Category Archives: Christmas Movies

Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rich guy goes broke.

Arthur (Dudley Moore), still a boozing and irresponsible cad with a lot of money, finds out that Linda (Liza Minnelli), his wife of 6 years, wants to have a baby, but she can’t have one naturally, so they’re forced to consider adoption. They have a good initial meeting with the representative (Kathy Bates) at the adoption agency only to find that Burt (Stephen Elliot), still upset at the way Arthur jilted his daughter Susan (Cynthia Sikes) at the altar 6 years earlier, has taken control of Arthur’s inheritance through some wheeling-and-dealing and turned him into a poor man. Now for the first time in his life Arthur must find a job despite having no experience in the working world at all.

This sequel takes the idea of what I thought should’ve happened in the first film, but unfortunately botches it badly by creating a concept with too many loopholes. Exactly how does a man worth 750 million lose it all just like that? Wouldn’t he have some of that money stored up in the bank or in stocks? What about the money he would most certainly have tied up in assets and equity like the 6 homes that he mentions owning? Couldn’t he just sell those and everything he owns inside of them and use that money to remain solvent instead of going from super rich to super poor overnight?

Things get really overblown when Burt buys up every apartment building Arthur moves into and every company Arthur works for, so that no matter where he goes he’ll be assured of always getting fired or evicted. Yet Arthur was already doing poorly enough at his hardware store job, which would’ve gotten him eventually fired anyways without having to have Burt intervene. It’s also never made clear how Burt is able to find out which new company or apartment building Arthur is moving into or working for. Was there some person/spy following Arthur around and reporting back to Burt everything he was doing and if so this should’ve been shown, but never is.

There is another scene where the lady from the adoption agency arrives at Arthur’s and Linda’s new apartment in order to check-out their living conditions. Yet the couple had just agreed to rent the apartment five minutes earlier, so how would the adoption agency know that the couple was living there since they hadn’t yet informed anyone of their new address?

Jill Eickenberry, who had played Susan in the first film, was unable to reprise her role due to working in the TV-show ‘L.A. Law’, so director Bud Yorkin had her replaced with his wife Cynthia Sikes. Sikes though plays the part much differently. In the first film Susan came off as a naïve, wide-eyed innocent, but here she is deliberate and mean. The contrasting personalities of the character don’t work and the film would’ve been better had the character just been killed off maybe in a suicide because she was so distraught at losing Arthur, which would’ve then made Burt’s nasty scheme at trying to get back at him make more sense.

The cast though does a decent job and there are some scattered laughs, but overall it’s flat and draggy. Chris de Burg’s opening song pales in comparison to the chart topping, award winning hit that Christopher Cross did in the first film, which only helps to set the lifeless tone for the rest of the movie.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 8, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Bud Yorkin

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

If Ever I See You Again (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rekindling an old romance.

Bob Morrison (Joe Brooks) is a successful composer of commercial jingles, but despises the many compromises he is forced to make in order to please his clients. He wants to write a film score and his agent Mario (Jimmy Breslin) gets him a meeting with some movie producers in Hollywood and while there he decides to look up Jennifer (Shelley Hack) his former girlfriend while in college. He finds that she still has feelings for him and they begin dating again only to have her, like in college, back off when the relationship starts to get too serious.

Brooks was coming off great success with the box office hit You Light Up My Life that won him the Grammy for song of the year (1977) the Academy Award for best original song as well as the Golden Globe and the ASCAP award. His over-confidence though exceeded his talents as he followed it up with this trifling mess that reeks of self-indulgence and is so unrelentingly schmaltzy that it will make even the most die-hard of romantics feel like gagging.

The film starts out okay as it analyzes the rigors of the music business and its overly demanding clients. You even get to listen to some cheesy jingles that he is forced to write, which are kind of funny. Had it stayed as a behind-the-scenes look at the commercial jingle world it might’ve been passable

The romantic storyline though kills it. The idea that this beautiful woman would have no other male suitors and simply jump back into the arms of a dopey guy that she had dumped years before is ridiculous.  At least having her married or in some other relationship would’ve made it realistic and allowed for added drama, which is lacking and the love songs that are played during this segment sound worse than the goofy jingles.

Brooks had no acting experience, but casts himself in the lead anyways, which was a terrible mistake as he mumbles his lines and shows no emotion or inflection. His hair looks disheveled and with his glasses off like a beady-eyed, would-be stalker. The character is portrayed too ideally turning the production into a narcisstic foray instead of a story.

The supporting cast is filled with non-actors as well including newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin and author George Plimpton who are just as blah and my guess is that Brooks did this to make his own bad acting seem not quite so glaring by comparison. Hack for her part is okay and at least has a beautiful face although I wished she hadn’t covered it up with her big, bulky glasses.

The most interesting aspect to the film is what occurred behind the camera as Brooks was nothing like the sentimental songs he wrote or lovable guy that he tried to play. Instead his friends labeled him an egomaniac and his daughter, actress Amanda Brooks, accused him of abusing her as a child while his son Nicholas was convicted of murder in 2013. Brooks himself was accused of raping over 13 women whom he had lured to his apartment through Craiglist ads under the disguise of being a film producer looking for fresh young talent. In 2011 while awaiting trial he killed himself, but not before becoming one of the creepiest looking guys you’ll ever see (pictured below).

Capture 282

However, the biggest irony is that in 2005 he wrote and produced a play about a woman with OCD who is brought together with a man who suffers from Tourette’s by a jingle singling God, which Playbill descried as being ‘one of the strangest shows to ever grace the Broadway stage.’ and even though it clearly sounds absurd I’d still take it over this crappy film any day.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: May 24, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joe Brooks

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

Gremlins (1984)

gremlins-2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t get them wet.

During his travels through China gadget salesmen Randall (Hoyt Axton) spots a furry little creature called a mogwai at a Chinese antique shop run by Mr. Wing (Keye Luke) and decides to purchase it as a Christmas present for his teenage son Billy (Zach Galligan). The mogwai, which they name Gizmo, comes with three simple rules that must never be broken. The first is that the creature must never be exposed to sunlight or bright lights of any kind, he must never get wet or be given water and most importantly he should never be fed after midnight. Unfortunately all three of these rules end up getting broken and the result is the creation of ugly little monsters called gremlins that create havoc and destruction on a peaceful town during Christmas Eve.

The concept is great with a nice mix of horror and dark comedy and I loved the idea of having this Norman Rockwell small town besieged with an ugly underbelly. The creatures look amazingly real and Gizmo is especially cute with special effects that are both creative and effective.

However, in the filmmaker’s effort to be humorous and ‘clever’ the film goes off-the-beam a bit by adding in stuff that isn’t logical and hurts the plot’s overall integrity. I didn’t get where these monstrous gremlins were finding all these hats and clothes that they are seen wearing nor how they were able to read signs, or know how to drive vehicles. Their tiny arms would be too small to be able to hold a chainsaw let alone run it and if you look closely during the bar scene you can see that the beer mugs that they are holding have been miniaturized in order to conform to the dimensions of the puppet. Also, the part where Gizmo gets into a remote controlled toy car and ‘drives’ it makes no sense since they are solely powered by a remote run by someone else that is not present.

Since water is the basic fluid for the survival of most living organisms it was peculiar that this one couldn’t be given any. What liquid was he supposed to drink instead? If he can’t eat after midnight then when exactly can he eat  since theoretically any time is after midnight whether its 3 AM or 3 PM. To me though the dumbest part is when Gizmo’s original owner Mr. Wing reappears at Billy’s and Randall’s home looking to take the creature back, but how would he know where to locate Randall as he left him no address and the film makes it seem that somehow he walked all the way from orient to get there, which is really dumb.

The film was also in its day considered quite controversial since it features a scene where Billy’s mother (Frances Lee McCain) traps one of the gremlins in a microwave and then heats it up until it explodes, which many people considered ‘too violent’ for a PG film and it helped to usher in the PG-13 rating. To me I felt this scene was actually the best moment in the movie as it’s the one part where it actually becomes like a horror film and has some genuine tension.

Dick Miller is fun as a maintenance man who despises foreign made products and Polly Holliday is equally amusing as a scrooge-like landlord whose over-the-top death is a highlight. I also liked Hoyt Axton as the father, but the running joke dealing with all of his inventions and gadgets that constantly breakdown gets old real fast and I was confused how he was able to afford such a nice big house when he made such a menial living trying to sell things that nobody wanted and didn’t work.

This also marks the last acting appearance of two great character actors, which include Scott Brady who is amusing as the alcoholic sheriff who refuses to believe that a bunch of gremlins are on the loose until it’s too late. Many consider this to be Edward Andrews, whose role here as the bank manager was greatly reduced when the runtime was trimmed by over 50 minutes for the final cut, last onscreen appearance as well even though Sixteen Candles, where he had a much more prominent role, was filmed later, but released to theaters earlier.

gremlins-3

gremlins-1

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 8, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joe Dante

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

The War of the Roses (1989)

war of the roses

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Yuppie couple destroys home.

Oliver and Barbara Rose (Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner) are a married couple with contrasting personalities who find that they no longer get along and in fact can’t even stand each other. They agree to a divorce and all of the assets except for the house. Both of them want to keep it and Oliver’s attorney Gavin (Danny DeVito) has found a loophole in the law that allows Oliver to remain there even after the separation is final. The problem is that they continue to get on each other’s nerves, which culminates with them locking themselves into the home one dark, harrowing night and using whatever prop available to vent their anger onto the other while inadvertently destroying the house in the process.

Some consider this to be one of the darkest comedies to ever be financed by a major Hollywood studio and when you think about it, it really is amazing. Most major studios shy away from edgy material and water it down until it becomes benign, but this film, which is based on the 1981 Warren Adler novel of the same title, stays quite true to its source material. The humor is on-target while making a great trenchant statement towards capitalism and yuppies in general. DeVito’s direction is visual and imaginative and there are some truly funny moments including the one where Turner destroys Douglas’s British Morgan Roadster with her 4-wheel drive truck.

The reuniting of Douglas and Turner from the Romancing the Stone films was perfecting casting. The two seem to have genuinely distinctive personas and it’s fun to imagine this as simply an extension of their earlier characters of Jack Colton and Joan Wilder and what happens when their rosy romance turns into the realities of marriage. The scene where Douglas’s character saws off the heels of Turner’s shoes is a great connection to their earlier film as his character did the exact same thing there, but it was unfortunate that we never get to see Turner’s reaction to it.

The production is slick, but having DeVito act as the film’s narrator seemed a bit distracting at times and the film might’ve worked better without him although he does have a few verbal gems during the second hour that almost makes up for it. I also didn’t like that the character who he tells this story to never says a single word, which to me seemed unnatural and weird as did his green painted office. Having the two kids of the couple turn out to be pudgy and fat was amusing and helped in a metaphorical way to symbolize the parent’s gluttony for materialism, but then the filmmakers end up ruining their own joke by having the kids later on become thin and attractive for no reason.

Spoiler Alert!!

The knock-down ending inside the home is great and DeVito’s use of Hitchcock overtones is inspired. Seeing the couple trapped on a ceiling chandelier while the camera travels up the wires of the light and into the attic where we see how the added weight bursts the bolts that anchors it is quite clever and even ingenious, but I was disappointed that the two end up crashing to the floor and dying. For one thing I didn’t think it was a big enough fall to have killed both of them. Maybe one, but most likely they both would’ve survived, but with injuries. Either way it would’ve been more interesting to see how they responded to each other after the incident and whether it helped to change them or their love/hate relationship, which to some degree is the film’s most unsatisfying aspect

End of Spoiler Alert!!

Adler wrote a sequel to his novel in 2004 that dealt with a messy divorce of the Rose’s grown son Josh to his wife. That book has now been put into production as a movie entitled The War of the Roses: The Children although no release date or cast has been announced as of yet.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 8, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Danny DeVito

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Some of My Best Friends Are… (1971)

some of my best friends are 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Patronizing a gay bar.

It’s Christmas Eve 1970 and a year and a half after the Stonewall Riots that first brought gay rights issues into the national spotlight. However, the patrons of the local Blue Jay Bar are still feeling like second class citizens where dancing between two men is prohibited and those who have come out about their homosexuality are being rejected by their family and friends.

The film certainly does bring up some great issues, but unfortunately pales badly when compared to The Boys in the Band that came out just a year earlier. The direction lacks style and the dialogue is too generic to be riveting. The film also has no momentum as the camera simply cuts from one group of conversing people to another. The on-location shooting done at the Zodiac Bar gives the production a static, claustrophobic feeling since almost the entire thing takes place in one building. The lighting is also dark and shadowy and at certain points even out-of-focus making it all seem quite amateurish.

The action is minimal in what is otherwise a very talky 110 minute runtime. The best moment is when Gary Sandy, who’s excellent in his film debut, and playing a man in denial about his homosexuality becomes enraged when he finds that the woman he has been dancing with (played by Candy Darling who is also excellent) is actually a man, which causes him to drag her into the bathroom and beat her that in turn creates a huge riot that is genuinely tense and startling. The scene where a mother enters the bar and openly disavows her son after finding out that he is gay is also quite good, but should’ve been extended.

Fannie Flagg gets kudos for her highly engaging performance as a snarky lady who never seems at a loss for words or verbal comeback. The way she dances by giggling her large breasts up and done like they are rubber balls is a crazy sight. Rue McClanahan is also good as a bitchy, aging blonde and so is Dick O’Neill as a conservative old-timer who shows great disdain for the ‘pansy pad’ once he finds out that it is a gay bar, but then strangely is still reluctant to leave it. This also marks the film debut of Gil Gerard who appears briefly in a small role.

The film’s few good moments and overall impactful message are badly outweighed by Mervyn Nelson’s dull direction as well as its rambling narrative that lacks a central character and makes for a flat and tedious viewing experience.

some of my best friends are 1

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 27, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mervyn Nelson

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: Amazon Instant Video

Static (1985)

static 1

 

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Everybody sees only static.

Ernie Blick (Keith Gordon) works at a crucifix factory, but dreams of making it big with his secret invention. The whole town that he lives in is abuzz about it and many take bets as to what it is. However, once Ernie unveils it no one is impressed. Ernie insists that he has created a device that can show live images of heaven, but all anyone else can see on the TV screen is static. Ernie becomes frustrated that no one can appreciate what he has done so he hijacks a bus carrying a group of senior citizens in order to create a media event that will allow him to share his invention with the rest of the world, but things don’t go as planned.

The film has that refreshing look and feel of an authentic indie flick made long before it was trendy and still in its infancy of being a trailblazer for original ideas. It’s fun and clever most of the way including a memorable shot of Ernie’s weird crucifix collection. The humor is subtle and hip with a cool music selection from lesser known 80’s bands. Director Mark Romanek shows great visual flair with his use of unique settings and color designs. The dialogue and characters are both engaging and quirky. I also loved the opening credits, which features a small, static filled TV screen in the distant background along with the sound of a low hum, which I found to be strangely hypnotic.

Gordon, who co-wrote the screenplay, does well in a difficult role where the viewer is supposed to find him likable and appealing despite the fact that he is clearly a bit unhinged. Amanda Plummer as his girlfriend gets a rare turn as being the most normal one in the film, which is interesting. Bob Gunton has a few choice moments as a conniving preacher man named Frank and Jane Hoffman is amusing as a senior citizen who tries to help Ernie on his mission.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t carry the quirky idea to a successful completion. It might have worked better had there been some image of some kind seen and then everyone could’ve debated whether that was indeed heaven or not instead of just seeing static, which comes off like a big buildup to nothing. The satire is too obvious and its overall message frustratingly vague. The violent and completely unexpected tragic ending is jarring and unnecessary and ruins its otherwise pleasant, whimsical tone.

There is also a scene where Gordon and Plummer go to a restaurant and order food, but when it gets served they barely touch it and then a minute later get up and leave after paying the bill, but why pay for something or even order if you’re just going to leave it there untouched? This is an annoying thing that I’ve seen happen in other films as well. I hate to sound preachy, but sometimes when I see these types of scenes I feel like screaming ‘There’s kids starving in Africa, so don’t waste your food people’!

static 2

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark Romanek

Studio: Siren

Available: VHS 

Christmas Vacation (1989)

christmas vacation 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Christmas at the Griswold’s.

It’s the season to be merry and to celebrate Clark (Chevy Chase) gets a tree that is too big for their house and his hopes of installing a backyard pool are dashed when his holiday bonus check doesn’t arrive. Meanwhile their home gets crammed with in-laws including his hillbilly cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) who never ceases to be obnoxious and crude.

I first saw this movie upon its release and didn’t much care for it, but upon second viewing I found it a bit more appealing. The humor isn’t exactly sophisticated or original, but manages to be amiable enough to be entertaining. Some of my favorite moments were just the small things like the way Clark angrily kicks the toy Santa in his front yard when he can’t get his outdoor Christmas lights to work or even the goofy reindeer glasses that Clark and Eddie drink eggnog out of. Clark’s innuendo filled stammering when aroused by a beautiful young saleslady is nothing new, but always funny especially with the way Chase does it. The running dialogue is full of amusing lines and good enough to spring up Quote-a-long film showings of this picture at many chain theaters including the Alamo Drafthouse Theater here in Texas.

Even though it has acquired a fervent cult following and been judged a ‘classic’ by some it still has its fair share of issues. For one thing they had too many in-laws over to fit into that mid-sized house and I wondered where they all slept and showing Rusty their teenage son sleeping in the same bed with his teenage sister seemed to border on the perverse. The film also has a frustrating tendency to not follow through with all of its gags including the part where Clark falls through the floorboards of his attic and into the top bunk bed of son’s bedroom below, which I’m sure would’ve caused a lot of issues, but we’re never shown it. The virtually plotless script by John Hughes, which relies solely on rapid-fire gags becomes a bit derivative and tedious by the final half-hour and is saved only by a funny squirrel attack as well as an S.W.A.T. team ambush. I also felt a bit uncomfortable laughing at a cat getting electrocuted, which the studio was going to cut, but then left in when it proved popular with test audiences

Young Juliette Lewis is cute and my favorite of the rotating Audrey’s. Beverly D’Angelo is the hottest MILF out there and I was a little shocked at the way she seems to grab Chase directly on his crotch during the S.W.A.T scene. I liked the veteran cast that made up the grandparents, but outside a few cryptic lines by E.G. Marshall they are essentially wasted especially Doris Roberts and Diane Ladd who play the two grandmothers and don’t have more than a few lines between them. Quaid is a scene stealer, but he gets a bit crude in spots. It’s fun seeing Mae Questal best known as the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in her final film role as a daffy, elderly aunt and I also enjoyed Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Griswold’s neighbors. They are portrayed as being this annoyingly pretentious, trendy yuppie couple, but the truth is I started to sympathize with them as their house continually gets damaged by Clark’s mishaps and I would have ended up being even more outraged and confrontational than they were had I been in their spot.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 1, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Elves (1989)

elves 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: This elf isn’t friendly.

Kirsten (Julie Austin) feels Christmas has become too commercialized and dreads the season only to find out something that will make her hate it even worse as her evil Grandfather (Borah Silver) who has Nazi ties has apparently selected her to breed with an elf in order to create a superior human race. Now she must work with Mike McGavin (Dan Haggerty) an out of work department store Santa to not only evade her grandfather and his men, but also the elf that now runs wild.

Despite the title there is actually only one elf and it’s not a very good looking one at that. Not only does his appearance resemble the character in Troll, but you never actually get to see an entire body shot of him. You will only see close-up shots from the chest up or close-ups of his tiny feet or hands that look to be that of a puppets. This was most likely because they didn’t have the budget or talent to create a full body suit for someone to wear, but the effect lessens the horror, which isn’t too high to begin with. His hands are so tiny that it would have been impossible for him to shoot a gun let alone hold one, which he does do in one scene anyways, and it also gave me the belief that with his small stature he couldn’t have been that threatening and one could’ve easily just have kicked him away and been done with it.

Haggerty, who most will remember from the 70’s TV-series Life and Times of Grizzly Adams actually does pretty good in an otherwise thankless part. I almost felt that if he would just do away with his trademark mountain man look more parts might open up for him and he wouldn’t be subjugated to having to do this crap, but in any event his presence is the only reason I’m giving this 1 point instead of 0. The rest of the cast flunks including the bad guys with their fake sounding German accents and the bland females with the only exception being Deanna Lund as the hateful mother who has a nude scene, which isn’t bad.

The story is farfetched, convoluted and ultimately boring. The special effects are unimpressive and the action poorly paced leaving way for long intervals where nothing seems to happen. It looks like it was shot on video and then transferred to film, which only accentuates its cheap production values. Outside of a pretty good bathtub death and a shot of an elf fetus inside the womb this film as little to offer or recommend and should not be put on anyone’s Christmas list unless they’ve been really, really bad.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released Date: December 10, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Jeffrey Mandel

Studio: Action International Pictures

Available: VHS

Jingle All the Way (1996)

jingle all the way 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: He needs Turbo man.

Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a middle-aged father who finds that the long hours at his job is preventing him from attending some events that his young son Jake (Jamie Langston) is in including his karate exposition. This makes Howard feel bad and he tries to go to every effort to attain the much wanted Turbo Man action figure to give to Jamie for Christmas. Unfortunately every store is sold out of them and he must trek across the Twin Cities to find some place that might have them while competing with a mailman named Myron (Sinbad) who is on the same mission.

The film is energetic and engaging and the segment where Howard runs all through the Mall of America while chasing after a small bouncing ball is funny. The part where he kicks the burning head of a wise man statue out the window that sends carolers screaming and running for cover had me laughing-out-loud. I also liked the scene where he has to take on a roomful of bad guy santas with a giant plastic candy cane. One of the santas is so huge that he dwarfs Arnie and makes him look puny, which is hard to believe but true.

The climatic sequence done during a parade in which Howard and Myron dress up in costume to resemble the Turbo Man as well as his arch enemy and continue to battle each other for the toy is quite lively. Watching Howard flying around the Minneapolis skyscrapers while wearing a turbo charged jetpack is fun, but completely implausible that a costume to be worn at a parade would ever be equipped with something like that. It is also hard to believe that Jamie wouldn’t recognize his own father even if he is wearing a costume especially when he continues to speak in his very distinct Austrian accent.

Sinbad with his engaging personality is good in support. However, the scene where he is seen dumping letters out of his mail bag in order to keep up with Howard while running down a street is a federal offence and would most certainly get him terminated and even given some jail time and since he did it in broad daylight in front of others it could have easily gotten reported.

Langston as the kid is cute, but there are those from the old-school who think that a young child slamming a door in the face of a parent even if he is mad at him is quite rude and out-of-line. Also, being upset with his father because he doesn’t attend some of his events due to working hard at his job isn’t really fair. Becoming enslaved to a demanding job to keep up a cushy suburban existence is a plague of most fathers and if the Dad didn’t do it they might lose that nice house and be out on the street and I’m sure the borderline entitled kid would dislike that even more.

Robert Conrad is great in support as a tough-guy-like cop who is constantly having hilarious confrontations with Howard. Watching him give Howard a sobriety test is ironic since Conrad’s real-life car accident that he had while intoxicated, which occurred just a little after doing this essentially ended his acting career.

Phil Hartman is always good as a slimy character and in this case it is as the lecherous next-door-neighbor, but having him constantly speak his lines like he is a spokesman in a TV commercial becomes irritating. Harvey Korman and Laraine Newman appear in very small roles near the beginning and barely have any speaking lines, which made me wonder why they would even bother to appear at all.

The one-joke premise gets stretched about as far as it can go, but manages to come up with enough different scenarios to keep it feeling like it is evolving. The humor veers a bit too much to the cartoonish and although I liked the on-location shooting done for the most part in Minnesota I felt they didn’t take advantage of the Mall of America locale enough and more could have done more with it. The closing credits take an amazing 7 minutes off the runtime, but it is worth it to stick through them because there in one last amusing bit at the very, very end.

jingle all the way 1

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 16, 1996

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Brian Levant

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray

To All a Goodnight (1980)

to all a goodnight

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Santa stalks sorority babes.

An initiation stunt at a girl’s sorority house goes horribly wrong and one young woman falls to her death off of a balcony. Two years later the girls get ready for a Christmas party by inviting some boys over and soon they are all getting down-and-dirty, but then someone dressed in a Santa Claus suit begins hacking them off one-by-one.

I’m a big fan of David Hess who directed this feature as I feel his performance as Krug in the classic horror movie Last House on the Left was effectively intense and this film is also written by Alex Rebar who starred in the cheesy cult flick The Incredible Melting Man, so I wanted to cut this movie some slack, but found that I couldn’t. Things start out bad from the very beginning with a tacky flashback sequence that is wretchedly acted and photographed and then things go straight downhill from there. Part of the problem is that the scenes featuring extraneous dialogue between a lot of bland, cardboard characters that is usually used at the beginning of most 80’s slasher flicks as a sort of set-up, but here they get strung along throughout the entire movie. The killings themselves are brief and paced so infrequently that you start to forget that this is supposed to be a horror film. The tension is nil and having a setting dealing with snarky, snotty and horny sorority babes is a tiresome cliché.

The killings themselves are poorly photographed in dark lighting, so it is difficult to follow the action. The special effects are cheap and unimpressive. One scene features a couple getting killed while they have sex, which is a poor rip-off of the same scene that was done in Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood. Some fans of the film boast about the scene featuring a death of two people by an airplane propeller, but this is really no big deal because all you see are a few seconds of blood splattering on the outside of the plane and that’s it.

The script is illogical and full of a lot of loopholes. The identity of the killer turns out to be two people using the same disguise, which doesn’t make sense for several different reasons, which is too may to elaborate here. There is also a Leia character played by Judith Bridges who gets accosted by the killer in a shower stall while being completely naked, but for some reason is not killed and instead we see her at the end dancing some nutty dance, but with no explanation as to why. The policemen hired to protect the girls after the first victim is found dead do not dress in uniform and instead look like they are ready to go out to a club to pick up chicks and behave like it, which seemed wholly unprofessional and ridiculous.

Jennifer Runyon makes her film debut here. She had a brief 13-year-run, which included a co-starring role in the 80’s series ‘Charles in Charge’, but has not appeared in anything since 1993’s Carnosaur. She is certainly easy on the eyes, but her voice is too high-pitched and sounds almost like she is 8 or 9 years old or someone who has sucked up helium. Hess also casts his mother Judy Hess in a small role as Mrs. Ronsoni although in the closing credits it gets incorrectly listed as Mr. Ronsoni.

Despite being set at Christmas the action takes place in the warm tropical climate of California, which is okay, but the expectation for a Christmas movie is to have snow and cold. Having the girls trapped in their house because of the frigid weather or being chased by the killer while trudging through deep snow could’ve helped heighten the tension and added an atmosphere.

The pounding electronic music score is the only thing that I liked and helped give this otherwise static and forgettable production a slight distinction.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: January 30, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes (VHS Print)

Rated R

Director: David Hess

Studio: Intercontinental Releasing Corporation

Available: VHS