movie happens to come on your streaming service, and you liked the past movies, give it a watch. Don't pay for it specifically. I was left wanting more... and I'm not sure what else I really could have asked Bill and Ted for, which was totally bogus.
Actor, writer and director, Rob Reiner, son of Carl Reiner announced the death of his father, Carl Reiner via twitter. He passed away at his home at the age of 98 last night.
Carl is credited with helping create some of the most memorable comedy ever filmed. He was a part of Sid Ceaser's team to create the Dick Van Dyke Show and worked with countless others in the comedy world, including George Burns, Steve Martin and Mel Brooks. He also lent his voice to many cartoon shows including Family Guy and even as recent as Toy Story 4 in 2019. He is also know for his role in the 2001 hit, Ocean's Eleven and it's sequel.
Carl was makes an appearance in the hit classic film It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World as the Tower Controller for the Rancho Conejo Airport, located here on the Central Coast. The scene is one of the most memorable with some of the most crazy airplane stunts caught on film. The Rancho Conejo Airport was removed shortly after filming to make way for Los Robles Greens golf course and the 101 Freeway.
The California State Government has okayed productions to get back to work and allow cameras to once again begin rolling on June 12th, after being shutdown in early March by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The news came as the state's Public Health Department issued guidelines on schools, gyms and casinos as well. There was just one paragraph devoted to productions, which essentially gives more flexibility to the individual productions, studios, unions and/or county officials. Below is from the California Department of Public Health on the matter:
Guidance for Music, Film and Television Production
According to Variety, many of the protocols and job functions are yet to be determined, but a study estimated the new procedures could increase production costs by as much as 20%. No exact word on how productions on location may operate, and only time will tell at this point.
How do you feel about finally getting cameras rolling in California again?
Variety is reporting that Cineworld, the parent company of Regal, is anticipating reopening theaters in July after being closed since mid March.
The article says that in a statement to investors on May 28th, Cineworld said it anticipates that government restrictions related to cinemas will be lifted in each of its territories by July. “Subject to this and confirmation of the schedule for film releases, Cineworld anticipates the reopening of all of its cinemas in July.”
The company also stated that they will have new security and safety features installed to deal with the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is aimed "to ensure a safe and enjoyable cinema experience for its employees and customers."
As for what movies they will show, they plan on showing Christopher Nolan movie “Tenet” and immediately after that, Disney’s live-action version of “Mulan.” However, no specific date has been given for any theaters to reopen.
What do you think about the reopening of theaters? Will you be going back?
Variety has an article out today that was talking about how Tom Cruise has a serious need for speed. NASA administrator Jim Bridentsine tweeted that "NASA is exited to work with @TomCruise on a film aboard the @Space_Station!"
Plot details have not been revealed, although Deadline Hollywood reports that it will not be an installment of Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” franchise. It is also reported that Cruise has been working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and were in the early stages of teaming up with NASA for an action-adventure feature film. NASA confirmed this would be the first feature film to be shot in outer-space.
Cruise is known for doing all of his own stunts and it is expected that he will make the journey to the International Space Station for the film. No word on any other aspects of crew, equipment or other details that may hint to the production. Films have been made at the ISS in the past, but not a narrative feature film. However, Bridenstine sees this as a major plus hoping to "inspire a new generation."
The Central Coast has beautiful evening skies, which make our launches from Vandenberg AFB all the more dramatic. But also, it's a perfect place to spot the ISS orbiting overhead. So make sure to look up and watch the newest out-of-this-world filming location when cameras roll. Check out the schedule of flyovers here.
What do you think about the news? Looking forward to real space movies?