Jumping the Soapbox: Snow Miser & Heat Miser Face the Music!

The Rankin/Bass Specials as well as all the images you see in this editorial are owned by Warner Bros

Christmas Music is one of those things that we just learn to live with.  It’s always the same twenty or so songs, it always starts playing the grocery stores way too early, and we hate to admit it be we all have a soft spot for some of them.  Not just the COOL songs like Whatever You Celebrate by Reel Big Fish or the fun indie songs like A Willie Nice Christmas by Kacey Musgraves; not even the GENUINE modern day classics that should go in your rotation RIGHT NOW like Tell Your Mama by Aloe Blacc (listen to it RIGHT NOW if you haven’t!).  No, we’ve all got soft spots for some of the ones that they keep playing OVER and OVER again each year that everyone else in the world is sick of except for you.  Now for me, I’m a sucker for Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney, Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano, and of course the immortal Heat Miser/Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus.  Not only has the song become a radio fixture for decades now, those characters have taken on a life of their own; more or less overshadowing the special they came and inspiring plenty of fan art and YouTube covers!  Still, there’s got to be a story behind these two, right?  Not only that, but did you know they made a SEQUEL to the special in 2008 all about these two?  Since it’s the Holiday season and I’m all about finding random obscure stuff to shine a light on, let’s see what we can learn about Snow Miser and Heat Miser! 

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Who The Heck Are These Two Anyway!?

Sadly there’s not a lot of information out there on the production of The Year Without A Santa Claus; at least not any I could find.  We know the writer was William Keenan who mostly wrote episodes of TV shows back in the seventies, and the composer was Rankin/Bass’s in house guy Maury Laws who wrote songs for all of those classic specials, but as to the origin of Heat Miser and Snow Miser there’s no real thread out there to pull.  It certainly didn’t come from the book that the special was based on which was written by Phyllis McGinley in 1956, but then Rankin/Bass was always a LITTLE bit weird with stuff like wizards and abominable snow monsters; not to mention The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus which was based on an L Frank Baum story and looks like Santa got plopped in a Tolkien style fantasy.

“GIVE ME THE ONE RING!!”     “Nah, if you’re looking for that guy he left about three days ago.”     “DARN IT!  All seeing eye of Sauron, my BUTT!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Happiest Season

Happiest Season and all the images you see in this review are owned by Hulu

Directed by Clea DuVall

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and watched a new movie, hasn’t it?  Okay, at THIS point it’s not exactly a new movie as it’s been out for over a week now, but it’s been harder to keep up with what’s coming out and which films are worth seeking which is a far cry from the very structured way I used to do them when they came out in theaters, but we ten months into this nightmare and we all need to find new ways to work with the new normal.  In any case, I heard murmurings about this about a week before it came out which is usually a good sign to check it out, and the premise at least looked like it had SOMETHING worth talking about to separate it from all the other Christmas movies that come out each year.  Now that I’ve finally seen it, does it live up to the modicum of hype it built for itself, or did Hulu trick me into watching something that otherwise should have been on the Hallmark channel sandwiched between A Shoe Addict’s Christmas and Fir Crazy?  Let’s find out!!

Abbey Holland (Kristen Stewart) is in a wonderful relationship with her girlfriend Harper Caldwell (Mackenzie Davis) and after spending the better part of a year together she thinks she’s ready to ask her to marry her!  Fate has other ideas in mind however as it’s Christmas time and on a whim Harper asks her to join her family for Christmas which SEEMS innocuous enough… but just as they’re about to pull into the drive way Harper tells Abbey that her family has NO IDEA she’s a lesbian and that they have to pretend to just be friends.  Seems like a red flag big enough to see from space, but Harper assures her that she’ll tell her parents AFTER Christmas and so Abbey begrudgingly goes along with it.  From there it’s what you’d expect as the family members each have their own eccentricities and barely concealed hatreds for one another which Abbey just sits back and enjoys, but keeping this secret proves to be harder than it looks; especially when Harper’s mom (Mary Steenburgen) tries to set her up with an old boyfriend (Jake McDorman), and her dad (Victor Garber) is a politician which means they are under a microscope whenever they leave the house.  Fortunately there’s a ray of light in this town in the form of Riley (Aubrey Plaza) who was Harper’s first girlfriend and seems to know what Abbey is going through, and if all else fails Abbey’s got a Gay Best FriendTM back home named John (Dan Levy) who’s watching her pets and is always ready to dispense sassy advise when needed!  Can Abbey survive being in this awkward situation, and will her relationship with Harper fall apart in the process?  What is it about her family that has made Harper so paranoid about them finding out she’s a lesbian, and can any of justify what she’s having her girlfriend go through?  Then again, if it’s THIS easy to fool her parents, maybe this is just a warm up to some big heist or something!

“We’re friends!”     “JUST friends!”     “Which is obvious!”     “And a very normal thing to say!”     …     “I think they’re buying it!”
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Cinema Dispatch: The Grinch

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The Grinch and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney

Is it already time for the holiday season?  Can’t we postpone it for another three months or something?  No, of course not.  The only thing as certain in life as Death and Taxes is the ever expanding period of time known as THE HOLIDAY SEASON where good will and cheer are sold to us in gift baskets and wrapping paper.  If you couldn’t tell already I’m not the biggest fan of the season’s greatest excesses even if I do take some joy in trying to find the perfect gifts for people and buying the shiny wrapping paper to put it in.  Still, it’d be nice if we could contain it to the month of December, but no; were stuck with Holiday Music, Holiday Sales, and of course… Holiday Movies.  With Illumination having already turned The Lorax into a rather detestable piece of confused anti-corporate nonsense, they’re back to the Dr. Seuss well to turn the man’s most beloved creation into yet another big screen adaptation just in time for theaters to start hanging up the tinsel.  Will this be an improvement on the studio’s previous output, or are we in for yet more Illumination mediocrity?  Let’s find out!!

You see, every Who down in Whoville likes Christmas a lot which is good for keeping the economy strong and red hot!  But the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) who lives just north of Whoville does not seem pleased.  Perhaps a trip to the store will put him at ease.  With his dog Max in tow, he treks through the snow, to the city of Whoville to where all he can think is NO.  No to the consumerism, no to the cheer, just get him to the grocery store to buy provisions and beer.  Along the way he meets Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), who seems nice enough, but has nothing to do in this rather thin plot.  There’s a story I guess about her finding Santa, but really she’s on hand to be cute and her likeness used on promotional bottles of Fanta.  Anyway, The Grinch takes a while to get properly pissed, but he eventually decides that something is amiss.  This lousy holiday just makes him way too stressed, so perhaps he’ll steal Christmas and you know the rest!  Will he find happiness in ruining this day for others, or is there a way for him to live peacefully with his Who brothers?  Will Cindy Lou Who find the answers she needs, or will her tale be lost in the script weeds?  The question of course on everyone’s mind is why should I see this when Netflix is only $13.95!?  No wait, it’s $13.99.  DANG IT!!

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“I’m ready to call this day a total loss.  How about you?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Krampus

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Krampus and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Michael Dougherty

There really hasn’t been a good Christmas horror movie since Gremlins, has there?  I’ve heard good things about Rare Exports, but that didn’t even get a decent sized theater release here in the US.  That’s all about to change… maybe, with this horror film about the holiday season’s canonical version of The Grinch!  It certainly has an uphill battle considering how hard it is to walk that line between scary and being hilarious (intentionally anyway) but there’s some strong talent behind this film so there’s a good chance they can actually pull it off!  Will this movie manage to be a fun horror comedy that becomes a holiday staple, or is this a giant piece of cinematic coal that we’re being punished with for giving War Room so much money?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is about a family who gets together on Christmas despite the fact that no one likes anyone.  You’ve got Tom and Sarah (Adam Scott and Toni Collette) who are the parents of Beth and Max (Stefania LaVie Owen and Emjay Anthony) and they’re playing host to Toni’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman), her husband Howard (David Koechner), and their three kids Stevie, Jordan, and Howie Jr (Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, and Maverick Flack).  Oh, and there’s a baby in there somewhere along with bitter sardonic Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell).  Wait, am I forgetting anyone?  THAT’S RIGHT!!  Tom’s mother Omi (Krista Sadler) who will play Miss Exposition here as she knows ALL about Krampus yet doesn’t tell the family until well after the shit has hit the fan.  Anyway, as you’d expect around the holidays, tensions flare up and there’s a huge fight that causes young Max to finally give up on the Christmas spirit.  This decision makes completely responsible for what happens next and the deaths of whichever loved ones get caught in the crossfire.  A huge storm rolls in that cuts off this neighborhood from the rest of the world and takes out the power and cell phone towers.  There’s something else out there though and the family soon finds themselves besieged by Gremlins knock offs, snow monsters, and a really fucked up Jack in the Box before Krampus finally shows up to deal with this family himself.  Can they survived Yuletide massacre long enough to open their presents?  Will Max be forever haunted by the fact that his sadness (which is something that’s REALLY outside of his control) is the root cause of all this horrifying shit being rained upon them?  Is it at least as good as Santa’s Slay!?

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Even if it is, that’s some serious damning with faint praise.

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Cinema Dispatch: The Night Before

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The Night Before and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures

Directed by Jonathan Levine

Is it too late to declare a war on Christmas?  I don’t mind the holidays, but I’ve also worked in retail so I got a firsthand look at the Christmas calendar creep and how NO ONE likes to push this shit in October, let alone November.  Thankfully they ALMOST waited until December to start throwing out holiday films with last week’s Love the Coopers and now The Night Before.  Unlike that other film though, I was REALLY looking forward to seeing this because I love Seth Rogen and his particular brand of comedy.  Not everything he’s been a part of has been great (I thought The Interview was pretty underwhelming), but I always like to see what he does next which this time seems to be pretending he’s in the same age group as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie.  Wait a minute.  HE’S THE YOUNGEST ONE OF THEM!?  Huh.  Learn something new every day.  So will this be the kind of movie to bring out the holiday cheer and break out the eggnog, or will this make everyone feel even Grinch-ier than they already are at this time of the year?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the adventures of Ethan, Isaac, and Chris (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie) on their last big Christmas Eve together before ending their tradition.  You see, about fifteen years ago Ethan’s parents were killed by a drunk driver right around Christmas time and so his friends decided that they will spend the holidays with him which soon became a tradition.  What also became a tradition is that they would party their ASSES off because they were young when they started it so of course that’s what they ended up doing.  However, it’s been going on for way too long and Isaac and Chris have their own things going on while Ethan is still stuck in place, unable to get his life going.  Still, he agrees to this being the last time they make this a big party event and even has a surprise for his friends that will make this the best one of them all.  There’s a super-secret party that takes place every year (the Nutcracker Ball) that they’ve never had a chance to go to because they could never find out where it was or how to get invitations.  Through sheer luck, Ethan finds three tickets for the damn thing at his shitty job and steals them without a second thought so that he and his friends can have the greatest night of their lives!  Will this final night be all it’s cracked up to be, or are they just too damn old to keep going the way they’ve been going even for one more night?  Will they be able to salvage their friendship despite the changes in their lives that makes it harder for them to find the time?  Wait, how fucking deep is this movie about taking drugs and Christmas shenanigans!?

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WHY ARE THERE FEELS!?!?!?

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Living on Netflix: Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger

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It is once again Christmas time, and we all know what that means!  CRAPPY HOLIDAY MOVIES!!!  Ugh… I was not looking forward to having to do a Christmas movie considering how chock full of crap the genre is filled with, and the knowledge that I COULD be watching much better holiday films instead of whatever one I decide to review.  Netflix must have heard my thoughts (I think that’s part of their license agreement) and delivered unto me a holiday film called Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger starring the one and only David Tennant!  Well it HAS to be good, right?  I mean, Dr. Who wouldn’t sign on to anything that sucked… would he?  There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to keep on reading!!

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