Sunday, December 25, 2016

Magic in the Air

Director: John D. Hancock
Cast: Rebecca Harrell, Sam Elliot, Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda, Ariana Richards
Released: November 17, 1989

My final Christmas movie (for this year!) concludes with Prancer. I don't remember seeing this in the theaters, but I'm sure I must have because I would have been the perfect age and what young kid doesn't love movies with animals? Especially magical, Christmas animals? I do know I have seen this before, but it's been a very long time and watching it again was like watching it for the first time. The basic premise of the movie is an eight-year-old girl finds a reindeer and believes it to be Prancer, THE Prancer of Santa's eight reindeer. And that was the only thing I remembered. OMG, I cried SO many times during this movie! This probably isn't a big surprise since Christmas comedies like Home Alone and Elf make me tear up when I watch them, but this movie (NOT a comedy, BTW!) just gutted me.

Jessica Riggs (known as Jessie to her family and friends) lives in a very rural area called Three Oaks (the welcome/goodbye sign says, "Happy to Have You, Sad to See You Go") with her dad, John (Sam Elliot), and older brother, Steve, who's probably twelve or thirteen. She's played by Rebecca Harrell who is very darling in this. This was her first (and only, really) movie and I think she did a good job for a movie where she's the lead at nine-years-old. I found her to be very earnest and sincere which worked quite well for her character. I was never sure exactly what state this movie was set in - I just assumed Washington. Maybe Michigan since the movie was filmed there. Her mother died, presumably of cancer, but the movie never tells us when, but I would assume in the last year. Things are tough on their farm and the Riggs family is barely scraping by. John is often short with his daughter because she's always going off on her own and getting in trouble. Like the time she and her friend, Carol (Ariana might know her best as Lex from Jurassic Park), go sledding down a huge hill that takes them through Mrs. McFarland's (Cloris Leachman) front lawn and they knock over her potted plants. Mrs. McFarland is a reclusive old woman and has a very witchy vibe to her because she has really long hair (no person should have hair that long once they reach a certain age) and is wearing this billowy outfit. She chases the girls, calls them "terrorists"(!), and exclaims, "I'll get even with you!" I half expected her to end that line with, "my pretties!" and cackle. The whole scene is pretty laughable especially since it's obvious they sped up the girls sledding to make it look like they were going a lot faster than they really were.

Jessie is also often prone to walking alone through the woods. This is where she first comes across a reindeer, which she is surprised to see (and in another scene we learn this is pretty far south for a reindeer to be). As far as I know, the only U.S. state where reindeer are native is Alaska (makes sense to me!) Also, did you know reindeer that live in North America are known as caribou? I thought that was an entirely different species! Stupidly, Jessie goes up to this wild animal (with antlers!) but the reindeer seems to not be scared of humans. This is probably one of two reasons: 1) the reindeer belongs to a Christmas show and escaped, or 2) the reindeer is one of Santa's and somehow got lost. Guess which one Jessie believes? Bless her soul! The reindeer trots away and when Jessie returns home, she tells her dad, but he could care less.

Jessie starts piecing clues together and comes to the conclusion that the reindeer is THE Prancer. The previous day, when she and Carol were walking home from school, a wooden reindeer from one of the town's decorations fell onto the street. Jessie was naming all the reindeer in the display, and when she got to Prancer, the third named reindeer, that particular reindeer fell onto the street and smashed. Jessie is very concerned and asks someone if they're going to repair the reindeer and his reply is something like, "Santa's only going to have seven reindeer this year." (Obviously Rudolph was not part of this display!) So Jessie believes there's some kind of cosmic connection between the wooden reindeer and the real one. Also, she noticed the reindeer has a white mark on his forehead and so did the third paper reindeer she cuts out of a magazine to hang all eight reindeer up in her room. Coincidence? I don't think so!

I feel like Prancer is the only reindeer they could have used, because if they had used one of the other seven reindeer and named the movie after that particular reindeer, this is what the choices would be:
Dasher - Well, maybe that would work, but I would think the movie is about a really fast person.
Dancer - I would not think of a reindeer if I saw a movie titled this.
Vixen - Haha, I would not think of a kid's movie!
Comet - I would either think of a space movie or the dog from Full House.
Cupid - The naked baby shooting arrows at people to fall in love first comes to mind when I hear that name.
Donner - Nope, a reindeer is not the first thing that comes to mind.
Blitzen - This one maybe could work, but it doesn't have the same ring as everyone remembers Prancer when reciting the names of all the reindeer. I feel like Blitzen probably gets forgotten.

Jessie shares her theory with Carol the next day at lunch. Carol is having none of it (she's also having a really bad hair day; see photo) and tells Jessie she doesn't think she believes in Santa anymore because of the impracticality of it all, but Jessie says it's magic and some things can't be explained. She asks Carol if she believes in God, since, like Santa, there is no physical proof of his existence and Carol shrugs nonchalantly and says maybe she doesn't believe in God either which therefore she thinks heaven doesn't exist which greatly (and rightly) upsets Jessie. Carol is such a bitch in this scene! Your best friend's mom is dead and you're going on about how you don't believe in heaven? She does apologizes and tries to take everything back when she realizes her faux pas, but by then the damage is done. (They do becomes friends again, only Carol will piss off Jessie once again, but in Carol's defense it wasn't even her fault).

Later that night, John picks up Jessie and yells at her when he finds her once again walking along the road by herself. She was looking for Prancer, but doesn't come across him until she's in the car with her dad who's yelling at her and she has to scream at him to stop the truck so they don't hit the reindeer who has a wounded leg due to being shot. To Jessie's horror, her dad gets out his rifle, prepared to kill the wounded animal and give his family a winter's amount of food. While they are arguing, the white mark on the reindeer's forehead twinkles and when they look over, the reindeer has vanished, kind of like magic! John tells his daughter that he is planning on sending her to live with her Aunt Sarah who lives thirty miles away. He thinks a young girl should have a woman in her life and her aunt can afford more things for her. Jessie begs her dad to let her stay and starts crying, but he's already set on it because it will be what's best for their family.

That night, Jessie hears a strange sound coming from the barn and discovers Prancer has made himself at home there. She lures him to another shed with a plate of sugar cookies - that the reindeer oddly likes. (Santa must feed his reindeer cookies whenever he visits houses that don't leave carrots for the reindeer!) This way her dad won't be able to find and shoot him. She takes him across a frozen pond and I thought for sure she was going to fall through the ice and Prancer would save her (a la Free Willy), but that doesn't happen.

She skips school the next day to stay with Prancer and calls the vet, Dr. Benton (Abe Vigoda) who, once he sees is a wounded reindeer, doesn't want to help it because he doesn't deal with wild animals. He believes the reindeer has escaped from a Christmas show. He gets back in his car and when Jessie starts screaming in his face about how "Doctors are liars...they never make anyone better!" (which gives me the clue her mother must have died from cancer), he has a change of heart and looks at Prancer's hurt leg and bandages it. A thrilled Jessie tells him, "History's going to love you for this!"

Jessie needs to find a way to buy some oats for Prancer because sugar cookies aren't the best diet for a reindeer...even if they are ONE of Santa's. She goes to Mrs. McFarland's house to apologize and tells her she will clean any room in her house for five dollars because she's trying to raise money for an animal shelter. Mrs. McFarland takes her to the most cluttered room in her house and Jessie exclaims that it looks more like a ten dollar job. Honey, I think you're getting the shaft here....that looks like a FIFTY dollar job! Mrs. McFarland tells her she said ANY room for $5, so Jessie is stuck cleaning it. They make Mrs. McFarland look so creepy because after Jessie comes in, the older woman looks around outside to make sure no one has seen them and locks the door. The whole thing is shady. There's a montage of Jessie sorting all the junk and dusting and vacuuming the room. This easily had to take all day. Jessie finds some old Christmas lights and decorations in the room and strings up the lights to surprise the old woman. Mrs. McFarland tells Jessie to take them down immediately. We learn that Mrs. McFarland used to win Best Lit House every holiday, but hasn't put up her decorations in a very long time. I'm not really sure why (or why she became a recluse for that matter) because the movie never tells you any of that information. However, after Jessie pleads for her to put up the lights and decorations, she agrees. This child has some magic power to plead and whine to adults and she gets what she wants! The only adult it doesn't work on is her father! Jessie puts up the star on top of the three story house and I have to wonder how an eight-year-old got on the roof? Something tells me her dad wouldn't be thrilled about this if he found out. Mrs. McFarland gives Jessie ten dollars more than she asked for and tells her it was $15 job. I still maintain that Jessie got the shaft since she cleaned that ridiculously cluttered room AND risked her neck to put up the decorations on the roof. I think fifty bucks would have been just the right amount in 1989 money. The two become friends as Mrs. McFarland invites Jessie to stay for cookies and milk, but Jessie runs off, telling her she has something important to do. Mrs. McFarland goes back to her old ways and shouts, "Be that way!" to Jessie. She is so petulant for an old lady!

Jessie shows Prancer to Carol, only to discover that her brother, who's a complete jerk, has also found the reindeer and is teasing her about how much meat the animal will give them and is threatening to tell their dad. Jessie goes to the mall with a Polaroid of Prancer and waits in line to see Santa Claus where a little boy is sitting on Santa's lap and telling him he wants a slime kit and Skeletor for Christmas - how very '80s. Jessie starts her convo with Santa by telling him, "I know you're not the real Santa..." I would have said she stole this line from Kevin McCallister, but this movie came out a year (pretty much to the date!) before Home Alone. I do think it's amusing both movies deal with eight-year-old kids who need help from Santa with something so they tell a mall Santa to put in their word for the real one. Like Kevin, Jessie also believes this Santa works for the real one and she wants this Santa to give the photo and note she wrote to the real Santa so he can pick up Prancer on December 23rd (so he has plenty of time!) at Antler's Ridge. This mall Santa also happens to work at the town's newspaper so he writes an editorial called "Yes, Santa, There are Still Virginias"and includes the photo and letter Jessie gave him. The piece is in the paper the next day and this is a great example of how this movie could never be made today. In the movie, Jessie has no idea about the editorial and she is angry at Carol because she believes she told three of their classmates about Prancer because she finds them in his stall the next day and tells them to scram. Funnily enough, one of her classmates is played by Johnny Galecki - shouldn't he be helping Chevy Chase putting up Christmas lights? That movie came out the same time as this one! In this day and age, she would have found out about it as soon as it was up through social media. She goes to church with her aunt and brother (and it is mentioned that her aunt is married, but we never see her husband...I guess he stays at their home which is thirty miles away) while John stays at home. He reads the paper and there are many close calls where he reaches for the "Living" section which the article about his daughter is in, but he always goes for another part of the paper. We also see that Prancer has gotten out of his stall (and managed to let the other farm animals out as well) and is wandering around outside, unbeknowst to John. Meanwhile, during church, Jessie has no idea why people are coming up to her and telling her she's inspired them. That is, until the minister reads the article about her.

She's worried that her dad has already seen the article, but he never does because Prancer has entered the house and is destroying everything which makes John pretty angry. A bunch of people from church have come over, wanting to see Prancer. When Jessie comes home, she sees the destroyed house and notices Prancer is gone and thinks her dad has killed him, but he has sold him for $200 to the butcher which freaks Jessie out. While the town butcher doesn't make flank steaks out of Prancer, he does have him in a cage with a harness of bells around his neck for children to view (for a fee, of course!) Her brother, Steve, stops being a jerk for the first time in the movie when he sneaks out with Jessie that night to free the reindeer. Jessie climbs to the top of the cage and encourages Prancer to fly out after she lifts the top off. The reindeer attempts to jump many times, but never flies out. Instead, he rams the door and breaks out that way after Jessie has fallen from a tree and hits her head. While Prancer could have easily escaped, he stays next to the unconscious girl, keeping her warm while Steve runs for help. Just one of the many scenes that made me cry.

Jessie is fine, physically, but emotionally, she is a wreck. She tells her aunt that Prancer is just a reindeer (since he didn't fly out of his cage) and that Santa Claus probably isn't real and that it's time for her to grow up since she's almost nine. Everyone in town comes to her house to sing carols to her (including Dr. Benton and Mrs. McFarland) and that made me cry. But the scene that made me cry the most is the next one when she and her father have a heart to heart and he tells her he's not going to let her live with her aunt because he had almost lost her and didn't ever want to have that feeling again and she says, "I'm sorry, Daddy" and he says, "I'm sorry, Jessie" and I am tearing up so much! She wants her dad to read her a passage from a book that her Mom always used to read to her. There's a scene earlier in the movie where Jessie brings the book into the stable and reads it to Prancer. It's from "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" which makes sense since the article in the movie about Jessie and Prancer is a play-on of that article. He reads the passage and I am just bawling on my couch. I was a total emotional wreck watching this movie!

Her dad has bought Prancer back from the butcher and he and Jessie take the reindeer to Antler's Ridge. Prancer is still wearing his harness of bells which I'm just sure an animal in the wild would just LOVE to wear to attract all the hunters and wild animals! But there is a reason for the bells. A very tearful Jessie says goodbye to the reindeer and tells him she'll never forget him. (And if I was't already still crying from the previous scene, I would start welling up again!) Prancer prances off and Jessie and her dad follow the hoof prints until they reach a cliff where the prints stop. Jessie looks down, but can't see anything because it's a long drop. A still tearful Jessie exclaims, "He couldn't have jumped...and lived!" This poor child! Her dad tries to cheer her up and says, "Maybe he is Christmas Eve, after all." He tells her to listen for Prancer's sleigh bells and Jessie strains to hear them. She can't at first, but then there's a slight jingling in the distance. Now from this point on the movie was much more steeped in reality than I thought it would be. I wasn't sure if this would be a movie where Santa Claus really does exist. They don't cut to scenes of Santa in the North Pole putting up MISSING signs for Prancer or any of that kind of stuff. And Prancer doesn't talk or exude any magical elements, save for the time he vanishes in thin air. It's really the story of this girl who still believes in the Christmas faith that gets to everyone in her town. I like that Santa isn't real in this world; I like that this is a "realistic" Christmas movie. But then the last scene kind of cheapens it because you see a silhouette of Santa and his seven reindeer, soon joined by the eighth. I groaned out loud at that. I wished they had kept it more ambiguous and all you needed to know that Prancer was THE Prancer was hearing his sleigh bells. Because he obviously flew. Jessie is right: there is no way any living thing could jump off that cliff and survive. I suppose they had to add that scene in for the young kids so they would know for sure that Prancer was back with Santa. But other than the last five second of the movie, I really liked it. This is a very underrated Christmas gem.

Here is the passage from "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" that Jessie reads to Prancer and Jessie's father reads to her:

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside,
but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man,
nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.
Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside the curtain and view and picture the
supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?
Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is northing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now. 
Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

End scene. Cue tears. Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Fun Christmas Movie Game

I was listening to this podcast called You Hate Movies (No, I don't; I love movies! - (it's tagline is "The podcast where casual moviegoers, film lovers, and cinephiles argue about movies")) and they were playing a game with Christmas movies where they would save one movie, thus having to "kill" the other one and therefore it would no longer exist in our world. It was a lot of fun as there was a lot of disagreements and arguments amongst everyone on the podcast (about seven people). So I thought I would give my own answers for the choices that were given. Some of them were quite easy and some (one in particular!) were really difficult to choose between.

So here we go:

1. White Christmas or It's a Wonderful Life - I have never seen the former and it's been a VERY long time since I've seen the latter. I would save It's a Wonderful Life due to it's cultural see way more homages to that movie.

2. Love, Actually or Just Friends - I've never seen Just Friends (didn't even know it was a Christmas movie!) and I love Love, Actually, so that one is a no brainer. Plus Love, Actually just oozes Christmas. 

3. Elf or National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - This one was the most difficult for me. Everyone on the podcast said this was a "clear" winner, but I don't think so! They all thought Christmas Vacation should have been saved even though the girl given the question chose Elf.  I love both of these movies so much...they're both in my top five favorite Christmas movies of all time. Both of these movies make me laugh. While Christmas Vacation is my favorite of the Griswold movies, I have to give it to Elf because I quote it so much and I remember seeing it theaters (twice!) and just laughing my head off. But I really do love both of those movies. It would make me sad to live in a world with no Griswold Christmas movie.

4. The Santa Clause or Jingle All the Way - It's been a really long time since I've seen The Santa Clause and I don't think I would particularly enjoy it if I saw it again and you all know how I wasn't that crazy about Jingle All the Way. That being said, I'm going to have to give it to Jingle only because of the Minneapolis setting and for Phil Hartman. But I wish I could get rid of both of these movies and save Elf AND Christmas Vacation!

5. Gremlins or Krampus - I haven't seen Gremlins in a very long time and I've never seen Krampus, but I have to give it to Gremlins just for the nostalgia alone. Plus it has that weird scene (SPOILER ALERT!) where the girl tells that story of how she found out Santa Claus wasn't real when her dad broke his neck going down the chimney trying to surprise his kids as Santa and he died. Oh. My. God! What the ?  That is Gremlins, right? 

6. Four Christmases or Fred Claus - I haven't seen either of these, but I think I would save Fred Claus only because it sounds like a more interesting movie with Vince Vaughn playing Santa's brother. (As opposed to Vince Vaughn playing Reese Witherspoon's husband). I feel like if I were given a choice to watch either of those movies, I would choose that one.

7. The Family Stone or Love the Coopers - I have never heard of Love the Coopers so I choose The Family Stone by default, a movie which I've only seen once and don't remember much about it. 

8. A Christmas Carol or The Polar Express (both from Robert Zemeckis)  - I have never seen Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol, but I have always been a fan of the book, The Polar Express, and the train ride to the North Pole was pretty amazing. Some of the CGI in The Polar Express doesn't quite hold up, but for the most part, I did enjoy it.

9. Scrooged or A Muppets Christmas Carol - Well, seeing in my review of Scrooged, I mentioned that my favorite version of A Christmas Carol is A Muppets Christmas Carol, then I think you know what my choice is! Plus, I absolutely love this song:

10. A Christmas Story or Home Alone - This is no contest...Home Alone easily wins this for me. (And it won the round on the podcast). I get that A Christmas Story is a classic, and there are lots of funny moments, but I remember seeing Home Alone in theaters and I made my mom buy the VHS (heh) so I could watch at it my 11th birthday party (which is in September, mind you, so it didn't make any sense to watch a Christmas movie then!) I have a lot of nostalgia for Home Alone while I didn't really even remember when I was first introduced to A Christmas Story (probably one Christmas when it was shown on TBS 24 hours in a row! Well, I don't know when they started doing that...actually I had probably seen it before Home Alone even existed, but I just don't remember!) Plus, Home Alone is way more quotable: "Look what you did, you little jerk!" is a personal favorite of mine. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry New York Christmas

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Brenda Fricker, Tim Curry, Rob Schneider
Released: November 20, 1992

You're probably wondering why I'm reviewing this movie and not the original. Well, it's because I already reviewed Home Alone back in 2011. I did watch it before I saw this one, so I will occasionally go back to that one. I remember seeing this movie in the theater and being so excited because I loved the first one so much. While this movie is very enjoyable, the first one is still the best. This one follows the exact same formula as the first one.

The film begins, much like the first one, with Kevin getting in trouble because of Buzz provoking him. Can I just say how much I hate Buzz? I can totally relate with Kevin because I also grew up with an older, provoking brother! I always thought how it was totally unfair in the first movie that Kevin was the only one who got in trouble for pushing Buzz and all the drinks spilled over everything, but Buzz should have gotten in trouble too! He was the one who started it when he pretended to puke up the pizzas. But nothing happened to him! And then when they're in Paris and his sister says, "Aren't you worried about Kevin?",  Buzz says "No, A,  I'm not that lucky" like he wanted something horrible to happened to his brother. In this movie, he messes with Kevin during a Christmas school pageant. (Which doesn't make any sense that they would be at the same school pageant because Kevin is in elementary school and I'm pretty sure Buzz is in high school). Everyone is laughing except his parents and I just loved how Uncle Frank was laughing the loudest AND pointing. Uncle Frank is the worst, but that was pretty funny. Kevin punches Buzz and everyone falls off the stands. At least in this movie, Buzz apologizes although it's insincere and Kevin refuses to apologize in return. In fact, he has a few harsh words for all of them and he calls Uncle Frank a "cheapskate" which was hilarious and deserved. And true. 

There's something in this movie that doesn't quite add up. At least three times, they refer to the events of the first movie happening "last year". In the first movie, Kevin says he is eight. In this movie, he says he is ten. Wait, what? How is that possible?

Despite the title, he is NOT home alone, but instead gets on the wrong plane. The McCallisters are flying to Florida for the Christmas holiday. Kevin is whining he doesn't want to go to a tropical location and there are no Christmas trees there. The family wakes up late, AGAIN, and are all rushing through the airport in a mad dash to make the flight on time. Kevin has this toy, and for some reason, he needs batteries RIGHT NOW for it. Seriously, kid, you can't wait until you get on the plane? He grabs his Dad's bag and starts looking through it while running after everyone. When he does see batteries, he stops in the middle of the very crowded O'Hare airport to put them in his recorder toy. He follows a man who he thinks is his dad because he's wearing the same coat and bumps into a ticket taker and all the tickets fall on the ground and she just lets him on the plane. I mean, it's not like a little kid could be a terrorist! Dollface with his blond hair and cable knit sweaters would never torture anyone! Never! Well, this was before 9/ we will soon be reminded. Don't they usually have marquees signs saying the destination for each terminal? I'm just saying. 

Before they board the plane to Miami, Kate wants to make sure everyone is there, but the stewardesses are rushing her on and telling her they'll make sure everyone makes it. How would they know how many people are in her party and if somebody is missing? If I were her, I would also want to make sure all my children were there and got on the plane, sheesh! And I'm sure they would hold the plane for her to page Kevin when she noticed he was missing...although it might be too late at that time as he's already boarded his flight to New York. He has no idea he's going to the wrong city because he puts on his headphones when a stewardess announces their destination. 

Kevin lands in New York and soon realizes he's not in Miami and says, "My family's in Florida...and I'm in New York!" It does not flow as smoothly as the much more iconic line, "I made my family disappear!" We get a montage of Kevin doing touristy things. This includes going to Chinatown and buying fireworks (what is it with this kid and fireworks?) and going to the top of the World Trade Center. I always forget people could go up to the observation decks and that just terrifies me. He was the only one up there that day which seems a little....odd. And a little eerie. He has his Polaroid camera which he's been taking photos with all day. What a '90s child! 

Speaking of '90s children, if you were one, most likely you had the Talk Boy or you knew somebody who did. The Talk Boy is the recorder toy Kevin has in this movie. He puts a cassette in it and can record himself (or other people) talking and play it back in different modes. This wasn't a real toy when the movie was released, but it became so popular that it was made into a toy for the public. I didn't have one myself, but a friend of mine had one and we would play with it. To be honest, while it was fun for like, the first five minutes, it quickly became pretty boring. Today's child would think this toy lame...and they would be right! It's probably a lot more exciting if you're using it like Kevin does. He records a message asking for a suite at the Plaza hotel and plays it over the phone in this slow-downed voice so it sounds like an adult talking. Well, it's SUPPOSE to sound like an adult is talking, but it sounds so weird! No person on Earth would ever think that was an actual human being talking and not a freaking recording! I do love the "Credit card? You got it!" line. Fun fact: that is Chris Columbus's wife in this scene: 

Somehow, it works and Kevin is able to check in the Plaza hotel, telling the hotel staff his dad is at business meetings and they probably won't be seeing a lot of him. The hotel staff, which includes Tim Curry as a concierge and Rob Schneider as a bellboy, become very suspicious of him. Kevin uses his Dad's credit card to his advantage and pays for limos and room service. Can you imagine if he didn't have any money? He would be so f***ed! It makes me wonder how his family in Florida was paying for everything. We know Uncle Frank is a cheapskate! Hopefully Kate had her own money. Also, it's a good thing Kevin did have the credit card because that's how they were able to track him down. That would be pretty terrifying if you didn't know where your child was. At least in the first movie, they knew he was at home.

Guess who else happens to be in New York the same time as Kevin? The Wet Bandits! Except now they're called the Sticky Bandits. They escaped from prison during a riot and decided to come to New York to start their next heist. It takes a very long time before they are "reunited" (that might not be the best word!) with Kevin. We first see them crossing the street from opposite sides with a bunch of people around them and Harry bumps into Kevin and he looks back, thinking he saw someone familiar, but nothing becomes of it. It's not until fifty minutes into the movie before they're finally aware of each other. Harry and Marv are standing a few feet behind Kevin, who is waiting at the crosswalk. They can't even see his face and his hair is covered by a hat. He is wearing a backpack that says "K. McCallister" and that's how they know it's him. But...did they even know his name from the first movie? I guess they did know that was the McCallister house they were robbing, but it's not like McCallister is a super uncommon name. There are a lot of McCallisters out there. Oh, well, I'm probably over thinking this way too much! Kevin screams and runs away from them. He goes back to the hotel, but he also has to run away from the employees because they've just discovered he's using a stolen credit card.

He goes to Central Park where he ends up meeting the Pigeon Lady, played by Brenda Fricker. She's such an afterthought to this movie that they didn't even bother giving her a name! Just like with Old Man Marley, Kevin was scared of her at first, but then they become friends. I found her relationship with Kevin to be really weird. Yes, she is suppose to be the Old Man Marley of this movie, and yes, she does save Kevin's life in the end, but she's this homeless lady who lives in Central Park and Kevin just invites her to join him for a hot chocolate and she takes him up to the rafters of Lincoln Center where they listen to a symphony. At least with Old Man Marley, Kevin has his heart to heart with him in a church that's brightly lit and there are plenty of witnesses around. Homeless Bird Lady tells Kevin she was once in love with a man, but then he stopped loving her and she never loved anyone again because she was afraid of her heart being broken, and therefore keeps away from people. She also has no job or no home. I thought the movie missed a great opportunity and Kevin should have taken her back to Chicago and set her up with Old Man Marley. But the whole thing was so weird with this ten-year-old kid attempting to give someone more than three times his age love advice! Brenda Fricker is great, but I wasn't a fan of this character. It didn't work for me like Old Man Marley does in the original.

The Sticky Bandits are going to rob from the super awesome toy store Kevin had visited and he knows he has to stop them because the money they will be taking is suppose to be going to the children's hospital. In this movie, he uses his uncle's apartment that's being renovated. I won't lie; I really missed the McCallister house, but I understand why they changed the location. If you thought the booby traps were bad in the first movie, they're downright torture devices in this movie! They should have killed Marv and Harry at least five times over. With the first film, I feel like, while very painful, I don't think any of the traps would have killed them....well, maybe the paint cans to the skull would...or at the very least it should have knocked them out cold. This movie starts its funhouse of horror with Kevin throwing four bricks from the roof at Marv. FOUR! I kinda feel that would kill somebody. The fact he didn't even get his nose broken is a miracle in itself. Marv even gets electrocuted at one point and we see his skeleton! Harry gets his head set on fire (again!) and douses it in a toilet bowl Kevin has filled with kerosene and there's a huge explosion. Both of them should be dead by now! I do like the nice touches of Marv cautiously walking up the steps, thinking they might be icy (they aren't) and Harry patting the door knobs to make sure they're not hot and quickly moving out of the way every time he would pull on a string to turn on a light. Obviously, Marv must have told him how he got the iron smashed in his face from the first time. We also have the old paint cans to the noggins again, except this time Harry and Marv try to trick Kevin as Kevin can't see them from the angle he's throwing the paints cans. They pretend to be hit and cry out in pain. I'm guessing Kevin had to know they were tricking him because he didn't hear the sound of metal crashing against skulls and that's probably why he has the lead pipe ready to take a swing at them. How does a ten-year-old kid lift a lead pipe? And how does a ten-year-old kid lift a 100 pound bag of concrete mix to the roof (which eventually falls on Marv after he pulls on a rope)?

Kevin is eventually caught by them when he slips on ice and they take him into Central Park and are about ready to shoot him, but Pigeon Lady and her pigeons save the day and Kevin escapes and the police arrest the Sticky Bandits. Kevin is reunited with his mom at the Christmas tree at Rockerfeller Center because she knew he would most likely be there. While it's a very nice scene, it didn't get me like the reunion the two of them have in the first movie. Whenever I watch Home Alone, I always get a little choked up during that scene. I think it's really cute how he's pretending to still be mad at her, but can't contain his joy at seeing his mom and runs to hug her. The entire McCallister family, who are also in New York, wake up the next morning the the Plaza hotel suite to a heaps of presents given to them by Mr. Duncan, the man who owns the toy store that almost got robbed by the Sticky Bandits. He thanks Kevin by giving him and his family all these presents. I would like to point out that Fuller is wearing dinosaur pajamas which makes me wonder if he was the "friend" Kevin was talking about in the first movie when he tells Old Man Marley that he had a friend who got "nailed" for wearing dinosaur pajamas.

Kevin goes outside on this cold, snowy Christmas Day where he gives Pigeon Lady a turtle dove ornament. You see, when he donated twenty bucks for the children's hospital, Mr. Duncan let him choose an ornament. He suggested Kevin choose the two turtle doves so he could keep one and give the other to a special friend. So he gives it to Pigeon Lady so they'll be "friends forever" and they hug and that's it. Seriously, kid? You're just giving this homeless lady a freaking tree ornament? What the hell is she going to do with a tree ornament? Why don't you invite her to your hotel suite and let her take a shower and give her a hot meal? Maybe you can even let her stay the night! God knows your family can afford it! Also, maybe setting her up with Old Man Marley isn't an option...but why not introduce her to Mr. Duncan and he can let her work at his toy store. I'm sure he needs people at the cash register or someone to stock the shelves! At least Old Man Marley had a house and was reunited with his son and granddaughter! This lady only gets a damn tree ornament!

Like the first movie, John Williams gives us a great score and the song, "All Alone on Christmas" sung by Darlene Love is playing during the montage of Kevin doing touristy New York things. This song is so good and catchy and it rivals Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You" in terms of its Christmas-y goodness and joyfulness. And for some reason, at least where I live, they never play it on the radio during the holidays! I don't get it! It's so good! And the song "Somewhere in My Memory" from the first movie is really good and very Christmas-y too and they never play that on the radio either! I posted this on my Facebook, but if you didn't see it or are coming across this review from somewhere else, someone made this awesome Christmas movie montage using "All Alone On Christmas":


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dashing Through the Mall (of America)

Jingle All the Way
Director: Brian Levant
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rita Wilson, Phil Hartman, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd, Jim Belushi
Released: November 22, 1996

This is a movie I've never actually seen all the way through, but I did know the plot and I had seen plenty of scenes on TV, so I knew the basic plot was that Arnold Schwarzenegger's character, Howard Langston, is trying to get his son the hot action figure toy called Turbo Man for Christmas.

This was not a great movie by any means (in fact, it's pretty bad), but when it gets to the end, it really turns into a steaming pile of crap. But I'll come back to that when we get there. The entire movie is about consumerism and buying your kid's love and affection. It "tries" to teach you a lesson, but I don't think it succeeds. 

The movie quickly establishes that Howard is a workaholic and often misses his son's events. After he misses his son's karate tournament and how upset little Jamie (Jake Lloyd) is, he tells him he will give him anything he wants to make it up to him and Jamie tells him he wants a Turbo Man. (It's like a Power Ranger? I guess?) Jake Lloyd is so bad in this and I'm confused how George Lucas picked him to play young Anakin. Maybe he became a better actor when he made that movie? I would have no idea as I've never seen thats movie. But something tells me that's not the case. In Jingle All The Way, most of the time he looks like he's reciting his lines and it is not natural at all. I know he was only seven or so, but there are better six year old actors out there! There has to be ones better than him! He is just atrocious. Luckily he's not in the movie too much. 

Howard goes to pick up the toy the next day, which happens to be Christmas Eve and this upsets his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson) that he's going out, but Howard promises her and his son that he will make it to the Christmas parade. He goes to a toy store that hasn't quite opened yet and there are a bunch of people also waiting to get in. He meets a postal worker, Myron. He's played by Sinbad and is not funny at all, but he's trying to be. All he does it rant about nonsensical things. He's also trying to get a Turbo Man for his kid. When the store opens, everyone rushes in and tramples over a store employee like it's Black Friday. The shelves where Turbo Man is supposed to be are all empty. The only toy they have is Booster, who is Turbo's pet tiger and apparently nobody wants that toy. Howard asks an employee if they have any more Turbo Man dolls and the guy just laughs in his face and basically says, "Good luck finding one on Christmas Eve"! I guess Howard or Myron didn't realize they were looking for the Tickle Me Elmo of that year. (Ironically, Tickle Me Elmo was THE hot toy of 1996). And if you didn't know what year this movie takes place in, Arnold wears an Atlanta 1996 shirt.

We get a montage of Howard going to a bunch of shops looking for the Turbo Man, but coming up short. This movie takes place in Minneapolis and I was thinking, Why doesn't he just go to the Mall of America? Which he eventually does. I guess I can't blame him for avoiding it as long as he could because the Mall of America is the last place you want to go to on Christmas Eve, or anytime near Christmas for that matter. I've been to Minneapolis and the Mall of America a few times so it was cool seeing familiar sites. At a toy store in the MoA, there is one Turbo Man left and there will be a lottery to determine who gets it. (And they will be paying double the original price!) Each person will get a rubber bouncy ball with a number on it and whichever number is called is the winner. The only problem is, there are more people than there are numbered balls so an employee just tosses them up in the air and it's every man for himself. Myron also happens to be there (he and Howard keep running into each other) and the two of them fight over a ball. Howard chases it through the mall where it goes through Legoland (I've been there!) and it bounces down and lands in a kid's stroller (and this kid looked way too old to be in a stroller) and she takes it with her through an indoor playground and ends up in a ball pit. Howard follows her through all the obstacles. They had to have build a bigger one for Arnold because there is no way Arnold friggin' Schwarzenegger could have fit through those! I have been on those kiddie playthings with my nieces and I have trouble fitting through those and I am no six foot tall bodybuilder! The kid puts it in her mouth (eww) and Howard is beat up by a bunch of mothers who call him a pervert. Yeah, the movie went there! 

He gives up on getting the ball back (it's not like his number would have been called anyway) and comes across a mall Santa played by Jim Belushi. He tells him he knows where he can get a Turbo Man and takes him to a warehouse with a bunch of Santas. I guess they sell toys on the black market? I wasn't really sure what was going on there. But it was definitely illegal!  He tells Howard it will cost him $300 and stupidly Howard gives him the money before inspecting the item, which is wrapped, and "Santa" tells him not to open it right away. Like that doesn't sound shady. It turns out the toy is a cheap knockoff and the doll's appendages fall apart as soon as Howard touches them and the voicebox is in Spanish. Howard and all the Santas get into a fight which includes a large candy cane prop Howard uses to knock a bunch of Santas out at the same time and candy cane nunchucks used by one of the Santas. The police arrive and Howard uses a fake toy badge to tell them he's an undercover cop and manages to escape. He never did get his $300 back, though. 

The great, late Phil Hartman plays Ted, the Langston's neighbor who is always trying to one up Howard. Ted is divorced and has his eye on Liz. He's the kind of dad who has already bought his son a Turbo Man way in advance and has it wrapped under the tree already and he also brings a reindeer to his house for all the neighborhood kids to pet. He goes over to the Langston's house where Liz is baking cookie and tells her to take a nice bubble bath and he can finish baking the cookies while he watches the kids, playing in the next room. I did laugh how he's being very pleasant when she's around, but as soon as she's upstairs, he yells at the kids, "PIPE DOWN IN THERE!" Howard calls from a pay phone during this time and is not happy that Ted is over at his house while his wife is in the shower. He's also not happy that Ted is eating Christmas cookies as he tells him, "Put down the cookie!" 

The whole conversation enrages Howard and he is reminded what Ted told him (very smugly) about already having bought a Turbo Man for his son and decides to steal it. He goes inside Ted's house while everyone is outside fawning over the reindeer. Just as he's about to leave, he feels guilty about what he's done and knows he can't take another kid's toy, so he goes to put it back, but somehow he ends up starting a fire in the house and the reindeer attacks him. (Don't ask). The fire is put out, but Liz and Ted find out what he tried to do and both are disgusted with him. Howard goes to Mickey's Diner, (the same diner where Charlie Conway's mom worked in The Mighty Ducks if I recall right!) and guess who he runs into again? Yep, Myron. They hear the radio announcer saying the first person to call in and can correctly tell him the name of Santa's reindeer, then they will win a Turbo Man. They both race to the diner's pay phone (remember, this was 1996!), but Myron ends up ripping the cord from the phone and somehow they're both trying to call the radio station...did they not notice the phone was no longer connected? The diner owner tells them the radio station isn't that far from where they are so they both race there and start spewing the names of reindeer while the DJ (Martin Mull) thinks they're both crazy. And he's not wrong because Myron gives him a parcel and tells him it's a bomb and he's not leaving without the doll. The DJ tells him he doesn't have the toy at the station and I thought he was going to tell them they had to go to another location to get it, but instead he just has a gift certificate for the toy which doesn't make any sense because how is that even relevant if the damn toy is sold out everywhere anyway? 

The police are called and there's a running joke throughout the movie where Howard keeps running into the same police officer (played by Robert Conrad) at least four or five times. I found that a little hard to believe seeing that Minneapolis is quite a big city and, really, what are the odds of that? Pretty slim, I'd say. Howard and Myron are able to escape because Myron tosses another parcel to them and tells them it's a bomb. The parcel he gave to the DJ wasn't a bomb, but it turns out this one was so the movie turns pretty dark when we see an explosion. However, the police officer just has some torn clothes and soot on his face. Must have been a pretty weak bomb. 

The parade is about to start and Liz and Ted have just arrived there with their kids. Little Jamie is looking around for his dad, but doesn't seem him. Meanwhile, Howard is also at the parade and is grabbed by someone who mistakenly thinks he's covering for the guy who was supposed to be Turbo Man in the parade but couldn't make it. This is where the movie just turns into a pile of reindeer poo. As Turbo Man, Howard is suppose to pick "one lucky kid" who will come up on the float with him and win a "special edition" Turbo Man toy. I was listening to a podcast review of this movie and one of the hosts said they thought he was going to see Myron in the parade with his son and would have a change of heart and choose Myron's son. But that doesn't happen. In fact, we never actually see Myron's son in this movie. Instead, Howard obviously chooses his son and when he says his son's name, Jamie is sooo amazed that "Turbo Man" knows his name. I mean, how stupid is this kid? He can't tell that's his dad? His dad has an Austrian accent and this Turbo Man has an Austrian accent! His dad has a prominent square jaw and this Turbo Man has a prominent square jaw! This Turbo Man also happens to be the exact height and has the exact same muscle mass of this Turbo Man. And he's not even wearing a mask, only his eyes are covered by goggles. Seriously, this kid couldn't figure that out? Uh-huh. So Jamie gets his super duper extra special Turbo Man doll, but Myron, somehow dressed as Turbo Man's arch nemesis, Dementor gets into a fight with Howard as Turbo Man and starts chasing Jamie, who has stuck the doll into his backpack, up a building. This Turbo Man costume seems very dangerous. It has blades in the wrists which he shoots at Myron/Dementor. There's also a freaking jet pack (how did they even afford that?) which takes him way up in the sky and he goes all over the city and crashes through one side of a family's apartment and out the other....I sure hope they sued the ass out of the parade people for making such a dangerous costume that ruined their home! The special effects, as you man have guessed, are just awful and look cartoony and fake. Howard rescues Jamie when he sees his son dangling from a building and flies to him as he slips off and catches him. 

Everyone cheers when they both safely land and Liz comes up to them. I thought for sure that she would notice that was her husband, but no, apparently she's as stupid as her son because when "Turbo Man" reveals himself to be their father/husband, she is as shocked and surprised as her son is. Really, movie? Little Jamie has a change of heart as the police have arrested Myron for pretty much everything he's done that day and lets him have the toy to give to his son. And yes, you could say that was a very sweet and generous thing to do, but when Howard asks him why he gave away a toy he wanted so badly, Jamie tells him, "Why do I need a toy when I have the REAL Turbo Man at home?" So basically the only reason he gave him the toy was because he had a bigger, better, LIVE Turbo Man and he would have held on to it if his dad had never been Turbo Man. What a spoiled little punk. Also, he's going to be in for a world of hurt when he realizes that this will be the only time his dad will ever be Turbo Man and will most likely go back to his workaholic ways. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Put a Little Love In Your Heart

Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, Bobcat Goldthwait, John Forsythe, Carol Kane
Released: November 23, 1988

Oscar nominations:
Best Makeup (lost to Beetlejuice)

Can you believe I've never seen this movie until now? When I saw it was streaming on Netflix, I knew it was the perfect time to finally watch it. Obviously, from the title, it's a take on A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a not-so-nice guy. Well, he's a complete jerk if we're being honest. Exactly the kind of person who needs to learn some lessons and be redeemed. He's a TV executive and is planning to run a live show of A Christmas Carol (the story is within the story!) on Christmas Eve, thus making his employees work that day. I laughed when they announced the live show because it reminded me of the live shows NBC had with The Sound of Music and Peter Pan and wasn't there one done with Grease? Were there any live show this year? I've never watched any of them. Their stunt casting with this live show is Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim. This was four years after she won her gold medal, so would she still be relevant? In the promo, they say, "Presenting Charles Dickens' immortal Christmas classic, Scrooge". But it's not called that! It's called A Christmas Carol! Unless Scrooge is the name they're calling it for this live event? IDK! 

Frank doesn't like the perfectly fine promo for the show and wants something a little more...intense. He thinks they should run an ad where the audience will be "terrified" if they miss it. If I saw the ad he wanted, I would NOT want to watch it! Granted, I still wouldn't want to watch it even with the perfectly fine ad as we've already established I don't much care for live productions on TV. He fires this mousey guy, Elliot (Bobcat Goldthwait), who tells him he shouldn't be running that ad. When his assistant, Grace (Alfre Woodard), is going through a checklist of what he's going to get his employees and family members for Christmas, he either tells her to put them down for a towel or a VCR. He steals a cab from an old woman with a bundle of gifts. He yells at Grace's young son (who hasn't talked in years since his father died five years ago) for running around on the set. In his office he has a sign that says: "Cross: a thing they nail people to." 

After Frank's had a few drinks (of vodka...which he sometimes mixes with Tab, how '80s!), he is visited by his former boss, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), who also happens to be deceased. He also invented the miniseries! He tells Frank that if he doesn't change his way, he'll end up just like he did and that he should make his life about charity, mercy, and kindness. Franks think he's an hallucination brought on by alcohol and stress. Lew tells him he will be visited by three ghosts and the first one will be expected tomorrow at noon. Frank is not impressed by this at all and tells him that tomorrow is bad for him. 

He (or rather the ghost of his ex-boss) calls his ex-girlfriend, Claire (Karen Allen) and leaves her a message saying he needs to talk to her. I laughed when he says, "Claire! I know it's been... (looks at his watch) ...15 years since we talked, but I really need to talk to you." She comes to visit him the next day on the set when he's getting ready for the live production of Scrooge. You can tell he's pleased that she's single. Because of the hectic set, he doesn't get to talk to her for long and seeing that he's busy, she tells him to call her and walks off. There was a funny running gag where a woman on the set was always getting hurt. When a handyman carrying a prop lamppost over his shoulder turned, she was smacked in the head by it. (The same thing happened to Elisabeth Rohm in A Christmas Kiss. Now I know where they got that from.) A large set piece fell on top of her and a prop barrel was knocked over and rolled towards where she was sitting (with a few casts and bandages!)

During lunch with his boss, it is almost noon and he is reminded that he is supposed to be visited by the first ghost in a few minutes. He keeps hallucinating and thinks one of the waiters is the ghost, but it is a taxi driver who is the Ghost of Christmas Past. So instead of a DeLorean, we have a taxi as a time machine! We see the years on the mileage panel flip back as he takes Frank to several Christmas Eves from his past starting in 1955 when Frank was four years old.  We quickly realize he got his abrasive personality from his father who gives his young son five pounds of veal. When little Frank says he wanted a "choo-choo train", his father tells him to get a job to buy one. We go forward a few years where they see when Frank and Claire meet for the first time. Claire's nickname for him is "Lumpy" and we learn it's because they first met outside a shop when Claire opened the door and smacked Frank right in the head. Then they bump heads again when they both lean over at the same time to pick up something Frank dropped. They became a couple and we see a happier time a few years later when they are celebrating Christmas Eve together and exchanging gifts as "present day" Frank looks on wistfully. It soon becomes clear that Frank chose his job over Claire.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane) is a fairy godmother-esque type surrounded by bubbles and glitter who is constantly slapping/hitting/kicking Frank. I found her to be really annoying, but she did have some funny moments. And Frank agrees with me because he tells her, "If you TOUCH me one more time, I'm gonna rip your goddamn wings off!" She takes him to Grace's house where Frank learns that her young son, Calvin, hasn't spoken since his father was killed and Frank didn't even know that his assistant's husband had died. He also realizes that money seems to be tight at this home and she's possibly due for a raise.

She next takes Frank to his brother's house where he's having a small, lively get together with his wife and close friends. Frank has been invited to these Christmas parties before, but never attends them. They are playing a trivia game and I laughed when the Ghost of Christmas Present repeats a question to Frank that was just asked by his brother and Frank says, "I may be invisible, but I'm not deaf!"

There's a funny moment where Frank, back on the Scrooge set, sees the Ghost of Christmas Future, who looks like the Grim Reaper, and he starts freaking out and screams, "He's here for me!" and to let him "have it".  It's only the actor dressed for his part in the live show. He comes across the actual Ghost of Christmas Future and at first he thinks it's just the actor again, but soon finds out it's the real deal. Frank is shown the future and it looks pretty bleak: Grace's son has been institutionalized; Claire has turned into a horrible and selfish person because she took Frank's advice to only look after herself; and then he sees his own funeral in which he is being burned alive in his casket. It gets pretty dark. He is returned to reality and has a whole new perspective on life. Right before he met the Ghost of Christmas Future, he was being shot at by a disgruntled (and very drunk) Eliot, the meek employee he had fired the other day. He tells Eliot he will give his job back with more pay and has him go to the control room with his shotgun and make sure nobody turns off the cameras while Frank interrupts the show and says, "Why are you watching television on Christmas Eve?" He gives a very sincere speech about what he's learned in the last few hours about mercy, charity, and kindness and apologizes to his brother and Claire. Grace's son breaks his silence when he goes up to Frank and says, "God bless us everyone." That put a little lump in my throat; I won't lie!

The movie ends with Frank and everyone on set singing "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." That is a song I love, but I had no idea that it was associated with this movie. Bill Murray breaks the fourth wall as he talks directly to the camera and tells one side of the theater to sing, then the other side. I don't mind it when movies break the fourth wall (as long as it works), but I don't like it when they're specifically mentioning the theater because are they not thinking that people may be watching this, oh, I don't know, twenty-eight years later on a media platform called Netflix and therefore that moment won't make any sense for those people? Anyway, you should download "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" by Al Green and Annie Lennox because it's a good song.

While I enjoyed the movie and am glad I (finally!) saw it, I don't think it will reach the levels of must-watch Christmas classics such as Elf and Home Alone and Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story. It's not even my favorite take on A Christmas Carol; I would have to give that honor to The Muppets Christmas Carol. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ho. Ho. Ho. Merry Christmas

Die Hard
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason
Released: July 20, 1988

Oscar nominations:

Best Sound (lost to Bird)
Best Editing (lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
Best Sound Effects (lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
Best Visual Effects (lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)

Just so you know, you're suppose to say the title of this entry in Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber voice. 

By all accounts, Die Hard is a Christmas movie, hence why I'm reviewing it this month, but I don't associate it with Christmas. Yes, it takes place on Christmas Eve. Yes, it takes place at an office Christmas party. (But once the terrorists appear, you kind of forget about that!) Yes, there are Christmas songs. ("Christmas in Hollis" comes to mind). You see a large Christmas tree in the lobby of the building. And of course there's the  dead terrorist wearing a Santa hat with the message "Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho." written on his shirt. However, it was released in July. But that makes sense since it IS an action movie and most action movies come out in the summer. I always find it so weird when movies set entirely around the holidays come out in a month that isn't November or December. The original Miracle on 34th Street came out in May and I had totally forgotten While You Were Sleeping was a Christmas movie because that one came out in April! People, if you're going to make a Christmas movie, make sure it comes out in November or December! But it's easy to forget Die Hard is a "Christmas" movie because it's not saturated in Christmas-y goodness like, say, Elf or Home Alone or Christmas Vacation are. (Just to name a few of my holiday favorites!) This is also only the second time I've seen this movie in its entirety (I know, I know, hard to believe I've seen such a classic only twice in my life!), so it's easy to forget it's a "Christmas" movie. I will say that this feels like more of a Christmas movie than Lethal Weapon.

I had no idea Die Hard was based on a book, but as I was watching the credits, on the screen it said, "Based on the novel by Roderick Thorp." A quick trip to Wikipedia told me the book was called Nothing Lasts Forever and was published in 1979. It seems weird that such a visual story was a book first. This movie has been out for nearly 30 years and this is the first time I'm finding out about this! (Obviously I must have not been watching the screen when that text appeared the first time I watched this!) And get this: that book was a SEQUEL to another book Thorp wrote in 1966 called The Detective and that was made into a movie in 1968 starring Frank Sinatra. And they offered Sinatra the part of John McClane!! And he was SEVENTY THREE YEARS OLD at the time!! What the what?? He turned it down, obviously. He probably read the script and was like, "They want me to jump through a building with a hose tied around me? F that!" Now in the books the character's name is Joe Leland and he's a retired police officer indicating he's an older man (like Mr. Sinatra in 1988) and it's not his wife's office Christmas party, but his daughter's. So it sounds like they changed things around a bit when they got a much younger star. (Bruce Willis was 32). Technically this was the movie that made him a star, or at least an action star, as he was really only known for Moonlighting during this time. 

The movie begins with our hero, NYPD cop John McClane (Willis) flying into Los Angeles to see his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia...yes, the matriarch on Parenthood!) We get a back story that they are separated because she got a great job in L.A. and moved out there with their two kids while John stayed in New York. He is trying to reconcile with her and what better time than Christmas Eve? He goes to her office building, the Nakatomi Plaza Tower, where an office Christmas party is being held. While McClane changes his clothes in the bathroom, twelve terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) enter the building and shoot the security guard and the guy manning the front desk. But before they come into play, we meet some of our supporting characters including McClane's wife, Holly. He is not happy to find out that she's been using her maiden name, Generro. We also meet her boss and the man who runs the corporation, Mr. Takagi and one of her sleazy co-workers, Ellis, who wants to sleep with her. There's also McClane's limo driver, Argyle, who drove him to the building and is waiting for him but he doesn't hear anything going on for the better part of the movie because he has the music playing loudly.

Gruber and his men have cut the power from the elevators, computers, and telephone lines. When they crash the party, McClane runs towards the top of the building. Gruber wants to talk to Takagi. He wants the code to the safe so he can get the 640 million dollars in bonds that are in there. He takes Takagi into his office to talk to him and tells him if he doesn't give him the code in three seconds, he'll shoot him and he does when he doesn't get the code from the executive. This is when we, the viewer, know Hans Gruber means business and isn't playing around. While vicious, he is also kind of funny.  He tells the others, "I wanted this to be professional, efficient, and cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Unfortunately Mr. Takagi didn't see it that way so he won't be joining us for the rest of his life." The way he says it is just so casual.

McClane pulls the fire alarm, which is actually smart. It's a good way to alert the police with no phone lines. However, Hans tells one of his henchmen to call 9-1-1 and to give them the guard's name and the building code number and have the alarm cancelled. McClane can see the police cars and fire trucks coming down the street, but they turn around. Um, I'm pretty sure they're not allowed to do that. Don't they have to check on why the fire alarm was pulled, in case, you know, there are TERRORISTS? True, this was nearly thirty years ago so maybe things have changed since that. I bet this movie changed that! It's probably called the Die Hard code.

McClane kills one of the terrorists after they figure out what floor the fire alarm was pulled and Gruber tells German Blond Terrorist #1 (like I remember their names!) to investigate it. After McClane kills him, he writes the "Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho." message on his shirt that Rickman so hilariously reads. His reading of "Ho. Ho. Ho." is just the best thing ever.  It's defintely in my top ten most memorable Christmas movie moments. He also takes the terrorist's radio and is on top of the elevator when Gruber and his other henchmen are talking so he finds out some of their names, including Hans's.

McClane heads to the top of the roof where he can get a connection with the radio to get in contact with the police and we get a completely ridiculous scene where an officer tells him that the channel he's using is reserved for emergencies only right after he's told them that terrorists have taken over the building. Um, what exactly counts as an emergency then if not that? McClane has my exact same thought and yells, "No f***ing s**t, lady! Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza?" Haha. The woman tells him, "If this is emergency, call 9-1-1." Did she not hear that there are terrorists and they most likely cut the phone lines? I know this is a movie, but my God! If something like this happened in real life, that woman would be raked over the coals for her insensitivity to someone calling for help! Sheesh! After she hears gunfire (!!), she still doesn't seem too concerned, but wants a police officer to drive by and check out things just in case. The terrorists, with their own radios, can also hear the conversation so they know there might be police checking on things soon. 

Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson aka Carl Winslow from Family Matters) is the one to get the call to check the place out. One of the twelve terrorists (well, eleven now since McClane killed one....actually less now since he killed a couple more during this time) is posing as the concierge at the front desk. He tells Powell everything is fine and we get a close call where it looks like Powell is going to go past a dark hallway where a gunman is waiting for him, but decides everything is fine and turns back and leaves. McClane sees him leaving and to get his attention, he pushes a body of one of the terrorists he has just killed out the window and it lands on the hood of his car. ("Did I do that?") I think that got his attention! He calls for backup. The terrorists can hear the sirens approaching, but Hans tells them not to worry, that they will take care of this. McClane communicates with him on the radio and this is our first interaction between our hero and villain. When Gruber asks him who he is, McClane replies with, "Just the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass." Gruber knows he has to get to McClane because they soon find out that he took the bag with the detonator, that they will need to help open the vault, that one of the terrorists he killed had with him.

The police arrive as well as a news crew. McClane talks to Powell on the radio, telling him the situation. He knows the bad guys are listening so he can't give away too much information like his name or whereabouts. I'm guessing the reason he doesn't want to give his name is that he doesn't want Gruber to figure out his wife is in the office, but if she's going by another name, would he figure it out? While Powell trusts McClane, the Deputy Chief of Police (Paul Gleason) does not and thinks McClane is probably a terrorist too and they shouldn't take him for his word. Which makes sense. Better safe to be sorry. Powell, using his copdar, has a good hunch that McClane is a cop.

Seeing as they are only shot at when they try to enter the building, the cops aren't having any luck. Remember the sleazy character I told you about earlier? Ellis? Well, he decides it's time to take matters into his own hands and he'll talk to Hans. He thinks he'll be able to handle him since he "negotiates million dollar deals for breakfast". This guy is such an arrogant sleaze and you just know he's going to get it...and you don't feel bad for him when he inevitably does! Does it make me a bad person if I was kind of rooting for it? He tells Hans he has something he can give him and proceeds to give him McClane's name and acts like they've known each other a long time even though they just met that night for the first time. Gruber radios McClane to tell him he knows who he is and he has someone special who wants to talk to him and you can see the fear cross over McClane's face, thinking they found out Holly is his wife and they have her. Because who else would it be that he knows? Stupidly, Ellis tells John, "They want the detonators or they're going to kill me" and grins at Gruber and gives him the thumbs up sign. His stupid little theatrics just got him killed! Although I'm sure Gruber would have killed him anyway, regardless. You could tell Ellis was really grating on his nerves! It's only the last seconds of his life when Ellis realizes he made a horrible and stupid mistake.

Gruber runs into McClane who points a gun at him while checking on something. He puts on an American accent and pretends to be one of the civilians from the party who had escaped, but I was waiting for McClane to see through his BS because Alan Rickman, no matter what accent he's speaking in, has such a distinct voice, but no, it never came! In fact, it's Gruber who points his gun at McClane when he turns his back. But being that he's John McClane, he manages to escape.

Gruber finds out Holly is John's wife when a news reporter goes to her house and interviews her kids and he sees them in a photo with their parents. We get that ridiculous, but super cool scene of McClane on the roof wrapping a hose around his waist and jumping off the building and crashing into a window. He finds Hans with a gun pointed at Holly's head, but shoots him and he falls back into a window and shatters it (aren't office building windows supposed to be strong enough that they won't break?) He's dragging Holly with him and grabs her watch, because surprise, surprise, Hans isn't dead yet and he reaches for his gun....but doesn't have time to shoot McClane because the watch has been disconnected and he falls to his death. I laughed when Powell and his boss are looking at the body falling out the window and the police chief says, "Oh, I hope that's not a hostage."

McClane is hailed a hero and he gets to meet Sergeant Powell who has one final heroic moment when he kills a remaining terrorists who comes out and aims his gun at John and Holly. When Holly is introduced to  Powell she tells him her name is Holly McClane. The movie ends with "Let it Snow" to remind us that we were watching a "Christmas" movie. Uh-huh. I love Die Hard, but it doesn't really put me in the Christmas spirit! I have also seen the other Die Hard movies once each and enjoyed them, although I don't even remember anything about any of them. I do remember NOT enjoying Die Hard 5 and turning it off halfway through because I could care less. 

My following Christmas movie reviews will be much more Christmas-y! 

Monday, December 5, 2016