Posts

Showing posts with the label 80's

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Image
We've never bothered writing up this movie, because - first and foremost - it's a New Year's movie, not a Christmas one. I don't want to get into the full debate here over whether or not New Year's is functionally just an extension of Christmas - I think that's worth more exploration another time - in part because it's ultimately irrelevant. Whether or not New Year's pieces belong here, the majority of Ghostbusters II is set right before the holidays, and thus deserving of discussion.

The movie itself is somewhat controversial. Most die hard Ghostbusters fans despise it, and it's not hard to see why. The movie essentially retreads the premise and most of the story beats of part one. In fact, here's a synopsis for either film:
Three paranormal scientists (and Winston) are down on their luck and can't catch a break until dark forces rise up and they're the only ones who can stop them. Meanwhile, Venkman, the team's clown, strikes up a…

The Cosby Show Christmas episodes (1984, 1989, 1991)

Image
It's difficult to convey how influential and important The Cosby Show was. It easily belongs on a short list of most significant sitcoms ever produced. In addition, it was quite good. The humor holds up extremely well, as do many of the emotional character moments. Moreover, in portraying a funny, successful black family living the American dream, The Cosby Show helped tear down stereotypes. The fact that it was extremely successful while doing so demonstrated a wide audience for diversity in entertainment.

Of course, all of this has been overshadowed by the revelations that the series's lead and mastermind spent decades drugging and raping women. Repeats of the show have been pulled almost everywhere, but we were surprised to discover it on Hulu.

Surprisingly, The Cosby Show included only a handful of Christmas episodes, none of which fit the traditional holiday archetypes. There were three we located set around Christmas, though only one was particularly focused on this fac…

Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)

Image
Lindsay unearthed three Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas specials we'd never reviewed (or heard of, for that matter), all of which were available on a single DVD. Naturally, we ordered the damn thing.

Not surprisingly, there's a reason we've never heard of it.
Pinocchio's Christmas is a bizarrely warped mashup of several early scenes from the Adventures of Pinocchio and the usual Rankin/Bass Christmas tropes.
The story starts out with Pinocchio learning about Christmas from Geppetto, who sells his boots to buy his son a math book. Pinocchio promptly sells the math book, planning to use the money partly on himself and partly to buy his dad a Christmas present. But first he comes across the Fox and the Cat, who convince him the coins will grow into a tree of gold if he buries them. Naturally, he falls for this, and they steal the money.
With the exception of the Christmas elements, this section is actually pretty accurate to the original, at least according to Wikipedi…

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Cobra Claws are Coming to Town (1985)

Image
I'm going to have a hard time synopsizing this one.

Alright, this thing opens right before Christmas when three of the G.I. Joes and a pet parrot singing Jingle Bells (this is a plot point) are driving a bunch of donated presents back to their base to give them to kids. When suddenly... they're attacked! A single Cobra plane starts shooting at them, forcing them to pull over and take cover. While they're stopped, a Cobra agent sneaks behind their vehicle and unloads a bag of fake gifts.

The plane takes off, and the G.I. Joes just kind of shrug and decide it's probably not worth worrying about. They return to base and unload the gifts, including those Cobra snuck in. That includes a Trojan rocking horse, because... of course it does.

The Joes sit down for dinner, and we learn that one of them is sad, because his parents always made such a huge deal about Christmas they never got around to decorating the tree or buying him gifts.

Let's just move on.

The Trojan rocki…

Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Holiday Chills and Thrills (2012)

Image
This DVD compilation includes Christmas or winter themed episodes from across the dozen or so incarnations of Scooby Doo over the years. Unfortunately, the majority are less Christmas than winter, and we already reviewed one episode, A Scooby-Doo Christmas, a few years ago. We're going to review the other two Christmas centered episodes, Haunted Holidays and The Nutcracker Scoob, on their own. That leaves ten of dubious holiday connection.

We almost didn't write these up at all, but a few included some holiday allusions or references, plus the snowy visuals were certainly evocative of Christmas. Ultimately, we decided to cover them together, along with some discussion of how each ties to the holidays, if at all.

First, though, let's talk about this "13 Spooky Tales" line. They released several of these DVD sets with different themes about the same time, each collecting ostensibly similar episodes throughout the years. In this case, even the math to get to 13 epi…

The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries: The Nutcracker Scoob (1984)

Image
The Nutcracker Scoob is notable for being the final episode of The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, which is primarily significant for being the last time the character of Scrappy-Doo was inflicted on audiences as a series regular.

As such, it was a tad anti-climatic. At the very least, they could have re-enacted the resolution of Old Yeller than turned on the laugh track. Now that would had gotten some ratings.

Instead, they told a relatively straight-forward Scooby-Doo tale centered around a Christmas pageant at a children's home. Of course, the place is in danger even before the faux ghost shows up: a cruel, oddly Victorian businessman named Winslow Nickelby is trying to force them to sell him the building on Christmas Eve. It would be easier to feel for the owners if there was some indication the home contained anything other than a theater.

Pretty soon, the monster of the week shows up. This one is called the "Ghost of Christmas Never," and she's cloaked in white with…

Family Ties: A Christmas Story (1982), A Keaton Christmas Carol (1983), and Miracle in Columbus (1987)

Image
In 1985, I was six years old, Family Ties was my favorite show on television, mostly because of Michael J. Fox's Alex Keaton. Re-watching a few episodes three decades later, I can't really tell why I liked the show all that much, though Fox's deliveries seem to be the highlight.

The show's premise revolved around a couple of liberal ex-hippies raising kids who were more in tune with 80's materialism and conservative politics. As a meditation on the power of the instinct to rebel, even when that means rebelling against the very concept of rebellion, I'd expect them to have enough material to fill two or three hours. The fact this show lasted seven seasons (including the three holiday episodes below) plus a made-for-TV movie doesn't bode well for its watchability.


A Christmas Story (1982): This episode starts on Christmas Eve while the Keatons are getting ready to drive to a ski lodge for the holiday. A blizzard forces them to change those plans, and they win…

The Monster's Christmas (1981)

Image
The first thing to know about this television special from New Zealand is that it is poorly punctuated. As there are multiple monsters whose Christmas is at stake, it should properly be The Monsters' Christmas.

Well, perhaps that's really the second thing.

Perhaps the first thing to know about it is that not a single member of the cast has enough of a resume to have a photo next to their name on IMDB.

Or perhaps it is that, according to the production/distribution company, the film was "written and planned as a location film."

Or that it features most of its actors in full body monster costumes that are... really not that bad for television in the 80's, I guess?

But really, the main thing you need to know is that this might be, minute-for-minute, the weirdest thing I've ever seen.

It opens with a scene that implies a level of horror and suspense that the movie never reaches again. A little girl is reading a picture book to her teddy bear while SOMETHING cree…

First Blood (1982)

Image
Add one more to the list of movies you probably didn't know were set during the Christmas season - until rewatching it, I really didn't notice. It's easy to miss: I didn't notice it coming up even once in conversation, and the majority of the film is set in the wilderness, where it's irrelevant. I'll have some more thoughts about the holidays in a moment, but first I want to talk about something else I'd forgotten.

This is a great movie. I remembered it was good, but that really doesn't do it justice. This is an incredible achievement - one of the best action movies out there, possibly on par with Die Hard.

If you don't recognize the name of the movie, you'll recognize the name of its protagonist: John Rambo. Like Die Hard, it's easy to understand why there was a demand for sequels, though - also like Die Hard - the first installment is the only one that's required viewing.

First Blood opens with Rambo in a rural Washington town trying …

Rocky IV (1985)

Image
After Rocky's friend, Apollo Creed, is killed in the ring fighting a Russian boxer, Rocky flies to the Soviet Union, where he trains then defeats the Russian on Christmas Day. And... that's pretty much everything that happens. Huh. Usually the synopsis takes longer to write.

If you're confused how the above could fill 90 minutes, you are seriously underestimating just how many rock montages can be fit in a single movie. To be perfectly honest, I lost count. There's an argument to be made that this might qualify as a musical. James Brown shows up at one point.

Beyond the plot and montages, Sylvester Stallone (who wrote and directed the film) managed to find time to work in a robot helper which looks a little like a stereo system on top of a coffee maker. Also, it might be sentient. And Paulie may or may not be sleeping with it - the movie was somewhat ambiguous on this point.

Likewise, it is unclear whether Rocky and Apollo were lovers. 1980's sexual conservatism w…

Elves (1989)

Image
In this world, there are bad horror movies. There are crappy horror movies. Then there are horror movies so unbelievably awful you honestly can't tell whether they were intended to be comedic or not. Since those categories aren't mutually exclusive, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Elves is all three.

I first heard about this on Red Letter Media's Christmas Special. I immediately rushed to Netflix to add it to the yuletide queue, only to discover that Netflix has never heard of the movie. It turns out this isn't too surprising, since - as far as I can tell - it has never been released on DVD.

Unfortunately, someone had converted an old VHS copy and uploaded it to Youtube.

The movie is about a girl named Kirsten, whose grandfather is a Nazi scientist who impregnated his daughter to create a pure woman, so that one day she could be mated with an elf and give birth the master race and/or the Anti-Christ (the movie is slightly unclear on this point).

There's…

Doogie Howser, M.D.: Doogie the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1989)

Image
First off, a disclaimer: I have never before in my life seen an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. I knew of it later, when NPH hit the spotlight, but didn't hear much when it was on.

Can anyone tell me why the theme song is MIDI? It’s… I can‘t explain it.

Anywho, we’ll take the premise as presented in the opening: kid genius becomes a doctor, deals with being both a practicing physician and a teenager. I don’t know whether that’s the plot of every episode, but ot was the plot of this one.

The episode opens with a lot of establishing material: Doogie (I’m sorry, side note. I cringe every time I type this. It’s terrible. Why on Gaea’s green earth would anyone call another human being Doogie when they weren’t actively shoving said person into a locker at the same moment? Okay, we’re back.) talks a lot of medicine and runs about being efficient and reminding the audience that he’s good at his job and his colleagues like him.

I was actually surprised and happy to see that he’s just good…

Brazil (1985)

Image
The title of Brazil is drawn from its theme song, despite the fact the movie is not set in Brazil, and the nation of Brazil has absolutely no bearing on the movie, nor is it even mentioned. It should be noted that they considered several alternative titles while the movie was in development, and - miraculously - Brazil seems to have been the best they thought of. You can read a bunch of the others on Wikipedia.

If I could be so bold, I might suggest calling this the Metropolis Christmas Special, which is how I'm going to think of it from now on.

Recently, I found this on a couple of lists of science fiction Christmas movies, which surprised me, since I didn't recall it having taken place at Christmas. Granted, it's been more than a decade since I saw this, and I didn't think much of it at the time. For years, my summation was simply: any ten minutes of Brazil is gorgeous, but there's no reason to watch more than that.

Maybe I'm just mellowing as I age, but I …

A Very Brady Christmas (1988)

Image
I haven't seen very many episodes of The Brady Bunch, but from the little I remember, A Very Brady Christmas managed to capture the stone and style of the show perfectly. Incidentally, I believe the previous sentence ranks among the all-time most condemning insults I've ever lobbed in a review for this blog.

It should be noted that this was produced in 1988, which was about nineteen years after the series had started. By this time, the Bradys had actually expanded into something of a cinematic Universe. Most of the kids had gotten married in earlier reunions and spin-off series, opening up a whole new generation of cloying Brady children.

The best description for the plot is that of a blender. What little story exists does so in brief, unrelated chunks. The impetus for the reunion revolves around Mike and Carol Brady trying to surprise each other with a Christmas vacation. The special sets this up as a potential major plot point, before defusing the tension in a scene about t…

Yogi Bear's All Star Comedy Christmas Caper (1982)

Image
Don't let the unbelievably stupid title fool you: this 30 minute special from the early 80's is actually pretty enjoyable, thanks to some clever writing and a brisk pace.

The special begins with a host of Hanna-Barbera characters traveling to Jellystone at Christmas to surprise Yogi and Boo-Boo. Only when they arrive, they discover the two bears have stowed away on a departing tour bus to the city in order to spend the holidays with them. The ranger calls ahead to have them apprehended, and Yogi and Boo-Boo wind up dressing as Santa and an Elf to escape capture. In the process, they pick up a young girl who feels like her rich father is neglecting her by devoting so much time to his work (this situation was extremely common in 80's entertainment, which placed absurdly high expectations on parents).

It's a simple story-line, but they fill the time with cameos and jokes. Impressively, most of these are quite a bit of fun. The special has a nice nostalgic feel, and at ju…

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Image
This one might be a little controversial. The Christmas elements are pretty subtle, though they do bookend the movie. While it's possible to argue that the movie's plot might have tied into a pre-Christian fixation on the winter solstice, this was never stated outright or even implied beyond the seemingly coincidental timing, so it's admittedly a stretch.

Still, for a movie that barely touches on its timing, it seems to bend over backward to be set in December. The story is told, as is traditional, by Watson, who arrives at his new school about two weeks before Christmas. This is obviously odd timing from a narrative point of view, since it would have been easier to explain him arriving at the start of a semester. Throughout the film, London is always covered in a thin coat of snow, which even I know is ludicrous for the season. There's also a rather baffling detail involving a killer who wears bells which are extremely reminiscent of sleigh bells. At the end, the mov…

Moonlighting: It's a Wonderful Job (1986)

Image
This episode I liked less than the first. One problem, as I see it, is that many shows which attempt to adapt either It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol (or sort of mash them up, as this one does) need to bend their characters so far out of shape to do it, that the resolution has no sentiment or weight.

Also, the premise here is really dumb. Maddie needs to keep everyone in the office over what would be their Christmas break to keep a case active. They stage a petty, whiny revolt, and David gives her a moralistic speech of nastiness. Then she learns that her aunt, sick in a nearby hospital, has died before she had time to visit because she’s been so busy. Cue regret, wishes, vague suicidal impulses, and a pudgy angel in a suit.

Maddie gets to see a world in which she didn’t keep the agency open. The lives of the other characters are boring, and the writing attempts to make us believe that we should care, but no. They’re caricatures anyway, so being a different caricature doesn…

Moonlighting: 'Twas the Episode Before Christmas (1985)

Image
Neither of us had actually, to our recollections, watched an episode of Moonlighting before today. Just to set a baseline. Our reactions: “That was really kind of good. Also dumb in bits, but quite enjoyable.” “Well, now I know why no one believed Bruce Willis would be an action star.” “I guess I see why it was so influential.” “Huh, the first episode was much better.”

We’ve got two Christmas episodes to talk about, and yes, this first one was much better.

It’s a good thing that the Netflix DVD sleeve explained that these characters run a private detective agency, because it is really hard to figure that out from this episode. The episode opens with the plot hook: a random dude gets killed by a bad guy he once testified against, but his wife and child escape. Said wife leaves her baby for safekeeping with no explanation in the apartment of a secretary who works for Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis). Said secretary brings the baby to work, and the main characters dash …

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1988, 2005)

Image
We recently watched two versions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I know, I know, gluttons for punishment.

One was the movie from 2005, one was a BBC version from 1988. I freely admit that I am partial to the BBC version as it is the one that I grew up with and the music just makes me happy. The BBC version is also slightly longer and uses its extra time for character and world development and not just for people throwing things at each other.

The main problem with adopting The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is that you are bound by the source material. Things that kinda work in the book if you don't think too hard about them are brought into stark relief on film. Things like that the kids spend all of 48 hours there before the climactic battle. Logic flaws and poetic license are less forgivable once you make a half hearted attempt to make the story feel realistic. This source material does however include some Christmas which is why we're here today.

Let's tak…