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Showing posts with the label Science Fiction

Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014)

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People have been telling us for years we should check out Black Mirror, a British (well, formerly British now Netflix-produced) science fiction anthology series, but we've been busy. We finally got around to at least watching the Christmas special, and we were... I don't know. Not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed. I guess we were whelmed. The production values were certainly impressive. The writing was solid, though I didn't find this special spectacular. The holiday elements felt tacked on - I wouldn't be at all surprised if this were originally written for another purpose than altered to fit a holiday mold. This is really three short bits tied together by a frame story about two men ostensibly living and working together in some snowbound environment. It's meant to be ambiguous at the start, but I doubt I was alone in assuming it was some sort of purgatory or hell. And I was right. It's essentially a digital purgatory, which becomes pretty obvious quite a

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

2000AD Holiday Specials

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This year, I bought a handful of 2000AD Christmas specials. This is a long-running comics magazine from Britain, and it's the origin of Judge Dredd. It's an interesting format that's quite different from the way most Western comics are published today. Longer stories are serialized in small pieces, but short one-offs are featured as well. Because each issue features many short stories and chapters (and there are more than normal in these holiday annuals), you're bound to find something intriguing even if one or two of the pieces aren't to your taste. Most of the stories seem to share a sense of heightened reality: dystopias, sci-fi blending with other genres, crime and punishment in very stylized worlds. Each issue was 100-ish pages and featured over a dozen stories, of which only some were seasonal. Here are a few of the more Christmassy stories in the issues I read: 2007 Special Sinister Dexter: Christmas Time Sinister Dexter is a long-running serie

Saving Santa (2013)

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Saving Santa is a 2013 direct-to-DVD computer animated movie that's something of a paradox. I suppose that's appropriate, since the movie is about "a time-traveling elf," but that's not the kind of paradox I'm referring to - I'm talking about the writing, which is at once utter crap and impressively nuanced. More on that in a moment. First, the plot. Bernard D. Elf, astonishingly only the second-worst-named character in this movie, wakes up late for an appointment showing off his new invention to the North Pole's tech company. He races across town and gets them to watch, but in the process momentarily blacks out the elf city's power. The time the grid's down is just enough for Neville Baddington (and that'd be #1) and his evil package delivery company to determine the cloaked location of Santa's operation. Unaware they're on their way, Bernard heads to his day job, shoveling reindeer dung out of Santa's stables.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures: Santa Pac's Merry Berry Day (2014, 2015)

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I've long championed the theory that any premise, regardless of how seemingly juvenile or misguided, can be elevated to greatness if the core concept is simply taken seriously and complex emotion is added. Movies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and shows such as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic lend credence to this idea. It is a good theory, or - more accurately - it was  a good theory. In the space of 44 minutes, this idea was tested and soundly, undeniably refuted by a corporate cash grab so cloying, the very core is beyond salvation. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about the show, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. This is a CG science-fiction/superhero adventure based on the characters from the 1980 arcade game. This isn't the first time someone's attempted to adapt Pac-Man into a television series , but it might be the first time someone tried giving it a relatively serious tone. Note I said relatively serious - this is still

The Real Ghostbusters: X-Mas Marks the Spot (1986)

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The Real Ghostbusters has been largely forgotten, which is kind of a shame. The series started in 1986 and serves as something of a missing link between the comical, kid-friendly cartoons of the 80's and the more adult story-driven adventure shows of the 90's. This certainly isn't Batman: The Animated Series, but it's not Scooby-Doo, either. There were some creepy villains and monsters in this show, along with some cool concepts. The story editor was J. Michael Straczynski, who also wrote a vast number of episodes, including this one. "X-Mas Marks the Spot" was the last episode of the first season. It's set on Christmas Eve, or more accurately on two Christmas Eves. After bungling a job in upstate New York, the Ghostbusters wander through a time portal and find themselves in Victorian London. Not realizing what they're doing, they help Ebeneezer Scrooge with a haunting and wind up capturing the three Christmas ghosts. Still unaware where they are

Back to the Future: Dickens of a Christmas (1991)

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I don't remember this series, but I recall the era it comes from well enough. Prior to Batman: the Animated Series, cartoon shows - particularly those adapted from live action movies - were mainly cheap cash grabs produced by networks trusting a lack of alternatives would force their audience to tune in regardless of quality. Yup, even with no recollection of this particular show, this brings back memories of Saturday mornings spent staring blankly at the TV in the idle hope something worth seeing would air. This series ostensibly picks up after the movies left off, following Doc Brown and his family, along with Marty, as they adventure through time. I assume Marty was lobotomized earlier in the season because his intelligence level is significantly lower here than in the movies. The animation is extremely toonish - this is closer to Looney Tunes than anything resembling realism. The tone is spastic, trusting on a barrage of slapstick gags to keep kids engaged. A few acto

Alien: Covenant (2017)

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When this movie came out, I asked the first person I knew who watched it one question. I didn't care if it was good or bad, intelligent or idiotic, whether it tied to Prometheus or to the original movies... I just wanted to know if it was set at Christmas. The person I asked assured me it wasn't. Turns out, he was wrong. To be fair, you really  needed to be paying attention to catch it. The first shot after the intro provides the movie's only date: December 5, 2104. The ship is almost immediately damaged, requiring repairs before they can continue on their journey. Helpfully, the movie tells us it will take about 48 hours to make those repairs. That takes us to December 7. At this point, they decipher a message and change their destination to a planet "a few weeks" away. Assuming "a few weeks" translates to fourteen days, they arrive at the film's alien-infested world on December 21. Where do I remember that date from? Yup - it

Sense8: A Christmas Special (2016)

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We just watched the new Sense8 Christmas Special, and we’re mentioning it because they literally titled the episode “A Christmas Special,” although only about a quarter or so of it was actually set at Christmas. I’ll start off with the most important point - if you haven’t seen the first season of Netflix’s Sense8, this would be a terrible introduction. I have seen the first season, and I still spent the first fifteen minutes thinking: “Okay, wait, what was going on with that character? I guess that happened, okay… and that, and...right, right, I sort of remember that plot.” This means I’m not going to synopsize this. I’ll just give you the premise: Sense8 is about eight people from around the world who are mentally connected. They can share memories, thoughts, and abilities, and other people from various shadowy government/corporate agencies, some with similar powers, are after them. The special is two hours long, but I’m not sure that more actually happened than would have ha

The Flash: The Present (2016) and Arrow: What We Leave Behind (2016)

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I thought I'd package this year's WB DC superhero Christmas episodes together instead of doing them individually. Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow didn't produce holiday episodes, so that leaves us with the original two: Arrow and Flash. The Flash: The Present (2016) While the previous seasons of The Flash focused on season-long plot arcs built around evil speedsters trying to kill Barry, the third is built around Savitar, an... ugh. Yeah. At least this time the evil speedster looks different. I'm going to skip the rehash of Flashpoint, the timeline-breaking event that kicked off the third season. The only part that's actually relevant is that Cisco's brother is dead now. The episode opens with a flashback to Julian discovering the artifact that turns him into Doctor Alchemy and allows Savitar to manifest (or whatever the hell is going on with that). After that, we jump the present day where Earth-3 Harrison Wells (again, I'm not going to bother) i

The Last Man on Earth: Secret Santa and Silent Night (2015)

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Well. That was weird. I've seen ads for this show before, but I never actually watched an episode. Now that I have, I'm still a little unsure what to think of it. The Last Man on Earth is a series about a small group of survivors living in the empty, desolate remains of a planet where disease has killed off the human race. Also, it's a farcical comedy. I actually like that premise quite a bit. Protagonists in post-apocalyptic stories tend to be abnormally capable; the best of humanity. Conceptually, there's value in subverting this assumption. But maybe they pushed things a little too far with Will Forte's Tandy, who I found entirely unlikable. To be fair, I think that was the intention, but still, it might have been a bridge too far. These two episodes were part of a much longer plot arc. The first, Secret Santa, centered on the group celebrating Christmas together with a Secret Santa gift exchange. This made for some entertaining interactions due to diff

Shimmer Noel Decorative Filler

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If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that Michaels sells some weird shit. Seriously. I love the store (I even worked there once, long ago), but they sell things that simply defy explanation. This is a good example of that phenomenon. We found these sold with other seasonal decorations. This is a pack of round, furry balls - nine for $12.99, if you pay full price. If there's a second thing I've leaned over the years, it's that you should never pay full price for seasonal merchandise at Michaels. We got these at 70% off in some sort of post-black-cyber-buy-our-crap-Friday-doorbuster-sale. I'm not entirely clear on why  there was a sale going on, but it brought the price below $4 for the set, which is something like $0.43 per unit. But none of that's important, because there's a far, far, FAR more immediate question elicited by these: WHY? Actually, "Why?" is itself merely a starting point. Why were th

Stranger Things: Season 1 (2016)

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Let's get this out of the way - in the opinion of Mainlining Christmas, season one of Stranger Things does not technically qualify as an Christmas story, nor does any single episode feature the holidays to a significant extant to be accurately called "a Christmas episode." Which is why we're doing this now instead of in December. Excluding flashbacks and an epilogue (which does take place at Christmas), the series takes place over a few days in what's presumably late November. Christmas decorations have started going up, but they're certainly not ubiquitous, and stores are stocking holiday lights. It's those lights, incidentally, that I mostly want to address. The story of the series centers around -- STOP! Oh, yeah. Spoiler Alert, and all that. Where was I? Right. The story centers around a missing child who's pulled into a parallel universe by some sort of alien monstrosity. I say "parallel universe" in keeping with

Ben 10: Merry Christmas (2006)

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This is the first episode of Ben 10 Lindsay and I have seen, though I was mostly familiar with the premise going in. A kid has the power to transform into ten different aliens, so he uses his abilities to fight various threats. I hadn't realized the series took place during a cross-country vacation in his grandfather's RV. I'm fairly certain that's intended as a nod to the 70's Shazam series . Ben Tennyson is more than a little reminiscent of Billy Batson, who could likewise call upon otherworldly powers and transform. This series is more or less an update. This episode begins on a hot summer day while Ben, his grandfather, and his cousin, Gwen (also a series regular - apparently, she uses magic in some other episodes) are driving through Death Valley. After a failed attempt to improve the air conditioner, the RV breaks down. They find a strange door in the desert with cool wind blowing through the cracks. When they go through, they find a wintery town decorat

Mainlining Movie Discussion: Home (2015)

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Home is a CG science fiction comedy from last year that’s ambiguously a Christmas movie. It’s loosely based on the 2007 novel, The True Meaning of Smekday . It’s not a clear enough example to be covered in the normal season, but we felt it deserved a spot in our archives. We’re trying something a little different on this one: instead of posting a review written by one of us, we’re presenting this as a discussion. Let us know what you think of the format: we're thinking of adding it to our standard repertoire. Erin: Let’s start with the story. The movie is set immediately after the events of a disappointingly bloodless alien invasion where the human race is transported to Australia. A girl’s left behind, and she befriends an outcast alien who’s inadvertently endangered the planet by sending a party evite to another alien race. The girl’s trying to find her mom, and the alien’s trying to undo the damage he’s done. You get the idea. Unlike me, you actually read the book. How

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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I'd been meaning to rewatch Edward Scissorhands for a while, though I bumped it back because I was a bit skeptical of its status as a holiday movie. Now, I feel pretty confident describing it that way. The movie opens with a brief frame story of an old woman telling a story to her granddaughter. Since we're talking about holiday connections, I'll add that it's snowing outside and the patterns on the wallpaper bear a resemblance to the Star of Bethlehem. We soon cut to Peg Boggs, an Avon saleswoman going from door-to-door in a town of pastel houses laid out on a curved road ending in a cul-de-sac. It's a sunny, bright day in what looks like a suburb of LA in the 1960's. When she doesn't have luck with her neighbors, she turns her attention to a giant castle atop a dark mountain that sits just beyond the cul-de-sac. You really have to admire Burton's flair. She drives up and discovers a courtyard of stone gargoyles and meticulously mainta