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Showing posts with the label 2010

The Garfield Show: Caroling Capers (2009) and Home for the Holidays, Parts 1 and 2 (2010)

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I put this on mostly out of curiosity. I actually do have some nostalgic connection to the lasagna-loving cat (I was just the right age to be suckered into finding the character's antics amusing during his heyday), but I've long since come to terms with the fact that - with the exception of a few decent specials - no version of Garfield holds up all that well.

I wasn't expecting this to be any different, but it turns out I was mistaken. This computer-generated Garfield series was far, far worse.

The writing's bad, but honestly that barely even registers. You could put Aaron Sorkin on this, and it wouldn't improve. The real issue is the animation - I sincerely doubt words can convey just how abysmal this looks. Imagine an uncanny valley trying to mirror a comic strip instead of a photograph. They lifted the character designs directly from the page but didn't adjust for the added dimension. Mouths aren't shaped - as a result, they just kind of warp like rubb…

Music Review: Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites (CD 2010)

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This is not only a really solid album as far as cartoon-character-driven holiday music goes, it's also solid for holiday music in general. This shouldn't be a surprise; much like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, one of the major attractions of the Phineas and Ferb series is the music.

The first eight songs are all from the Christmas special. Well, including one that was apparently written for the special but cut for time. These include the more show-centered songs which won't make much sense to those who haven't seen at least some of the series.

"Winter Vacation" is a parody of the usual theme song.

"What Does He Want?" Candace is singing about her boyfriend, but this actually works fine as a standalone song about the difficulty of shopping for someone you want to impress.

"That Christmas Feeling" A solid original Christmas tune.

"I Really Don't Hate Christmas" This song by series villain Dr. Doofenshmirtz is a lot of fu…

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas (2010)

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If you really like Bad Santa but feel betrayed by the movie's fundamentally positive message of hope, have I got a recommendation for you...

I've heard of this show before, but I'd never actually seen it. Even after watching the two-part Christmas special, I'm not entirely sure what to think. I tried watching the first episode to get a little context, but I turned it off about five minutes in - it was just too painful. Not bad, mind you - painful.

I didn't have the same reaction to the Christmas special, and it's easy to see why. The comedy in the pilot was largely based on making the audience uncomfortable seeing the characters undergo shameful and awkward situations. By the time the Christmas special aired six seasons in, the characters were completely devoid of shame. Or souls, for that matter.

They're empty husks trying desperately to reclaim their humanity and feel some semblance of happiness at the holidays. Bleak, sure, but it's far easier to wa…

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…

Santa's Apprentice (2010)

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This is an animated French/Australian/Irish production that was produced (in part) by Cartoon Saloon, the company that made the brilliant, groundbreaking films The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. And if there's one thing I learned watching this, it's that not all of Cartoon Saloon's work is brilliant and/or groundbreaking.

This is actually based on an animated series called SantApprentice. I'm not entirely clear on whether this is a reboot or a prequel, since information on the forty-eight episode show seems hard to come by.

Either way, the premise is pretty old hat at this point: Santa's titles and responsibilities are passed down from one Saint Nicholas to the next. If this deviates from the norm, its in failing to offer a reason why. Typically, movies that go this route use provide the obvious explanation - that not even Santa can live forever. But that doesn't seem to be the case here - the previous incarnations are alive, relatively well, and make an…

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (2010)

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Easily my favorite of the Doctor Who Christmas specials, this episode from 2010 kicks off the second season with Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor. This starts in the future on a distant world that's essentially a steampunk version of Victorian London. Only in space with flying sharks. Oh, and of course it's Christmas. Well, more accurately it's the winter solstice, but the opening monologue states the obvious: they're the same thing, anyway.

One of the things that makes this work as well as it does is that it really doesn't give you time to stop and question its logic. That's probably a good thing, because the premise is more than a little haphazard.

For example, Amy and Rory are honeymooning on a space cruiser that's about to crash into the planet of street urchins and fish-clouds, and the Doctor is unable to save them with the TARDIS. It's not remotely clear why this is beyond his capabilities (I think there might have been some BS tech-babble explana…

The Search for Santa Paws (2010)

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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…

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

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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 for a drin…

How I Met Your Mother Christmas Episodes (Part One)

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How I Met Your Mother is one of those shows that I’ve seen a few minutes of here and there, and I know it’s decent, and I know people who really enjoy it. It seems like exactly the kind of show that I would watch if it were on, but I wouldn’t seek it out.

You know the show I mean, you turn on the TV and flip around, and say “Hey, it’s How I Met Your Mother/The Simpsons/Seinfeld/Scrubs/Good Eats/NewsRadio That’s usually okay, let’s watch the rest of that.” The problem with that is I never turn on ‘actual’ TV these days unless I know exactly what show I’m tuning in for, so shows that I would watch haphazardly like that aren’t shows I end up seeing at all.

I really enjoyed the chance to get a sampling from across the seasons by watching just the Christmas episodes. Sure, I’m missing some running gags, but I’m also getting a crash course in how the show changed over time.


How I Met Your Mother: How Lily Stole Christmas (2006)
This is almost really great. The big (BIG) problem for me is th…

Christmas with a Capital C (2010)

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I want a documentary about the making of this movie.

It would start with Brad Stine, a conservative Christian stand-up comedian doing a routine mocking people for saying "Happy Holidays." If you want to get the most out of this review, I recommend watching this before going on - it'll help offer some important context. If you can't make it through the whole thing, at least watch the first minute and a half:



Well, Stine's routine got the attention of a Christian rock band, Go Fish, who wrote a song about it. I'm embedding their music video.

And. Yes, you should really watch some of this, too. I know, I know... but this is important. This is going somewhere.



Ugh. Yeah, I'm pretty sure they were serious.

So, I guess that was popular in the Christian music scene, because a Christian production company decided to make a movie based on it. That song plays during the closing credits, and Stine has a supporting role where he delivers a rant based on his routine …

Christmas Cupid (2010)

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Wow, what a terrible movie. I mean, we knew it was almost certainly terrible going in, but it descended to unanticipated levels of terribleness.

It’s a TV movie from ABC Family. Do I need to say more?

Okay, here goes. A rising-star publicist by the unlikely name of Sloane faces a ridiculous riff on Christmas Carol when her recently deceased client shows up to fix her love life. It’s… almost cute in places, but the whole package is just horrible.

Characters who are supposed to be “awful” are immediately and obviously “awful” in the most stereotypical ways. Oh, and the main character used to date a cute doctor? Guess who she’ll end up with? The whole beginning is ridiculous as they try to establish a ludicrous status-quo. Sloane is dating the boss’ son and has a rivalry with an ex-boyfriend! Sloane sometimes doesn’t have time for everyone in her life because she has a busy job! Wow, sounds… normal. Sloane deals absurdly poorly with the whole haunted-by-the-ghost-of-your-client thing, i…

Angelina Ballerina: The Nutcracker Sweet (2010)

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I’ve seen a few episodes and half-episodes of this show before, and it’s usually at least inoffensive and fluffy. It’s okay CG with cute stories about friendship and such, starring a bunch of young mice who go to a special performing arts school. This special is made up of five short half-episodes, only two of which were Christmas themed, so those are the two I’ll address here.

“Angelina and the Front Row Ticket” In this piece, Angelina has to try to decide which of her friends to invite along to a special performance of the Nutcracker. Frankly, this felt really padded. There were musical interludes that really contributed nothing and not enough plot for 12 minutes. The resolution was pointless and obvious. Plus, it was laughable how much better this same plot was on My Little Pony.

“Angelina’s Holiday Treats” This was a better short. Angelina and Marco eat too much junk food on the day of the holiday showcase and risk ruining their performance. And you know what? Nothing magically sav…

30 Rock Christmas Episodes (2007-2010)

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30 Rock: Ludachristmas (2007)

The first Christmas episode is in Season Two. The main plot, following Jack’s trouble with his elderly mother and Liz’s annoyingly perky family, was darn fun. There’s great family dynamics, and the resolution is nicely cynical. The B-plot about Tracy’s alcohol monitoring and the office Christmas party was also pretty funny.

30 Rock: Christmas Special (2008)

Season three brings us this episode, with promising plot hooks and decent execution. Elaine Stritch is fabulous again as Jack’s mother, whom he has (accidentally?) hit with his car. Liz’s plot, however, is about her desire to donate toys to some needy kids, and while the takeaway is kinda funny, it’s awkward and painful to watch.

30 Rock: Secret Santa (2009)

This one I had seen before, and it’s rather weak. The gags fall flatter and the tropes are tired. Blah.The joke about Jenna’s insecurity about her singing made me sort of angry. I know the character is shallow and crazy, but I just didn’t like it.

30…

Dreamworks Holiday Shorts (2005, 2010)

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The Madagascar Penguins In A Christmas Caper (2005)
I didn’t hate this. It wasn’t amazing (and seems to have mixed up the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo) but I laughed a few times.

The dimmest little penguin decides to go out after a last minute gift for a lonely polar bear, and the others have to mobilize to rescue him from an elderly lady who’s mistaken him for a plush toy. The woman is a bit of a hideous stereotype, with her vicious yippy dog and her unrelenting grumpiness and her claustrophobic Manhattan apartment. However, I thought the action was amusing, and it wasn’t long enough to really overstay its welcome.

Your mileage may vary. Erin thought Merry Madagascar was better than this one, and I very much disagree. Either way, though, I think you can safely skip it.


Shrek: Donkey's Caroling Christmas-tacular (2010)
Apparently this started life as a DVD extra, but has since been repackaged to round out the collection of Dreamworks specials appearing on Netflix. It’s terr…

Saint (2010)

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Saint (or "Sint") is a Dutch horror movie about a murderous zombie Saint Nicholas who descends upon Amsterdam every few decades to wreak havoc with an army of undead Black Peters when the full moon coincides with December 5th.

The selling point for me was the promise of a killer Saint Nicholas, not just another Santa Claus. That sounded surprisingly gutsy: risking the rage of the Catholic Church on top of myriad family groups. Well, I wound up disappointed. While the zombie killer was an undead bishop named "Niklas," the film made it abundantly clear he wasn't Saint Nicholas of Myra, but rather some psychotic bishop from the late fifteenth century. On top of that, it was stated that Nicholas of Myra was a fictitious character invented to cover up the murderous crimes of this zombie. I guess that was done so they could tie his origin to Amsterdam and Saint Nicholas' Eve. Personally, I felt ripped off.

None of it really made much sense. It was clearly attemp…

Futurama X-Mas Specials: 1999, 2001, 2010

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Before we wrap up our second year of Mainlining Christmas, we really need to correct an oversight. We've been meaning to get around to covering the three Futurama Christmas specials since day one, but we kept putting it off. Ironically, we were putting them off because we wanted to save them for when they were needed. Say, when we'd exhausted our supply of holiday specials and were waiting for Netflix to ship us something.

Well, it turns out that's never going to happen. Contrary to our naive assumptions, the internet contains hundreds if not thousands of hours of holiday cheer. I dare say we could run this blog every Christmas for a decade and not run out.

Lucky us.

So, rather than rob our list of reviews of these three for yet another year, we're tackling them now. After some of the crap we've seen recently, these are a welcome relief.

XMas Story (1999)
This was the first of the Futurama holiday specials, and it introduced us to Robot Santa Claus, voiced brilliant…

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

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I just watched an awesome movie. Here's what I knew going in: It's a Horror/Fantasy movie about Santa, it's from Finland, and everyone on the internet loved it.

If that is enough to convince you, be off with you to your Netflix queue or your to-watch list! It has occasional bits that are slower than any film made in America would have, but it's a fantastic film.

Want a few more details? Still skeptical?

Okay.

Tone spoilers and minor plot spoilers below!

The more detailed premise runs as follows: Pietari is a young boy in a remote town on the Russian border. As the movie opens, he and his friend are spying on some Americans who are excavating something on the other side of the fence. Pietari becomes convinced that the site is where Santa Claus (old-school baby-eating Santa) was trapped, and that they'll all be in danger if he gets out.

Of course no one believes him, but Christmas is getting closer...

Even though you've passed a set of spoiler tags by coming this…

Community Christmas Episodes (2009, 2010, and 2011)

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To date, Lindsay and I have actually only watched four episodes of Community, three of which were about Christmas. To give you a sense of where this is going, we just bought the season one and two DVD sets on the strength of two of the Christmas episodes.

The episodes in question are completely different - in fact, each of the three is fundamentally in a different genre - but they're absolutely fantastic, both as Christmas episodes and as comedy. I'm going to look at them starting with the oldest, which is completely different from the order we actually watched them in.


Season One: Comparative Religion

This was actually the last one we watched, because we didn't even realize it existed until we bought the DVD sets. Unlike the other two, it doesn't have a major hook or gimmick - ostensibly, it's just an episode of a sitcom. However, it's also just about the funniest goddamn half-hour of television I've ever seen in my life. As much as I enjoyed the other two …

Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special (2010)

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I am so glad that this was wonderful. So much of what DreamWorks puts out is awful, except for this one franchise. But this franchise is absolutely fantastic.

This half-hour special, set between the two movies, deals with the same themes as the series as a whole: family, choices, self-knowledge, parents and mentors. Shifu assigns Po to host an important fancy holiday dinner for a group of Master martial artists. Po is excited and stressed with the responsibility, but also dealing with his father's disappointment that he's leaving behind their holiday traditions.

It's sweet and touching, and also absolutely hilarious. There's a fantastic frenetic montage as the pace of preparations for the holiday picks up, and some completely silly sub-plots that I loved. The animation is wonderful, the voice acting delicate and lovely.

The ending gives me the warm-and-fuzzies, which is really what you're looking for in a holiday special. This is a strong addition to the series, a…

Glee: A Very Glee Christmas (2010)

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I should start this by saying I have a thing about Glee.

I watched about two-thirds of the first season before deciding I was ultimately not enjoying it and quitting before it became a full fledged addiction.

This is the first episode I've seen since then.

As I watched, I could feel the ghostly hand of pointlessly melodramatic soap-opera-style continuity calling me back. I could feel the chance that I would get sucked back in.

Happily, I escaped, because this is a terrible episode. It continues to be basically the same plot: teen romance creates drama/evil gym teacher is wacky. Rinse, repeat.

Overall the series, and this episode in particular, suffers from the tension between drama and farce. The drama is boring, but when the drama laspes, there's nothing to ground the farce. And the farce isn't funny enough to stand on it's own.

The music was every bit as horribly over-produced as I remembered. I love musicals, but I really hate watching these characters "sing&q…