When I say I cover all things holiday over at Hallmarkies Podcast well I mean what I say and today’s review is proof of this! Opening this week we have 2 wildly different Christmas themed movies but I enjoyed both and both take their holiday origins to spark creativity and joy in their own ways.
JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM-
Before I give my review I had the opportunity to interview the director, Adam Anders, after I saw the film. He was also on the creative team behind Glee and High School Musical so it’s a fun interview. Give it a listen!
I wouldn’t be surprised if Journey to Bethlehem isn’t treated kindly by most critics. It takes creative swings that will definitely be divisive. I am more curious to see how the faith-based market responds to it, as it’s not typically a market that gets artistic visions or creative storytelling.
As for me, a non-traditional Christian and more importantly in this case lover of musicals I really enjoyed Journey to Bethlehem. They do a challenging thing taking a story we know well and injecting energy and passion into it and reminding us of themes within that typically don’t get emphasized.
For example, Mary and Joseph’s love story is amplified in the narrative. We sometimes forget how risky it was for Mary to be an unwed mother at that time and for Joseph to marry her despite her pregnancy was a bold move. This is true whether you believe in the divinity of her pregnancy or not.
They also have a lot of fun with Antonio Banderas’ take on Herod. It’s a great example of an actor who knows his job and brings it with just enough camp to sell the role. His song “Good to Be King” is a musical highlight and a ton of fun.
The rest of the music is what you would expect from a creator of Glee. It’s big and brassy and if you know me that’s what I love. My other favorite song is “The Ultimate Deception” where Joseph battles with an angel and devil telling him what he should do with Mary. It’s very clever and well sung by Milo Manheim (who has huge charisma here as well as in this year’s Prom Pact)
Some religious viewers will bristle at the modern interpretations to the story in Journey to Bethlehem but since I’m not a traditionalist I appreciate the risks they took. I also like energetic musicals with big spectacle and that’s what I got here. It’s fun and that’s hard to do with a story like this. It captures the warmth and hope of the Christmas story with a burst of creativity and music. Sign me up!
8 out of 10
IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE-
Followers of my reviews know I’m not the biggest slasher fan but I have been trying to expand my palate in all genres in the last few years and I try to see all of the holiday films even if they are of the horror variety. When I saw the trailer for It’s a Wonderful Knife I figured it was either going to be super cringeworthy and cheap or a fun horror take on a story we know well. Fortunately after having seen the film I can say it is the latter. I’m so glad I enjoyed it because we are going to be doing a special episode of Hallmarkies Podcast on holiday horror in the next few weeks showcasing this film and my friend Lee from Drumdums youtube and Sean Chandler. They are horror experts so can speak to the movie’s quality within the genre but as a novice I had a lot of fun with it.
The movie takes the idea of alternate lives from It’s a Wonderful Life and adds a serial killer to the mix (I laugh just writing that!) It’s a pretty bloody movie but the plot is murders start happening in a small town and in desperation a teen wishes she’d never been born because she thinks she’s bad luck causing the murders.
Jane Widdop is likable as our grinchy lead. Justin Long is a favorite of mine and wonderful as the untrustworthy mayor and Joel McHale is terrific as Widdop’s father. Director Tyler MacIntyre creates eerie holiday tinged atmosphere and the tension builds with each murder.
The only thing that could have been improved is there aren’t very many nods or Easter eggs to the original film. They could have had more fun with that. Maybe name a character Potter or a bar named Martinis to pay homage? You don’t need to have seen the original film to enjoy this one and the movie isn’t as meta in that regard as I had hoped.
Still, if you are looking for a bloody good time this Christmas It’s a Wonderful Knife is a perfect choice. Give it a try. It just might surprise you!
7 out of 10
Merry Christmas movie watching!
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