Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kristin Kreuk

 Remember her? Well, she's still cute, and she's one year older today.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is kind of like the cinematic equivalent of having a meal at T.G.I. Fridays. The food isn't all that great, but there is so much shit thrown up on the walls that it's still fun to just sit there and check it all out. There will be a Mike Schmidt rookie card hanging next to a poster for a Vincent Price Movie handing next to a Big Mouth Billy Bass. I don't know why or what connect or purpose those things serve, but it's fun to see them all together. Scott Pilgrim is a movie that feels and sounds like a videogame programmed to look like a cartoon that reads like a comic book. I didn't really care for this movie, just as I don't really care for the cuisine at Fridays, but it was a perfectly satisfying meal all the same, even if I'd never want to do it again.

This movie is about... well... nothing really. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim (with the same performance he used to play the kid from Arrested Development, the kid from Juno, and the kid from whatever else he's been in), who meets a girl and then has to fight her exboyfriends. And that's it. Sure, there are some other little details here and there, such as the fact that his band enters some contest, his friends ostensibly have other things going on, but it all is little more than a vehicle for the insane videogame style fight scenes that play out just like something form Tekken, Street Fighter 2, or Smash Brothers. These scenes are very neat and clever, but all things considered, they were little more than window dressing in search of a better movie. I just didn't like the main character (I'm suppose to root for some jerk who's cheating on his girlfriend?), and I had no emotional investment in his supposed heroic quest to get the girl.

The movie is something of a masterpiece in terms of visual design, however, and I have no doubt that the end result is exactly the film director Edgar Wright intended to make. This is a phenomenal looking movie with amazing special effects, funny musical queues and sound motifs taken from various videogames, and lots of visual razzle dazzle like I've never seen before. But it just wasn't very good. I just didn't care about and of the characters and the story lacked a main narrative thrust that was strong enough to really give me any reason to keep going. I only kept watching because it's a neat looking movie, and because it had a bunch of pretty girls. Then again, maybe that's enough.

The soundtrack was also really great. As I mentioned about, the music queues and sound effects were mostly taken from old Nintendo games, but all of the music was also great as well. The main character is in a band, and all of the music they play, as well as the music by the other bands, is awesome and a lot of fun. 

Oh, and it's also worth watching for Brandon Routh (of Superman fame), who was amazing. He appeared late in the movie and then disappeared as soon as Scott Pilgrim defeated him. But that whole section of the movie was my favorite part, and Routh was so funny and charismatic that it almost made the entire film worth watching. Also fun but nowhere near as good as Routh were what's his name from Rushmore and Chris Evans.

Two thumbs... in the middle. It's worth checking out, and it's entertaining enough, but it left me feeling cold.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Stan Lee

 Excelsior and a happy birthday to the all time greatest comic book super hero, the real life Stan Lee. There's nobody cooler or whom I hold more in awe. Let's hope this is just the 88th birthday of many more to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmarathon Recap

Well, I made it. I said I was going to review a different Christmas movie every day leading up to Christmas, and I actually managed to pull it off. Ok, actually I originally said I was going to post a review everyday during the month of December, but as I got closer to Christmas, I realized that made no sense. Who wants to read Christmas reviews after Christmas? I certainly wouldn't want to write any after that. Christmas day seemed like the logical end point, so that's where I cut things off, and I'm a lot happier for it. Sure, it meant that there were a couple of movies that I had originally planned to include that I had to cut out, but it also meant that I didn't go completely insane. Turns out, this was a lot of work.

Anyway, just for fun (and to satisfy my own curiousity), here are some completely pointless statistics and observations about my Christmarathon:

Movies Reviewed: 20

TV Episodes / Specials: 7 (and that's including both episodes of MST3K)

Movies I had previously seen: 13

Movies that were new to me: 14

Video Reviews Created: 6

Most Popular Review: A Christmas Carol (1999): 90 views so far.

Most Popular Video: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure: 1,410 views so far, but only 6 comments.

Least Popular Video: Santa Paws: It has no "likes" and one "dislike."

Longest Video: Bikini Bloodbath Christmas at 7 minutes and 52 seconds.

Best Movie I had previously seen: It's a Wonderful Life

Best Movie that was new to me: Joyeux Noel

Worst Movie: I'm going to go with Four Christmases, since it was just so mean-spirited and because it was made my lots of talented people who should've known better. Lord knows Bikini Bloodbath Christmas was terrible, but I think that was the intention.

Movies Reviewed Based on A Christmas Carol: 5 (That's including the It's Always Sunny episode, which only loosely ties into a Christmas Carol, but it was still worth including in the overall total.)

Movies I wanted to Review but couldn't: I really wanted to review Jingle All the Way, but it was a super long wait on Netflix so they never sent it, even though it was at the top of my queue all month. I suppose I should be thankful. Same thing with the Michael Keaton movie Jack Frost. I definitely wanted to put together a video review of that piece of crap, but Netflix never sent it. I wanted to review that episode of Tales From the Crypt where the killer dressed as Santa Claus terrorizes that woman, but it turned out there wasn't much to say, even though it is a great episode of the show that is well worth watching. I'm sure I'll discuss it at some point when I do a major post about Tales From the Crypt.

Oh, and I actually sat through the entire Star Wars Holiday Special, and then I learned that it actually premiered in November, so the holiday referred to in the title would more accurately be considered Thanksgiving. I was going to review it anyway, but I ran out of time. I will do a video review of this at some point in 2011, since it has to be seen to be believed.

Personal Favorite Review: I was happy with how my review of It's a Wonderful Life turned out, but I was also pretty proud of the editing job I did on my Emmet Otter video.

And that's all. Thanks for reading and for watching, everybody. I'm glad it's over and I can get back to real life.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmarathon Day 25: Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Welcome to the last day of my Christmas movie marathon. I hope everybody is having a wonderful holiday, and that everybody enjoyed the Christmarathon. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmarathon Day 24: It's a Wonderful Life

I'm actually going to keep this one short and sweet, since there's nothing I can say about this movie that a million people haven't already said a million times already.

It's a Wonderful Life isn't just my favorite Christmas movie, but a strong contender for my all time favorite movie over all. It contains the absolute best performance by my absolute favorite actor Jimmy Stewart, and it tells a story so powerful and heartfelt that it makes me cry every time I watch, no matter what. I'd rank this movie right up there with Field of Dreams as the most likely to make even the most stone cold man break down in tears. George Bailey is too honorable and admirable to really be considered an "every man," but he's definitely the man that every man wishes he could be.

They later remade this movie and reversed the genders by having the main character be a woman played by Marlo Thomas. "It Happened One Christmas" was a fine film that used to play all the time when I was a kid, but if you haven't seen it by now, you probably never will. It happened to be made right as the original was being rediscovered by a new, perhaps more mature audience who could more related to the dark, honest story presented in the film, so the remake all but vanished. And that's fine, since the original is an absolutely perfect film that never should've been remade in the first place. It's just... special. Bailey's pain as he watches his hopes and dreams fade away is something any person who's ever been lonely or learned for more can relate to. And his joy at the end as he realizes how loved and alive he really is is something that anybody who's ever been loved or happy can relate to as well. It's the kind of film that makes you cry at one moment because you're sad, and the next moment because you're happy.

I have never seen a better moment in a film than the scene where George Bailey is on the bridge near the end of It's a Wonderful Life. I've never seen anything that was better written, better directed, or better acted. I have watched this movie dozens upon dozens of times over the course of my life and it never fails to bring me to tears. I have watched this film during moments of my life when I was happy, during times when I was sad, and even during some times when I was just as close to standing on my own bridge. If there has ever been a moment in film that has more honestly captured a moment in the life of every man who has ever been alive, I sure haven't seen it.

George Bailey isn't the greatest hero in movie history because he decided to save Clarence instead of taking his own life, and he certainly isn't a hero because he set aside his own hopes and dreams in order to serve the town of Bedford Falls. George Bailey is a hero because even though he never became the man that he wanted to be, he learned to embrace the fact that he became the man that the people he loved needed him to be. His wasn't a wonderful life because his dreams came true or because he was loved or even because he was happy, but because his life did matter, and because the people around him were all the better because of what he did.

And if you can watch this movie and not break down, well, you must be named Potter.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmarathon Day 23: Bikini Bloodbath Christmas

I make an appearance in this one, and yes, I regret it. Don't watch this if there are kids in the room, since there is some strong language and some unsettling imagery.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmarathon Day 22: MST3K Xmas Bonanza

These are probably going to be the two worst films I'll mention during the entirety of my Christmas movie marathon, but they're also the two that are the most worth watching. The movies themselves are terrible and completely unwatchable, but they were both used for episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so that was how I first saw them, and that's the only way anybody would be able to sit through them at all.

If you have never seen or heard of MST3K, it's a show that takes old, terrible movies, and has their cast make jokes as it plays in the background. It's a hard concept to explain if you've never seen it, but it's my all time favorite TV show that doesn't have the words Star or Trek in the title. At it's best, it's brilliantly funny, and they are at their best when the movies on which they are riffing are at their worst. Over the course of the show, they did two Christmas movies, both of which are as bad as anything they've ever done, and they'd done the worst movies in the history of mankind. That was pretty much their thing.

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is a movie about, well, Santa Claus conquering the Martians. Some Martians kidnap Santa and bring him back to Mars because they want him to bring presents to the children of their planet. It's every bit as dumb as it sounds, with horrible production values, laughable acting, and terrible dialogue. It sucks.

The MST3K episode is from the third season, and features Joel as the main guy. It's a movie that seems made to be mocked, and Joel and the bots do a great job. It's a very, very funny episode. It's interesting how they go on and on about how one of the kids in this movie is played by a very young Pia Zadora, considering how nobody today remembers who the hell Pia Zadora was anyway. Joel and his cohorts from Cinematic Titanic redid this film, doing mostly the same style of jokes and riffing. I haven't seen that, but I'm sure it's funny too.

And if you thought Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was awful, check out Santa Claus, a Mexican Christmas movie with some of the oddest mythology ever presented on film. Santa Claus as his team of children have to go up against the Devil, who is attempting to seduce children all across Mexico into doing evil deeds. This movie is beyond weird, featuring a Santa Claus who lives in space and spies on the children of the world with a giant telescope that has giant eyelashes. I mean, having Santa Clause fight Martians is all well and good, but when you bring the devil into the equation, things just get too weird. Shouldn't God or Jesus step in at that point?

But this episode of MST3K is amazing. It's without a doubt my all time favorite episode from the entire series. It's crazy funny and a perfect jumping on point for anybody who has never seen the show before. The episode is from the fifth season so it features Mike as the main guy. I'll always love Joel, but I'm a die hard Mike Nelson fan through and through. His style is just funnier to me, and he's never been better than he was in this episode.

Both episodes are available to watch on youtube (along with seemingly every other episode of MST3K), and they are well worth checking out if you want to laugh while enjoying some Christmas cheer. They also both inspired two great alternative Christmas songs:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmarathon Day 21: Rich Little's Christmas Carol

You didn't see this one coming, did ya?

In 1978, HBO premiered the holiday special Rich Little's Christmas Carol, and then they played it over and over again every year. This was back when HBO was still new and they didn't have a whole lot of programming. This was way before True Blood and the Sopranos. Hell, this was way before Dream On and Tales From the Crypt. Back then HBO had a few Shannon Tweed movies, Fraggle Rock, that tv movie about Terry Fox, and Rich Little's Christmas Carol. My siblings and I used to watch it every time it was on, which was just about every day during the month of December from 1978 til about 1986.

Rewatching it now with an adult perspective, I have no idea why I loved this so much when I was a kid. I don't mean to say that the humor doesn't hold up or that it's not funny -- it's quite funny, actually, in an old school, vaudevillian sort of way -- but I just don't know why kids who grew up in the late 70s and early 80s would have enjoyed a one man show featuring Rich Little doing impressions that would've been out of date even when my parents were kids.

The entire special is composed of Rich Little doing every character from A Christmas Carol as one of the impressions he used to do in his stand up act. Here is the complete rundown taken from Wikipedia:

Why would I have enjoyed impressions of people like W. C. Fields, Paul Lynde, Truman Capote, and Jack Benny? I don't think I even knew who most of those people were when I was that age. Nowadays I love that style of old school comedy and recognize that Rich Little's impressions are spot on. But as a six year old kid I was really cracking up at Rich Little doing James Mason and Peter Falk? Apparently so. To that I say, good job, Mr. Little. I loved it as a kid, and I mostly enjoyed it as an adult. It's available to watch in its entirety on Youtube, and it's worth checking out if you want to see some spot-on impressions of the above mentioned people. If not, try to find some old episodes of Dream On instead.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmarathon Day 20: Ernest Saves Christmas

I don't care what anybody says, Ernest Saves Christmas is a damn good movie. In fact, all of the Ernest movies are great. Well, some of them are great, anyway. But they're all watchable and a lot of fun. Ernest Goes to Jail is my all time favorite in the series, but this one is a close second, and it's certainly one of my all time favorite Christmas movies. And, as I said, I don't care what anybody else says.

Ernest gets no respect. I don't just mean in his movies, where all of the characters hold him in contempt and treat him as though he's a complete moron who destroys everything he touches (and, on this matter, they're right), but moviegoers seem to feel the same way. Can anybody tell me why everybody loves Pee Wee Herman and thinks that his TV shows and movies are works of genius, but everybody hates Ernest? They're the same damn character, only Jim Varney is funnier and more talented than Paul Reubens. That isn't to say anything negative about Paul Reubens, since I think he's very talented, but Jim Varney is amazing. If there was any justice in this world, Jim Varney would've been heralded as a comedy genius before he died of cancer a few years ago. Know wad I mean?

But we were talking about Ernest Saves Christmas, which is as great a showcase for Varney's talents as any other movie he's ever been in. The story is about... You know what? I'll let Ernest tell you all about that:

That about sums it up right there. Did you think that was funny? Then go rent Ernest Saves Christmas, because it's awesome. Did you think that clip was awful? Well, pardon my french, but get the hell off my blog!

The last thing I'll say about this movie is how I remember having a huge crush on the main girl back when it first came out. I thought she was a total hottie, and I used to watch this movie over and over for her as much as for the comedy stylings of Ernest P. Worell. Rewatching it as an adult, I definitely enjoyed the comedy more than I did the girl. And I'm not just saying that because I'm an adult and she's a kid, since she was actually a twenty-something year old woman playing a teenage kid. I'm saying that because she was so friggin' annoying and unlikable. She was basically the Jar Jar Binks of Ernest Saves Christmas.

But it's still an awesome movie. Two thumbs up!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmarathon Day 18: Lethal Weapon / Die Hard

Yeah, that's right.

In the late 80s to mid 90s, there were two action movie franchises that reigned supreme: Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. They were like the Iron Chefs of the action film genre. They both came out around 1988/87, they both took place on Christmas, they both spawned series that spanned four installments, and they were both totally feakin' awesome.

It's hard to remember how great both films were when looking back today, since the sequels got progressively worse and worse, until both series become something of a joke. Die Hard fairs a bit better, if only because the sequels were more successful and fun, and I guess because nobody really likes Mel Gibson anymore. You might say America has gotten too old for his shit. Anyway, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are two bad ass Christmas films that should be required viewing every season for die hard fans (pardon the pun) of action films.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmarathon Day 17: Fred Claus

Two Vince Vaughn Christmas movies in the same week. After the disaster that was Four Christmases, I really, really didn't want to watch this one. Vince Vaughn has really overstayed his welcome, and he keeps phoning in the same performance in every movie he's been in over the past decade or so. And then we have the whole conceit of the film -- that Vince Vaughn is the deadbeat brother of Santa Claus -- which is just ridiculous.

But you won't believe me when I say this, but Fred Claus was actually a pretty good movie. I liked it. It was funny and cute and charming. I enjoyed it.

It's not going to go down in history as any kind of Christmas classic or anything, but as Christmas comedies go, it was fairly successful. It had a god Christmas story about a jerk who learns the error of his ways and finds the true meaning of Christmas. And it had a lot of good jokes that worked. Sure, Vince Vaughn phoned it in again by playing the same character he always does, but that character actually worked for this movie, since he was supposed to be an annoying jerk. But the real star of the film is Paul Giamatti, whose performance as Santa Claus was pretty phenomenal. It was one of those performances where, when he was on screen, the film was great and I was always laughing, and then when he went away, I couldn't wait for him to come back. He was just so charming and lovable and down to Earth. It was a good portrayal of Santa Claus, making him seem like a real person, but also some what saintly and loving. Giamatti should've gotten an Oscar for this movie.

There are some other good actors in there as well, including Kevin Spacey as a the corporate villain who is sent in to evaluate the cost effectiveness of keeping Santa and his Elves in business. Elizabeth Banks and Rachel Weisz are both as charming and beautiful as ever. And then there's Ludacris and John Michael Higgins as elves, where there faces are super-imposed over bodies played by little people. It's a bit jarring at first, but it was actually pretty funny. John Michael Higgins is never not funny, even when it's just his face on a midget's body. Or maybe especially when his face is on a midget's body. There's also a truly inspired scene where Fred Claus goes to a support group for men with more famous brothers, including Frank Stallone, Roger Clinton, and Stephen Baldwin.

So, yeah. Fred Claus. Don't go pay money to see it or anything, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, don't run away screaming either. It's a pretty good Christmas movie that will make you laugh. Anyway, it made me laugh.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmarathon Day 16: Extras Christmas Special

I didn't even know this existed until I did a Youtube search for "Christmas Special." A lot of crap came up, as well as a lot of stuff I've already seen or had no interest in, but right in the middle of the list of search results was this. I was pretty excited because Extras was a brilliantly funny show that ended far too quickly, and I was overjoyed at the opportunity to see more. This special acts as something of a third season to the series, as well as a definite finale and send-off to the show and the characters.

What it isn't, however, is a Christmas special. I suppose it is called that in the most literal possible sense, considering how it was a "special" that aired in the month of December. The story took place in December, and every now and again one of the characters would walk past a Christmas wreath or some festive lights, but that was the full extent of the Christmas theme. So don't go into it expecting Andy Millman (brilliantly played by the always brilliant Ricky Gervais) to be visited by three spirits who show him the errors of his ways. In fact, don't even go into it expecting anything even remotely related to Christmas at all. Other than the title, this Christmas special shouldn't even be a part of my Christmarathon at all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmarathon Day 15: Four Christmases

This movie was awful, awful, awful, awful, awful!

It was a loathsome film about loathsome characters being loathsome to each other. It was mean spirited, poorly written, ill-thought out, and pathetically acted by an otherwise amazing cast of actors who should've known better. In case you couldn't tell from the subtle intro to this review, I didn't care for it very much.

The movie opens on Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon being horrible and mean to one another, which is later shown to be some sort of weird role/foreplay they engage in before going back to their incredible apartment in San Francisco. They then have an awkward, unbelievable conversation establishing how they never want to get married or have kids, and how they avoid their extended families every year by making up elaborate excuses about how they travel to Africa to help the poor, but in reality just go to the Tropics. When a thick fog comes in delaying all flights out of the city until the next day, they are forced to spend the rest of the day visiting the four different households of each one's divorced parents. This is all in the first ten minutes of the movie.

When we meet each household, we quickly learn why our two stars are so thoroughly unlikable: Because they came from families that are thoroughly detestable. In the first family set piece, Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw (??) play mixed martial arts fighters who spend the entire scene torturing their brother Vince Vaughn. They hit him, berate him, and put him into various arm bars and leg locks. It's a terrible scene that isn't even remotely funny, since it's just abusive and uncomfortable. Why they stayed in the house after that was beyond me, since the minute somebody starts to put you and your girlfriend in harm's way is the time to leave. It's no wonder he avoided Christmas with his family for so long. They are sadists.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

John Byrne's Next Men #1

Just a quick note to remind everybody that the new issue of John Byrne's Next Men is coming out tomorrow.

The last issue -- a cliffhanger! -- came out 15 years ago, so I'm pretty excited to get back into it. I loved the original series, and I hope Byrne can recreate the success he had all those years ago with this new series.

Anyway, it comes out tomorrow and it is supposed to be a good jumping on point for new readers, as well as a continuation of the main story for longtime fans.

Christmarathon Day 14: The Search For Santa Paws

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmarathon Day 13: A Christmas Carol (2009)

Robert Zemeckis is one of the most popular and successful filmmakers of all time. He's an Oscar winner, a pioneer in the world of moviemaking, and has created some of the most beloved and iconic films of all time. At the turn of the century, however, he seemingly made a decision that I still haven't quite come to terms with: He stopped filming traditional movies and exclusively started making fully animated 3D productions.

His decision wasn't all that surprising, I suppose, since he has always been a forward thinking filmmaker who pushed technology and special effects, always creating something new that nobody had ever seen before. He gave us Roger Rabbit perfectly existing in the real world, Marty McFly seamlessly acting against himself in Back to the Future 2, and had Forrest Gump appearing with John F Kennedy, John Lennon, and a legless Gary Senise. So it makes sense that traditional filmmaking didn't offer him the same freedom to move his camera and create amazing visuals the way full computer generated imagery does, but it still makes me sad because even though his latest ventures have been visually stunning, they all seem to lack the charm and magic of a film like Back to the Future or Forrest Gump.

Video Clip of the Week: Thor Trailer

Quick break from watching and discussing Christmas movies to post a link to the just released trailer for the upcoming Thor film. This looks freakin' amazing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmarathon Day 12: Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street is as perfect a Christmas movie as you'll ever find. It has all of the common tropes of the genre: a dysfunctional family, an appearance by Santa Claus who may or may not be the real thing, and a riveting court room scene that gets so intense you'll begin to think that Kris Kringle is about to yell out, "You want the truth?! You can't handle the truth! You need me on that chimney!" Or something like that. Anyway, Miracle on 34th Street is an all time classic, but it does get a little weird.

It opens with an alcoholic Santa who is too drunk to ride the sleigh during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. That's not something you seen in most Christmas movies. Luckily, there happens to be another man at the parade who looks exactly like Santa Claus, and as luck would have it he is actually named Kris Kringle. Kris is such a hit with in parade that he is hired on to be the regular department store Santa for Macy's. He becomes beloved with all of the customers and even increases store sales. That's some Santa.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmarathon Day 11: Joyeux Noël

Well, if you're only going to watch one of the films I review during my Christmarathon, it should probably be this one.

Joyeux Noël is a French film that tells the story of the Christmas Truce during World War I. During the Christmas of 1914, all along the trenches of Europe, soldiers from both sides put down their weapons and enjoyed unofficial, unsanctioned truces between the nations. The soldiers came out of their trenches to offer greetings, exchange gifts, play friendly games of football, and to bury the dead that littered the no man's land between the rival trenches of the opposing armies. It's hard to believe, but it was one Christmas miracle that actually took place, and Joyeux Noël is about as brilliant a retelling of the events as I could ever imagine.

It's a glorified view of the historical events, of course, combining  almost all of the tales and anecdotes that spanned the continent into one event on a single battlefield. Also, some of the events that take place almost strain credibility, such as having the tenor's wife come and meet him in the Trenches during the war (played by the very fetching Diane Kruger). But none of that mattered because the story was so heartfelt, the direction was so sure-handed, and the performances by the multi-national cast were so impeccable.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmarathon Day 10: Black Christmas

This was a perfectly serviceable Christmas slasher movie. What I don't really get, however, is why there is a sub genre of Christmas slasher movies.

Since I've been doing this Christmarathon, I've noticed that 99% of Christmas movies fall into four main categories: Adaptations or pastiches of A Christmas Carol, stories about dysfunctional families that come together over the holidays, movies about Santa Clause, and horror movies. I don't get it. Are these films for people who love horror movies and just want an excuse to see one in December? Or are they for people who hate Christmas and want to see somebody dressed as Santa either commit murder or get murdered? All in all, I'm not a fan of this genre of films. But if I had to pick one to watch, the 2006 version of Black Christmas wasn't bad.

I'm not going to say it was good, however. It was just as good as a movie can be about a deranged serial killer stalking a group of sorority girls on Christmas Eve. Pretty stupid, but it was done pretty well. The film had a good sense of humor and had some good scares. It was pretty gory and had some good kills, if you're into that sort of thing, but some of them were a little too Christmasy (somebody actually gets impaled by a Christmas Tree, and another guy gets stabbed in the throat with a candy cane).

There's also lots of pretty girls, which is par for the course for this type of film. Lacey Chabert is always fun to watch, and the rest of the cast members were likable and charming and cute too. Michelle Trachtenberg, however, is just a horrible actor. She seemed bored and uncomfortable throughout the entire movie, and she read all of her dialogue in a dry monotone. Pretty girl, bad actress.

Oh, and Andrea Martin (of SCTV fame) makes an appearance. I'm glad to see she's still working. She's always good. 

So... Black Christmas. It is as advertised, and I find it hard to believe anybody who knows what it's about could feel let down after renting it. If you want to watch a movie like Citizen Kane (or even Citizen Ruth), you're not going to enjoy this. But if all you want is a Christmas slasher movie where a bunch of cute girls get killed on Christmas, this will definitely be on your nice list. (Uggh).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmarathon Day 9: A Christmas Story

I finally have a reason to wear this shirt
I'm not going to go into too much detail about this one, because everybody's seen it, everybody loves it, and if you run to your TV and put on TBS, it's probably on right now, perhaps as a part of one of their annual 24 hour marathons. I can only think of maybe four or five films so have become so enduringly beloved that a TV channel would show it over and over again for 24 hours straight. This is an absolute classic, and perhaps the greatest Christmas movie of all time.

It's a period piece that takes place during some nebulous time in America that could be anywhere from the late 30s to the mid 50s. If any specific times or dates are mentioned, I certainly can't remember them, I don't think there are because part of the film's charm is how timeless it feels. As a kid, I didn't even realize that it was a period piece at all. It's so authentic -- and the themes and experiences shown are so universal -- that it just seemed like it could've taken place in Connecticut during the early 80s. Obviously, that would be a bad thing to say about a period piece that took place during, say, the Renaissance, but for a Christmas story about an American kid, it couldn't have worked better. Even the setting of the film is mostly nebulous, since it was ostensibly set in Indiana even though it was actually filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. It's just every city, and there's enough thrown in that everybody who watches it can relate to something.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmarathon Day 8: Blackadder's Christmas Carol

As soon as I began my Christmas movie marathon, I immediately resigned myself to the fact that I would be watching a lot of versions of A Christmas Carol. There have been so many straight adaptations, parodies, and homages to the classic novel by Dickens that I'm beginning to think it may be the second most widely adapted book after the Bible. It's easy to understand why, of course, since it is at once a brilliantly deep study of the human condition, but also a fairly straight forward story. It's one of the great works of English literature. But still... I'm sick of it already and it's only day 8 of my month-long Christmarathon.

Blackadder's Christmas Carol was fantastic, however. This was by no means a proper adaptation of the classic tale, but it was certainly the funniest parody of the story that I've ever seen. If you've never seen or heard of Blackadder, it is a classic BBC historical sitcom that is quite possibly the funniest show of all time. I've been meaning to do a blog post about this show for ages now, because it is one of my very favorites. It stars Rowan Atkinson (who is probably better known on our side of the pond as Mr. Bean or Johnny English) as Edmond Blackadder, a conniving, deceitful, antihero who lives in different time periods (as different ancestors) over the course of the series. It also featured such great British actors as Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, and many more. Only the Harry Potter series has compiled as impressive a list of British Thespians. But Blackadder is a heck of a lot funnier.

Blackadder's Christmas Carol tweaks both the original Scrooge story (as well as the original Blackadder series) by having the main character start as a kind, generous man who gives his money freely to those in need. As the story goes on and he is visited by the Spirit of Christmas (played by Robbie Coltrane!), he learns that being bad looks more fun than being kind and generous. But as funny as the plot is, the real appeal of Blackadder is the snappy dialogue and wonderful performances by the stars, especially Rowan Atkinson whose comic timing is so incredible it almost borders on the supernatural.

So... I love this short little film and can't praise it highly enough. It's a must see if you are a fan of Blackadder, and well worth watching if you just want to watch a funny, snappy British sitcom. Two thumbs up.

Here's Robbie Coltrane's big entrance:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmarathon Day 7: Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure

Another video review, but this one wasn't really as successful as my Christmas on Mars review. I'm not really happy with how this turned out, since it was edited poorly, overwritten, and the audio is terrible. But... here it is. Enjoy:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmarathon Day 6: A Christmas Carol (1999)

As loathe as I am to admit it, this just wasn't that good.

Patrick Stewart is a brilliant actor, the sets were fantastic, the adaptation was maybe the most faithful version of the novel yet filmed, and the supporting cast was full of great actors like Joel Grey, Richard e. Grant, and Dominic West. But even still... it was just boring. Honestly, it just felt like a vanity project that was put together just because Stewart wanted to play Scrooge.

And that's not all together a bad thing, since Stewart's performance was impeccable. This is to be excepted from such an actor, but it was still an outstanding performance from a man who has never been bad in anything over the course of his career. He has been less that great on occasion (like in Moby Dick, where his histrionics went to such extremes that they became almost comical), but he's actually more subtle here, which served the character well. Even though his performance was passionate and emotional, it never quite reached the hamminess of his "the line must be drawn hee-ah!! This fah, no further!!" speech in First Contact. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think anybody does hammy histrionics as brilliantly as Patrick Stewart, but it's also nice to see him go for subtlety. He really is a wonderful actor.

But still... this was boring. It didn't help that it was the 800th adaptation we've all seen of the story by Dickens. This one wasn't bad, it just didn't stand out all that much. It did nothing all that new or better than we've already seen. The only reason to watch is because of the lead performance by Stewart, but I can think of a few dozen episodes of Next Generation that were a far better showcase of is acting talents. If you want to watch Stewart give a brilliant performance, watch the episode the Inner Light. If you want to watch a great adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim is still the one to see, in my opinion.

However, it's not a bad film by any means. I just didn't love it all that much and thought that some earlier versions of the story were superior. But if you have never seen a production of the Christmas Carol, this one is certainly worth watching, since it is very good looking and has a wonderful cast. And, no matter how many times you see it nor how many times it has been adapted, parodied, or copied, it's still as timeless a story as the world has ever seen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmarathon Day 5: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas

Ok, Elf sucked, but this is funny. This is the real deal.

This installment of the FX series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia isn't actually a movie, but it isn't really a TV episode either. It's just a stand-alone Christmas special that was available only on DVD, Blu Ray, and digital download. I am a huge fan of the series, so I bought it through the iTunes Music Store as soon as it came out last year. Since then, I've probably watched it about 100 times. It's just brilliant.

Just to be clear, Sunny is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. I own every episode and rewatch them all over and over again. I think the show is criminally overrated and that the cast (who also created the series and write most of the episodes) should have been showered with awards over the course of the show's (til now) six season run. And, having said that, this Christmas special is just about as funny as the show gets. Since it was written for a DVD release instead of a TV broadcast, they were able to go even more dark and twisted than normal. But Sunny is always at its best the more dark and twisted it gets.

The story revolves around... well... who really cares? The story revolves around the zany gang's twisted view on Christmas, so that's all you really need to know. I don't want to go into detail about the plot, because much of the fun comes from watching all of the insanity unfold as the episode goes on. Charlie Day (who plays Charlie Kelly) in particular is fantastic. He is everybody's favorite character on the show (or, at least, he's my favorite), but his performance in this special is just about the best thing he's ever done. I don't want to say too much, but the scene where he beats that Santa Clause (possibly to death) was just about the funniest thing I've ever seen. It makes me laugh every time I watch it, even though it's actually quite horrific.

So check out A Very Sunny Christmas, whether you are a newcomer to the show or just a long-time fan who has been reluctant to shell out the cash for a single episode. It's not only the funniest parody of Christmas stories I've ever seen, but it's one of the best "episodes" of one of the funniest TV shows of all time. Two thumbs up.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmarathon Day 4: Elf

This movie wasn't funny.

I understand that it was about a human who was raised by Elves in the North Pole, but why did that make him retarded? All of the other people we see at the North Pole seemed fairly intelligent. What makes Buddy different? This movie should be called Retarded Elf. That wouldn't make it any funnier, but at least it would explain things a bit better.

Anyway, I saw this in the theater and was underwhelmed, and my opinion hasn't changed after rewatching it. If you love Will Ferrell (I merely like Will Ferrell), you'll love this since it's exactly like every movie he's in. But if you hate him (or just merely like him), it probably isn't going to impress. Rent Blades of Glory or Anchorman instead.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmarathon Day 3: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

I really need to vet these Christmas movies a bit better or this is going to be a long December.

This wasn't a bad movie -- in fact, it was a very good movie -- it just wasn't a Christmas movie. The other day I did a Netflix search for things like "Christmas," "Santa," "Holiday," and other such keyterms. When this one popped up, it sounded interesting. It's a film about POWs in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II. It's a powerful, emotional story that only happens to take place over Christmas, though the Holiday and the film's title have very little to do with the actual story.

But it was a good film and I'm glad I watch it, even if it was incredibly depressing and harrowing. The story is told from the point of view of a couple of Japanese soldiers and a couple of English prisoners, and of the bonds they make, the relationships they forge, and the hardships they all must endure. It's an epic tale with lots of flashbacks, interludes, and amazing cinematography. It's also a bit too long and a bit too slow in its pacing, so it's a bit boring in places.

David Bowie is the star of the movie, and he's really a fantastic actor. His character is larger than life and incredibly charismatic, and Bowie gives him an almost angelic quality. The flashback where he's supposed to be a kid in school was a bit too much to take, however, since he looked exactly the same and stood about a foot taller than all of the other kids. It was odd.

The movie is also worth watching for the portrayal of the Japanese customs and ways of life. The film definitely shows the dichotomy separating Eastern and Western cultures better than almost any other film I've ever seen. The scenes of the rituals of Seppuku in particular were incredibly well done. Ritual suicide has been something most films have either glorified or glossed over, while this film really showed how awful and painful it must be to impale yourself with a knife to your belly. It was hard core.

So I liked this movie, even if it wasn't really a Christmas movie. It was good enough that I recommend checking it out if you get the chance, but not such a classic that I recommend paying money to seek it out. But I'm glad I took the chance and checked it out.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmarathon Day 2: Christmas on Mars

 I decided to try something a little different today, so I put together a video review. This is the first such project I've attempted, so forgive me for not doing such a great job. The editing is pretty sloppy and it's way too long, but hopefully I'll improve when I try again. This seven minute clip took me about four hours to put together, however, so don't expect one of these every day.

WARNING: This isn't work safe, since there is some possibly offensive language:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmarathon Day 1: Hebrew Hammer

I know I said I was going to do a Christmas movie marathon this month, but since the first day of December fell on the first day of Hanukkah, I figured I'd represent my tribe (on my father's side) by kicking things off with a Hanukkah film. Turns out, there aren't very many Hanukkah films, and there are even fewer available for instant viewing on Netflix. So that's why I decided to watch the Hebrew Hammer, a parody of Blacksploitation films about a Jewish crusader who is the religion's last hope to save Hanukkah.

If you are a big fan of Red Buttons, George Burns, and the comedy stylings of most Vaudeville performers, you'll probably find something to enjoy in this movie. It's fun, clever, and full of charming, funny actors giving great performances. But... it could've been a bit better. It was kind of a one joke movie that never really rose above its main premise. If you only watch this movie for five minutes, you'll have already seen all of the jokes that are spread over the remaining hour and a half. They are funny jokes, but simply repeating adnaseaum the same tired cliches about Jewish over and over again grew real old real quick. This was a basic premise that would've worked better as a five minute skit on SNL instead of as an actual feature length film.

It's worth watching, however, because the cast is so darn good. Adam Goldberg is terrific as the titular character Mordechai Jefferson Carver, the "certified circumcised dick" given the assignment to save Hanukkah. Judy Greer is lovely and charming as his assistant, and the rest of the cast is full of excellent actors like Peter Coyote, Nora Dunn, and Mario Van Peebles. Best of all is Andy Dick as the evil Santa Clause who wants to rid the world of Hanukkah once and for all. Andy Dick is usually annoying as hell, but he was hilarious in this movie and pretty much stole every scene he was in. It was the kind of performance that makes you wonder if they even gave him a script or just started filming him and told him to do whatever he wanted. When he was on screen, I was laughing.

So as Christmas movies go, this is a pretty good one if you're Jewish. It was a clever premise that went on a bit too long and lacked that special something that made it a must see, but it was likable enough and just funny enough that it's worth watching. I enjoyed it, but I'm not surprised that it never gained much of a cult following. All things considered, a lot of Jews have made a lot of movies that were funnier than this one.

Happy Hanukkah, everybody!