The Star Wars Holiday Special

The Star Wars Holiday Special

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Today’s feature, in honor of the release of a new Star Wars movie as well as the holiday season, is 1978’s infamous The Star Wars Holiday Special.

The ill-fated television special had five credited writers: Pat Proft (Police Academy, Hot Shots!, The Naked Gun), Leonard Ripps (Full House, Frankenweenie), Bruce Vilanch (Hollywood Squares), Rod Warren (Donny & Marie), and Mitzie Welch (The Carol Burnett Show).

The Star Wars Holiday Special was initially directed by David Acomba, whose only other credit at the time was a 1973 movie called Slipstream, not to be confused with Slipstream (1989), Slipstream (2005), or Slipstream (2007). However, he left the production before the shooting was complete, leaving the remaining directing work to Steve Binder (The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse).

The musical score for The Star Wars Holiday Special was composed by Ian Fraser, who primarily worked as a conductor and musical director on movies like Doctor Doolittle and Scrooge.

The cast of The Star Wars Holiday Special included the original main players from A New Hope: Mark Hamill (Slipstream, Batman: The Animated Series), Carrie Fisher (Loverboy, The Burbs, The Blues Brothers), Harrison Ford (Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits), and James Earl Jones (Conan The Barbarian, The Ambulance, Field of Dreams). However, they were joined by an odd assortment of actors and entertainers as well: Art Carney (Last Action Hero, Roadie), Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles, History of the World: Part I), Bea Arthur (The Golden Girls), and Diahann Carroll (Julia, Dynasty).

The plot of The Star Wars Holiday Special is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Chewbacca and Han Solo try to get home to Chewie’s family to celebrate Life Day, which includes various forms of entertainment.

The one most notable thing that fans still credit The Star Wars Holiday Special for was the debut of fan favorite character Boba Fett in an animated short. He would play a key role in the following two movies, and even be edited into A New Hope in George Lucas’s controversial Special Edition.

All of the wookie dialogue, which makes up a significant portion of the movie, isn’t dubbed or translated, making all of their conversations a complete mystery to the audience. This is consistent with the treatment of Chewbacca in the main series, but it wasn’t as much of an issue when there was only one untranslated wookie, as opposed to multiple in conversation.

Carrie Fisher apparently demanded that she be allowed to sing in order to appear in the special. The result could be generously described as jarring and off-putting. Likewise, Harrison Ford particularly didn’t want to participate in the ill-conceived television series. However, Mark Hamill was the most surprising cast member appearance, given he had just been in the serious car wreck that required facial reconstructive surgery, and had barely recovered when shooting began. This accident would ultimately be the reason for the wampa attack at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, to explain Luke’s changed appearance.

The character portrayed by Art Carney in The Star Wars Holiday Special was apparently based on the same notes and character sketch that would eventually turn into Lando Calrissian, a fan favorite character who would first appear in The Empire Strikes Back two year later played by Billy Dee Williams.

The Star Wars Holiday Special was utterly reviled by just about everyone who saw it, and George Lucas immediately sough to bury it after his release. In fact, he was once quoted as saying “if I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every bootlegged copy of that program and smash it.”  Currently, the program holds a user rating of 2.5 on IMDb, along with a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 20%. Astoundingly, however, it currently has a 50% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes (still rotten, but not atrocious), thanks to a number of facetious and ironic reviews.

Overall, The Star Wars Holiday Special is undoubtedly a mess. The only thing that isn’t totally terrible is the animation sequence, which doesn’t make up much of the total run time. The special was clearly poorly conceived and unmotivated, and apparently nobody wanted to be there. Still, the world was in the midst of a Star Wars fever, and anything with the branding would have seemed impossible to fail, so I can understand why it was pushed forward in spite of the obvious problems.

First off, die-hard Star Wars fans have to watch this infamous franchise entry at least once. I think it is also worth checking out for bad movie fans, though it pushes the boundary between being a television movie or just a bizarre variety show. Still, it is a baffling experience, particularly during the musical numbers or the wookie conversations.

For more thoughts on The Star Wars Holiday Special, mention anything about ‘Life Day’ near a Star Wars nerd. Alternatively, I recommend checking out the Best of the Worst entry from Red Letter Media, the thoughts from The Nostalgia Critic, the recent write-up on The AV Club, or the Wookieepedia entry for the special.

Surviving Christmas

Surviving Christmas

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Today’s flick is a 2004 Christmas comedy: Surviving Christmas.

Two teams of writers worked on the screenplay for Surviving Christmas: Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (Made of Honor, A Very Brady Sequel, Josie And The Pussycats, Can’t Hardly Wait, The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas) and Jennifer Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin (The Tooth Fairy, Yogi Bear, That ’70s Show, Rio).

Surviving Christmas was directed by Mike Mitchell, whose other credits include Sky High, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo, Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and Shrek Forever After.

Surviving Christmas had two credited cinematographers: Peter Lyons Collister (Arrested Development, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Garfield 2, Halloween 4) and Tom Priestley Jr. (Bordello of Blood, Undercover Brother, Barbershop, Barbershop 2).

The editor for the movie was Craig McKay, who has cut such films as Everything Is Illuminated, K-PAX, Philadelphia, Mad Dog & Glory, Reds, and Cop Land.

The team of producers on Surviving Christmas included Erin Stam (Underdog, 27 Dresses), Betty Thomas (I Spy, Charlie’s Angels), Jenno Topping (Doctor Dolittle, The Brady Bunch Movie) and Patricia Whitcher (The Terminal, Dreamgirls, The Soloist).

The makeup effects for the film were provided by Tammy Ashmore (Zombieland, Taxi), Marsha Shearrill (Semi-Pro, Auto Focus), Suzi Ostos (High Fidelity, Wanted), John E. Jackson (State of Play, Daredevil, Congo), Kimberly Greene (Scream 4, Kingpin), and Tony Gardner (Wild Wild West, Cocoon, Darkman).

The special effects work for Surviving Christmas was done by a team that included Jeff Frink (Dead Heat, Maximum Overdrive, Trick or Treat), William Dambra (Child’s Play, Gladiator), Dominik Duganzdic (The Aviator, Volcano), Ray Svedin (Mannequin, Cobra), Bruce A. Strong (Home Alone 3, Sinister 2), Tom Ryba (Wild Wild West, Groundhog Day), Rodman Kiser (8 Mile, A Simple Plan), and John Rigden (Road to Perdition).

The visual effects crew for Surviving Christmas included Will Cunningham (2012, Ghost Rider), Kent Demaine (Deep Blue Sea, The Core), Karin Levinson (Cop Out, Hellboy), Will Robbins (Minority Report, The Cell), Paul Luna (The Core, The Master of Disguise), and Mark Russell (The Wolf of Wall Street, American Ultra).

The musical score for the movie was composed by Randy Edelman, who also provided music for movies like Balls of Fury, Underdog, xXx, Black Knight, Anaconda, Corky Romano, Osmosis Jones, The Mask, My Cousin Vinny, and Ghostbusters II.

The cast of Surviving Christmas includes Ben Affleck (Daredevil, Argo, The Town, Gigli, Reindeer Games, Jersey Girl, Good Will Hunting), Christina Applegate (Anchorman, Married With Children), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, The Man Who Wasn’t There, 8MM, In The Loop), Catherine O’Hara (After Hours, Beetlejuice, Home Alone), Bill Macy (The Jerk, Analyze This), Jennifer Morrison (House M.D.), and Udo Kier (Blade, Shadow of the Vampire).

survivingchristmas1The plot of Surviving Christmas is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A lonely, obnoxious young millionaire pays a family to spend Christmas with him.

Bizarrely, Surviving Christmas was released in the United States in late October, before Halloween, which might have contributed somewhat to its financial failure. Speaking of which, Surviving Christmas was made on a production budget of $45 million, on which it only grossed roughly $15 million in its lifetime worldwide theatrical run.

As well as being a box office bomb, Surviving Christmas was reviled by audiences and critics alike. It currently holds an IMDb user rating of 5.3, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 7% from critics and 28% from audiences. On top of that, the movie would up with three Golden Raspberry nominations, including one for Worst Picture.

Surviving Christmas is a fundamentally twisted movie. The entire plot revolves around Ben Affleck’s character essentially holding a family hostage for the holidays, in exchange for $150,000. The writing for his character borders on being utterly terrifying and inhuman, like he could snap into becoming Patrick Bateman at any moment. I’m sure he was supposed to come off as quirky when they were sketching out the character, but the way he comes off isn’t like that at all. It seems like the expectation is that the audience will feel bad for his loneliness, but the lengths he goes to are far beyond what anyone would actually do.

If there is anything positive to say about Surviving Christmas, it is that Ben Affleck is genuinely creepy in his performance, even if that wasn’t what he was actually going for. The rest of the cast is pretty run of the mill, and aren’t given a whole lot to do aside from react to Affleck’s ongoing holiday breakdown.

As is the case with most comedies gone wrong, there aren’t any particular redeeming values to this movie. Because the humor doesn’t work, there’s just no gas or power to it in general, making it a really dull experience to try and sit through. I honestly can’t think of any good reasons to recommend it, outside of the novelty of seeing Ben Affleck play a poorly concealed serial killer for the holidays.

For more thoughts on Surviving Christmas, I recommend checking out Paul Clinton’s review for CNN and Stephen Holden’s coverage for The New York Times.

Reindeer Games

Reindeer Games

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Today’s feature is Reindeer Games, a holiday-themed heist film with a dose of mistaken identity.

The writer for Reindeer Games was Ehren Kruger, who also did screenplays for the movie Scream 3, The Ring, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Reindeer Games was the final theatrical film for director John Frankenheimer, whose credits included The Island of Doctor Moreau, French Connection II, Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, and Ronin.

The cinematographer for the movie was Alan Caso, who has done extensive television work on shows like Big Love, Dexter, Hawaii Five-0, Lie To Me, and Six Feet Under, and shot a handful of movies like Muppets From Space and Ed.

Reindeer Games had two primary editors: Michael Kahn (The Haunting, Twister, Jurassic Park, Hook, Munich, 1941, The Color Purple, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies) and Antony Gibbs (Ronin, Dune, Rollerball, Bad Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar).

The team of producers for Reindeer Games included the Miramax duo of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Andrew Rona (Dracula 2000, Scream 3), James Sbardellati (Humanoids From The Deep, Slipstream (2007), Frailty), Chris Moore (American Pie, Good Will Hunting), Casey Grant (Snow Dogs, The 13th Warrior, Dreamcatcher), and Cary Granat (Scary Movie, Mimic).

The makeup effects team for Reindeer Games was made up of Charles Porlier (The 6th Day, Jumanji), Ryan Nicholson (Lake Placid, Supernatural, Blade Trinity), Doug Morrow (Stay Tuned, Bordello of Blood), Holland Miller (The Fog (2005)), Deborah K. Larsen (The Core, Darkman), Crist Ballas (Jingle All The Way, Mystery Science Theater 3000), and Victoria Down (Bordello of Blood, April Fool’s Day).

The special effects work for the movie was done by John Wilkinson (Sucker Punch), Mike Splatt (2012, Final Destination), Grant Smith (X-Men 2, Snow Dogs, Saving Silverman), William Orr (Double Jeopardy, Dreamcatcher), Graham Hollins (Inception), Steve Davis (Jumanji, Friday the 13th Part VIII), and Alex Burdett (Event Horizon, Deadpool).

The visual effects on Reindeer Games were done by the companies Cinema Production Services (The Core, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Faculty, Final Destination, The Adventures of Pluto Nash) and Digiscope (Mimic, Spawn, Volcano, Lake Placid, Freddy vs. Jason, Torque, Van Helsing).

The music for Reindeer Games was composed by Alan Silvestri, one of the most acclaimed film scorers in the business. Outside of Academy Award nominations for Forrest Gump and The Polar Express, his other credits have included Cast Away, The Avengers, Van Helsing, Judge Dredd, Super Mario Bros., Cop And A Half, Predator 2, Mac And Me, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Death Becomes Her, The Abyss, The Quick and The Dead, and Mousehunt.

The cast of Reindeer Games includes Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo, Surviving Christmas, Good Will Hunting, Paycheck, Gigli, Daredevil), Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Monster, The Devil’s Advocate, Children of the Corn III, The Italian Job, Aeon Flux), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn 2, From Dusk Till Dawn 3, Breaking Wind, Anaconda, Machete, Bad Ass, Desperado), Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Snake Eyes, The Green Mile, Mission To Mars), Dennis Farina (Saving Private Ryan, Snatch, Get Shorty), Donal Logue (Gotham, Terriers, Blade, The Patriot, Sneakers), and Isaac Hayes (South Park, Escape From New York).

reindeergames2The plot of Reindeer Games is summarized on IMDb as follows:

After assuming his dead cellmate’s identity to get with his girlfriend, an ex-con finds himself the reluctant participant in a casino heist.

Vin Diesel was apparently initially cast for a role in Reindeer Games, but left the production before filming began. Conflicting reports indicate that he was either fired by John Frankenheimer because of his demands, or the he simply walked away because of an offer for a lead role in The Fast and The Furious, which has proven to be a career-defining performance.

As of 2007, Charlize Theron publicly regarded Reindeer Games as the worst movie she had ever done, remarking that it “was a bad, bad, bad movie.”

The term “Reindeer Games” comes from the song “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” and refers to activities where certain people are explicitly and deliberately excluded, and are aware of their exclusion. Theoretically, this is meant to allude to the multiple deceptions and plots that occur over the plot of the film, all of which Ben Affleck’s “Rudolph” character is oblivious to and excluded from. In fact, an alternate title for the movie was more to the point: simply, Deception.

Reindeer Games has a production budget of $42 million, on which it grossed only $32 million in its lifetime worldwide theatrical release, making it a significant financial failure. Likewise, it was far from a critical success: it currently holds Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 25% from critics and 27% from audiences, alongside an IMDb user rating of 5.7.

One of the big problems a lot of people have with many movies that star Ben Affleck, like Daredevil or Paycheck, is that he isn’t a believable enough dramatic lead. Personally, I’ve always felt that he is perfectly adequate, even in those sorts of flicks. Reindeer Games, though, I think was particularly well-suited for him. As many critics pointed out, this movie was an attempt to mimic a Tarantino-style crime flick, meaning that there is a fair amount of comedic timing and dialogue needed from the lead, which is something Affleck is naturally pretty good at. As much as this was decently cast, that alone can’t make for a good movie.

One of the big problems here is that the screenplay is not Tarantino-caliber, meaning that the dialogue doesn’t flow terribly well, which saps it the story and characters of their potential charm. I actually think that Reindeer Games could have been a really solid movie with a screenplay rewrite. As I have mentioned with other movies, making a flick on a weak screenplay is like building a house on sand: even good directors can’t build a solid structure without a foundation.

Reindeer Games, to the credit of the crew, looks like a good movie. It reminded me a lot of a similar movie that came out a year later: Swordfish. Both movies have decent casts, look good, and try their damnedest to be clever and witty with their screenplays. However, they both falter in a lot of the same ways, most notably in the preposterous nature of their respective stories and the weakness of their written dialogue.

Personally, I couldn’t bring myself to honestly hate this movie. Above all else, it is a disappointing underachievement from a good director, a talented cast, and an interesting concept. In theory, this is a sort of hybrid of Hitchcock and Tarantino, which is pretty damn cool combination of styles. However, it totally fails to live up to that promise. It is totally watchable, but not terribly entertaining: I would place it on the boundary between being a bad movie and being a mediocre Hollywood movie, which is one of the worst spots a movie can find itself in. It isn’t bad enough to be entertainingly bad, and not good enough to watch on its own merits. Unless you are just dying to see a Christmas-themed crime movie and have exhausted all of your other options, there aren’t any compelling reasons to dig this up.

For more thoughts on Reindeer Games, I recommend checking out the How Did This Get Made? podcast, as well as the official review by Roger Ebert. On the flip side, you can check out a positive review from Mark LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle for a dissenting perspective.

Elves

Elves

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Today’s flick explains the historical link between Santa’s little helpers and the Third Reich: 1989’s Elves.

Elves was written and directed by Jeffrey Mandel, who worked on the television series Super Force and the low-budget flicks Firehead and Cyber-CHIC.

The cinematographer for the film was Kenny Carmack, who shot a handful of similar low-budget sci-fi features like Alien Seed and Laser Moon. The editor for Elves, Tom Matties, also worked on Alien Seed: one his few other listed credits.

The special effects work for Elves is credited to Evan Campbell, who has worked on such productions as The Faculty, Spawn, Darkman III, Darkman II, and Super Mario Bros., among many others. The stunt coordinator for the movie was an equally season B-movie veteran: Bob Bragg, who worked on Hell Comes To Frogtown, Friday the 13th Part VII, Mac And Me, Zandalee, and Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood.

The musical score for Elves was composed by Vladimir Horunzhy, who provided music for a couple of episodes of Tales From The Crypt, as well as for the notorious Stephen King miniseries adaptation of The Langoliers.

The most prominent and recognizable member of the cast of Elves is Dan Haggerty, who is best known for his lead role in The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams. He also notably served as an associate producer on the movie.

The plot of Elves is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A young woman discovers that she is the focus of an evil nazi experiment involving selective breeding and summoned elves, an attempt to create a race of supermen. She and two of her friends are trapped in a department store with an elf, and only Dan Haggerty, as the renegade loose-cannon Santa Claus, can save them.

elves1Elves currently holds an IMDb user rating of 4.1, along with a 35% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes. Its limited releases mean that it has mostly spread through word of mouth, but it has developed quite a reputation among bad movie fans as a holiday favorite.

Elves is, above all else, a very goddamn strange movie. The premise, that elves are not just real, but the result of genetic experimentation by Nazis, is so impossibly outlandish that it is hard to believe that this movie isn’t a comedy. When you include how awful the eponymous elf puppet looks, it is astounding that anyone would imagine releasing the finished product of this movie, even direct to video.

elves2Lucky for us all, this movie was made with its atrocious plot and dialogue in tact, and with the cheapest effects the production could afford with spare change. The result is a movie that is nothing short of gut-bustingly hilarious: the performances are laughable (particularly the German accents), but honest, and there is never even one hint that this movie wasn’t a 100% serious effort to make a horror movie. Despite dialogue about evil elves, Nazis, magic, and incest, every one of these performers plays it totally straight, and the result if pure magic.

Elves isn’t quite on the level of Troll 2 or The Room as a good bad movie, but I think it is the closest thing there is for the holiday season. Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Santa Claus are good fun, but neither reach the heights of what-the-fuckery offered with Elves. For bad movie fans, this is a must see. Unfortunately, it has never received a DVD release, but VHS and digital copies are floating around in the ether, and you can find them with a little bit of digging.

For more thoughts on Elves, I suggest checking out Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst, The Cinema Snob, Dark Corners of This Sick World, and the Bad Movie Fiends podcast. As it turns out, the real good-bad movies have a way of making the rounds quickly.

Santa’s Slay

Santa’s Slay

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Today’s feature is a holiday-themed horror-comedy: Santa’s Slay.

Santa’s Slay was written and directed by David Steiman, who was Brett Ratner’s assistant on Red Dragon and Rush Hour 2, and also worked on Inspector Gadget, What Lies Beneath, Cast Away, and The Family Man.

The cinematographer for Santa’s Slay was Matthew F. Leonetti, who shot movies like Accepted, The Butterfly Effect, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Red Heat, Action Jackson, Commando, Species II, Dragnet, Weird Science, and The Bat People, among many others.

Santa’s Slay featured two primary editors: Julia Wong (Extract, Good Luck Chuck, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Steve Polivka (Teen Wolf Too, Law & Order: SVU, Justified).

santaslay2The team of producers for Santa’s Slay included filmmaker Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon, Hercules), Andreas Schmid (Perfume: Story of a Murderer, Lord of War, Lucky Number Slevin), Matthew F. Leonetti Jr. (The Mechanic, Evil Dead, Oldboy), Sammy Lee (Monster), Stewart Hall (Running Scared), John Cheng (Horrible Bosses), and Andreas Grosch (Lucky Number Slevin, Lord of War).

Th effects work on Santa’s Slay was done by a team that included Prudence Olenik (Prom Night II), Leo Wieser (Shanghai Knights, Ginger Snaps II), Bob David (Android Apocalypse), Eugene Gogowich (Inception, Brokeback Mountain), Neil Krause (Tideland), Chris Aronoff (Giallo), Beverly Bernacki (State of Play, From Dusk Till Dawn 3, Robot Jox), Joshua D. Comen (Soul Plane, Riddick), Jamison Scott Goei (Dracula 2000, From Dusk Till Dawn 2, From Dusk Till Dawn 3), Anthony Ivins (Son of the Mask, The Spirit), Laura LeFaivre (Aeon Flux), Debbi Nikkel (Spaceballs, Armageddon), and Marlo Padon (Freejack, Con Air, Flubber, Total Recall, The Abyss).

The musical score for Santa’s Slay was composed by Henning Lohner, who also provided music for movies like In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, BloodRayne, and The Ring Two.

The cast of Santa’s Slay includes professional wrestler Bill Goldberg (Universal Soldier: The Return), Douglas Smith (Big Love, Terminator Genisys), Robert Culp (Xtro 3, Silent Night, Deadly Night 3, Goldengirl), Emilie de Ravin (Lost, Once Upon A Time), Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13), and Dave Thomas (Strange Brew, Coneheads, Rat Race), along with brief cameos by James Caan (The Godfather), Chris Kattan (Corky Romano, A Night At The Roxbury), Fran Drescher (The Nanny), and Tiny Lister (Dracula 3000, No Holds Barred).

The plot of Santa’s Slay is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Santa Claus is actually a demon who lost a bet with an Angel, so he becomes the giver of toys and happiness. But when the bet is off, he returns to his evil ways.

Santa’s Slay isn’t a particularly beloved movie: it currently holds a 43% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes, along with an IMDb user rating of 5.4.

santaslay3The idea behind Santa’s Slay is admittedly pretty amusing: that Santa Claus is actually a demonic Norse warrior, bound to serve children by a sort of curse. Honestly, if there is anything positive to say about Santa’s Slay, it is that Santa looks awesome, and it offers plenty of slasher movie deaths at his hands.

On the other hand, Bill Goldberg isn’t much of an actor, and fumbles his way through countless one-liners throughout the movie, as do the less interesting protagonist characters. The dialogue writing across the board is pretty awful, and contains a lot of half-assed attempts at humor that don’t come off very well, so it is hard to lay all of the blame on the actors there.

Overall, Santa’s Slay is a fun enough holiday slasher movie, even if it does wink a little too much, and is a bit lacking in the humor department. The opening scene is fantastic for its cameo density, and, as mentioned previously, Goldberg looks awesome in his rugged, demonic Santa suit. I wouldn’t go in expecting too much from it, but I think this is a fun enough movie to watch with a mixed crowd of casual movie goers and bad movie aficionados alike.

For more thoughts on Santa’s Slay, I recommend reading the always amusing Something Awful review post, and also check out the video on it over at Good Bad Flicks.

Silent Night, Bloody Night

Silent Night, Bloody Night

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Today’s feature is 1972’s cult classic holiday horror flick, Silent Night, Bloody Night.

Silent Night, Bloody Night was directed and co-written by Theodore Gershuny, who wrote and directed a number of episodes of Tales From The Darkside, as well as the Troma distributed movie Sugar Cookies. His co-writers for the film were producer Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller.

The cinematographer on Silent Night, Bloody Night was Adam Giffard, whose credits were primarily documentary features. The most notable of these was the groundbreaking 1970 Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter, on which he was a camera operator along with George Lucas.

The editor for the film was Tom Kennedy, who worked on films like The Family Enforcer and Joe, and later directed 1982’s Time Walker.

The team of producers for Silent Night, Bloody Night included Troma Entertainment head Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger), Ami Artzi (Pledge This, Death Wish V), Frank Vitale (Jakarta, When Nature Calls), and co-writer Jeffrey Konvitz.

The music for Silent Night, Bloody Night was composed by Gershon Kingsley, who was an early pioneer of electronic music and the use of synthesizers. His most recognizable and oft-covered tune is 1969’s “Popcorn.”

The cast for Silent Night, Deadly Night includes John Carradine (The Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach), Lisa Blake Richards (Rolling Thunder, Dark Shadows), Walter Abel (Holiday Inn, Mr. Skeffington), Patrick O’Neal (Under Siege, The Stepford Wives), and Mary Woronov (Chopping Mall, Death Race 2000, Eating Raoul), who was at the time married to the film’s director, Theodore Gershuny.

The plot of Silent Night, Bloody Night is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A man inherits a mansion, which once was a mental home. He visits the place and begins to investigate some crimes that happened in old times, scaring the people living in the region.

Silent Night, Bloody Night has had a number of alternate titles throughout its lifetime, including the original release title of Night of the Dark Full Moon, the production title of Zora, and the German release as Bloodnight: The House of Death.

The similar title often leads to Silent Night, Bloody Night getting confused with the later film Silent Night, Deadly Night, which is perhaps the best known holiday horror movie, due mostly to the public controversy that surrounded it. However, outside of a common use of wordplay, the films have no relation.

The creepy and distinctive house used as the centerpiece of the film is apparently still standing in the Oyster Bay area of Long Island.

The popularity of Silent Night, Bloody Night didn’t catch on until years after its release, when the show Elvira’s Movie Macabre featured it in the second episode of its first season, which introduced it to a brand new audience that missed it on its initial, limited drive-in release.

In recent years, Silent Night, Bloody Night has received both a remake and a sequel: 2013’s Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming and 2015’s Silent Night, Bloody Night 2: Revival.

Silent Night, Bloody Night is currently in the public domain, which means it is readily available both on DVD and digitally at minimal (or no) cost.

silentnightbloodynight2Silent Night, Deadly Night was made on a shoestring production budget of less than $300,000, but it only received a limited theatrical release at a handful of drive-in features. However, it is now a cult classic of the genre, and is appreciated by horror fans as one of the earliest slasher movies. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 5.3, along with a Rotten Tomatoes audience aggregate score of 30%.

Silent Night, Bloody Night was clearly ahead of its time as a slasher movie, predating movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th by the better part of a decade. It is hard to say whether it had any influence on the genre, given how obscure of a release it was until it was dug up again in the early 1980s. Regardless, it is a prescient feature in a number of ways, and is interesting to watch as a harbinger of what would become the dominant sub-genre of horror for many years.

As far as performances go, Mary Woronov is certainly a highlight of the movie, and is certainly deserving of her cult status as an actor. John Carradine is always interesting to see later in his career, though his role in the movie is certainly limited, as he plays a mute in the film. Otherwise, there aren’t any utterly terrible performances to be had here.

The biggest problem with Silent Night, Bloody Night is the pacing: this is a movie that really plods along, and takes its time to make any real progress. It doesn’t build tension nearly as well as it should either, though the score is pretty effective at helping accentuate the more tense moments. The idea behind this feature is ultimately way better than the execution, though there are certainly some entertaining points in it. To its credit, the plot is certainly interesting, but it takes a little too long to reach its boiling point.

Flicks like Silent Night, Deadly Night and the original Black Christmas might make for better holiday-themed horror watches, but this is pretty decent for a deeper cut to check out, particularly for cult movie and horror fans. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this for a casual movie-goer, but die-hards might just enjoy themselves with it.

Jingle All The Way

Jingle All The Way

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Today’s feature is the 1996 holiday comedy Jingle All The Way, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad.

Jingle All The Way was written by Randy Kornfield, whose only other particularly notable film was the horror comedy Eight Legged Freaks.

Jingle All The Way was directed by Brian Levant, who also helmed such esteemed flicks as Snow Dogs, A Christmas Story 2, The Flintstones, Beethoven, and The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas.

The cinematographer for the movie was Victor J. Kemper, who shot movies like Hot To Trot, Clue, Xanadu, Mr. Mom, Slap Shot, Dog Day Afternoon, and National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Jingle All The Way featured three credited editors: Adam Weiss (Dracula: Dead And Loving It, Bull Durham), Wilt Henderson (Howling II, Gremlins 2), and Kent Beyda (S. Darko, Jonah Hex, The Flintstones, Saturday the 14th, This Is Spinal Tap).

JINGLE ALL THE WAY, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1996, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.The team of producers for Jingle All The Way included Michael Barnathan (Pixels, Monkeybone), noted director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Nine Months), Paula DuPré Pesmen (The Cove, Mrs. Doubtfire), Warren Zide (Final Destination 5, American Pie), Dick Vane (The Phantom, Harry and the Hendersons), and Mark Radcliffe (The Help, Home Alone).

The makeup effects for the film were provided by Louis Lazzara (Be Cool, Face/Off, Friday the 13th Part V, American Ninja II, Teen Wolf Too), Sheila Evers (Family Matters, Good Burger), Jeff Dawn (Deep Blue Sea, Be Cool), Greg Cannom (Van Helsing, Son Of The Mask, Space Truckers, Thinner, Highlander II, Captain America, Dr. Alien, Titanic), and Keith VanderLaan (Space Truckers, Van Helsing, Son of the Mask).

The special effects work on Jingle All The Way was in part done by William Aldridge (Halloween III, Class of 1999, Demolition Man, The Fifth Element), Jon G. Belyeu (Halloween III, Tango & Cash, The Dead Zone, The Goonies), Chris Burton (Interstellar, Lethal Weapon 3, Lethal Weapon 2), and Jay Bartus (Dark Angel, Action Jackson),

The visual effects unit for Jingle All The Way included Todd Boyce (Stealth, Hollow Man), Rhonda Gunner (Swordfish, Timecop), Richard E. Hollander (Daredevil, Timecop, Face/Off), Gregory L. McMurry (Predator 2, Con Air, The Core), Glenn Neufeld (The Core, Paycheck), Derek Spears (Daredevil, RIPD, Face/Off), Rich Thorne (Monkeybone, Evolver).

The musical score for Jingle All The Way was composed by David Newman, who also provided music for movies like The Spirit, Death To Smoochy, Little Monsters, War of the Roses, Heathers, Critters, and Throw Momma From The Train.

The cast of Jingle All The Way includes Arnold Schwarzenegger (Hercules in New York, The Running Man, The Terminator, Kindergarten Cop, Junior, Commando, Predator), Sinbad (Houseguest), Jim Belushi (Taking Care Of Business, Abraxas, The Principal, Red Heat, Mr. Destiny), Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live, Small Soldiers), Jake Lloyd (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), and Rita Wilson (Auto Focus, Mixed Nuts).

The plot of Jingle All The Way is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A father needs to get a Turbo Man action figure for his son just before Christmas. Unfortunately, every store is sold out of Turbo Man figures, and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else to find a Turbo Man figure.

A sequel, Jingle All The Way 2, was released straight-to-video in December of 2014, and starred notorious blue-collar comedian Larry The Cable Guy.

A lawsuit and subsequent court battle was fought over the screenplay of Jingle All The Way, which was claimed to have been plagiarized from a previously submitted work called Could This Be Christmas?, which was similarly inspired by the public frenzy over Cabbage Patch Kids dolls in 1983.

Jingle All The Way had surprisingly limited merchandising tie-ins thanks to the rushed production schedule, though there was a run of 13.5 inch Turbo-Man action figures the coincided with the movie’s release.

jingle3The production budget for Jingle All The Way was estimated at $60 million, on which it grossed just under $130 million in its lifetime global theatrical release. However, in spite of the movie’s profitability, the reception wasn’t particularly positive: currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 5.4, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 17% from critics and 38% from audiences.

First off, Arnold Schwarzenegger is totally out of his element and miscast in the lead role of Jingle All The Way. His character seems to be written for an average every-man, which he just isn’t. Arnold is capable of pulling off a fair number of things on screen, but being an average Joe is not one of them. He is more believable as the super hero TurboMan than he is as a suburban dad and small businessman, which undermines a lot of what the movie is supposed to portray.

Jake Lloyd, the child actor who is most infamous for his role as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, is featured prominently in Jingle All The Way, and he is nothing short of abysmal. His deliveries are astoundingly terrible, even by child actor standards. On the flip side, both Phil Hartman and Sinbad are entertaining in their smaller roles as Schwarzenegger’s foils, but neither get enough time to do a whole lot.

Overall, Jingle All The Way is far from an unwatchable movie. The acting and the effects are certainly lacking, and it never quite delivers on its somewhat interesting premise. That said, it is an easy watch that has some entertaining moments, and is harmless as a cheesy holiday feature. It also has bonus points for being fantastic nostalgia fodder for many people nowadays, which is enough of a justification to revisit it in my book.

You don’t have to dig too deep to find other thoughts on Jingle All The Way. Personally, I recommend checking out the We Hate Movies podcast episode on the movie (as well as their follow-up on Jingle All The Way 2) and the spotlight done by The Nostalgia Critic.

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

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Today’s feature is a seasonal favorite in the realm of bad movies: Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 was co-written, directed, and edited by Lee Harry, who only had a handful of other low-budget credits over his career.

The cinematographer for Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 was Harvey Genkins, who also shot The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, H.O.T.S., and Don’t Drink The Water.

The primary producer for the movie was Lawrence Appelbaum, whose other credits included Charles Band’s The Alchemist, Penitentiary II, and Badge 373.

The effects work on Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 was provided by a team that included R. Christopher Biggs (Hudson Hawk, Super Mario Bros.), Camille Calvet (Firefly, Army of Darkness, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie), Tassilo Baur (Suburban Commando, House, DeepStar Six), and Bruce Scivally (Best of the Best 4).

The plot of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Ricky, the brother of the killer in the first film, talks to a psychiatric about how he became a brutal killer after his brother died, leading back to Mother Superior.

silentnightdeadlynighttwo2Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is particularly well known due to the popularity of an out of context sequence of the movie that was circulated on the internet, in which the lead character hilariously murders someone while shouting “Garbage Day!”

Initially, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 wasn’t intended to be a sequel, but an extended re-cut of the original movie with a a re-shot framing device. Ultimately, there was enough unique material for it to be labeled as an independent movie, though it still relies heavily on stock footage from the preceding feature.

The reception to Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 was negative from the handful of people who wound up actually seeing it when it was released. While the viral clip certainly expanded its audience in the past few years, there still isn’t any love to be found for this film. Currently, it holds a 3.5 user rating on IMDb, along with a 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

silentnightdeadlynighttwo3Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is, for the most part, just a retread of the first movie. The amount of reused footage from Silent Night, Deadly Night is immense, which is understandable given the original intent for this to simple by a re-cut rather than a sequel. Still, as it stands, the movie is an outstandingly lazy excuse for a sequel.

The reason that this movie has entered the public consciousness at all is because of the lead performance by Eric Freeman, which is without a doubt memorable. In his brief time on screen, he manages to be so laughably terrible and over the top that the movie is almost worth watching as a result.

Overall, this movie isn’t really a complete movie at all. This is the equivalent of DLC content on a video game being sold as a standalone sequel at full price, which is roughly as dishonest as it is disappointing. The new content that is here is entertaining, but there just isn’t nearly enough of it, making this a totally half-assed feature. For the “Garbage Day” sequence alone, this is worth checking out. However, you shouldn’t expect too much from it, and I would generally recommend the original movie or Christmas Evil over this flick any day.

For more thoughts on Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, I recommend checking out the coverage of it over at The Cinema Snob and Antagony & Ecstasy.

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night, Deadly Night

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Today’s feature is perhaps the most infamous Christmas-themed horror movie: Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Silent Night, Deadly Night was written by Paul Caimi and Michael Hickey, neither of whom have any other listed writing credits on IMDb, outside of character credits on the sequel, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.

The director on Silent Night, Deadly Night was Charles E. Sellier Jr., who has spent the vast majority of his career producing documentaries like Apocalypse And The End Times, The Search For Heaven, Evidence of Heaven, The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark, and The Case For Christ’s Resurrection.

The cinematographer on Silent Night, Deadly Night was Henning Schellerup, who was a camera operator on movies like Maniac Cop, Suburban Commando, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Death Race 2000, and The Incredible Melting Man.

The editor for the film was Michael Spence, whose other credits included The Dread and One Dark Night.

The effects work on Silent Night, Deadly Night was done by a team that included Karl Wesson (Van Helsing, Blow), Richard N. McGuire (Re-Animator, Critters), Susan Reyes (Halloween 4), Judee Guilmette (Hider In The House), Rick Josephsen (Cujo, Fright Night Part 2), and G. Lynn Maughan (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Cujo).

silentnightdeadlynight3The musical score for the film was provided by Perry Botkin Jr., who also worked on the television show Mork And Mindy and 1981’s Tarzan, The Ape Man.

The cast of Silent Night, Deadly Night includes Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead, Fatal Games, Night of the Demons, Pumpkinhead II), Lilyan Chauvin (Predator 2, Catch Me If You Can), Charles Dierkop (Police Woman), Gilmer McCormick (Slaughterhouse-Five), and Britt Leach (Weird Science).

The plot of Silent Night, Deadly Night is summarized on IMDb as follows:

After his parents are murdered, a young tormented teenager goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa, due to his stay at an orphanage where he was abused by the Mother Superior.

Silent Night, Deadly Night spawned an entire franchise of films, which encompassed four sequels (Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, Silent Night Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!, Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4, and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker) and a 2012 remake called Silent Night.

Extreme controversy surrounded the release of Silent Night, Deadly Night, specifically because of the film’s advertising campaign, which emphasized the killer being Santa Claus. The violent portrayal of the beloved character sparked boycotts and protests across the United States, leading to the suspension of the advertising campaign, and eventually the withdrawal of the movie from theaters just two weeks after its release.

Adding to the litany of issues with the film’s release, Silent Night Deadly Night also shared an opening weekend as Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, one of the most influential modern horror films.

Reportedly, a number of the more violent scenes in the movie were ghost directed by the film’s editor, Michael Spence, because director Charles E. Sellier Jr. wasn’t comfortable shooting the graphic sequences.

Silent Night, Deadly Night was initially created under the production title of Slayride, which is a pun which would be used years later in the comedy-horror film Santa’s Slay.

A number of other directors were reportedly considered to helm Silent Night, Deadly Night, including Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II, Drag Me To Hell, Army of Darkness, A Simple Plan, The Quick And The Dead, Darkman), Albert Magnoli (Purple Rain, Tango & Cash), and Ken Kwapis (The Larry Sanders Show, Malcolm In The Middle, The Bernie Mac Show, The Office).

Silent Night, Deadly Night bears some striking similarities to a number of previous horror movies that also featured killers dressed as Santa Claus, most notably Christmas Evil from 1980 and the Tales From The Crypt anthology film from 1972. However, neither of those films met with the same extreme backlash faced by Silent Night, Deadly Night.

In 2013, the horror publication Fangoria sponsored a re-release of Silent Night, Deadly Night in select theaters for the holiday season.

silentnightdeadlynight1Silent Night, Deadly Night was made on a production budget of just over $1 million, and grossed roughly $2.5 million in its brief theatrical run before being pulled. At least partially fueled by the boycotts and protests, critics were particularly cold in their receptions of the movie: Siskel and Ebert went so far as to publicly shame the production companies and the crew for their involvement with the movie. However, in part due to that response, Silent Night, Deadly Night is now cemented as a cult horror movie, and is a seasonal staple for many horror fans.

Personally, when it comes to Christmas-themed Santa Claus slasher movies, I’m a bigger fan of Christmas Evil than I am of Silent Night, Deadly Night. However, there are definitely some enjoyable aspects to Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the swirl of controversy that surrounded it essentially immortalized it for horror fans, and has made it essential viewing as a result. Beneath that, however, Silent Night, Deadly Night is just a pretty generic slasher that only has the Santa Claus gimmick to set it apart, and, as mentioned earlier, that was a path that had already been tread.  The flick has its place in movie history due to the protests and boycotts, which is the best reason to hunt it down and give it a watch each holiday season for horror fans. The fact that is has a fun, campy sensibility is lagniappe.

For more thoughts on Silent Night, Deadly Night, I recommend checking out the coverage by both The Cinema Snob and The Horror Guru.

Mixed Nuts

Mixed Nuts

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Today, I’m kicking off my holiday review season with 1994’s dark comedy, Mixed Nuts.

Mixed Nuts was co-written and directed by Nora Ephron, whose other credits include Julie & Julia, Michael, Sleepless In Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail. Her co-writer on the film was Delia Ephron, her sister and frequent screenplay collaborator, who also served as a producer.

mixednuts3The cinematographer on Mixed Nuts was Sven Nykvist, who also shot What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Persona, Chaplin, and Sleepless in Seattle, among many others.

The editor for the film was Robert Reitano, who also cut the movies The Juror, True Colors, My Blue Heaven, and Sleepless In Seattle.

The team of producers for Mixed Nuts included included Tony Thomas (The Golden Girls, Insomnia), James W. Skotchdopole (True Romance, Django: Unchained), Paul Junger Witt (Three Kings, Dead Poets Society), and Joseph Hartwick (Striptease).

mixednuts2The musical score for Mixed Nuts was composed by George Fenton, whose other credits include Groundhog Day, The Fisher King, Hitch, and You’ve Got Mail.

The significant cast of Mixed Nuts boasts the likes of Steve Martin (The Jerk, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Bowfinger, Sgt. Bilko), Madeline Kahn (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Clue), Robert Klein (Primary Colors, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days), Anthony LaPaglia (Empire Records, The Client), Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers, From Dusk Till Dawn), Rob Reiner (The Wolf of Wall Street, Primary Colors), Adam Sandler (Going Overboard, Jack & Jill, The Waterboy, Mr. Deeds, Pixels, Grown Ups), Parker Posey (The House of Yes, Josie & The Pussycats), Rita Wilson (Jingle All The Way, Auto Focus), Joley Fisher (The Mask), Steven Wright (Son of the Mask, Natural Born Killers), Haley Joel Osment (A.I., Tusk, The Sixth Sense), and both Jon Stewart (Death To Smoochy, The Faculty) and Liev Schreiber (Scream 3, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Sphere, Goon) in their first theatrical roles.

The plot of Mixed Nuts is summarized on IMDb as follows:

The events focus around a crisis hotline business on one crazy night during the Christmas holidays.

mixednuts4The production budget for Mixed Nuts was $15 million, on which it grossed only $6.8 million in its lifetime domestic theatrical release, making it a significant financial loss. Likewise, critics openly ripped into the movie, making for a Rotten Tomatoes aggregate score of 7%. Audiences were more charitable to the movie, but only slightly so: currently, it holds a Rotten Tomatoes audience aggregate score of 47%, along with an IMDb user rating of 5.3.

The sheer talent on display in Mixed Nuts is immense, which adds to how incredibly disappointing it is that the movie is so poorly constructed. While Steve Martin isn’t on top of his game here, Madeleine Kahn is fantastic, and Liev Shreiber, in spite of his character being somewhat poorly written, is a highlight of the movie. On the flip side, Adam Sandler is roughly as unbearable as he ever is in comedies.

The tone of Mixed Nuts is undoubtedly its central problem, and can best be described as incredibly bizarre. This is a rare film that tries to be both dark in its comedy and physically zany, with rapidly recited dialogue and physical comedy interspersed with incredibly dark themes and situations. This is a combination that has rarely, if ever, proven effective, as they two styles mix about as well as oil and water. The only example off the top of my head that pulled this off well is Death to Smoochy, which looks like a downright even-keeled feature next to Mixed Nuts, which is really saying something for a Robin Williams movie. Even then, there are plenty of critics who disagree, and vocally attacked that movie for the same reason.

On top of the odd tone, Mixed Nuts is also one of the strangest-paced movies I have ever seen. For most of the story, the dialogue and music moves at a frenetic, break-neck speed. However, it sputters at random points down to a crawl, then idles for a few minutes before hitting the gas again. The result is that the movie would have been uneasy to watch and follow, even if the tone and story hadn’t been massive issues.

Overall, there aren’t any particular redeeming values to Mixed Nuts if you ask me. I know that the movie has some die-hard fans out there, but I just don’t get it. Outside of a handful of performances that aren’t terrible, there isn’t anything fun going on here, and that’s coming from someone who usually enjoys dark comedies. Unless you happen to be a die hard Steve Martin fan or are desperate from an obscure comedy for your holiday watch list, I wouldn’t recommend digging up Mixed Nuts.

For more thoughts on Mixed Nuts, you can check out Janet Maslin’s coverage in the New York TImes, Roger Ebert’s review, or the combined video skewering by both Siskel & Ebert.