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Showing posts with the label 2016

Son of Zorn: The War on Grafelnik (2016)

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The strangest thing about the sitcom Son of Zorn might be that it doesn't air at midnight on Cartoon Network. Stylistically and conceptually, this would be right at home with any of the late-night Adult Swim shows, which were clearly an major influence on the program. The premise centers around Zorn, an animated - literally animated, in the style of He-Man - warrior from a magical island nation, who moves to California to reconnect with his teenage son. Everything from Zorn's homeland is animated against a live-action setting full of real actors. It's a bizarre show, but both the writing and production values are quite a bit better than you'd expect. In "The War on Grafelnik," both Zorn and Edie (Zorn's ex) want to spend the holiday with their son, Alan. This year, December 25th is both Christmas and Grafelnik, a holiday built around themes of vengeance. Taking an accidental cue from Edie's new fiance, Craig, Alan tries to play his parents off ag

The Real O’Neals: The Real Christmas (2016)

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A sitcom aired this year that I’ve never heard of? That… that sounds right. I'd be more surprised if I had heard of it. So, this new sitcom is about an Irish-Catholic family in Chicago who, after propping up appearances for too long, are forced to deal with a series of reality checks. This includes the parents’ divorce, and one of the sons (Kenny) coming out as gay. In this episode, the mother, Eileen, is determined to lead the church choir to victory in a caroling competition. Kenny is part of the choir, and supports her efforts at first. She also sends her athletic, if dim, older son Jimmy to spy on the Episcopalian competition. Meanwhile, the father Pat is with their youngest, Shannon. (All of the kids are teenagers, close in age.) She is a sardonic, intelligent kid, excited that her boyfriend has given her what she considers an excellent Christmas present: a watercolor of her hero, financial adviser Suze Orman. She declares that she has to give him a great present in

The Simpsons: The Nightmare After Krustmas (2016)

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We definitely haven't seen every Christmas episode of the Simpsons, though we've discussed  the original holiday special , along with a few other early Christmas installments . Eventually, we may track down the others, but that could take some time - the series is on its 28th season, after all. But we stumbled across this recently aired episode on Hulu and decided to cross at least one more off our list. The plot, in classic Simpsons fashion, is more than a little disjointed. Attendance is down for Reverend Lovejoy's services, leaving him unsure how to proceed. Meanwhile, Krusty the Clown is trying to bond with his daughter (I'm assuming this was from a season I haven't seen). Krusty is wounded by a wind-powered machine, which leads to further difficulties in their attempt to find common ground: he's a Jewish clown, while she's a Christian with no interest in show business. In an attempt to help, Marge invites them both to celebrate Christmas with the Si

Mainlining Christmas Ruins Adam Ruins Christmas (2016)

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I've seen several episodes of the series, "Adam Ruins Everything" and I've enjoyed it quite a bit. That said, I think it has a tendency to fall into a similar trap that often snared Penn and Teller's Bullshit: it challenges a common, oversimplified narrative and replaces it with a less common, oversimplified narrative. In the process, you get a decent amount of trivia, but if you accept the episode's conclusions are completely true, you're really no better off. With that in mind, I'd like to try a slightly more meta approach to the Christmas episode, which contains clever humor and some interesting information, but doesn't really paint any more accurate a picture of the holidays than the one it deconstructs. The episode, as usual, is broken into segments examining different aspects of the holiday. The first takes on the subject of the non-Christmas roots of several Christmas traditions, including low-hanging fruit like the absence of evi

Kirwan, Greenwood & Burns Present 2016 Soundcloud All​-​Star Holiday Spectacular

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I want to take a moment and talk about this  Christmas album, which you can download for free on Soundcloud . But first let's get the "full disclosure" part out of the way: the "Burns" in "Kirwan, Greenwood & Burns" is one of my oldest friends. He lent me the first Batman graphic novel I ever read for Christmas's sake. Now that that's out of the way, this album contains some of the most unique, fascinating, gorgeous Christmas tunes I've come across. This stuff is amazing. The album contains music from an assortment of international musicians. It doesn't adhere to any particular genre, but is unified by the collaboration's philosophy of updating "old-time" music with modern elements without losing the spirit of what's being adapted. If you're a fan of modern folk music, you should check this out. Alternatively, if you like Celtic Punk or any of its offshoots, this is for you. Or, you know, if you're

Holiday Comic: DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1 (2016)

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Huh. This was much better than I expected. Not quite solid enough for me to go back to being a firm fan of DC, but enough to get me cautiously hopeful that some of their comics might not suck right now. This thick prestige issue consists of ten shorts and an interstitial framing device: Harley Quinn throwing a star-studded holiday special. The frame story is mostly funny and cute, completely surreal and not even bothering to pretend to be in continuity with anything. The best stories, in my opinion, are “The Last Minute” and “The Night We Saved Christmas.” The first has a lot of the superfamily stuff that I adore that was missing from the DCU for a while. It has Superman and Batman being friends, Superman (I like this Superman! Yay!) shopping for a last-minute gift, and Damien Wayne and the new Superboy (Jon Kent) being adorkable. The second is a Detective Chimp adventure with Batman as a supporting player. It’s funny, snarky, and thoroughly enjoyable. There’re two one-page p

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: Pire Noël (2016)

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If you like crazy Christmas stuff the way we do, or if you like zany superhero/magical girl hijinks, you should probably go ahead and see if you can find a copy of this on YouTube. This was a ton of fun. Miraculous (for short) is a CG show from France about two superhero teenagers. Marinette is an aspiring fashion designer, and she transforms into Ladybug. Adrien is a young fashion model, and his superhero identity is Cat Noir. They don’t know each other’s secret, which leads to a classic secret identity plotline where Marinette has a crush on Adrien, but Cat Noir has a crush on Ladybug. Their powers come from little (alien?) creatures and are channeled through items known as the Miraculouses: Marinette’s earrings and Adrien’s ring. There is a villain (Le Papillon in the original French) who wants to steal these items. In each episode, the villain senses someone feeling a strong negative emotion (anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) and sends an evil butterfly to possess them. That’s wha

Book Review: Jingle Belle - The Whole Package

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Jingle Belle - The Whole Package Paul Dini, et al., 2016 Premise: Santa’s got a daughter, and she’s been a rebellious teenager for longer than most humans live. Apparently Paul Dini has been writing short comic adventures starring Jingle Belle, Santa’s spoiled teenage daughter, off and on since 1999. This thick volume collects nearly all of them: 28 short pieces according to the credits pages. I was actually pleasantly surprised by some of the early stories - despite being very slapstick on the surface, Jingle’s mix of anger, mischief, caring and defiance often felt like a fairly honest representation of a teenage girl. Jingle’s been a teenager for a long time, too. Her mother is queen of the elves and her father is Santa, so she’s been “sixteen” for many years. She doesn’t have patience for holiday sappiness, and she’s usually lazy, thoughtless and out for herself. She’s eternally frustrated that no one in the world at large knows about her. When she does try to be “good,”

Target: The Toycracker (2016)

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Depending on how generous you're feeling, The Toycracker can either be described as a live-action short film, an extended commercial, or the fourth seal of the apocalypse slowly peeling away to open the floodgates and usher in the end of days. It's not exactly bad, per se; it's more that it's something that should not be. Its very existence is an affront to the world we know and the already fractured boundary between entertainment and advertisement. It's the final stage in the unnatural evolution that started decades ago when toy companies infected Saturday morning cartoons. As the name sort of implies, The Toycracker is ostensibly a re-imagined Nutcracker. It starts out that way in a semi-clever scene where a modern Clara sings about losing WiFi on Christmas Eve to Waltz of the Flowers. Then she falls asleep and wakes in a version of the classic "giant Christmas tree" set, where she meets the Nutcracker, played by Chrissy Teigen, who starts singing

The Great British Baking Show: MasterClass: Christmas (2016 PBS)

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I have enjoyed what I’ve seen of The Great British Bake Off (aired as The Great British Baking Show in the U.S.). I love how friendly and good-hearted the competition is. It’s an elimination-based baking competition that takes place over ten weeks. This is one of the spin-off specials that are formatted more like a cooking show. The two judges from the show, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, make recipes to inspire the viewer. I’m not sure whether I was inspired to try any of these, but if nothing else, it was interesting to see some British holiday desserts. There’s no pudding here, but nearly all of the desserts involve fruit and custard and I think everything involves alcohol. The six recipes outlined in this hour are a pavlova (meringue and custard); spiral buns containing dried and fresh fruit and jam; a fancy trifle, a turkey, ham, and leek pie; a ridiculously pretty thing made of sponge cake, pastry cream and candied orange slices; and a pandoro (Italian sweet bread/cake).

Holiday Comic: Gwenpool Holiday Special: Merry Mix-up

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Last year’s special was fun, so I was excited when I heard there would be a sequel. I was more excited when I opened to the table of contents and saw a story by Ryan North called “I Saw Spidey Kissing Galactus, The Bringer of Gifts.” That gives you a little taste of what you’re in for. The book opens with the beginning of Gwenpool’s story. (Gwenpool, in case you aren’t up on your Marvel trivia, is Gwen Poole, a comic fangirl from a “real” world who is stranded in the Marvel Universe. She is basically unbeatable because she understands the fictional nature of the world.) Gwen is getting ready to celebrate Christmas with her teammates, but they seem to be preparing for a very different holiday. One where Galactus brings presents to good children and you express your caring for others by giving and wearing hot pants. She quickly determines that something is screwy and heads off to the North Pole to get to the bottom of it. Then you’re treated to three short stories set in this a

Podcast: The Allusionist: Winterval

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I love podcasts, and one that I quite often find charming is The Allusionist, a series about language, etymology, verbiage, puns, and other wordy pursuits. The most recent episode is a bit of a holiday special. It’s all about Winterval, a portmanteau invented in 1997 in the British city of Birmingham to market all of their winter and winter-holiday events together in a grand festival. Of course, someone took it the wrong way, someone was quoted out of context, and a poisonous myth was born about “political correctness gone mad.” This is an interesting entry in the history of Christmas, culture, and a timely example of how repeating a story doesn’t make it true, but it can make people believe it. All that in 15 minutes. Check it out at: http://www.theallusionist.org/allusionist/winterval

2016 Holiday Ads

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I do like a well-done television spot; it’s like a tiny short film trying to get you to like a brand. I appreciate that Britain and other parts of the world really get into impressive Christmas ads, rather than wasting their money and effort on ads for some sporting event. I’ve seen a lot of Christmas ads making the rounds this year; here are the ones I’ve liked the most so far. And if you haven’t seen these yet, you’re welcome. Christmas with love from Mrs Claus This is from Marks and Spencer, a British retailer which sells clothing, home goods and some food items. It’s pretty great, giving Mrs. Claus a Christmas wish to grant and a whole set of shiny secret toys of her own. The story of the family she visits isn’t surprising, but I thought the acting sold it. Also, I laughed out loud at the title of the book she’s pretending to read at the end. Czego szukasz w Święta? | English for beginners This one is from Polish online auction website Allegro. You will see the emotiona

Mainlining Christmas 2016 Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

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It's time for the annual Mainlining Christmas Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide! Okay, so technically we've never actually written one of these before, but tossing the term "annual" onto the front just gives it some much needed gravitas. Besides, if ever there was a year the public needed some help finding that perfect gift, this is it. I mean, what do you get the person who already has everything in their fallout shelter? It's a tough nut to crack, but we've been wracking our brains to come up with the best holiday solutions. The Fondoodler Ever want to write with melted cheese using what amounts to a caulk gun? If so, the Fondoodler is what you've been waiting for. The Fondoodler can turn almost any cheese into whiz. Perfect for the foodie on your list! A Digital Subscription to the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. Now that we're on the precipice of living in a nation where the free press is threatened at every turn, the news media needs

Comic Review: NorthStars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville

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NorthStars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville Jim Shelley, Haigen Shelley, Anna Liisa Jones, 2016 Premise: Santa’s daughter and the princess of the yetis go on an afternoon adventure to save Christmas. This sweet comic book from Action Lab Comics is a digital-first release this year, planned to be a gift-ready hardcover next year. The story isn’t anything more than it appears to be, but it’s a cute, well-done tale. The art is clean and bright and the writing is clever. Some of the little details and tweaks on holiday lore were things I’d never seen before and quite liked. Holly Claus meets Frostina under parental pressure, but they hit it off immediately. During a quick tour of Santa’s workshop, they run into a goblin who reports (in crayon-drawing speech bubbles representing a language barrier) that Krampus is interfering with the goblins who prepare the Christmas coal. The girls travel under Snowville to investigate, facing harvest-themed straw men and a snow dragon on the way

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: A Hearth’s Warming Eve Tail (2016)

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 A new season of Friendship is Magic brings a third Christmas Hearth’s Warming episode! I can finally take back some of my criticism of the first one: there is tons of music in this, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. I demand more pony holiday music! In this season (season six), much of the plot is about the newest member of the main cast: Starlight Glimmer. As this show has proved several times, there’s plenty of drama in a former villain trying to turn over a new leaf. In this particular episode, Twilight and friends are excited for Hearth’s Warming Eve, but Starlight is more blase, complaining about… well, not the “commercialism,” but yeah, the commercialism. She says that the holiday is just for presents and candy, and the legend of the founding of Equestria (detailed in the first holiday episode ) is just a story for kids. Determined to share her holiday cheer, Twilight offers to read her “favorite Hearth’s Warming story.” Of course, it’s a pony-fied Christmas Carol. And it’s

Stranger Things: Season 1 (2016)

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Let's get this out of the way - in the opinion of Mainlining Christmas, season one of Stranger Things does not technically qualify as an Christmas story, nor does any single episode feature the holidays to a significant extant to be accurately called "a Christmas episode." Which is why we're doing this now instead of in December. Excluding flashbacks and an epilogue (which does take place at Christmas), the series takes place over a few days in what's presumably late November. Christmas decorations have started going up, but they're certainly not ubiquitous, and stores are stocking holiday lights. It's those lights, incidentally, that I mostly want to address. The story of the series centers around -- STOP! Oh, yeah. Spoiler Alert, and all that. Where was I? Right. The story centers around a missing child who's pulled into a parallel universe by some sort of alien monstrosity. I say "parallel universe" in keeping with