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Showing posts with the label Lindsay

Guardians of the Galaxy: Jingle Bell Rock (2016)

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My continuing quest for more science fiction holiday content led me to this episode of the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series. The series uses the team from the movies, but as far as I know, it isn't in continuity with anything else.

The episode opens with the team tracking down a fugitive alien. Peter Quill is in a bit of a funk because it's Christmas back on Earth (how or why he knows this isn't clear from this episode), but he still gets the drop on their bounty. The alien begs for mercy and claims that the charges against him aren't fair, but they set off for their reward.

The other team members do some research on Earth Christmas in the meantime, but other than briefly decorating Groot, this doesn't come to much. Quill claims that everything is fine, Christmas isn't worth being upset about anyway.

When they deliver the fugitive to a snowy planet, he asks once more for their help, then asks them to at least tell his family where he's gone. The G…

How the Toys Saved Christmas (1996)

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I have to start this review by explaining a big, giant, caveat. I was unable to obtain a version of this holiday special in the original Italian (or even verify that a subtitled version exists). In Italian, this special is called La freccia azzurra (The blue arrow) and the story is apparently somewhat different. Hopefully, it's better in Italian.

I knew that we would be watching a kludgy anglicization, but I held out some hope. I sought out this special because I knew it featured Befana, who is a character we'd love to see more of. Befana is a witch who brings gifts to Italian children on Epiphany (Jan 6). In the English version, this character is nonsensically renamed "Granny Rose" and is demoted to being one of Santa's helpers. At least she's still a witch.

The following description is based on the English version.

For some reason, Granny Rose has a shop where children can come to drop off their wish lists. One boy (Christopher, your requisite virtuous orp…

A Cosmic Christmas (1977)

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I stumbled upon this early Nelvana production and immediately knew we had to watch it. (I’m mostly familiar with Nelvana because they produced all the Care Bears material in the 80s, but they’re a prolific children’s media production company based in Canada.)

Apparently, when the young studio was trying to break into commercial animation, market research indicated a need for new Christmas television specials. Given a UFO sighting in Toronto and excitement for a then-upcoming movie about some wars in the stars, a sci-fi tinted holiday story must have seemed like just the ticket. And it worked! According to Wikipedia, the popularity and sale of this special put Nelvana on the map.

It's hard to imagine, now in the era of Peak TV, that long-ago time when networks were so starved for content that this quirky, hit-and-miss piece would cause a stir.

Our main character is Peter, a totally generic kid except for the fact that he has a pet goose. Why? We’ll get there.

Peter and Lucy the …

Comic Book Review: Klaus (1-7)

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Klaus (Issues #1-7)
Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, 2015-2016

I remember seeing this title about a reimagined Santa hit stores. I've always been intrigued but also very tentative about it.

A big part of why I never read this book before now is that I've been burned before on Santa retellings, and the cover art was fairly realistic/Conan in style, making me think it would be too dark. I have strong opinions on what is appropriate Santa behavior and what is not. I have a history with this character that I'm protective of. In short, I have FEELINGS about this topic.

Now I've read it, and... y'all, this might be a new favorite.

I love the ridiculous line the book tries to walk from the first page. It's not actually realistic in any sense, but it's treating ludicrous situations and characters seriously. It's practically pulling from Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, with a town under the thumb of a cruel ruler who has outlawed toys and joy. Klaus lives outside of…

Klaus (2019)

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Last year we were big fans of Netflix's entry into the family-friendly fray, but this new movie fell flat for us.

The plot follows Jesper, the spoiled rich son of the Postmaster General. His behavior and attitude are cribbed so closely from The Emperor's New Groove that we thought the voice actor was David Spade (it's actually Jason Schwartzman). To shock him into acting like an adult, Jesper's father banishes him to a remote city on a far north island, tasked with re-establishing the post office there and stamping at least 6,000 letters over the next year.

When he gets there, he discovers the town is home to two feuding clans, and everyone is only interested in making each other miserable. After trying and failing to encourage anyone in the town to send a single letter, he ends up at a solitary house on the far end of the island. Here he is terrified to meet Klaus, a huge woodsman with a house full of mysterious toys. He flees but drops a drawing he had been trying …

Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas (2018)

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Aggretsuko is an anime series I quite like based on a Sanrio character. Yes, that's the Hello Kitty company, but with this character they are shifting their target consumer fairly significantly - from young girls to adult women dissatisfied with the modern world. The lead character, a red panda named Retsuko, has a boring job with a chauvinist jerk for a boss, annoying co-workers, and no romantic prospects, so she releases her rage at the world through singing death metal at a karaoke bar.

This Christmas special is an extra-long episode that doubles as an epilogue for the first season, so I'm not sure how enjoyable it would be to watch without that context. The main plots of the special are Retsuko's attempt to seek validation by becoming popular on social media and her coworker Haida's continuing crush on her.

At the beginning of the special is a missing scene from the end of the prior episode that reveals that Haida did ask Retsuko out, but she turned him down, at …

Cupcake Wars: The Nutcracker, Hollywood Christmas Parade (2011)

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Cupcake Wars is a food competition show. I watch, let's be honest, a decent number of food competition shows, and I place this one squarely in the lower-middle tier of such fare. It’s fine background noise that’s somewhat entertaining, but it lacks the theatricality of shows like Cutthroat Kitchen or Beat Bobby Flay, the impressive flexibility and talent on shows like Chopped or Iron Chef, or the personal drama of shows with a continuing cast like Great British Bake Off or even Next Food Network Star.

Even so, it is amusing enough to pass the time with when tied to the couch under a feeding baby. On my maternity leave earlier this year I watched a lot of reality shows, including two Christmas-themed episodes of Cupcake Wars. In this show, people who make cupcakes professionally (most either own a cafe or do catering) try to outdo each other to win a cash prize and a contract for a specific fancy event. In these episodes, said events were the opening night of the New York City Bal…

Book Review: The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories

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The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories
Edited by Martin Edwards, compilation 2019 (US release)

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: A new collection of little-known stories with a holiday twist from the classic age of crime fiction from British Library Crime Classics.

Like most short fiction collections, this one is hit and miss. Some of these stories are fun, but none of them are exceptional. Several introductions mention that the author rarely wrote short stories or seldom wrote mysteries. Apparently, this is the third collection from this publisher collecting unknown British crime stories on a wintry theme. What I'm trying to say is, they might be scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point.

The first story is by Baroness Orczy of Scarlet Pimpernel fame, and the characters are a lot of fun, although the plot is somewhat lacking. Two of the best stories in the volume follow: “By the Sword,” a tale in which a murder…

Podcast Review: Household Name: Kentucky Fried Christmas (2018)

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When I heard an ad for a podcast from Business Insider, I wasn't initially interested. Then the ad mentioned that there was an episode about the connection between KFC and Christmas in Japan, and I was immediately searching for the download button.

Unfortunately, the episode didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, but the story was told well and the episode was overall a lot of fun.

If you aren't interested in Japanese culture or the minutiae of the holiday, you might not know that Kentucky Fried Chicken is closely associated with Christmas in Japan. While that might seem strange to Americans at first, the surface-level reasons are those that you might come up with if pressed: Western holiday - Western food, chicken is close to the traditional (i.e., Dickensian) turkey, and Colonel Sanders bears a decent resemblance to Santa Claus.

I was hoping for some deeper revelation or twist, but the reporter on the podcast says that's most of it, although how the co…

Book Review: A Cup of Holiday Fear

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A Cup of Holiday Fear
Ellie Alexander, 2019

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: Jules runs a bakery in charming artistic tourist town Ashland, Oregon, where she is kept busy preparing for the Christmas rush and snooping around after an out-of-towner ends up dead.

I've read quite a few Christmas-themed cozy mysteries by now. Most of them are readable but nothing special.

It wasn't immediately clear from the publisher's description that this takes place well into a series, but it was obvious from the first page. Backstory and past relationships are recapped at length, even when they have nothing to do with the plot of this book.

I have two fairly substantial issues with this book, and in the end, I can't give it a pass.

The first is the mystery itself; it's just uninteresting.

The killer is the obviously mean character, the victim was a horrible person, and the resolution takes place entirely off-screen in…

Let It Snow (2019)

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Netflix has been trying for a few years to encroach on Hallmark’s dominance of the disposable holiday rom-com. One of this year’s attempts is this adaptation of a set of YA short stories.

The film starts and ends with narration by Joan Cusack. She is, of course, awesome, but the narration itself is so corny and obvious that I was literally laughing out loud, and not in a good way.

Taking place over December 24, the movie follows four and a half separate stories and features an array of attractive young actors, many of whom have history working for Netflix or Nickelodeon. I have already forgotten all the characters' names. Many major plot moments take place at a restaurant called Waffle Town.

The plots each fall into a basic romance trope or two:
Pining for the girl next doorToo-practical girl has meet-cute with celebrity in search of "something real"One-night stand (maybe one-night hangout, it's ambiguous) turns out to be true loveGirl dumps cheating boy to learn to …

Welcome Back

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Welcome back for the tenth season of Mainlining Christmas!

If you're a long-time fan, you might recall that we made some changes last year. We didn't push ourselves to post so often so that we could concentrate on quality.

At the end of the season, we also announced the impending arrival of our assistant, who was born in due course this past summer.

As you may have guessed, while we will continue to consume large amounts of seasonal fare, we have other ways to challenge our sanity this year. And this is for the best.

Because we have been doing this for so long that we've begun to build up an immunity.

It's no longer hard to listen to only Christmas music for a month or more; in fact, I've been turning it on in the summer when I need to relax. Few Christmas episodes and movies hold surprises for us, for we are masters of holiday tropes; we can see a last-minute Santa reveal coming before the first hint of snow clouds. In short, the mental and physical challenge a…

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

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Thanks so much for spending another season with Mainlining Christmas. Whether you read every word, listen to the occasional podcast, or just click Like on Facebook, we appreciate you.

So far, I think this year's changes were a success. Once we backed off from the constant flood of posts, we had time to choose our content more thoughtfully and do research for more podcasts and other analysis. We also had more time to actually enjoy the season. December is a very busy time in my current job, so I personally needed the respite.

In fact, it's been such a success that we're planning on bringing on an unpaid intern next summer. Rather than go through the headache of posting an ad or something, we've decided to grow them. We're expecting them to arrive in late June of next year.

I expect this person to take up incredible amounts of time and energy, but provide an all-new perspective on holiday media. And life.

Hopefully, we'll be back next year, although the amount o…

In the Bleak Midwinter (US Title: A Midwinter’s Tale) (1995)

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There are many Christmas movies about families, and many about found families. This delightful black-and-white dramedy from Kenneth Branagh shows that the bonds between the members of a theater company are every bit as dysfunctional and poignant as any other family, if a bit more dramatic.

This is a movie that rewards close attention. It’s absolutely hilarious, but many of the jokes, and nearly all of the character beats, are played so straight and subtle that you’ll miss important details if you’re trusting the movie to telegraph when something is funny.

It also rewards some familiarity with theater people and their habits, although I think it would be enjoyable even without that context. It has a lot in common with the 2003 Canadian television show Slings and Arrows - I suspect this film was an inspiration for that series.

The movie follows Joe, an unemployed actor nearing the end of his rope. He talks his agent into helping him bankroll a passion project: an experimental Christmas…

Book Review: Plum Pudding Murder

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Plum Pudding Murder
Joanne Fluke, 2009

I have been known to pick up Christmas-themed books on the cheap pretty often and this is one of those cheap reads. It's another cozy mystery, and this one not only reads like a Hallmark movie, it was turned into a literal Hallmark movie.

It's the twelfth book in this series, so while all the backstory and name-checking earlier events and established relationships is boring, it's at least excusable.

Okay, I said it was a cozy, right? Let's check off the tropes: Hannah owns a cookie shop, is dating a law enforcement guy, and is known to stumble into murders. I was briefly intrigued by the fact that she is also dating a dentist and all three parties seemed happy enough with their relationships. It seemed like a sympathetic portrayal of people who didn't feel the need to lock down a monogamous heterosexual marriage and were comfortable with that. Of course, later the guys both showed little jealousies, and the narrative clearly c…

All I Want for Christmas Is You (2017)

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Oh, great. Someone else thought basing a kid-friendly animated special on a romantic Christmas song was a good idea.

Okay, first let’s be clear. I actually like this song. It’s sappy as heck, but it’s bouncy and fun and easy to sing. But it is clearly about a lover. Not a dog. I mean, we love pets and all, but this is a bit much.

The special is based on Ms. Carey’s book of the same name, also based on the lyrics to her hit song. It’s about a little girl named Mariah and her Christmas wish for a puppy. The Mariah of the special has some things in common with the actual Mariah, but this is clearly much more fiction than memoir.

Anyway, Mariah wants a puppy more than anything, but her dad is allergic and her mother is a neat freak. Her grandmother brings her to the pet store, however, and introduces her to a dog. Quickly dubbed “Princess,” this dog is small but no longer a puppy, well-trained and hypoallergenic. Mariah begins an all-out campaign to convince her parents to let her adopt …

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Best Gift Ever (2018)

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After eight seasons, a theatrically released movie, a series of spin-off movies and shorts, comic books, and soundtrack albums including a non-canonical Christmas album, you’d think My Little Pony had done everything. But what it hadn’t done until this year was a holiday special.

Best Gift Ever is that hour-long (45-ish minutes) special, and I’m happy to report that it’s so good that we’re thinking of adding it to our standard holiday rotation. It’s charming, funny, and sweet. It features interlocking plotlines that build on everything we know about these characters without being so complicated that you have to have seen every episode to understand. It’s on Netflix, and if you’re a fan of the show, go check it out now, before I get into the plot.

It takes place either the day after the season eight holiday episode or the next year, depending on how much handwaving you want to do around the end of that episode. (The multi-species student characters featured in that episode are seen br…

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Hearth's Warming Club (2018)

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This is the fourth holiday episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, so it's no surprise that they decided to expand the focus a bit more. A quick warning: this is less of a standalone episode than the other seasonal offerings, as it focuses almost entirely on new characters.

In the latest season, the show takes advantage of the world that has been building up over the previous seasons and the movie. Twilight opens a school to teach friendship lessons to both ponies and creatures from beyond Equestria. There is a group of core young student characters representing all the various species, and they're the focus here.

It's almost Hearth's Warming, and the school is going on a holiday break. All the students are getting ready to head home. Then a mysterious figure pours a substance onto the spell at the top of the tree in the common area, and it explodes into a mass of sticky purple goo all over the room. Twilight and Rainbow Dash chase after the perpetrator, but t…

Great British Bake-Off Holiday Specials (2017)

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For several years now, The Great British Bake-Off (Great British Baking Show in the U.S.) has produced special holiday episodes. Only one set of these episodes has been made easily available here across the pond that I know of.

These two episodes had all the charm and warmth of the standard GBBO with a holiday flair. Each episode is a four-person competition with one winner. One episode wouldn’t be enough time to get to know new contestants, but they are all from recent seasons of the show, so it’s nice to see them again with another chance to shine.

It’s not just the holiday vibe that had contestants supporting each other, admiring each other’s work, and taking pride in personal bests. This is a ridiculously feel-good show.

Like a standard episode, the competition consists of three rounds: a signature challenge where the contestants must execute their spin on a specific assigned baked good, a technical challenge where they each attempt to follow a bare-bones recipe they’ve never see…

Book Review: The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain

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We all know A Christmas Carol was a great success, but what about the stories that tried to follow it? Dickens released four more special Christmas volumes following the publication of A Christmas Carol. I'm reading through them all this year.


The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, A Fancy for Christmas-Time
Charles Dickens, 1848

For the final one of his “Christmas Books,” Dickens returns both to Christmas and firmly to the supernatural.

If The Chimes is a morality play, The Cricket on the Hearth is a romantic comedy, and The Battle of Life is a soap opera, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain is an episode of the Twilight Zone. It’s a well-done, if straightforward, “be careful what you wish for” tale.

The story follows Professor Redlaw, who is said to look “haunted.” He was wronged as a young man when a friend married his sister, leading to her death (I think - this part of the plot is fairly vague), and he thinks constantly about this. One year at Christmas, a phantom who lo…