Posts

Showing posts with the label Action

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Image
Three Days of the Condor is one of those movies most of us have heard of but never seen, despite movie critics and historians swearing it's extremely important. The premise of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was largely drawn from this: it's a tense espionage tale about a CIA agent trying to stay alive when he uncovers a conspiracy within the Agency itself.

Robert Redford plays the lead, Joseph Turner, who's responsible for reading and analyzing books. He's smart, but no spy or assassin. Max von Sydow, on the other hand, is a cold-blooded killer working for parties unknown. While Turner's out picking up lunch, Sydow shows up with a group of mercenaries and kills off the rest of the branch. Turner returns to find he's the only survivor. He pulls a handgun out of the receptionist's desk and runs.

He calls into the head office, but the agent sent to bring him in tries to kill him. Turner then abducts a woman off the street at gunpoint, ties her up, and fo…

The Real Ghostbusters: X-Mas Marks the Spot (1986)

Image
The Real Ghostbusters has been largely forgotten, which is kind of a shame. The series started in 1986 and serves as something of a missing link between the comical, kid-friendly cartoons of the 80's and the more adult story-driven adventure shows of the 90's. This certainly isn't Batman: The Animated Series, but it's not Scooby-Doo, either. There were some creepy villains and monsters in this show, along with some cool concepts. The story editor was J. Michael Straczynski, who also wrote a vast number of episodes, including this one.

"X-Mas Marks the Spot" was the last episode of the first season. It's set on Christmas Eve, or more accurately on two Christmas Eves. After bungling a job in upstate New York, the Ghostbusters wander through a time portal and find themselves in Victorian London. Not realizing what they're doing, they help Ebeneezer Scrooge with a haunting and wind up capturing the three Christmas ghosts.

Still unaware where they are, th…

Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Lonely Island Wear Holiday Sweaters & White Pants (2014)

Image
Comedy Bang! Bang!'s second Christmas episode is a big improvement over their first. Having already tried the "kitchen sink" approach, this one picks a reference and focuses in on it. Even better, that reference is Die Hard.

The episode opens just before Christmas. Scott is depressed, because he feels like the holidays are too commercial. Making matters worse, the air conditioner is out of order, causing the set to be extremely hot. Xenophobic ex-marine Ray Starksy (played by Alan Tudyk) climbs into the air ducts to fix it minutes before a group of international terrorists break in and take the show hostage.

Their demand: they want a hard-to-find toy to give to their daughters as a Christmas present. And if they don't get them, they'll kill everyone.

The terrorists are a constant presence, though their disruptions are fairly minimal, aside from one bit when the leader (James Urbaniak doing a decent impression of a generic Die Hard villain) takes over as host to …

MacGyver: The Madonna (1989)

Image
MacGyver has achieved a sort of immortality, though it's fairly limited in scope. The show revolves around the title character's skill for whipping up solutions to his problems using scientific know-how and odd combinations of everyday objects. His name has become synonymous with this trait.

As far as I can tell, that's all the who is remembered for. If this episode's any indication, that's probably for the best.
To be fair, this almost certainly isn't a typical episode of the series, which sounds like it changed quite a bit from season to season. This one's from the latter half of the show, after budgets were cut. And even then, it's less bad than ridiculous.
If you've seen other action shows from this era, you've got an idea what you're in for. The show is ostensibly serious, but it's family-friendly to the point of absurdity. Moralizing and inoffensive social commentary permeated the episode from beginning to end, all without saying …

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Christmas Episodes (2013-2016)

Image
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is essentially a parody of every other cop show on TV. In that sense, it's sort of an update of Police Squad. Based on the holiday episodes I just saw, that comparison might actually be fair - this was surprisingly good.

"Christmas" (2013)

The episode's A-plot concerns death threats made towards Captain Holt. His boss commands him to accept a protection detail, so he assigns Detective Jake Peralta (the series' lead, played by Adam Samberg) the job, assuming he'll blow off protocol as usual. However, the assignment gives Peralta total control over the movements and activities of his Captain, so he instead abuses the situation.

There are some hi-jinks involving a safe house, where Peralta handcuffs himself to the captain and tosses the key down a grate; the sort of stuff that would normally be tiresome and dull. But the cast pulls it off, selling the slapstick through their bizarre characters. The same commitment and skill allow the B-plots t…

Pokémon: Holiday Hi-Jynx (1998)

Image
Yes, there’s a Christmas episode of Pokémon. Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t know, though. This episode is actually a little challenging to get your hands on in America. It was dubbed and aired with the original run, but not much since.

The episode opens with Jessie of Team Rocket pretending to be asleep until a snare net goes off, trapping Santa, who had been coming in through the window. Of course, this was a test run, and “Santa” was actually James. Jessie is pleased how well her trap works, and indulges in a brief flashback to being a bratty child, waiting for Santa, only to have a Jynx Pokémon dressed as Santa come in and steal her favorite doll.

Meanwhile, Ash and friends are on the beach when they spot a Jynx, holding a boot.

Now, Jynx is the reason for the problem with this episode. Jynx is vaguely female-person-shaped, and has black skin with big eyes and giant pink lips. Yeah, you probably know why this episode isn’t aired now. It’s unclear how much blackface iconograp…

The Flash: The Present (2016) and Arrow: What We Leave Behind (2016)

Image
I thought I'd package this year's WB DC superhero Christmas episodes together instead of doing them individually. Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow didn't produce holiday episodes, so that leaves us with the original two: Arrow and Flash.

The Flash: The Present (2016)
While the previous seasons of The Flash focused on season-long plot arcs built around evil speedsters trying to kill Barry, the third is built around Savitar, an... ugh. Yeah. At least this time the evil speedster looks different.

I'm going to skip the rehash of Flashpoint, the timeline-breaking event that kicked off the third season. The only part that's actually relevant is that Cisco's brother is dead now.

The episode opens with a flashback to Julian discovering the artifact that turns him into Doctor Alchemy and allows Savitar to manifest (or whatever the hell is going on with that). After that, we jump the present day where Earth-3 Harrison Wells (again, I'm not going to bother) is decorat…

Son of Zorn: The War on Grafelnik (2016)

Image
The strangest thing about the sitcom Son of Zorn might be that it doesn't air at midnight on Cartoon Network. Stylistically and conceptually, this would be right at home with any of the late-night Adult Swim shows, which were clearly an major influence on the program.

The premise centers around Zorn, an animated - literally animated, in the style of He-Man - warrior from a magical island nation, who moves to California to reconnect with his teenage son. Everything from Zorn's homeland is animated against a live-action setting full of real actors. It's a bizarre show, but both the writing and production values are quite a bit better than you'd expect.

In "The War on Grafelnik," both Zorn and Edie (Zorn's ex) want to spend the holiday with their son, Alan. This year, December 25th is both Christmas and Grafelnik, a holiday built around themes of vengeance. Taking an accidental cue from Edie's new fiance, Craig, Alan tries to play his parents off agains…

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: Pire Noël (2016)

Image
If you like crazy Christmas stuff the way we do, or if you like zany superhero/magical girl hijinks, you should probably go ahead and see if you can find a copy of this on YouTube. This was a ton of fun.

Miraculous (for short) is a CG show from France about two superhero teenagers. Marinette is an aspiring fashion designer, and she transforms into Ladybug. Adrien is a young fashion model, and his superhero identity is Cat Noir. They don’t know each other’s secret, which leads to a classic secret identity plotline where Marinette has a crush on Adrien, but Cat Noir has a crush on Ladybug.

Their powers come from little (alien?) creatures and are channeled through items known as the Miraculouses: Marinette’s earrings and Adrien’s ring. There is a villain (Le Papillon in the original French) who wants to steal these items. In each episode, the villain senses someone feeling a strong negative emotion (anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) and sends an evil butterfly to possess them.

That’s what yo…

Run All Night (2015)

Image
Run All Night is an action/drama vehicle for Liam Neeson. The fact that it came out last year and you haven't heard of it provides a far better overview than I could ever hope to achieve. But, in the interest of pumping the internet full of content to drive it towards self-awareness, let's have a go at this.

The movie is set in New York a little before Christmas. The majority of the story, as the title implies, plays out over a single night - probably not Christmas Eve, but who knows? This movie was vague as hell.

The main character is Jimmy, a burnt out mob enforcer played by Liam Neeson. He's a drunk, tormented by memories of the people he's killed and the mistakes he's made. His best friend is Shawn, a mob boss trying to go legitimate. Both men have a son: Jimmy's son, Michael, hates him and wants nothing to do with his father, who was absent most of his life, anyway. Shawn's wants to be successful, like his father, and gets involved with drug dealers.

Ronin (1998)

Image
The number of action movies set at Christmas is staggering. You can add Ronin to the list, though this one is really only a technicality - the holiday elements are faint to the point of being nearly nonexistent. But, for whatever reason, it's established that it's set during Christmas, so we're reviewing it in the interest of being complete.

Ronin might be one of the 90's better action flicks, though that's really not saying much. It's a tense, realistic spy thriller that masquerades as a heist movie. We never get more than a first name for most of the movie's characters, nor do we really get a good sense of their motivations. It's a movie about secrets, so don't expect a great deal of emotional depth.

Set in France, it follows its lead, Sam, played by Robert De Niro. He's a former CIA agent hired by Irish terrorists to work with a group of mercenaries in order to steal a briefcase before it's sold on the black market to the Russian mafia. …

Ben 10: Merry Christmas (2006)

Image
This is the first episode of Ben 10 Lindsay and I have seen, though I was mostly familiar with the premise going in. A kid has the power to transform into ten different aliens, so he uses his abilities to fight various threats.

I hadn't realized the series took place during a cross-country vacation in his grandfather's RV. I'm fairly certain that's intended as a nod to the 70's Shazam series. Ben Tennyson is more than a little reminiscent of Billy Batson, who could likewise call upon otherworldly powers and transform. This series is more or less an update.

This episode begins on a hot summer day while Ben, his grandfather, and his cousin, Gwen (also a series regular - apparently, she uses magic in some other episodes) are driving through Death Valley. After a failed attempt to improve the air conditioner, the RV breaks down. They find a strange door in the desert with cool wind blowing through the cracks. When they go through, they find a wintery town decorated fo…

Arrow: Year's End (2012), Three Ghosts (2013), The Climb (2014), and Dark Waters (2015)

Image
This is one of those times I stumbled across a few Christmas episodes while watching a series.

I saw Arrow's pilot back when it originally aired. I actually liked it quite a bit on its own merits, but was underwhelmed by the move away from comic book tropes. It felt like a really good dark and gritty take on a superhero origin, but I'd kind of had my fill of those. I decided not to follow it but to pick it up later if I heard it was worth it.

What actually got me back on board was The Flash, which was much more in line with what I wanted from the genre. A handful of crossovers convinced me Arrow would head in a more interesting direction given time. Besides, like I said before, the pilot was actually quite good for what it was.

Years End (2012)

The first Christmas episode occurs a little less than halfway through season one. The season started strong with a few missteps. But a few episodes before Christmas, it took a dive for the worst, and this one doesn't do much to corr…

The Flash: Running to Stand Still (2015)

Image
Watching Christmas episodes in context is a very different experience than tuning in for just a seasonal outing. Unlike most of what we review on this blog, The Flash is a show I watch religiously - it's a fantastic program that delivers classic superhero adventures on the small screen. If you're a comics fan and you're not watching, you owe it to yourself to get caught up. This is one of the best.

I talked about the first Flash Christmas episode last year. Like that one, this primarily exists because the show unfolds in real time, and Central City - like everywhere else - celebrates the holidays. That doesn't mean they didn't go all-out for Christmas, though: even for a series where a psychic gorilla has a recurring role, this one just pushed the limits in terms of genre tolerance.

When I say "genre tolerance," I'm talking about its willingness to incorporate tropes and tones from its source material. There are things you do in comics and animation …

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: It's a Wonderful Smash (2014)

Image
Remember a few years ago, when Marvel animation was at its peak? In a relatively short period of time, we got Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, all great shows.

Then something went wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Overall, the Disney acquisition of Marvel was a plus. It gave them more money to produce movies and live-action TV series, and the comics actually seem to have benefited. But the quality of their animated programs plummeted. Guess that's the price we have to pay.

This, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Avengers Assemble all appear to be in continuity with each other. And, from what I've seen so far, all of these shows suck.

To be fair, I've only seen two episodes of Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and one was the pilot. But the premise was misguided to begin with, and nothing I've seen suggests they're able to salvage the show.

This episode is, of course, the Christmas one. It opens on Christmas Eve, when the Hulks…

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Cobra Claws are Coming to Town (1985)

Image
I'm going to have a hard time synopsizing this one.

Alright, this thing opens right before Christmas when three of the G.I. Joes and a pet parrot singing Jingle Bells (this is a plot point) are driving a bunch of donated presents back to their base to give them to kids. When suddenly... they're attacked! A single Cobra plane starts shooting at them, forcing them to pull over and take cover. While they're stopped, a Cobra agent sneaks behind their vehicle and unloads a bag of fake gifts.

The plane takes off, and the G.I. Joes just kind of shrug and decide it's probably not worth worrying about. They return to base and unload the gifts, including those Cobra snuck in. That includes a Trojan rocking horse, because... of course it does.

The Joes sit down for dinner, and we learn that one of them is sad, because his parents always made such a huge deal about Christmas they never got around to decorating the tree or buying him gifts.

Let's just move on.

The Trojan rocki…

First Blood (1982)

Image
Add one more to the list of movies you probably didn't know were set during the Christmas season - until rewatching it, I really didn't notice. It's easy to miss: I didn't notice it coming up even once in conversation, and the majority of the film is set in the wilderness, where it's irrelevant. I'll have some more thoughts about the holidays in a moment, but first I want to talk about something else I'd forgotten.

This is a great movie. I remembered it was good, but that really doesn't do it justice. This is an incredible achievement - one of the best action movies out there, possibly on par with Die Hard.

If you don't recognize the name of the movie, you'll recognize the name of its protagonist: John Rambo. Like Die Hard, it's easy to understand why there was a demand for sequels, though - also like Die Hard - the first installment is the only one that's required viewing.

First Blood opens with Rambo in a rural Washington town trying …