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What I’ve Watched In… November 2016

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Favorite of the Month: Doctor Strange (2016)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Hardcore Henry (2015), B-
  2. Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2016), A
  3. The Neon Demon (2015), C
  4. Doctor Strange (1978), C
  5. Time of the Apes (1987), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  6. Thinner (1996), C
  7. A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman (2015), A
  8. Doctor Strange (2016), A
  9. Mascots (2016), B
  10. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), B+
  11. Star Trek Beyond (2016), A
  12. Spectre (2015), B-
  13. Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), F
  14. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988), B
  15. Teenage Caveman (1958), D; MST3K Riff, B
  16. My Fair Lady (1964), A
  17. Gunslinger (1956), D; MST3K Riff, B
  18. Fun in Balloon Land (1965), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  19. The Dwarvenaut (2016), C+
  20. The Addams Family (1991), B+
  21. Addams Family Values (1993), A-
  22. I Accuse My Parents (1944), D; MST3K Riff, A
  23. The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), D-; MST3K Riff, B
  24. Young and Beautiful (2013), C
  25. Mouse on the Mayflower (1968), C+
  26. Garfield’s Thanksgiving (1989), B+
  27. BC: The First Thanksgiving (1979), C
  28. Intergalactic Thanksgiving (1979) B-
  29. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), A-
  30. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1974), B+
  31. Planes Trains, and Automobiles (1987), A
  32. Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse (2001), B
  33. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999), B+
  34. Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004), B-
  35. Magic Christmas Tree (1964), F; RiffTrax Riff, A
  36. Gaslight (1944), B+
  37. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), F; RiffTrax Live Riff, B+
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What I’ve Watched In… October 2016

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Favorite of the Month: WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Deadgirl (2008), C
  2. Heathers (1988), B
  3. Westworld (1973), B
  4. Re-Kill (2015), C-
  5. Victor Frankenstein (2015), C
  6. The Bride and the Beast (1958), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  7. Return to Horror High (1987), D+
  8. House II: The Second Story (1987), B-
  9. Frankenhooker (1990), D
  10. Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011), C-
  11. Theatre of Blood (1973), D
  12. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), D
  13. Dawn of the Mummy (1981), F
  14. Life After Beth (2014), B
  15. Dead 7 (2016), C
  16. Ouija (2014), C
  17. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), A
  18. Toy Story of Terror (2013), B
  19. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016), C-
  20. Cottage Country (2013), C+
  21. Terror From the Year 5000 (1958), D; MST3K Riff, B
  22. Disney’s Halloween Treat (1982), A
  23. Garfield in Disguise (1985) A
  24. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), C
  25. Dreamscape (1984), C-; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  26. WNUF Halloween Special (2013), B
  27. Carnival of Souls (1962), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  28. Kiss of the Tarantula (1976), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  29. The Worst Witch (1986), C+
  30. Frankenstein (1931), A
  31. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) A+

What I Watched In… December 2013

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

This being the December list and me being a big Christmas nerd, you’ll notice a trend here, both in feature films and in shorts and specials. Try to act surprised.

1. Scrooge (1970), A
2. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), A
3. Yodelberg (2013), B
4. The Hockey Champ (1939), B+
5. Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), A
6. The Art of Skiing (1941), A-
7. Corn Chips (1951), B
8. The Sound of Music Live (2013), B-
9. A Christmas Carol (1984), C+
10. Scrooged (1988), A-
11. Frosty the Snowman (1969), B+
12. Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse (2001), C+
13. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1993), A
14. A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994), B
15. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), A
16. Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002), B-
17. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys (2001), D
18. A Chipmunk Christmas (1981), B+
19. An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998), D+
20. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), B+
21. Christmas Comes to PacLand (1982), C-
22. The Smurfs Christmas Special (1982), C
23. ‘Tis the Season to be Smurfy (1987), C
24. He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985), D
25. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer (2000), C+
26. The Alpha-Bots Christmas (2004), F
27. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
28. A Christmas Carol (1999), B+
29. Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001), F
30. A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004), B+
31. A Christmas Carol: Scrooge’s Ghostly Tale (2006), D
32. A Sesame Street Christmas Carol (2006), C
33. The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993), B+
34. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989),  A
35. Bah Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas (2006), B
36. A Dennis the Menace Christmas (2007), C+
37. A Christmas Carol (2009), B-
38. Mister Scrooge to See You (2013), C-
39. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985), B+
40. Home Alone (1990), B+
41. White Christmas (1954), A
42. Babes in Toyland (1961), B-
43. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997), B-
44. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988), B
45. The Second Honeymooners Christmas Special (1978), B-
46. A Garfield Christmas Special (1987), B+
47. Shrek the Halls (2007), B
48. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), A
49. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A+
50. Miracle on 34th Street (1947), A+
51. Love Actually (2003), A
52. A Christmas Story (1983), A
53. Frozen (2013), A
54. Saving Mr. Banks (2013), A

What I Watched in… October 2013

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

October, as you can see, was a busy month for me: a trip to Pittsburgh full of wedding prep, the end of a marking period, working backstage on a play… I didn’t have nearly the time I like to devote to my annual October orgy of horror movies. But I still managed to squeeze in a little fun.

1. The Crucible (1996), B+
2. Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013), A-
3. ATM (2012), D+
4. A Trip to the Moon (1902), B; RiffTrax Riff, B+
5. Toy Story of Terror (2013), B
6. Coraline (2009), A
7. House of Dracula (1945), C
8. Horror of Dracula (1958), B+
9. Blacula (1972), C-
10. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), B+
11. Dracula 2000 (2000), C+
12. Trailer Park of Terror (2008), D+
13. Tales From the Crypt (1972), B
14. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), A
15. Garfield in Disguise (1985), B+

The Christmas Special Day 18: A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)

garfield-christmasDirectors: Phil Roman & George Singer

Writer: Jim Davis

Cast: Lorenzo Music, Thom Huge, Gregg Berger, Pat Carroll, Pat Harrington Jr., David Lander, Julie Payne

Plot: Garfield the Cat (Lorenzo Music) wakes up on Christmas morning to find his owner Jon (Thom Huge) has arranged an incredible gift – a chair that will read his mind and produce any gift he can imagine. Garfield produces dozens of presents before he realizes it’s all a dream. Jon wakes him up in the real world, on Christmas Eve, planning to pack up and go to his parents’ farm for Christmas.  On the farm Jon, Garfield and Odie (Gregg Berger) get caught up in the preparations, while his mom (Julie Payne) and Grandma (Pat Carroll) clash in the kitchen.  After dinner, Jon’s father (Pat Harrington Jr.) can’t get the star on top of the tree, and Garfield is sent in to do the job. After a few heart-rending moments, he pops out of the branches, places the star, and falls back down, taking the half of the decorations with him. Despite the chaos, when Dad plugs the tree in, it’s perfect. Jon’s parents have his brother Doc Boy (David Lander) sit down at the piano to lead a singalong, but Grandma quickly takes over. After, as she relaxes with Garfield in her lap, she relates how her late husband always made Christmas magical for her and the kids.

After Dad’s rousing recitation of Binky: The Clown Who Saved Christmas, the family goes to bed. Garfield watches Odie sneak off to the barn, where the dog struggles to put together some bizarre contraption. Garfield helps without Odie’s knowledge, then stumbles onto a bundle of old letters. Inside, Jon and Doc Boy try to rouse their parents to open presents – at 1:30 a.m. Dad forces them to go back to bed until morning – real morning – when Garfield presents Grandma with the letters he found. She’s stunned to realize Garfield found the love letters her husband sent her years ago, letters she thought were lost forever. Odie then pops in with his own gift – the contraption from the barn, a backscratcher for Garfield. Touched, Garfield comments on the true meaning of Christmas… love… before he tells us all to get out.

Thoughts: It’s easy to forget, considering how bland it’s grown in recent years, but Garfield actually used to be pretty funny. Both the comic strip and the 80s/90s cartoon had some really good years, and this 1987 special is one of the earlier efforts with the newspaper star.

Garfield’s cynicism is a trademark of the character, of course, but for a children’s Christmas special in 1987 to open up with a main character proclaiming the virtues of greed and avarice was a rather surprising way to kick things off. His complete lack of excitement and enthusiasm is what makes the character so funny, in fact. While Jon bubbles over with excitement about Christmas, Garfield bemoans days of work, chores, “electrical contracting,” and other such activities that draw him away from his cozy bed. Looking back as an adult, it’s a lot easier to sympathize with Garfield than Jon’s family. Even if you forget everything else that goes along with Christmas, life on a farm… it’s not easy.

Grandma Arbuckle (who made a return appearance, triumphantly, in Garfield’s Thanksgiving special a few years later) is another comedic gem, throwing out such bizarre observations as “in my day all we had were wood-burning cats.” That sort of weird, surreal comment is just the thing to elevate this beyond being just a wacky kids’ show and into something with a little bit of an absurdist quality that adults can enjoy too. As the show progresses, though, we start to get the sense that her lunacy is a bit of a front, a shield she puts up to hide a bit of loneliness that’s come upon her in her age.

Lorenzo Music was truly fantastic in the Garfield role, bringing in a amusing, dry quality that sells every line. Even Frank Welker, who does the character in the modern version of the cartoon, doesn’t really hold a candle to Music, who passed away in 2001. Pat Carroll’s Grandma is another great find, straddling the line between sweet little old lady and aging hellfire. Fans who like to play “who’s that voice?” get a nice puzzle as well – Jon’s brother Doc Boy is voiced by David Lander, alias Squiggy of Laverne and Shirley fame.

The story of this special is pretty loose. Although I don’t think most of it is based on any specific comic strips, it definitely has the feel of being plucked from assorted holiday-themed strips that don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another, then stitched together into something resembling a plot. The later Peanuts specials have often been fraught with this problem, but this is one of the few times Garfield fell victim to it.

With the loose feeling, the special doesn’t really latch on to the real Christmas spirit until the end. Suitably, the cartoon maintains Garfield’s rather pessimistic air until the moment Garfield realizes Odie is trying to make him a gift. After that, it quickly swings into the realm of the sweet – Garfield helps Odie and improbably finds the one thing that would mean more to Grandma than anything else. It’s quite a coincidence, but it’s not hard to accept in a cartoon of this sort.

This is one of my favorite of the various Garfield specials, and it set things up very nicely for his weekly cartoon series the next year. That one became a staple for me for many years, and even now, I’d rather watch some of those old episodes than most other cartoons on the air today. The modern Garfield Show doesn’t really hold a candle to the old one (despite having much of the same cast and writing staff), but I still like to go to this one every Christmas season.