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Showing posts with the label Fantasy

Podcast Mini Episode - The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Movie Review

Mainlining Christmas reviews the surreal new film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

References/Background: Nutcracker Fantasy (Now Available on DVD) The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Transcript:
Erin: Welcome to the first ever mini-episode of the Mainlining Christmas Podcast. We just got back from watching The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, the new holiday-themed fantasy film from Disney.

Lindsay: For those of you who missed the advertisements, this is the live action sequel to the animated Disney Nutcracker movie from the 60’s that doesn’t… actually… exist.

Erin: It’s weird because it’s structured as a sequel in the exact same way Tim Burton’s live-action Alice in Wonderland was.

Lindsay: Like, the EXACT same way.

Erin: But Disney never actually adapted the original, unless you count those segments in Fantasia.

Lindsay: The makers of Four Realms certainly seemed to. There’s an extended homage to Disney’s Fantasia in the middle of the movie and a callback during the end credits.

Er…

Robbie the Reindeer: Legend of the Lost Tribe (2002)

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The 2002 sequel to Hooves of Fire is, at least in my opinion, an improvement over the original. The story is no longer tethered to that of an 80's sports movie, and the new elements feel much more inspired and original.

The story this time centers around a "lost tribe" of Vikings, who are essentially dwarves in this world. In a backstory relayed by Old Jingle, we learn the last of their kind were supposedly killed off in a civil war waged when all the Vikings got bored.

Robbie's the only one who's seen any of the Vikings, and no one really believes him. They're more concerned with their failing resort, anyway. Why are reindeer running a tourist resort? Because Santa gives the toys away, so he's got nothing to pay them, obviously.

Meanwhile, Blitzen, who's been in prison since the end of Hooves of Fire, is released and returns to the lodge. Initially, the others throw him out, but he convinces them to let him stay when he promises he can turn the busi…

Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire (1999)

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Hooves of Fire is a BBC claymation special about the son of Rudolph joining Santa's team. Rudolph's name is never explicitly spoken due to copyright issues, but there's no ambiguity about Robbie's heritage. The same can be said about Aardman animation - their name isn't on this, but their style permeates the special. Also, this was directed by Richard Starzak, who'd later go on to create Shaun the Sheep.

Overall, I enjoyed this, thanks to some clever jokes and fun designs. That said, the concept was a bit one-note, there were some unfortunate character directions, and the tone needed work. In short, it was good but not amazing.
The special starts with Robbie arriving at the lodge where Santa's reindeer live and train. Instead of glowing, Robbie's nose functions as a sort of navigator. Also, he later learns to bounce off it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The nose is basically all Robbie has going for him - he's lazy, out of shape, and self-ob…

Collateral Beauty (2016)

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Collateral Beauty wasn't really marketed as a Christmas movie, but then its marketing was baffling in several respects. For one, the whole "he's interacting with Love, Time, and Death" thing permeating the advertising was quickly undercut by the fact that, in the movie, these three are actually actors hired by the lead's coworkers to portray Love, Time, and Death.

I mean, sure, the ending reveals they were actually Love, Time, and Death masquerading as actors masquerading as Love, Time, and Death (and it's pretty obvious all along), but it still makes for an even more bizarre experience than it would otherwise.

Let's back up.

Will Smith plays "Howard," the CEO of a successful NY advertising agency. A few years before the movie, he loses his daughter to cancer and falls apart emotionally. His friends are executives at the agency, and they're trying to keep it from going under. In order to do that, they need to prove Howard's emotionally …

Saving Santa (2013)

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Saving Santa is a 2013 direct-to-DVD computer animated movie that's something of a paradox. I suppose that's appropriate, since the movie is about "a time-traveling elf," but that's not the kind of paradox I'm referring to - I'm talking about the writing, which is at once utter crap and impressively nuanced.

More on that in a moment. First, the plot.
Bernard D. Elf, astonishingly only the second-worst-named character in this movie, wakes up late for an appointment showing off his new invention to the North Pole's tech company. He races across town and gets them to watch, but in the process momentarily blacks out the elf city's power.
The time the grid's down is just enough for Neville Baddington (and that'd be #1) and his evil package delivery company to determine the cloaked location of Santa's operation. Unaware they're on their way, Bernard heads to his day job, shoveling reindeer dung out of Santa's stables.
No, really.
Wh…

Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

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Despite having been the right age, I grew up disliking Pee-wee's Playhouse. I found the characters and sets off-putting as a kid, and I wasn't old enough to appreciate that was part of the point. The 1988 Christmas Special seemed like a good chance to revisit the show and give it another chance.

Ultimately, I was left torn on this one. I have far more respect for the manic, surreal premise, and Paul Reuben's portrayal is certainly impressively bizarre. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something missing tonally. I wanted to be pulled into that odd, unsettling world, but I could never shake the sense I was watching people and puppets act weird on TV.

The plot of this special is... well... it doesn't really have much of one. This is basically an hour of Pee-wee interacting with a long line of guest stars and cast members before the holiday. The closest it comes to a story is a bit about Pee-wee's Christmas list being so long, Santa would need …

The Christmas Dragon (2014)

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If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you probably know that interesting Christmas genre mashups are highly sought after around here. Christmas horror is so common as to be unsurprising now, but Christmas science fiction is rare. Christmas crossed with epic fantasy is extremely rare.

It turns out there are some reasons for that.

We start our tale on Christmas. Or Christmas Eve. Or something. Ayden receives a kite in a dirty sock, and her parents tell her to thank Father Christmas. Cut to Ayden flying the kite outside on a sunny, warm day. It's unclear how much time as passed.

Some villains in black - backed up by a bunch of mooks decked out in cheap gear and swords that your average ren faire attendee wouldn't be caught dead with - accost Ayden's parents for some tax money. (Spoiler: the idea that there is a king or other person in charge of this place is never mentioned again.) Her dad accuses them of skimming off the top, and a fight ensues. The v…

Book Review: Santa's Husband

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Santa's Husband is a children's book where the Plump Jolly Old Elf is portrayed as a black man who's so busy, his white husband fills in for him at the mall, leading to some confusion as to his identity. If that premise doesn't intrigue you, you're reading the wrong blog.

I stumbled across a link to an interview with the writer, Daniel Kibblesmith, that included some shots of AP Quach's artwork. Between those and the description, I was sold.


The book is thirty-two pages, and there's no real plot or story. It's more a series of kid-friendly pictures coupled with text introducing you to Mr. Claus, Santa's husband. Like a lot of children's books, it reads like a series of comic vignettes.

It's a fantastic reimagining of Santa and his operation, and the relationship between Santa and Mr. Claus is sweet and touching. Towards the end, it offers a brief introduction to multicultural holiday traditions that's refreshingly diverse.

The writer ant…

Book Review: St. Nicholas and the Valley Beyond: A Christmas Legend

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We bought this on clearance at a used bookstore, mainly because it was pretty, shoved it in a box for a few years, then came across it while unpacking. I finally sat down and read it, and...

...I already mentioned the art was pretty, didn't I? Because it is. Really nice fantasy artwork in an large picture book (about 15 inches tall) designed to invoke illuminated manuscripts or something. Pretty.

There's also a story inside, written by Ellen Kushner.

Once more, the artwork is quite pretty.

Ugh. Let's talk plot. There was none, and the art was pretty. Okay, that's an overstatement. There was less than no plot. There was, in fact, negative plot.

The story opens with a poor, cold, hungry orphan named Nicholas following mysterious voices that lure him into a magic valley. He finds a party, goes in, magically transforms into a grown man, meets a woman, and gets married.


They get to know everyone in the valley - they're all artisans (toy makers, mostly) - and none of th…

Son of Zorn: The War on Grafelnik (2016)

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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…

Super Why!: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (2008)

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At one point while we were watching this, Erin turned to me and asked in disbelief, “You’ve watched this before?” What can I say, I used to work a lot of nights before we had Netflix; on many afternoons PBS was my background-noise companion.

Super Why! is one of the least interesting of the PBS kids shows that I’m familiar with from this era. It’s not so annoying that I would necessarily turn it off, you know, if my hands were covered in paint or something, but I wouldn’t seek it out.

The show follows Whyatt and his fairytale friends who live in Storybrook Village (which is a CG land hidden behind a secret door on a library bookshelf). In each episode, Whyatt (his big brother climbed a beanstalk), Pig (of the Three Little), Red (Riding Hood), and Princess Pea have a question to answer. They seek the answers by becoming the Super Readers, magically flying into another storybook, and helping the characters there.

And yes, we’ve got a bit of book-within-a-book-world going on. The story…

Target: The Toycracker (2016)

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Depending on how generous you're feeling, The Toycracker can either be described as a live-action short film, an extended commercial, or the fourth seal of the apocalypse slowly peeling away to open the floodgates and usher in the end of days.

It's not exactly bad, per se; it's more that it's something that should not be. Its very existence is an affront to the world we know and the already fractured boundary between entertainment and advertisement. It's the final stage in the unnatural evolution that started decades ago when toy companies infected Saturday morning cartoons.

As the name sort of implies, The Toycracker is ostensibly a re-imagined Nutcracker. It starts out that way in a semi-clever scene where a modern Clara sings about losing WiFi on Christmas Eve to Waltz of the Flowers. Then she falls asleep and wakes in a version of the classic "giant Christmas tree" set, where she meets the Nutcracker, played by Chrissy Teigen, who starts singing a so…

A Fairly Odd Christmas (2012)

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"A Fairly Odd Christmas" is the live-action made-for-TV sequel to the similarly live-action made-for-TV movie "A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!" which is itself a sequel to the Nickelodeon series "The Fairly OddParents," which had a Christmas special of its own, though that featured an entirely different version of Santa Claus and therefore doesn't seem to be in continuity with this film.

I should probably add that I've never seen the first live action movie or any of the animated series other than the aforementioned Christmas special.

This apparently opens where the previous movie left off: the now grown-up Timmy, Tootie, and the CG fairy godparents are circling the world in a magic flying van granting wishes to anyone who's sad. They give one young girl a magic unicorn, another a monster truck, they turn a boy's small toy into a giant monster and set it loose on Tokyo, and they help a bunch of robbers empty out an electronics …

The O.C.: The Chrismukk-huh (2006)

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This is by the far the strangest of the Chrismukkah episodes. It starts out in a mundane enough fashion - Ryan is mourning his deceased ex-girlfriend and is having a crisis that his new relationship with Taylor is getting serious. The two of them have an argument on the roof, fall off, and wake up in an alternate universe where neither of them ever existed.

A few caveats to this. First, this isn't my interpretation: Taylor identifies it as such. Also, based on her knowledge of science-fiction, she decides they need to fix the problems of the characters in this bizzaro-verse before they can return home. Of course, everything's mixed up: Seth's parents are divorced, and his father's new wife is having an affair with Summer's fiance, who is played by a young but very recognizable Chris Pratt.

They manipulate and influence everyone with mixed results. In the episode's best scene, Seth demands Ryan tell him who he is and what's happening. Finally, Ryan just blu…

Doc McStuffins: A Very McStuffins Christmas (2013)

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If you don't have small children or regularly shop for toys, you may be unaware of this popular show. On a moral and personal level, I think it's awesome that this show is popular. It wears its feminism and positivity on its sleeve, which is great. It's kid-friendly to a fault, though, and the songs weren't very good.

The main character, “Doc,” is a little girl who has a knack for fixing broken toys. (She is following the example of her mom, who is a doctor.)

With that premise, of course there's a Christmas episode. As someone who spent a lot of time and love fixing toys as a kid, I found this show somewhat charming, despite the simplistic writing. Erin felt less charitable toward it than I did.

The main premise of the episode is that an elf named Tobias dropped a toy he was supposed to deliver for Doc’s little brother, breaking it. He's distraught about the implications for his career, (seriously, he won’t shut up about it) and Doc and her cadre of stuffed a…

Sofia the First: Winter’s Gift (2014)

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Sweet, another fantasy holiday revisited! The first holiday episode strained our tolerance, but this one was actually adorable.

Sofia is excited that it’s Wassailia once more, and she’s made a special gift for Cedric, the court magician. It’s a wand case she made by hand. When she and her rabbit Clover approach his study to deliver the gift, however, she overhears him ranting to himself about the useless trinkets people burden him with every Wassailia. Sofia decides that her gift isn’t special enough and she’ll need to find something better.

A chance comment tips her off to a magical flower - an Ice Lily - that sounds like a great gift, so she and Clover head out. Clover calls on a friend who knows the forest, a fox named Whiskers. (I don’t know why the fox and the rabbit are friends either, but you forget about that because the fox is busy being super sassy about the rabbit’s cushy life in the castle.)

On the way to find the Ice Lilies, they hear some beautiful music and stop to in…

Santa Claws (2014)

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While Santa Claws wasn't intended to be confused with the 1996 horror movie with the same name, it was almost certainly intended to be confused with the direct-to-DVD Santa Paws movies. This was produced by "The Asylum," the low-budget production company that produces cheap knock-offs of big-budget pictures and pushes them onto the market early and often. They're also responsible for the Sharknado franchise (which gets name-checked in Santa Claws).

This is a difficult movie to approach. While it was one of the most boring, pointless productions we've ever had the misfortune of sitting through, it did include a sequence where someone had to shove an EpiPen into Santa's chest to save him from a peanut allergy. While this scene wasn't good, it was certainly a unique moment in Christmas entertainment.

It wasn't entirely alone - the movie offered a couple more shots or jokes that implied a subversive streak in the producers. But saying these were few and …

Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures: Happy First Frost (2010)

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This is only a Christmas episode if you squint, but we think it counts. The characters specifically say that it’s the shortest day of the year, that everyone has different traditions to celebrate, and theirs involves gift-giving. One or two of those wouldn’t do it, but all three and we’ll give it a pass. This is despite the fact that the animation company didn’t bother to give any of the backgrounds or characters any sort of winter look.

The plot mostly follows the aforementioned gift-giving. Strawberry Shortcake and her candy-colored friends have a Secret-Santa-like tradition where they pick names out of a hat and give secret presents. They are preparing for this when a caterpillar (named, I kid you not, “Mr. Longface”) visits, and they invite him to join in.

Strawberry picks his name and sets out to find the perfect gift. Blueberry has Lemon’s name, and decides to give her a huge book about organizing books. Unfortunately, this is a terrible gift for Lemon, who owns only two other…

Supernatural: A Very Supernatural Christmas (2007)

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It's always awkward to jump into the middle of a plot-heavy series for a holiday installment. Supernatural is a long-running genre show with a pretty passionate fan base. This is the first time we've seen an episode.

This one's from the third season, and it's packaged as a full special, despite really only being an episode. The producers arranged to start with the old CBS "A Special Presentation" title card as an homage to holiday fare from the 80's. And, naturally, they end with snow falling.

There are a few story lines playing out simultaneously. A monster-of-the-week mystery forms the backbone, while a series of flashbacks to a Christmas Eve when Sam learned the truth about their family's legacy provides some heart.

The episode opens with another flashback, this one just a year prior, showing a man being pulled up the chimney on Christmas Eve while his son watched. A year later, and the situation is repeated in another state, but this time monster…

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…