8 Bit Christmas
First up is 8 Bit Chistmas. This is either Nintendo Nostalgia Product Placement Film #9002 or a knock-off Goldbergs Special dragged out to ninety minutes. Doogie Howser MD and his on screen daughter bond over a tale of 80’s computer gaming obsession. The story starts with Neil Patrick Harris and daughter arriving at his parent’s house where inexplicably his room is exactly the same as it was thirty years ago. He insufferably insists they play his Nintendo Entertainment System, which triggers a traumatic flash-back to the 1980s. Like a man suffering from PTSD, he begins to compulsively overshare about being a middle class brat who would go utterly monkey-shit over basic computer games. The irony of this is that his daughter really, really wants a phone of her own for Christmas in exactly the same way that he wanted a Nintendo way back when. Of course he doesn’t get her one because they are both cunts.
This film is full of rose tinted fuckheadeness like that God awful ‘Ready Player One’ film. And much like that particular slop bucket of 80s pop culture offcuts, I don’t understand what audience this film is aimed at: Kids nowadays? Who only give a shit about the 80’s because they are told it was the last good decade in which we had a chance to save the planet. Their narcissistic parents? Who are trying to cling on to the cracked wood panelled dreams of their youth because it was last decade before they fucked it all up? Most likely it was some inner-child addled production executive snorting numbers on focus groups off his iphone.
Considering the whole film is free advertising for a Japanese console company it is interesting to see that all the onscreen computer games are not recognisable Nintendo game titles. I assume this is because Nintendo would not play nice with the rights to their marquee titles like Mario or Zelda. For example NPH boots up his classic up his console only to show his daughter ‘Paperboy‘, which was originally an ATARI title.
As I mentioned earlier ‘8 Bit Christmas’ feels like an overlong episode of the ‘Goldbergs’. Albeit without the charm, Barry or the irreplacable George Segal. The film tries hard to imitate that kind of tongue-in-cheek approach to the decade and unfortunately mostly misses the mark. Honestly if you want that see that kind of genre done properly just go rewatch the ‘Wedding Singer’. Although ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome‘ captures the spirit of childhood in the 1980’s better than anything else as it mostly involved calling each other spastics and taping up Razzle and Fiesta centre-folds on the school bus windows. I’m sure we spent more time flinging rocks at buses or smaller children than actually playing computer games. When we did play Nintendo (or Commodore 64 or Atari or Sega) we played the good shit like Punch Out, Double Dragon 2, or Wrath of the Black Manta. We certainly didn’t suck up to richer kids for a token go on their machines as is central to the storyline here.
There are some mildly funny moments and it is entertaining if that is your absolute base requirement, but it is also sacharine, sanctimonious and the main kid is a fucking klutz. The moral of the film; that you should enjoy spending time with family (there’s originality for you), will be completely lost on your little brats. As it spends the last twenty minutes hammering this message hamfistedly down your throat, which is far too long. This means your little crotch goblins will have started playing some Minecraft on your ipad well before the end.
Speaking of which SPOILER ALERT!! Steve Zahn is shot to death while reading a magazine on the toilet by his Uzi weilding progeny. Oh no wait that’s Pulp Fiction. I rate it three Ninja Turtle Doves.
Christmas In the Pines. Sequel to Christmas In the Rockies *I think*.
Some of you may have partners, significant others or even be married. At times they may watch certain televisual entertainment genres that you might consider to be in poor taste. Possibly even trashy. Guilty pleasure shows like ‘1000 lb Sisters’ or even blander fare like ‘Love Bites‘.
Sometimes you can share in their vicarious pleasure. Revelling at finding some form of lowest common denominator to both indulge in. or maybe you’ll just wince convivially, before scuttling off to your own dark corner to watch the ‘Sisterwife League of Hillbilly Wrestling’. But then there are particular special interest films that you catch your partner watching and it is as if you have just caught them squatting in the corner, shitting uncontrollably over the carpet while bawling ‘I can’t help it!’. Christmas in the Pines is this film.
It is certainly family friendly but at what cost? This is the sort of film you find yourself watching after you have been emotionally gaslighted and am numb and bereft of all feeling. I was expecting a hunk and chick filled Hallmark Channel bean-flick and I am sorry to say that my low, low expectations were too high!
The kindest thing I can say is it glossy sexless pap. It’s not even vanilla. I can only the imagine the audience for this is comprised of women (or men) of a certain mental age who will probably write a heartfelt post on reddit’s DeadBedrooms in the next couple of years. If ‘she’ is watching this then ‘he’ is probably in the other room painting Warhammer miniatures while fantasing about oiling up Space Ubermenschen while junior huffs glue in the garage. Then they kissed and everybody clapped. No seriously that is actually the ending. I give it a full Five golden ringpieces.
A Boy Called Christmas
Are you all sitting comfortably in a posh North London home, set for yet another flashback story? No? Well tough. ‘A Boy Called Christmas’ is a staunchly British excretion, shot much like a Waitrose or Sainsbury’s seasonal advert. You half expect to see animatronic carrots in mixed race relationships with parsnips discovering the joy of Xmas, one tinsel basted Turkey Crown at a time. In which case you’ll only be half disappointed.
Maggie Smith plays Aunt Sourpuss who is the baby-sitting tale spinner in this piece of Xmas schmaltz. Dame Maggie arrives to babysit her three oh-so-clean and impeccably dressed stage school grandkids. The story she tells them is about some brat who goes to hang with the elves in fifteenth century Finland aka Christmas land.
The cast is pretty star studded. With Michiel Huisman and Joel Fry who both seem to be in fucking everything these days, both showing up as respective dads. Jim Broadbent and Kristen Wiiiiig also put in cameos while Stephen Merchant does the voiceover for the CGI mouse. Which you don’t find out until your half an hour in. If you think that is a spoiler I’m afraid any film with a CGI mouse sidekick is already hitting a fairly high level of contrivance post Stuart Little.
There are some neat bits, the shadow animation near the beginning is rather good but that is all of two minutes long. That’s all I can say really say for it though, unfortunately. By the time Kristen Wiig as Aunt Cuntsmear turned up to bully the soulless ginger elf of a protagonist, I had gotten bored enough to actually do the vacuum cleaning.
If you want to stick on a film with Holly, snow and Christmas hats for your kids to yet again ignore in favour watching Elsa screw Spiderman in some bad parenting corner of YouTube while you do some housecleaning, then this one gets four Alan Partridges in a Pear Tree.
Thus concludes the list of this years Christmas films. My advice is do not patronise your children by sticking to ‘Family Friendly’ fare at Christmas. It doesn’t satisfy anybody. The Christmas films I remember most as a child of the 80’s were ‘Trading Places’, ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ and ‘Gremlins’. So watch grown-up Christmas films with your kids instead. They’ll actually pay attention to shit like ‘The Night Before‘ and you won’t feel like your slowly suffocating under false cheer. Which brings us to:
Technically a Thanksgiving film. But for the rest of the world who doesn’t celebrate genociding an indigenous population with extra Cranberry sauce, it counts as a Christmas movie. If you have kids they will watch the living shit out of it. The film is set in a big box toy store where the staff have to work all through the night on Thanksgiving until Black Friday the morning after.
It is every shitty job you see posted on r/antiwork with added monsters. The script is sharp and funny for most of the film and it has Bruce Campbell (the B movie Carey Grant dontchaknow) and Michal Jai White (Of Black Dynamite and Spawn fame). It starts with a cynically fake Sinatra song that you will half believe is real. Sure it goes a bit flabby in the third quarter but picks up again for the finale.
I am reasonably certain there is an obvious subtext about Black Friday shoppers being possessed by some splodgy alien intelligence that turns them into hyperviolent web spitters akin to Trump supporters or Q-Anoners. But I was too shitfaced on OVD rum and Yazoo banana milkshake to ‘get it’ by the end of the film.
I give it Eight Partridges drowned in a two litre bottle of Frosty Jack’s Pear Cider.