[12 Days of Christmas] On the Eighth Day… Home Alone (1990)

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Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara

Screenplay: John Hughes

103 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “Somewhere in My Memory”
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

Growing up, I was not a major fan of Home Alone. I can’t really say why, but perhaps I feel like the film was oversaturated and existed in such a wide capacity that it was just too much. Every year with this film, and I often confused the events of the first film with those of the second which was very jarring.

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At the behest of my mother, who adores the film, I took a look back on it a few years back. My feelings were very different that time around.

Kevin McAllister (Macauley Culkin, Richie Rich, Sex and Breakfast) doesn’t connect with his family. In fact, he wishes he never had a family. When he awakens one morning to discover that his family is gone, he is overjoyed that his wish came true. Kevin’s family has gone to France without him, but now he is home alone while two criminals named Harry (Joe Pesci, GoodFellas, The Good Shepherd) and Marv (Daniel Stern, TV’s Manhattan, City Slickers), known as the Wet Bandits, try to break into his home. It is up to Kevin to protect his home and himself while his mother (Catherine O’Hara, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A.C.O.D.) attempts to get back home to spend Christmas with her son.

I like this movie much more as an adult. There is something about returning to the imagination like a situation like this actually happening. I didn’t have the growing up experience where I wanted to get rid of my family. I enjoyed Macauley Culkin’s ability to carry this movie and the great supporting work from Pesci and Stern certainly help. John Hughes (Vacation, The Breakfast Club) knows how to write a screenplay, and this is one drastically different from his 1980’s teen comedy work. Then there’s Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), who isn’t so much a good director as he is a capable one. He does fine work here assisted by a powerful and unsettling score from John Williams.

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Looking back, Home Alone was a fun time to watch a movie. It has the insane premise which amazingly works quite well, it isn’t derailed by a less-than-amazing Chris Columbus or the bumbling thieves or even the quite rude family members. Still a fun time; still a Christmas miracle.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Seventh Day… Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

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Director: Larry Roemer

Cast: Billie Mae Richards, Burl Ives, Paul Soles

Screenplay: Romeo Muller

47 mins. Rated TV-G.

 

Really there isn’t much bad I can bestow on Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. So all I can do is be as scathing as possible. Let’s begin…

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Just like the song, Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards, The Care Bears Movie) had a very shiny nose, and it has caused him a lot of problems. Santa won’t let him join up with his reindeer to deliver gifts. His father forces him to cover it up. All of the other reindeer laugh and call him names; in fact, they won’t let him join in the reindeer games. It isn’t until he meets the elf Hermey (Paul Soles, The Incredible Hulk, The Score). Hermey wants to be a dentist, so the two set out to reach their dreams.

As I said before, I like a lot of this film. So I am just going to tell you what I don’t like.

I don’t like “Silver and Gold.”

I don’t like The Island of Misfit Toys.

I don’t like Hermey. I find him to be a misfit and a nitwit.

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Literally, I like the rest of this film. Seriously.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Sixth Day… Santa Claws (2014)

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Director: Glenn Miller

Cast: Ezra James Colbert, Nicola Lambo, John P. Fowler

Screenplay: Anna Rasmussen

86 mins. Rated TV-PG.

 

Santa Claus is seen in a lot of unique ways in film, but this one seems to me like the most terrible. This Santa Claus (John P. Fowler) is allergic to cats and (his words, not mine) The Jews.

Tommy (Ezra James Colbert, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) and his mother Julia (Nicola Lambo, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt?) do not celebrate Christmas. Julia had, as a child, been horribly traumatized by Santa Claus and therefore doesn’t celebrate the holiday. She has, in fact, turned into the Grinch. But the family’s talking kittens Patches, Mittens, and Hairball (truly inspired names) have accidently and horribly injured St. Nick and now must finish his deliveries in time for Christmas Day or Santa will forever lose his magic.

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First of all, what’s the deal with the mother? Is she actually going to tell her child that he cannot have a Christmas tree? Her “traumatic” event isn’t even traumatic. I could understand if your Mogwai turned into a bunch of Gremlins on Christmas Eve and terrorized your town. I probably wouldn’t celebrate the holidays then, but to do so because she got scared of Santa years earlier? C’mon! The acting doesn’t help either.

Then there’s Tommy. Somebody ground this spoiled little shit. Seriously.

Did I touch on anti-Semite Santa? Oh yeah, he’s allergic to The Jews. What part of the Jewish human causes Santa to sneeze. Sounds like a little bit of racism and hate-smashing to me.

Let’s not forget the fact that the cats in this film occasionally have moving mouths when they talk, while other times it comes across as some sort of telepathic link. It comes off as really annoying.

This movie looks stupid, its characters and performances are really terrible, its message is buried beneath less-than-subpar antics in which most of the characters come off as super-creepy.

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Can I just end this? It sucked. Skip this holiday anti-classic!

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Fifth Day… Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

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Director: Jun Falkenstein, Alex Mann, Bradley Raymond, Toby Shelton, Bill Speers

Cast: Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Tress MacNeille, Corey Burton, Diane Michelle, Russi Taylor, Jeff Bennett, Alan Young, Shaun Fleming, Jim Cummings, Frank Welker, Bill Farmer, Kelsey Grammer

Screenplay: Charlie Cohen, Scott Gorden, Tom Nance, Carter Crocker, Richard Cray, Temple Mathews, Thomas Hart, Eddie Guzelian, Alex Mann

66 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, today we are going to look at Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas, a collection of three holiday-themed tales narrated by the wonderful Kelsey Grammer (TV’s Cheers, The Expendables 3). We will look at each separately.

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In “Donald Duck Stuck on Christmas,” the three young ducklings, Huey, Duey, and Louie wish Christmas could be all year. Their wish becomes true in a “Groundhog Day”-style tale about two much of a good thing. This tale is the second best of the three.

In “A Very Goofy Christmas,” Goofy tries to teach his son Max about Santa Claus, but after a disappointing Christmas Eve, Max doesn’t believe anymore, and in trying to convince his son, Goofy loses faith as well. Who can save them? This is the lesser of the stories.

In “Mickey and Minnie’s The Gift of the Magi,” Mickey really wants to get a great gift for Minnie, but can’t afford it, so he trades his harmonica for the money and discovers the true importance in gift-giving.

I really liked the first story, but I found the far-too-many duck characters to be rather an annoyance. Goofy’s tale became rather tragic and had a tone very dissimilar to its fellow stories. As for the finale, it was easily the best capper to this triad of family fun.

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All in all, the animation is rather sketchy, or unsketchy (I’m not sure how sketchiness matches up on the animation scale). What I mean to say is, not great animation. The voice work (minus the aforementioned quacks) is good enough, and Kelsey Grammer’s enchanted narration holds the whole thing together, mostly. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is a nice little holiday excursion, but not something I feel I need to see in order to properly celebrate during the season. It is pretty okay, and I can see young children liking it, but it doesn’t have that staying power.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Fourth Day… The Santa Clause (1994)

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Director: John Pasquin

Cast: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Eric Lloyd, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, Peter Boyle

Screenplay: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick

97 mins. Rated PG for a few crude moments.

 

Killing Santa is kind of morbid. Very few can get through an event like that and still be likable. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen, TV’s Home Improvement, Toy Story 3) tries his best to overcome that nasty hurdle. That is, until he discovers The Santa Clause, a decree that if Santa is killed, one must take up the red coat and beard and continue the job. While this news excites Scott’s son Charlie (Eric Lloyd, Batman & Robin, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2), it certainly frightens Scott as well as his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson, Air Force One, Antiviral) and her new husband Neil (Judge Reinhold, Beverly Hills Cop, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts), who both believe that Scott is losing his grip on reality in order to make his son believe in Santa. As Scott continues his transformation into St. Nick in time for the next Christmas Eve, he must come to grips with this new reality and try to salvage his life as Scott Calvin with his life as Kris Kringle.

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The Santa Clause is very much a nice piece of cheese. I end up watching it every year around this time because it’s just a lot of fun. Tim Allen has a lot of fun with this role, keeping it all light-hearted even though the film itself could come off rather morbid. The supporting characters in Crewson and Reinhold ride the line of asshole vs. caring human nicely. Eric Lloyd doesn’t provide much, but his career proves that enough.

The screenplay is rather fun, though the film has definitely aged. It looks aged, but it still is a treat to watch. This Disney film is quite imaginative while also being slightly more grounded than it needed to be. Most of all, The Santa Clause is a movie about responsibility. It’s about taking up your baggage and understanding that the person you need to be may not be the person you wanted to be.

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Worth a couple laughs indeed.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Third Day… A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

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Director: Bill Melendez

Cast: Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Tracy Stratford, Kathy Steinberg, Bill Melendez

Screenplay: Charles M. Schulz

25 mins. Rated TV-G.

 

Okay, this isn’t exactly a feature film, but it is a staple of the holidays, more so than yesterday’s film.

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Anywho, Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) is depressed. It’s Christmas, and he isn’t feeling the holiday spirit. At the idea of Lucy Van Pelt (Tracy Stratford), Charlie decides to direct the Christmas play, all the while trying to discover the true meaning of Christmas.

This is a rather family lesson with some rather adult ramifications. I love that Charlie Brown is feeling what a lot of us feel when the Holiday season arrives. I’ve always treated the holidays as a gift or a blessing, a time when we come together and reset our relationships with those around us who haven’t treated each other right throughout the year. Charlie Brown discovers that the commercialism around Christmas is killing it, and while I don’t entirely believe the it is commercialism as much as the over-commercialism during this time of year. Don’t fight over the latest toy but just be happy you can receive anything from your loved ones. I have worked in retail in the past, and my favorite part of it during the holidays is that I can help people find the perfect gift for the perfect people in their lives. My least favorite is watching people tear each other apart just to find an item that is impossible to find. People need to realign their priorities and accept that it isn’t that big of a deal and Christmas will still go on and people will still be happy.

I digress.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas is a magical special, perhaps only burdened by all the specials to come after it, but it stands as a powerful part of the holidays. Peace on Earth, yo.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Second Day… Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)

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Director: Lee Harry

Cast: Jean Miller, Eric Freeman, Elizabeth Kaitan, James L. Newman

Screenplay: Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle

88 mins. Rated R.

 

Sometimes, you get sequels that enrich the original film while furthering the ideas put forth by its predecessor. Sometimes, you get a sequel that spends its first half with flashbacks of the first film. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is the latter.

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After seeing his brother gunned down on Christmas, Ricky Caldwell (Eric Freeman, Children of the Corn) begins to display the same disturbed behavior that Billy had. As he is interviewed by Dr. Henry Bloom (James L. Newman, Flags of Our Fathers, Evan Almighty), Ricky describes the events that led him to a psychiatric hospital, all the while displaying his anger towards Mother Superior (Jean Miller) for her involvement in Ricky’s descent into madness.

This film makes absolutely no sense and nothing actually happens. There are plot holes galore, like the fact that Ricky is just able to walk out the front door of his asylum unnoticed.

Eric Freeman’s performance is nails on a chalkboard. He says his lines in the same monotone voice that would drive anyone he speaks with to a mental institution themselves. Beyond getting himself immortalized in a Youtube video forever, Freeman cannot act himself through the framing device of the film’s first half. He might have Voice Immodulation, so I guess I can’t blame him. No wait, yes I can.

Elizabeth Kaitan (Twins, Spy Hard) is another such actress, but she holds up slightly better in other movies, barely. We know why she is here, though. She shows up. She gets naked. She gets murdered. Standard Elizabeth Kaitan performance.

The trouble started with a poor original film for a sequel, followed by a low budget and a bad screenplay. They continue on with more blandness until your finished project is so bad that a drinking game was invented to get through it. DRINKING GAME: Drink every time Ricky adjusts his eyebrows. Drink responsibly, though, folks. He does this at least 100 times in the film. You have been warned.

 

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“GARBAGE DAY!”

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is just plain garbage. There you go.

 

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Silent Night, Deadly Night, click here.

[12 Days of Christmas] On the First Day… The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Ed Ivory, Ken Page

Screenplay: Caroline Thompson

76 mins. Rated PG for some scary images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas, a celebration of Christmas and winter-themed films of all shapes and sizes.

We begin this yuletide tradition with The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick’s feature film adaptation of Tim Burton’s original poem.

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First off, before we start any of this thing up, I want to make a note. I refuse to call this film a Tim Burton film as Tim Burton really didn’t have all that much to do with the production. He was a producer and that is it. So no, I will be referring to this film, if in any capacity, as Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. But I digress…

After another successful holiday in Halloween Town, pumpkin king Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride, Safe) is tired of the tradition. He wants to experience something new. He gets the chance when he comes across a mystical forest with a tree that transports him to Christmas Town where he falls in love with a new holiday, though he doesn’t quite understand it. Jack takes it upon himself to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, including impersonating Santa (Ed Ivory, Nine Months) and giving out gifts to the residents of his home world.

I have grown to love this movie. It has everything that a new and engaging film should have. It has a unique story idea that seems wholly goofy yet fully realized. It has an enchanting screenplay by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, City of Ember) that makes the magic real. It has terrific voicework from leads Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, A.C.O.D.) as well as secondary performers Glenn Shadix and Paul Reubens. Let’s not forget Ken Page (Dreamgirls, Cats) as the sadistic and demented Oogie Boogie. Henry Selick (Coraline, Monkeybone) understands the stop-motion medium and knows just what is enough.

The music here as well is catchy, simple, and engaging to even the musically-declined. Each song is more like a taste and doesn’t wear out its welcome, making the film tight and finely-tuned allowing for multiple viewings.

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Now Jack’s story perhaps could have been trimmed a bit more and the secondary characters could have had a bit more to do, but as a completed work, The Nightmare Before Christmas has entombed (see what I did there?) itself as a Christmas classic and a Halloween classic, a feat damn near impossible to pull off.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Earth to Echo (2014)

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Director: Dave Green

Cast: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt

Screenplay: Henry Gayden

91 mins. Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language.

 

Earth to Echo kind of just appeared in the middle of the year and I didn’t know what to think of it. It appeared on the surface to be E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial all over again. It was.

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Earth to Echo is all about three friends: Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Astro, TV’s Red Band Society, A Walk Among the Tombstones), and Munch (Reese Hartwig, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) in their last week together before their suburb is wiped out to make room for a highway extension. When their phones start acting wonky, they decide to follow the pattern being created which leads them to a mysterious alien creature they call Echo. Now with the help of cute fellow student Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), they must help Echo avoid the government agents trying to get Echo and help the alien get the pieces of his ship together to get him home.

The film is presented in found-footage as a youtube documentary from Tuck. The idea is interestingly presented and for the most part looks the part, though there are several moments when Tuck’s camera is just a bit too perfectly centered on the action.

As far as the pacing goes, this film kind of drags on. Not a whole lot happens and when it does, I found myself saying, “Spielberg did it.” He did. He did do it.

The special effects are neither awful nor great and do little to drive my interest, and the lead child actors are passable enough for some, I imagine, but did not invest me.

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Earth to Echo is a fairly okay film with a fairly okay presentation. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I more of less existed during its viewing. Then it was over. I doubt I’ll remember it past this year. Thank God for blogs right?

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

165 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo.

 

It has been seven years since Transformers came out. I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing a review of the fourth film in this series, Transformers: Age of Extinction. This film is a bit of a departure in that it takes place five years after The Battle of Chicago, as it is referred to (which took place in Dark of the Moon) and features an entirely new cast of characters. Literally, nobody returns to this franchise for the fourth film except some of the voice actors for the Transformers.

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This installment introduces us to Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, Ted 2), a novice inventor, and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz, TV’s Bates Motel, The Last Airbender). Cade is a picker who scavenges for parts to use in his various inventions. He and his assistant Lucas (T.J. Miller, Cloverfield, Big Hero 6) come across a truck in an old abandoned theater and take it home to discover it is Optimus Prime in hiding. A government official named Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, TV’s Cheers, The Expendables 3) has hired a human hitman (Titus Welliver, The Town, Promised Land) and a bounty hunter Decepticon named Lockdown to hunt down and destroy the remaining Transformers. Meanwhile, a big-time business named Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, The Hunger Games, Muppets Most Wanted) is developing new technology incorporating Autobot tech and using it to build his own Transformers.

The plot is at least a new direction for this series. I was getting tired of the limited character development of Shia LaBeouf. This film isn’t great, but it certainly epitomizes the Michael Bay promise: likable trash. I had a lot of fun watching this movie. It just felt newer, and it had a lot more in terms of acting prowess (from Wahlberg, Tucci, Grammer, and Miller). The plot runs on for damn near forever, but I’ve come to expect that from this series and I didn’t feel as restless as I had from the last few movies.

I also absolutely love the design of the new Transformers in this installment. Hound (voiced by John Goodman) is a new Autobot who plays off like an old army colonel. He is an absolutely fantastic and angry beast who actually transforms to have a cigar in his mouth, too. Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) is a samurai who has blades that come from his transformation into an Apache helicopter. The faces are so well-defined that this is the first Transformers movie where I know all the Transformers based on looks. These are different characters.

And then there’s Lockdown. This is a complex character who is joining the US government to take on the Autobots and also has plans of his own.

I enjoyed this movie more so than I thought, and perhaps that comes from hearing all these bad reviews coming out of this movie’s initial release. I guess I had my hopes down.

One major flaw came from Galvatron, who is one of the new lead villains, a man-made Decepticon who feels so underdeveloped that it becomes really tough to fear him.

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All in all, this was more fun than expected. Make sure you have a comfortable chair, because you will be here awhile, and non-Transformers fans need not apply.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction? Did it transform into a masterpiece or did you “Roll Out” of the theater? Let me know!

 

For my review of Transformers, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, click here.

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