Showing posts with the label Action

Arrow: Year's End (2012), Three Ghosts (2013), The Climb (2014), and Dark Waters (2015)

This is one of those times I stumbled across a few Christmas episodes while watching a series.

I saw Arrow's pilot back when it originally aired. I actually liked it quite a bit on its own merits, but was underwhelmed by the move away from comic book tropes. It felt like a really good dark and gritty take on a superhero origin, but I'd kind of had my fill of those. I decided not to follow it but to pick it up later if I heard it was worth it.

What actually got me back on board was The Flash, which was much more in line with what I wanted from the genre. A handful of crossovers convinced me Arrow would head in a more interesting direction given time. Besides, like I said before, the pilot was actually quite good for what it was.

Years End (2012)

The first Christmas episode occurs a little less than halfway through season one. The season started strong with a few missteps. But a few episodes before Christmas, it took a dive for the worst, and this one doesn't do much to corr…

The Flash: Running to Stand Still (2015)

Watching Christmas episodes in context is a very different experience than tuning in for just a seasonal outing. Unlike most of what we review on this blog, The Flash is a show I watch religiously - it's a fantastic program that delivers classic superhero adventures on the small screen. If you're a comics fan and you're not watching, you owe it to yourself to get caught up. This is one of the best.

I talked about the first Flash Christmas episode last year. Like that one, this primarily exists because the show unfolds in real time, and Central City - like everywhere else - celebrates the holidays. That doesn't mean they didn't go all-out for Christmas, though: even for a series where a psychic gorilla has a recurring role, this one just pushed the limits in terms of genre tolerance.

When I say "genre tolerance," I'm talking about its willingness to incorporate tropes and tones from its source material. There are things you do in comics and animation …

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: It's a Wonderful Smash (2014)

Remember a few years ago, when Marvel animation was at its peak? In a relatively short period of time, we got Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, all great shows.

Then something went wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Overall, the Disney acquisition of Marvel was a plus. It gave them more money to produce movies and live-action TV series, and the comics actually seem to have benefited. But the quality of their animated programs plummeted. Guess that's the price we have to pay.

This, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Avengers Assemble all appear to be in continuity with each other. And, from what I've seen so far, all of these shows suck.

To be fair, I've only seen two episodes of Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and one was the pilot. But the premise was misguided to begin with, and nothing I've seen suggests they're able to salvage the show.

This episode is, of course, the Christmas one. It opens on Christmas Eve, when the Hulks…

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…

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 …

The Flash: The Man in the Yellow Suit (2014)

It's always nice when you queue up a show you're watching anyway to discover you've got a Christmas episode. Well, it's nice when that happens if you have a holiday-themed blog. I'm guessing it's less thrilling for the rest of you.

The Flash is, of course, a relatively new series focusing on Barry Allen, the fastest man alive. The first season has been set in the months immediately after he gains his powers. Before that, he was just a forensic detective obsessed with the traumatic death of his mother, who he saw murdered by a man in yellow lightning moving at super-human speeds.

The premise is impressive for a few reasons. Barry's background was pulled right out of the comics and involves a villain named "Reverse Flash," who traveled back in time to encounter Barry at various points in his superhero career. While I'm sure non-geeks were confused as to what the hell was going on, most fans were just shocked they were actually introducing time-t…

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

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…

Static Shock: Frozen Out (2002)

Ugh. I feel for the folks who made this, and the folks who love this character, but I cannot recommend you watch this. It’s incredibly dull.

The episode opens with Static bemoaning the busy life of a superhero when he has holiday festivities to attend. Of course, no sooner does he get there, but the power goes out, and he’s off to melt the mysterious ice engulfing the substation. He conveniently ignores the girl on the scene, and then rinse, repeat. Whining, Mysterious Ice, and then he finally figures out it’s the girl.

We are treated to some tedious backstory about Permafrost. She lost her mom at a young age and is living on the street. Sad story, right? Not the way it’s animated here. Instead, it’s boring.

Static finally goes looking for some information about her and learns her sad story. When she shows up again, he reaches out in compassion, and she agrees to accept help. That should be a good story, but the writing is so pedantic that any emotional impact is muted.

It sounded to…

Moonlighting: 'Twas the Episode Before Christmas (1985)

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 Six Million Dollar Man: A Bionic Christmas Carol (1976)

Let's say you're a TV producer in the 1970's, and you're holding the rights to a science-fiction/spy thriller novel you want to adapt for television. Do you go with the original title of the work, "Cyborg," or do you name it "The Six Million Dollar Man?"

That, in a nutshell, is why most TV sucked in the 1970's.

This episode opens the day before Christmas. Steve Austin, the Cyborg Six Million Dollar Man, is sent on a mission to investigate possible sabotage at a company contracted to develop gear necessary for a mission to Mars.

Just so no one gets any ideas, no on goes to Mars in this episode. That probably would have been cool.

The company's problems, surprisingly, aren't due to sabotage. Instead, they're caused by the owner's adherence to the absolute minimums specified by the contract.

Also, he's Scrooge. His name is changed to Budge, but he's clearly Scrooge. He even lives in a mansion built to resemble every version…

Leverage: The Ho, Ho, Ho Job (2010) and The Toy Job (2012)

Throw The A-Team and Ocean's Eleven into a blender and hit puree, and you get Leverage, a series about four semi-reformed thieves teaming up with a semi-unreformed insurance investigator in order to take on corrupt politicians, heartless corporations, and rich crime bosses to steal back what they've taken from "the little guy." If the concept sounds a touch sappy, rest assured the series itself is a lot of fun. A sentence or two of cheesy moralizing every episode is a small price to pay for great characters (any one of the show's five leads could hold down a series of their own), tightly-plotted stories, and hilarious situations.

In other words, the series is definitely worth your time. The Christmas episodes are, as well, though they're not the best jumping-on points.

"The Ho, Ho, Ho Job" starts like most episodes, with a guest star showing up with a sob story. This time, the wronged individual is a mall Santa Claus who's been framed for a drin…

Super Santa in Jingle Bell Justice (1998)

I just came across this 7 minute short on Youtube. Stylistically, it feels a lot like Powerpuff Girls, with some great homages to the Adam West Batman and 60's spy shows. I particularly like the super-spy spin on Mrs. Claus, who isn't stuck at the North Pole this time.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Rotten Tomatoes has a list up of the top 25 Christmas movies. I was embarrassed to count six we hadn't seen. However, only one was in the top ten: Tokyo Godfathers. Well, Christmas miracles being what they are, that was actually available on Netflix streaming (and subtitled, no less). Naturally, we decided to give it a shot.

This is a Japanese animated movie about three homeless people who come across an abandoned infant on Christmas Eve and set out on a quest to find its parents. On the way, we uncover what brought them to the streets. One is a drunken gambler, the second a drag queen, and the third is a young runaway.

There's no shortage of social commentary stemming from the fact the world dismisses them as trash, but I didn't find it preachy. The drag queen is used as comic relief at times, and there's more than a little stereotyping here. Nonetheless, the character is cast in a very favorable light. Be aware there a few moments that might make you cringe, but the…

My Life as a Teenage Robot: A Robot for All Seasons (2004)

I would say that it was really surprising for the best episode on a compilation DVD to come from a show we’d never heard of, but really that happens all the time around here.

My Life as a Teenage Robot was apparently a critical darling and a ratings flop which had its 3 season run strung out over 7 years on Nickelodeon. I don’t know about the rest of the show, but the Christmas episode was pretty darn good.

The show is about XJ-9, aka Jenny, who is the eponymous teenage robot. I would have assumed that a show about a robot girl who really wants to hang out with humans would probably be cringe-worthy, but I found the episode had a good balance between ‘let’s go to the mall’ and ‘let’s save the planet’. Mostly the latter, in other words. The visual style is sleek and angular, a nice blend of modern and classic sci-fi styles.

The episode opens with XJ-9 happily (if over-enthusiastically) filling in for an injured Santa Claus. She and her friends then hit the after-Christmas sales, where …

Die Hard 2 (1990)

The premise of Die Hard 2 is incredibly similar to that of the original: John McClane is meeting his wife on Christmas Eve, only for her to be taken hostage by terrorists along with others. McClane has a short amount of time to figure out their plans and save her. I grew up thinking this was written to be a facsimile of part one, but a few minutes on Wikipedia reveals that the truth is a bit more complicated.

Die Hard 2 was based on a novel called 58 Minutes, which wasn't in the same series as the book the first Die Hard was based on. 58 Minutes was published a year before Die Hard came out, meaning it couldn't have been inspired by the movie's success. I suppose the writer might have been inspired by the novel "Nothing Lasts Forever" (there are a lot of parallels), but I don't see any evidence for that. Interestingly, both novels involved the hero (whose name wasn't John McClane in either) trying to save his daughter. The movies changed it to his wife on…

Power Rangers Super Samurai: Stuck on Christmas (2012)

There are other Power Rangers Christmas episodes, but this is the one that Erin found on Netflix. It’s a humdinger.

I knew something was drastically wrong after the Rangers defeated a monster in the first 5 minutes of the episode. Then their giant robot loses power and it becomes an excuse for a really crummy clip show.

You can have no idea how terrible this was. The acting was beyond ridiculous. The ‘comic relief’ was horrible, and the action/drama was hilarious. There is tons of terrible, extraneous Christmas-pun flavored banter. Only it’s not banter when you’re just yelling ‘quips’ (using that term extremely loosely) at a red-and-green monster. Yes, the monster is red-and-green, and has what looks like a giant ear around one shoulder and a mouth on the other. I laughed a lot and very loudly while watching this episode, but it was not at anything that the creators intended to be funny.

The kids say over and over how sad they are to be trapped in their giant robot on Christmas Eve. T…

Grimm: Twelve Days of Krampus (2013)

We had never seen an episode of Grimm before this. From this viewing, it’s… okay.

I mean, it’s a quirky procedural, spin the dial and land on a quirky procedural these days. A show like this depends on viewers getting invested in its particular set of actors/characters and its particular gimmick. Without that investment, it’s just a mediocre mash up of tropes from X-Files and Buffy about a guy pretending to be a cop in between monster hunting.

The monster of this week is Krampus, which we were excited to see. While the visual design is very nice, the plot is sort of blah.

The episode opens with a couple of punk kids stealing presents, then Krampus sneaks up on them under a bridge. He snags one, but the other is just injured and hides in a car. Cut to the next morning, when the cops are investigating a dead kid. Only the kid isn’t dead. He’s really, obviously, not dead. This is the point where we started to really doubt the professionalism of the emergency responders on this show.


Santa with Muscles (1996)

Life is sometimes unfair. So it serves to reason that Christmas is sometimes unfair. If this were not so, if we truly lived in the best of all possible Christmases as Leibniz thought, then Jingle all the Way would have no defenders, and Santa with Muscles wouldn't be entirely unknown.

While it probably doesn't need to be said, I will state it now for the record: Santa with Muscles is not a good movie. It is - objectively - pretty bad, a vehicle for Hulk Hogan produced years after the wrestler's fame had waned. When it opened, it made $120k in its opening weekend and closed after two weeks. However, unlike 99% of zany holiday comedies, it is absolutely watchable. There are even moments when the filmmakers attempted to be funny that resulted in funny scenes. If you don't watch many movies in this genre, you'll be forgiven for not realizing how rare this is.

The movie opens with a girl writing a letter to Santa. The girl's town is being terrorized by some sort of…

Reindeer Games (2000)

For the record, we didn't go out of our way to watch this because of the Affleck connection: this has been sitting in our NetFlix queue for months, slowly climbing its way to the top. And now that it's there, we finally got to watch the damn thing.

It. Is. Bad.

It's almost impressively bad. With the right crowd - and the right drinks - this thing could easily cross the fabled line into "so bad it's good." But it doesn't earn that honor, not on its own merits; it would take a huge amount of work from the audience to meet it halfway. And, frankly, we just didn't have the energy.

The plot is borderline comical. For a solid twenty minutes, I almost gave this the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was intended as a comedy, albeit one lacking in humor. But, as the movie dragged on, it became crystal clear I was being far too kind: this was supposed to be suspenseful. We were supposed to care about the characters.

Let me see if I can summarize the plot. Be…

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the sixth James Bond movie, based on the tenth James Bond book. It’s a quieter movie than a lot of the others, it follows Bond’s relationship with one woman, Tracy, and an unaffiliated mission to track down Blofeld. This is the only movie starring George Lazenby as Bond, and there are a couple internal nods to the fact that this is the same character with a different actor.

The romance between Tracy and Bond is fairly poignant, if occasionally as over-the-top as the rest of the movie. The action plot revolves around Bond posing as a genealogist to infiltrate Blofeld’s stronghold in the Alps. Blofeld has a fairly silly plot to use a bunch of hypnotised young women to damage the world’s food supplies (this made slightly more sense in the book), but the important thing for our purposes is that it’s Christmas! So there is a ski chase which is sometimes very exciting and sometimes a little too obviously blue-screened, and a chase through a ice-skating Ch…