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7 Follow-Ups to Classic Christmas Movies That Ruin the Original

by J.M. McNab

While we may have accepted that Indiana Jones met some aliens, or that Francis Ford Coppola cast his daughter in the third Godfather movie, we demand more from our Christmas movies and specials. Unfortunately, many classic Christmas movie characters nevertheless returned for follow-ups that denigrate the original, thus ruining Christmas. If this was a TV movie, Rob Lowe would save it somehow… maybe Dean Cain.

7. Clarence the Angel Gets a Sexy ’90s Makeover

“It’s It’s a Wonderful Life, but sexier, and for the nineties!” is probably how the 1990 TV movie Clarence was pitched by a coked-up, ponytailed screenwriter, to a soulless, shoulder-pad-wearing television executive.

Clarence finds the beloved guardian angel character from Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film (which we discussed on this week’s show) transformed into a younger, handsomer, guardian angel played by Robert Carradine… because, Christmas magic, I guess?

Clarence became a cocky jerk ever since he got his wings.

Apparently Clarence has used his powers (the kind normally reserved for convincing people not to commit suicide) to make himself more attractive and youthful-looking. Isn’t vanity supposed to be a sin? Try watching the original knowing that the benevolent angel you know and love becomes a superficial douchebag.

Also, for some reason, Clarence doesn’t like saving people anymore, and agrees to back to Earth in this movie only because a fellow angel’s widow is contemplating suicide. So basically, he won’t tell people not to kill themselves unless it’s a favor for a buddy. Merry Christmas everybody.

6. Frosty the Snowman is Actually Depressed and Lonely

Everybody loves Frosty the Snowman (except for that evil magician), so one would naturally assume that his sequel would recapture the magic of the original. Well, it turns out it doesn’t. To start with, remember how Frosty sang “I’ll be back on Christmas day” in the original? Turns out that was a big fucking lie. The sequel, Frosty’s Winter Wonderland takes place several years later, for some reason.

Guess what else isn’t fun about Frosty 2? Frosty is depressed and starts crying.

That’s right, it’s bad enough that you have to deal with your family members’ soul-crushing sadness on Christmas, now even beloved cartoon characters can’t keep their shit together during the holidays.

Turns out Frosty has… needs… So the kids build him a snow-woman for a wife– the only problem is she doesn’t have a magic hat to bring her to life, which is, again, depressing. It’s like trying to set your best friend up with a mannequin or a corpse.

Watching this sequel makes you wish those kids in the original had never meddled in dark arts, playing god and creating a whole new lifeform. In light of this sequel, the original Frosty becomes a maddening prelude to a host of unanticipated ethical dilemmas.

5. The Grinch Just Went Back to Being a Dick After Christmas

Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas was such a successful TV special, it would be insane for its creators not to produce a new special about the second-most popular holiday and find a way to awkwardly shoehorn The Grinch into it.

That being said, the 1977 follow-up, Halloween is Grinch Night, finds The Grinch once again terrorizing the town of Whoville– which doesn’t totally gel with the ending of the original.

“I did WHAT at Christmas? I must have been hammered that day.”

What happened to The Grinch carving the roast beast? Or his heart growing an, albeit medically-worrisome, three sizes that day? Having a sequel where The Grinch acts like a deranged stalker undoes all of the character development from the original, and accidentally reinforces that most famous of Christmas morals: “Nobody ever changes… pass the wine.”

4. Charlie Brown and Linus Forget the True Meaning of Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the most beloved half-hours of family entertainment. Setting it apart from other Holiday programming is the special’s frank examination of the over-commercialization of Christmas, Yuletide malaise, and the holiday’s disengagement from its spiritual origins.

Originally airing in 1965, it wasn’t until 1991 that the show was released on home video (apparently the stupid 1960s didn’t have VHS). Fittingly, Charlie Brown appeared in a television commercial promoting the release of this seminal work. The ad begins with Charlie Brown and Linus, trudging through the snow, carrying their skates. It almost feels like a proper sequel to the classic special.

Charlie Brown: I’m worried, Linus. Christmas is coming, and I don’t know what to get anyone.

Linus: Charlie Brown, what you need is a gift everyone will like–

Okay, here it comes, another one of Linus’ big speeches! In the original he quoted the Bible, assuring everyone that the true meaning of Christmas didn’t involve material goods–

Linus: That’s it! A Charlie Brown Christmas videotape!

Okay… Well, that makes sense, they have to sell their videotape somehow. It’s not like the only way to purchase the tape would be by buying something else from some kind of billion-dollar corporation trying to lure you into consuming their product using your childhood nostalgia as bait.

Charlie Brown: But where do I get them Linus?

Voice: Participating Shell stations are now offering A Charlie Brown Christmas while supplies last. Only $3.99 with an eight gallon fill-up!

Oh.

The True Meaning of Christmas is big oil.

So the only way to buy A Charlie Brown Christmas, an animated treatise on the non-corporatization of Christmas, is by going to a Shell station and filling up your tank. That’s like if the DVD of Gandhi was only available through Burger King. The worst part is, this betrayal of the characters’ values is enacted by the characters themselves! It’s so out of character, one wonders if Shell was holding Lucy, or Peppermint Patty hostage in exchange for these classic characters abandoning their core beliefs.

3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is Still Treated Like Shit

While it seemed that the original 1964 special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a neat and tidy ending, there have nevertheless been several sequels. One of which, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys from 2001 strangely replaces the quaint, timeless stop-motion animation of the original with hollow, soulless, cheap-looking CGI.

In this movie, Rudolph has to escape from the Nintendo 64 he’s trapped inside.

The most troubling part of the sequel though, is how it undercuts the message of the original. Remember how the ostracized Rudolph was finally accepted at the end? Turns out that wasn’t such a happy ending after all…

As we see in the beginning of this sequel, everyone at the North Pole still treats Rudolph like a freak, like some kind of yuletide Elephant Man, Rudolph is constantly being hounded to perform his nose “trick.” Rudolph leaves the North Pole in despair muttering “Guess I’m just a novelty act around here.”

2. Scrooge Continues to Hate Christmas but Learns to Love ‘80s Rock

The 1983 special Scrooge’s Rock ‘n Roll Christmas produced to, presumably, cure the public of their enjoyment of both Christmas and music, finds Ebeneezer Scrooge working on Christmas day, grumbling about how Bob Cratchit took the day off.

So, seemingly this is both a sequel to Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol (and its many cinematic adaptations) but also a reimagining of it– what would happen if Scrooge wasn’t visited by the ghosts on Christmas Eve? The short answer: he’d still be a dick. The longer answer: he’d be a dick who learns to love bad ‘80s rock.

Through some kind of rip in the space-time continuum, a visitor from the future (ie 1983) enters Scrooge’s office believing it to be a record store. Since Scrooge is all Bah Humbugy, the girl from the future teaches him about contemporary music using a magic snowglobe, which is a thing people totally carried with them in 1983.

Seen here: Scrooge discovers sexual tension.

After witnessing performances by stars such as Three Dog Night, The Association and even meeting The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, who he recognizes for some reason, Scrooge learns to love Christmas…Well, not really, but it does seem like he’s really grooving to those tunes. It’s a disturbing revisionist sequel to one of the great Christmas stories.

Seen here: The Ghost of Christmas Past-Facial Hair

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1. Kevin McCallister’s Parents Really Are the Worst

When Home Alone hit screens in 1990, audiences somehow accepted that Kate and Peter McCallister could accidentally go on vacation without their son, Kevin. In their defense, they did befall a series of unfortunate coincidences, and were firm believers in the controversial parenting tactic of banishing your small child to the attic.

When it happened again in the sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, it was less believable. Nevertheless, the filmmakers made a concerted effort to show that Kate and Peter still loved their son and didn’t, say, want him to be murdered on the streets of New York– Which, let’s face it, is what would have happened almost immediately if it were real life.

In the 2002 straight-to-video Home Alone 4 (Home Alone 3 has nothing to do with the McCallisters, who happened to not abandon their child that Christmas) Kevin, who now has a different hair color and looks younger for some reason, is spending Christmas with his recently divorced dad at his dad’s new girlfriend’s mansion.

It’s like looking in a mirror. A mirror owned by a terrible Casting Director.

Because there are really only about three or four active criminals in the United States, the mansion is targeted by a familiar face– Marv of the Wet Bandits… and by familiar face, I mean not familiar at all. Home Alone 4 recasts Daniel Stern’s part with French Stewart, and partners him with some strange lady instead of Harry, the character played by Joe Pesci… which is weird for a number of reasons, mainly because since they made literally no effort to make French Stewart look like Daniel Stern, so they could have realistically cast anyone at all and just called them ”Harry” for the sake of retaining a bare minimum of consistency.

The same woman was later cast in a re-make of Raging Bull.

The most upsetting part of Home Alone 4 is the fact that Kevin is never actually left home alone, instead he’s just ignored by his dad, a negligent parent who is enjoying boning his new girlfriend more than listening to his son’s cries for help.

Kevin is actually attacked by Marv in this movie, and when he tells his dad, Mr. McCallister earns the the Jack Torrence Award for worst father of the year by not believing him. This isn’t just bad writing, it’s irresponsible writing; kids need to know that they can confide in their parents if something bad or dangerous happens to them.

Of course the original walked that line of rooting for the McCallister parents and calling Child Services on them, but somehow they made it work. This movie, however, ruins all of that goodwill. How can you enjoy the first two movies when you know that Kate will allow her son to stay with Peter who has become an irresponsible sociopath? Kevin would be better off being adopted by the Wet Bandits, or that crazy old man who turned out not to be a murderer, but was still really, really creepy.

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6 DIE HARD Rip-Offs That Time Forgot

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by J.M. McNab

In the early to mid-nineties, it seemed as though almost every action movie imitated Die Hard to some extent. Several movies straight-up lifted the Die Hard premise (one person in one location against a slew of bad guys) adapting it to a variety of locations: a boat in Under Siege, a hockey arena in Sudden Death, a plane in Air Force One— but while those movies are still relatively well-known, there are many Die Hard rip-offs that simply faded into obscurity.

In conjunction with our recent podcast about Die Hard With a Vengeance, we present 6 Die Hard Rip-Offs That Time Forgot. So if you’ve worn out your VHS copy of the original Die Hard and you’re looking for a new, probably terrible, alternative this holiday season, check out one of these six films.

6. Masterminds (1997)

masterminds

If the producers of this  1997 film had any sense, they would immediately re-release it on DVD with the new title CAPTAIN PICARD VS. PETE CAMPBELL. That’s right, Patrick Stewart is a mustachioed villain and a teenaged Vincent Kartheiser is our Bruce Willis surrogate (not to be confused with the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates) when a wealthy school is seized by criminals. Also the school’s principal is the homeless pigeon lady from Home Alone 2… so that’s pretty cool.

The movie was directed by Roger Christian, who won an Oscar for his Art Direction for Star Wars, and was nominated for his work on Alien. While this, his eighth directorial effort, was a box office flop, the stars aligned for his next project: big-budget, A-list movie star, based on a best-selling novel. What could possibly go wrong?

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Oh…

5. Skyscraper (1996)

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If you love Die Hard but think it would have been better if John McClane was a buxom blonde, than this movie is for you… weirdo. Skyscraper stars Anna Nicole Smith as a helicopter pilot who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in a subtle twist on the original Die Hard, this one is about terrorists who seize control of… a building! Not that different you say? Did I mention it’s a really tall building? Maybe if we compare the two posters.

One has “Forty stories of sheer adventure” the other has “eight-six floors of action-paked terror”… Different.

4. Assault on Dome 4 (1997)

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Employing the same creative tactic used by franchises like Leprechaun and Friday the 13th, Assault on Dome 4 takes an existing story (Die Hard) and rejuvenates it using the magic of making the same events happen in space. Bruce Campbell steps into the Rickman role for this Sci-Fi Channel movie, but instead of a building, he takes a scientific colony, the titular Dome 4, hostage. What he doesn’t know is that one of his hostages is the wife of interstellar lawman Chase Moran. Why stop there? Is there an intergalactic cokehead who keeps hitting on Chase’s wife, do they keep playing Space-Ode to Joy?

Oddly, because Bruce Campbell is the biggest star in this movie, the poster features him firing a machine gun looking cool. Ideologically, this seems to suggest that the film’s villain is actually its hero– would Die Hard be as successful if it featured Alan Rickman on the poster, implying that we were supposed to be rooting for Hans and his friends?

3. Blast (1997)

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“What if all the hostages in Die Hard were women in swimsuits?” Is a thought no one should ever have had– but for some reason someone did, and that inane notion evolved into the screenplay that would become the movie Blast. Despite it’s bland title, Blast actually has a pretty wacky premise: terrorists have taken the women’s swim team hostage at the Olympic games, and the only one who can stop them is the building’s janitor, a former Tae Kwon Do champion turned alcoholic soiled towel-cleaner-upper. So maybe the next time Justin Bieber decides to pee in a janitor’s bucket he stop and make sure that he’s not disrespecting a former Olympic athlete in desperate need of redemption.

Like most of the entries on this list, the cast of this movie is pretty great: the McClane-ish hero is played by Linden Ashby, who sounds like he’d be a Jane Austen character, but is actually the guy who played Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat. Stepping into the villain role is Andrew Divoff, who played eye-patch guy on LOST. Also, Rutger Hauer appears as a Rutger Hauer-ish type character.

2. Demolition High (1996)

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Similar to Masterminds, Demolition High is about terrorists seizing a school. Not similar to Masterminds, instead of a former member of the Royal Shakespeare company and a future cast member of one of the greatest television shows of all time, this straight-to-video action movie stars Corey Haim, Alan Thicke, and Dick Van Patten– thus breaking the unwritten rule of Hollywood: that Dick Van Patten and Alan Thicke should never, ever star in an action movie.

Strangely the movie spawned a sequel the following year. Demolition University featured Haim again, plus Robert Forster and SNL’s Larraine Newman. Even stranger still, for some reason, Demolition High was referenced in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. But don’t look for any Assault on Dome 4 references in There Will Be Blood, I’ve already checked.

1. No Contest (1995)

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With the blank in the phrase “Die Hard in a [blank]” being filled by every conceivable location or mode of transportation imaginable by desperate movie studios, logistically, like an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters, it was inevitable that an executive somewhere would come up with “Beauty Pageant” to fill that blank. Satiating America’s appetite for both gratuitous violence and the mindless objectification of women, No Contest may be the most bizarre riff on the Die Hard template. At the very least, it’s the most bizarrely cast.

Starring in the McClane role, who in No Contest is a beauty pageant host/kickboxer, is Shannon Tweed. Fulfilling the movie’s Gruber-quota, the hostage-taking villain of the film is played by master thespian Andrew Dice Clay. So basically, bearing the dramatic weight of this film is a former Playboy model and a washed-up comedian. To lend some Die Hard-cred to the film is Robert Davi, who played Agent Johnson (one of them) in the actual Die Hard. You know, the one not set at a beauty pageant. In fact, the movie’s poster makes it seem as though he’s the star, even though he plays the cop on the outside, along with Andrew Dice Clay– this is like putting Hans and Al together on the poster for Die Hard.

Surprisingly, like Demolition High, a sequel to this movie was made in quick succession. No Contest II stars Shannon Tweed and Lance Henriksen… which mainly just makes me feel bad for Lance Henriksen.

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