Thursday, 30 March 2023

Gory ‘Violent Night’ holiday fun; ‘Mickey’ origin story


Looking for a different type of Christmas movie that won’t be found on the Hallmark Channel? “Violent Night” is it, and knowing this film comes from the producers of “John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde” and “Deadpool 2” should inform that the action will be a bit extreme.

On Christmas Eve in a London pub, David Harbour’s jaded Santa Claus is having an existential crisis about keeping his appointed rounds and lamenting the greed and self-interest of spoiled kids ruining the holiday spirit.

Back on his sleigh ride through the night, he ends up at a Greenwich, Connecticut mansion where he takes a break to snack on cookies and sip brandy, unaware that all hell will soon break loose at the wealthy Lightstone family gathering.

Led by the foul-mouthed matriarch Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo), the dysfunctional Lightstone family has gathered for tenuous Christmas Eve cheer that won’t overcome the bickering and recriminations of fairly obnoxious people.

Only Gertrude’s son Jason (Alex Hassell) and young daughter Trudy (Leah Brady), as well as Jason’s estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder), seem to be relatively normal human beings.

The holiday festivities are soon interrupted by a vicious psychopath codenamed Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo) staging a home invasion with his crew of heavily armed mercenaries as they plan to heist a large sum of cash stored in the basement vault.

The world-weary Santa Claus may be centuries old, but at one time he was a Viking warrior, or so it seems from flashbacks as well as his amazing ability to wield a sledgehammer as if he were Thor.

Inspired by the Santa-believer Trudy who has managed to hide in the attic to set booby traps, Santa is motivated to save the faithful young girl and rescue the hostages by going to all-out war with Mr. Scrooge’s elite team of combatants.

The word “violent” is in the title for good reason, because not-so-jolly Saint Nick channels his inner medieval fighter to enact gruesome violence where bad guys get impaled on a bed of nails, beheaded or thrust into a wood chipper, among other acts of carnage.

Amidst the bloody gore and violent action, there’s a twisted sense of humor to “Violent Night” to elicit laughs, which may give one pause to think this bloody action-comedy is a warped combination of “Home Alone” and “Die Hard.”

This film won’t suit everyone, but the element of fun mixed in with the mayhem may well catch on with an audience open to the antithesis of the usual holiday fare.


Three simple circles are all it takes to create the image of an iconic cartoon character. Take one quarter and strategically place two dimes as ears, and presto, you’ve got the outline of Mickey Mouse.

There is an undeniable cultural significance to a cartoon mouse that’s been around for nearly a century, and “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse,” a documentary streaming on Disney+, is here to tell the back story of the animated lovable rodent and its creator Walt Disney.

One of the world’s most beloved icons, Mickey Mouse is recognized as a symbol of joy and childhood innocence in virtually every corner of the globe, even if there are controversies that surround the cartoon mouse.

As an ambitious young artist who moved to Hollywood from Kansas City, Missouri, Walt Disney found initial success with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and then had it all taken away from him in a dispute over intellectual property rights with Universal Pictures.

In 1928, Disney created the character of Mickey Mouse with animator Ub Iwerks and provided Mickey’s distinctive high-pitched voice for decades, and it is inarguable that the mouse’s debut in “Steamboat Willie” launched a lucrative career and a global empire.

When producer Morgan Neville was approached by Disney+ about making a documentary on Mickey Mouse in 2018, he found the idea both exciting and daunting given that as a cultural documentarian the subject matter was fascinating.

According to Neville, “it’s hard to think of another symbol in our culture that has so many different sides. Mickey Mouse is a symbol of innocence and childhood as well as a symbol of America, a symbol of consumerism, a symbol of the counterculture.”

Not everything in the Disney kingdom is viewed favorably. The documentary examines some of the ways in which Disney animated shorts promulgated harmful ethnic, racial and gender stereotypes.

Notably problematic was the 1933 short “Mickey’s Mellerdrammer,” in which Mickey Mouse performed in blackface. Of course, judging a product nearly 90 years old on the basis of contemporary standards would inevitably result in flaws being revealed.

“Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” also follows the progress of master animators Eric Goldberg, Mark Henn and Randy Haycock, as they create the original animated short “Mickey in a Minute,” which traces Mickey’s adventures though the ages.

The hand-drawn process of animation is a highly specialized craft. This documentary sheds light on many aspects of the Mickey Mouse creation to interest animation buffs.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

03.30.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
04.01.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
04.01.2023 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Lake County Spring Dance Festival
04.01.2023 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Lake County Spring Dance Festival
04.03.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class
04.06.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
04.06.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild

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