Showing posts from December 13, 2015

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)

We went into this with a lot of trepidation, between the snooze fest that was the predecessor and the cruddy-looking CG. However, this special was actually much better than the first! It follows basically the same format - short pieces linked by pedantic narration - but the pieces themselves are far superior. It’s as though the people writing them actually liked their jobs, liked the characters and cared about the humor (again, completely unlike the first special). Furthermore, the special is the same length, but there are five pieces instead of three. The shorter format is much stronger. The first piece combines artistry and humor as Minnie and Daisy try to outdo each other as the stars of an amateur skating show. They each have backup skaters from the Fantasia Dance of the Hours sequence. It’s sweet and funny without getting too sappy, and we were surprised with how decent the animation was. (Complete side note: I don’t know if shipping Minnie and Daisy together is a thing,

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

This direct-to-video special comes from a particular time in the history of the Disney company. When it came to anything starring classic Disney characters, they hadn't yet embraced a modern sense of humor or story, but had rejected any edge or depth inherent in the early cartoons. This results in stories so bland they could be animated entirely in beige. Of course, the animation is actually bright and crisp. It's the writing that's so painfully inoffensive as to end up nothing but drivel. The special consists of three separate pieces linked by some dull, poorly written rhymes read by Kelsey Grammer. The first piece is a variation on the 'Christmas Every Day' story, which we've seen before in many forms. It features Huey, Dewey and Louie as the kids who wish for it to be Christmas everyday after they have a great holiday with Donald, Daisy, Scrooge and an over-emotional aunt character who I've never seen before. Unlike many times I've seen this

Toy Review: Talking Mistletoe

I feel like Hallmark is constantly trying to break its own record on most offensive holiday merchandise. Here's the most recent offering I've gotten my hands on: I have a hard time imagining what the target demographic is for people who'd want to be sexually harassed by plastic mistletoe speaking in a fake accent so stereotypical, Pepé Le Pew would be offended, but apparently someone at Hallmark thought it was large enough to bet their job on. I'd like to take a moment to point out I found this marked down from $9.95 to $1.00 at Walgreens, and the person behind the counter looked surprised when I said I wanted to purchase it. The sound feature is loud and clear, which makes it easy to understand, even with the accent. It has eight different gags, which is more than things like this usually come with. Needless to say, both of these points should be considered as negatives. Do I really need to say the jokes are bad? I feel like this thing speaks for it

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

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 muc

Music Review: Broadway’s Carols for a Cure 2015: Volume 17

I bought the 2011 Carols for a Cure album in person in New York, and I’ve meant to pick up another one ever since. I love the combination of classic carols and new songs, all done by current Broadway singers. I was excited to find that they’re now all available in MP3 for those of us not able to pick them up on Broadway! The 2015 volume has a lot of gems. Here’s a quick run-down of what you’ll find this year: CHRISTMAS VACATION - The cast of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical Hey, this is a good reminder that I actually like this song when it’s divorced from the terrible movie. Fun! JOY TO THE WORLD - The cast of Hamilton  I'll admit it, this song is a big part of why I hunted down this album. Per the Mainlining Christmas rules, I can't go back to listening to Hamilton over and over until Dec 26, so this'll have to hold me over. This track opens with narration and segues into the song, done in a style of overlapping harmonies and echoing lines that heavily evoke

Fiction: The Collector of Old Toys

We've got a handful of holiday fiction for you. Today's is a short piece of magical realism - hope you like it! Check back on Sunday for another story! The Collector of Old Toys By: Erin L. Snyder The cab fare comes to fifty dollars, and I hand over three twenties, suddenly wishing I’d used a few minutes of the ride to google what I should be tipping. Is ten dollars enough? When I’m coming to a place like this? Mother always called Grandfather’s home a mansion, and with good reason. It is by far the largest house I have ever been in, though in truth it’s only the third largest on its street. The driver doesn’t look insulted by the tip, so I suppose it’s sufficient. My luggage consists of three pieces, which seems excessive for a four-day trip, even if one of the bags is mostly full of wrapped presents. Should I even have brought them? I almost didn’t, but the fear of being the only one who didn’t bring gifts beat out the fear that I’d be the only one with them. Besides,

I'll Be Home For Christmas (1998)

I'm having a very hard time resolving how lazy the construction of the individual scenes of this movie was with the fact that the premise was a relatively ingenious re-imagining of The Odyssey built around an eighteen year old trying to get home for the holidays. It's worth noting I'll Be Home For Christmas did this a few years before O Brother, Where Art Thou? got a lot of attention for a similar gimmick (though - needless to say - O Brother did it much, much better). Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays Jake, the Odysseus character. Like his archetype, he's a pathological liar and conman. At the start of the movie, Jake is at college in Los Angeles, along with his girlfriend, Allie, who comes from the same town on Long Island (it's a plot point later that her family only lives a few blocks from his). If this seems absurdly unlikely, it's worth noting that you'll also have to suspend your disbelief around the film's portrayal of college, a place where nerds

Nerdtivity: December 18, 2015

Yeah, we know you don't care about the holidays today, but we still have to stay focused. If you're interested, I saw The Force Awakens last night and reviewed it on The Middle Room . Be aware, there are a few spoilers.

Book Review: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Barbara Robinson, 1972 I have been seeing this book on lists of favorite Christmas books since we started the Mainlining project. But reading the back cover blurb made it sound entirely like a cheese-fest, overly religious, or otherwise sanctimonious, so I'd been putting it off. I have to admit, though, for an eighty-page book written for young readers, this is impressively subversive. Although, it probably seemed less so in 1972. The plot regards a group of unruly siblings who take over the Christmas pageant in a small town. In doing so, they force the townspeople to confront the reality behind the rote recitation of the myth. This may come as close as any religious-ish story ever has of evoking actual emotion in my cold, dead soul. The most interesting thing is the narrator. The story is told in the first person, by a young girl. Her opinions and asides add color, humor and context. The narrator is observant enough to report on all

Batman Automobilia No. 61: Batman: Noel

Eaglemoss Collections has been producing a line of die-cast Batman vehicles for a while now. I own a handful I've picked up over the past two years to supplement my collection of Batmobiles. This one's getting special attention, however, because the design is lifted from the story, Batman: Noel, a re-imagined version of the Christmas Carol which wedges the Dark Knight into the Scrooge role. I'll get back to the car in a moment. First, it comes with a very short magazine. It's only ten pages long, counting the four-page fold-out in the middle, but it's heavy stock. The content is intended to provide both information about the car itself and the context of the character at the time. I like the blueprints, though some of the text in here is a bit absurd. Passages like, "This was a Batmobile designed to handle the snow and ice of a seemingly endless winter." Likewise, there's a complete breakdown of all the crime-fighting gizmos built into the

Bush Christmas (1947)

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

Prancer Returns (2001)

I'd like to offer more context for this direct-to-video sequel to the quasi-classic 1989 film, but there seems to be very little about the movie online. Searching for "Prancer Returns" on Wikipedia just redirects to the first movie, where there's a brief mention of the sequel's existence. IMDB has the cast/crew listed, but not many details. I don't think a single actor or character shows up in both films, which is a little odd actually. They take place in the same small town just ten years apart, and the events of the first movie have been elevated to a sort of legendary status. We're told several major characters remember the events, but only one - Old Man Richards, played by Jack Palance - claimed to know the family directly. Ten years in a town that size is a drop in the bucket: it's a little surprising none of the previous characters were still around and odder still no one seemed to know what had happened to them. While none of Prancer's

The Little Drummer Boy Book II (1976)

Somehow, in year six, there are still Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas specials that we hadn't seen. I don't know how this happened either. This one is just as boring as its predecessor , but it does have nicer animation. It picks up where the first left off, Baby Jesus suitably entertained by Aaron and his magic drum. Aaron wants to do something more (further undermining the message of the original song) and Melchior drags him off to town to help look for some bellmaker. Melchior looks a bit more Middle-Ages-Europe king than first-century-Damascus king to my eye. Just saying. The bellmaker, Simeon, has been telling people that Jesus is coming, and while they haven't believed him, he has cast a set of giant silver bells in preparation. At this point, Erin can attest that I gave the screen some incredible side-eye at the idea that they would co-opt, even just by reference, one of my favorite holiday songs for this dreck, but it never went further than that refer