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Showing posts with the label Sucks

An American Carol (2008)

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This is one of those movies that's sort of on the boundary of what we'd consider discussing. It's not set at or about Christmas, but depending on your point of view it's either derivative of or based on arguably the most famous Christmas story set in December (we all know the manger thing happened in the fall, right?). On top of that, An American Carol has particular significance to another project I'm working on for later this year. For reasons not even I can explain, I seem to have decided 2022 would be the year I finally watched through the various adaptations of A Christmas Carol, or at least all the significant ones. And while this falls near the low end of the spectrum of both the significance and adaptation metrics, it was released theatrically, so I decided to give it a watch. Set in America in the "present" of 2008, the movie applies the "Christmas Carol" template to the 4th of July and the War on Terror in order to lampoon liberalism. I

Less Than Zero (1987)

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This is an odd one. Less Than Zero was supposedly adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, though there seems to be a consensus the movie has almost no relation to the book. I haven't read it, but apparently there was virtually no plot, so rather than attempt to adapt it, the producers had a series of writers create an entirely new script with an entirely different nonexistent plot. The non-plot centers around Clay, a college freshman who returns to his upscale LA home to find his best friend, Julian, has become an addict. Clay's girlfriend, Blair, is also an addict, but isn't quite as out-of-control as Julian, who we eventually learn is being forced into prostitution by his dealer. There's a love triangle, as well, since Julian and Blair had an affair while Clay was gone, but this feels oddly tacked on. Apparently, in the book Clay was supposed to be bisexual, a detail that was removed by the studio, presumably to make the movie more boring. The movie just kind of

Pepper Ann: A Kosher Christmas (1999)

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This episode has actually been on my radar for a while. I have vaguely positive memories of the show being around, even though I was in high school when it premiered, and we're always looking for ways to build up our archive of Hanukkah content. So when I saw that the show landed on Disney+ this year, I sought it out.  Unfortunately, this is just a boring episode of what (judging only by this episode) was a mediocre example of animation in the 90s. In fact, between the fashions, the inline skates in the opening, and the character dynamics and stereotypes on display - this is aggressively 90s content.  The only thing I remembered about the show was the absolute earworm of a theme song, but the animation of the song opens with a few seconds of a dream sequence where the main character is fighting off some... racist caricatures of native people? Yikes. So it's obvious from the beginning that not everything has aged well about this series.  On the other hand, some brief research te

Elf Pets: Santa's St. Bernards Save Christmas (2018), A Fox Cub's Christmas Tale (2019), Santa's Reindeer Rescue (2020)

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I want to start by saying upfront: you should discourage your kids from watching these. I'm not joking. And I'm not saying that because these are awful - they are, but that's the least of their problems. These specials cross a line between obnoxious and inappropriate in how they market their toys to kids. I'm not just talking about using animation as an extended ad, either -- this goes way beyond GI Joe or Transformers. GI Joe never explicitly told kids owning their crap would help save Christmas; these specials - all three  of these specials - quite literally convey that message. You want Santa's sleigh to fly? Help by "caring for" one of these three magic toys. I am not exaggerating. I don't recall ever seeing a show or special do anything like this before. With that out of the way, let's talk about the specials themselves, or rather the specials as a group. While all three contain unique characteristics, the overall concept and structure is iden

An Elf's Story: The Elf on the Shelf (2011)

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I'm torn on this. On one hand, this is a cheap ad for Elf on the Shelf, poorly disguised as an animated special. But on the other hand, it's so badly made, I think it actually may have contributed to the downfall of the brand, which is unquestionably a benefit to humanity. The special's protagonist is Chippy, an elf assigned a very important mission to help a boy recover his belief in Christmas. The boy, Taylor, hasn't undergone any sort of hardship or anything, and aside from being kind of a dick around his younger sisters, isn't a bad kid or anything. So the stakes here are pretty damn low. This is just about Santa sending one of his minions to police the beliefs of a random upper-middle-class kid. That's it. Chippy arrives in an Elf on the Shelf box, along with the stupid book, because we're really selling the hell out of the illusion any of this counts as Christmas lore. The family reads the book together, and we get the basic rules: the elf flies back t

Friday After Next (2002)

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This is going to be one of those incredibly awkward situations where I'm looking at a Christmas installment in a series where I didn't see the earlier films. I'm not sure if it makes it more or less awkward that this one was reviewed far more harshly than the original (the middle installment wasn't received any better). So obviously take my opinion with a grain of salt. And that opinion seems to be in line with the consensus. Overall, this didn't work for me, and a lot of the jokes have aged badly. The series stars and was co-created by Ice Cube. Stylistically, it's reminiscent of Clerks, particularly for the first half. The story here is incredibly thin, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in a comedy, so long as the jokes pick up the slack. Again, they didn't work for me, though I'm not really the target audience and there's absolutely a possibility a lot of the humor went over my head. The movie opens with a thief dressed as Santa breaking int

Elf-Man (2012)

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I was genuinely shocked when the end credits for Elf-Man rolled and revealed a full cast worked on the picture. With the exception of a few decent shots and a couple actors who deserved better, this thing looked and felt less like a "real" movie than... God, I'm struggling to find some point of comparison. Some of it felt like the low-budget direct-to-video production it was, but it was rare for the movie to hit even that mark. More often it felt like a cheap sitcom, and even those sequences accounted for fifty percent or less. Most of the rest felt like a college project. At times, I'd have believed a handful of high schoolers were somehow calling the shots. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about the premise of Elf-Man, a 2012 fantasy/superhero/comedy serving as a vehicle for Jason Acuña, here credited as "Wee Man." The story centers around two kids and their father, an inventor whose wife died a few years before. On Christmas Eve,

Bam Margera Presents: Where the #$& is Santa (2008)

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By its nature, Mainlining Christmas often leaves us scrambling to cobble together some sort of context for media we're unfamiliar with. We regularly check out Christmas episodes of shows we've never seen or wander into genres we otherwise avoid. But this takes that to a whole new level. We put this on not knowing who Bam Margera is or what we were getting into. We're of course familiar with Jackass as a concept, but neither Lindsay or myself ever actually watched anything from that franchise before, nor did we realize it had spawned multiple spin-offs under different titles. I actually assumed I was putting on a conventional comedy. This was... I'm honestly still not sure what the hell this was. Like I said, I've never seen Jackass, but my impression is it's primarily defined by over-the-top, idiotic stunts intended to shock the audience. And, in a sense, that's what this was. Only... it wasn't? Imagine someone created a movie revolving around a series o

Just Friends (2005)

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Just Friends is one of several Christmas comedies from the first decade of the millennia that's been largely forgotten, and in this case, it's not hard to understand why. The premise is largely built around the concept of the "friend zone", a somewhat misogynistic idea popularized in the mid-'90s that - for reasons that continue to elude me - someone thought would make a good basis for a movie a decade later. The story centers on Chris, played by Ryan Reynolds, who grew up in New Jersey, where he was humiliated in high school due to being overweight. His best friend was Jamie, a girl he secretly pined over for years. I should note the movie opens with an extended sequence set during this time that involves Reynolds in a fat suit. We'll come back to this. Jump ahead to Christmas ten years later. Chris has lost weight, he has a high-paying job as a record producer in LA, and his love life is a series of dates with models. But of course, he still pines for Jamie,

Holidate (2020)

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Recently, I've noticed a change in the way I watch and think about movies. I'm fairly certain that several movies I've watched over the past month would have received a far less charitable review even a year ago, but now... I don't know. I think I've been growing as a person, and my perspective's shifted. When something doesn't work for me, I've become more likely to dig deeper for elements that were well constructed; I've become more interested in seeking out aspects of competent filmmaking than in ripping apart something I dislike, even if I think it's bad. Fortunately, I think sitting through this pile of shit cured me, because I'm feeling nothing but disgust right now. Kind of refreshing, if I'm being honest. Holidate is a romantic comedy about two people who meet in a mall while returning terrible Christmas presents and agree to become each others' "holidate" for the following year - in other words, they go out essentia

One Magic Christmas (1985)

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I've got a lot to say about this movie - about its themes, plot, and its use of classic holiday tropes - and I'm going to cover a lot of ground. But before I get into all that, I want to take a moment, step back, and summarize this as a whole. This movie is bullshit. I know that raises more questions than it answers. So let's roll up our sleeves and dig in to explore the depths of the bullshit that define the experience of watching "One Magic Christmas," a 1985 attempt by Disney to push out a Christmas classic by transparently tossing cliché after cliché against the screen and hoping it somehow coalesces into something worthwhile. To be fair, not everything in this movie is bad - some of the component pieces are actually pretty good. But that's true of bullshit, too. Cows eat a lot of different vegetation, including some lovely flowers. In the end, though, that doesn't change what's left over. The movie's plot is absurdly convoluted, largely becaus

Christmas Break-In (2019)

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On some level, it's weird there aren't more Home Alone homages. We've seen a few - Unaccompanied Minors was solid, and (apologies in advance for even spoiling there's a connection) Better Watch Out  is easily one of the best Christmas horror movies in existence. But given how large a footprint Home Alone left on the zeitgeist, it's weird there aren't more. I mean, think of how many holiday family comedies National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation spawned. That brings us to Christmas Break-In, a movie that reuses Home Alone's formula to a degree that's almost shocking. The line between homage and knock-off is of course subjective, but this really strains credibility. It certainly wants to be an homage - I spotted numerous shots and moments I'm pretty sure were intended as references - but these felt more like the movie was flaunting its theft of ideas, rather than complimenting the source. That said, if you told me this was originally intended to be

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