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Showing posts with the label Adventure

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

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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…

Comic Review: NorthStars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville

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NorthStars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville
Jim Shelley, Haigen Shelley, Anna Liisa Jones, 2016

Premise: Santa’s daughter and the princess of the yetis go on an afternoon adventure to save Christmas.

This sweet comic book from Action Lab Comics is a digital-first release this year, planned to be a gift-ready hardcover next year.

The story isn’t anything more than it appears to be, but it’s a cute, well-done tale. The art is clean and bright and the writing is clever. Some of the little details and tweaks on holiday lore were things I’d never seen before and quite liked.

Holly Claus meets Frostina under parental pressure, but they hit it off immediately. During a quick tour of Santa’s workshop, they run into a goblin who reports (in crayon-drawing speech bubbles representing a language barrier) that Krampus is interfering with the goblins who prepare the Christmas coal.

The girls travel under Snowville to investigate, facing harvest-themed straw men and a snow dragon on the way. The adven…

The Magic Snowflake (2013)

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Depending on where you see this film listed, it might also be called "Santa's Apprentice: The Magic Snowflake," since it's a sequel to that film, a fact we didn't realize until after watching this. At the time, we assumed that was why we didn't understand what the hell was going on, but after seeing part one, I'm really no closer to understanding.

Maybe if I track down the animated series they're based on, it'll all make more sense. Eh. Probably not.

Like part one, the plot of this thing is an incoherent mess. Actually, compared to this incoherent mess, the plot of part one looks rational and considered. This opens by introducing a new character, a Intuit boy who delivers mail to the North Pole. He meets up with Beatrice, who I guess is living at the North Pole while the hours tick away towards her prophesied marriage to Nicholas.

The whole thing is really kind of creepy.

At any rate, it's against the rules for kids to be at the North Pole fo…

Lizzie McGuire: Here Comes Aaron Carter (2001)

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This is the second episode of Lizzie McGuire we've subjected ourselves to, though it predates XTreme XMas by a year. The one I'm reviewing today was only the show's seventh episode, airing in March of 2001.

The premise of the episode, as the title implies, revolves around the teen singer coming to Lizzie's town to record a music video. Although the episode is set in the spring, the music video was for the holidays, hence the Christmas in July connection. Well, okay, technically Christmas in March, but we're using a loose interpretation here.

Lizzie and her two friends want desperately to meet Carter, each for different reasons. Because the shoot is secret, they need to include her younger brother, who knows its location for some reason. They sneak out early, leaving her parents a note - ironic, as her dad was going to surprise her with passes a client gave him.

They show up at the film set and Lizzie tries using her school press pass to get in, only to have it tak…

Bush Christmas (1947)

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Bush Christmas is an 1947 kid's adventure set in Australia. The movie's filmed on location, which is the most positive thing I have to say about the production.

I understand where the movie's set, but I'm a little unclear on when. This opens with school wrapping for Christmas break, and the children immediately grab their horses for the ride home. I really can't say for certain that there weren't areas in rural Australia where kids used horses to commute to and from school in 1947, but it seems a little antiquated. My assumption is that this was supposed to be set in the past. Maybe early 1930's? The clothes look fairly modern, and there were a few cars, so it couldn't have been much earlier than that.

Instead of going directly home like good children, a few of them go for a ride. On the way, they run into a pair of horse thieves. The kids, mistaking them for something else, accidentally mention their father owns a valuable mare. The robbers send them o…

Winter on Watership Down, Parts 1 and 2 (2000)

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We live in a strange world. It turns out there was a Watership Down animated series that ran for thirty-nine episodes between 1999 and 2001, including a two-part Christmas episode.

First, some background. The novel, Watership Down, is a seminal work of epic fantasy starring rabbits in the British countryside. If you're unfamiliar with the story, you may think the premise sounds humorous, but it's a tale of prophecy, war, death, and legend. The book functions as a meditation on mythology, exploring how the rabbits' society is built on the tales it tells. Without it, it's unlikely we ever would have gotten Redwall, Mouse Guard, or numerous other fantasy stories about animals at war.

Watership Down was adapted into an animated movie in 1978. This one goes on a list with Secret of NIMH and The Last Unicorn of animated features that traumatized kids in the 70's and 80's. The Watership Down movie didn't pull many punches: rabbits literally tore each other's …

101 Dalmatians (Animated - 1961; Live Action - 1996)

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When you think of classic Christmas movies, Disney's animated 101 Dalmatians doesn't jump to mind, which is actually a little odd. Setting aside the first couple of scenes, the entire movie takes place immediately before Christmas, the majority of the film is about the titular dogs wading through a blizzard, and the finale occurs on Christmas day. Oh, and it's about getting a family back together.

It is, in fact, a Christmas movie through and through.
It just doesn't act or feel like one. Most of that discrepancy can be tied to fact the movie isn't interested in Christmas. Until that last sequence, the holiday is only name-checked once, and then in an ambiguous manner. Likewise, we don't see any decorations during the dogs' quest.
The 1996 live-action remake is a little more complicated. It's difficult to say for certain, but the timing of the movie seems to be slightly offset. The scene before the dogs are kidnapped has "The Christmas Song" …

The Librarians and Santa's Midnight Run (2014)

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As a rule of thumb, when there's an episode we're recommending that's embedded in the middle of a series, we advise watching it in context to get the needed background. This is different. We watched the first three episodes of The Librarians, and we think you're better off skipping to the Christmas episode.

It's not that the earlier episodes were bad; it's more that they are generic as hell. They feel like an uninspired fusion of Doctor Who, Leverage, Warehouse 13, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the X-Files... hell, basically every genre show of the past two decades shoved into a blender. The result comes off as mediocre in every possible way.

Then along comes the Christmas episode, guest starring Bruce Campbell as Santa Claus, and the quality spikes.



Story-wise, it's pretty generic Christmas fantasy stuff. The episode opens with Santa abducted by the Serpent Brotherhood (I promise, you're better off not having seen their first episode), a secret society pl…

Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Holiday Chills and Thrills (2012)

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This DVD compilation includes Christmas or winter themed episodes from across the dozen or so incarnations of Scooby Doo over the years. Unfortunately, the majority are less Christmas than winter, and we already reviewed one episode, A Scooby-Doo Christmas, a few years ago. We're going to review the other two Christmas centered episodes, Haunted Holidays and The Nutcracker Scoob, on their own. That leaves ten of dubious holiday connection.

We almost didn't write these up at all, but a few included some holiday allusions or references, plus the snowy visuals were certainly evocative of Christmas. Ultimately, we decided to cover them together, along with some discussion of how each ties to the holidays, if at all.

First, though, let's talk about this "13 Spooky Tales" line. They released several of these DVD sets with different themes about the same time, each collecting ostensibly similar episodes throughout the years. In this case, even the math to get to 13 epi…

Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011)

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Yet another solid Doctor Who Christmas special, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe tells the story of the Doctor's interactions with a family at Christmas. Or, more accurately, at two Christmases.

The episode opens with a quick Star Wars homage, revealing a massive warship orbiting Earth. Right as it's about to open fire, something seemingly goes wrong and an explosion cuts it in half. What's gone wrong, of course, is the Doctor, who's still on board and fleeing the blast. He survives by catching a space suit while being blown through space and putting it on as he plummets towards Earth.

This sequence is the low-point of the episode. It was a cool idea, but something was off in the pacing leading to the explosion: we really needed a few more seconds to accept this as a potential threat before the punchline. Likewise, the Doctor's leap through space was a little too cartoonish, even compared to the comic-book shenanigans that typically permeate this series.

Whe…

Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead (2005)

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Unless I'm forgetting something, this is the only episode of the revamped Doctor Who series set at Christmas that wasn't produced as a "Christmas special." It's only the third Christopher Eccleston episode, and marks the first time him and Rose went into the past.

The past they wind up in is 1869. It's Christmas Eve and - despite trying for Naples - the TARDIS takes them to Cardiff. As is always the case, there's more going on than a celebration. An undertaker in the city can't seem to keep the dead to stay still: they've picked up a habit of rising up and making trouble. One, an old woman, kills a grieving family member, climbs out of her coffin, and proceeds with her plans for the evening: catching a live reading of A Christmas Carol performed by the author, who is quickly pulled into the story.

Also of note is the undertaker's psychic assistant, a woman about Rose's age who's developed a connection with the beings responsible. The …

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (2010)

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Easily my favorite of the Doctor Who Christmas specials, this episode from 2010 kicks off the second season with Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor. This starts in the future on a distant world that's essentially a steampunk version of Victorian London. Only in space with flying sharks. Oh, and of course it's Christmas. Well, more accurately it's the winter solstice, but the opening monologue states the obvious: they're the same thing, anyway.

One of the things that makes this work as well as it does is that it really doesn't give you time to stop and question its logic. That's probably a good thing, because the premise is more than a little haphazard.

For example, Amy and Rory are honeymooning on a space cruiser that's about to crash into the planet of street urchins and fish-clouds, and the Doctor is unable to save them with the TARDIS. It's not remotely clear why this is beyond his capabilities (I think there might have been some BS tech-babble explana…

Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (2012)

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Do you remember the scene in the first Home Alone movie where Kevin tied a bucket of paint to a rope and swung it at the robbers? Have you ever stopped to consider what the entire movie would have been like from the perspective of the paint inside the bucket? I mean, I assume it would have started absolutely still and sat that way for hours on end, before being slightly jostled. Then, a few hours later, it would have sloshed around, before splashing against the wall. Finally, it would have settled again.

Mostly, it would have just been still. It would probably have dried a little as the movie progressed. Not a lot and certainly not quickly, but an imperceptible quantity of paint would have dried up.

While that's not the plot of the fifth Home Alone movie, I think it offers a nice encapsulation of the experience of sitting through the film.

That's another way of saying this movie isn't as shockingly awful as its predecessors. And that this improvement is a very, very bad t…

Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)

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I'd like to begin with a thought experiment for those of you who haven't seen Home Alone 4. I'm assuming that includes you, since - as far as I can tell - no one alive has actually seen this movie and only a handful have even heard of it.

So then, imagine that, after the disappointing third installment (which, to be fair, isn't really much worse than the first two), the Home Alone franchise didn't disappear entirely. Imagine instead that the IP transitioned to a made-for-TV movie aired on ABC. Now imagine that the character of Kevin McCallister, the protagonist from the original two, returned, albeit recast, along with every other character. Now ask yourself, how bad would you expect this to be? How abysmally awful, how utterly vapid, how monumentally stupid do you think a movie like that would be?

What you're picturing right now is what we'll call, "The Expectation." Before we go on, you'll have to lower that expectation.

Before we get to th…

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1988, 2005)

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We recently watched two versions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I know, I know, gluttons for punishment.

One was the movie from 2005, one was a BBC version from 1988. I freely admit that I am partial to the BBC version as it is the one that I grew up with and the music just makes me happy. The BBC version is also slightly longer and uses its extra time for character and world development and not just for people throwing things at each other.

The main problem with adopting The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is that you are bound by the source material. Things that kinda work in the book if you don't think too hard about them are brought into stark relief on film. Things like that the kids spend all of 48 hours there before the climactic battle. Logic flaws and poetic license are less forgivable once you make a half hearted attempt to make the story feel realistic. This source material does however include some Christmas which is why we're here today.

Let's tak…

Santa's Slay (2005)

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Like Saint, Santa's Slay takes the "killer Santa" concept a step further than most. Unlike Saint, it's surprisingly entertaining and a lot of fun.

The movie opens with Santa Claus, played by wrestler Bill Goldberg, interrupting a family dinner and killing all present. The fact the victims included Fran Drescher and Chris Kattan should give you a good idea for the tone they were going for.
The credits roll, and the movie jumps to the leads, a young couple who work at a Jewish deli. It's already Christmas Eve, and Santa starts knocking off minor characters almost immediately as the leads start piecing together what's going on. They're helped by the boy's grandfather, who's been preparing for this night for a long time.
Just to clarify, this isn't a psychotic killer dressed as Santa: this is the real deal, complete with an evil "reindeer" (well, a flying ox, but they call it a reindeer). He's the son of Satan, and he was bound to t…

Gremlins (1984)

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I'm not sure why it's taken us this long to officially get to Gremlins. I've owned the movie for years, but for some reason it never occurred to me I should re-watch and review it as a Christmas movie. It's especially bizarre given how much effort the movie makes to subvert the holiday. It plays with holiday music in a manner similar to what Die Hard would do a few years later. It also utilizes imagery to twist the holiday: look at the eerie green and red lights emanating from the pool when Mohawk jumps in and spawns an army of gremlins.
You can even interpret the gremlins themselves as being evil Christmas elves (though that's admittedly a stretch).
Gremlins is also at least partially responsible for popularizing the myth that the suicide rate shoots up around the holidays: this is certainly where I first heard it claimed. It's easy to believe, but not remotely true. Suicide rates actually drop in December, and with good reason: who has the time?
Setting that …