Saturday, December 3, 2022

PODCAST 223: "The Nine Kittens Of Christmas" (2021) - a Hallmark Holiday PodCast w/ Maxwell and Ryan



Watched:  12/2/2022
Format:  Hallmark Channel 
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2020's
Director:  David Winning




Maxwell and Ryan explore the concept of Hallmark Christmas movies via a single entry. How does it reflect the formula? How does it differ? What is the formula and why? And why so many cats? So think hard about your unshakeable Christmas traditions, grab a cup of cocoa and warm up in the cheery glow of a podcast that is alight with Christmas cheer.


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Music:
Jingle Bells - Jingle Cats
White Christmas - Jingle Cats


Holidays 2022

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Holiday Watch: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)




Watched:  11/30/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Todd Strauss-Schulson

Look, I'd seen this once back in 2012 and that was it for me, but Jamie is currently dealing with COVID, and so we're not looking for movies that are downers or super complicated at the moment.  

And so it was that after approximately 45 seconds of looking, I tuned into A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (2011) - a movie that a mere 11 years later could never be made.  It's still relatively funny, but I'm also far older than I was when the first Harold and Kumar movie hit in 2004.  So, you kind of have to put yourself into the mental state of the early 00's and then the shift to adulthood that this final installment reflects.  

But, yeah, its maybe the last gasp of a string of movies featuring dudes behaving badly for yuks and a pre-#MeToo worldview that impacts a lot of key punchlines.  Also:  baby doing drugs (this absolutely does not hold up).  And, of course, the charm of a stoner comedy doesn't necessarily hold up over time for reasons so complicated and out of the scope of this blog that I don't feel like getting into it - but I'll say "aside from their musical selections, stoners are mostly deeply boring and tedious IRL."

As left and right horseshoed into overlapping end-states driven by differing concerns, the movie landscape has become a very different and more...  concerned place, in a way not really seen since the early 1960's.  It's not that you can't make a movie like this - no one is stopping you, but it's often not seen as something for a general audience or theatrical release.  Stuff like this now feels like it's a Netflix or Hulu drop.  

It is also super weird that Kumar had spent a couple years in the White House and filmed this during a sabbatical.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Hallmark Watch: A Holiday Spectacular (2022)




Watched:  11/27/2022
Format:  Hallmark Channel
Viewing:  First
Director:  John Putch

It's easy to forget that before they had a cable channel and the need to fill programming 24/7, Hallmark started making movies for network television.  Back in the day, Hallmark used to deliver semi-prestige Sunday-night movies with name talent.  I don't think this happens anymore as they've moved these movies to The Hallmark Channel and the budgets have taken a hit of sorts, but the DNA of those "Hallmark Presents" movies still exists.  So, every Christmas, tucked amongst the usual low-budget fare of the Hallmark movie season, you do get a movie or three with name actors or big set pieces. 

One of this year's offerings is A Holiday Spectacular (2022), which has only two name actors, one of whom is Eve Plumb, which blew my mind, and Ann-Margret.  Ann-Margret mostly only appears in a framing sequence and probably knocked her part out in 2-3 days of shooting, but it's still a delight to see her.  

Santor Watch: The Key To Christmas (2020)

Approx. 100x more effort was put into this poster than the movie



Watched:  11/27/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director, Writer, Camera, Editor, Catering, Accountant, Set Decoration:  Jason Mills

Some pals seem to take exception to my practice of watching bad movies, riffing them, commenting upon them, etc...  The argument goes "someone tried, and it's not cool to make fun of them for trying".  To that I say:  if trying is your criteria, I welcome you to watch The Key to Christmas (2020).  Because that @#$% ain't happening here.

Look, I don't understand the market for ultra-cheap holiday movies.  There can't be that many Me and Doug's out there constantly looking for ways to torture each other with the worst in absolute garbage media.  Someone is out there buying the rights to these movies to distribute them with the idea that enough people will watch them that these movies will make money somehow.  I don't get the model.  I have to assume it's money laundering, tax fraud or something.  

Monday, November 28, 2022

Holiday Watch: Spirited (2022)




Watched:  11/26/2022
Format:  Apple+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Sean Anders

So, at our house, there are two very different stances on Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  To me, the book is a near-religious text and an annual reminder that one can make good on a life ill-lived, that every year is a chance for change and a reminder of how we can improve the lot of those around us.  We are a product of our lives, but at the end of the day, it's the choices we make daily that define how we impact the world.  To Jamie, it's this thing that's on at Christmas that people keep remaking as movies of varying quality.  I think both of these viewpoints are true.  

I'll need to give it another viewing, but it's possible Spirited (2022) will enter the very nichey canon of my favorite adaptations of the story, which include the George C. Scott version, the Patrick Stewart version, Muppets Christmas Carol and Scrooged.  Given the way this year's Thanksgiving has gone down, I may just be raw and in need of a boost that this movie provided, but here we are.

While I'm more than done with movies investigating the mechanics behind Santa's operations (Fred Clause and Arthur Christmas are maybe my highlight of that genre), no one had really taken on the same idea with A Christmas Carol.  And if I'm being honest with myself, I don't know if I'd put any thought into it other than it's a ghost story and this is how they work.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

PodCast 222: "Home Alone 1 & 2" (1990, 1992) - Holidays 2022 w/ SimonUK and Ryan


 

Watched:  11/05 and 11/12/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing: Second/ First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Christopher Columbus




Simon and Ryan ponder two of the biggest money makers of the 1990's, a pair of movies that caught the world by surprise and took cartoon violence, family strife, abandonment, and hanging with old people and found their Christmas box office miracle. As the movies are now staples of the Holiday, we take a look to see what's under the tree. Will we get a sweet present or hit in the face with a @#$%ing bowling ball?

Fairy Tale Watch: Disenchanted (2022)





Watched:  11/24/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Adam Shankman

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. - Orson Welles

There's a lot of good in Disenchanted (2022), but it's a weird film.  Perhaps it's an unnecessary film?  

As much as I, too, wondered how Giselle - she of the cartoon kingdom - was going to adjust as a fish-out-of-water in New York, a fairy tale princess who now has to live in the Big Apple in a place with varying races, religions, opinions, illness, war, injustice...   I'm kind of wondering now - Maybe we didn't need to check in?  Maybe "happily ever after" is the ending this story needed.  After all, this movie starts to push on the edges of what it means to live happily ever after as it continues the tale of Giselle and Robert as it asks "what next?  What about ennui?  What about missing one's homeland and the way in which they were raised?  Isn't life deeply imperfect?"

I don't think it's wrong to limit the challenges of the movie to teen-angst, mean moms, commutes sucking and other suburban and relatable concerns within the control and world of your average schmo.  We have enough to deal with when it comes to the magical challenges of the film that will fill the runtime and primary concerns of the movie's A-plot.  

Charles Schulz at 100




Today marks the 100th birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of pop culture force, comic strip and animation favorite Peanuts.  

The Peanuts characters are embedded into American and Western culture in ways that will mean they last for a few more generations at minimum - becoming indelibly associated with holidays thanks to cartoons playing each year for the past nearly 60 years.  These days, the cartoons live on over on Apple+, but there's also plenty of decoration and ornamentation that includes the staple characters, and who doesn't know the beats and moments of the specials, even if just by osmosis?

When Apollo 10 was mounting up, NASA asked to use Snoopy as their safety mascot.  Since, they've adopted Snoopy as a mascot for safety writ large and just kind of in general.  Even as we cross this 100th birthday, there's a Snoopy doll floating around inside Artemis as it circles the moon.  That's pretty amazing.  

Of course it all started with a comic strip, and Schulz drew almost 18,000 installments over 50 years.  He created household names, concepts (Lucy pulling the football away, kite-eating trees), brought diversity to the comics page and delivered a lot of joy into people's lives.  In an era of splintered interests, it's hard to understand how something like a daily comic strip could cross generational, geographic and sociological divides as a surprisingly smart reflection of the world.  

Schulz himself went by "Sparky", a name picked up from a comic strip, Barney Google (Spark Plug was the name of a horse in the strip).  He had comics in his blood and managed to keep his strip on track, and the translations of his characters to other media remarkably consistent.  It's hard to imagine fifty years of work, but he did it.  And the strips still run in papers across the country.

Schulz passed on February 12, 2000, but here we are, with Snoopy circling the moon.  Let's hope there's a Snoopy snack bar when folks are living up there.






Friday, November 25, 2022

Noir Watch: City of Fear (1959)




Watched:  11/19/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Irving Lerner

A low-budget crime thriller noir for the nuclear age!  Now this would be stretched into eight episodes of prestige TV, but this taught 81 minute film uses short-hand and focuses on the minute-by-minute crisis that unfolds when a pair of prisoners use a riot as cover to escape, believing they've smuggled out a canister of heroin that they think was being used to experiment on prisoners (there's your exciting B-plot as a brave journalist blows the lid off this story!  But not in this movie.).  

But that ain't heroin.  Vince Edwards - our POV character and an all-around-heel - has accidentally grabbed a sealed container of the highly radioactive Cobalt-60.  

Vince Edwards was a pusher before he got popped, and now he's looking to unload what he things is a fortune in horse and make good his escape, and maybe have his frankly foxy and loyal-to-a-fault girlfriend (Patricia Blair) catch up with him.  

Meanwhile, the cops, FBI and various other federal agencies are on the hunt as Edwards has no idea what he has, or that if he manages to open the sealed container, he's going to wipe out LA (see that title, City of Fear).  

In general, the movie is better than a lot of poverty row pictures, and while it feels cheap for a movie, if this were TV in 1959, it'd look and sound swell.  It has a soundtrack by a young Jerry Goldsmith, and it is definitely Jerry Goldsmith, so it feels oddly highbrow if you've been trained to enjoy his scores.  

I don't know if this is a recommended film, but it's a great curiosity of a picture.  Kiss Me Deadly does the nuclear bit perhaps better, but this one gets the threat in front of you minute one and stays focused, making you cringe every time Edwards tries to crack the canister.  And you fully get why the cops agonize over what to tell the public as a public alarm seems necessary, but may also f'-up their search and cause undue calamity if they can find that canister first.

Anyway - not all bad!  



Monday, November 21, 2022

Fairy Tale Watch: Enchanted (2007)


Watched:  11/29/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Kevin Lima

Jamie wanted to watch the new straight-to-Disney+ Disenchanted, and I said "I've never seen Enchanted (2007), though."   This led to some small debate.  Jamie had seen it, and thought that we'd seen it together (we had not) and so we had some comedic back and forth before she gave up and let me just put on Enchanted to see if it would ring any bells.  

I had not seen it.

Look, I don't care.  Amy Adams and Idina Menzel are in both movies, so I'd watch whatever.  But it's nice to start at the start.  I'm assuming Jamie saw the first one with her secret boyfriend.

I'm glad Enchanted was still a Disney movie and didn't feel like it needed to go "edgy".  I think I've kind of seen the joke of running sweet characters through a PG-13 meat grinder enough, and, instead, welcome bringing some of that Princess magic to the real world.  Sure, there's a version of this that's double-entredres and boner jokes that one could make and I might chuckle at, but - and maybe I'm a horrible person - but I never feel like they go dark enough if that's what they want to do.  And the results are usually kind of dumb.  As a result, I found charm in the high road version of this film (even if it absolutely winked at the audience on a key idea about the importance of a kiss).