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Showing posts with the label 80's

3615 code Père Noël (1989)

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Occasionally, I have the rare privilege of watching a movie that not only widens my appreciation for the scope of the grander Christmas canon, but potentially explains lingering questions about existing holiday classics. Not only is this one of those movies, it is an absolutely fantastic film in its own right, a horror/action/comedy/adventure in the vein of Rare Exports and Krampus made decades before either of those films. But for the purposes of history, it's more significant that it was made one year after Die Hard and two years before Home Alone. A lot of people have joked about similarities between those films - I've done so myself. But deep down, I always assumed those similarities were ultimately due to similar holiday tropes being used in initially divergent ways that became similar due to the movies' premises. Convergent cinematic yuletide evolution, if you will. After watching 3615 code Père Noël, however, I'm less certain. This 1989 French masterpiece (so, ye

One Magic Christmas (1985)

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I've got a lot to say about this movie - about its themes, plot, and its use of classic holiday tropes - and I'm going to cover a lot of ground. But before I get into all that, I want to take a moment, step back, and summarize this as a whole. This movie is bullshit. I know that raises more questions than it answers. So let's roll up our sleeves and dig in to explore the depths of the bullshit that define the experience of watching "One Magic Christmas," a 1985 attempt by Disney to push out a Christmas classic by transparently tossing cliché after cliché against the screen and hoping it somehow coalesces into something worthwhile. To be fair, not everything in this movie is bad - some of the component pieces are actually pretty good. But that's true of bullshit, too. Cows eat a lot of different vegetation, including some lovely flowers. In the end, though, that doesn't change what's left over. The movie's plot is absurdly convoluted, largely becaus

Trancers (1984)

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This is, for better and for worse, a pretty good example of what genre movies released in the '80s were actually like. Those of you born after the '80s probably think you know what the decade offered - after all, you've seen Ghostbusters, Terminator, Goonies, Blade Runner, Aliens, and a host of other films. But here's the thing: those were exceptions. Those were the movies that endured. The classics. The vast majority of 80's movies were... not those. They were this. Honestly, that might be generous. Trancers, an extraordinarily weird time-travel-action-Christmas-noir, is pretty good, as far as schlocky B-movies go. It's fun, campy, and inoffensive. I suspect this was trying to be a cult hit but didn't quite pull off the formula. Its weirdness feels a little too intentional, it's not bad enough to be "so bad it's good" but not quite good enough to be some sort of hidden gem. Still, it's a fun bit of '80s camp and a rare entry on our

The Christmas Star (1986)

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Before we get into this, I want to start with a spoiler warning of sorts. Sometimes we come across a movie that's surprisingly good for reasons that are best viewed in the context of the movie. This is not one of those times. The Christmas Star isn't good. At all. It's badly paced, dull, and tedious for the vast majority of its runtime.  But then... See, to finish that sentence, I'd need to go into the finer philosophical details of the phrase "so bad it's good," which you'll note is being used as a label for this review. While most movies earning that title win it through a constant level of entertaining badness, The Christmas Star takes a different tack, one I'll discuss later in this review. In the meantime, allow me to propose a drinking game. If you were to sit down to watch this with a bottle of your favorite holiday spirit and take a shot anytime you became bored out of your goddamn mind, you'd be in a *perfect* state to fully enjoy the

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

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Before I get started, I should specify I saw the three-hour theatrical cut of Fanny and Alexander. After watching, I learned there's also a five-hour version that was re-cut as a miniseries then screened in theaters. Honestly, there's a part of me that really wants to see that five-hour cut for comparison. That's not happening anytime soon, though. Fanny and Alexander is a Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, director of [checks notes] some of the greatest and most influential movies ever made. According to Wikipedia, this was a fictionalized version of Bergman's own childhood and was intended to be his final film. His actual last film came out twenty-one years later, so take that with a grain of salt. Before I get to plot, theme, and, well, CHRISTMAS, I should mention this movie is a goddamn work of art and probably among the most beautiful cinematic works I've ever put in front of my eyes. It's a wonder to behold, it deserves its Academ

M*A*S*H Holiday Episodes (1972 - 1981)

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M*A*S*H is a little before my time. I have memories of it existing, but I don't recall actually watching it. That said, I'm familiar enough with some of the characters, so I must have caught a handful of episodes from repeats through the 80s. And of course I've seen it referenced damn near everywhere - this was an influential series. If you're somehow not familiar with it, M*A*S*H is a series about an army medical base stationed in Korea during the Korean War. It's based on a movie I've never seen, which was in turn based on a book I've never read, so don't expect a lot of context on that end. Actually sitting down and watching through the Christmas episodes (along with a few tangential episodes we'll discuss in a minute) was a fascinating experience. First, it's not hard to see why it left a footprint: this show has a fascinating tone, striking a careful balance between the hardships of war with the comedic absurdity of the characters. The

Some Girls (1988)

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I spent the entire runtime of Some Girls trying to figure out what the movie was, and I'm still not remotely certain. The best description I can muster is: Victorian drama crossed with raunchy 80's comedy. That doesn't really convey the experience of the movie, though, since the description sounds inventive and fun. The plot... uh... Okay, I'll do my best here, but there's not a lot of meat to this thing. The movie opens with a voice-over from the film's lead, Michael, who's flying to Quebec for Christmas to reunite with his college girlfriend, Gabi, who dropped out due to her ailing grandmother, Granny. That's her name in the credits, and she's easily the third most important character behind Michael and Gabi. Arguably, she's more significant than Gabi and deserves the #2 spot. She doesn't appear immediately, however. First, we're introduced to the rest of her family, who live in a sprawling massive gothic mansion full of musty

Invasion U.S.A. (1985)

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While Invasion U.S.A. isn't the worst movie we've seen for Mainlining Christmas, it could be among the most stupid. Almost every element of the film is awful. It's an idiotic piece of schlock crammed with every imaginable 80s cliche that astonishingly believes it has something important to say. Oh, and it's set at Christmas. The film stars Chuck Norris as Florida man, Matt Hunter, a former special... something... who's retired from a career killing bad guys in developing nations to a humble life of riding around the Everglades in an airboat. He's asked to come out of retirement when the government learns that a Soviet agent has aligned with communist terrorists from Central and South America in order to launch an assault on the U.S. Matt Hunter turns down the job but reconsiders when his old nemesis, Mikhail Rostov, blows up his home and best friend. The terrorists kill a boatload of refugees, murder a drug dealer, kill a couple of teenagers on a beach,

Perfect Strangers: A Christmas Story (1986) and The Gift of the Mypiot (1988)

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Despite not having seen an episode since the early nineties, I actually remember Perfect Strangers fairly well. I recall the main characters' names, their relationships, and even the plots for several episodes. All that's a roundabout way of saying I was a little worried going into this - I have some lingering positive associations with this show from my childhood, and I was more than a little worried they were about to be shattered. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't the case. Overall, I found both these holiday-themed episodes enjoyable. More significantly, Lindsay - who's never seen an episode before and is thus free of the clutches of nostalgia - agreed. All that being said, it's worth taking a moment to acknowledge the show's problematic aspect: Balki Bartokomous is an immigrant played by a white American using a heavy, intentionally absurd accent. He hails from the fictitious nation of Mypios, but for all intents and purposes he's Greek

Full House: Our Very First Christmas Show (1988)

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This was tough. Here's the thing - this is bad. Really bad, even. But, if I'm being totally honest, it was slightly less awful than I expected. That doesn't mean I liked it. In fact, I hated it. But I think I understand why the show caught on. This was, in short, quite a bit better than the episode of the rebooted "Fuller House" we saw earlier. That's not thanks to the writing. Although this one at least had some structure (Fuller House couldn't even manage that), the jokes were flat, and the emotional beats were hollow. It wasn't the characters, either - there was nothing about them that was in the least bit rounded. But... and it kills me to even give them this... I think this was well cast. DJ and Stephanie, in particular, were able to hit their marks (again, more than I can say for their counterparts in the new series), and the two actresses were adorable. The adult actors also managed to come off as somewhat charming, despite that the di

Cheers: A House Is Not a Home (1987), Christmas Cheers (1988), and Love Me, Love My Car (1992)

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These aren't the first episodes of Cheers we've looked here - five years ago, I reviewed the season one episode, The Spy Who Came in for a Cold One , which hadn't aged well. It took us a while, but we finally got around to what I believe are the series' other Christmas installments, all of which held up better in our opinion. A House Is Not a Home (1987) Although this episode was set in the summer, it features a Christmas celebration, so check off another example of Christmas in July (well, technically May, but I'm still counting it as a use of the trope). This was actually a fairly significant episode, plotwise, coming right before the season finale culminating in Diane's departure. In this one, she buys a house without asking Sam, then spends the first act convincing him it was a good idea. Just when he's finally on board, they meet the previous owners, an elderly couple who spent their whole lives there. Diane is devastated by the thought they

Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

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Despite having been the right age, I grew up disliking Pee-wee's Playhouse. I found the characters and sets off-putting as a kid, and I wasn't old enough to appreciate that was part of the point. The 1988 Christmas Special seemed like a good chance to revisit the show and give it another chance. Ultimately, I was left torn on this one. I have far more respect for the manic, surreal premise, and Paul Reuben's portrayal is certainly impressively bizarre. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something missing tonally. I wanted to be pulled into that odd, unsettling world, but I could never shake the sense I was watching people and puppets act weird on TV. The plot of this special is... well... it doesn't really have much of one. This is basically an hour of Pee-wee interacting with a long line of guest stars and cast members before the holiday. The closest it comes to a story is a bit about Pee-wee's Christmas list being so long, Santa would n

The Real Ghostbusters: X-Mas Marks the Spot (1986)

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The Real Ghostbusters has been largely forgotten, which is kind of a shame. The series started in 1986 and serves as something of a missing link between the comical, kid-friendly cartoons of the 80's and the more adult story-driven adventure shows of the 90's. This certainly isn't Batman: The Animated Series, but it's not Scooby-Doo, either. There were some creepy villains and monsters in this show, along with some cool concepts. The story editor was J. Michael Straczynski, who also wrote a vast number of episodes, including this one. "X-Mas Marks the Spot" was the last episode of the first season. It's set on Christmas Eve, or more accurately on two Christmas Eves. After bungling a job in upstate New York, the Ghostbusters wander through a time portal and find themselves in Victorian London. Not realizing what they're doing, they help Ebeneezer Scrooge with a haunting and wind up capturing the three Christmas ghosts. Still unaware where they are

The Golden Girls: Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas (1986) and Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas (1989)

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The Golden Girls was influential, remembered, and - in some ways - fairly progressive, but that doesn't mean it holds up all that well. We found two Christmas episodes (there could be more - sometimes sitcoms set episodes over the holidays without calling it out in the title). Neither was especially bad (the first was fairly funny), but there wasn't much of significance, either. A lot of 80's sitcoms went for a sort of vapid inoffensive tone, even when they approached social issues (more on that in a moment). That was definitely the case here. The problems were minor, the stakes were low, and there was never a hint of suspense, even when the leads were being held at gunpoint. Sorry - getting ahead of myself. Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas (1986) The first holiday episode, Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas (seven years before the stop-motion classic), is sort of a disjointed comedy of errors. Ostensibly, there's a story tying this together, but really it