Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Holiday/Vacation Movies


Thursday is once again upon us! This isn't just any Thursday, either. Today is Christmas Eve! Not only is it time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, our wonderful host Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves made sure it's a very Christmasy topic. Me being me, I can't just do things you normal people do. We're going with holiday movies that are not good in any, way, shape, or form. In fact, they're so bad they're awesome!

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
(1964)
The title alone causes giggles. It lets us know right up front this is going to be a flat-out nutty movie. Add in some terrible writing, possibly even worse acting, and the budget that barely exceeds that of a middle school play and you get this steaming pile of beautiful garbage. The premise? Since Martian kids are all bummed out because kids on Earth seem so happy this time of year, the powers that be on that planet decide to come to this one and kidnap Santa in hopes of forcing him to spread some Yuletide cheer. The unintentional hilarity is strong in this one. I'm done here, just click here and check out my full review. Better yet, actually try to watch the movie. Try.


Santa with Muscles
(1996)
So, yeah, the dude with the beard and shredded guns hanging out of his modified Santa suit is pro wrestling icon Hulk Hogan. I could just stop here, and you would know why it's here, but I persist. He plays, as we're told, the richest man in ten states. He is also one of the world's biggest assholes whose morning workout routine includes beating the shit out of his domestic servants. Seriously. Anyhoo, after a paint-ball game gets out of hand, he finds himself on the run from the law. He gets away by ducking into the mall, but soon gets knocked unconscious. When he comes to he can't remember anything about himself, name included. The first person he sees convinces him that he is actually Santa Claus. It helps that he's actually wearing a Santa outfit. That one actually has sleeves, by the way. He then sets out to save a local orphanage. Where did he get the suit? While dodging cops he ditches the fatigues he was wearing for a the suit he found just hanging on a costume rack since the actual mall Santa hadn't shown up, yet. This sort of thing happens in movies all the time, and the clothes are almost always a perfect fit. It might bother us a bit, but we eventually let it slide. That's a little tougher in this case. Why? Because Hulk Hogan is 6'8" and well over 300 pounds (aren't you a little tall for a Santa Claus). And that's far from the most ridiculous thing that happens in this movie. Far, far from it. I laugh just thinking about all the crap that takes place in this flick. If curiosity gets the better of you and you somehow find yourself watching this nonsense, you'll notice a pubescent Mila Kunis as one of the kids at the orphanage.


Santa's Slay
(2005)
One Christmas, Santa, played by Goldberg (hey, another pro wrestler!) comes to the small town of Hell (yes, really) and murders, or attempts to murder everyone he comes across. For about the first hour or so, you get the surreal experience of watching two separate movies at once. In one, we follow around a teenage boy (the "cleverly" named Nicolas Yuleson played by Douglas Smith) who has no Christmas spirit and a nutjob for a grandfather. The other movie is made up entirely of Santa randomly showing up somewhere and killing whoever is present. The two stories eventually meet and that's when the camp really goes into overdrive. Throughout, the killings are morbidly funny (did you know the star on your Christmas tree is akin to a ninja star?), the special fx are awful, the acting is terrible, and the dialogue is horrible. Whenever Santa speaks it truly sounds like a WWE interview (can't be any coincidence, can it?). If all that isn't enough, somehow the Olympic sport that makes the least sense to me, curling, is a factor in the outcome. It's also surprising, make that shocking, how many semi-famous actors signed on just to to be slaughtered (James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, Rebecca Gayheart and Tiny Lister among others). And just when you thought it couldn't get any dumber, something dumber happens. Trust me, if you're looking for something the whole family can sit down and be overcome with Christmas spirit, this isn't the Santa you're looking for.


In case all the paraphrases in italics didn't clue you in, we're going to get a very special...

Bonus Pick


The Star Wars Holiday Special
(1978)
Since we're still in the midst of the latest Star Wars breaking every box office record known to man, we might as well make sure we get in our obligatory mention of the franchise. To be totally transparent, I am watching this for the very first time right now as I type this. I'm about halfway through and it's just flat out bizarre. At the very minute, I'm sitting through a rather random musical number by Jefferson Starship as The Hologram Band. In case we forget we're watching something Star Wars related, the lead singer is practically giving a blowjob to a lightsaber microphone. Speaking of oddly sexual things, we were earlier treated to a song by the lovely Diahann Carroll, or what's supposed to be virtual rendering of her, after she shares a one-sided conversation with one of Chewbacca's relatives as he watches her through some sort of viewer that resembles a periscope. Her talking parts are punctuated with lots of oohs and ahhs. When she starts singing the camera stays on her, but the implication is clearly that the wookie is beating off to this. I wish I was joking. The quick take on the plot, such as there is one, is that Chewbacca is trying to get home for "Life Day," but he and Han Solo run into some trouble in the form of Imperial Forces. Yes, Solo is played by Harrison Ford. In fact, all of the actors who play main characters in the original trilogy reprise their roles, here: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones, and Bea Arthur. What do you mean that last person wasn't in any of the movies? Oh well, there's much more where that came from. Oh cool, now we're on to a random cartoon! So far this is the best part of the show. Other lowlights highlights include Art Carney giving us a senior citizen version of his Ed Norton of The Honeymooners, and Harvey Korman in black face with three arms and a British accent doing an intergalactic cooking show. Okay, I've now been watching long enough to get to a scene where Bea Arthur is tending bar at the famous dive from A New Hope. Korman, playing another character and thankfully without black face is trying to woo her. She fends him off by pouring him a drink. Into the crown of his head. Not onto. Into. And now she's singing. Damn, this is weird. And terrible. And awesome!


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18 comments:

  1. I told you not to go see the Star Wars Holiday Special!!! Now you'll wish it never existed. It was a chore watching that. Santa's Slay was terrible while Santa with Muscles is just hilarious in a bad way because of Hogan. I also noticed that the guy who plays Bob Pinciotti in That 70s Show is also in the film with future co-star Mila Kunis.

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    1. I know, I know. Curiosity got the best of me. What crap!

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  2. Well that's some collection! The only two I've seen are Santa Conquers the Martians, abysmal, and the Star Wars Holiday Special which I sought out because it was infamously bad...and it was! I sat there thinking "Didn't they look at this before they released it?" No wonder it was withdrawn for decades after its initial showing!

    As far as the other two, while they sound like unique viewing experiences I think I'm going to forgo them. But thanks for the variety of choices.

    I found myself in a quandary with the theme being split between holiday and vacation movies I couldn’t seem to choose which way to go and since I was only able to winnow down to three of each I decided to separate them into the two categories and have an entry for each.

    Christmas:

    Make the Yuletide Gay (2009)-Olaf “Gunn” Gunnunderson is headed to the Midwest home of his parents for the holidays. The thing is Gunn has a secret, at college he’s an out and proud gay man but at home he plays it straight fearing that his stoner dad and effusive, holiday loving mom will reject him if they know the truth. Soon after he arrives so does his boyfriend whose parents have decided to take a cruise rather than spend Christmas with him. Gunn passes him off as his roommate while his parents try to fix Gunn up with the girl next door. Can they make it through the holidays without his parents finding out and should they? Little known holiday fare with a game cast, including Alison Arngrim (Nellie Olsen from Little House on the Prairie) as the hot pants mom next door.

    Christmas in Connecticut (1945)-Barbara Stanwyck, that most versatile of all the great female Hollywood stars coming fresh off of Double Indemnity, is Elizabeth Lane-the Martha Stewart of her day who writes an advice column in Smart Housekeeping detailing her idyllic life on her Connecticut farm with her husband and baby. One day her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) concocts a scheme to boost circulation, invite a war hero to her farm for the holidays and the publisher is coming along too. The problem? She lives in a New York walk up, has no husband nor baby and she can’t cook! What to do? She agrees to marry the man whose home she’s been using for a model and heads to the country taking the friend who provides her the recipes she uses along. All seems well…until the very attractive soldier arrives. Breezy comedy with the holiday spirit but not swamped with all the trimmings.

    Christmas Holiday (1944)-This Robert Siodmak directed adaptation of a Somerset Maugham story is one dark, despairing noir. On Christmas leave a young officer receives a Dear John letter. Depressed he wanders into a roadside joint and meets Deanna Durbin, a “dance hall hostess” and she tells him the story of her fall. As a naïve young girl on her own she entered into a hasty marriage to a slick charming man, Gene Kelly, who turns out to be a mother dominated psychotic maniac. When he commits murder she somehow feels responsible, goes into hiding and punishes herself by sliding into a life of squalor. Loaded with and quite explicit (for a 40’s release) in its themes of sexual manipulation, prostitution, incest, self-punishment and very twisted emotional ideas. Deanna sings but her songbird isn’t singled out as anyone special, she’s better than most roadside canaries but her style is beaten down and the patrons hardly break from what they’re doing when she takes the bandstand. A million miles away from the typical Durbin or Kelly vehicles.

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    1. No worries. I don't blame you one bit for skipping the ones you haven't already seen.

      I haven't heard of your first choice. That sounds interesting, though. Nor have I seen the last one which seems right up my alley since I do love film noir. I have seen the Stanwyck, but I was a kid last time I did and don't really remember much about it. Since we're talking about her, and you mentioned it, I will say that Double Indemnity is one of my all-time faves.

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    2. I love Double Indemnity too!

      It's not my favorite, that's a tight race between The Big Heat and In a Lonely Place, but such a prototype of the genre. Both Stanwyck and MacMurray were hesitant to accept their respective roles because of the darkness of the material. MacMurray up to this point was best known as a comic leading man and Missy Stanwyck while having played hard-hearted, callous women, like Baby Face, was mostly the nice leading lady and hadn't dug into the sort of venality required for Phyllis. Wilder convinced MacMurray that Stanwyck was interested if he was and when she voiced her concerns to him Wilder commented that he thought she was an actress, if she was merely a star he would look elsewhere which of course was like waving a red flag in front of a bull and she signed on. She has another terrific noir to her credit "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" it's worth checking out if you haven't seen it. I think some of her breeziness in Christmas in Connecticut, which I just finished watching-it was on TCM this afternoon!-is her decompressing from the heavy dramatics of Indemnity.

      Christmas Holiday is certainly worth finding...if you can, it's on the elusive side, but while Gene Kelly is an interesting choice the whole time I was watching I kept thinking that the role just cried out for John Garfield. That one choice would have bumped it into the classic class.

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    3. I have not seen The Strange Love... so I will definitely seek that one out. And love that background info. I could so see Wilder using psychology on Stanwyck. Thanks!

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  3. Holiday:

    Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (1967)-Madame Rosepettle (Rosalind Russell) arrives at a Caribbean resort for a vacation with quite a menagerie, her 24 year old son (Robert Morse) who acts like a 5 year old, his stamp collection and telescope, a pair of Venus Flytraps, her tank of pet piranhas and her dead husband (Jonathan Winters-who serves as narrator) who she’s had stuffed and travels with them in his coffin that she keeps in the closet. While they’re there the hotel’s babysitter Rosalie (Barbara Harris) falls for the infantile young man while Madame is pursued by a crazy ship captain, Commodore Roseabove. Got that? Its theatre of the absurd and the kind of whack-a-doodle thing that could only be produced in the 60’s.

    Deliverance (1972)-Four friends, all city bred, decide to take a vacation trip down a river in backwoods Georgia before a dam is constructed that will wipe it out and flood the surrounding area. Only one of them is really knowledgeable about canoeing but the trip starts well and even has a highlight or two, the famous Dueling Banjos being the most memorable, until they have an ill-fated encounter with some hillbilly moonshiners. Things go about as wrong as possible and their big adventure becomes an endurance test of survival. Raw and vivid with a career best performance by Burt Reynolds.

    Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)-Mr. Hobbs wants to take a nice quiet vacation to the beach for the summer but Mrs. Hobbs insists on taking the whole family, daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren, cook and various drop ins, with them. There goes his peaceful trip. The kind of role that Jimmy Stewart could play in his sleep but he and Maureen O’Hara manage to make the material better than it should be.

    Merry Christmas!!

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    1. Never heard of that first one, but man that's the worst title for a movie, ever. It also sounds too goofy to be true. Then again, I see Jonathan Winters is in it, so that's par for the course.

      I'm not a big fan of Deliverance. I know everyone else loves it, but it just doesn't work for me as a complete film. The Dueling Banjos is iconic and so is the infamous "Squeal like a piggy" scene. I thought the rest of it was kind of "meh." I will agree that the performances were great from Reynolds and Beatty, though...and the hillbillies.

      I've been aware of Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation for just about all of my life, but I never watched it. Always looked way too cheesy for me to bother with.

      Thanks for all the suggestions, Joel!

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  4. Oh, fuck Goldberg lol. These all sound so wonderfully campy minus the Star Wars Christmas special with I've always avoided.

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    1. Keep avoiding that Christmas special. If it gets tough to resist, use the force.

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  5. My brother and I actually watched (and liked!) the Star Wars Christmas special when it came on TV. In our defense we were very young.

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    1. No worries. I'm sure had I seen it back then, and I'm not entirely sure I didn't, I would have loved it, too. Now, viewing it as an adult? Wow.

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  6. I recall watching the Star Wars Christmas crap when it first came out and scratching my head wondering what on earth they were all doing in this awful thing. I have to see it again since it has been almost 40 yrs. Love Santa Claus conquers the martians-it is truly bad. I actually have the DVD with some great cartoons on it and old commercials. I have not seen the others and will skip it but I do like the suit of the murderous Claus. Merry Christmas!!

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    1. I also have the DVD of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Mine is a crappy copy that doesn't have any cartoons or commercials on it, though. I would love if it did. Yeah, skip the others unless you're just in the mood for crappy Christmas cinema. Thanks!

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  7. I've heard quite a bit about the Star Wars Holiday special, Chewy has a wife!? I suppose he can, no harm. Funnyily enough I've heard of the picks but not seen them. I think I need to see Santa Claus Conquers the Martians though.

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  8. I haven't seen any of this...not really into the holiday sort of flicks.
    Haha...I've seen The Star Wars Holiday Special being mentioned on Twitter and how terrible it is and reading your summary it sounds crazy.

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    1. The Star Wars Holiday Special is completely insane.

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