Mid-Week Tangent: Christmas Movie of the Week, Netflix Edition

We are firmly into December, my friends, and that means I can safely resume Christmas Movies of the Week without appearing to be a little fanatical in my Christmas enthusiasm (which I am). Never fear, despite not posting since this post and this post, I assure you I’ve been sticking to a steady diet of all the best and worst holiday movies on television.

Every once in a while, though, we take a break from the made-for-television variety and upgrade ourselves to Netflix. Last week, we checked out one of Netflix’s new seasonal additions: The Christmas Chronicles.  In a way, it was great because it reminded me that Christmas movies actually exist, compared to the made-for-television variety which are essentially just love stories that take place around the holidays. But in another way, it was awful, because it raised the bar on our holiday film watching to a level that no TV movie can ever seem to reach.

I have to admit, through the first 10 minutes or so I had my doubts about this one. The whole kids-with-attitudes thing really interferes with my sense of holiday magic, and the older brother was a little too obnoxious for my liking.  But then the holiday magic entered the picture and I was won over by (in no particular order):

1. Kurt Russell as a rough-and-tumble-but-still-big-hearted Santa: He’s not all ho-ho-ho (in fact, he claims that’s a myth–much like Santa being fat), but he still remembers all the kids’ names and brings enough warmth to make him ultra Santa-esque. Plus watching him get the whole jail house rocking to Santa Claus is Back in Town was worth watching the entire movie to see.

2. Adorable elves: I’m not usually one for animated creatures, but the elves were freaking adorable. And one of them carried a chain saw, which is pretty fantastic.

3. Winston from New Girl as a Santa-believing cop: I never loved Winston on New Girl. He was just…okay. But I loved him in this movie. He was one of the first to believe Santa. Granted, he saw the reindeer take flight and it would be pretty hard not to believe after seeing that, but still.

4. Actual Christmas magic: As far as I’m concerned, too many holiday movies these days just take place around Christmas, but fail to capture what makes the holidays magical.  That’s all fine and well every once in a while, but sometimes you want to dive deep into true holiday magic–the kind where Christmas is on the line, and it takes some sleight of hand by Santa Claus to get things on the right track.  This movie has holiday spirit in spades, and you will find yourself rooting hard for Christmas to be saved even if you think of yourself as a Grinch.

5. A cameo by Oliver Hudson: Because, in my opinion, when it comes to Oliver Hudson, a cameo is still enough to make the movie.

So without giving away the plot details (aka the holiday magic), let me just say that you need to watch this movie, particularly if you’ve yet to find yourself in the holiday spirit. I promise you it will up your Christmas enthusiasm by at least ten percent.

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Mid-Week Tangent: WTF Walking Dead *Contains Spoilers!!!!*

In case you didn’t gather from the post title, this post contains spoilers (note the bold and coloured font to indicate that I’m serious about spoilers). If you’ve yet to watch the season 7 finale, you likely don’t want to read ahead although, quite frankly, I don’t think you’re missing much. With that out of the way, let’s get to the real heart of the matter.

Walking Dead, that season finale was absolute crap.

I feel it’s important to mention that I’m one of the few fans who’s given this season a fair shot, or at least this is how it feels to me.  It’s been widely criticized as a slow-moving and, well, crappy season, but I was like that loyal friend who sticks up for a bad friend long after everyone else has phased her out.  I defended the season premiere, believing it was important that Rick and crew finally be presented as something other than invincible. Sure it was violent, but it was getting pretty old watching Rick and crew outsmart all their enemies so easily.  I even defended the terminally slow plot development throughout the rest of the season. We needed to get familiar with all these other players, to see Rick’s crew in a different mode, trying to come to terms with their new reality while still attempting to forge alliances. I feel like my patience and loyalty should have been rewarded with a damn good season finale. But instead I got a slap in the face.  That friend I’d stuck up for long past everyone else up and phased me out. Uncool.

It didn’t even happen in slow and dramatic fashion. No, Walking Dead crushed my dreams for a good season finale all in one fell swoop. All I need are five words to tell you the straw that broke this camel’s back: the mother f’ing leaping tiger.

It’s exactly as bad as it looks.

Look, there were generally a lot of problems with this season finale, most notably:

–Supposedly dramatic Sasha suicide-in-a-coffin complete with ominous foreshadowing flashbacks: Yawn.

–Ridiculous and annoying way the trash people speak: Seriously, what about the zombie apocalypse made them abandon normal speech patterns!?!

–‘Bad guys’ who seem incapable of hitting a human target while every member of Rick’s crew is a dead eye: Even the most useless of Alexandria residents were transformed into killing machines, it seems.

–Rick gets shot but it doesn’t slow him down in the slightest: I suppose he’s used to it by now?

–Holy shit, amidst a literal sea of gunfire how does Negan not even get grazed by a bullet: I am left to assume he must be surrounded by an invisible force field.

And those are just a few of the things I struggled to comprehend. Yet I was willing to let go of all these things as a loyal fan. As I’ve written about before, I’m generally good with suspension of disbelief.

But that perfectly timed tiger leap was the final straw.  If you’re going to have a ridiculous plot device swoop in to save the day, can we not do better than a CGI tiger? Now I haven’t read the comics, so perhaps this is something they have to do to follow the storyline…but I really don’t care. After investing in seven seasons,  I expect more than a CGI tiger as a superhero.  And don’t even get me started on the improbability of this tiger’s impeccable timing nor his ability to discern good guys from bad. Carl was but seconds away from a deadly date with Lucille when this tiger seized hold of a dramatic pause. Now that is some serious animal instinct for opportune timing. And not once did he attack one of the good guys, not once. Ezekiel, though I can’t stand him, deserves to be recognized for his apparent phenom status as an animal trainer. Credit where credit is due.

In that ‘moment of the leaping tiger’, as I now call it, I felt as though the show stepped all over my loyal heart. My only response was to proclaim, out loud and largely to myself,  “Oh, come ON!!” That was the moment I feared me and Walking Dead might be done for good.  By the end of the episode, I no longer cared who lived or died, not even when it was unclear whether Michonne had survived her battle with the cryptic blonde trash lady.  By the time we got to Maggie’s melodramatic and protracted monologue homage to Glenn, all I wanted was for her to STFU. I’m sure that comment will anger Glenn lovers so let me emphasize that I loved Glenn and barely survived Glenn’s death fake-out  mid-season 6.  But I no longer care, not about Glenn and not about anyone (well, other than Daryl and Carol, who are now the only two characters for whom I have any emotional attachment). What I’m trying to say here is that this episode, especially as a cap to this crap-heap of a season, has left me immune even to Glenn’s emotional draw.

The only, and I mean only, redeeming quality of this entire season, as far as I’m concerned, is that the season finale brought Carol back to being a total badass hell-bent on slaying bad guys. I think we can all agree that the post-zombie-apocalypse world is far better with a bad-ass Carol in it. In my mind, a season 8 with Carol taking out the entire Saviour army is pretty much the only thing that can bring me back to true fan status.

Seriously, Walking Dead, that was terrible.

Mid-Week Tangent: Implausible Plot Lines on Nashville

I am moderately embarrassed to admit that I’ve become hooked on Nashville. It is perplexing on a number of levels, the least of which are that I don’t enjoy country music in the slightest and it’s essentially a soap opera. Despite this, I’ve burned through the first two seasons in rapid succession and show no signs of stopping.

Where all my spare time has gone lately…

Before I continue, I feel it’s important to state that I am fully capable of suspension of disbelief, that willingness to sacrifice all reason or logic for the sake of enjoyment. It’s necessary for television watching to be even remotely enjoyable. I’m not the person who normally sits there saying things like “oh my god, that would never happen”. I appreciate that, in order for drama to exist in television, characters need to make poor choices. If everyone on TV did the smart thing all the time, who’d want to watch TV?

That said, now that I’m two seasons in to Nashville, my suspension of disbelief is being tested in a number of ways…and yet I keep watching. I sit there and say (out loud and to myself) “really?!?!?” but just keep on streaming. I feel compelled to see what kinds of ludicrous storylines they concoct next. The last time this happened to me was with Revenge, where I at least had the good sense to stop the obsession early in season 2 when the plot ridiculousness was beyond acceptable.

Back to Nashville, though. This show, it’s starting to test my suspension of disbelief in a number of very big ways.  Let me share with you just a few examples:

(Warning!!! There may be spoilers here. If you want to experience the addictive wonder of the show without my spoilers, stop reading immediately)

–Hit songs are written at lightening speed. Seriously, these artists sit down and churn out hits in one afternoon, sometimes while they’re on tour, and they do this all the time. It’s as though songs just fall into their heads in one fell swoop and can be penned in perfect form that very same day. Now, I’ve never actually attempted to write a song so maybe it is just that easy, but I somehow doubt that you can whip out lyrics and musical arrangements and have them ready to perform live in concert that same day. Bonus points for implausibility have to be awarded for the time when two mortal enemies sat down and co-wrote a hit together in two hours. I’m willing to bet collaboration wouldn’t come that easy to a couple of people incapable of the most basic of niceties.

–There are crap-piles of tragedy. Granted, this isn’t unique to this show, but man did they ever cram the tragedy into the first season in particular. There was a murder/suicide, an epic car crash, an attempted attack closely followed by a fatal shooting, and there was not one but two heart attacks. Oh, and there were also a couple major political scandals, major blackmail, not one but two affairs, and a paternity reveal. If I do my math right, this all occurred in the span of a calendar year.  Not only does this seem like more tragedy than most (in North America, at least) experience in a lifetime, but virtually all of this stuff goes largely un-investigated, which leads me to…

–There are no law enforcement officials in Nashville…or at least that’s all I can conclude from the way that absolutely every scandal, murder or incident seems to be accepted purely at face value. No one seems to wonder why one character’s mother shot a man and then killed herself.  Someone was imprisoned for driving under the influence and causing a major accident, which appears logical at first, except that no first responder would miss the fact that the person accused of causing the accident was found in the passenger seat. Come on, at least try to build an implausible storyline where the drunk person somehow managed to drag the real driver’s body into the passenger side to dupe the police.  That I could reasonably accept under the clause of suspension of disbelief. Instead, it was a lawyer, and not the qualified medical professional or crews on scene, who discovered the truth by making the connection between bruise location and seat belt locations. Totally legit.

–It seems everyone’s got a family member who’s either a drug addict, an alcoholic, abusive or highly manipulative. Everyone. And that family member will only show up and/or do their damage just when life is getting the most plucky for his or her relative. What happened to the days when you only needed one evil character on a TV show? So far, by my count, I’ve seen 8 evil characters in the first two seasons alone, and that’s not including the only-slightly-malicious characters of which there at least another half dozen. All I have to say is thank goodness my life is so boring that I’m not literally surrounded by evil people plotting to ruin my life.

–It has never been easier to become a country music star: Nashville, apparently, is the place one goes to be discovered at lightening speed.  You can be heard, discovered, signed and on tour in a matter of weeks. And you might just receive a royalty cheque for $400,000 within months of selling your first song. I mean, I guess it was sold to Kelly Clarkson so maybe that part is more plausible…

If you are wondering why I continue to watch this show despite having so many issues with it, there is one simple reason: I cannot stop. Despite this show testing every fibre of my common sense and reason, I am still dying to know the answer to this question: what will happen in season 3????

ps. don’t be a spoiler and tell me in comments!