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Showing posts from 2019

Noelle (2019)

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Noelle, one of a handful of made-for-streaming movies released with Disney+, feels like a derivative premise mulched by a committee that's still mostly redeemed by Anna Kendrick's presence and likability.

Kendrick plays Noelle Kringle, daughter of Santa Claus and therefore (Disney) princess of the North Pole. They're not afraid of using the p-word, either. Her servant elf calls her "Princess" as a nickname, and Noelle uses it herself at least once. Also, she has a pet reindeer she calls using the generic Disney princess song. Honestly, it was kind of nice to see a Disney movie where they embrace the term again instead of treating it like a insult.

Ever since she was a child, Noelle's wanted to do something important, but all the attention was placed on her brother, Nick (Bill Hader), heir apparent to the family legacy. Oh, I should probably have mentioned we're doing the whole Santa-bloodlines-thing they did in Arthur Christmas. In fact, there's a lo…

Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)

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We missed this one in theaters last year, mainly because it wasn't playing anywhere we could get to without a hassle. At the time, we regretted it quite a bit. Anna and the Apocalypse was getting good reviews and had an intriguing premise: a horror-comedy-zombie-Christmas-musical. That's the sort of thing we love!

Well, it can be the sort of thing we love. In this case, it turned out to be the sort of thing we like, which - given our arguably unreasonable expectations - meant it was kind of a disappointment.

The story, absent the musical gimmick (and unfortunately I do mean gimmick) follows fairly well-trod zombified ground. The main character and her friends are dealing with mundane problems and issues that have strained relationships with loved ones and each other. Then the apocalypse hits, and they spend the movie trying to reconnect with family and friends, growing as people along the way. And, of course, almost everyone dies horribly, usually after or while resolving the…

Podcast Review: Household Name: Kentucky Fried Christmas (2018)

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When I heard an ad for a podcast from Business Insider, I wasn't initially interested. Then the ad mentioned that there was an episode about the connection between KFC and Christmas in Japan, and I was immediately searching for the download button.

Unfortunately, the episode didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, but the story was told well and the episode was overall a lot of fun.

If you aren't interested in Japanese culture or the minutiae of the holiday, you might not know that Kentucky Fried Chicken is closely associated with Christmas in Japan. While that might seem strange to Americans at first, the surface-level reasons are those that you might come up with if pressed: Western holiday - Western food, chicken is close to the traditional (i.e., Dickensian) turkey, and Colonel Sanders bears a decent resemblance to Santa Claus.

I was hoping for some deeper revelation or twist, but the reporter on the podcast says that's most of it, although how the co…

Toy/Book Review: The Elf on the Shelf (2005)

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To be clear, I honestly thought I was done writing about Christmas-themed toys. I've reviewed quite a few over the years, but something about the experience wasn't as fulfilling as it once was. It's hard to put my finger on the precise issue--

Oh, wait. Now I remember: no one cared about any of those posts.

At any rate, I've looked at a variety of holiday action figures, dolls, building sets, playsets, a Batmobile, and... whatever the hell this was... but there was one thing that always eluded me. And that, of course, was The Elf on the Shelf.


Obviously, "elude" is a strong choice of words. I've seen countless of these for sale over the years but it's rare to see them marked down significantly. There were times early in the blog's existence I considered paying the full $30 for a chance to mock these little demons publicly. But before I got around to that, I started seeing them parodied and viciously criticized, and... I don't know. It kind fe…

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

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The Peanuts Movie somewhat breaks our litmus test for Christmas movies, in that it objectively passes despite the fact it's pretty clearly not a holiday film in any meaningful sense of the phrase.

For those of you who don't want to read through my treatise on the subject, there are a handful of binary questions we can ask, and any movie receiving a "yes" on one or more those questions is considered, for the purposes of this blog, a Christmas movie. The most basic of those questions is whether or not more than 50% of a movie is clearly set at or around the holidays, and The Peanuts Movie passes. In fact, the vast majority of the film - everything except the ending - is adjacent to Christmas.

But the reason for this is, well, pretty trivial. As far as I can tell, The Peanuts Movie's setting is just an homage to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Beyond that, the holidays really don't come up.

I've seen a few other movies where Christmas seemed to be more a referen…

Book Review: A Cup of Holiday Fear

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A Cup of Holiday Fear
Ellie Alexander, 2019

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: Jules runs a bakery in charming artistic tourist town Ashland, Oregon, where she is kept busy preparing for the Christmas rush and snooping around after an out-of-towner ends up dead.

I've read quite a few Christmas-themed cozy mysteries by now. Most of them are readable but nothing special.

It wasn't immediately clear from the publisher's description that this takes place well into a series, but it was obvious from the first page. Backstory and past relationships are recapped at length, even when they have nothing to do with the plot of this book.

I have two fairly substantial issues with this book, and in the end, I can't give it a pass.

The first is the mystery itself; it's just uninteresting.

The killer is the obviously mean character, the victim was a horrible person, and the resolution takes place entirely off-screen in…

We Need to Re-Evaluate L. Frank Baum's "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus"

Content Warning for discussion of genocide and accounts of severe historical racism.

We've reviewed L. Frank Baum's Life and Adventures of Santa Claus in the past, we've written about the Rankin/Bass special, and we've talked it about multiple times. But, in the process of watching the 2000 animated adaptation for the first time, I wanted to go back and revisit the book, as well as its sequels.

So I did. I wrote an extremely long article discussing the merits and flaws of the work (some of the writing is pretty but most of it is kind of boring) and how influential it was (it probably created one of Santa's two primary origin stories, it's more or less the basis for all the Rankin/Bass specials, and its sequels, "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" and "How the Woggle-Bug and his Friends Visited Santa Claus," are probably why we have Nightmare Before Christmas).

I went through the plots, the characters, all of it. It was a lot of work, and I think I did…

The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (2000)

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This isn't the first time we've reviewed an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's novel. There's also a Rankin/Bass stop-motion version that's visually impressive but otherwise fairly forgettable. This animated version from 2000 shares one of those qualities, and unfortunately it's not the visuals.

For better or worse, this is a very faithful adaptation of Baum's book. There are a handful of changes here and there, but these are generally trivial alterations. The largest change was the decision to expand the role of Wisk, a fairy appearing in the last few chapters of the original, into a major character serving as comic relief throughout.

But the backbone of the story is mostly unaltered, which probably wasn't the best idea. While I'm fond of the original book, it's mostly due to some interesting choices around the setting, tone, and premise. I like that Baum wrote Santa into a world of fantasy and magic, as opposed to religious. The book is a fairy ta…

Let It Snow (2019)

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Netflix has been trying for a few years to encroach on Hallmark’s dominance of the disposable holiday rom-com. One of this year’s attempts is this adaptation of a set of YA short stories.

The film starts and ends with narration by Joan Cusack. She is, of course, awesome, but the narration itself is so corny and obvious that I was literally laughing out loud, and not in a good way.

Taking place over December 24, the movie follows four and a half separate stories and features an array of attractive young actors, many of whom have history working for Netflix or Nickelodeon. I have already forgotten all the characters' names. Many major plot moments take place at a restaurant called Waffle Town.

The plots each fall into a basic romance trope or two:
Pining for the girl next doorToo-practical girl has meet-cute with celebrity in search of "something real"One-night stand (maybe one-night hangout, it's ambiguous) turns out to be true loveGirl dumps cheating boy to learn to …

Welcome Back

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Welcome back for the tenth season of Mainlining Christmas!

If you're a long-time fan, you might recall that we made some changes last year. We didn't push ourselves to post so often so that we could concentrate on quality.

At the end of the season, we also announced the impending arrival of our assistant, who was born in due course this past summer.

As you may have guessed, while we will continue to consume large amounts of seasonal fare, we have other ways to challenge our sanity this year. And this is for the best.

Because we have been doing this for so long that we've begun to build up an immunity.

It's no longer hard to listen to only Christmas music for a month or more; in fact, I've been turning it on in the summer when I need to relax. Few Christmas episodes and movies hold surprises for us, for we are masters of holiday tropes; we can see a last-minute Santa reveal coming before the first hint of snow clouds. In short, the mental and physical challenge a…

Shazam! (2019)

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Before I get started, I just want to take a minute and acknowledge how surreal it is that you can go to the movie theater this weekend and watch both Captain Marvel and Shazam. Billy Batson and Carol Danvers are two characters I never thought we'd see on the big screen - Batson because he's silly and Danvers because I'd have sworn the one line Marvel would never cross would be putting out a movie with their company name embedded in the title - but here we are.

And both of them are good. Really good, in really different ways. But not for different reasons: both Shazam! and Captain Marvel were made with respect and love for the characters being adapted, and it comes through in the finished products.

I'll set Captain Marvel aside. Aside from sharing a convoluted history with Shazam! (if you have no idea what I'm referring to, pour yourself a Scotch when you've got an hour to kill and go read the Wikipedia histories on the characters calling themselves "Captai…