Soundtrack Of Your Life #8: The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s the Muppet episode! with our very special.guest star, Ariel Fisher. (YAYYYY)

Each episode, Corey Pierce welcomes a guest onto the show who has chosen a compilation or soundtrack that speaks to a memorable era of their life. The soundtrack will play underneath and serves as a springboard to discussion about the music itself, how it works within the film, and what was going on with their life at the time of its release.

For episode 8 Corey welcomes Ariel Fisher, who you’ll find contributing for many sites including right here at Row Three. Due to a time crunch, Corey picked the soundtrack for this month himself and sought a volunteer, and the result is this discussion of 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol. Tune in as we talk of the new era of “wrong sounding Muppets”, Christmas memories both joyful and cathartic, and finding out about Santa.

Follow Corey Pierce on Twitter at – @coreypierceart
Follow Ariel Fisher on Twitter at @Afis8
Follow Soundtrack of Your Life on Twitter at @thisisyourOST

Cinecast Episode 261 – The Occam’s Razor Situation

The lengthiest movie review in Cinecast History is at your finger tips. We get so in depth at one point that it evolves into a discussion on the possibility of a “Hogan’s Heroes” movie adaptation. Life, death, God, David, DNA, magic slime, helmets, Earth(?), mohawks, 3D, murals, exploding heads, inconsistencies, Patrick Wilson, abortion, space Jesus, fuckheads, disdain, archaeology, love, Charles Dance, old man make-up, David Lean, sex, Christmas, Benedict Wong, dreams, zombies, Moore’s Law, Christopher Lee, Gordon Pinsent, Scotland and Spaceballs. It’s all here. Then about 2 minutes of The Watch List and some solid recognition The Little Rowthree Cinematic Achievers Club (and proud, we are, of all of them)! Matt rounds out the show with a lengthy story about owning a football team. “Don’t eat the penis, it’s just garnish.”

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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The Flight Before Christmas

Directors: Michael Hegner & Kari Juusonen
Screenplay: Hannu Tuomainen, Marteinn Thorisson & Mark Hodkinson (additional dialogue)
Starring: Andrew McMahon, Norm MacDonald, Emma Roberts (English version – reviewed)
Producers: Jaana Hovinen, Petteri Pasanen, Hannu Tuomainen, Kristel Tõldsepp
Country: Finland/Denmark/Germany/Ireland
Running Time: 78 min
Year: 2008
BBFC Certificate: U

Largely a Finnish production in terms of talent, but with Danish, German and Irish backing, I’d actually seen the Finnish language version of this a year ago under the title Niko – Lentäjän Poika (Niko, the Pilot’s Son, translated), but now it hits the UK on DVD with an English language soundtrack added. With Christmas just around the corner I thought it would be a perfect time to post a review of this surprisingly good European CGI-animated children’s Christmas film.

Niko is a young reindeer who longs to join the ranks of Santa’s Flying Forces, the crew of aerial masters who pull Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve/Day. The fledgling struggles to get off the ground himself, leaving him stranded with his grounded pack in the forest, miles from Santa’s Fell. However Niko is certain that he has the ability somewhere within himself to fly as he is told that his father, who left before his birth, is a member of the famous troupe. After getting into trouble with his reindeer family after accidentally bringing a pack of wolves back to their patch, Niko heads off to find Santa’s Fell and his father to fulfil his life long dream. In tow is father-figure Julius (a flying squirrel) who tries his best to keep him out of trouble and hot on their trail is the pack of wolves, whose new target are the Flying Forces and Santa himself!

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Christmas Movie Quotes

We’ve seen the lists of favorite Christmas movies time and time again. While many of these quotes come from said list, it’s still fun to revisit some of these and “get into the spirit.”

“Surprised Eddie? If I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”

“Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.”

“It’s just like Santa’s workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms… and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me.”

“Bless this highly nutritious microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.”

“I been savin’ this money for a divorce, if ever I got a husband.”

“Kidnap the Sandy Claws, / beat him with a stick, / lock him up for ninety years, / see what makes him tick.”

“Well, I’m sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples.”

“Add all that up, I don’t know what the fuck it means, but you got some bad-ass perpetrators and they’re here to stay.”

“Hiya kids. Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don’t buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!”

Merry Chirstmas all! Thanks SO MUCH for dropping by the thrird row. We love and appreciate all of our visitors and commenters… yes even YOU. We wish you and yours the very best for the coming year.

After the Credits Episode 80 – Christmas Movies for the Naughty List



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Dale (Digital Doodles), Colleen and Marina discuss Christmas movies that you might share with those you hate over the holidays. We’re talking the worst of the worst. If inflicting pain is your gift idea, this is the list for you.

All of the films discussed came from the Inglourious Basterds DVD contest. Thanks to everyone for participating! And the winner is…

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Show Notes:

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas… “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

[…Day 9 of the 12 Days of Christmas review project…]

Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Tim Burton
Producers: Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi, Don Hahn
Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 76 min
Year of Release: 1993

Keep in mind the fact that through these past nine days of Christmas film viewing, not a one had I seen previously. So is also true with today’s lesson in how to make a great film. Taught by director Henry Selick and writer producer Tim Burton. Fully expecting for this film to be just so-so, I was enamored from start to finish with the richness in detail, storytelling, characters and most surprisingly the music.

The movie starts off with a bunch of ghouls and ghosts and other frights of the macabre all singing and dancing about the joys of Halloween. When the celebration is over, the organizer of the successful event, Jack Skellington, feel somehow empty inside; like there should be something more. Later, while exploring through the woods, Jack finds himself presented with some mysterious doors in the forest. For the audience, these are obviously marked to represent different holidays. Jack finds himself leaving Halloween land and entering Christmas world where he finds a whole slew of new, interesting, bright, joyous and fascinating ideas and wonders. He then takes it upon himself to bring the idea of Christmas back with him to Halloween land where no one can quite understand or even comprehend the idea of cheeriness as fun.

What got me right off the bat (within just the opening minutes) was the unique look to this strange land. Obviously the creatures are odd and the stop motion look of everything is different that most any other films released today, but what struck me was the meticulousness to which everything was paid; particularly the lighting. What makes the land of Halloween and Christmas work so well is the different methods of lighting the scenes. Whether it be from a strange green light from a mysterious cauldron, the yellow/orange (even black) hues and color blends of the moon, to the straight up use of a spotlight aimlessly wandering through the picture. Everything is gorgeous.

This gorgeousness can also be attributed to the strange and wonderful creatures Burton has come up with. Every known creature of the night and frights (spiders, snakes, vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches and even clowns!) come alive with so much expression and amazement that it was hard not to actually pause the DVD at times just to get a longer glimpse. Of course there are odd, unknown creatures utilized as well. Ones that although charming, would certainly have scared the pants off of me as a young child. So yeah, while this is a kids movie, I would certainly recommend keeping the younger ones away until they are able to handle a little bit more scarier elements. Think “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” on acid.

And speaking of everyone’s childhood favorite’s, the animated “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”, one can’t help but make some more “Seussian” comparisons with The Nightmare Before Christmas – even down to the songs. Yes, The Nightmare Before Christmas is actually a musical. And while I normally am turned off by the musical numbers in children’s films, I found myself quite enjoying these songs. Musically they aren’t particularly memorable, but the lyrics and fun and bouncy; not to mention extremely creative. I was hinged to every word.

Again, the look of the movie is what steals the show here. Even beyond the aforementioned lighting, the use of differing techniques in animation is obvious but not distracting. The use of stop-motion animation (or what appears to be anyway) coupled together with a little bit of CGI and even a delightful sprinkle of standard, hand drawn animation to spice things up just where it needs to be is absolutely dynamite (actually, I wish there had been a little bit more of the traditional animation). The attention to detail is amazing and the amount of time and effort that must have gone in to this production is unfathomable.

So the question stands, is this a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? If a gun as put to my head I think it tries to capture the spirit of Christmas and a viewing seems better fit in this last month of the year. Having said that, it’s no wonder that for the past few years it has been released in limited screenings around the country during October as well. It fits both seasons perfectly and while I did see it on the big screen this weekend, I can’t wait to get get a glimpse of the 3-D version that plays at the IMAX next Halloween. Only 270 days and counting!

While it may be cliche to say, this is truly great entertainment and fun for the whole family. While mainly a kids movie, some of the humor and visual are aimed squarely at adults. Though again, this is most certainly NOT for the little ones. When most people talk about great achievements in children’s animation, Pixar studio is immediately what springs to most people’s minds. While this is a Disney film, Pixar’s logo is nowhere to be found and it’s quite refreshing to see something that is this visually unique and stunning coming from someone other than those Toy Story guys. And maybe most fascinating of all, is that this film is over 15 years old! If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have any reservations about believing this film to be released in 2008. Wondrous!

Cinecast Episode 106 – Some Familiar Territory

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Episode 106:
Going back over some films that we have mentioned before, but this time with a little more depth; including talk on Slumdog (which gets a bit spoiler-y), JCVD, and Milk. And new tangents on villains and 80’s TV shows. Of course the DVD picks are here and few things more.
Thanks again for listening!

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On the Second Day of Christmas… “Scrooge”

[…Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas review project…]

Director: Henry Edwards
Writer: H. Fowler Mear
Novel: Charles Dickens
Producer: Julius Hagen
Starring: Seymour Hicks, Donald Calthrop
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 78 min.
Year of Release: 1935

Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” is a story I know well and a film adaptation that we’ve all seen done many many times over. But I thought I’d go back to the beginning. Now this isn’t the first film adaption of Dickens’ novel; in fact according to the IMDb, it is the seventh! But if my research is correct, this is the first time it appears on screen as a “talkie.”

Obviously we all already know the premsise: crotchity old miser, Scrooge, hates Christmas and pretty much everyone around him until he is visited one night by three spirits: past, present and things yet to come. They show Scrooge the folly of his ways and he becomes a changed man for the better.

I have to admit I have very little to say about this version and turned off the TV not feeling particularly inspired or even satisfied. Admittedly it could be that I’ve seen or heard the story a million times and there just anything left for me to get excited about. But I think there’s more to my “ba-humbug” attitude about this movie than just a stale story.

Ghost of Christmas past

For one, and probably the biggest thing, is quite simply that the ghosts suck. Ghost of the past is only shown quickly as a glowing patch in the middle of the room and doesn’t really show much of Scrooge’s past. Quite frankly, it’s boring and not much to look at. The spirit of Christmas future (which is historically my favorite of the three spirits) is merely the shadow of a hand on the wall which does nothing but point at things. At one point, you see Scrooge’s hand try to grab the “spirit hand” and this is a bit on the interesting side, but ultimately falls flat. Christmas present is the only one of the spirits to show any charisma what so ever and it is actually a real person/actor. Next time Henry Edwards attempts to remake “A Christmas Carol,” he would do well to take notes from the Bill Murray version in regards to the ghosts.

And speaking of director Edwards, his film making seems quite amateurish and clumsy. I realize it was 1935 and in the midst of the depression, but really, is that an excuse? The camera never does anything but shoot. The whole thing might as well have been done on stage in front of a live audience. Needless to say, unless I’m convinced otherwise by someone, you’ll be hard pressed to see me searching out any of his other films any time soon.

Seymour Hicks as Scrooge

Of course they just might’ve walked out with frustration for the staleness of the performances. Side characters come and go and no one ever remembers them in this story. Each version of “A Christmas Carol” is always reviewed upon one actor: the guy playing Ebeneezer Scrooge. Whether it is George C. Scott, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Jack Palance, Tim Curry, Jim Carrey, Jack Elam or even Susan Lucci, critics and fans alike will judge the film based on this character and this character alone. If Scrooge falls flat, so goes the film. In this case, Seymour Hicks starts off the role well enough. He’s cranky and ornery and plays Scrooge just as I’d like (and expect) to see him played. As more and more of his lines are delivered however, the more and more he seems unbelievable and corny. This is odd as the IMDb has him listed as having played Scrooge for years on the stage to rave reviews.

I give props to the film simply for Dickens’ story and the fact that it is the first attempt at a “talkie” version of the movie. But in the long run, it just seemed like a waste of a good chunk of my day. Not because it was particularly awful, it’s just that I’ve seen it so many times and in so many better ways previously. No, if you want a dose of Dickens this holiday season, do yourself a favor and check out Bill Murray or The Muppet version. You’ll be MUCH more jolly.

BUT, if you feel you must subject yourself, the film is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN and free for viewing.

<-- Day 1 | | | | | Day 3 –>

On the First Day of Christmas… “Black Christmas”

[…Day 1 of the 12 Days of Christmas review project…]

Over the next 12 days, I’ve devoted myself to watching some old and new Christmas films that for one reason or another I’ve managed to never have seen before. I’ll see a new one each day and do a quick (or long – whatever it takes) write-up on each one here at Row Three. I anticipate burning myself out on this little project, but at least I’ll be able to tell people that I’ve finally seen It’s a Wonderful Life.


Director: Bob Clark
Writer: Roy Moore
Producer: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 98 min.
Year of release: 1974

Likely to be one of the best films I’ll see over this little holiday festival, Black Christmas is not so much of a Christmas movie as it is a horror film and a title that shows up on just about everybody’s “subversive Christmas movie” lists this time of year – and for very good reason. For a film that is over 30 years old, it felt like a breath of fresh air with new tactics, new ways of scaring me and what seems like a whole new way of putting together a horror film. It plays with a lot of the conventions of the horror genre in a time were there really weren’t any conventions to play with.

The opening shot surprised me a little bit. Angled slightly from the street, the camera shows a nice looking house; lit up with some Christmas lights, snow flakes falling gently to the ground all around us and “Black Christmas” written in a white, “classy” font that fills the screen. Immediately I was reminded of Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story and thought maybe Bob Clark had ripped off the idea from this film. Then the director credit popped up: Bob Clark. A-ha!

The story follows several girls living in a sorority house and having a party before they all head home for Christmas vacation. We’re then brought outside to POV shot of someone stalking the house and gaining entry through an open window in the attic. So right away I thought this would be just another Slumber Party Massacre or Sorority House Massacre flick. I was surprised out of that notion very quickly when the girls receive their first obscene phone call.

The phone call has most of the girls on edge except for star, Margot Kidder’s character. She smarts off and thinks the whole thing is a joke. Me? I was freaked out. The voice on the other end of the line is not the usual moaner or heavy breather. This is obviously not some college punk thinking he is funny. This is a disturbed, possibly possessed, person on the line. He uses different voice, unstructured sentences, mumbling, non-coherent rants about random people and possibly other languages. Not to mention terrifying screams, shouts and grunts. To me, it sounded like Linda Blair from The Exorcist just figured out how to dial a telephone. These calls happen several times throughout the picture and they become no less skin crawling each time.

Add the ominous but terrific score to the terror and there are truly frightful things going on here. Heavy piano pounding that still has some tone and arrangement to it, coupled with some ominous chorus sounds of children makes for some unique atmospheric sounds emanating from the speakers.

As people begin to disappear, more characters join the cast and more characters become potential suspects as to who the killer might be. In this way it sort of becomes a standard, who-dunnit. But that’s the beauty of this film: there’s nothing standard about it.

**SPOILERS BELOW**

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