Showing posts from November 30, 2014

The Search for Santa Paws (2010)

The Search for Santa Paws is, obviously, the spin-off prequel to the fourth spin-off sequel of the direct-to-video fifth installment of the Air Bud series. It has a sequel, but we're not there yet. This was directed by Robert Vince, who - according to Wikipedia - "specializes in directing movies that feature animals playing sports". His parents must be so proud he ignored their advice and followed his dreams.

This movie differs from its predecessor in several ways. First, while it still features talking animals, their role is much less central to the film. Unless you count humans as talking animals. There are a lot of talking humans in this movie. Also, singing.
I'm sorry. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, which takes place at the North Pole. The producers were unable to get George Wendt back to portray Santa, so they replaced him with Richard Riehle, who has a very different take than Wendt's. In the last movie, Wendt's Santa…

Static Shock: Frozen Out (2002)

Ugh. I feel for the folks who made this, and the folks who love this character, but I cannot recommend you watch this. It’s incredibly dull.

The episode opens with Static bemoaning the busy life of a superhero when he has holiday festivities to attend. Of course, no sooner does he get there, but the power goes out, and he’s off to melt the mysterious ice engulfing the substation. He conveniently ignores the girl on the scene, and then rinse, repeat. Whining, Mysterious Ice, and then he finally figures out it’s the girl.

We are treated to some tedious backstory about Permafrost. She lost her mom at a young age and is living on the street. Sad story, right? Not the way it’s animated here. Instead, it’s boring.

Static finally goes looking for some information about her and learns her sad story. When she shows up again, he reaches out in compassion, and she agrees to accept help. That should be a good story, but the writing is so pedantic that any emotional impact is muted.

It sounded to…

Moonlighting: It's a Wonderful Job (1986)

This episode I liked less than the first. One problem, as I see it, is that many shows which attempt to adapt either It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol (or sort of mash them up, as this one does) need to bend their characters so far out of shape to do it, that the resolution has no sentiment or weight.

Also, the premise here is really dumb. Maddie needs to keep everyone in the office over what would be their Christmas break to keep a case active. They stage a petty, whiny revolt, and David gives her a moralistic speech of nastiness. Then she learns that her aunt, sick in a nearby hospital, has died before she had time to visit because she’s been so busy. Cue regret, wishes, vague suicidal impulses, and a pudgy angel in a suit.

Maddie gets to see a world in which she didn’t keep the agency open. The lives of the other characters are boring, and the writing attempts to make us believe that we should care, but no. They’re caricatures anyway, so being a different caricature doesn…

Santa Buddies (2009)

To even begin to entertain a serious discussion about the movie Santa Buddies, we must first explore the greater cinematic universe it inhabits, as well as the origins of that universe. And for that, we need to talk about Full House. Or more specifically, the starof Full House, a golden retriever named Buddy.

Buddy was a stray who was adopted and taught sports by his owner. He was so famous, he appeared on two shows starring Bob Saget, Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos. He even starred in a film adaptation of his life called Air Bud.

He died a few weeks after Air Bud's sequel, but his legacy has endured. In total, there were two theatrical Air Bud movies, along with three direct-to-video sequels.

Like most people, I haven't seen any of these movies, nor do I intend to.

Rather than putting the franchise to sleep, Disney shifted the focus to the next generation. While I suspect the real Buddy was neutered, the theatrical version was more prolific: his children h…

Book Review: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (Part Two)

This year, I am taking on The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, a 674 page tome containing 59 individual stories about the Christmas season. Conveniently, it’s broken up into blog-post sized sections. This is section two.

A Funny Little Christmas

The Burglar and the Whatsit, Donald E. Westlake - Short and clever, got great style.Dancing Dan’s Christmas, Damon Runyon - Enjoyable. Nothing unexpected.A Visit from St. Nicholas, Ron Goulart - Cute style, decent use of irony.The Thieves Who Couldn’t Help Sneezing, Thomas Hardy - Solid tale, not really a mystery. Almost fairy tale style.Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas, John Mortimer - Ugh. I guess youre supposed to enjoy the humor and ignore the horrid classism.A Reversible Santa Claus, Meredith Nicholson - Longest story so far, pretty enjoyable.

These were mostly pretty fun, with a couple of exceptions. The Thomas Hardy piece was fine, I guess, but it was so different. It follows a man who is waylaid on the road, and then he manages to ex…

Moonlighting: 'Twas the Episode Before Christmas (1985)

Neither of us had actually, to our recollections, watched an episode of Moonlighting before today. Just to set a baseline. Our reactions: “That was really kind of good. Also dumb in bits, but quite enjoyable.” “Well, now I know why no one believed Bruce Willis would be an action star.” “I guess I see why it was so influential.” “Huh, the first episode was much better.”

We’ve got two Christmas episodes to talk about, and yes, this first one was much better.

It’s a good thing that the Netflix DVD sleeve explained that these characters run a private detective agency, because it is really hard to figure that out from this episode. The episode opens with the plot hook: a random dude gets killed by a bad guy he once testified against, but his wife and child escape. Said wife leaves her baby for safekeeping with no explanation in the apartment of a secretary who works for Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis). Said secretary brings the baby to work, and the main characters dash …

Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)

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…

A Christmas Memory (1997)

Please begin by noting, I read and enjoyed A Christmas Memory.

I have a small, tiny, miniscule amount of sympathy for the person who thought this was a good idea. I mean, Breakfast at Tiffany’s doesn’t seem like a filmable story either at first glance. But at least that story has things, and these things happen to the characters.

Is this tv-movie adaptation irredeemable? Probably not. It might have been a lovely 15 minutes, though, and instead it is a dragging, tedious, bloated 96.

The only strength is in the visuals. The production values are strong enough that everything looks period-accurate and has depth and texture. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the writing. Adapting a stream-of-consciousness piece that’s all setting and emotional vignettes to live action is not a light task to undertake. Despite the actors giving it a good shot, words that lilt and float as thoughts on the page fall dead when spoken aloud.

Also, they tried very hard to give it a plot. And it’s a mel…

Beneath the Tree: Cosmic Hat

Check out the "Cosmic Hat," a variation on the Santa hat for people who like annoying lights and sounds.

All is Bright (2013)

All is Bright centers around a paroled thief played by Paul Giamatti, who returns to his home in Quebec to discover his wife is seeing his best friend (Paul Rudd). She's told his daughter that he died of cancer, and doesn't want her to learn otherwise. Despite being furious with his friend, Giamatti's character approaches him for a job. Together, they drive to New York City to sell a truckload of Christmas trees.

It sounds like a premise with some comic potential, but the movie goes in a different direction. It's generally described as a dark comedy, but it doesn't really fit in that category. It has a handful of jokes - some of which are hilarious - but they're few and far between. For the most part, the movie skews closer to drama.

This is a Christmas movie about poverty and desperation. It's about people who want to put their lives back together, but have no real chance of succeeding. Even if the world wasn't completely apathetic to their situation, …

Comic: Winter Soldier: Winter Kills

Issue originally from 2007
Writer: Ed Brubaker, Art: Lee Weeks, Stefano Gaudiano

I was pretty excited to stumble across this holiday-themed one-shot in time for the Mainlining season, but it’s probably too embedded in comics continuity for new readers to appreciate.

It takes place in the midst of Civil War, although that plotline only comes up in the background. The main plot follows Bucky Barnes, as he tries to process his first real Christmas since the 40’s, and reflects on holidays then and now.

The flashbacks are pretty fun, especially the contrast between the warm sepia tones and the blue-black colors of the modern scenes.

Bucky’s seasonal depression is interrupted by a summons from SHEILD, who ask him to stop a squad of Young Avengers - Hawkeye (Kate), Patriot and Vision - from accidentally blowing a SHIELD operation because of bad intel. They end up fighting a bunch of HYDRA goons, and Bucky acts toward the young heroes like the older professional that he is mentally, if not p…

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

There’s a lot to enjoy about this old-school romantic comedy, but enough dated bits that I can’t recommend it without reservation.

Discharged soldier (and ‘hero’ for some unspecified reason) Jefferson Jones is recovering in hospital and dreaming about solid food. He flirts with a nurse to get better treatment, but she takes him seriously and proposes they get married. He claims to not have any context for a real home, and she decides to call in a favor to send him to the cozy farm home of matronly author and famous cook, Elizabeth Lane, for Christmas.

Cue the twist that sets up the plot.

Elizabeth Lane is not a woman with a family on a Connecticut farm. She’s a single writer living in a tiny New York apartment. She gets her ‘brilliant’ recipes through an arrangement with a friend, the chef at the restaurant downstairs, because she can’t so much as boil water. She and her manager try to get her out of the host-a-soldier-for-Christmas deal, but her publisher doesn’t know that her artic…

Beneath the Tree: Creatology Foam Deer Kit

What better way to celebrate the magic of Christmas than by mounting the severed head of Comet to your wall?

I Am Santa Claus (2014)

I am Santa Claus is a documentary exploring a number of professional Santas' lives throughout the year. The subject matter is very reminiscent to that explored in Becoming Santa, though the perspective is slightly shifted. Both are fantastic documentaries, but I actually think this was a little more interesting.

There were five primary Santas in the movie, in addition to countless minor characters. The movie chose some fairly unique subjects to help you keep them straight, no easy feat given that everyone in the movie is working to become the same character.

The most famous subject is Mick Foley, a professional wrestler with a lifelong love of Christmas and St. Nicholas. Like Jack Sanderson in Becoming Santa, he's playing the part for the first time. The documentary introduces the juxtaposition between his former image and his new role, though it's hard to lend much credence to his violent performance: the man comes off as infectiously nice and gentle-hearted. In addition,…

Rosemary and Thyme: The Cup of Silence (2005)

I should start by saying that I like this show, although I like it more in a ‘turn on while I clean or knit or otherwise multitask’ sort of way, rather than a ‘sit down and pay close attention’ sort of way. I first ran across this Christmas-ish episode earlier this year when I was doing just that.

I say Christmas-ish because while there are several references to the upcoming holidays and the episode originally aired in December, that’s all there is, and the setting and main plot have nothing to do with the subject of this blog.

It’s a standard episode of this show, which means the plot follows gardeners Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme while they attempt to solve a plant problem for a client and solve a mysterious death at the same time. In this case, the deceased is a critic visiting a struggling hotel, and the protagonists are there to help the adjacent struggling winery. The hotel and the winery are run by estranged brothers, one of whom of course turns out to be the killer, while t…

Mainlining Christmas Gift Guide - 2014

Other gift guides start from the assumption that there's a brilliant gift out there waiting for you to find, a gift that will convey a sense of emotional gravitas or communicate a message of gratitude or love, or simply convey an expression of goodwill around the holidays. These guides try to give you ideas in the hopes that they'll introduce you to something you haven't thought of or jog your memory into recalling that perfect gift idea.

Here at Mainlining Christmas, our starting assumption is that if you're trying to find an interesting, thoughtful gift at a reasonable price for an adult, you're pretty much screwed. Sure, at one time there were gift ideas ripe for the picking, but that ship has sailed, been retired from active service, was forced to go out on one last adventure in order to rescue a bunch of orphans shipwrecked on Christmas Eve, then sunk off the coast of Gibraltar in a storm. Presumably the metaphorical orphans were then rescued by Batman - he d…

Book Review: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (Part One)

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries
editor: Otto Penzler, 2013

This year, I am taking on The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, a 674 page tome containing 59 individual stories about the Christmas season. Conveniently, it’s broken up into blog-post sized sections. Shall we begin?

Section One: A Traditional Little Christmas

I actually need to start with a general formatting note. I am not a huge fan of the way the biographies of the authors are presented. Each story is prefaced by a quick explanation of the standing or fame of the author, often including whatever work they are most famous for, and the source of the story. Honestly, I’d rather simply have the source of the story and save the plaudits for afterward or the footnotes.

I started to skip or skim these pages after the third time that I felt disappointed by a bait-and-switch. For example, from the bio I see that such and such an author was famous for his comedies, but I discover upon reading that this piece is a drama. Or this on…

The Six Million Dollar Man: A Bionic Christmas Carol (1976)

Let's say you're a TV producer in the 1970's, and you're holding the rights to a science-fiction/spy thriller novel you want to adapt for television. Do you go with the original title of the work, "Cyborg," or do you name it "The Six Million Dollar Man?"

That, in a nutshell, is why most TV sucked in the 1970's.

This episode opens the day before Christmas. Steve Austin, the Cyborg Six Million Dollar Man, is sent on a mission to investigate possible sabotage at a company contracted to develop gear necessary for a mission to Mars.

Just so no one gets any ideas, no on goes to Mars in this episode. That probably would have been cool.

The company's problems, surprisingly, aren't due to sabotage. Instead, they're caused by the owner's adherence to the absolute minimums specified by the contract.

Also, he's Scrooge. His name is changed to Budge, but he's clearly Scrooge. He even lives in a mansion built to resemble every version…

Toy Review: Gremlins: Santa Gizmo

All Gremlins merchandise is Christmas-themed, but this one's doubly so. It's a Toys R' Us exclusive from a few years back. I wanted one for the blog, but it started around $17, which was quite a bit higher than I was willing to go. I was actually regretting not picking one up after they vanished from the shelves, though my patience was rewarded when one miraculously reappeared in March, clearanced for a measly $5.99.

Gizmo appears in a Santa hat in the movie, though it's a full-sized one as opposed to this "Gizmo-sized" version. I don't think that would have worked as well visually, so I don't mind the change.

The toy is about four inches tall. I'd say that's about quarter-scale, though that's just an estimate. The sculpt is fantastic, though the paint is a little sloppy in spots. It's still better than you see from most toy companies, but it's a long way from the most meticulously painted NECA figures I own.

The articulation is i…

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

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…

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)

"A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas." That's a title only a marketing executive could love. Break it down and you get two titles, each equally uninspired: both "Harold and Kumar 3D" and "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas" represent jokes so cliched you have to wonder if the producers were relying on the memory-damaging properties of marijuana to cover their lack of creativity.

In case there was any question, we saw this on our TV in a mere two dimensions. I can't imagine the effect was sufficiently different in 3D. It was pretty obvious where it was put to use.

This is the third and - to date - the last in the franchise. We've seen the first, which I found to be a relatively clever take on racism. We skipped part two, but it was only a matter of time before we got to the Christmas installment.

If I'd looked this up on Rotten Tomatoes, I'd probably have gone in with higher expectations - for some reason, I was under the impression it…