Film Review: Happiest Season

Talented multi-hyphenate Clea DuVall (The Intervention) has achieved nothing short of a miracle with her sophomore feature, Happiest Season. She has made me love a Christmas movie. If you know me, you understand just how grand a feat this is. I have literally said “Bah, Humbug” out loud on more than one occasion. I’m not a full-on Grinch, mind you. Because I have kids, I’ve had to find things to love about the holidays. But you’ll never catch me watching a Hallmark holiday movie marathon. I think A Christmas Story and It’s A Wonderful Life are outdated and overrated. I’d rather roast my own chestnuts than watch Love, Actually or A Christmas Prince. On the other hand, if you told me someone was playing a marathon of Clea DuVall’s queer holiday rom-com, Happiest Season, I would be there with bells on.

Happiest Season follows Abby (Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis, Tully), a fun, co-habitating couple who are nevertheless fresh enough in their relationship that they have unspoken plans to spend the looming holidays apart. Abby’s parents died when she was 19 and she’s pretty much ignored Christmas ever since. Harper’s parents live in an idyllic town 50 miles outside Pittsburg where her conservative family celebrates the holidays in a major way. In the heat of a romantic moment, Harper invites Abby to come home with her, only to backpedal the next morning. But Abby remains so moved by the invitation that she insists on following through…

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H2N Review: A Date for Mad Mary


Irish writer/director Darren Thornton’s feature, A Date for Mad Mary, is an outstanding debut. After serving 6 months in prison for assault “Mad” Mary McArdle (Séana Kerslake) finds that she remains grandfathered into the “Maid of Honor” position for her childhood best friend’s impending nuptials. Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) wants her big day to be perfect, and she repeatedly lets Mary know that she doesn’t trust her to do the job right. She all but strips Mary of her title, in the feigned interest of not wanting to put too much pressure on her. After all, Mary has enough on her plate what with finding the one man in her small town that hasn’t been scared off by her reputation and would be willing to be her plus one for the wedding.

A Date for Mad Mary is a comedy, but it’s not exactly a romantic comedy. It’s more about how changing friendships can sometimes be as painful as a breakup. It’s also about the challenge of overcoming your demons when everyone you love believes that you can’t. Most of all, it’s a film about forgiveness and how incredibly hard a thing that is. Despite having done her time, everyone in Mary’s life seems to hold some resentment for her past misdeeds. She can smell it on them. And so she repeatedly gives them the Mary they expect, even as she realizes that it’s not who she is anymore…

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Hammer to Nail Review: First Girl I Loved


Teenagers get a bad rap for being difficult. And while that’s not a false accusation, it’s also not entirely their fault. They are minutes past being children but suddenly expected to take on a slew of new responsibilities including figuring out what kind of person they want to be, all while attempting to keep their surging hormones at bay. Writer/director Kerem Sanga’s First Girl I Loved is an astoundingly accurate depiction of the agony of first heartbreak for Anne, a teenager who is simultaneously coming to terms with being gay – something that still isn’t as much of a non-issue as it should be.

Anne (Dylan Gelula, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) is a bit of a weirdo but she embraces it. She revels in taking photos for the yearbook and ditching school with her best friend, Cliff (Mateo Arias). Everything gets upended, however, when Anne falls for Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand, Deadpool), the popular star of the school softball team. Anne pretends to interview Sasha for the yearbook as a ruse to meet her. They hit it off and soon are hanging out and texting late into the night. Anne is awash with a cocktail of elation and anxiety; thrilled to have such definitive romantic feelings for someone, but unsure if her love is requited. To complicate matters, when Anne reveals her crush to Cliff, coming out to him in the process, he responds with aggression and jealousy. Much to Anne’s shock and dismay, Cliff’s reaction destroys their friendship and triggers an avalanche of transgressions from all parties within the love triangle…

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90 minutes


We all have our baggage. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it weigh us down. Just ask George Takei. He came to fame via his role as Sulu in the Star Trek franchise but has since reinvented himself several times over, first as an aspiring politician and most recently a gay rights activist and playwright. His activism stems well beyond equality for sexual orientation. He’s also a spokesperson for universal love and acceptance and seeing the humor in everything. He has spread his relentless optimism to over 7 million Facebook followers, not to mention comic con attendees the world over. Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary profiles the life and achievements of this undeniably charming man and explores just why it’s so awesome “To Be Takei.”

What’s George got to be so happy about? Well, for starters, he’s alive and well. Having spent part of his childhood imprisoned in American internment camps for U.S. citizens of Japanese descent (thanks to a shameful decision by Roosevelt following the bombing of Pearl Harbor) he appreciates the little things. He’s got a loving, supportive husband and partner of 25 years named Brad, who also keeps the show running behind the scenes, handling the dirty work so that Takei can remain upbeat and affable.

Surprisingly, not everyone loves George. Of course, there are all the anti-gay politicians who look terribly foolish whenever they attempt to engage him in an equality debate. More puzzling is the animosity from his former colleague, William Shatner. Shatner waffles between denying a personal relationship with Takei (despite having worked on 6 movies and 3 seasons of television) and acting hurt because he (erroneously) believes he was left off the invite list for George and Brad’s wedding. Another thing Shatner is weirdly sore about: Sulu’s character getting a promotion to Captain in “Star Trek VI.”

Because of his positive attitude, Takei has very few regrets in life, though one of them is listening to his agent early in his career and taking stereotypical Asian roles to “further his career.” He also regrets having blamed his father for extending their stay in the camps by refusing to sign an entrapping “Loyalty Letter” to the U.S.

Though Takei never had the chance to apologize to his father before he died, he was able to exorcise his regret through an original musical about the internment camps called “Allegiance.” He sang to his father every night on stage during its successful run in San Diego and later on Broadway.

Despite a slightly meandering structure, “To Be Takei” is a highly entertaining and moving portrait. Like Takei himself, it doesn’t dwell in the negative. It covers all the trying times in his life. But just when your eyes start to sting, the levity returns. Takei’s philosophy is simple. “It takes an optimistic attitude to get over something like internment and be able to achieve things… you determine your own destiny.” Mission accomplished, Captain.

Originally published on (now defunct).