Showing posts from November 23, 2014

Batman: Arkham Origins (2013)

People have been telling me I have to play the Arkham games since the first one was released. For years, I've heard that they were fantastic, that they offered the experience of being Batman, that the writing and voice acting were great, and so on and so forth. But I just ignored them, not because I thought they were wrong, but because I was worried they might be right. Then, last year, I heard something about the third game in the series that made me pay attention. The story is entirely set on a single night when eight assassins are hired to try and kill Batman. And that night is December 24th. I knew it was just a matter of time. That time, incidentally, was the duration it took for Steam to mark Arkham Origins down to $7.49 during one of their ridiculously amazing sales. I bought it and set out to experience the holiday-fueled mayhem. A few words of warning before I continue. I am not remotely qualified to review video games. I certainly played my share back in the d

The Bishop's Wife (1948)

Neither Erin nor I can recall which of us added this to the Netflix queue, so we were going in a bit blind, and were delightfully surprised. The Bishop’s Wife opens by introducing Cary Grant, who proceeds to step in front of speeding cars while helping old men across the street and rescuing babies and more or less being possibly-magical. He takes a casual eavesdropper’s interest in the woes of a beautiful young woman, Julia, who happens to be the bishop’s wife. Then we meet the bishop, Henry, at home. Henry is trying raise money to get a new cathedral built, and due to the process and stress of doing so, he’s screwing up his relationship with his family and his faith. He prays for guidance. He gets Cary Grant. Grant says that his name is Dudley, and that he’s an angel sent to help the bishop. The bishop is naturally skeptical of this. Dudley proceeds to act as the bishop’s ‘assistant’, even though mainly what he does is charm every woman on screen, including Julia. Once Hen

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

The most disorienting aspect of While You Were Sleeping now is knowing that Sandra Bullock would eventually star in Gravity , which is a good film but - sadly - not a Christmas movie. While You Were Sleeping , on the other hand, is just the opposite. For those of you lucky enough to have missed the 90's, the decade was full of movies like this. The rom-com was about as common then as superhero movies are now. This one's no worse than most, but that's a relatively low bar. This movie starts by introducing us to Sandra Bullock, who plays a character whose main character trait is that she's lonely. Yes, it's Christmas, and she has no one to share it with other than her cat. Also, she wants to travel. Her job is to collect tokens from people boarding the Chicago subways. The one bright part of her day is when this one random guy comes by. She's never spoken to him, but she falls for him anyway, because she has serious emotional issues. On Christmas mornin

Leverage: The Ho, Ho, Ho Job (2010) and The Toy Job (2012)

Throw The A-Team and Ocean's Eleven into a blender and hit puree, and you get Leverage , a series about four semi-reformed thieves teaming up with a semi-unreformed insurance investigator in order to take on corrupt politicians, heartless corporations, and rich crime bosses to steal back what they've taken from "the little guy." If the concept sounds a touch sappy, rest assured the series itself is a lot of fun. A sentence or two of cheesy moralizing every episode is a small price to pay for great characters (any one of the show's five leads could hold down a series of their own), tightly-plotted stories, and hilarious situations. In other words, the series is definitely worth your time. The Christmas episodes are, as well, though they're not the best jumping-on points. "The Ho, Ho, Ho Job" starts like most episodes, with a guest star showing up with a sob story. This time, the wronged individual is a mall Santa Claus who's been framed fo

'Twas the Night Before Black Friday

According to myth, a group of early American religious extremists once arranged a feast with an indigenous tribe in New England on the fourth Thursday of November. Soon after, the settlers set out to murder the people and cultures that had welcomed them in order to claim their land. This went on for centuries, and millions died. We now recognize this slaughter of innocent life in the name of material gain in an annual tradition called Black Friday. It's become a tradition here at Mainlining Christmas to go out on the night before Black Friday, which we call Black Friday's Eve. We go not as shoppers but as chroniclers, eager to study the changing holiday. This year, we went early, mainly because the festivities started early. The number of stores opening at 5:00 this year was astonishing. We began a little later: we arrived at our first stop around 7:30 and traveled from store to store until 9:30. Our first observation was that everything felt quieter than usu

Food Review: Dryck Julmust

In line at IKEA is not necessarily where you first think to pick up something Christmassy, even though all the decorations are near the registers. (Incidentally, I really enjoy looking at IKEA Christmas decorations. I don’t even know why; they aren’t that different. But so many light up!) This year, however, we ran across this: “Swedish Festive Drink” On the back, it adds: “Aromatized Carbonated Soft Drink” So of course, after chilling per instructions, we had to try it. What did it taste like? Mostly, a whole lot of not much. It smells of something that I can’t quite define. Something I recognize but can’t put a name to. It tastes mostly of water and sugar and that carbonated bitterness common to most drinks containing copious CO2. There’s a faint taste of something vaguely fruity, but not fruit, like a lollipop flavor. Erin said it tastes like expired, watered down Pepsi. He’s not that far off. The bottle lists both hops flavor and malt flavor, and I guess

A Baby Blues Christmas Special (2000)

Remember the show Baby Blues ? Of course you don't. Apparently, it was one of the myriad animated sitcoms that was produced in the past two decades that producers hoped would miraculously obtain the kind of success The Simpson enjoyed, but that wound up being cancelled after half a season. When you think about it, it's a lot like the gold rush. Sure, every now and then a show like Family Guy or King of the Hill will inexplicably pull a nugget of gold out of a mountain stream in Colorado, but for every one of them a dozen Family Dogs and Capital Critters drown while trying to cross the Mississippi River. Baby Blues was sort of like a cross between Dr. Katz and Dilbert. It was based on a comic strip of the same name, which I've also never heard of. The Christmas Special was also the series's pilot. At least it was supposed to be: the WB produced it then sat on it. They wound up airing five other episodes then cancelling the series. It was eventually aired late

Toy Review: Playmobile Santa's Workshop

This set isn't actually called "Santa's Workshop." All that's written on the box is "Christmas" and an item number. But it sure looks like they were going for a workshop effect, so that seems like as good a way as any to differentiate it from the Santa/reindeer set I bought three years ago . Speaking of the box... It was pretty smashed up. But it was also on sale for 85% off, thanks to a summer clearance sale at Toys R Us. I wound up paying about $6 for this, which is just under half what I paid for that other set. I figured that was a bargain even if half the pieces were missing (I was even happier when I discovered everything was still in the box). Open this up, and you're staring at a bunch of bags and plastic panels. You also get directions and a tool for inserting plastic pegs into the larger pieces. Here's a look at the tool and a page of the instructions: Let me sum that up for you: if you give this to a five year old exp

Prancer (1989)

I started watching Prancer with quite a bit of trepidation. Erin said, “Well, think of it this way, it’s at least probably better than any other lost reindeer movie we’ve seen.” While that’s a low bar, I’m happy to report that Prancer not only passes, that it’s overall a pretty good movie despite a lame ending. I liked the main character from the very first scene. Jessica is a little girl with a big imagination and a bigger mouth. She’s stubborn and angry. She fights with her friends and with her brother and with her dad. She sticks to her guns and never gives up. I really liked her. One of the big strengths of this movie is that the dialogue feels strangely real, especially the kids’ dialogue. The child actors are fantastic. Jessica’s dad (Sam Elliot) is having economic troubles and trouble caring for her since her mom died, but their relationship is never schmaltzy. It’s full of things unsaid and words said in frustration, then awkwardly taken back. Her aunt has offered to ta

Another Season Begins

For those just joining us... you're late. Pull up a chair in back, and save all questions for the end. This is Mainlining Christmas, a blog devoted to experiencing the holiday season in its entirety, or as close as the limitations time, space, and mortality permit. Our music collection is daunting: more than 3,000  4,000 holiday songs and counting. As always, 100% of music we listen to of our own volition between now and Christmas will be drawn from that collection. In addition to thirty pieces of fiction , numerous articles , and several digital cards , our archive houses approximately 330 reviews of holiday specials, episodes, and movies . And we'll be the first to acknowledge that's not remotely adequate. Our goal is to grow into the single greatest repository of Christmas reviews in the known Universe: we're not content at our current volume. If we asked a dozen random people to list the first 20 specials or movies that came to mind when they thought of Christma

Happy Thanksgiving from Mainlining Christmas

We here at Mainlining Christmas would like to wish all of you a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

About that Thursday Thing

I've written quite a few satirical articles on Black Friday - it's become something of a Mainlining Christmas tradition. I'm sure I'll write a few more words on that subject this year, but not right now. I want to approach the expanding Black Friday date from a different perspective. I want to be serious for a minute. I can't imagine anyone out there isn't familiar with this, but just in case, here's the background: Black Friday has been shifting away from a one-day affair. A large number of retailers, led by Walmart and Target, now open on Thanksgiving. This is a relatively new phenomenon: when we started the blog, we'd never heard of stores opening on Thanksgiving or midnight on Friday. It was on year two that we first went out on Thanksgiving night, resulting in what I still consider one of the best posts we've ever put on this blog . But even then, there were very few stores open earlier than midnight. That's changed in the last three yea