Friday, December 19, 2014


Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.


I am a day late. I apologize. These movies can be emotionally exhausting.

In this entry, we are returning to the world of Tom Cavanagh as Nick Snowden, the current Santa, and his bride, the Sexy Zookeeper, played by someone who was on HOW ABOUT MEETING YOUR MOM!?

I reviewed the original SNOW, and found it stupid but charming, with a cast that had fun chemistry. The leads and the Bad Guy are back for this one, but everyone else has changed. Instead of Sassy Black Kid we have Obnoxious White Pick-Pocket Kid, and instead of Sassy Old Couple, we have Wise Grampa, who is played by the dad from "227" (who was great). The plot is an amnesia story, with Santa Nick forgetting who he is, Bad Guy Game Hunter stealing shit from the North Pole, and Sandy the Zookeeper trying to get Nick to remember who he is in time for Christmas Eve. There are a lot of "rules" about how the Santa-magic works, explained by a weirdo (with the bizarre name of "Galfrid") who dresses like Rembrandt. The less said about Galfrid, the better.
In Modern Day Canada, sans jaunty Moustache
Wise Grampa is a member of the "Caribou Club", a secret society who, in years past, held a Christmas Eve Ball for Santa and his Wife, and kept the Secret of Santa among their Eldritch Ranks. They have a secret Meeting Hall that is a pretty rad art deco set, and we spend a good chunk of the movie watching everyone clean it up and cook turkeys. There's even a montage!

The set-up here is dumb, the way it plays out is ridiculous (and kind of dull), and most of the charm of the first one is swapped out for WACKY. Everyone is much, much "wackier". Cavanagh has gone from playing a good-natured loner with a weird streak, to what might be an all-out speed-freak, complete with tics and twitches and non-stop run-on dialogue. He's abrasive and bizarre. Santa takes a darker turn in the sequel.

Pick-pocket Kid is truly despicable. I know he's a child and everything, and you're supposed to give kids a pass in the holiday season, but I hated him. I wanted him to go to a juvenile detention facility and be put in solitary. I missed Sassy Black so much. That kid was funny, and had a great story arc with his mom that was actually really touching. This kid is just an asshole.

The end of the movie is the strangest part of all. After so much being made of the Rules of Santa-Magic, at the end, they all just get tossed for a quick wrap-up, and everything that was previously established is revealed as basically bullshit. Sandy the Zookeeper is supposed to bring him back with Love, but she totally fails, and then gets kidnapped. Pickpocket Kid and Wide Grandpa then break all the rules and Nick comes back in a weird fit of low-key nostalgia. It's wholly unsatisfying, and completely undermines the first 90 minutes. Finally, in a completely unearned and frankly insane capper, Nick's parents, the previous Santa and Mrs. Claus, come back from the dead for a few minuted to say "Hi". That's it, just "hello, your wife is hot", and then back to the Realm of the Departed. I was dumbfounded.

There's less CG flying animals this time around, and Buddy the Reindeer, from the first movie, gets some funny animal bits (seriously), but otherwise, there's not much to recommend about SNOW 2: BRAIN FREEZE. I would suggest KIDS IN THE HALL: BRAIN CANDY instead. Both have a subtitle with "brain" included, and more importantly, lots of Canadians.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.


Well this was some dogshit.

Tori Spelling is the worst, you guys.

I don't even know where to start with this one. It's vaguely a dopey Christmas riff on PITCH PERFECT, with rival singing groups, but the major difference is that that movie is great, and this is horrible. I didn't want to go into this project (where I watch a bunch of dumb movies) just shitting on everything. That was never my intention. I never wanted to hate a movie featuring the great Reginald Veljohnson, and I certainly never wanted to make fun of people for having no talent or being weird-looking. That's rude. But fuck Tori Spelling. She is absolutely awful, and her face is fucking creepy. This could have been a perfectly harmless larf about dummies doing dumb stuff at Christmas, but Tori Spelling had to show up. We're only four movies into this thing, people. Four Movies. And then this funky-looking, talentless bleach-job has to pop in and ruin my day by being the worst. I was really hoping to get to at least Day 6 before I had enormous regrets about this ridiculous project. No such luck.

THE MISTLE-TONES doesn't have a bad premise. It's not executed well, but the basic premise is just fine. The star is Tia Mowry (who was on a sitcom from my youth called SISTERS! SISTERS! SISTERS! SISTERS!) and she is actually perfectly entertaining. She plays someone who likes to sing, and works in an office, and is clearly a talented human who has been trained to be an inoffensive performer since birth. Apparently, the most important event in her town is a Christmas concert by the local signing group, the Snow Belles. She audition, but is nixed by Tori Spelling, playing an awful rich person who for some reason is really into this local Christmas-signing-thing. She is terrible. I can't stress this enough. She's trying to be funny, but is just so inherently unfunny that she comes across as some sort of robot who just can't quite time her responses to human conversation properly. I watched her and wondered why anyone would spend time in the same room as her, much less allow her to be in charge of a beloved holiday institution. Maybe they explained that at some point, but I spent most of the time she was speaking covering my ears in horror, the same way British children of the past hid behind couches when Daleks appeared on DOCTOR WHO.

Tia starts her own group, featuring nerds from her office, and to be fair, there's a lot of funny banter between them. They have a casual rapport and there's some actual gags here and there when they're together. At one point one of them suggests "SLED ZEPPELIN" as the name of their group, which made me laugh out loud, although it might just be that up that point, I was so upset by what I was watching, any levity was welcome and I overcompensated.

The actual plot concerns Tia blackmailing her uptight boss, a Secret Karaoke Master, into helping her group perfect their routine, so they can eventually beat out the Snow Belles in whatever competition they are engaged in. Reginald Veljohnson is around, sitting on a couch in every scene and dispensing the advice we all have come to expect from him. You can guess where it goes from here.

The biggest problem (aside from the general presence of Tori Spelling) is that this is a Musical, so we have Musical interludes. Lots of lip-syncing and dancing, and my god, it is awful. Spellings' main dance move is walking towards the camera while arhythmically swinging her hips, and she does this for most of the movie, as if in a loop. Whoever she is lip syncing to sounds nothing like her speaking voice, and it's so jarring I started to wonder how something so easy could go so wrong. Donald O'Connor lip-syncing to Debbie Reynolds in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was more natural. Tia Mowry can sing, but the song choices are completely dull and the arrangements are exactly what you'd expect from this type of cornball exercise. A lot of business is made of people dancing poorly (until the inevitable montage where they Get Good) and if you find nerds dancing in an awkard manner to be hilarious, then ignore everything I've said in this review. You will love it.

This movie is a perfectly fine half-hour Tia Mowry-vehicle sitcom. Unfortunately, it's a two hour musical co-starring Tori Spelling. That's all you need to know. F Minus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.


Hey, Tom Cavanagh! He's great!

Already this is not so bad. I mean, it's not good, but it's not totally painful.

We start with foxy Zookeeper Sandy, played by an actress I've never seen before, but my beautiful bride tells me that she apparently was a girlfriend to "Ted" on a show called HOW DID I MEET YOUR MOTHER? She's perfectly charming. No complaints.

Sandy lives in a boarding house with a sassy black child and a sassy elderly couple. She has some Christmas Sad that isn't ever quite explained, or if it was I missed it. Even though this movie wasn't offensively bad, it still went on way too long, and somewhere in the second hour it's possible I started putting dishes away. So far, three movies in, the one thing I'm noticing is that all of these movies are way too long. Too many subplots, too many wacky comedy set-pieces, too many third act arguments. I've never seen so much hung onto plots that offer so little.

Cut to the North Pole! Tom Cavanagh is apparently Santa Claus! But he's a normal Canadian guy named Nick. The whole premise, you see, is that Santa Claus is not the bastardized version of an orthodox Saint, but a genetic trait passed from father to son. So Nick is the latest Santa, and you have to swallow that to keep moving. A reindeer escapes, is shot with a tranquilizer by the Bad Guy, and "Nick" has to go to southern California to rescue him. And we're off!

We meet the Zoo Security guard, who is doing an admirable Barney Fife riff, the Bad Guy (whose deal is never quite explained; he's a big game hunter that also works at the zoo, I think?), and the bigger Bad Guy, who is the most ridiculous EVIL RICH GUY I've ever seen on film, complete with dastardly cackle and slow burn cigar lighting moves. He also looks so much like Larry Flynt that I had to check IMDB to make sure ABC Family hadn't cast the famous pornographer in a cameo. 

Tom Cavanagh is really great on THE FLASH, by the way. He took a character that could have been wildly stupid and made him work on so many levels. For my money, he's the best part of that show. In SNOW, he is much "wackier", but he has some very sweet chemistry with sassy black kid and foxy zookeeper. Hell, he has great chemistry with the rescued reindeer. There's a funny running gag about he is very concerned about all the kids he meets and if they are naughty or nice, which could have been creepy, stupid, or both, in anyone else's hands. The ending is telegraphed from minute one, but I am learning no one watches ABC Family for subverted expectations. This is in the "foxy girl learns to love oddball because Christmas" category.

There's a lot of wacky hijinx, and some "fish-out-of-water" silliness, but it all actually had me sold by the end, despite dragging in the middle. With any other cast, this nonsense would have been so flipping hokey as to be unwatchable. But the leads are great, and Tom Cavanagh puts the hard sell on some deeply dumb material. The supporting cast does a pretty job, and despite some dicey CG reindeer effects, there's way worse things to have playing in the background as you drink spiked eggnog, and bullshit with friends while unwrapping gifts.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.


This is a deeply weird movie.

At times, I wondered if it was some sort of TWILIGHT ZONE, twist-ending-on-the-way, horror/suspense jam. There are some very creepy performances and a bizarre supernatural element that never makes sense. It could very easily, with just a few cuts, be an ABC Family Halloween movie. It is a weird movie.

SNOWGLOBE stars Christina Milian, who is apparently a famous person. It takes place in "Brooklyn". Brooklyn, New York, is one of the largest population centers in the United States with a wide variety of cultures, neighborhoods, and flavors. The "Brooklyn" of SNOWGLOBE is a street with an apartment building and a butcher shop, and everyone talks like Carmela Soprano. Milian plays Angela, a super-fox who has trouble dating (putting this squarely in the "super-fox can't find a guy until the magic of Christmas brings her a hunk" category of bad holiday movies). She works in the family deli, and her family and friends are always trying to set her up with men, because despite being a total dime, she can't find a date. I think? It's never clear what the problem is. She resents always being set up, but also seems bummed out that she's alone. I suppose like Walt Whitman she contains multitudes, and contradicts herself.

Milian has one of the worst fake accents I've ever heard on television, right up there with almost everyone on NASHVILLE. She is from a wildly stereotypical Italian family, complete with "grandma's lasagna recipe", dudes in track suits, and an astonishing amount of time spent watching the Giants. (Seriously, there is an entire subplot about her brother-in-law watching too much football.) They stop short of shouting 'HEY MA, PASS DA GRAVY FOR DIS MACARONI!" while they chomp spaghetti in undershirts, but it comes really close.

Her mother is played by Dr. Melfi herself, the great Lorraine Bracco, cashing a paycheck with gusto. Her father is a black man, who inexplicably behaves just like the rest of the Italian stereotypes, despite mentioning in a bit of ham-fisted exposition that he was raised in Cuba. This bit of cognitive dissonance led my bride (of New York Italian stock) to wonder aloud, "Why is this elderly black guy acting like such a gindaloon?" I did not have the answer for her.

To try and summarize this movie would make my brain (and myheart) ache, so I will try and wrap it up as quickly as I can. Milian loves Christmas (we know this because she wraps up salami in a package with a bow in the first scene) but she loves a particularly ethnic type of Christmas exclusively. That ethnicity would be WASP. She wants Christmas that involves Edwardian street scenes, and white people in sweaters and ear-muffs. She wants a "white" Christmas, with all that that implies. It's gross.

After getting angry with her family because they want to have meals with her, and keep trying to set her up with attractive, successful, nice guys (yes, that makes her angry), she enters a magical world inside a mysterious snowglobe, where everyone is lily white and it looks like a Norman Rockwell Christmas village, if Norman Rockwell was a member of the Aryan Nation. So she wanders around, smiling and giggling, and then comes the fish-out-of-water material, as everyone stares at her, with mouths agape. They've clearly never seen her brand of perfect mocha skin before, or heard her particular brand of fake Brooklyn accent. Milian loves it there anyway, and falls for a guy in the snowglobe, whose only personality trait is that he smiles like a lunatic.

This guy is played by Matt Keeslar, who does the best he can with what he's given. Keeslar is a fine comedic actor, and he's been in some pretty good stuff here and there, but he's rocking the absurdist comedy chops while everyone else is playing it basically straight. He elevates his material quite a bit, but in the grand scheme it's like trying to kick yourself out of quicksand; you just sink faster in the surrounding muck. Why and how Milian falls for him never makes any sense, it just happens. She spends a lot of time in Snowglobe World, neglecting her family and job, until one day, Keeslar follows her out into Brooklyn. Then comes the next round of fish-out-of-water material. Keeslar gets shown around NYC by the guy Milian will eventually end up with, that nice guy down the hall who her family wants her to bone.

It gets increasingly stupid after this point, and there's lots of metaphysical question marks about the parallel realities at play while she is trapped in snowglobe land. Eventually, the creepy mailman who delivered the snowglobe in the first place returns with another snowglobe and snowglobe snowglobe snowglobe, everyone snowglobes back where they belong, thanks to snowglobes.

My wife pointed out that this movie implies that everyone in it is stuck in their own cosmic snowglobe, and she's right. That's exactly what this movie says. It's existentially terrifying. However, the strangest thing about the story isn't the alternate dimensions that exist in snowglobes, it's Matt Keeslar's character. He's like a robot that can only shovel snow and ice skate, only thinks about Christmas trees, and when Milian slips into a sexy outfit to seduce him, he falls alseep. This was easily the best part of the movie, and he fell asleep before they could get down. It made me so mad. She is so foxy.

By the end, Milian is glad to be back with her family of stereotypes, they stuff a turkey with lasagna (not kidding), and she opens a Christmas-themed store, which apparently was her dream all along, I guess. And she bones the guy down the hall. HOORAY!

In short: This movie makes no sense, has like two funny lines, and Milian is a total fox.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.


Set in Boston and starring Laura Vandervoort, this falls into the "Corporate Person Learns Money Isn't What Christmas Is About" category. Vandervoort is an up and coming executive at the South Boston Mall (the center of this movie's universe). She dresses for success, but is secretly poor. Or something. It's never really all that clear.

The basic idea here is that in her desperate quest to climb that old corporate ladder, she creates a "SEXY SANTA" contest, because women in their twenties and bored housewives do the majority of Christmas shopping. (This is actually something she says; market research and whatnot.) Apparently, there's nothing women enjoy more than howling at muscular male models in public, because once the contest begins, there's a lot of that in this movie. We meet Vandervoort's sassy and horny assistant, the two fussy gay guys that pick her clothes, and the guy who makes her coffee. She always goes right to the front of the line and he has her specialty coffee ready to go, because as the Mall Marketing Director she's too busy to wait, and also she's an asshole.

The coffee line is the localtion of our "meet cute", where a beefcake gets mad that she doesn't wait in line with the rest of the plebes. She gets sassy, beefcake accuses her of being a rich girl, and they both act like jerks. Adorable! Naturally, this hunk is there for Sexy Santa contest, which promises to be oh-so awkward when they both realize what's up. There's a twist, however... it's not awkward at all! Everyone loves the hunk and despite Vandervoort trying to sabotage his chances of winning, he charms the judges by doing a "dance routine" he "memorized", which is the laziest bot of ballroom dancing yet captured on film.

The actual quest for the Sexy Santa is over pretty quick, which is a bummer, because I was hoping the whole movie would be Vandervoort, her horny assistant, the two gays, and Random Local Celebrity judging all the hunks. Watching them go through head-shots and crack wise about the contestants was a jaw-dropping display, and I never wanted it to end.

As it turns out, the Hunk is trying to win money so his family's Italian restaurant won't be closed by new zoning regulations, or something. It's very specific and very vague, simultaneously. The point is, he's basically an all-around perfect dude. Handsome, good with kids, nice, and sacrificing his Christmas (and pride) to be a sexy Santa so he can help save the family business. If it wasn't clear enough that he is Mr. Perfect, his sister repeatedly talks about how gorgeous and great he is. WE GET IT.

Vandervoort, on the other hand, is a complicated character. She's the star, and I think we are supposed to be rooting for her, but she swings so wildly between "struggling, good-intentioned worker bee" and "cold-hearted, mercenary yuppie scum" that it's impossible to sympathize with her, or even understand her motivations from scene to scene. I think she was on SMALLVILLE, and was basically terrible. She's pretty good here; she's charming enough and clearly is better at playing a normal human than a Kryptonian, but her character, as written, is all over the place. Watching her fire the old mall Santa, with zero remorse, is hard to come back from. It's Bill Murray in SCROOGED, except we're also supposed to admire her for doing what's best for the mall? This movie asks a lot when it comes to this character. She's a total asshole half the time, but she has a good heart, I guess? It's baffling.

You can guess how it plays out from there. There's a corporate subplot, and a lot of time is spent on the fate of the restaurant, and I think the hunk has another girl that falls for him? It gets pretty boring, although there is a scene where Luigi (the Hunk's dad, probably not named Luigi, but he's as stereotypical an Italian dad as ever there was) teaches Vandervoort how to toss a pizza pie dough, and it lands on her face and wacky music plays. There you go. That happens.

That's all you need to know.

Monday, September 1, 2014


I turned 12 the summer of 1988, which I guess that means I am a child of the '80s, but what it really means (important for this article) is that I was a teenager of the '90s. My puberty coincided with a nice sea change in pop culture, when it was okay for a lovely young leading lady to be dressed like this in a major motion picture...
... as opposed to this ...

And so it was that Pop Culture and the many interests of my brain conspired with my genitals, and gave me a variety of crushes to occupy my guts. I loved punk rock, science fiction and fantasy, and dark comedy. I read about the Illuminati, haunted hotels, and demihumans wielding swords, and watched religiously anything that involved sketch comedy or superheroes. Comic books and role-playing games ruled everything around me.

These were the things that consumed my brain-space, and as such the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue held no sway. I could care less about Madonna, or Daisy Duke, or the ladies of 90210, or whatever else was jumpstarting the average American male libido in the late 1980s. What follows are the crushes that grabbed me by the heartstrings and made me blush as a youth.

SURFER ROSA was released in 1988. I don't know if I owned it right then and there, but I definitely remember purchasing it on cassette while bumming a ride to the mall, one town over, with some older friends, at some point in my junior high days. I guess everyone had a crush on Kim Deal. It was a thing.

I remember this movie being mostly terrible with a pretty good soundtrack. For dudes like myself, she was basically the Platonic Ideal of the perfect girlfriend. That bobbed haircut with bangs that she had was a really popular item among girls who liked Einst├╝rzende Neubauten in 1990, right? 

She was all surly and sassy and while not goth, per say, she certainly dressed in some somber tones and had a morbid attitude. I remember she wore a lot of sweaters with tights/skirts/flats, tights/skirts/boots combos in that movie. That was a good look. That's still a good look.

This is such a classic I don't know that it even needs to be mentioned. The best thing about Susanna Hoffs is that she is still absolutely crush-worthy. Dig this.

She will still be crush-worthy when we are all dead and gone to the cold cold grave. She is an epic-level crush for the ages. She is from Olympus.

This movie came out in 1984, so I imagine I saw it on video at some point in my early adolescence, likely rentedin  one of those big "clamshell" cases where the corners and edges got all dusty and you couldn't ever clean them properly. She was cute as the dickens and a quick google search tells us that she went on to do a lot of STAR TREK work. I APPROVE.

Honestly, she wasn't much of a character, just a cute face to make Piggy jealous. But she wore a pretty awesome baggy flannel shirt, in the one scene where she wasn't dressed like Alice from THE BRADY BUNCH. Or Alice from ALICE.

I don't think enough is said about how awesome Kirstie Alley is in this movie. So much more needs to be said. It deserves a WHEEL OF TIME length dissertation. She is PHENOMENAL.

She went on to be super foxy on CHEERS, and in a handful of movies, but she really did the most damage on the bridge of the Enterprise. Rewatching this movie as an adult person, I notice that there's an entire running theme about how all the old dudes of the crew lust after her, like old leches. And rightly so... she's spectacular.

I don't even know where to start with this one.

I have no idea why I saw this movie when I did; I guess my mom thought it was a costume drama of the literary ilk, and I suppose it is. But where my mom was incorrect was in assuming that people in powdered wigs had no interest in non-stop fucking. So this movie probably seemed like a boring costume drama, when in fact it was a boring costume drama with John Malkovich and bare boobies.

My high school theater teacher was a cruel, entitled piece of filth; the type of guy who wore turtlenecks under oxfords and had hair that was just shaggy enough to say "I like the Grateful dead, but I also grew up going to expensive New England prep schools". He was a never-was of the highest order, and his raging bitterness snuck out here and there. For example,  when I mentioned how great John Malkovich was in this movie, he spat back "Anyone working on Uma Thurman is going to work pretty fucking hard."

Despite that bizarre review of the film, I thought it was quite awesome, with everyone involved dropping some great performances. Uma's role in particular required a startling character arc, and her stellar mix of naivety, innocence, and lust, mixed with a perfect body (a PERFECT body), and eyes that stared right through your sad, pale pre-adolecent husk of a body... it 's almost too much to handle. This movie may have started her on the path to being a huge star, but in my opinion, she never topped this one. Beyond all of that, this movie appeared before my eyes at just the right time to make me fall for these wishes on the wall, as the song says.

So there it is. The greatest of ladies from the late 1980s. According to my puberty. Puberty crushes are awesome.

Friday, August 15, 2014


beatniks ruined everything

Living in Brooklyn, as I do, one is surrounded by coffee shops. They all tend to blend into one entity, spread across blocks like identical spores from the same fungus. There are the same mismatched dishes, trays of artisanal pastries, and jars of loose tea. A clone of the same slightly overweight, bearded, greasy indie rock fan is always making bagels and sandwiches behind the counter. However variety does exist in the details. Two shops that look like twins sitting on opposite sides of the same block can have wildly different personalities, or at the very least, one will have less sticky tabletops than the other. People get attached to their favorite coffee shops and they become an important part of your daily routine.

I don't care. Complaining about coffee shops is cathartic. It is worthwhile. It is awesome.

(This post was written in 2011.)