Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas

It's Christmas Eve at the X-Mansion. Cyclops and Rogue are trimming the tree. Jean and Gambit are in the kitchen preparing a big Christmas Eve dinner. Beast is in his lab. And Professor X is hovering by the Fire. Everyone is in good spirits. Everyone, except for Wolverine. To escape the cheeriness, Wolverine agrees to help Storm and Jubilee with some last minute shopping. Later, at an approximation of Rockefeller Center, their ice skating session is interrupted by a runaway ambulance. Our heroes discover that some Morlocks have stolen the ambulance in order to get medical supplies for Leech, a young Morlock in trouble. The X-Men follow the Morlocks into the sewer to see if they can help. Will Leech recover or will this be the saddest X-Mas yet? Spoiler alert: he recovers.

Rating: Teddy Bear%

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Small One

Back when I watched Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, I thought it was weird that anyone would bother making a special about the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem. Little did I know that it was part of a whole genre of entertainment devoted to the story of this fabled animal. Ok, maybe "genre" is stretching it. So far, counting The Small One, I've only found two examples. But, the only thing crazier than one special devoted to a pack animal tangentially involved in the birth of the Christ child, is two specials devoted to the story of a pack animal tangentially involved in the birth of the Christ child. Animation fans should take note that Don Bluth directed this short, it was the last thing he did for Disney before striking out on his own. And people who hate Disney should know that the lyrics to one of the songs in the short were changed when it was released on home video because there were concerns that they were antisemitic.

Rating: One Piece of Silver%

Monday, December 23, 2019

Pinocchio's Christmas

At first, I thought Pinocchio's Christmas was an alternate universe Pinocchio tale but, as we come to find out at the end of the special, it's more of a side story. At the start, Pinocchio is already a walking, talking marionette but he has yet to go through any of adventures we're familiar with. Instead, we get to witness the story of Pinocchio's first Christmas. And, for some reason, that involves a fox and cat teaching Pinocchio how to lie and steal before they try to sell him into slavery. But before you feel bad for the little wooden boy, it should be said that at this point in his development, he's a real shit heel. And I think Geppetto is partly to blame. He's no disciplinarian, let me tell you. He lets Pinocchio get away with a lot. Even after Pinocchio robs a guy and takes off into the Enchanted Forest, Geppetto's out walking the streets saying that he's already forgiven Pinocchio. Jeez, now I don't feel so bad about Geppetto almost becoming whale chow.

Rating: A Poem%

(Image from Cineplex)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is essentially a riff on It's a Wonderful Life. It's also a real shaggy-dog story. And as much as I love the Muppets, I couldn't help but find this special to be a bit of a slog. There are several dated and unnecessary pop culture parodies throughout along with some borderline racially insensitive moments. It kind of feels like something that was developed by people who don't necessarily understand how the Muppets work. Some of the human characters are playing their parts so big and broad that it's embarrassing. Much like Kermit's vision of a world where he hadn't been born, this was a real bummer.

Rating: Chocolates%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas Story/Hash/Toys

Much like The Andy Griffith Show, Barney Miller was never a show that interested me. It would pop up in reruns all the time but I never watched it. I don't know if it was the production quality or the 70s fashions, but it just always seemed like a Dad show. And I mean that literally because my father was a fan of the show. Watching it now, I can't get over just how minimalist the whole thing was. I don't know if it was just the three episodes I watched, but the whole show plays out with only two sets. And one of those sets is just an office off of the main set. In "Christmas Story," Fish goes undercover to nab a mugger who's been targeting department store Santas. In "Hash," Wojo unknowingly brings a batch of hash brownies into the office. And in "Toys," Barney needs to balance his work life and his turbulent personal life, all while some feuding toy sellers squabble in the bullpen. Admittedly, only two of those episodes are actually Christmas themed, but I wasn't going to pass up the chance to watch Abe Vigoda act stoned.

Rating: Toothbrush%

(Image from IMDB)

Friday, December 20, 2019

Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation

Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 isn't a "killer Santa" movie. In the UK, it was released as Bugs. Which makes sense because there are a lot of bugs in the movie. There are also witches and spontaneous human combustion and gender discrimination. Oh, and terrible acting, but I probably didn't need to tell you that. The movie does have a few ringers in it, though: Bond Girl Maud Adams plays a bookstore owner/witch, Clint Howard plays her homeless assistant and Phantasm's Reggie Banister plays the lead character's sexist boss. One character gets strangled to death with a string of Christmas lights, which is probably the only part of the movie that is on brand.

Rating: 30%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Visions of Deadly Nights Past:
Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Cosmic Christmas

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A young boy encounters three wise aliens who have come to Earth to discover the true meaning of Christmas. The young boy and his pet goose, Lucy, take the aliens all around town trying to show them the reason for the season. Mostly, they just encounter people being shitty to one another. I guess some things never really change. Eventually, all the townsfolk come together to rescue our lead and a punk-ass goose thief after they fall through the ice on a lake. The aliens, content that they finally understand the true meaning of Christmas, take off and everyone in town has a rip-roaring house party.

Rating: Goose Sweater%

(Image from Nelvana.com)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Twas the Night Before Bumpy

Bump in the Night was a stop-motion animated series from the mid-90s. The lead character, Mr. Bumpy, was some sort of green, bug-eyed booger monster or something. I'm really not sure. I can remember watching this show when it was first on, but I can't really remember much about it. Having just watched the series' Christmas Special, "Twas the Night Before Bumpy," I can tell you that the show was populated by various monsters and toys that lived in some unseen family's home. I'm not really sure if there was more to it than that though. In the special, Mr. Bumpy and his friend Squishington (some sort of ooze monster that lived in the toilet) traveled to the North Pole so that Mr. Bumpy could steal Santa's sack. It was a pretty standard greed = bad, giving = good story. There were some dopey songs that riffed on Christmas standards, Mr. Bumpy learned a valuable lesson and that was about it. I'm still a little confused about the whole thing.

Rating: Toy Robot%

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Cobra Claws Are Coming to Town

Cobra launches a sneak attack on G.I. Joe headquarters while a bunch of the Joes are on holiday leave. Apparently Snake Eyes doesn't like to spend Christmas cooped up behind the laser defense grid. With our heroes temporarily bested, Cobra launches an attack on Keystone City using Joe vehicles. All in an effort to turn the public and the government against the Joes. The funny thing is that Cobra actually makes it to the city and does a few bombing runs before they're stopped by the Joes. The citizens of Keystone City even fall for Cobra's ruse, thinking the Joes have turned heel. The episode goes on to end without ever really resolving the issue of having a terrorist attack done in their name with their own equipment. But, being a cartoon for children, that plot point is dropped and the episode is capped off with everyone laughing and wishing one another a Merry Christmas.

Rating: Rocking Horse%

Monday, December 16, 2019

Frosty's Winter Wonderland

It might be a bit of a stretch to call Frosty's Winter Wonderland a Christmas special. The holiday isn't even mentioned by name at any point. But, Wikipedia calls it a Christmas special and I would hate to think that I wasted 25 minutes watching this thing for no reason. Winter Wonderland is a sequel to the original Rankin/Bass Frosty the Snowman special. A few years after the events of that first special, Frosty decides to make good on his promise to come "back again some day." Only this time around, Frosty seems a little depressed. The children decide that Frosty needs a wife and so they go about building him one. All the while, a jealous Jack Frost is determined to steal Frosty's magic hat and become the object of everyone's wintery affection. The kids also make a parson out of snow, who comes to life after they put a Bible in its hands. So, you know, fun for the whole family.

Rating: A Bouquet of Frost Flowers%

Sunday, December 15, 2019

We Wish You a Turtle Christmas

Once, a few years ago, my nephew pointed to a picture of the Ninja Turtles and said to me, "These are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but this isn't what they look like." That's kind of how I felt while watching We Wish You a Turtle Christmas. Other than the original trilogy of Ninja Turtle films, I'm not sure that anybody ever got live-action Turtles right. They certainly didn't pull it off with this direct to video Christmas special. Which is somewhat understandable, considering the whole thing was apparently made for five grand. But, even if you can get past the crappy Turtle costumes and their toothy Cheshire Cat grins, the music will drive you insane. I know kids like garbage, but I have to assume that even the children of 1994 probably groaned and rolled their eyes at the lyric, "Deck the halls with pepperoni." And the Wrap Rap, what a bunch of crap.

Rating: Two Comic Books%

(Image from IMDB)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Christmas Story

On Christmas Eve, Andy and Barney decide to empty Mayberry's jail so that neither of them will have to spend Christmas guarding their prisoners. Of course, before letting them go, Andy makes them all swear to come back right after the holidays. Unfortunately, Ben Weaver, the local department store owner, brings in Sam Muggins and demands that Sam be locked up for making moonshine. Despite Andy's protests and promises, Ben threatens to make trouble for Andy if he doesn't keep Sam locked up over the holidays. Andy, being Andy, decides to have it both ways. He locks up the rest of the Muggins clan, so that they'll at least be together for Christmas. And he also deputizes Opie, Aunt Bee and Ms. Ellie Walker, on account of needing some extra help to look after all the prisoners. But while all is merry and bright inside the jail, Ben seems determined to get himself locked up as well. Now, why would a fella go and do something like that?

This may have been the first episode of The Andy Griffith Show that I ever watched in its entirety. And even though I enjoyed it, I have to say that it was much hokier than I'd anticipated. I had expected Don Knotts to provide a lot of goofball charm but I was surprised to see just how silly Andy Griffith's character acted. Perhaps that was due to the jovial nature of it being a holiday themed episode or maybe that's how the character was played in its earliest seasons. After all, "The Christmas Story" was only the 11th episode out of the show's 8 season, 249 episode run.

Rating: Roller Skates%

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Time Monster

In the famous Poochie episode of The Simpsons, Milhouse voices his frustration with an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon by whining the immortal line, "When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?" It's the way we've all felt at one time or another while engaging with a piece of entertainment that telegraphs something and then delays that thing for as long as possible. It's certainly how I felt while watching The Time Monster. "When are they going to get to Atlantis?" I kept saying. And the answer is: in the fifth episode. And then they're only there for about an episode and a half. The rest of the time they're at a university. And don't even get me started on all the Minotaur hype.

Rating: You've noticed%

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Satan's Slaves

After their mom (who was a briefly famous singer) dies, some creepy ghosts start showing up around the house, specifically of their mom and grandma. It turns out maybe their mom made a deal with the devil in order to have some kids? Dang isn't being a parent already a deal with the devil? It had some creepy parts but I especially liked where the main woman finds a hidden Satan track under a record label.

RATING: 75%

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Stuff

Some miners find a weird white goo seeping out of the ground and their first instinct is to... taste it?? Anyway, it's apparently delicious and they get rich selling it. Too bad it's also addictive (hey, so is ice cream!) and also mind-controls you (hey, so does ice cream!). It's a pretty fun horror comedy if you ask me which you did not. PS - I can't believe I only just saw it for the first time!

RATING: 77%

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Most Beautiful Island

An undocumented immigrant struggling in NYC winds up taking a gig for some extremely rich people where bizarre rich people stuff happens and maybe isn't exactly safe, but what can she even do about it? I don't wanna say too much, but one way (the only way?) to convince your lead actress to let a bunch of spiders and cockroaches crawl all over her naked body is to cast yourself as the lead actress.

RATING: 88%

Friday, October 25, 2019

Nightmare Beach

aka Welcome to Spring Break

I've never been to an execution before but I've seen enough movies to know that if the person who's about to be executed swears that they'll come back to get their revenge, that's a threat that you shouldn't blow off too easily. It's advice like that that could've helped the poor folks of Manatee Beach. After executing Diablo, leader of the Demons motorcycle gang, for a crime he didn't commit, corpses start to pile up around town. The powers that be are keen to cover up the murders but a plucky college quarterback and his dead-eyed bartender gal pal won't rest until the find out who's behind the killings. If you seen a slasher movie before, you won't have much trouble figuring out who's the killer. It's pretty obvious within the first ten minutes or so. That said, Nightmare Beach is still an enjoyable late period slasher, with good performances from John Saxon and Michael Parks.

Rating: 68%

(Image from IMDB)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Mystics of Bali

An American tourist who just loves learning about evil magic all over the world convinces a local dude to put her in touch with a witch. They have a real good time turning into pigs and snakes and eating mice together and etc, and also the witch turns the American into a leak (or penanggalan) a variation on a common southeast Asian spirit that is a flying head trailing its guts like a kitestring behind it. Yeah, the effects might not always be top notch, but it's got a great creepy atmosphere amplified by many of the witch encounters taking place in sparse dark swamps.

RATING: 82%

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

House of Usher

aka The Fall of the House of Usher

After a couple of years of making low budget black and white movies for American International Pictures (AIP), Roger Corman was able to convince the distributor to let him make a movie in color with a half-decent budget. AIP was initially confused by his choice of subject matter. "Where's the monster?" they asked. "The house is the monster," he told them. And then they wrote him a check. That man could sell anything. House of Usher ended up becoming the first of eight films made by Corman loosely based on works from Edgar Allan Poe. The movie has a kind of lower-end Hammer vibe going on but it also has some surprisingly stylish elements. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Vincent Price's stellar performance.

Rating: 68%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Men Behind the Sun

This is another of those super extreme gore movies that I guess I felt I had to watch as a horror snob or whatever. It's not especially gorier than like, Day of the Dead or the Saw movies, but it's incredibly difficult to watch because it's based on an actual historical Japanese unit (731) who conducted lethal biological research on captive Chinese civilians during World War II, killing thousands of people. (As far as the filmmakers, they killed a bunch of rats for the movie and filmed a real child's autopsy so that's nowhere near as bad but still rough to watch.) Anyway, at least the people in charge of the real camp got tried for war crimes. Oh, wait, what's that? They were granted immunity by the United States in exchange for all their research? Well that's just super.

RATING: 74%

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Psycho

I can understand why people give Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho so much shit. It's not quite as bad as I was led to believe but it is a little frustrating to watch. The remake uses the same script as the original, almost word for word. And it's a little jarring hearing modern actors trying to deliver forty year old dialogue. It's very unnatural. Except for William H. Macy's performance, he knocks that shit out of the park. Also, late 90s cars and clothing have not aged as gracefully as those of the early 60s. And no one ever needed to hear the sound of Norman Bates masturbating.

Rating: Let me get my Walkman%

(Image from IMDB)

Halloween

In this sequel to 1978's Halloween (but *not* the nine sequels or remakes since), Michael Myers busts out of prison to continue his reign of terror, but luckily his sister - oops, no, that was retconned out - his survivor Laurie Strode is ready for him with a house full of booby traps. It's a really well done flick by David Gordon Green, though since Michael Myers has only one movie's worth of kills under his belt it's a little odd to see people so terrified of him. True, he turns out to be a relentless killer, but at first he's just some sixty-something dude who's been in jail for forty years, so what's the big deal?

RATING: 84%

Friday, October 18, 2019

Psycho IV: The Beginning

"Talk of the Town" gets the guest of a lifetime when Norman Bates decides to call in and offer his personal perspective on the topic of matricide. He shares a few stories about his mother and their really messed up psycho-sexual dynamic. He also tells them about some of his early, formative murders. It seems that some of those old feelings have come back to Norman. He's thinking about killing again... and that's about it. While Psycho IV definitely gets a few things right (it's somehow the only one of the sequels that uses any of Bernard Herrmann's amazing music) it's barely a movie. There isn't a whole lot of plot, it's mostly just vignettes of a young Norman and his icky times with Mother. The framing device of Norman and the radio show really slows down the pacing and the ultimate conclusion is pretty lackluster.

Rating: 55%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ready or Not

A woman gets married into an extremely rich family who made their money off board games and all is good until at midnight when she has to play a game of the hide and seek murder variety. It's a really fun premise, a really fun execution (har har), and you get to see a bunch of rich people stumble around and get hurt and/or die. I do feel bad for the butlers and maids though. Well, not all of them.

RATING: 81%

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Bates Motel

Before there was Bates Motel, there was Bates Motel, a made-for-TV movie from 1987. It was supposed to be the pilot for a series set at a newly renovated Bates Motel, but it wasn't very good and it never went any further than the pilot movie. It's not even really canon. It's pretty much a sidequel. It ignores Psycho II and III, starting after the events of the original. We follow a character who befriended Norman Bates while they were both institutionalized. After Norman's death, Alex (our lead) inherits the Bates Motel on the condition that he gets it up and running again. It's part whodunnit/Scooby-doo/gaslighting and part shitty Twilight Zone. You can find Bates Motel these days on cheap multi-packs with the other Psycho sequels, but for years it was only available on bootlegs. Because horror fans have always been willing to bootleg garbage.

Rating: 45%

(Image from IMDB)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Child's Play

A new multimedia hit doll (Buddi, but you know his real name!) hits the stores that has AI and controls stuff in your apartment sorta like a creepy Alexa. Well, Alexa's already creepy, but imagine she was a giant doll. How could that go wrong??? They undid the murderer-possession aspect from the original Child's Play and made it so a disgruntled worker turns off the "violence inhibitor," but this one is really fun. It does make me question my own grading system, which I swore never to overthink. Like, I *am* ranking it an 83%, which is higher than the original Child's Play, but I don't think it's going to stick in the collective consciousness as long as the original.

RATING: 83%

Monday, October 14, 2019

Psycho III

About a month after the events of Psycho II, no one is the wiser about what is really going on at the Bates Motel. As far as the townsfolk are concerned, Norman Bates is a reformed citizen who should be allowed to quietly return to his private life. All of that starts to change after the arrival of a journalist, a sleazy musician and a former nun. Psycho III is the most explicit film in the franchise so far and it's definitely the one that comes the closest to being a full-on slasher. It's also a very straight forward movie. The first two films are all about suspense and deception, whereas III feels like an attempt to make the series more contemporary.

Rating: 60%

(Image from IMDB)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Psycho II

After twenty-two years in a mental institution, Norman Bates is deemed cured of his insanity and is released. This doesn't sit too well with Lila Loomis, Marion Crane's sister. Norman goes back to the Bates Motel and the home he shared with Mother. He takes a job at a local diner, where he befriends a young waitress named Mary. Things get off to a rocky start when Norman begins to find notes from his mother. Soon he begins to receive phone calls from Mother, as well as hearing her voice around the house. Is Norman losing his grip on sanity or is something more sinister afoot?

Rating: 65%

(Image from IMDB)

Fun Fact: Psycho II was written by Tom Holland, the director of the original Child's Play. It also stars Meg Tilly, sister of Jennifer Tilly.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Cult of Chucky

Nica, the survivor from last movie, gets blamed for the murders and committed whenever she tries to tell people a doll did it. Now we're making sense! Of course Chucky figures out a way (Jennifer Tilly as Jennifer Tilly) to have himself mailed to the asylum, and Andy from the first movie shows up to try and save the day with guns. I really liked this movie, and hope they do another one in this timeline to wrap up the story since it sorta ends on a cliffhanger!

RATING: 79%

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Curse of Chucky

A paraplegic woman and her mother get sent a nice little gift of a freaky doll named... well, you know who! It turns out the mother had some sort of connection to Charles Lee Ray, as we learn in some flashbacks that for some reason believe a wig and that's it will make Brad Dourif look 25 years younger. This one is more serious than the last two so it's a bit better, but how serious can you really make a movie about a killer Cabbage Patch Kid anyway? Good on Brad Dourif though for making a chance to work with his daughter happen (she's lead).

RATING: 53%

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Psycho

I don't really need to tell you anything about Psycho. You probably know the story already or at least a few of the major plot points. Even the slightest mention of the shower sequence probably brings to mind the soundtrack's screeching violins. It's a movie that is impeccably shot, acted, edited and scored. It's a masterpiece. I can't wait to see how terrible the sequels are...

Rating: 95%

(Image from IMDB)