Mid-Week Tangent: Worst of the Holiday Movies

On Monday, I wrote about made-for-TV  holiday films that are so bad they’re good.  You know the movies, the ones that you just can’t stop watching even though you spend at least half your time wondering why you’re watching it.  Well, today I have another treat for you. Today I cross the line into the land of the legitimately bad Christmas movie. Thanks to our aggressive viewing schedule, we’ve seen some doozies this year.  I could go on forever about the crap that we’ve sat through, but for your sake I’ll narrow it down to my top three.  Without further adieu, here goes nothing!

3. Four Christmases: I’m constantly amazed at just how bad a movie can be even when it stars a bunch of A-list actors. To be fair, Vince Vaughn can annoy me at the best of times, but I can usually rely on Reese Witherspoon not to drive me nuts.  Not so this time around.  Start to finish virtually all the characters annoyed me. Who are these people with insane families? Do families who constantly look for ways to shame and embarrass each other actually exist? Am I just sheltered and blessed with a relatively normal family life? No matter the answer to any of these questions, this movie is a steaming pile of crap.

2. A Christmas Story 2: Did you know this movie existed? I didn’t. Apparently it went straight to DVD and for good reason. Why must casting agents cast the most annoyingly precocious children in roles? They are not cute nor funny.  I’m sure Randy in A Christmas Story 2 was meant to be precocious, but he just came as off as a jerk.  He could not hold a candle to the original Christmas Story’s Randy who makes that whole movie with his whiny “I can’t put my arms down” and hiding under the kitchen sink because “daddy’s going to kill Ralphie”. That’s genius.  I guess his sequel counterpart didn’t stand a chance with that kind of greatness preceding him. And don’t even get me started on Daniel Stern as the father. No. Just no. What ultimately impressed me most about this film was that they somehow turned our dingy, Vancouver train station into a holiday magic filled department store. Like seriously, how did a low budget film like this manage to shut down a functioning rail terminal for filming?

1. A Christmas Tail : Two strangers decide to share custody of one cute dog and romance ensues. Yup, you read that right. if you’ve ever wondered if you can watch an entire bad movie just because of a cute yellow lab, this movie proves that the answer is yes.  Other than the fact that the protagonist had what is essentially my dream job–creating ice cream flavours–this film made no sense. The dog ends up in a shelter three times and is immediately adopted out to new people each time. I’m no animal shelter expert but I’m fairly confident that’s not how it works. The movie’s also full of so many everyday villains that it made me wonder what’s happened in the writer’s life to make him or her see humans in such a negative light. I mean, what kind of person would tell his girlfriend the dog had run away when in reality he’d dropped the dog off at the animal shelter just because he didn’t like the way it looked at him while they ate dinner? That’s true evil. The quick review on this one is simple: really bad acting, really really bad writing, and a storyline that has virtually nothing to do with Christmas are saved by a really adorable dog.

There you have it, the worst of the worst…for now. Because you know full well I can’t stop myself from watching even more festively awful flicks…


Mid-Week Tangent: over-analyzing Wheel of Fortune

Have you ever discovered that you have a completely useless skill set for everyday life? I have. I am outstanding at hangman. I see words quickly. My mind can fill the space between letters at the speed of light.  How did I discover this? I am embarrassed to admit it’s because I’ve been watching Wheel of Fortune, regularly and (gasp!) on purpose. I am good at it. Like, I am really, really good at it.  And that’s despite the fact that they barely show the damn puzzle screen to at-home viewers. I mean, seriously Wheel of Fortune, can you just implement a screen in screen so I don’t have to wait for minutes on end while you pan over to Pat Sajak making awkward small talk with contestants? Is that too much to ask?  If you think my rage is in jest, I assure you it is not. I take this seriously.

I’m convinced that I would walk away a wealthy lady if I were to compete on Wheel of Fortune. Actually, let me make a correction: I would walk away a wealthy lady IF, and this is a big if, I could keep my largely uncontrollable facial responses in check during any and all of the following:  a) Pat Sajak’s inane jokes and slightly lascivious manner with female guests b) the wheel’s wrath (i.e. its tendency to stop on ‘bankrupt’ just as you’re getting greedy by wanting one more spin) and c) not getting my way.

I actually believe that one’s ability to successfully garner a spot on this game show is only partly based on her word wizardry. The bigger part, I’m sure, is the ability to be a good sport, to clap when the person next to you solves the puzzle that you essentially solved for them if only you hadn’t gotten greedy and decided to take one more spin.  I watch contestants closely…mostly because I’m forced to when they pan away from the puzzle board to here about Jean’s three brilliant children and supportive husband. Ugh. Seriously. Okay, moving on. As I was saying, I watch the contestants.  They smile when they hit bankrupt. They say “way to go” when someone else solves the puzzle. They look like they’re about to say “aw shucks” when they call out a letter that isn’t there.

Are they robots? Are they simpletons? There is money on the line here, people! I would be a seething ball of rage when Jean from Wisconsin solves the puzzle after I spent minutes carefully filling in all the critical letters. I am rarely the bigger person in any situation, but when money’s on the line I’m certain I would lose it. I’d drop an F bomb, serve some serious stink eye, throw near temper tantrums, and I sure as hell wouldn’t clap for my fellow contestants. This is why I’d never get onto the show in the first place, and why I will also never win 80 grand for thirty minutes of hard work despite my knack for solving puzzles.

It is a bitter pill to swallow, realizing that you have a skill whose only chance to earn you cash is on a game show for which you lack the other required skills. Maybe one day I will find my inner zen and you’ll see me up there dazzling even Pat, rarely impressed after 30 years of hosting the Wheel, and winning every cash and trip prize in view.  You just better hope that I don’t win a Ford Focus on the final puzzle, because even the zen version of me can’t handle that kind of slap in the face.

Real Talk Thursday: my new (and embarrassing) morning routine

It’s time for another confession. I’ve actually mentioned this once before, but only briefly and in passing when discussing some of my lazier unemployed moments, and at a time when I was doing it so infrequently that I couldn’t classify it as a routine. But now I’ve crossed the line. I do it every day. On purpose. And, even worse, I sort of look forward to it.

Every morning I tune in to Live with Kelly and Ryan.  I don’t understand my attraction to this show.  I used to despise Regis and Kathy Lee, and I couldn’t stand Kelly Ripa when she and Regis co-hosted. Now that I think of it, I may be having an epiphany as I write this that perhaps it was Regis that brought out the worst in everyone all along! As for Ryan, I didn’t watch American Idol, but I never understood how Ryan Seacrest became famous hosting it, nor how it parlayed into hosting a New Year’s Eve special.  And yet, somehow Kelly and Ryan together are enough to get me hooked.  Ryan Seacrest has somehow toned down Kelly’s manic level of enthusiasm to a more personally palatable level.

No matter what’s caused the shift, the horrifying part is that I now find myself organizing parts of my morning around the show. I’ll pause it when I go to check on laundry or refill my coffee mug.  If I’m watching another show on Netflix around the same time, my internal alarm clock goes off just shy of 9am, and I’ll pause what I’m watching–even when it’s good stuff like the new season of Master of None–to get to Kelly and Ryan. I scan the digital guide to see who the guests will be before the show starts, even though I’ll watch regardless of who’s on the show. I’ve even Googled the backstory of hosts and how Ryan and Kelly ended up as new(ish) and permanent co-hosts. Yikes.

It’s concerning for a number of reasons, the most alarming of which is that the show is just not good.  Despite both hosts being veterans in the business, there’s this sort of awkward and not-very-polished vibe to their conversation.  It’s sort of like watching a train wreck, but also sort of endearing like watching kids in a school play who are trying really hard even though they really suck.  Their guest interviews are so incredibly short and sometimes it’s like they haven’t done the legwork to prepare properly. They have flubbed the title of TV shows that their guests star in, and they’ve even said the wrong last name of one of their guests. They read questions from paper.  At times I’m horrified that I’m still watching, and I contemplate changing the channel, but I never pull the trigger to select another show.

Sure, you might say that 9am isn’t exactly prime time for other television viewing options, so maybe I’m just settling for the best of what’s available. The reality is that there are about a million other things I could be doing, like looking for work, writing, reading, watching Netflix, cleaning the house, going for a walk, researching prospective employers and clients. The list goes on and on. But no, instead I find myself truly engrossed in and hopelessly addicted to Live with Kelly and Ryan.

I hang my head in shame.

ps. Except you better be sure I’ll still be watching on Monday when their guest is our very own Prime Minister Trudeau…

Yes. This.


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!