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Showing posts with the label Hanukkah

Round and Round (2023)

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Last year we made time to review a decent number of Hallmark holiday movies and found the recent entries quite a bit better on average than we expected. The best of the bunch was Hanukkah on Rye , a delightful classic romantic comedy I found funny and sweet. The movie received a bit of backlash due to what some viewers felt were stereotypes  but otherwise seemed to be well received, so it's not too surprising to see a new entry this year. What is surprising is the premise: rather than play it safe with another straightforward romcom, Round and Round is a time loop movie in the vein of Groundhog Day or Palm Springs, both of which are namechecked and discussed by characters in Round and Round as they try to figure out the temporal disturbance at the movie's core. I'll cut to the chase and reveal I don't think Round and Round is in quite the same league as its predecessor, but it's nevertheless a solid TV movie and - largely by default - probably the second-best Hanukk

Book Review: The Matzah Ball

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The Matzah Ball Jean Meltzer, 2021 To start with, the premise of this book has a lot of holes in it. Rachel grew up in a close-knit Jewish community, but she secretly loves all the trappings of Christmas, and is, in fact, secretly a highly successful Christmas romance author. Her childhood frenemy-turned-love-turned-enemy Jacob is now a wealthy entrepreneur who throws expensive events for a living, and he's going to be back in town to manage the biggest Hannukah event ever. Rachel's publishers want her to be more "authentic" and ask her to write a Hannukah romance. She despairs because "there's nothing magic about Hannukah" but decides the only way to get the inspiration she needs is to get to that sold-out party. Cue misunderstandings, arguments, romantic tension, etc. Just two of the questions this raises: 1) some Jewish folks care an awful lot about not giving in to the red-and-green juggernaut called American culture in December, and some don't.

Book Review: Three Holidays and a Wedding

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Three Holidays and a Wedding Uzma Jalaluddin and Marissa Stapley, 2023 New Release! A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review.  I joke sometimes about how modern romance novels of a certain type are more movie pitches than books. This one definitely started out that way, but by the end, it was at least a corny movie I think I'd enjoy. I guess the authors know what they're doing there, both have had projects optioned for film or TV according to the bios in the back.  In the first chapter, we meet Anna. Anna is ready for her perfect Christmas with her boyfriend's perfect family, she has to be. Otherwise her perfect boyfriend's perfect family won't be happy if everything doesn't go perfectly.  If you guessed that Anna's boyfriend is like a parody of "the guy who is bad for our heroine," you'd be right. But after a whole scene of me wincing at everything he says, he leaves ahead of her because she has to complete a wor

Hanukkah on Rye (2022)

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Okay. Going to need a big old disclaimer for this one. I'm Jewish. Also, I'm not Jewish. Depends on what you mean by "Jewish", really. My mother is Jewish and grew up in a Jewish household. My father was raised Christian, though I don't believe he ever identified as such in my lifetime. I was raised celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas, both in a secular context. I grew up thinking of myself as Jewish. I even got to experience some antisemitism in grade school in rural Maine (lucky me). I never learned to speak Hebrew, I didn't have a Bar Mitzvah, I wasn't raised in a Jewish community, and I've only stepped into synagogues for weddings and funerals. When I was a kid, I didn't think these were relevant as far as my identity was concerned. And depending on who you ask and what the term means, they may not be. However, from a cultural perspective at the very least, I am most certainly not Jewish. The reason I'm bringing all this up is I'm about

Full-Court Miracle (2003)

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Full-Court Miracle is a 2003 Hanukkah movie produced for The Disney Channel loosely inspired by a true story of a man whose life sounds like it was a hell of a lot more interesting and inspiring than what I just watched. I'll get to the plot in a minute, but first I do want to call attention to one thing legitimately noteworthy about this movie. We've watched and reviewed a handful of movies that were ostensibly about Hanukkah before, but every one of them was really a movie about being Jewish at Christmas. There are some specials and episodes of TV shows that break that mold, but this is the first movie I remember seeing which was unambiguously about Hanukkah itself. I'm still waiting on a Hanukkah movie that's, you know, good , but I view this as a step in the right direction. The movie's main character is Alex Schlotsky, a student at a Jewish private high school. Alex is obsessed with basketball, despite the fact his team consistently loses. For reasons I won

The Hebrew Hammer (2003)

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When we talk about movies from the 1940s or 1960s, we often fall back on the adage "it was of its time" as sort of an explanation for problematic content or offensive cultural norms that have since evolved. Today, I want to look at a comedy from 2003 that I believe was "of its time." Comedy at the turn of the millennium was largely dominated by two titans. On television, South Park had achieved almost unimaginable success by combining crass humor with rough animation. Meanwhile, Austin Powers continued to cast a long shadow across film. If someone in 2003 were to attempt to replicate surface-level properties of those two franchises without actually understanding what made either work, you'd expect the result to be something very similar to The Hebrew Hammer, an independent production that wound up getting a heavily edited release on cable television. The movie's title character is more or less an attempt to answer the question, "What if Shaft we

The Mensch on a Bench Hanukkah Activity Kit

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In addition to the crappy doll I've already reviewed, The Mensch on a Bench brand has expanded to infect numerous products. I've seen ads for toy animals, and more dolls. And, of course, the activity kit I'm looking at today. Do I even need to specify I found this on clearance? I got it at Michael's for 70% off the original price, which was still $2.99 I'm never going to see again. Among the lies I found on the packaging were that there were eight Hanukkah card inside - mine only included SEVEN. Also, this claims the book includes "10 Fun Activities," when none of the activities were fun. Setting that aside for a moment, let's look at what's included. There are the aforementioned eight (seven) identical Hanukkah cards and envelopes, six crayons, four markers, two sticker sheets, and the activity book. The cards are ugly, the crayons and markers are cheap, and the stickers are... well, they're stickers - not much to say there. Alm

The Mensch on a Bench

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While I haven't actually gotten my hands on an Elf on the Shelf yet, I've heard a great deal about it. And from that, I suspect The Mensch on a Bench may be just as good an idea as the Elf. If you think that's a compliment, you probably don't know much about Elf on a Shelf. The "Mensch on a Bench" was introduced to the world on Shark Tank. Sadly, they gave it an influx of cash and some publicity instead of letting it die there. Like the product this is clearly ripping off, The Mensch on a Bench includes a book and stuffed doll. Also, it sits in your house, sleepless and ever watchful, judging your children. You also get a removable cardboard bench, because "mensch" doesn't rhyme with "shelf." The doll is fine, if unremarkable. I doubt he'd stay on his bench without being tethered to it, though. The story of the Mensch on a Bench is essentially the story of Hanukkah with all the interesting war stuff excised. Instead,

The O.C.: The Best Chrismukkah Ever (2003)

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Until watching this, my impression of The O.C. was that it was some sort of 90210 rip-off. Actually, having never seen an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, that may still hold true. There's got to be a holiday episode of that show.... Sorry. Getting off track. The point is, my impression of The O.C., a show I knew only through hazy memories of promo spots from the early 00's, was not a positive one. I'd have associated the series with soap opera melodrama. And that was certainly present in this, but there was also a large volume of comedy mixed in: much more than I'd have expected. In short, it's more a dramedy than a soap opera. And I was pleasantly surprised by how funny the comedic bits were. Granted, they were nowhere near as funny as most of the dramatic bits, but that would have been a high bar to clear. Apparently, one of the things this show's known for is popularizing the term "Chrismukkah" through a series of annual specials.

Now Ends the Reign of Mainlining Christmas

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Sadly, our reign as monarch of Sensible Castle has come to an expected end, so that the next subscriber can claim their three minutes of glory. You should be able to read our proclamations by visiting the Hall of Kings and searching for us.

Now Begins the Reign of Mainlining Christmas

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Well, this is it. The moment we've all been waiting for, when Mainlining Christmas is unambiguously crowned king of Sensible Castle in Ireland. This honor is being bestowed on us by Cards Against Humanity as part of their  Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah promotion. You can celebrate our rule by visiting this site , which features video of our castle. You should be able to see our proclamations here , once they're officially proclamated. What are those proclamations? Hell if I know - we submitted them last winter.

Cards Against Humanity: Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah

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I'd hoped to get to this by Christmas, but the eighth day didn't reach me in time. I just got it today (12/26), so I'm wrapping up this article and posting it now. I've only played Cards Against Humanity once, and I'd describe the experience as somewhat mixed. Cards Against Humanity is an intentionally offensive card game where players try win points by shocking or disturbing each other. I don't actually own a copy of the game though I do now have an expansion (more on this later). This promotion ostensibly has nothing at all to do with the game, though. The company advertised that, for fifteen dollars, they'd send people eight "sensible" gifts over the month of December. While I'm not a huge fan of the game, I've been extremely impressed with other promotions the company has done over the years, so I signed up. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I hoped for something fascinating but half expected eight pairs of socks. N

Chanuka at Bubbe's (1988)

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We came across a crappy-looking DVD titled, "Chanuka & Passover at Bubbe's" on a shelf of Chanukah (/Chanuka/Hanukkah) books at the local library and decided to throw ourselves on the grenade and save some poor kids from the experience. Naturally, we didn't bother watching the Passover section (we're Mainlining Christmas, not Mainlining Easter), but we sat through the forty-two minutes of low-rent puppetry constituting the Chanukah portion. I should mention that this thing has neither a Wikipedia page nor an IMDB entry, though it seems to be up on YouTube (at least at the moment), and it has at least one fan . We're not 100% sure of the date - the end of the credits cites 1988, but we're not actually sure whether that's when it was released, aired, or finished. Like a lot of children's entertainment, this is more premise than plot. It centers around two puppet children bringing their friend to their grandmother's for Chanukah. For rea

The Magic School Bus: Family Holiday Special (1996)

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This special episode of T he Magic School Bus was equal parts awesome and awful; a bizarre work of propaganda that removes the education from edutainment, yet is strangely intriguing. There's a moment in this episode where the titular vehicle is hit by its own recycling-nullification ray and transforms into junk. That's an absolutely perfect metaphor for the episode. Maybe for the series. But damned if it isn't fun to watch. The episode begins right before holiday break. It's definitely a 90's conception of the "holiday," too, complete with pine trees, green and red decorations, multicolored lights, and an near endless number of Christmas tunes with new recycling-themed lyrics. I don't think they said the word, "Christmas" once, though they did mention Hanukkah several times. My favorite shot in the special is one of a chalkboard with a picture of a menorah and other Hanukkah paraphernalia surrounded by a Christmas garland. They tried s

Even Stevens: Heck of a Hanukkah (2000)

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Thanks to a clearance DVD called "Disney Channel Holiday," we wound up with a bunch of holiday episodes of shows from the Disney Channel. Several are absolutely abysmal, but a few are fascinating. It was difficult to focus on this one since the lead is portrayed by an extremely young Shia LaBeouf portraying the exact same character he played in Transformers. It was actually kind of surreal. The episode itself had highs and lows. Surprisingly, the highs were really quite good. The plot started with Louis (LaBouf) locating the Hanukkah presents and opening them early. In a botched attempt to conceal them afterward, he inadvertently destroyed them and was (of course) punished. He then wished he'd never been born, transitioning to a "Wonderful Life" story. What should have been derivative was saved by some innovative twists. When they introduced the "guardian angel" stand-in as a stereotypical old Jewish grandmother, I cringed for the worst, but I wa

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

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Eight Crazy Nights performs an important service by virtue of its 12% Freshness Rating, which establishes a much needed margin of error on the Tomatometer (turns out it's 12%). Upon finishing this movie, the very idea that someone out there could conceivably have liked it is sickening. This is, without a doubt, the worst Adam Sandler movie either of us have ever seen. Think about that for a minute. The film is an utter mess. Worse still, it seems to think it's actually funny, charming, subversive, and touching, while offering absolutely nothing of value. The jokes, often punctuated by the narrator restating the obvious intent, come off as mean-spirited and pointless. The movie's premise is somewhat similar to Bad Santa's, but it misses its mark to a degree that's almost incredible to behold. Not only is it painfully clear that the producers have never made an animated film before, we found ourselves wondering if they'd ever actually seen one. The timing was

Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah (1996)

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Shari Lewis, the late ventriloquist and puppeteer behind Lamb Chop, was a beloved entertainer. That makes this a tad awkward, because this special was a steaming pile of shit. To be fair, Lewis is a phenomenal ventriloquist. But her sock puppets kind of suck, the writing is idiotic, and this thing makes little to no sense. The main plot revolves around Charlie Horse trying to win a contest by designing a superhero using a computer program which brings his creations to life. There's a subplot about Lewis and Lamb Chop trying to put on a Chanukah party for some washed-up guest stars, but that seemed fairly inane. The characters are astonishingly stupid, the jokes aren't the least bit funny, and the lessons drag even more than you'd expect. I appreciate the need for holiday options for Jewish children, but it seems tragic this is the sort of thing trying to fit that niche. Lewis comes off as genuinely talented, and I appreciate that there are people out there who are n