Tag Archives: Jessica Biel

Tony’s Retro Reviews – I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Release: November 13, 1998 homeforchristmas

I sat down for I’ll Be Home For Christmas. This flick was made at the peak of the popularity of Home Improvement. The show that launched the career of young Jonathan Taylor Thomas; the star of this little Christmas bag of sleazy-feel-good.

I sat down with an open mind, and got up after with the same: a gaping hole where my brian used to be.

This flick hit theaters when I was but a little lad of 10. I really idolized JTT because he was a kid who was famous. And could only make good films like WIld America. I was such a stupid child.

Directed by Arlene Sanford, who also unleashed A Very Brady Sequel onto humanity as well as a slew of TV episodes; I’ll Be Home For Christmas also stars the lovely, pre-Timberlake Jessica Bieland Gary Cole.

The film starts off with with Jake (Thomas) a young crafty college student with all the right answers, asking his lady-friend (Biel) to join him on a trip down south (not a double-entendre) only to be shot down because she wants to spend time with her family in New-York. Coincidentally, this is where young Jake is from too.

Always avoiding a trip home since his father (cole) remarried, Jake changes his tune when daddy offers his beloved 1957 Porche as a bribe to get Jake to come home for Christmas dinner. The catch? He has to be home by 6pm sharp!

Unfortunately for Jake, he runs into trouble with former “clients” when one of his schemes goes awry. He’s then got to get home, save his relationship and win a car all the while wearing a Santa costume and no money to boot. He’s gotta do all that and learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Heart warming? Nope.

Like many things from my childhood, this should have stayed buried in the back of my closet until they found me in the desert somewhere down south with a Santa costume and a bottle of Jack!

What Worked For This Film:

– The pacing. This film chugs right along like the little engine that could. I never really felt like this film was too long in length.

– The dialog and humour. This is actually what I miss most about comedies from the 90’s. Nothing was too over the top. Yes, the acting sucked. But I could sit back and actually believe this scenario.

What Didn’t Work For This Film:

– The Acting. There’s a reason The Hallmark Channel now airs this.

– The lack of a true B-plot. Yes Jake’s main want is the car and his need is to learn about the true meaning of Christmas and accepting his father’s new wife, but they could have played more into Biel’s character’s doubt in Jake as a boyfriend. She was just too flat of a character to have been given so much camera time.

– The moral. Yeah Jake finally realizes that he should be going home during the holiday break to see his family and not to win a car. But It really does feel like he just clicked into that mentality once he finally did make it to New York. The whole trip there he didn’t really look like he was evolving at all.

The Lowdown:

I said it before and I’ll repeat it for good measure: There’s a reason this plays on The Hallmark Channel now. This movie is kinda boring. I believe it was intended to attract a younger audience than the general “family film” but in it’s delivery I can’t really find a suitable audience for this film to enjoy. Maybe spider monkeys. They’ll watch anything with JTT in it.

So when searching through your vast holiday film collection to curl up next to the fire while watching; you can just skip right on over it to another Christmas film starring a Home Improvement alumni: Christmas With The Kranks! … Or maybe not.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas gets THE TOILET.

Tony’s Retro Reviews – Playing for Keeps

Release date: December 7, 2012 

This holiday season, what do you really want? The Lego Star Wars Planets: Series 3. I’m not joking.

Just by looking at the theatrical poster of Playing For Keeps I had a feeling I was about to see the standard 21st century romantic comedy. Thankfully I was kind of wrong.

This flick is directed by Gabriele Muccino, who has brought us a slur of Italian flicks and L’Ultimo Bacio, which is the original The Last Kiss which was remade in America in 2006. Already, my prediction was beginning to change. Only a fool doesn’t change his mind every now and again.

Besides being a vehicle for real-life womanizer Gerard Butler, Playing For Keeps stars hollywood heavyweights Jessica “Playing Mommies Now” Biel, Dennis “Vegas Boy” Quaid, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy “Hot Damn” Greer. Joining this rag tag bunch is Noah Lomax who might be cozy with Greer as they’ve played together on the short lived TV show Mad Love.

Playing For Keeps follows Scottish Spartan George Dyer (Butler) as he navigates his life post-soccer stardom as he matures as a person while mending bridges with his ex-wife (Biel) and soccer playing son (Lomax.) He gets caught up as his son’s team’s coach and quickly catches the eye of single soccer-moms and douchey dads alike.

What was unique with Playing For Keeps is that it’s much less of a love story and more a pseudo coming of age story. Dryer must grow up and take responsibility in his life and prove to his son that he’s there for him. Thankfully, the interactions with his son felt much more realistic than those with Biel, making their on-screen time enjoyable. The ending of the film is given away moments past the opening montage, so if you paid any attention at all you had this film ending long before your girlfriend’s first bathroom break.


– The comedy. For a romantic-comedy, writer Robbie Fox hit the nail on the head of the latter. Well timed and paced this film may not have you slapping your knee like Forgetting Sarah Marshal, but it will keep your date from getting to an awkward place.

– Noah Lomax. This kid is a pretty solid thespian. Legit. It never felt like the director had to whisper some lines into his ear and turn the camera on quickly so he could just repeat them like a Yak Bak, or The Olson twins.

– The random moments with Dryer’s landlord Param played by Iqbal Theba. This guys also plays Abed’s dad on Community. Random and quick. Probably could have been cut entirely from the film and it wouldn’t have changed much motivation wise. But you would have lost a lot of laughs.

– Judy Greer. Hot. Redhead. Kinda bipolar crazy. Yeah…..


– The script. It was bland and meh. Really nothing special. However with the caliber of talent spitting out the hallmark greeting card lines, it as good as it could be: acceptable.


Far far from the stage come The Oscars, Playing For Keeps is a surprisingly solid flick. Beware the lactose intolerants, this flick has more cheese than a Montreal Poutine. Luckily, it’s balanced out well by some solid performances and great laughs. If you have a date coming up and want something perfect to keep the mood going, watch Playing For Keeps as it Passes Inspection.