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Showing posts with the label 90's

I'll Be Home For Christmas (1998)

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I'm having a very hard time resolving how lazy the construction of the individual scenes of this movie was with the fact that the premise was a relatively ingenious re-imagining of The Odyssey built around an eighteen year old trying to get home for the holidays. It's worth noting I'll Be Home For Christmas did this a few years before O Brother, Where Art Thou? got a lot of attention for a similar gimmick (though - needless to say - O Brother did it much, much better). Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays Jake, the Odysseus character. Like his archetype, he's a pathological liar and conman. At the start of the movie, Jake is at college in Los Angeles, along with his girlfriend, Allie, who comes from the same town on Long Island (it's a plot point later that her family only lives a few blocks from his). If this seems absurdly unlikely, it's worth noting that you'll also have to suspend your disbelief around the film's portrayal of college, a place where nerds

Mrs. Santa Claus (1996)

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Here's a quick quiz for you: How do you feel about: Old-School Movie Musicals?  A: Love 'em B: Like some C: Meh Broadway Musicals?  A: Love 'em B: Like some C: Meh Feminist Themes? A: All kinds, all the time, it's even okay if they're slightly awkwardly handled B: Passing the Bechdel Test is good C: Only when impeccably researched/in documentaries Angela Lansbury?  A: Goddess of theater and film B: She's pretty great C: I only like her most of the time Give yourself two points for every A , one for every B , an extra four points if you have a daughter younger than 12 who would answer A on two or more of the questions, and an extra point for every one of these names you recognize: Jerry Herman, Bob Mackie, Rob Marshall, Mark Saltzman. If you score 8 or more, see this film. (My score is 11 out of a possible 16.) That's a long way of saying that this movie may not be great cinema, but it can have a lot of appeal to a partic

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

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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

Grace Under Fire Christmas Episodes (1993 to 1997)

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Grace Under Fire was a sitcom from the 90's, which already tells you a great deal about what you're getting into. This one was built around the comedy of Brett Butler, who stars in this as a divorced mother raising three kids in a Missouri. Watching this, I was immediately overtaken by a sense of deja vu. I remember these actors and sets, despite having no memory of seeing an episode. Keeping Faith (1993) The A-plot in this episode concerns Grace's sister, Faith, who's hospitalized at the start. Grace and her friend, Russell, drive to the hospital in Alabama to meet her, which leads to a series of run-ins with people who remember Grace from high school, despite her having no recollection of any of them. This is easily the weakest part of the episode: while the recurring joke is occasionally funny, the over-the-top characterizations of the locals gets a bit too cute. When Faith enters the picture, things improve. The sisters bicker constantly, and the actresses pl

101 Dalmatians: The Series: “A Christmas Cruella” (1997)

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Whoa. I have seen episodes of this show, but that was many many moons ago. So I was cringing a little and expecting this to be awful. Unexpectedly, it was fairly delightful. Plot-wise, it’s a pretty standard Christmas Carol riff, but the writing and voice acting made it work really well. After a brief intro with a cute joke about puppies being able to smell what presents are through the wrapping paper, we dive straight into Dickens, with Cruella (briefly in a fabulously ridiculous Christmas-tree dress) as Scrooge. She hits all the classic notes: why should people have the day off, cruelty to carolers, charity workers and the homeless, and she fires Anita. The show adds a few excellent nonstandard moments, however (for example she also exults in Christmas as a glorious celebration of capitalism, and she turns snowmen into snow devils by hitting them with her car). Cadpig (one of the main puppies in the show) appears as the Ghost of Christmas Past and takes Cruella through se

101 Dalmatians (Animated - 1961; Live Action - 1996)

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When you think of classic Christmas movies, Disney's animated 101 Dalmatians doesn't jump to mind, which is actually a little odd. Setting aside the first couple of scenes, the entire movie takes place immediately before Christmas, the majority of the film is about the titular dogs wading through a blizzard, and the finale occurs on Christmas day. Oh, and it's about getting a family back together. It is, in fact, a Christmas movie through and through. It just doesn't act or feel like one. Most of that discrepancy can be tied to fact the movie isn't interested in Christmas. Until that last sequence, the holiday is only name-checked once, and then in an ambiguous manner. Likewise, we don't see any decorations during the dogs' quest. The 1996 live-action remake is a little more complicated. It's difficult to say for certain, but the timing of the movie seems to be slightly offset. The scene before the dogs are kidnapped has "The Christm

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Christmas Episodes (the rest of them)

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Okay, we already watched the Christmas episode in season three . Here's the rest of them.   A Girl and Her Cat (1996) First we have to backtrack to episodes in seasons one and two. In this episode Salem throws a hissy fit (pun intended), stays out to make the family worried, and ends up catnapped by a little boy who wants a pet. There's a painfully obnoxious montage in this one as well, as Sabrina and her aunts (Hilda and Zelda) search for Salem. The highlights are references to Salem's backstory (he was originally human, but turned into a cat for trying to take over the world), and a scene where Sabrina steals Salem back by dressing as Santa and teleporting into the kid's closet, knowing no one will believe him. Also, Coolio has a cameo as a poster brought briefly to life. Oh, if you've never seen this show, you might not know that Salem is played at times by a truly ugly puppet cat and at times by a real cat. It's very strange. Sabrina Claus (1997)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Christmas Amnesia (1998)

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I watched this show back when it aired, and I remember enjoying it. So, it's true, you can never go home again. This incredibly long-feeling half hour had a unnecessarily complicated plot. I'm going to sum up. Sabrina, being a teenager, isn't feeling the whole happy-family Christmas vibe Her aunts decide to double down on cheesy Christmas activities Cue montage that starts funny and goes on too long Sabrina is invited to a Christmas Eve party in the magical realm She goes, only to find out that it's an anti-Christmas party about mocking the holiday (The fact that she doesn't seem to know anyone there doesn't make much sense either.) She stops them from spying on and mocking people celebrating on Earth and storms out Only to discover that she has inadvertently deleted the holiday entirely She tries to convince people to remember Christmas Cue montage that doesn't start funny, only goes on too long She finally visits Santa/Father Christmas,

Pippi Longstocking: Pippi’s Christmas (1998)

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I love Pippi Longstocking, although my love has not led me to actually read the source material or seek out other media about the character. My love is mostly confined to the 19 88 movie being a major part of my childhood. If my childhood had instead contained the 19 98 animated series, I might not have the same affection for the character. Not that this was actively bad. It was just boring, and these days boring is the death knell for Christmas media for us. The opening credits, despite being a bit too long, led us to hope for some sort of adventure or excitement. No dice. The entire plot was about two thieves (recurring characters) trying to steal money so they can have food and a place to stay on Christmas. They have no money, and they try various schemes, first to try to make enough to get dinner and go to a hotel, and later they just try to get arrested so they’ll have someplace warm to sleep. They get caught, or almost get caught, Pippi makes an odd excuse for them, all

Seinfeld Christmas Episodes: 1991-1997

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It's hard to overstate how big Seinfeld was in the 90's. It was the top sitcom for four years and the top TV show for two. The subject matter was surprisingly adult for its time slot, and among geeks, it offered a rare opportunity to see our interests cross over with mainstream entertainment. While Jerry himself was Jewish, the series had several Christmas episodes, often exploring the holiday without even a hint of sentimentality or nostalgia. That alone makes these stand out from the norm. I felt like the show held up well on a new viewing. While the jokes of course weren't as fresh as when I first heard them, most of them remain funny. The exceptions were Jerry's monologues, which came off more dated. But those weren't more than a few minutes of any episode, anyway. If you're too young to have seen these, it might be worth checking out a few episodes. I didn't feel like any of the Christmas episodes were required holiday viewing (though a case cou

The Hard Nut (1991)

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Yup, this might be another year for versions of the Nutcracker. This one is now our favorite. If you’re going to watch a film of a ballet, skip this boring one , and this better, but still dull one and probably even this one in favor of The Hard Nut. This production does suffer from the same problem that plagues almost all attempts to film a live performance: the person choosing the shot sometimes chooses the most boring part of the stage, or hides a transition that would actually be interesting to watch, or focuses on one character when something interesting is happening across the stage as a whole. This film version was produced for PBS in 1991, and the intro pieces with choreographer Mark Morris are clearly a bit dated. That said, the design, story and energy of this version lifts it well above others we’ve seen. The first act, especially, is glorious, in no small part due to the marvelous design. The style is based on the cartoonist Charles Burns; it uses strong black and

Dear Santa (1998)

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That, that was a thing that we sat through. Erin swears that he doesn’t remember why it was on our Netflix DVD queue. After watching it, we agreed that evidence suggests it was on some ‘worst holiday movies’ list. I thought it wasn’t going to be much from the opening credits, frankly, but the acting in this movie ended up being truly remarkable. The acting, the writing, the special effects and the production values: all of these were at a level that is hard to describe. I’ll try, though. Picture a bunch of fifth graders who have been brought up in a room with no contact with the outside world. They only learned about how people behave from two sources: only the most cliche and flat television from the 40’s and 50’s, and from one adult who has kind of a sadistic vibe. These kids write, direct, design and act in a holiday play. This is that play. The acting isn’t just wooden, it takes wooden to a whole new level of flat and unbelievable. It’s actually almost enough to believe it’

Quantum Leap: A Little Miracle (1990)

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I don't think I can come up with a better way to start describing this episode than to quote Erin: "Now I remember why I didn't watch more Quantum Leap." Quantum Leap, for anyone who doesn't know, was a fairly ambitious show with a premise that is somehow both over- and under-explained. The main character, Sam, 'leaps' through time, but only within his lifespan. He inhabits the body of another person, and helps fix something about their lives. He is helped in this by a Al, guy with a high-tech remote control computer that allows him to project himself to whenever the main guy is and provide advice and guidance, like Jiminy Cricket in an ugly 80's suit. The downside is that it seems all this intriguing sci-fi set-up is just in the service of overblown melodrama. In this episode, Sam leaps into the body of the butler of a super-rich development mogul on Christmas Eve. Raise your hand if you already know it's the plot of A Christmas Carol agai

Father Christmas (1991)

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Absolutely charming. Father Christmas is an animated special based on two more of Raymond Briggs’ children’s books. It features a very stereotypical-looking Santa Claus who acts very un-stereotypically. Father Christmas is exhausted, and decides to take a holiday in the off-season. He first tries France, only to be put off by the food (the resulting bathroom humor, while extremely tame by today’s standards, is not for everyone. Then goes to Scotland, only to be put off by the weather. He finally stays in Vegas for most of the summer months. This is a very grounded Father Christmas. He’s old and crotchety, and prone to using ‘blooming’ as an all purpose word in every sentence. He loves Vegas because he can swim and tan, gamble, drink and watch the showgirls. But eventually he has to fly his homemade camper (pulled by reindeer, naturally) home, retrieve his pets from boarding, and prepare for Christmas. The special follows him all the way through Christmas deliveries, with a sid

Go (1999)

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If you've never seen Go , here's what you need to know: it's a fantastic movie that's better experienced than described. Even though I'm barely going to mention the plot, I'm about to spoil the whole movie. So stop reading, watch the thing, then come back. We good? Good. The genius of Go is its tone. What tone is that? Well... that depends whether it's your first time watching it. If you've never seen it before, Go is a disturbing, twisted, suspense movie broken up by bits of dark comic relief. On subsequent viewings, it's a fun and lighthearted comedic romp. It all comes down to point-of-view, which is exceedingly appropriate, since it's about point-of-view. The film is set on Christmas Eve, a fact that feels almost incidental at times. There's a number of holiday decorations, but nowhere near the quantity most holiday-set movies incorporate. There are a few bits of dialogue alluding to the season, but by and large no one seems to ca

Bear in the Big Blue House: A Berry Bear Christmas (1999)

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If you’ve hung out here with us for any appreciable time, you have probably noticed that while we are open to anything with a Christmas flavor, we each have our specialties. Partially because of what we have history and context for, partially just our individual taste. Erin tends to handle the true Christmas classics and the modern mainstream comedies. I take lesser-known classics, the BBC and movie musicals. We occasionally flip for the truly terrible stuff. Erin deals with most horror. I take children’s media, particularly when it involves Henson. Bear in the Big Blue House is a Henson Company production that aired on the Disney channel from 1997-2006. I may have seen some episodes in 1997 and 98. Yes, I was a teenager, what of it? It focuses on the titular Bear and his varied friends: a tiny mouse named Tutter, a baby bear, Ojo, two otters, Pip and Pop, and a lemur with a speech impediment who goes by Treelo. They all live together in a, yes, big blue house. The episodes tend

Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish (1998)

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Let’s start with something positive: this movie is better than any of the Home Alone films. That is to say, it isn’t terrible, but don’t look so surprised-I’m not saying it was good either. The people who worked on this were stuck adapting Richie Rich, but I guess the best way to handle it is to do what they did and just embrace the insanity. The sets are insane, the characters way over-the-top, and the plot ridiculous. The movie opens with Richie’s first Christmas, just to establish that his parents planted a special Christmas tree for him in their front yard. Fast forward to the ‘present’, and Richie is excited to go play with his friends on Christmas Eve. He races down a bunch of endless hallways, taking and leaving bits of outerwear with an endless row of servants seemingly without any rhyme or reason, and then he and his friends race about in some fancy snowmobiles, only to have their fun cut short by Richie’s social obligations. Ducking his responsibilities, Richie goes

The Red Green Show Christmas Episodes (1998, 2000, 2002)

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I’ve been trying to think how to describe this show to someone who’s never seen it. I suppose it’s a sketch comedy, in that each episode consists of a series of short skits, each generally with a punch-line or six. But it’s closer to a hybrid with a sitcom than any other sketch comedy I know of. There are consistent characters, plots carry from one bit to the next, and there’s even sometimes a hint of pathos, or at least you can become sympathetic towards the characters. The characters in question are the men of Possum Lodge, both the name for the building and the club. It’s also a show-within-a-show, in that the characters are mostly aware they are being filmed, for the “show” they produce locally, the segments (many repeated in each show) are named on screen, and they directly address the camera. The repetitive structure is also reminiscent of many children's shows. The repeated skits are things like a guess-the-word game, or ‘Handyman’s Corner’, wherein Red builds something

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

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The strange lighting, coupled with the almost alien music and meandering story line of Eyes Wide Shut , created a dreamlike effect. And by "dreamlike effect," I literally mean the movie almost put me to sleep, because it was astonishingly, bafflingly, almost unbelievably boring. This was one of the most boring movies I've seen since... well... actually, it hasn't been that  long since I've seen something this boring, but keep in mind I watch a hell of a lot of bad Christmas flicks. But the competition generally goes more than ten minutes without showing naked people: Eyes Wide Shut has no excuse for failing to hold anyone's attention. I heard a while ago that this was a Christmas movie, which I wasn't aware of. Turns out, the movie is Christmas through and through. Christmas lights, in particular, are in damn near every scene that doesn't contain weird sex cults. Half of the film's lighting seems to come from multicolored bulbs. The other half

The Elf Who Didn’t Believe (1997)

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Well, here’s one for the list, ‘rightly consigned to the dustbin of history’. Elmer is an elf, but he hates being an elf. It’s not that he’s bad at it, he’s just a complete slacker. Ladies and gentlemen, your protagonist. After a few painful scenes after which Elmer should have been summarily fired, he pulls out an Elf manual and discovers that he could become a real boy (just like Pinocchio?) by going to the human world, doing a good deed, and making a wish by noon on Christmas Eve. He semi-accidentally sets off some high-tech gizmos on Santa’s sleigh, and the sleigh brings him to Plantville, USA. Guess what’s in Plantville. Did you say a plant, boys and girls? You win more of this terrible film. A plastics plant, the only thing in town, has recently shut down and the town is on edge. You’ll never know, though, because the characters are all either completely over the top caricatures or completely flat and uninteresting. The villain who ran the plant is introduced randomly