Month: December 2015

8 Alternative Christmas Films

Christmas is soon upon us, and we now find ourselves knee-deep in holiday specials. But if you find The Sound of MusicToy Story, and Harry Potter unfathomable (having a Christmas scene does not a Christmas movie make), ABC Family and Hallmark nauseating (hear, hear!), and the traditional fare boring (looking at you, Die Hard), I have a bevy of weird and alternative titles at the ready.

  • The Silent Partner (1978)
    Elliott Gould tries to stop a bank robbery planned by the mall’s Santa and played by Christopher Plummer. I present a clip below in my effort to make this one in a classic. (Amazon Video)
  • Reindeer Games (2000)
    Dennis Farina, Gary Sinise, Ben Affleck, Isaac Hayes, and Danny Trejo are among the cast in this explosion-filled film featuring a group of santas robbing a casino. (Amazon Video)
  • The Tower (2012)
    I’ll let IMDb handle this one succinctly:”A Christmas Eve party at a luxury residential building takes a horrific turn when a fire breaks out.” (Amazon Video)
  • Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
    In this Finnish film, the true Santa is excavated from his icy grave and proves to be less saintly than believed. (free on Amazon Video with a Tribeca Shortlist subscription)
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1965)
    This science fiction comedy is a classic in its own right, thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000. (Amazon Video, Hulu)
  • Santa Claus (“Santa Claus vs The Devil”) (1959)
    Rated with even less prestige than …the Martians, Santa fights the devil with the aid of the wizard Merlin. (Amazon Video, Internet Archive, and occasionally TCM)
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
    Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer star in this under-the-radar noirish comedy which has since inspired a quiet, cult following and fanfic. RDJ is a petty thief who unwittingly poses as an actor auditioning for a role and is paired with Kilmer’s private investigator as he investigates a possible suicide. (Amazon Video)
  • Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
    The least weird of the bunch, except that it stars Dudley Moore as a kind, then scheming, then conciliatory elf. Nevertheless, my sisters were forced to watch this in the Crying Room of the theater, and never let me forget it, so I would be remiss to leave out my first film.

What to Watch: 12/18/2015

Billboard honors women in music, magic is found in that old felt hat, and Joel McHale ends his run as the fourth host of The Soup as the quirky reality highlight show wends to its inexplicable end (presumably so E! can katch up to yet more Kardashians).

NAVANI’S PICK:
Billboard Women in Music 2015 [Lifetime, 8pm]
This serves as the ultimate year-end top list honoring the most successful women in all facets of the music industry during a swanky New York City event complete with performances. This year’s honorees include:  Lady Gaga, Loretta Lynn, Brittany Howard, Selena Gomez, Lana Del Rey, Fifth Harmony, Demi Lovato and Kelsea Ballerini.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Frosty the Snowman [ABC, 8p]
The animated classic is followed by Frosty Returns at 8:30.

JASON’S PICK:
The Soup [E!, 10p]
After two decades and four hosts (yes, I know technically they were two different shows, but let’s be real), The Soup ends its reign of terror over the dregs of reality. And James Van der Beek is there!

What to Watch: 12/17/2015

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The return of the conquering Idris, and a day of OFF leads our editors’ picks for this Thursday.

NAVANI’S CHOICE:
Luther [BBC, 9p]
Our favorite dysfunctional cop is back and in this season premiere we find him trying to try to live on the straight and narrow. After losing Ripley, Luther wants to live a nice, quiet normal life with his boo – one sans finding dead people bleeding through the ceiling and such. Seems like an easy enough plan until the streets of London start a calling again.

JASON’S PICK:
Luther [BBC, 9p]
Couldn’t agree more. Luther’s back and off the force in Season 4…so, now what?

KATHERINE’S PICK:
The Simpsons [FX, All Day]
This is the one night a week FX airs hours and hours of America’s First Family.

What to Watch: 12/16/2015

It’s rather slim pickings as we wend our way towards yuletide; however, what our editors do uncover lies more on the naughty side of Santa’s ledger. There’s a definite theme of bad people doing bad deeds. Well, see below.

JASON’S PICK:
American Horror Story: Hotel [FX, 10p]
In last week’s episode title she wanted revenge, and in this week’s she gets revenge — and whatever Gaga wants, Gaga gets, and given that it’s the holidays and a three-week pause, the payback will likely be colorful (mainly blood-red) and given the show, glamorously gory. AHS has been its usual ridiculous this fifth season, but still is one hell of a palate to gaze upon.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Bad Santa [MTV, 8p]
Holidays are not complete without watching this crude, unlikely Christmas classic that revolves around Billy Bob Thonton as a boozy con artist who steals from the stores he works as Santa in. Bonus points for the nostalgia of seeing Bernie Mac and John Ritter again.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
What Would You Do? [A&E, 11p]
Nothing restores my faith like people ganging up on a meanie harassing a woman at a bar.

What to Watch: 12/15/2015

While the Walking Dead continue to march ever onward on CNN, we recommend keeping your sanity with stories of a late salsa superstar, a legendary newscaster with a child’s eye, along with a challenge of what would you do when hatred, bigotry, antiquated notions rear their ugly head in public (no, not a second reference to the Republican debate)…

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Hello, I Must Be Going: 25 Years of Nick News with Linda Ellerbee [Nick, 8p]
Linda Ellerbee, the woman who taughts me the 5Ws, is retiring. Tonight’s Nick News finale is a look back at Ellerbee’s glorious 25 years in Nick News journalism.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Celia [Telemundo, 8pm]
While the Republican Presidential Debate puts the kabosh on most primetime programming it’s business as usual on Telelmundo, where the musical journey of Salsa superstar Celia Cruz continues now the midst of the Cuban revolution.

JASON’S PICK:
What Would You Do? [A&E, 11p]
John Quinones and crew travel to lands that are about a half century behind (apparently) as they test out reactions when an interracial couple is harassed and when a boy’s father teases him for buying a doll. While we’re certain YOU’D do the right thing, let’s see what the people at these actual locations do.

 

Season’s Greetings: Five Holiday Swap Movies to Binge

‘Tis the season for warm and fuzzy movies, mistletoe magic and of course, questioning everything in your life. It’s those quiet moments during the holidays that make you take stock of your choices and wonder what if? Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to debate a decision you made in high school, why not watch holiday movies that do it for you? Because sometimes we all need reminding that the grass is not always greener on other pastures, especially after hitting the eggnog pretty hard. Here are my top picks for infamous holiday switch movies.

Scrooged
Scrooged [Netflix]
Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is crude, selfish and mean. He’s worked his way up from the mail room to be a fancy TV executive, sacrificing everything to get to the top including the love of his life. When Christmas Eve antics get a little out of hand at work he has three ghastly visitors in true Charles Dickens fashion who scare him straight.

The Family Man
The Family Man [Amazon Video, Google Play]
In another men-obsessed-with-success film Nicholas Cage stars as Jack Campbell, rich investment-banker bachelor who believes all he needs in life is his sports car. He gets a chance to see what is missing when he wakes up married, alongside the college sweetheart he left behind (a pre-Madam Secretary Tea Leoni). Will Jack trade in the sports car and corner office for ugly Christmas sweaters and a minivan? How did he get lucky enough to have Don Cheadle play his Christmas switch angel?? So many questions.

trading places 2
Trading Places [Netflix]
Instead of being switched by some sort of Christmas magic, two men’s lives are swapped as part of a bet between upper crust broker brothers Mortimar and Randy Duke. Apparently, this is what rich people do for fun. They frame wealthy Wall Street commodities broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Akroyd) and replace him with a street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) to see how the two fare in different environments. The social experiment blows up in their faces when Louis and Billy Ray join forces and conspire against the Dukes on the trading floor in a play that I still hardly understand. Highlights include Dan Akroyd as a drunk santa and Eddie Murphy’s infectious laugh.

KristinsChristmasPastLifetime5
Last Chance Christmas Kristin’s Christmas Past [Lifetime, Amazon Video]
Super sassy music publicist Kristin (Shiri Abbleby) is happily estranged from her family until her BFF gets a girlfriend and can’t keep her company on Christmas anymore. She goes to sleep sad and alone only to wake up back in time to the eve of her worst Christmas ever. She quickly takes the opportunity to guide her 17-year-old self to make some different choices in hopes of fixing her future.

holiday switch
Holiday Switch [Lifetime, Amazon Video]
Poor Paula is having a case of the-one-that-got-away when her high school ex rolls back into town for the holidays. As a mom of two pouring over a stack of bills right before Christmas she wonders how life might have been if she chose the rich business man instead of her adorbs blue-collar husband. So, she does what any self-respecting woman would do: travels to an alternate universe via the clothes dryer. On the other side of perm press she finds herself rich and pampered with her new mate but soon figures out money doesn’t buy happiness or even fidelity.

What to Watch: 12/14/2015

As the action collects into many final showdowns in the closer to Fargo’s excellent season two, you might be wise to take the edge off and celebrate baby’s first Christmas in Virgin-land. And if you want semi-serious, check out HBO’s New Yorker-centric special.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Jane the Virgin [The CW, 9p]
It’s the ​Jane The Virgin winter finale tonight, and it promises a baby in a costume and Jane yelling at Santa, so pass the popcorn.

JASON’S PICK:
Fargo [FX, 10p]
It’s the finale of the most thrilling program on television — a show which somehow managed to up its game in a second season which found an incredible reservoir of gasps from the mundane spaces between horrific crimes. While it’s not a spoiler to say we know two Solversons will survive, anyone else is fair game.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists [HBO, 9pm]
The New Yorker cartoons have become an iconic part of history and journalism over the past 90 years and now we get a behind-the-scenes look at the process of how they are chosen. Leah Wolchock’s documentary follows editor Bob Mankoff while sifting through hundreds of submissions week to week to bring the most humorous work to the masses.

What to Watch: 12/13/2015

This Sunday’s picked-to-click include Brooklyn Nine-Niners dying hard, Real Housewives on the road south from Atlanta, and Andy Cohen talking about subjects which are not said housewives. Ch-ch-check it out…below.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Brooklyn Nine-Nine [FOX, 8:30p]
Jake, Gina, and Charles find themselves in a “real life” Die Hard scenario. This wouldn’t have happened if they brought Rosa along for the ride.

NAVANI’S PICK:
The Real Housewives of Atlanta [Bravo, 8p]
Kandi’s baby bump scare and Kenya’s cattiness keep the drama at an all-time high this week. Will Cynthia and Peter call it quits and give her sister a chance to say I told you so?

JASON’S PICK:
Then and Now with Andy Cohen [Bravo, 10p]
I’ll second Brooklyn Nine-Nine yippi-ki-yaying it up, but after you finish the FOX line-up, perhaps head over to Bravo (“they still show operas, right?”) as Andy Cohen does whatever it is that he does while waxing nostalgic over 1994. Could be a train wreck, could be wistfully entertaining. Just one way to find out, right?

What to Watch: 12/12/2015

A hunk returns to 30 Rock, a kicker (and his team) get(s) stuck in a moment, and poor Rudolph finally gets to play some little reindeer gamesS (presumably) lead our Saturday calls of WtW:

JASON’S PICK:
30 for 30: Four Falls of Buffalo [ESPN, 10p]
The joys of victory and the agonies of defeat are wrapped up in ESPN’s always-excellent sports doc series’ in-depth look into the early-1990s Buffalo Bills, who for four years in a row battled their way into football’s marquee game — only to have their hopes diced in a different manner each year. While it may hold extra appeal for the small-ish pie slice of fans of this star-crossed Western New York NFL franchise (as it so happens, I am part of this tribe), as with most episodes of the 30 For 30 series, its story is universal — in this case, of a Charlie Brown-like team in a small market and its resilient fans who may miss the kick every time, yet consistently summon the courage (or brute stupidity) to pick themselves up and try again.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Saturday Night Live [NBC, 11:30p]
Will Chris Hemsworth keep his shirt on the whole episode as host? I hope not. Kudos to Chicago native, Chance the Rapper, on his first appearance as music guest.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer [CBS, 8p]
Rudolph is showing again, and you could watch “The Flight Before Christmas” at 9 p.m. or switch to ABC Family for Elf. Getter get your best TV Watching Holiday Sweater.

What to Watch: 12/11/2015

NAVANI’S PICK:
Transparent [Netflix, N/A]
Yay, for season two being here. Weddings seem to bring out all the dysfunction in families and the Pfeffermans are no different. Let’s see if  Maura can survive Sarah’s nuptials with her homophobic sis in the audience. Keep the drinks a coming.

JASON’S PICK:
The Soup [E!, 10p]
Fridays are pretty barren — this one especially so, although there’s a nice Muppet-fest on AMC and of course Transparent arrives off the cord — but we do have only two weeks left of Joel McHale poking fun at reality foibles after E! inexplicably canceled the show after a couple decades (despite their claims, the two Soups were basically the same program). Let’s savor it while we can! So meaty!

KATHERINE’S CHOICE:
Crafts in America [PBS, 10p]
Holiday (Christmas, Kwanzaa) and Winter Traditions (um, cardinal greeting cards) are examined through the lends of celebrating through craft. Which, if you’ve been dragged through stall after stall of “Artisans” at a holiday craft fair, you know is definitely a thing. Most interesting is that the program “also” looks at the Lunar New Year, which is way more interesting than a card you send to your grandma.