Welcome to the 683rd Edition of my series. There is not a lot going on right now so I'll just get to my selections for the week.
Office Christmas Party (2016): I start the week out with this raunchy holiday comedy which was directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck. T.J. Miller stars as Clay Vanstone who runs a branch of a family business in which his uptight sister Carol, played by FRIENDS alum Jennifer Aniston, threatens to shut down. With his Chief Technical Officer Josh, played by ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT alum Jason Bateman, they rally together to throw a big Christmas party at work against the wishes of Carol in order to try winning a client that can save them. Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Karan Soni, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Andrew Leeds, Oliver Leeds, Oliver Cooper, Chloe Wepper, Matt Walsh, Ben Falcone, Adrian Martinez, Fortune Feimster, Erick Chavarria, and many others co-star in this comedy. This is one to watch during the holidays if not taken too seriously and for those that just don't want to go the Hallmark route.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): This is my animated short for the week which is technically a tv special and is a timeless classic. Charlie Brown becomes overwhelmed with the commercialism of Christmas. He takes the role of director for the school pageant to show that Christmas is more than just gifts. As we know, there is the element of the tree Charlie buys as well as Linus explaining the true meaning of Christmas. All of our other friends like like Snoopy, Lucy, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, Pigpen, and many others. This is one of the first animated shows that actually used the voices of children instead of adults imitating children. This is the first animated Peanuts special. Not much else really needs to be explained on this absolute classic that still carries an extremely relevant message though I'm sure someone has or will write some article complaining about it and everyone will be in an uproar. I have come to believe that when this happens, the general public just needs to ignore it instead of everyone sharing it all over the place in disagreement.
By the Law (1926): This is my Russian silent film for the week which was directed by Lev Kuleshov based on the Jack London story THE UNEXPECTED. A five-person team of gold prospectors in the Yukon have much success but one of them flies off the handle murdering two members of the team. The survivors are a husband and wife that have managed to subdue him and are looking to get him prosecuted by the proper channels but are unable to get to civilization anytime soon. They must decide how to handle what has happened. This is a pretty compelling story and really good camerawork for this time. Foreign and silent film buffs should really check this one out.
The Color of Paradise (1999): I go from Russia to the middle east in Iran. Majid Majidi wrote and directed this film which centers around an 8 year old blind boy named Mohammed who returns home from being at the school for the blind. His grandmother and sisters are glad to have him back but cannot get the support from his widowed father who is ashamed of him and concerned at the same time. This is a pretty moving film about a poor but loving family and a good point of view on a blind child trying to make it in the world.
Beyond Christmas (1940): This is another holiday movie or one that takes place during the holiday, however you want to interpret that and it is sometimes called BEYOND TOMORROW. Harry Carry, C. Aubrey Smith, and Charles Winninger star as Melton, Chadwick, and O'Brien who are rich but lonely heads of an engineering firm. They invite three strangers over for a Christmas Eve dinner which is answered by two of them in James, played by Richard Carlson, and Jean, played by Jean Parker, who meet and fall in love. The three men end up dying in a plane accident and come back as ghosts hoping to help the young couple through trouble times. I usually try to find older holiday movies that I have not seen every year and found this one that I had not seen or heard. This has not been very known and stayed in the public domain for a long time but TCM has been airing it on an annual basis and it is also available to watch on Hoopla.
Frozen River (2008): This is a holiday film in a sense as it takes place around Christmas time and the holiday plays a significant part in the lives of the characters. Courtney Hunt wrote and directed this film which stars Melissa Leo as Ray Eddy whose husband has left town with the money that they were supposed to use to pay rent leaving her a single mother with a part time convenience store job. She has a chance encounter with a girl from the Mohawk tribe named Lila, played by Misty Upham, who has issues of her own introducing Ray into the world of immigrant smuggling from the little known Mohawk reservation back into New York State. Charlie McDermott co-stars as Ray's older son T.J. who resorts to his own unscrupulous ways of making money out of desperation. Michael O'Keefe, Mark Boone Junior, James Reilly, Jay Klaitz, and many others co-star in this film. I had seen this a few years ago and has kind stayed with me. This is driven well by the characters and and brings us into the story very well. This is a rather bleak but compelling drama that deserves a lot more exposure.
Too Late for Tears (1949): This is my film noir for the week which was directed by Byron Haskin and based on a story by Roy Huggins. Lizabeth Scott and Arthur Kennedy star as married couple Jane and Alan Palmer with Jane possible being the ultimate femme fatale. While driving, they stumble upon a bag of cash which Alan immediately has the instinct to turn into the police but Jane wants to hold onto it " for a while". Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, and Kristine Miller play into the story of murder and betrayal very well. This is another movie that has gone unnoticed and is a great entry into the film noir genre which I find are the movies of this era I enjoy most. This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
The Man Who Saved Christmas (2002): This is my more Hallmark oriented holiday movie for the week even though it is not Hallmark and is even based on a true story. Sturla Gunnarsson directed this tv movie which stars SEINFELD alum Jason Alexander as A.C. Gilbert who along with his brother Frank, played by Ari Cohen, are able to start a toy company which produces some very innovative and educational toys. With WWI on the rise, he is pressured by the government to turn his store into a munition factory and even cancel Christmas. With the help of his family, A.C. must look for a way to not cancel Christmas as this was something that was discussed at this time. Kelly Rowan, C. David Johnson, Jayne Eastwood, Daniel Kash, Kenneth Welsh, Ed Asner, and many others co-star in this film. Growing up, I usually watched SEINFELD and while most I know loved Kramer the most, I was more into Alexander's George Costanza. He also did well in this movie as the famed toymaker. This has a certain predictable formula but that has its audience especially this time of year.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964): I got to see this B-movie holiday classic during a double feature at my local library that also includes a selection in my Holiday Time segment. On Mars, the children there are obsessed with Earth tv and their parents come across Santa Claus deciding they need him in Mars so they abduct him and a couple of children to go to Mars. Most of them are well-meaning but go about it in the wrong way except for Voldar who is all about war and does not want Santa putting positive thoughts into the heads of the children. This has been featured in both MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 and RIFFTRAX. This has some really bad looking martian outfits and dialogue but I believe a very underrated robot in Torg who I believe is the black sheep brother of Gort. I also don't understand why the theme song HOORAY FOR SANTA CLAUS. This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Even the Rain (2010): I end the week with this Mexican film that was directed by Iciar Bollain. Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Spanish director Sebastian and along with his executive producer Costa, played by Luis Tosar, go to Bolivia to shoot a motion picture about Christopher Columbus. Things are going smoothly until a conflict among the locals protesting the privatization of the water supply makers it more and more difficult especially for one of the actors that is mainly leading the protests and the movie becomes less important as they see how the country is being affected. Juan Carlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde, Raul Arevalo, Carlos Santos, Cassandra Ciangherotti, and many others co-star in this film. This is a pretty good look at independent film-making and also of a village standing up for their rights. This is available to watch on Netflix.
Well, that is it for this week but have a couple selections for a segment I call "Holiday Time". Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.
Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentines Day Special (2017): Scott Aukerman and Akiva Schaffer directed this Netflix special. I know it says Valentine's day in the title but this is kind of like a NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS in the way that it plays into two holidays. In this hour long Netflix special, Santa's elves have made too many toys and there are not enough children for the distribution so he needs Michael Bolton's help to inspire people to make love and conceive many babies and what better day than Valentine's Day. In turn, Michael puts on a telethon in hopes of saving Christmas. This has quite the cast that includes Andy Samberg, Adam Scott, Fred Armison, Chris Parnell, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Sarah Stahl, Grey DeLisle, Brooke Shields, Louis Anderson, Sinbad, Sarah Silverman, Bob Saget, and many others. Many people I know have been very close minded when I mention this and for a long time I just couldn't stand Mr. Bolton but can now say I am a fan. Michael struck comedic gold in this special as far as I'm concerned. This will be one for me to watch for Christmas and Valentine's Day. This is available on Netflix.
Santa Claus (1959): This was the second movie in the double feature that was shown at my local library along with the one featured. I remember seeing this for the first time years ago when I recorded it from TCM. When watching it, I just kept watching and throughout this movie, Im just thinking WTF but yet I could not keep my eyes off of it. There are many things I learned when watching this movie. For starters, Santa does not have elves, he has child labor from all over the world in which sing very annoying music. Also, he is apparently at another planet and have reindeer which are made up of what looks like Styrofoam and can only last for so long. We also learn that Santa and Satan are rivals in which Satan tries every year to ruin Christmas and sends his very inept dance-loving minion Pitch who is told he would be punished with ice cream if he fails. Also, I don't know what happened between Merlin and King Arthur whether they had a falling out or maybe Arthur might have died but Merlin decided to work for Santa in the North Pole. I don't really know what was going through the minds of those involved when this was being made but was bad enough to become a great holiday tradition and I actually prefer this over Santa Claus Conquers the Martians but that is a good double feature.
Jingle All the Way (1996): Here's another holiday comedy to see. Brian Levant directed this comedy which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as mattress salesman Howard Langston who is devoting more time to the job than to his wife, played by Rita Wilson, and is son, played by Jake Lloyd. His son Jamie continues to get disappointed by his father missing his events and Howard decides to get the most popular toy on the market in the new Turboman doll. The only problem is he has waited too long to get it and is mostly sold out. To add to that, he must compete with another father named Myron, played by Sinbad, who is also trying to get it for his own son. Phil Hartman, Robert Conrad, Martin Mull, Jim Belushi, Laraine Newman, Harvey Korman, Richard Moll, Daniel Riordan, Chris Parnell, Mo Collins, The Big Show Paul Wight, Curtis Armstrong, Verne Troyer, and many others co-star on have cameos. This was based on a time in the '80s when there was a craze over Cabbage Patch Dolls and at the time was around the rise of Tickle Me Elmo. I found this movie to be ridiculous and wrong on so many levels. At the same time, seeing all these grown men acting childishly in consequence to their procrastination brought a lot of laughs. This is a satire and even a spoof towards the commercialism of Christmas. There is a lot of cartoonish sort of violence and quite the rivalry between Schwarzenegger and Sinbad. This can be enjoyed as long as it is not taken way too seriously.