Dog’s Movie House: “Mank,” “Christmas Chronicles 2” Highlight What To Watch This Week!

Let’s get started with the gem of the bunch. “Mank” is the nickname for one Herman Manckiewicz (a terrific Gary Oldman) a legendary Hollywood screenwriter who is best known for crafting the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.” Laid up in a small town after a car wreck, he has sixty days to complete the script and it his during his recovery that the film flashes back through his life and his interactions with Hollywood’s elite, including such luminaries as Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), studio head Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and of course, the redoubtable Orson Welles (a wonderful Tom Burke, doing Welles’ voice and imperious manner to perfection.)

The film plays out almost as a series of vignettes which would be problematic were said vignettes not so damn good. Fincher, working from a script by his late father, shoots the film in glorious black and white, filling the frame with such atmosphere that it really feels like a love letter to the golden age of Hollywood. All of the performances are fantastic, with Oldman shoving himself again to the forefront of the coming Oscar race. Seyfried is also a standout as Davies as she attempts, unsuccessfully, to keep her new friend Mank from basing “Kane” on her vindictive sugar daddy Hearst.

“Mank” is a film that manages to feel both like a throwback and a timely film at the same time, with the politics of media and celebrity feeling as relevant now as they were back then. The depiction of the studio system feels authentic without feeling overly nostalgic and that is a true achievement from Fincher and his team. This one is an awards contender folks! If you like wonderful filmmaking, “Mank” is definitely for you! 4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!

Next we have “The Christmas Chronicles 2” which is the inevitable sequel to the popular Netflix film that showed up a couple of years ago. The plot, about a couple of kids trying to help Santa (a returning Kurt Russell) save Christmas from a nefarious elf, is all boiler plate and fairly rote, but this film gets by on a lot of charm and confident direction by genre veteran Chris Columbus (“Home Alone” Harry Potter”). The charm comes from another committed performance by Russell as the gruff, somewhat buff Santa Claus. Aiding in the enjoyment is the bubbly bundle of joy that is Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus. This film serves as the longstanding couple’s first film together since 1987’s “Overboard.” Their love for each other and their obvious chemistry shows as they are clearly having a ball here. The other performances are just fine if not a little underwritten and the effects work is a bit above average (Columbus knows about directing tentpoles of course). The script even manages to throw in a little Santa and Christmas history here and there and I think that’s a good thing personally.

Overall, “Christmas Chronicles 2” would be just okay on it’s own, but the addition of Russell and Hawn elevate the film to something that’s genuinely entertaining and heartfelt. Give me those two and ditch the stereotypical kiddie plot and you might have yourself a legit holiday classic! 3 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

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