In Travis’ Humble Opinion: The holidays are a special time of year for many people, a time full of friends, family and good cheer. Everyone has their own traditions from big meals to tree decorating, all tied to certain sights, sounds and smells that recall the happy times we’ve spent around yuletide. For me, the scent of fresh pine or a baking pumpkin pie, the twinkle of multi-colored lights strung about people’s homes and the gentle piano notes immediately recognizable as Vince Guaraldi’s score for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, all transport me magically to those few weeks at the end of the year when everyone just seems to be in a better mood, at least when they’re not elbowing each other in the head for the best deals at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
Something that often gets left out of nostalgic ramblings (like this one) about this time of year, is the quality time we spend in front of television and movie screens catching up with our favorite holiday-themed programming. People are so busy trying to DO things around Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year, I think they often try to sweep under the rug these more mundane holiday rituals, even though a great many people take part. Sure, sitting and watching your favorite Christmas cartoons isn’t as beautiful a memory as sitting in front of a roaring fire, sipping egg nog and singing Christmas carols with the family…but maybe it’s a more realistic one for most people.
To my mind, there are essentially 3 categories of memorable holiday viewing. The animated Christmas special, the Christmas movie, and the hyped-up-non-holiday-but-aired-during-the-holidays-for-big-ratings, special TV event. They all have a place in our hearts and the importance and quality of each has declined quite a bit over the years, but here’s a rundown of a few that I enjoy from each category.
Perhaps the most sacred of all holiday TV-watching remains the animated special. Once upon a time, these specials were just that, special. They aired on the three (at the time) major networks and were shown once a year. If you missed How the Grinch Stole Christmas to go watch Aunt Sally and Uncle Bert get hammered on holiday cheer at their annual Christmas party, you weren’t seeing it again until next Christmas and that was almost too much to bear. Certain shows were absolute must-see viewing for me. From Charlie Brown to Frosty, from Rudolph to the afore-mentioned Grinch, I always made sure that my parents knew when these were set to air and planned my holiday activities accordingly. More than any of the others, though, Mickey’s Christmas Carol was utterly essential for the holidays. It doesn’t get as much love today and it’s a lot tougher to find (and nearly impossible with its original accompanying cartoons featuring Donald, Chip N Dale and Goofy), probably because of the scene featuring a cigar-smoking Pete sending Scrooge to hell for a minute or two, but it’s absolutely a beautifully-made adaptation of the Dickens classic. I also always looked out for a less well-known entry into the canon, Twas the Night Before Christmas, a musical number featuring some clock-repairing mice and a strangely vindictive Santa Claus. Nowadays, ABC Family shows most of these specials ad nauseam and a new spate of more recent features that mostly exist as some sort of marketing tie-in to some movie that’s coming out in theaters (or came out last year and is hitting DVD this year). I would be remiss, however, in not mentioning the series of American Dad Christmas episodes that have aired over the duration of that series. They’re probably the best episodes of the series and easily among the best new Christmas content out there.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with a solid holiday movie. I’ve seen Christmas Vacation so many times that the scenes are starting to meld with my own memories. You have the classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, and the vaguely holiday-related films like Gremlins and Die Hard (or even more violent affairs like Home Alone). Probably the modern classic of our time, though, is Will Ferrell’s tour-de-force, Elf. Some pretty funny stuff, mixed in with just enough seasonal sentiment makes Elf a perfect movie to watch with the family after a tough day of shopping or seeing relatives. To this day, I always answer my phone, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” and turns of phrase like “son of a nutcracker!” feel absolutely natural this time of year. Predictably, there haven’t been many classics to add to the lexicon lately. Clunkers like Fred Claus and Four Christmases (sorry Vince Vaughn, you’re still money) don’t even hold a candle to such gems as Jingle All the Way…I guess. Honorable mention to Scrooged, yet another classic retelling of A Christmas Carol with the incomparable Bill Murray.
The last category is perhaps the toughest to nail down. The super-hyped holiday seasonal release of X movie or TV special, be it a mini-series, TV movie, whatever. Essentially, the concept is this. Movie studios like to release movies around the holidays. People are off of school or work and they need a break from holiday stuff and especially from their insufferable families, so they go out and see a movie for a just a couple hours to themselves. That’s the theory, anyway. It used to be more prevalent in TV as well, I assume based on the same idea that people just have some free time to dedicate to entertainment they might not otherwise possess. Just as an example, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. Neither film series have the least bit to do with the holidays, but both were released primarily during the peak holiday season and were billed as “the holiday event of the season.” Despite the fact that there is no relation between holidays and these movies, the two things are wedded to some degree nonetheless and I know I personally associate them. Going back several years and over to TV, there are two examples worth noting. Both the Rankin and Bass animated version of the Hobbit (1977) and the Ewok Adventure (1984) were released on Thanksgiving weekend. The Hobbit predates me just a bit, but I remember anxiously anticipating the Ewok Adventure and I remember the Hobbit being re-shown around the same time. Again, studios essentially using the holidays to promote non-holiday content and unintentionally (or intentionally, who knows) wedding the two. Seems like you see this less and less, although I’m certain the advertising dollars are more available than ever. There just doesn’t seem to be as much “event” viewing as there used to be, probably because the amount of content is so much greater.
So, I guess what I’m saying is this: Don’t let anyone tell you to get off the couch during this season and engage in more holiday-themed chaos. Sit yourself down and cozy up with the TV and movies you remember and relax for a change. Let Clark Griswold, Charlie Brown and what the hell, Harry Potter, make your memories for you. If you’re like me, these pieces of entertainment lore are part of your holiday-consciousness – embrace them!
In My Humble Opinion: Man of Steel serves as an origin story for the Superman character which provides background for his aversion toward killing. I’ve read so many posts, comments, rants and raves from people about how pissed off they were that in the new Man of Steel movie Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent ends up (SPOILER) killing General Zod in their final battle. Superman has Zod, excuse me General Zod, in a headlock and is doing his best to keep Zod from killing a human family. Superman is left with no other choice but to break General Zod’s neck in order to save the family. Obviously, after the act has been committed, Superman is pretty upset with what he had to do.
My question to all those people who are upset at how the final battle went down is this. Taking into account that this film reboots the franchise and serves as an origin story; couldn’t this be the moment in Superman’s history in which he establishes/realizes his disdain toward killing? There’s no other part in the movie that discusses the morality or consequences of taking another life (a lot of people know Superman is against killing because of the comics). As a stand-alone movie, which will surely spawn sequels/spin offs and develop the character further, the fact that he killed Zod seems to be in line with the rest of the film. Then again, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.
In My Humble Opinion: It’s with a heavy heart that I report all Blockbuster stores will be closed by the end of the year (yes there were some still open). This will include any and all kiosk’s that offered DVD rentals as well. Blockbuster had once been a shining light when it came to my movie viewing. I remember going in and grabbing a few DVD’s for the three-day weekend or a day I was off work while my wife still had to work. I was there to experience the changes the store went through; offering 2 day rentals, reducing late charges, and yes the kiosk experience.
Guess this is just a sign of the times and the video streaming world we live in where movies are available in a number of other ways. One of the most popular of which is Red Box (though I find peculiar that every Red Box I come across is actually blue) which offers DVD’s in a way the Blockbuster kiosk’s once did. Of course this one alternative cannot be given sole credit when it comes to Blockbuster’s demise. Others like; Netflix, Cinemanow, Vudu, On Demand, Hulu, and probably a whole gaggle of others I’m not yet familiar with are to blame as well. As easy as a lot of these alternatives are, I will miss going into the store and scrambling to find what new releases had come out and browsing the older titles to see if one warranted a repeat viewing.
I guess this was inevitable though. I can still trace my movie viewing experience back to the local Movie Time when I was renting VHS movies and paying 50 cent rewind charges. Eventually these smaller movie rental locations were put out of business by the large Blockbuster chain. Now Blockbuster is experiencing the same fate it bestowed on those smaller, more intimate stores. My fear is that the next casualty in this changing world will be movie theatres.
In My Humble Opinion: This is a tough one! Who’s the better zombie killer?
In My Humble Opinion: The best thing to come out of the Thor movies has been Tom Hiddelston’s portrayal of Loki. Enjoy!!!
Very long ago, Bor, father of Odin, vanquished the Dark Elves led by Malekith, who sought to return the universe to its state before creation using a force called the Aether. Fighting off Malekith’s enhanced warriors, the Kursed, Bor contains the Aether within a stone column. Unbeknownst to him, Malekith, his lieutenant Algrim and others escape into suspended animation. In present Asgard, Loki stands before Odin in shackles and is sentenced to imprisonment, while Thor, alongside warriors Fandral, Volstagg and Sif repel invaders from Vanaheim, home of their comrade Hogun; it is the final battle in a two-year war to make peace in the Nine Realms. In London, astrophysicist Jane Foster, who has not seen Thor in that time, attempts a lunch date with a man named Richard but is interrupted by her intern Darcy Lewis. She takes Foster to an abandoned factory where the laws of physics are upended in spots and objects disappear into thin air. Foster, after bringing her own scientific equipment to the factory, is sucked into a vortex where the Aether enters her.
The Asgardians learn a rare alignment of the Nine Realms is imminent, and at spots where the Realms touch, as at the factory, portals are created. When Heimdall tells Thor that Foster is no longer on Earth, Thor begins a search for her there. She has awakened in the factory after hours in the other realm, and finds herself releasing powerful energy when a police officer on the scene touches her. Sensing the force’s unearthly nature, Thor brings Foster to Asgard, but its physicians cannot remove it. Odin realizes she is the Aether’s vessel and this heralds a catastrophic prophecy. Frigga—Odin’s wife, Thor’s mother and Loki’s adoptive mother—takes Foster under her wing. In holographic form, Frigga visits Loki in his cell to convey her love and disappointment.
Malekith and his forces, awakened by the Aether’s release, turn Algrim into a Kursed and attack Asgard. Malekith and Algrim kill Frigga while searching for Foster, and are attacked by Thor, forcing their retreat. Thor is ordered to remain and protect Asgard rather than pursue revenge. Following Frigga’s funeral, Thor decides to take Foster from Asgard to lead Malekith away. He reluctantly teams with Loki, who knows a secret portal to Malekith’s world. With Volstagg and Sif guarding his flank, the two commandeer a Dark Elf spaceship and escape with Foster.
On Earth, Lewis learns that her colleague Dr. Erik Selvig has apparently gone mad and has been institutionalized after attempting to conduct scientific experiments at Stonehenge while naked. She has Selvig released from a hospital’s mental ward with the help of her own intern, Ian. Thor, Loki and Foster confront Malekith and Algrim on Svartalfheim, where, after a hoax in which Loki appears to betray Thor, Loki sacrifices himself to keep Malekith from retrieving the Aether. It is to no avail, as Algrim batters Thor and Malekith takes the Aether from Foster. Thor and Foster return to Earth after stumbling upon a portal between realms. The battle shifts to London, where Malekith, in a towering space-vessel, will use the Aether at the exact moment and place of the Nine Realms’ convergence to destroy the universe and restore the dark-energy state in which the Dark Elves thrive. As Thor battles Malekith, Foster and Selvig use devices they have constructed to shift energy where the Nine Realms meet. At the last moment, they transport Malekith and his ship back to Svartalfheim, where the crumbling ship crushes him.
In Asgard, Thor declines Odin’s offer to take the throne and tells Odin of Loki’s sacrifice. As Thor leaves, the image of Odin reverts to the true form of shapeshifter Loki, who, disguised earlier as a warrior, has usurped the throne.
In a mid-credits scene, Volstagg and Sif visit the The Collector and entrust to his care the Aether, commenting that—with the Tesseract already in Asgard—having two Infinity Stones so close together would be dangerous. As they leave, the Collector remarks “one down, five to go.” In a post-credits scene, Foster and Thor reunite on Earth.
In my Humble Opinion: The zombie walk was something new for me and the family. I have to say…it was a blast.
In My Humble Opinion: The Escape Plan features a high-tech prison (not nursing home) that is supposedly impossible to escape from. The movie stars action heavyweights Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger (harnessing their inner Clint Eastwood and Tim Robbins) and actually looks like a pretty interesting film. I did come across something in a TV spot I caught the other night. It’s not a major plot spoiler, but if you look carefully you can obviously tell that the prison they are incarcerated in is on some sort of ship out in the middle of the ocean. I froze a frame (see below) and you can tell the structure belongs to that of a ship. Thoughts?