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Showing posts with the label Comedy

Tangerine (2015)

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Tangerine is somehow both a broad comedy and a subtle, true-to-life drama. It focuses on one madcap day (Christmas Eve) in the lives of transgender prostitutes Sin-dee and Alexandra.

Sin-dee has just returned from a month in prison, and she finds out her pimp/boyfriend cheated on her while she was gone. She spends the day seeking out the other girl (Dinah) and the boy, intent on settling the situation. Alexandra, meanwhile, tries to blunt her friend’s more extreme impulses while she invites everyone (seriously, everyone but the cops) to a holiday cabaret performance she’s giving that evening.

The third plot thread belongs to Razmik, an Armenian cab driver who’s a frequent patron of Alexandra and Sin-dee. He struggles with the vicissitudes of his job and then skips out on Christmas Eve dinner, risking his marriage, to try to see Sin-dee after he hears she’s back in town.

The plot is almost an old-fashioned farce - woman scorned, attempting over-the-top revenge, takes the man back at…

Star vs. the Forces of Evil: "Stump Day/Holiday Spellcial" (2017)

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Hey, it's a fantasy analog Christmas episode! I love those! Where to start, though.

Star vs. the Forces of Evil is an animated show that I quite enjoy. The eponymous Star Butterfly is a princess from a fantasy-esque dimension. Her primary traits are recklessness, enthusiasm, and immense magical power channeled through the wand she received from her mother (Queen Moon Butterfly) on her 14th birthday. At the beginning of the series, she's sent to Earth as a sort of exchange student so she can practice her magic without burning down the kingdom. On Earth, she lives with the Diaz family and meets her best friend, worrywart/practical guy and karate enthusiast, Marco Diaz.

In season three, by the time this episode takes place, Star and Marco are living in her parents' castle in the kingdom of Mewni. And it's Stump Day!

Stump Day

Stump Day is obviously Christmas; it's a winter holiday with all the decorations and carols and forced good cheer. According to the explanation …

Danger Mouse: The Snowman Cometh (2015)

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I'm only marginally familiar with the original Danger Mouse series, but I've been enjoying the 2015 reboot. It's not one of my favorite shows or anything, but the series's willingness to embrace surrealism and cartoon physics makes it a lot of fun. Both in tone and style, it feels a lot like Powerpuff Girls, albeit with less drama. The show is ultimately a farce, through and through - there's no real character development or emotional stakes (at least not in the first season).

While most installments are only half-episode length (i.e.: 15 minutes minus commercial breaks), the season one Christmas episode runs for the full half-hour (again, exempting those meddlesome advertisements).

This isn't the Snowman's first appearance in the reboot - the character shows up periodically to be soundly humiliated by Danger Mouse - but it's the first in which he's the main villain or in which he poses any kind of meaningful threat.

This is remarked on in-world, i…

The Garfield Show: Caroling Capers (2009) and Home for the Holidays, Parts 1 and 2 (2010)

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I put this on mostly out of curiosity. I actually do have some nostalgic connection to the lasagna-loving cat (I was just the right age to be suckered into finding the character's antics amusing during his heyday), but I've long since come to terms with the fact that - with the exception of a few decent specials - no version of Garfield holds up all that well.

I wasn't expecting this to be any different, but it turns out I was mistaken. This computer-generated Garfield series was far, far worse.

The writing's bad, but honestly that barely even registers. You could put Aaron Sorkin on this, and it wouldn't improve. The real issue is the animation - I sincerely doubt words can convey just how abysmal this looks. Imagine an uncanny valley trying to mirror a comic strip instead of a photograph. They lifted the character designs directly from the page but didn't adjust for the added dimension. Mouths aren't shaped - as a result, they just kind of warp like rubb…

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

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I knew going into this movie that despite the title, it wouldn't exactly be a straight adaptation of the book. However, I was surprised how many elements of the well-researched biography made it into this somewhat fantastical film. Plus the heart of the work, the enthusiasm for the subject, definitely transferred.

The movie is a dramatization of the writing of A Christmas Carol with a large dollop of artistic license. I think the liberties taken with the truth are mostly reasonable for the sake of drama, but they are certainly present. For example, it's true that Charles Dickens' father always had trouble with money, that he was always asking for loans and sometimes selling Charles' correspondence, etc. without his knowledge. They did not, to my knowledge, reconcile over the same Christmas when A Christmas Carol was written. A Christmas Carol, along with much of Dickens' other work, was influenced by the times he had worked as a boy when his father was in debtor&#…

Get Smart: Our Man in Toyland (1965)

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Get Smart was an espionage parody about counterintelligence agents battling an organization of international spies and criminals. Mel Brooks is credited as a co-creator, so it probably shouldn't be surprising to hear this show completely holds up. It's bizarre and quirky, and even more than fifty years later, the antics of Don Adams (who'd later voice Inspector Gadget) remain hilarious.

"Our Man in Toyland" was only the fourth episode aired. It should be noted that its inclusion here is somewhat questionable. Logically, the episode must take place during the holiday season, but the show is intentionally illogical to the point, I'm not sure the justification was anything more than a joke.
The premise of the episode is that KAOS, the aforementioned SPECTRE stand-in, is using a department store as a front to sneak state secrets out of the country. CONTROL (a.k.a.: the good guys) send in a handful of agents to determine how they're accomplishing this.
The ma…

The Avengers: Too Many Christmas Trees (1965)

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Not to be confused with Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers was a British spy series from the 60s which cycled through a number of iterations and styles. We've looked at a later episode, "Take-Over," that sort of fit our loose definition for Christmas in July (absurdly loose: Take-Over was set in February, and the holiday elements only appeared briefly).

"Too Many Christmas Trees," on the other hand, was far more entrenched in holiday fare. It was also a more iconic example of the series, featuring Emma Peel, by far the best known of John Steed's partners.

In this one, they're pitted against a team of psychics attempting to steal national secrets from Steed's mind by eroding his sanity through a series of yuletide nightmares.

This should already be obvious, but I loved the hell out of this episode.

All of this is set at an English mansion where Peel was invited for a Christmas party. She invites John after the idea to bring him just pops int…

The Grinch (2018)

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All the kids in the theater liked the Grinch film that day, but Erin found the experience rather blasé.

I know, I know - we've already released a podcast reviewing The Grinch, but I wanted to cover a few details we glossed over, like the plot.

It's worth noting the story is a little different this time. Or rather, it's almost entirely the same, but the reasons things occur, along with what that implies, is completely different.

Like the original, this revolves around the Grinch, a green-furred individual living on a mountain overlooking Whoville, a town of elfin creatures who live for Christmas. Unlike the original, the Grinch isn't a monster in any sense of the term. He lives apart from the Whos, though he regularly goes into town for groceries. While there, he's somewhat misanthropic, but not to the degree he's shunned or even disliked. One of the Whos even considers him a close friend (though the Grinch doesn't share the sentiment).

The Grinch still disl…

Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park (2013)

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I'm a late convert to this show, which is more than a little odd considering my all-time favorite live-action series, Community, was made by one of Rick and Morty's showrunners. Despite that, I was reluctant to get involved with this show, mainly due to its grotesque visual style. But I eventually gave it a try, and...

Yeah. Based on the first few episodes, it's pretty fantastic.

Lindsay and I were surprised to discover the third episode, "Anatomy Park," was holiday themed. Based on the title, I'd assumed it was some sort of Jurassic Park/Innerspace mash-up. Which... it actually still is. But it's also set at Christmas.

The holiday elements are more central to the B-plot, which centers around an awkward holiday gathering. Jerry's parents are visiting for the holidays, so he's obsessed with having his family interact in person, without any digital distractions. Only they arrive with an added guest, Jacob, who's in a polyamorous relationship wi…

The Great Rupert (1950)

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Watching Christmas movies that you've never heard of is always an adventure. Sometimes you find something awful. Sometimes you find something astounding. Something wonderful.

The Great Rupert (later repackaged as A Christmas Wish) is a family film starring the inimitable Jimmy Durante, a ton of other talented comedic actors, and several living and deceased squirrels. Don't worry, it's not macabre. The plot hinges on the actions of a trained squirrel named Rupert, who is variously represented by live animals and extremely skillful stop-motion animation.

It's a hilarious movie, with a really sincere, charming quality to the humor. Erin even found the musical numbers compelling. There is very little wasted time - it's tightly plotted and beautifully made.

We have no idea why this movie has been mostly forgotten. It's easily as good or better than many "classic" Christmas films. As a bonus, the plot concerns an apparent miracle with a very prosaic, if si…

Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas (2016)

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I guess at least one good thing has come out of HBO's partnership with Sesame Street: we got a new Christmas special! It's not as charming and perfect as Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, but what is? It does have a lot of heart and humor.

After a warm opening number about the lights of the season (with brief glimpses of Muppet families celebrating various holidays), we get to the plot pretty quickly. Elmo wants to know why we leave cookies for Santa, so his dad tells him a story.

Apparently, back in an unspecified old-timey time, Sesame Street was an unfriendly place to live. This means we get a ton of gorgeous costume design on 19th-century versions of many of the characters.



Elmo's ancestor moves to Sesame Street just before Christmas and is surprised by how rude everyone is - so mean that Santa never visits. He makes a "friend" by declaring that a girl who stole his ball can keep it as a gift, and that act of selfless kindness starts a chain reaction. A magica…

Robbie the Reindeer: Legend of the Lost Tribe (2002)

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The 2002 sequel to Hooves of Fire is, at least in my opinion, an improvement over the original. The story is no longer tethered to that of an 80's sports movie, and the new elements feel much more inspired and original.

The story this time centers around a "lost tribe" of Vikings, who are essentially dwarves in this world. In a backstory relayed by Old Jingle, we learn the last of their kind were supposedly killed off in a civil war waged when all the Vikings got bored.

Robbie's the only one who's seen any of the Vikings, and no one really believes him. They're more concerned with their failing resort, anyway. Why are reindeer running a tourist resort? Because Santa gives the toys away, so he's got nothing to pay them, obviously.

Meanwhile, Blitzen, who's been in prison since the end of Hooves of Fire, is released and returns to the lodge. Initially, the others throw him out, but he convinces them to let him stay when he promises he can turn the busi…

"Home" for the Holidays (Dreamworks 2017)

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This straight-to-Netflix special spins off of the show Home: Adventures with Tip and Oh, itself a spin-off of the movie Home. It's not awful, but neither is it heartwarming or coherent.

The premise is that Tip (who I remember speaking like a girl and not a stylized stereotype in the movie) realizes that this will be Oh's (her alien friend) first Christmas to celebrate. (I guess last Christmas was the invasion?) So she gets excited telling him about all the fun things to do and see.

There are a LOT of songs in this special. Erin liked more of them than I did, although I admit that the wackiness is strong and fun in some of them.

Unfortunately, everything between the songs is thin pretext to get us to the next song. I'll talk about this more in a moment.

Tip takes Oh into town to see the decorations. On the way, they're sidetracked by a bunch of boys who are apparently recurring antagonists. But now they're filming a "celebrity holiday special" in an attem…

Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire (1999)

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Hooves of Fire is a BBC claymation special about the son of Rudolph joining Santa's team. Rudolph's name is never explicitly spoken due to copyright issues, but there's no ambiguity about Robbie's heritage. The same can be said about Aardman animation - their name isn't on this, but their style permeates the special. Also, this was directed by Richard Starzak, who'd later go on to create Shaun the Sheep.

Overall, I enjoyed this, thanks to some clever jokes and fun designs. That said, the concept was a bit one-note, there were some unfortunate character directions, and the tone needed work. In short, it was good but not amazing.
The special starts with Robbie arriving at the lodge where Santa's reindeer live and train. Instead of glowing, Robbie's nose functions as a sort of navigator. Also, he later learns to bounce off it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The nose is basically all Robbie has going for him - he's lazy, out of shape, and self-ob…

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure (2003)

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Calling this made-for-TV movie "bad" doesn't really address the magnitude of just how awful it actually is. To even begin to do so, I'll try something a bit counter-intuitive: I'm going to compliment the filmmakers. Perhaps "compliment" is too strong a word - I'm going to acknowledge a possible explanation for the movie that's ultimately generous.

Having just watched through Vacation 2, I am honestly unable to dismiss the following possibility: the movie was intentionally made as bad as possible either as an attempt to mock the audience, screw over the studio, or both.
This is, of course, not the only possibility. Indeed, Occam's Razor would slice through this theory and leave us with a simpler one: that the filmmakers responsible for this mess are so bad at their jobs, they were unable to produce anything better. Those of you who haven't seen this movie are doubtlessly drawn to that explanation. But you don't yet understand just ho…

Blossom: It's a Marginal Life (1991)

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Blossom is one of those shows I remember watching, but I don't actually remember specifics about. It was about a girl, who wore big hats, and her friend? Watching this episode only convinced me that I'm probably better off forgetting it.

It's an incredibly generic-feeling sitcom, featuring the broadest acting imaginable. You're on film, you don't need to play to the cheap seats.

The titular character lives with her father and two brothers, all of whom spend this episode bumbling around to an impressive degree. There's an early subplot about Blossom being a terrible student driver. Her grandfather takes her driving, only for them to just barely luck out of a ticket for driving 7 miles per hour on a main road. The punchline is that her grandfather is a terrible driver too (no one knows how he got to their house, he doesn't seem to live there) and they're all in danger/recklessly endangering others. Laugh track, fade to commercial.

The more holiday-ish pl…

Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (2011)

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There's something I find especially frustrating about specials like this. The production values are high, the design and animation and voice acting all well done. But the writing is idiotic, so it's still a boring, tedious slog.

Unlike the specials affiliated with the Dreamworks movies Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, and Kung Fu Panda, I went into this one never having seen any of the movies in the franchise.

Although I hesitate to admit it, the only things I didn't find dull as a dead tree discarded for trash pickup were some of the Scrat sections (you've seen the prehistoric squirrel obsessed with acorns if you've ever seen a trailer for one of these films). The silent animation was decently paired with Christmas music. Of course, I also hated those sections because a character being beat up constantly through no fault of their own is a form of animated "comedy" that I particularly despise.

The story opens with Manny (the mammoth. Get it?) hauling ou…

Will and Grace: A Gay Olde Christmas (2017)

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Despite being off the air for a decade, Will and Grace was recently resurrected by NBC. Let this be a lesson to you - never assume the monster is dead. Even if you think you saw its body, even if there's no conceivable way it could have escaped alive... always be ready.

The Christmas episode is sort of a dream sequence/flashback to four characters in 1912 played by the cast. There's a brief frame story involving the actual characters and the bathroom of a historical society, but none of that's actually relevant.

The dream sequence is set at Christmas. Karen's alter-ego is a poor Irish immigrant raising a large family in a dilapidated apartment owned by a rich landlord (Will). Jack is a sailor boarding with Karen, and Grace is married to Will.

The plot basically boils down to Will wanting to throw Karen out at Christmas until Jack sleeps with him to change his mind.

That's... that's it. It's stretched out to fill thirty minutes and padded with jokes about I…

Family Matters Christmas Episodes (1990 - 1997)

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I remember this show, of course. I think everyone who grew up in the nineties at least remembers Family Matters.

What I hadn't remembered was that Family Matters is actually part of the Mypiot Cinematic Universe, which is to say it's a spin-off of Perfect Strangers. Harriet Winslow was a series regular on Perfect Strangers before getting her own show, along with her husband, Carl, who'd appeared in a handful of episodes.

And speaking of Carl... he's played by eternal police officer actor, Reginald VelJohnson, who played a similar character in the perennial holiday favorite, Die Hard (assuming they're not, in fact, the same man).

But any discussion about Family Matters is ultimately going to fixate on the series most famous character, Steve Urkel. Arguably television's most famous nerd, Urkel represents the personification of the stereotypical nerdy character years before Big Bang Theory would whitewash the concept and build an entire sitcom out of the idea.

Un…