Community: Intro to Knots (2013)

For several years, Community has been regarded as one of the best things on TV. I've been addicted since I checked out the first few holiday episodes. The most recent (and almost certainly the last) season of Community has been rocky. The show's creator, Dan Harmon, was fired last year, and a number of writers and directors left in solidarity. The network brought in some new writers to run the show. Overall, they've done a better job than most people expected, but they're certainly no substitutes for Harmon. "Intro to Knots" should have aired in December, but the entire series got pushed back and it aired last Thursday. This episode was less driven by a gimmick than the last two Christmas episodes: no songs or animation. It was, according to Wikipedia, intended as an homage to "Rope," one of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Well... I've never seen that. But I certainly recognized elements from other sources. The plot revolved around the study g

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

"Chapter Two: The Lady in the Lake." "Chapter Three: The Little Sister."  If you're already intrigued, then you'll probably like this movie the way I do. If you're here, you probably realize that Erin and I are rather fond of Christmas, or at least Christmassy things. You've probably picked up that we both enjoy fantasy and science fiction. You may not know that I'm also a huge fan of noir. So a noir-themed dark comedy set at Christmas? Yes, please! Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has a fairly amusing pedigree. It's known as the movie that restarted Robert Downey Jr's career. It's one of Shane Black's films, so like several others, it takes place at Christmas. The title comes from European slang description for James Bond movies. And as alluded to above, all the chapter titles within the movie come from Raymond Chandler. It’s either a noir-style mystery-thriller that is also really funny, or the kind of loving parody that fully embrac

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

I loved this movie when I was in high school, but - despite having a copy - I haven't actually sat down and watched it in years. I'd more or less forgotten it was set at Christmas until I saw it on a list of holiday movies. I figured it would be cheating to count this as a "Christmas movie" and decided it would be a good time to re-watch it. Turns out I was wrong about it being a stretch: the holiday elements permeate the setting, tone, and music of the film. This is definitely a Christmas movie, and a fantastic one at that. The Long Kiss Goodnight is directed by Renny Harlin, better known for Die Hard 2. The writing is credited to Shane Black (hence the Christmas setting, I suppose), though Wikipedia mentions there was some script-doctoring involved. The movie is, among other things, absurd and implausible: if you can't suspend your disbelief, don't bother putting it on. But it's clearly not intended to be realistic. This is unapologetically pul

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Growing up, there were two action movies that defined the genre: Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. It's been at least a decade since I sat down and watched any version of Lethal Weapon. After doing so, I was immediately impressed with just how well Die Hard continues to hold up. It's not that Lethal Weapon is bad. Actually, for its sub-genre, it's really good. There aren't a lot of buddy-cop action flicks from the 80's or 90's that hold a candle, and the ones that do owe a lot to Lethal Weapon's success. But at the same time, the movie is incredibly cheesy without having as much fun with that cheese as many of its imitators. There's still fun to be had in Lethal Weapon; just not nearly as much as I remembered. Like Die Hard, the film is set at Christmas. But while Die Hard has fun with this juxtaposition, Lethal Weapon tries to use it to play up a sense of isolation and depression. A lot of Lethal Weapon is devoted to loss and suicide: for a while, the

Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971)

I'm pretty sure Here Comes Peter Cottontail represents Rankin-Bass's first attempt to push into a holiday other than Christmas. This largely forgotten artifact features Danny Kaye as the narrator (as well as a handful of other voices) and Casey Kasem as the title character, which means you'll spend most of the special expecting Peter to ask for a Scooby snack. No, that's not quite right: you'll probably spend most of the special looking for a ledge to jump off of. But you'll also notice that the main character has Shaggy's voice. The special, which is based on some book called "The Easter Bunny That Overslept," starts in the magical land of April Valley, which I'm assuming is a reference to Baum's "Laughing Valley." Either that, or it's just stupid. Regardless, all the Easter Bunnies live in April Valley, where they color eggs using paints brought to them by Seymour S. Sassafrass, who grows the plants to... you know what

Marvin the Martian: Yule Be Sorry (2012)

A while back, some test footage for a proposed live-action Marvin the Martian movie appeared online, along with some for Hong Kong Phooey. Unless watching a CG dog voiced by Eddie Murphy drink from a toilet sounds like fun to you, you'll want to skip the Hong Kong Phooey clips. But the Marvin the Martian footage is a little more interesting. It's a short - and a Christmas-themed one, no less - featuring the character. I was going to embed it, but it looks like it's been taken down. The good news is that you're not missing too much. A disappointed kid unwraps a Christmas present and discovers Marvin, who's come to Earth to destroy Christmas. He mistakes Marvin for a toy (understandable, as the martian is packaged as such), and goes to put it on Ebay. Things get uncomfortable when he discovers the error, and Marvin breaks free and nearly vaporizes him. The tree gets hit instead, and the clip ends with the kid extremely excited by the possibilities Marvin's gun

Doctor Who: The Snowmen (2012)

Spoilers below for Doctor Who Series 7 (2012-2013) through this episode. This is the first episode in the Pond-less era of Doctor Who. As such, it devotes quite a lot of time to mourning the loss of the Doctor's last companions, particularly Amy. The episode begins in Victorian England, where the Doctor's more or less retired. His friends, Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax are attempting to break him out of his depression, but not having much luck. Enter Clara Oswald, an energetic young woman with a dual identity as a barmaid and a governess. Oh. There's also a curmudgeon who's being followed around by an army of evil snowmen from outer-space, but that's just the plot. Honestly, you could have cycled him out for just about anything without changing the core of the episode, which is about the Doctor coming to grips with the loss of Amy and Rory Pond. Which is, frankly, a little silly. I understand that he cared deeply for these characters, but he's