Category Archives: Features

Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle: The Star Wars Holiday Special

This is it: the final film of A Christmas Beeracle. It’s all been leading up to this, The Star Wars Holiday Special, a film so famously, utterly terrible that everyone involved in the production has disowned it and George Lucas has attempted to purchase every copy of the program so that it will never be seen again. He has failed, and now I am watching it. I can’t think of a better (worse) way to end the year than to watch a movie that people actually pretend doesn’t even exist.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is the tiniest shred of a plotline composed of a handful of horrible Star Wars-themed sketches. After an all-too-brief prologue involving Han Solo and Chewbacca escaping from Imperials that establishes that the Star Wars version of Christmas is called Life Day, we are introduced to Chewie’s stupid family, two of which are named Itchy and Lumpy. The first scene in the movie is an excruciating sequence where one of the Wookies (I can’t remember which one and I don’t care) watches a little holographic circus, after which we learn the Empire suspects Rebel activity on the Wookie homeworld and promptly invades.

The rest of the movie is this meager story supplemented by smaller little musical numbers or other vignettes that have absolutely no bearing on the rest of the story, although the Imperials are apparently completely enthralled by the programming and frequently stall their ransacking of Chewie’s home to watch them. One of the funniest things about this special is that when a segment ends, the scene cuts to everyone gathered around the screen. Everything else is disconnected, inconsequential, and utterly lazy.

Yes, this is literally the image quality of this film.

There is an alarming excess of musical sequences in the special, including a rock song with the vocalist singing into what appears to be a massive glowing pink phallus. Another one, which is definitely a little creepy, features large-breasted Wookie females and a goddess character that tells Itchy (through a virtual reality machine) that she is his fantasy, or something. This movie is really weird. There’s also an instructional video starring a malfunctioning cyborg, a man who drinks via a hole in the top of his head, and, at the very end, a bunch of hooded figures marching through space toward a star where Princess Leia sings a song set to the tune of the Star Wars theme. This final scene might be the worst in the film, because Leia’s song barely fits with tune of the theme, and it’s almost tragic to see such a classic song get butchered. And if that is not bad enough, the song is followed by a montage of random Star Wars stock footage and no fewer than fifty-six toy commercials.

If there’s one thing that the Star Wars Holiday Special does right, it’s warn you right off the bat that there are two Wookies named Itchy and Lumpy. If you watch this, it is your own fault. By the time you get deep enough into the movie to hate all living things, you have no one to blame but yourself. Even so, it is far and away one of the worst things I’ve ever watched. It’s the only movie in Christmas Beeracle that has been able to reach to absurd lows of Nutcracker: The Untold Story. It’s not only “Nutcracker bad”, but almost worse, perhaps even taking that film’s place as a frame of comparison for horrible movies. As a result of this utterly colossal pile of wretched garbage, Wookies are dead to me.  I. Hate. Wookies. It’s almost so bad as to completely ruin Star Wars for me, and I will never view the films the same way again.

I had sort of planned on the movie being that bad, however, and it serves as a fitting end to this feature. I’m almost glad that I’m ending with a movie that was a horrible as the kickoff film, nicely bookending a month of utter cinematic torture. While looking for bad Christmas movies, I came to the realization of just how many bad Christmas movies there actually are, and found myself heavily narrowing down my list and omitting many of the ones I had initially planned for. I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t glad it was over.

Presented without comment.

Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle: Home Alone 3

Christmas is over, but A Christmas Beeracle is not yet finished. There are still a few more awful Christmas movies left to suffer through.

It took the folks over at Fox two movies to apparently figure out what the Home Alone series was missing: military technology in the hands of a little kid who isn’t Macaulay Culkin! Such is the plot of Home Alone 3: terrorists hide a dangerous chip in a remote-controlled car so they can sneak it through customs. Since the airport has dozens of bags that all look identical, the car winds up in different hands and is later given to Not Macaulay Culkin (Alex D. Linz). The terrorists arrive in Chicago, somehow manage to find Not Culkin’s neighborhood, and immediately start breaking into the houses one by one to find the car. Not Culkin tries calling the police, but when the police show up and barely miss the robbers, the adults get mad at the youngster and don’t believe his protests, as all parents and adults in these types of films do. Not Culkin must take matters into his own hands, devising ingenious traps to humiliate and harm the bad guys as much as possible, until the adults figure out how stupid they are and come to arrest the crooks.

Not Culkin is going to grow up to be a very creative murder. He’s already a (fairly adorable) sociopath, using his telescope to spy on the neighbors, control their TV sets (because any remote will work on any TV, apparently), and devising traps that would likely be deadly in real life. No doubt about it, this kid is going to be a villain when he grows up. He even has a white rat with red eyes named Doris for a pet.  One of Not Culkin’s traps is a chair that sends thousands of watts coursing through one of the terrorists (which in real life would likely kill a man). Others send startlingly heavy objects hurtling into the heads of the other antagonists, one of the instances being a running lawnmower. You could make a drinking game out of how many times one of the terrorists plummets two or more stories. It’s kind of funny, but really just very dark when you think about it. For their part, the terrorists bring loaded guns and knives to the house with which they clearly intend to do as many horribly violent things to Not Culkin as they can, starting with tying up the neighbor in the garage and leaving the door open so she almost freezes to death.

Ohhh, wook at the adowable widdle psychopath!!

The terrorists themselves are somehow either incredibly stupid and clumsy, or technological geniuses, as they are able to hack into Not Culkin’s family’s phone lines and reroute calls (the reason for doing so actually being really stupid and based on chance), yet when it comes time to break into the house, they’re suddenly idiots. They meticulously and inexplicably track the chip to Not Culkin’s house, but they blindly run around ignoring the very obvious traps. It’s really weird how quickly the characters switch gears, but it’s all for the service of the “hilarious” hijinks.

There are also heaping servings of John Hughes feel-goodness here as well. The cruel older siblings eventually come through for Not Culkin, such as when his sister, played by a very young Scarlett Johansson, verbally bullies an Air Force general into divulging military secrets just by saying, “That’s my little brother you’re talking about.” Not Culkin does adorable things such as call the bad guys knuckleheads, and a cranky old neighbor turns out to actually just be a really sweet woman.

"OK, this gun has three bullets. That's one for each of us so we can get out of this terrible movie."

To be fair, there were a couple things that made me laugh here. As violent as some of the traps are, I did chuckle at some of them, and in a touch that actually legitimately amused me, every law enforcement official in the movie appears to be channeling as many 90s action movie tropes as possible: on the two burglary calls, the police roar up to the house with their guns drawn and kick the doors off their hinges, splinters flying. The Air Force cars are preceded by massive snow plows that tip over a minivan in their militaristic haste to get to the microchip. It seems that a lot of kids’ films have this type of violent law enforcement types, and it’s still amusing here.

It’s a bright spot in a boring, stupid movie. It’s almost not a Christmas movie, making only one or two mentions of the holiday and featuring some Christmas decorations and snow, but there’s nothing here actually about Christmas besides being around the same time as Christmas. It’s just plain bad, like everything else in this feature. And that’s a good thing, kind of. A Christmas Beeracle is drawing to a close, and I have some truly awful ones coming up. I’m not ready. Are you?

"Tom, is that your career up there? I think it's getting away!"

Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle: A Christmas Too Many

Plunging into the depths of Netflix’s instant streaming service, I turned my eyes to the customer reviews of Christmas movies. After a couple of minutes, jackpot: a recent B-movie with a large cast of aging actors and an average user rating of two stars out of five. Obviously, this was going to be horrible. I hit the “Play” button and instantly hated myself.

The plot of the movie is this: a famous Hollywood actress (Ruta Lee) invites her quirky family to her California home for Christmas. “Hilarity” ensues.

I actually had a lot of trouble even finding images for this article.

This movie is really awful, more than making up for the merely mediocre Fred Claus. It’s got an extremely peculiar feel of a stage production that was never adapted into a screenplay. Oddball characters pop in and out of a scene, desperately scrabbling for the most stupid lines. It’s less of a collection of coherent characters, and more just a series of personalities, and bad ones at that. There is not a single character in this entire wretched movie that does not fulfill some sort of stereotype. There’s a hunter father that is obsessed with finding and killing some guinea pigs, a misunderstood son, two sides of a family that hate each other, a gay hairdresser, a jock brother, a timid nice-guy boyfriend (who constantly gets hurt) and his spoiled girlfriend–it goes on and on, and the more time I had to spend with these people, the more I hated them. The only character that was remotely funny, a chef with a strong Bostonian accent, was ruined by a running and depressingly obvious joke about him possibly being in the mafia due to his accent.

The mafia joke, as awful as it is, is one of the better jokes in the movie. The rest of them are simply horrible. A character is cutting carrots, and cuts off his finger but doesn’t realize he’s done so until another character comments that he didn’t think carrots could bleed. Another character has diarrhea and rattles off almost half a dozen jokes about fecal matter–followed by three or four more jokes about erections, all of them distinguishable and memorable only for how completely unfunny they are. Mickey Rooney’s “grumpy grandpa” shtick takes literally less than five seconds to get irritating. And for Mickey Rooney, that’s really, really sad.

Mickey Rooney, wondering what the hell just happened.

While we are on the subject: Holy star power, Batman! A number of big actors and actresses are in this movie, from Rooney to Ruta Lee to Sam McMurray to Gary Coleman and more. I cannot imagine what compelled them appear in this movie. As a 2007 film, I can only imagine that it is has something to do with each of them making a desperate attempt to stay relevant. It’s actually kind of sad; Rooney was more lively in his two second cameo in The Muppets than any part of this film, and most of the rest of the cast, as good as they can be in anything else, find themselves working for a director who clearly has little skill in telling actors what to do. Of course, as I mentioned, this has a lot to do with the horrendous, smug script.

The icing on this crap cake is some of the worst cinematography this side of a high school drama project. Nearly every character is introduced via a slow tilt or pan from whatever they are doing, up to their face. The movie is filled with poor camera positions that are either too close or to far away. I’m not a director of photography by an stretch of the imagination, but I spent large stretches of the movie thinking about how I could have shot it better.

Overall, it just reeks of a made-for-TV Christmas special. While there have been some good TV films, like that one movie, A Christmas Too Many is not one of them. It’s below even what a broke college student would make by begging for favors. Amateurish, overwrought, and incredibly irritating, A Christmas Too Many is almost unbearable, and a sign that these bad Christmas movies are back with a vengeance.

"Did you put cyanide in this drink? I could really use some right now."

Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle: Fred Claus

A spur-of-the-moment decision to pick out a Christmas movie led me to this little Vince Vaughn vehicle, a strange formula indeed: the normally very crude Vaughn and a host of other big name actors such as Paul Giamatti and Kevin Spacey, in a family oriented Christmas movie. It’s even more surprising that they actually got these actors to even be in the movie. I can’t imagine how they were convinced to do so, since it certainly was not the director David Dobkin, who joined after most of the actors. Either way, as expected, the movie is not good. A winter six pack for wasted talent!

Fred Claus tells the story of Santa’s older brother, disillusioned in childhood by his magical sibling’s constant, exuberant one-upmanship. An adult Fred (Vince Vaughn) is bitter, cynical and estranged from Nick (Paul Giamatti). He makes promises to his girlfriend that he cannot keep and his only friend is a young orphan who visits his house every once in while. When Fred finds himself in jail, he makes a last-resort call to Nick, who will only bail out Fred and provide money to Fred for an investment if Fred comes to visit and help out at the North Pole. Naturally, Fred starts to stir up trouble, getting the elves involved in dance numbers.

"Fred, I really can't express how much I hate this script."

Of greater worry to Nick is the visit of Mr. Northcutt (Kevin Spacey), an efficiency expert with a villainous streak who is looking to shut down the North Pole. As things spiral out of control, and the North Pole draws closer to being closed forever, Fred realizes how awful of a person he is. As always, it is this late-game revelation that allows him to save the day when Santa gets fired and cannot deliver the presents. Then everything is OK, as even Mr. Northcutt becomes nice and everyone is nice to each other and every little problem from throughout the film is handily tied off in the last two minutes of the film.

It’s almost disappointing that Fred Claus actually has some very mildly funny parts, mostly due to a pretty vicious mean streak in the first half (or about as mean as a family film can get). Early on in the film, to pay for his poorly-explained investment, Fred tries to pose as a Salvation Army Santa to get a little extra money. This leads to him getting accosted and then chased through the mall by an army of Santas, because Fred does not have the authorization to collect money. While I love a good dose of dark humor (Bad Santa is one of my favorites), I had wished for a more aggressively horrible movie. This one is bad, but certainly not terrible, due mostly to the cast. While there are some clever digs at the commercialization of Christmas, and the way that Santa’s operation is a corporation-run business, some of the other instances of humor are simply in poor taste.  Maybe hiring the director of Wedding Crashers to do a family film wasn’t such a great idea; Elizabeth Banks in a miniskirt playing a character referred to as “Santa’s Little Helper” was just a little bit creepy. And that kinda funny stuff at the beginning? That was all there was that even brought me close to a smile.

Did I mention Santa Claus literally has an eating disorder? COMEDY

Of course, it does try way too hard, from violent CIA-style security elves, to Willie the head elf being in love with (but not noticed by) a girl and having to be subsequently coached in love by Fred. I’m fairly certain that by this point Vince Vaughn is paid for every zinger he utters, and he must have made a mint from this film, turning up the Vaugn-ness to the upteenth degree. The cartoony sound effects, which I thought would not have gotten any worse after Santa Clause 3, have now graduated to the point of the sound editor downloading an open source package of Looney Tunes sound effects. That is not an exaggeration.

I’ll need to dig deeper for awful Christmas movies, because again, while Fred Claus was stupid and boring, it was far from the travesty that makes this feature such a demented kind of fun. I think there are some truly bad ones on the horizon, however–including some that have a full page of one- and zero-star reviews on Netflix, and a couple that appear on nearly every list of bad Christmas movies that has been compiled. This isn’t over yet, and this phase is undoubtedly just a brief lull in a bitter storm.

Oh, look! He's too big for the elf bed! COMEDY

Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle: Santa Clause 3

Part of my reasoning behind this most recent bad movie endeavor is to try and top last month’s horrible series of vampire romance films.  There was little doubt in my mind that I’d be able to do it, given what I already know about what is out there. The first film, The Nutcracker, and now this one, now push all of the doubt out of my mind. This is going to suck.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is another inexplicable sequel to the series about how Tim Allen accidentally killed Santa Claus and took his place (merry Christmas!). This time, Scott Calvin/Santa Claus (Allen) is worried that his pregnant wife (Elizabeth Mitchell) is going to deliver her baby on Christmas Day, conflicting Scott and his delivery of toys, which is behind schedule. To make matters worse, the annoying Jack Frost (the annoying Martin Short), jealous that he does not get a holiday, is interfering by putting up “Frostmas” signs around the world. To avoid banishment, Frost begs Santa for one more chance, and is allowed to help prepare for Christmas. Naturally, Frost sets about destroying and messing up everything he can in order to ruin Christmas (complete with Short overacting his ass off) and trick Santa into uttering the Escape Clause, which will reverse time (exactly back to the point where Scott became Santa, for some reason) and allow Frost to take Santa’s place. While all this is happening, Scott is trying to juggle his chaotic family life and not doing so effectively.  This whole family thing, which gets old remarkably fast in its merciless attempts to hammer into my head that it’s bad to let work come before family mmkay and takes well over half of the movie to discuss, was way too hamfisted to be anywhere near resonant.

"A ham and a turkey for Christmas" as one critic put it. Well said.

It’s literally an hour into the film before Jack Frost actually enacts his evil plan of tricking Scott into uttering the Escape Clause “I wish I had never been Santa at all” (or something along those lines). Frost takes Santa’s place and over the course of twelve years turns the North Pole into an amusement park. The next few minutes is something along the lines of Biff’s nightmare version of Hill Valley from Back to the Future Part II: the world is commercialized, people in Scott’s life are bitter and depressed, and Scott is powerless as Frost has the entire North Pole in his pocket. Scott has to figure out how to trick Frost into uttering the Escape Clause (the manner of which is so heavily foreshadowed there is literally no tension whatsoever) so he can reclaim the mantle of Santa Claus and fix the North Pole and prove to his family that they matter, crudely bookending the film’s theme of putting family before work. It doesn’t help that once he gets to Frost’s North Pole, it takes Scott roughly .001 seconds to learn the error of his ways. It’s probably the movie’s biggest fault: in its irritating vendetta to drive home how much of a jerk Scott is, it forgets about the main plot and tries to shoehorn it into the last twenty minutes of the movie, effectively pushing aside the moral it worked so hard to establish.

Since Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is a “comedy”, there has to be “comical” things, which include direct-to-DVD-grade wacky sound effects, farting animatronic reindeer (and, might I add, the most horrifying demonic wide-eyed robot reindeer I have ever seen in my life), and a few dozen shockingly bad puns (four of which are included on the back of the DVD box). This being a Disney film, there also has to be even more direct-to-DVD-grade wacky sound effects, overeager line reading, enough magic dust to coke up a legion of pixies, and a disgusting, excessively happy gushy everybody’s-best-buds-and-family-and-oh-hey-there’s-the-swell-of-happy-music ending. What’s even more amazing is that it actually had a run in theaters.

I hate Martin Short even more now.

Unsurprisingly, nearly everyone involved in the film appears to wish nothing more than the most horrible death upon themselves, with the exception of Tim Allen and Martin Short, who consistently try to outdo each other in terms of overacting. I have to hand it to Tim Allen for giving it his best effort, sticking with this franchise through to the end. Martin Short appears to be relishing the chance at being a villain, or he has mental problems, or both. Either way, both actors ham it up completely. Some of the kids in the story also earnestly deliver their lines, and I have to wonder if kids’ movies are getting markedly worse or if I just didn’t notice all of this when I was younger.

I kind of want to go back to the original Santa Clause and see if I still find it amusing, because this one certainly is not. It simply tries way too hard to wring laughs from the audience. A question is answered with “none of your ski’s wax”. After being called “willful and malicious”, Frost asks if they meant “skillful and delicious”. The Sandman is always sleepy. In an attempt to conceal the identity of the North Pole, the elves are referred to as short Canadians. The attempts at humor are so painful I truly felt sorry for the actors that had to say them.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause was not offensively horrible as it was just idiotic, unnecessary and poorly made. The script is quite bad and is very poor at pretty much everything it attempts to do, but I didn’t despise the movie, it was just really bad. I feel like I’ve been jaded by the traumatically awful Nutcracker. Nothing will live up to that one, although a part of me hopes that it does. I need more awful movies for this. Don’t think I’m defending this movie, though: everyone involved should be ashamed, because it was still a mess and certainly a worthy entry for A Christmas Beeracle.

Spencer Breslin is not impressed.

Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle: The Nutcracker

I humbly present Christmas Beeracle, named on a whim and conceived even quicker. Similar to last month’s Twi Hard, and relevant to the season, I will this time watch the most horrible Christmas movies I can find. I’ve already got several candidates and the trailers for each are already showing signs of toppling the high bar of poor quality set by the Twilight films. Beginning the project is award winning director Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Nutcracker: The Untold Story. Sporting a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and having grossed less than $200,000 in the U.S. box office, this film seemed tailor-made to be a part of this sort of feature.

The Nutcracker: The Untold Story, known theatrically as The Nutcracker in 3D, is one of the worst big-budget movies ever made. It’s worse than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and all of the Twilight films put together. It’s every bad idea and misconceived twist on a beloved tale shoved into a two-hour nightmare with all of the grace and enthusiasm of an unrehearsed high school play on opening night where no one even cares.

The film, which felt to be around five hours long, opens with the young Mary (Elle Fanning), who decides to start writing a Christmas card to her father but is interrupted when her brother begins burning an ornament, because he is apparently the Christmas version of Sid from Toy Story except less creepy and more of just an annoying child who has no place in this story. Mary is sad because her parents are leaving on Christmas Eve to do whatever it is that rich couples do in family films to leave their rich children in incredibly expensive adventurous mansions.  Enter Albert Einstein (Nathan Lane, sporting a horrible wig and tragically trying way too hard), who has literally no reason for being in the movie as a character, brings the children a large dollhouse with dolls that each have their own little story and will probably be characters later in the movie (spoiler alert! They do!). He gives the children the Nutcracker doll (because a movie based on the original story legally has to include the actual Nutcracker) and sings a song about relativity. This is approximately fifteen minutes into the movie.

RELEVANT

After her brother is fast asleep, Mary gets up to talk to her Nutcracker, and is surprised to find out that not only does it talk back, it appreciates that she treats it like a living thing. Instead of wonder what Uncle Albert put in the Christmas Eggnog, Mary follows the Nutcracker’s instructions to put some pillows on the floor so that it can fall off of a high shelf onto them. This, for some reason, will allow the Nutcracker to grow to child size and actually move. After all of that pointless nonsense, the Nutcracker takes Mary into the living room downstairs where the Christmas tree has become absolutely massive, the ornaments are alive, and the roof is gone, giving way to a starry sky. Mary wonders if perhaps they just got smaller, since everything in the room seems to have grown too, but the Nutcracker assures her that everything is relative (because we need a reminder that Albert Einstein is in the movie). He takes her to the dollhouse that Uncle Albert gave her earlier, and she sees that, surprise, the dolls are all alive.  Then they ride to the top of the tree, and meet a fairy who has Mary dance with some spirits, and then the Nutcracker turns into a prince because of reasons. Something about Mary believing he was real. But it gets so much more awful, and we’re barely a half hour into the film.

The Prince takes Mary to the top of the tree, which is so high that it is over the clouds. The Prince informs Mary that the city down there used to be his, before the Rat King (John Turturro) took it over. There is then a flashback of a massive machine smashing through a building and blowing up a few others, before opening up to reveal an army of Nazi rats. You read that correctly. Take a Nazi, remove, the Swastika, and add Rat makeup and you have these guys. Cut to the Rat King himself, who snaps his fingers to make a jazzy Rat band to appear behind him and play some music while he sings his villain song, as a handful of rat soldiers start dancing, and the Rat King electrocutes a shark he has in a giant tank. I have to imagine that this is some sort of pitiful James Bond villain reference.

This actually happens.

Also, the Rat King intends to burn all of the children’s toys so that the smoke blacks out the sun.

Let me reiterate. The Rat King wants to steal the toys of all children. And burn them in a giant furnace. So that the smoke from the fire blacks out the sun. This is a PG-rated children’s film, by the way. Parents, have fun explaining to your tykes why those poor men are being forced to shovel coal while the whole city rains ash. That’s not even to mention the rest of the Nazi undertones in the story and the mess of other misconceived ideas, such as armored rat dogs, motorcycles with machine guns, flying machines with legs, and some startlingly bad rat puns.

It does kind of feel like a stage production, with exaggerated characters and elaborate costumes. But this production style clashes horribly with the post-apocalyptic Holocaust style of the rest of the film, making for dreadfully forced overwrought performances squished against a startlingly dark backdrop of what is essentially a Nazi regime. Uncle Albert, as the movie insists on calling him, kind of-sort of narrates the film and breaks the fourth wall two or three times tops, which begs the question of why they even wanted to do that in the first place (the first time he does is to remark that he thinks someone is following him, turns around and sees no one, and expresses his disappointment that no one was following him). I think what this film’s problem is is that there are countless ideas stacked on top of each other until the entire movie collapses under its own weight. Also, it’s really stupid.

All the story really needed was some war machines.

I was most disappointed with John Turturro. Turturro is a favorite of mine given his inspired performances in other films, but here he is barely trying. At times, he seems to be attempting to channel the spirit of a classic stage villain, jumping around and emoting with animated enthusiasm. At other times, he delivers lines with plenty of that quirky Turturro-ness, but it, like so much else in this film, feels horribly forced in the absolute worst way. There was literally a line in the movie that he delivers with utter intensity, and then stares at another character for a good second or two, much like someone would in a stage production when a line was forgotten. There’s a strong sense that the director decided to go with the first take of every scene and not bother reshooting anything no matter how bad it was.

The cinematography and choreography is a nightmare. I’ve seen no-budget student films shot better than this. Actors getting so close to the camera that they are out of focus, other characters half out of the frame, and some of the most dreadful ensemble dancing ever put to film are the order of the day. During another of Uncle Albert’s songs, the camera cuts to outside of the room where three other characters are eavesdropping with their ears to the door. The characters begin moving up and down in time with the music. It was literally the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Speaking of songs (and this is one of the most egregious of the film’s faults), most of the music in the film is taken from Tchaikovsky’s works, whether from the original Nutcracker ballet or from other symphonies. Most of these works have no lyrics. Enter Tim Rice to do that. Most of these songs were never meant to have lyrics, and it shows. It actually feels like Tim Rice spent maybe twenty minutes on the entirety of the film’s music, with lyrics that barely make sense. I just remembered this, too: remember that song about relativity I mentioned earlier? Can you guess what the music for that song is? If you guessed “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”, you’re correct. That’s right–the most well-recognized song in the Nutcracker ballet is forever bastardized as the tune for a song about relativity, sung by Albert Einstein.

It’s almost disappointing that I started Christmas Beeracle with this movie, because now I feel that nothing will be able to live up to its horror. I’ve already watched The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, and while pretty bad, it’s does not warrant the same reaction of jaw-dropping horror that this does. We’ll see if the planned Santa Claus: the Movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, or Snow Queen can match it, though I honestly doubt it. The Nutcracker: the Untold Story is truly one of the most horrible movies I have seen in my entire life, numbing in its lack of quality and coherence, and worthy of its own place in quality representation terminology. Some movies are bad, but very few are Nutcracker bad.

Because why would we not include a giant pen in the movie?

Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle

With the resounding success of Twi Hard last month, I thought about ways in which I could build upon the idea and roll out a second edition of a bad movie series. My eyes traveled over to the calendar on my wall, and maybe it was a bit of Christmas magic, but a cold chill ran through the room and the calendar page fell down to read: DECEMBER. The reminder of my aging, and the idea for the next feature, both hit me hard, and I realized what I must do.

It was going to be a Christmas Beeracle.

While not a true marathon like Twi Hard was, this will still be a series of bad movies, this time with a Christmas theme. The objective now is to hunt down and watch the most horrible Christmas movies I can possibly find. Some of my plans are last year’s bomb The Nutcracker, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Santa Claus the Movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Surviving Christmas, and Snow Queen, if I can find them. As before, expect scathing write-ups of each as I see them. These movies are apparently so bad that hardly anyone liked them, and there is little if any competence in their production. Once again, we shall see how bad this gets for me.

Part 1: The Nutcracker: The Untold Story

Gutenfilm Presents: Twi Hard: Breaking Dawn Part 1

I’m thankful to finally be at the end of Twi Hard, at least for a year. Once next November rolls around, I’ll be able to do a follow-up article on Part 2 of this…groundbreaking (dawnbreaking?) series.  I’ll have to think of something truly special to commemorate the final chapter of the saga.

I was going to do a proper review for Breaking Dawn Part 1, but I think it’s fairly obvious to everyone at this point what I think of the series, so I decided that actually writing a review would be pointless, and switching over to a natural continuation of Twi Hard would be more sensible, and hopefully more entertaining.

I had the immense, glorious privilege of sitting in front of four of the hardest actual Twilight fans for this screening. Me, a humble Harry Potter fan, sitting a mere vampire biting distance from some real life Twi Hards!  And they got into the movie, too: gasping at all the right parts, sighing at the wedding, letting out groans of disgust at the nasty bits: one would think that Summit Entertainment had paid them as part of a viral marketing campaign to broadcast passionate audience response to the film. They even whispered to each other how excited they were for the movie to start as the lights went down five seconds before the movie started!  What a treat. If I can claim any sincerity in this entire feature, it is my elation at actually getting within close proximity of a hardcore Twilight fan during the actual movie.

Breaking Dawn Part 1‘s opening moments involve everyone getting invitations to the Cullen wedding.  Naturally, Jacob pops his shirt off literally twenty seconds into the film and everyone else acts emotional at the news that the couple are getting married. What follows is a desperately boring, mercilessly extended wedding sequence.  It was even worse than actually having to watch a real wedding, because all of the weddings I’ve been to actually had interesting people in them (although I should note a pretty amusing dream sequence where Bella sees everyone dead and flowers decaying and rose petals turning into blood, but alas, it was just a dream. Hey, you can’t win ’em all).  Then they went on their honeymoon, vacationing to a house on an island that Edward’s family owns.  Bella finally talks Edward into vampire sexing her (preceded by Bella’s nervousness over getting naked in front of Edward, it was so cute ^_^) and then they go skinny dipping, and then finally have sex, and apparently it’s so good that Edward punches the shit out of their bed, ripping a chunk out of the headboard and causing the whole thing to collapse.  Bella awakens the next morning surrounded by feathers from the bed, because apparently the sex was also pillow biting good. Yep, it seems that Edward literally ripped apart the pillow and mattress during the deed. I don’t know what those vampires are doing or taking, but I want to know their secret.

D'AAAWWWWWWWWWW

But not all is well in the world of teenage romance sex fantasy fulfillment. It seems that Edward accidentally bruised Bella the previous night, in a sexual romp that was not only furniture smashing, mattress biting intense, but also wife-beating intense (because this is a healthy relationship, apparently)  The couple experiences some turmoil, but not too much because this is Edward and Bella. We all know everything is fine because they’re married now.  But no it’s not! Because Bella is preggers!  And it’s a vampire human hybrid and it wants OUT! It wants BLOOD!  The next large chunk of the movie consists of Bella’s child kicking the crap out of her from inside her womb, along with the Twilight standard-issue brooding. Jacob’s brood-o-meter is broken. The needle has shattered the glass.  Remember when I said he broods more than an entire cast of a CW show?  This time, he broods more than the entire lineup of CW shows. Put together. I’m surprised Taylor Lautner’s face isn’t broken (although judging by his other movie Abducted, maybe it is).

Also, the vampire-werewolf truce is about to be broken because of the baby, because I’m…really not exactly sure now that I think about it. Actually, wait a second.  Why should the werewolves care if there’s a hybrid baby growing in Bella’s belly (Bella’s belly baby. Say that ten times fast. I crack myself up)?  I think it had something to do with the pack worried about the child being a threat, but oh wait, this is Twilight and this story is about relationships, not badass human/vampire hybrid children with demon powers. Anyway, a quick jaunt to Wikipedia (and another refusal to donate to them) later does not yield any answers. But Jacob is like, the sweetest, and he breaks away from his manly angst pack to protect the baby, who is either going to be named Renesmee if it’s a girl and E.J. (Edward Jacob) if it’s a boy.  If you ask me, I think Stephenie Meyer got blasted on Jack’s while she was trying to think of a baby name. There’s also during this whole thing a thin and irritatingly veiled abortion debate, where everyone wants Bella to kill the child but Bella refuses because she feels a connection to it.

And then, finally, the birth scene.  There was a lot of noise raised about this scene because in the book it’s apparently super duper intense because Edward has to give Bella a c-section using his freakin’ teeth and other stuff happens.  Despite heartthrob Robert Pattinson’s (Edward) remarks that the scene would have made the movie NC-17 if they hadn’t cut it down, it was pretty disappointing even though I’m a sucker for POV camera angles and it was mostly shot from Bella’s perspective. I’m holding out hope for an unrated DVD but who knows. Then there is some more conflict and Jacob and Edward still hate each other. But OMG  I almost forgot that before the baby was born Edward’s doctor-father-who-might-not-actually-be-a-doctor-because-it-was-just-a-cover-story-but-I-don’t-know-who-gives-a-crap  decides that maybe Bella should try drinking blood because her baby is sucking up all her nutrients.  They give her blood in a Styrofoam cup with a straw and she drinks it and likes it. She also gets a little healthier because her baby likes it too.  After the childbirth, Bella flatlines so Edward injects her with his “venom” in the biggest damn syringe you’ll ever see.  It doesn’t work so Edward panics and starts biting her all over the place in a feverish attempt to change her into a vampire so she doesn’t die.  EMOTION!!

"I'm totally disregarding the part where you told me sex with you will be dangerous. This will probably bite me in the ass later in the movie."

Anyway, there is some more conflict about  the werewolves and vampires fighting or something. Jacob waffles between protecting Bella and wanting to kill her baby or both, because that’s what best friends do. When Bella dies during childbirth, Jacob goes into ultra-brood-cry mode, totally not manly, and finally decides to kill the baby, which is manly but really not very nice. Then he imprints on the child, which is a thing werewolves do where they see someone and suddenly decide to become unhealthily obsessed with them forever.  So kind of like a high school girl but with more muscles. Then there’s a big stand-off outside the Cullen house, and the truce is broken, preparing for a huge battle in the next film (but probably not). Everything seems OK for now, but then there is an epilogue with the evil Voulturi vampire order, scheming so hard I wish I had saved the broken face joke for them instead of using it on Taylor Lautner.

I should mention, because I found this extremely funny, the novel’s cover art. Stephenie Meyer said that the cover is a metaphor for Bella and that she started out as a pawn (the weakest piece) but now she’s a queen (the strongest). Whatever the hell that means. She also said that she almost called the book Forever Dawn but it sounded too cheesy so she went with Breaking Dawn because it adds a sense of disaster and signifies a new day. Whatever you say, Stephenie.  Whatever you say.  Maybe for your next book you can actually be grammatically correct and capitalize the title!

Or just don't write another book. That works too.

Although I did speak at length of the stupid stylistic decisions made in the first two films, I found myself deeply missing them in the dreary Eclipse, which was depressingly straightforward even if it did have a couple of minutes of neat action. Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a refreshing return to the strange cinematic flair of the other films, and while it does not have any inexplicable panning and strange camera movements, it does attempt at least some of the weird crap featured in the other films, such as at the wedding when Bella and Edward kiss.  The camera spins around them and all of a sudden the area no longer has any people because oh my gosh it’s so romantic it’s like they are the only ones there!  To director Bill Condon’s credit, he’s assembled a nice-looking film here.  It’s colorful, even if these are some of the most green screen-ass backgrounds I’ve seen since 300.

Seriously though, I cannot in good conscience deny Condon credit for at least getting Kristen Stewart to emote for ten seconds when Bella was nervous as her dad walked her down the aisle (was it only ten seconds?  It seemed so much longer because of how intense and amazing the scene was!).  Condon seems to be the most capable director of the series so far, but that’s like saying Breaking Dawn Part 1 is the best Twilight film or that shingles is the best skin disease to get.

To be honest, Breaking Dawn Part 1 really is the best mixture of all of the worst and most unintentionally hilarious moments from the previous films. This film brings the campiness of the previous three films to an absolute fever pitch, to the point of unintentional but extremely noticeable self-parody.  The scene in which Jacob imprints on the new child, and the child, with it’s downright unnerving CGI face, turns to look at him to imprint in return, is hysterically weird and almost creepy.  There’s also a part near the end where Bella drops her cup of blood and she tries to catch it her back literally snaps in twain.  Then my back broke because I was laughing. Just joking. But seriously. It did.

So ends Twi Hard.  For now. As you’ve all seen these past couple of weekends, it has been quite a struggle. As much fun as I have had blasting the films, it is also a relief to be free of them for a year. Watching all of these horrible uninteresting people interact and conduct the most wooden line readings since erectile dysfunction medication infomercials has been a trashy sort of fun, but in the most painful way imaginable.  I hope everyone enjoyed it.

This movie has frolicking. Sparkly vampire frolicking.

Gutenfilm Presents: Twi Hard: Eclipse

I’m in the comfort food phase of Twi Hard. I am emotionally irregular and armed to the teeth with Burger King and beer. I’m at the point where I want to get this over as soon as possible and I hear and share my Blu-Ray player’s cries for mercy.  It does not want to play Eclipse, and I do not want to watch it.  But I made a promise. Promises must be kept.

So apparently Bella didn’t actually accept Edward’s marriage proposal at the end of New Moon, because she wants to be a vampire first.  I really can’t be sure though because Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are mumbling here more than ever before.  Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), still butthurt over the events at the end of the first film where her lover got killed, has graduated from simply running around the forest to attacking people to turn them into vampires so she can upset the vampire/werewolf truce or something. Jacob finds out that Bella plans to leave with Edward and broods harder than anyone has ever brooded in a film. He also throws stuff because he’s a werewolf and has a temper. The Cullens decide to start protecting Bella from whatever is committing the serial murders popping up around Seattle. Jacob is also completely convinced that Bella is actually in love with her.

Villainy! Scheming!

Victoria continues to build her army and Jacob and Edward continue their absurd power struggle for Bella’s emotions.  At this time in the film I became extremely bored and irritated. There’s some nonsense about Victoria’s army coming to Forks to kill Bella because, tit for tat, since Victoria’s lover was killed so must Edward’s.  You’d think Victoria would just want to kill Edward and be done with it but why would Twilight start making sense more than halfway through the series?  However, if ever a series jumped the shark, it would be Twilight, about an hour and a half into Eclipse. Bella is taken to the top of a mountain to hide in a tent, for whatever reason, and since it’s cold and there is a snowstorm, Jacob volunteers to cuddle close with Bella to warm her with his body heat. It’s so stupid, so utterly, inconceivably ridiculous, I could barely focus. Then there is a fight between the werewolves and vampires, and Edward proposes for real, and the Voulturi do more scheming and plotting (albeit with a depressing lack of Michael Sheen, the sole bright spot in New Moon), and at the end there is some extremely cringe-worthy dialogue about how Bella has always felt strange but she feels complete and strong in Edward’s world. Note the steady deterioration of my attention to detail as the film goes on.

I have to wonder why Bella is so incredibly important and special.  She’s a brunette tabula rasa with a healthy libido and seemingly no bearing on anything, yet no vampiric powers such as mind reading work on her. Everyone wants her too; the vampires and werewolves all seem to want to either protect or kill her.  She is the One Ring of Stephanie Meyer’s series, yet no conceivable reason is given for her being so popular.  If there’s anything I want to see in this series, it’s a good reason for all of this.

The flowers are "meaningful", or something.

Eclipse continues to ramp up the stupidity of the series, this time employing a rather alarming amount of flashbacks to colonial times or whenever the hell most of the Cullens got turned.  As far as I can tell it’s never really explained why most of them got turned into vampires, but they did and it makes for “bonding” time between Bella and the individual members of the Cullen family. There’s also plenty of the stupid endless conversation between Edward and Bella that defines the series, as the couple lays in a field of purple flowers that apparently is part of some stupid motif that I can’t figure out.

The director’s chair is passed on once again, now with David Slade (director of the extremely dark and brutal vampire flick 30 Days of Night) up to bat. The decision to make Slade as the next director seems motivated to get some more people to see the movies, in that getting a darker tone for the series will attract more males.  Slade does indeed cut the crap and deliver a straightforward, darker entry with none of the artsy nonsense from the previous two films. Unfortunately, this comes with the tragic price of most of the other film’s enjoyable camp.  There’s some unintentional silliness here, but Slade more or less ditches it for a disappointingly serious installment. On the other hand, Slade’s experience with 30 Days of Night does lend him the skills to be able to deliver some refreshingly brutal action towards the end.  While it’s still as stupid as the confines of the series allow, there are still a couple of good shots of vampires getting their apparently porcelain heads ripped off and Victoria gets completely rocked by Edward.  Still though, I have lost a lot of respect for Slade for signing onto this stupid franchise.

They all have just one expression.

Only one more movie, and then I get a year’s reprieve to watch the manliest movies I can find and drink the most beer and eat the most steak I can muster. It’s been a thoroughly unpleasant experience thus far and the only comfort I can find is that you have all been entertained by my pain.  Breaking Dawn Part 1 tomorrow will be the culmination of my pain.  Since it’s in the theater I’ll have to make to with lots of popcorn with ALL OF THE BUTTER and no alcohol, so know that I’m doing this for you.

Gutenfilm Presents: Twi Hard: New Moon

It was hard to get out of bed this morning.  I suspect it has something to do either with a buildup of estrogen from last night’s cavalcade of female teenage emotion (sans the actual “emoting”), although it’s more likely I’m building up a powerful unconscious resistance to Twi Hard.  A shower and a cup of coffee later, I was as ready as I ever would be. So I put in New Moon and my Blu-Ray player reluctantly loaded it up.

New Moon takes the horrible overwrought angst from the first film and cranks it to 11. Following an incident at Bella’s birthday party hosted by the Cullens (in which she gets a papercut and a couple of the vampires go crazy) Edward decides to leave.  The conversation is “dramatic” and “emotional”, or at least attempts to be, but it’s filled with dialogue that could have only been carefully written by a woman with a serious boyfriend complex.  After an extended sequence displaying Bella’s extreme anguish, Bella inadvertently learns that rushes of adrenaline allow her to “see” a phantom Edward that talks to her and stares and does other Edward-y things. She then attempts to do reckless things to get that rush and finds out that those shirtless dudes are actually werewolves.  She becomes best friends with one of the werewolves named Jacob who is super in love with her.  And then some vampire who was evil in the last movie who later decided to help Bella is suddenly evil again. There’s also a huge conflict between vampires and werewolves (because every movie has to have that now–don’t leave home without it!).

Remember the part when Edward compared Bella to heroin? Yeah.

This movie is actually extremely boring, but in a different way from the first film.  While the the previous entry had a significant amount of great overacting from Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, Edward disappears for most of this one, with his spot being filled by Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, who doesn’t have nearly as much sidesplitting mushy dialogue but does more brooding on his own than an entire cast of a CW television program could ever do. Later on, Jacob tells Edward that Bella is dead so Edward decides to reveal himself to humankind.  And there’s an evil vampire order headed by a wonderfully hammy Michael Sheen, whose chewing of the scenery at times rivals that of Gary Oldman in his own villainous roles. There’s also Dakota Fanning, whose power is to make people think they’re in pain.  If I was a vampire and that was my power, I would fall onto the nearest wooden stake I could find. After some evil plotting and scheming, Edward tries to fight the evil vampires and gets his ass completely and hilariously handed to him. Then the Voltouri, as the evil vampires are apparently called, suddenly change their mind about killing Bella and the Cullens vote to eventually change Bella into a vampire so she can have sex with Edward, and Jacob broods some more Edward proposes and roll credits and why the hell am I subjecting myself to this.

AND THE EMOTION HOLY CRAP.  Bella is every crazy ex- and current girlfriend, every adolescent emotion, every codependence complex, and every obsessive pathology wrapped up into one borderline psychopathic, masochistic young woman. After Edward leaves there is not only a time lapse of Bella sitting in her chair for apparently three solid months, but also a montage of her laying in bed screaming as if she were giving birth (which now that I think about it is either a really horrible display of emotion or the absolute best use of foreshadowing in a film franchise ever).  At the same time, Kristen Steward fails to actually emote properly throughout most of the film.  She has a strange blankness in her eyes, an emptiness that just sucks all emotion into a void.  She just…stares, and her characterization (which I believe is meant to create a template for fans to apply their own personalities onto or some nonsense) is like oil and water with the extreme attempts at emotion that the rest of the film makes.

These guys do little more than scheme and plot and other villainous things

New Moon opens with another horrible camera movement, twisting ninety degrees and then panning down.  I thought that with Chris Weitz taking over as director, we would be done with these, but certainly not. I have to give him a little bit of credit for attempting some artful techniques.  He attempts some creative shots here and does admittedly dial back the inexplicable panning, but it’s still very overdone and almost self-indulgent. It does taper back in the middle of the film, but when it’s not trying to be artsy, it goes to the other extreme and becomes lazy and boring.

This is becoming a deeply unpleasant endeavor. While the films are completely entertaining in their camp and absurdity, every moment that is not really goofy is relentlessly dull and extremely irritating. At times the series almost feels like a joke, an elaborate and expensive parody filled to the brim with in-jokes intended for the legion of non-fans.  Other times, the slavish devotion to the details and tone of the books is almost unbearable. The former is barely managing to outweigh the latter, and I march onward to Eclipse later tonight.

"Yes, it's your reflection, Bella. Stop rubbing it in."