Posts

Showing posts with the label Science Fiction

Alien XMas (2020)

Image
I want to start off by acknowledging there are almost certainly people out there who'd really get a kick out of this new stop-motion Netflix special. There are things to like about this - I'll get to those in a moment - and I really like how dedicated this is to capturing the spirit of 1950s B-movie sci-fi features. But while I like what it was going for, the special fell short for me. And unfortunately, I think this is one of those concepts where "almost good" isn't good enough. The premise relies on a species of alien marauders called klepts, who go from world to world stealing resources. These beings were once brightly colored, but their cruelty transformed them into grey lifeforms, devoid of compassion. So far, so good. One of the two main characters is X, the smallest of the klepts, who's dispatched to the North Pole to construct a device that will nullify Earth's gravity, making it easy for the alien ships to gather up the planet's possessions. T

Trancers (1984)

Image
This is, for better and for worse, a pretty good example of what genre movies released in the '80s were actually like. Those of you born after the '80s probably think you know what the decade offered - after all, you've seen Ghostbusters, Terminator, Goonies, Blade Runner, Aliens, and a host of other films. But here's the thing: those were exceptions. Those were the movies that endured. The classics. The vast majority of 80's movies were... not those. They were this. Honestly, that might be generous. Trancers, an extraordinarily weird time-travel-action-Christmas-noir, is pretty good, as far as schlocky B-movies go. It's fun, campy, and inoffensive. I suspect this was trying to be a cult hit but didn't quite pull off the formula. Its weirdness feels a little too intentional, it's not bad enough to be "so bad it's good" but not quite good enough to be some sort of hidden gem. Still, it's a fun bit of '80s camp and a rare entry on our

12 Dates of Christmas (2011)

Image
I find this movie somewhat perplexing, and not because the premise is a knockoff of Groundhog Day, complete with unexplained temporal paradox. What's weird about this campy made-for-TV romcom is... it's kind of good. Don't get too excited - it's only mostly kind of good; there's still quite a bit that just isn't . Either someone turned in a screenplay too good for the format, and a third got rewritten into schlock, or someone rewrote two-thirds of a schlocky screenplay and forgot to fix the rest. I have no clue which. Granted, that's a hell of a lot better than what you'd expect for an ABC Family Christmas flick. The plot centers on Kate, a woman pining over her ex and planning to try and reconnect for the holidays. Meanwhile, her stepmother has set her up on a blind date, and Kate feels obligated to put in a brief appearance. Before we follow her through her first iteration of interactions with a random cast of people, she briefly faints in a department

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Image
We wanted this to be good. I mean, obviously we want everything we watch to be good because it makes for a more enjoyable couple of hours, but Jingle Jangle is a fantasy musical Christmas adventure where most of the cast is black. I'm assuming part of the reason this was made was so kids could have a big Christmas movie with characters who look like them. We really wanted to be able to hold it up, sing its praises, and feel good about ourselves. But dear God is this movie a mess. The movie this most reminds me of, sadly, is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms . Both movies were visually interesting but narratively lacking. For what it's worth, the designs in Jingle Jangle are much more inspired. The sets and costumes are gorgeous, and the visual effects are significantly better than I'd expect from a Netflix production. Aside from a couple sequences where CG body doubles are a bit obvious, this movie looks topnotch. Same goes for the music. Taken out of context, the songs ar

Milo Murphy's Law: A Christmas Peril (2017)

Image
Milo Murphy's Law is an animated Disney series from the creators of Phineas and Ferb. It's also in continuity with that show, featuring callbacks and eventually crossovers. I'm a big fan of Phineas and Ferb, so I was naturally interested in this, but - like so many things - it was difficult following at first. Once Disney+ launched, I caught up with the first season, which includes a Christmas episode. I should probably get this out of the way: the series, while well written and interesting, lacks the alchemy that made Phineas and Ferb exceptional. The characters just aren't as endearing, and the premise lacks the whimsy that really elevated its predecessor into something truly great. This is still good television, but (at least so far) it hasn't managed to recreate the magic. Half the series revolves around Milo Murphy, the youngest in a family who "Murphy's Law" was named after. In theory, whatever can go wrong around them does, though what this

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

Image
I can forgive The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special for being bad, but I can't forgive it for not being bad enough. The original Star Wars Holiday Special , of course, is a thing of legend. It's impossibly bad, unbelievably bizarre, and utterly mystifying. It's never officially been released, and everyone involved seems ashamed. I'm not saying this had  to be that bad, but it had to be... something. Most importantly, it needed to be memorable, and The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is already fading from memory minutes after watching. I guess I better get the plot down before it's gone for good. Set soon after Rise of Skywalker, the special opens with Rey trying (and failing) to train Finn to become a Jedi while their friends are preparing for Life Day. Blaming herself for Finn's lack of progression, Rey follows some advice in an old Jedi tome and heads out in search of a lost Jedi temple. BB-8 accompanies her for some reason. They locate the temple and come across

Guardians of the Galaxy: Jingle Bell Rock (2016)

Image
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. T

A Cosmic Christmas (1977)

Image
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 Lu

The Simpsons: Holidays of Future Passed (2011)

Image
This episode from the twenty-third season of The Simpsons was originally intended as the series's finale, in effect book-ending the holiday special that served as the pilot . Holidays of Future Passed opens with a Christmas-themed intro, followed by a brief Thanksgiving sequence that transitions into a Christmas photo, which in turn transitions into a montage showing the family growing older over the years. This may have been my favorite part of the episode, honestly - there are numerous clever jokes hidden in this sequence, and I found the vignettes of these characters aging endearing. When we catch up to the present (or more accurately the future), Bart is a 40-year-old renting an apartment in the ruins of his old elementary school. He's a deadbeat father to a pair of boys who typically live with their mom but are sent to him for the holidays. Lisa is doing marginally better - she seems to have a successful career and a relatively okay marriage (she's married to M

Mute (2018)

Image
Distributed by Neflix and widely panned by critics, Mute is an SF/noir movie directed by Duncan Jones and set (spoiler alert) in continuity with Moon. I liked this quite a bit more than the average critic, but I won't deny it was a deeply flawed film. If you hear the words "SF/noir" and immediately think of Blade Runner, you have the right idea - Duncan was quite open about drawing his inspiration from Ridley Scott. Oh, also it's set at Christmas. I was a little surprised by that - I put it on because I'm a fan of the genre (the SF/noir genre, I mean, though obviously I'm also a fan of Christmas movies). It wasn't until decorations started popping up that I realized I'd be writing a review. More on all that in a bit. Set in the not-too-distant future of 2035, Mute follows two plot lines simultaneously. The ostensible POV character is Leo, a mute Amish man living and working in Berlin. He more or less lives for his girlfriend, Naadirah, a

The Avengers: Too Many Christmas Trees (1965)

Image
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 jus

Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park (2013)

Image
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 relations

Podcast Episode 2: The Alien Christmas Spectacular

Image
We're back! In the new episode, we explore how the holidays are celebrated among the stars, where no one can hear you sing Christmas carols. Listen above, or on Soundcloud , Stitcher , iTunes , or almost any podcast app. References: Prometheus (2012)  Alien: Covenant (2017)  The Golden Bough "Dialogue: Sir Ridley Scott Explains 'Prometheus,' Explores Our Past, and Teases Future 'Alien' Stories" Also mentioned: Black Christmas Brazil Santa Claus Conquers the Martians Children of Men Christmas on Mars Transcript below Lindsay: In the eight years we’ve been Mainlining Christmas, Erin and I have seen hundreds of movies. As you’d expect, many of them blend together. Erin: The vast majority fall into a handful of buckets: comedies where someone rekindles their love of the holidays through family, self-aware noir action flicks juxtaposing the trappings of the season with violent shoot-outs, zany fantasies involving Santa, angels, o