Showing posts with the label 80's

Garfield and Friends: Sludge Monster/Fortune Kooky/Heatwave Holiday (1989)

Raise your hand if you liked Garfield as a kid. It’s okay, don’t feel too bad, we’re right there with you. I used to watch this show, but Erin remembered this exact episode, in that spooky way where every line comes into your brain right before it’s spoken.

If you missed this series, it’s made up of super-short bits that are more-or-less animated versions of actual Garfield strips and short cartoons with slim plots. Some of the pieces are Garfield, and the others are “U.S. Acres,” a property which, until this moment, I assumed only existed on this show. No, apparently this was a second comic strip by Jim Davis, and it was limping to the end of its not-critically-acclaimed run around this time.

Of the three six-minute shorts that make up this episode, the last one was the best. Briefly, the first one is about Garfield and Odie being scared of a monster story, and the second is a U.S. Acres bit about playing pranks to make unlikely predictions come true. Both of these stories are bare…

It's Punky Brewster: Christmas in July (1985)

I'm following Wikipedia's convention and using the series's unofficial name to differentiate this from Punky Brewster. In the vein of Star Trek: the Animated Series, this is actually a sequel of the live-action series in which the main characters reprise their roles. Like many cartoons, each thirty-minute block was divided into two fifteen-minute chunks. We're only covering the half that relates to Christmas, obviously.

The episode opens on a hot day in July. Punky Brewster and her friends stop to admire a skateboard in a toy store window. Punky muses over whether or not she's going to get it for Christmas, and she laments that she won't know for months. Fortunately, Glomer, the 104-year-old magical half-gopher/half-leprechaun in her backpack reveals that he's friends with Santa and might be able to help her find out.

Maybe I should pause for a moment and give you a moment to review the opening credits to this show, which offer a tad more context:

I kind o…

Camp Candy: Christmas in July (1989)

Camp Candy was, apparently, an animated series where John Candy voices a character based on himself at a fictitious summer camp he runs. I don't recall ever having seen or heard of this series before in my life, though if I still remember this episode an hour from now, I'll be both surprised and disappointed.

The Christmas in July episode opens the same way Wikipedia assures me every episode in this series starts, with Candy trying to teach the kids a sport, leading to a flashback of something that happened earlier in the summer. This is portrayed as a story being told by Candy, though it's unclear why he's telling the kids about an adventure they were present for. It's also unclear how he's able to provide descriptions and commentary for other characters' dream sequences.

Actually, this episode features dreams within dreams within a story. But don't get excited: it was all crap.

Once we're firmly entrenched within a flashback, the kids and Candy d…

ALF: Oh, Tannerbaum (1986)

This is the first of two ALF Christmas episodes. We actually did the second one, a double-length special, back in 2010 when we started this blog. For those of you who didn't just click on that link, let me sum up our feelings: we hated it. Despised it, in fact: it was sappy, cliche, and just plain idiotic. With those kinds of expectations, it shouldn't be a huge surprise to hear this episode from the series's first season was better than I anticipated. That's not to say it was good - but, compared to the show's more ambitious attempt, mediocre is a huge step up.

It probably helped that this was earlier in the series. Just as shows with great premises and talented writers tend to get better as they go, those with uninspired concepts and weak writers have a tendency of burning through their one-note jokes almost immediately. No surprise, really.

The premise of ALF is much more on display here. Gordon is an alien lacking in manners, common sense, and shame. The jokes…

The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold (1981)

At some point, Rankin-Bass must have had a committee pawing through lists of holiday songs: "Has anyone made a special out of this one? This one? Oh, how about Christmas in Killarney? What do you mean the song has no story? We'll write something. Ireland is all about leprechauns, right?"

And so, we have this odd little half-hour of mediocre stop-motion. When a company famous for holiday specials has some you've never heard of, you know they’re going to be weirdly awesome or boring and dated. Guess which coin flip we lost today.

The story starts with Dinty Doyle, a cabin boy on a ship bound home to Ireland, sent to a strange island to dig up a tree for the ship’s Christmas celebration. In doing so, he releases a trapped banshee, who causes a storm, stranding Dinty, and subjecting the rest of us to incoming backstory. Instead of having much of any plot in the present, much of the special is taken up with the patriarch of a leprechaun clan (Blarney Kilakilarney, yes, r…

Book Review: The Raven in the Foregate (Cadfael Series)

The Raven in the Foregate (Cadfael Series)
Ellis Peters, 1986

This is book number twelve in the Cadfael series, but I jumped ahead to it because it's set explicitly at Christmas.

Premise: In 1141, a new priest comes to the town outside the abbey. He is harsh with the people and quickly makes enemies. The woman and young man who came into town with Father Ailnoth are not who they say they are, and all mysteries must come to light after a violent death on Christmas Eve.

I've very much enjoyed all of the Cadfael books I have read, although this one seems to retread some ground. Cadfael's friendship with and patronage of the young couple particularly, is a repeated thread in more than one of these stories. It's still an enjoyable yarn, with the final solution to the mystery held secret to the end, despite how steadily pieces are revealed.

Cadfael, as usual, keeps his own counsel and works only for what he thinks is the best outcome for all concerned. If you haven't rea…

Ghostbusters II (1989)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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).


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

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)

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 …