Monday, December 28, 2009

My Christmas Time In Movies Part 2

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas (1999) [NR] In my opinion, one of the most overlooked Christmas movies of the season. This theatrical worthy direct-to-DVD movie is made up of three short stories each with a Christmas theme and all staring the cast of major Disney animated characters. The first story is a take-off on the Groundhog Dog idea and Huey, Dewey, and Louie end up having to celebrate Christmas day over and over again. In the middle segment, Goofy tries to prove to his son Max that Santy Claus really does exist. And finally, Mickey and Minnie star in their own version of O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi.

While this movie is brief, clocking in at just around an hour, it is a beautifully animated film considering the direct-to-DVD budget this project must have had. The film does not have the obnoxious fast and furious pace that so many animated movies do. There are several moments in the film where the soundtrack is nothing more than the characters talking. And the characters are actually given some mature roles to carry. As dumb as this might sound...and adding to the fact that these cartoon characters are in their 70' actually come away from this picture feeling like you know these beloved characters a little better. The Goofy segment in particular is filled with some emotional moments that really humanize the Goofy character. I always enjoy when cartoon characters are treated in a mature manor, and Once Upon A Christmas does a good job of giving Mickey and the gang more to do than run around and get hit with pies.

Ernest Saves Christmas (1989) [PG] If I haven't already decided it before, I think it's official this year that Ernest Saves Christmas (the 2nd of 9 Ernest movies) is my absolute favorite Christmas movie. It's such a well done movie with so many great little touches and a heart warming Christmasey story that I can't think of a Christmas flick I love more!

In this comedy, Santa arrives in Orlando, Florida to find his replacement. Upon his arrival at the airport, Santa meets up with cab driver Ernest. Ernest ends up getting involved in helping Santa find the new guy for the job. As I've said on numerous occasions, and I'll say it again: When you mix Ernest P. Worrell with a holiday only good things can happen! This film has it's heart in such the right place that I don't know how anyone could watch it and not at least crack a smile. And the best part about it, as with all the Ernest films, there is absolutely nothing objectionable for the kids to see. It's a great family picture. I was excited to share it with my kids this year. At first they didn't know what to make of Ernest, and let's face it - most people don't, but before long they were laughing along with this fine holiday classic!

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) [PG] Oh...this movie is sooooo bad! This entire movie feels like such a giant poop on the grave of poor ol' Dr. Seuss. He would have hated this movie! The original animated television special of this story was the only filmed adaptation of Seuss' work that he liked - and that had to be, in part, that it stuck so closely to the book. But this live action offering adds so much unnecessary, boring, pointless shenanigans to the Grinch tale that it's just painful to watch. Jim Carey is funny as the Grinch, and he has a few really good moments but when you watch this film you gotta be wondering if everybody involved thought they were making a good movie. Seriously folks, given the choice between this movie and a sea-sick crocodile...I'd take the sea-sick crocodile!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Sweden They Do Christmas Right

My friend Andy pointed me to this very interesting article about Donald Duck and his major role in Sweden's Christmas traditions. The article is called Nordic Quack: Sweden's Bizarre Tradition of Watching Donald Duck Cartoons on Christmas Eve. Apparently, every year on Christmas Eve the country comes to a stand still so that everybody can watch a telecast of a 1959 Christmas themed episode of Wonderful World of Disney. If you ask me, that's the way to celebrate any holiday! Read the article for all the details of this neat custom that is a sacred tradition with families in Sweden.

As a die-hard Disney fan, I was surprised that I had never heard of this ritual. I was so intrigued by it that I actually went searching on line and found a few photos related to the tradition...

Here's an authentic Swedish family sitting down at 3:00pm to watch the annual airing of Sverige, Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul.

Every year a different actor plays the role of Walt Disney and introduces the show. It's nice that even though Sweden has only had television since the late 50's they too have upgraded their broadcast system to HD.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Ghosts of Christmas Awesome

Perhaps you caught the classic Christmas special Christmas Comes to Pac-Land on TV this weekend! No? Oh well! But check out this way cool Pac-Man flavored X-Mas tree that some chomp loving folks put together. If you wanna see it yourself you'll have to fly to Madrid...ya know, in Spain. But it's pretty darn cool, don't ya think!? After all, Pac-Man is the international sign of peace, love and Christmas cheer!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Classic Commercial Sunday - Christmas Shopping

Why do I love old department store commercials...?

This video is extra long for all of you snowed in this weekend...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Christmas Time in Movies

I actually hadn't watched a whole lot of movies in the weeks after I got out of the hospital. As a result, the "My Week In Movies" feature hasn't appeared in a few weeks. Then in the last week or so I started picking up the pace and getting into the holiday spirit with a handful of films. I though I'd wrap up my holiday film reviews in this post and I'll cover some of the other films I've seen at a later date.

Prancer (1989) [G] I've always felt like this was my own little discovery in the world of Christmas movies. During it's initial release it got lost in the shuffle competing with The Little Mermaid. I saw it on video the following year and really enjoyed it. It's the story of a little girl who finds a lost injured reindeer which she believes is Santa's. It's a nice simple sweet story that I've always enjoyed. In 1989, who could remember the last time a live-action, non-Disney movie came out that was rated G!? I showed it to my kids the other night. Tanner fell asleep during the FBI warning. Elias was very interested in the story and really liked it, but he wouldn't fully admit that he was into it because it didn't have any superheroes or any bad guys.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) [NR] I didn't grow up watching this every year like so many other people have. In fact, I saw it for the first time last year. I really liked it, again enjoying the simplicity and sweetness of the story. It's also cool to see a film which is so mature (and maybe even sophisticated) with the basic theme of believing in Santa Claus. As with so many other films from the black and white days, Miracle is filled with wonderful performances from both the main cast and so much of the supporting cast. The new DVD and Blue-Ray release of this film contain both the original black and white version and a colorized version. I assume that the colorization process has been improved in the years since Ted Turner went crazy with his Color Machine, but didn't we as a nation decide shortly after the process began that colorizing old movies was something that just wasn't in the best interest of anyone!?

Elf (2003) [PG] I know to alot of people this is required holiday viewing each year. I was a bit disappointed when I saw Elf in the theatre six years ago, and watching it again for the first time since I have to say it's still not a really good movie. As with almost any Will Ferrell flick - there are at least a few parts where I laughed out loud...quite hard I admit. But overall, this holiday film just doesn't do it for me. I wanted the kids to see it because I thought they'd enjoy it and they did giggle and laugh at most of it. For me, this film's crowning achievement is the casting of Bob Newhart as Papa Elf. Hopefully it will be at least another six years before I get the holiday urge to see Elf again.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)[PG-13] I'm a huge fan of the Vacation films. It makes me feel old to realize that this holiday classic is celebrating it's 20th Anniversary this year. I can vividly remember winning tickets on the radio to a preview screening and can remember sitting in the theatre and just laughing myself silly along with everyone else. Perhaps this movie is the Christmas classic that it is because it was the first Christmas movie with a little edgier and darker humor. Anywho, I was a little disappointed when I discovered that my DVD of Christmas Vacation was not widescreen. Then I was more bummed when I checked my other Vacation DVDs and my copy of the original 1982 movie is also not in widescreen. How longer must I live in the dark ages! Heck, I don't even have a DVD of Vegas Vacation...I still have the VHS. Quickly, I added The Ultimate Vacation Collection 4-DVD set to my list for Santa. If you wanna watch Christmas Vacation filled with commercials and slightly edited - AMC is running it almost every day this month!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Early 80's Christmas Wishes

I should probably pay my mom some kind of finders fee for all the stuff she digs up in the far recesses of her home and passes on to me for fodder for this blog. Sometime ago she came across some Christmas lists that my brother and I had written to Santa Claus almost 30 years ago. (That doesn't make me feel old!) This first one is mine from 1980...

Not only did I indeed get the Charlie Brown record listed in the #1 spot, I still have the record. In fact, it's sitting on the shelf no more than 10 feet from where I'm sitting now. Good times! (I can still recite the whole thing for you if you like!) As you may know, I have a pretty good memory of my childhood and I know somewhere along the line we had a drum set and a Lite-Bright...but other than those three things I'm pretty sure not a single other item on the front of this list ever made it under my tree. There are four more items on the back side of this list (which I didn't bother to scan) and it does list a Star Wars Twin-Pod Car which I do remember having.

The next list is from the following year, 1981...

I did like me some records back in the day! Pink Panther Party Time & Smurfs All-Star Show were two records that Santa did leave for me in 1981! Sadly, both of those records have not survived over the years and that's a shame because I'd love to hear the Smurfs album again. (I'm a pink're a blue toothbrush...) If I recall correctly, my brother got the Dukes of Hazzard Etch-a-Sketch set which were little plastic sheets you put over the Etch-a-Sketch screen and play games with. I'm pretty sure I ended up getting the Smurfs set, which was just as good I'm sure. Both years I asked Santa for a Mighty Mouse Punching Bag. I'm gonna assume I saw that in a Sears catalog or maybe a TV commercial because it's kind of random...but the bottom line is I never got one. I love me some Mighty Mouse though!

Who knows!? Maybe I did get some things that I just don't remember but either way we always had fun on Christmas morning and I have plenty of warm, fuzzy memories that I hope I'm creating for my children now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12 Muppets Singing

In my opinion, the best Christmas album of all time has got to be John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together from 1979. The album was accompanied by a television special the same year. The TV show has never been released on VHS or DVD. Here's a clip from the rare program featuring John Denver and The Muppets singing The Twelve Days Of Christmas. Even if you're not a Muppets fan, you've heard this song dozens of times on the radio. This TV performance features the Muppets assigned to different lines of the song than the version that appeared on the original LP. No need to worry...Miss Piggy still does Five Golden Rings:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ernest Plugs Christmas

One of my very favorite Christmas movies is Ernest Saves Christmas from 1989. You usually don't have trouble finding it somewhere on TV every weekend in December. Here's a cool TV ad for the film, which doesn't feature any clips from the movie just Ernest doing what he does best: selling directly to Vern...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Classic Commercial Sunday - Spicy Christmas

This isn't really a classic but here's a neat advert for a British (I assume) chain of department stores. It stars the reunited Spice Girls, who at the time of this commercial had just gotten back together for a world wide reunion tour. (I went...and it was awesome!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Letters to Santa

There's not many nice things I can say about the goshforsaken little town that we live in, but one nice thing that they do every year is have a little cabin in the town square where Santa visits with children every night of the holiday season. Sure, you could drive three more blocks up the road and visit Santa in the warm mall but there's something nice and cozy about seeing St. Nick in his own little Christmas cottage. Also, at the mall they don't let you take your own pictures of your own children with Santa (which should be a crime!) and at the cabin, even though you can buy a photo package with can snap as many pictures as you like.

Anywho, the kids get a much bigger kick out of seeing Santa in his cabin than at the mall. This year I was very proud of my boys as they both wrote their own letters to Santa Claus.

Three months ago you couldn't even get Elias to write his name without wanting to put the pencil down immediately. Nowadays he spends half his free time writing words anywhere he can find the space. His favorite thing to do is grab a DVD or Wii game case and copy down the title or description. He did a good job on his letter to Santa...the scanner chopped off the right hand side of his letter.

Tanner is not even learning handwriting in school yet, but he's learned quite a bit from watching his big brother. He doesn't understand any of the structure or formatting of writing but he's got all his letters down pretty nicely. He didn't write out a list for Santa, instead he just wrote the big guy a nice greeting. He was very proud to read it to Santa. Tanner also thought it was funny to spell "We" as "Wii" instead...thanks Nintendo!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wii Wish You A Merry Christmas

I've been a little preoccupied lately with my 13 doctors appointments a week, but I wanted to tell ya'll about a great new game that's out for the Wii. Now if you're a hard core gamer or someone who likes a real challenging video game - this is not the title for you, but if you've got kids - especially younger ones - We Wish You A Merry Christmas will probably be a big hit with your family. This fun little title creatively gets everyone in the holiday spirit. It's essentially another mini-game collection tied together by a common theme but there are some nice touches here that separate this game from the pack. There's no ultimate objective in this disc except to have fun and get in a Christmas mood.

When the game starts up you'll find yourself in a warm and cozy living room all decked out for Christmas. There's a roaring fire, a Christmas tree, and even a radio playing Christmas carols. In one section of the room, you'll find the disc's game collection. There are six different games that can be accessed, each one a slight variation on a classic video game. Deck The Halls is a puzzle game where you match 3 ornaments of the same kind on a moving grid. Hot Chocolate has players taking and filling drink orders for thirsty elves. Candy Cane Lanes is almost identical to the bowling game in Wii Sports except with a Christmas overlay and elves instead of bowling pins. In Santa's Sleigh you'll catch and deliver presents to homes on Christmas eve. Present Catch is a clever updated version of Pong and Reindeer Games (my favorite, and pictured below) lets you fly a reindeer high into the sky. The games are all easy but also addictively fun to play and can be enjoyed by even the smallest members of the house.

In addition to the games there are also a few activities. There's a place to write an electronic letter to Santa, a sticker book for creating various Christmas scenes, and Elf Hunt which is a fairly elaborate version of one of those Look and Find Books neatly adapted to the Wii. Back in the living room area of the game you can actually go in and decorate the Christmas tree, throw logs onto the fire and roast marshmallows and tune the radio to your favorite Christmas song.

I think the neatest feature of We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and the one that gives the game it's most value, is the Advent Calendar. Sitting on top of the virtual fireplace is a traditional looking Advent Calendar. Each day between December 1 and December 25 when you turn the game on you can open another door of the advent calendar and you'll get a surprise. My kids LOVE this! Everyday they can't wait to find what they'll unlock next. So far the kids have been treated to extra ornaments for the tree, new pages and stickers for the sticker book, bonus games of Elf Hunt, and even some Magic Sparkles which change the color of the fire in the fireplace. It all sounds so simple and not like something that kids who are used to using the Wii to fight the Joker or destroy the Death Star would even be interested in but when they unlock new ornaments they can't wait to zap on over to the tree and hang them. It's been a fun addition to our holiday season this year!
You should be able to find We Wish You A Merry Christmas tucked away among the more popular video games at your local game slinging establishment for about $20 bucks. It's some wholesome family entertainment and a unique way to get the kids pumped for December 25.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rudolph's First Flight

Here's a print ad for the original airing of the classic Christmas special Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was first broadcast on NBC December 6, 1964 as the General Electric Fantasy Hour and has been shown on television every year since! (click to enlarge)

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