2015 Christmas Movie-Palooza

November 22, 2015

Like last year ALL movies are rated as CHRISTMAS MOVIES. Emphasis on the Christmas. A high dose of Christmas lights, Christmas spirit and all things Christmassy are required. Of course it has to be an actual good movie. Good script etc… My wife thinks I don’t make this clear enough. I think I make it perfectly clear… For example last years’s Christmas Bounty was both a bad movie overall, AND a terrible Christmas movie due to lack of Christmas themes etc… Claiming it’s Christmas isn’t good enough. It better be represented on screen and ooze in every shot! Good enough explanation? Good, let’s move on…

Movie #1: Ice Sculpture Christmas

I’ve always been a fan of ice sculpture. Saw a trailer for this and while it didn’t leap out at me, I needed Christmas movies to watch for my second year of this project, and it was a Christmas movie…

Well I picked a real winner. The premise deviates from the usual cliches. It does however have the requisite “evil person” trying to sabotage the heroes. Tired of that cliche… It doesn’t, however, derail what is a very sweet movie.

The leads have an ABSURD amount of chemistry together. Some of the best I’ve seen in a movie.

It’s predictable, a bit cliche, and ultimately quite lovely.

Four Snowmen out of Five.

Movie #2: A Christmas Snow

First of all, this movie has religion in it. This review is not the place to get into the history Christmas, and the Pagan solstice etc…. Just to let folk know if you like your holiday religion free, this has a bit. However it doesn’t really affect the movie. In fact it makes certain things even more surprising.

So here we have Catherine Mary Stewart, who I mostly remember from the terrific sci-fi movie Night of the Comet from the mid 80’s. She plays a restaurant owner who hates Christmas. Through twisted circumstance she winds up snowed in at her house in the days before Christmas with her boyfriend’s 10 year old daughter, and an old guy named Sam. There is an odd scene at the start with Catherine walking into her restaurant. A guy comes skating past and slams into a pole. HARD. It makes you think this is going to be a slapstick comedy. However the scene is never referenced, there is no explanation, and I’m going to be tweeting Catherine later and asking about it. If I get a reply I will add it to the end here.

You will need tissues for this movie. I called the last ten or so minutes and how it would end. It’s a cute movie. Avoids a lot of the cliches, remarkably. Great cast.

Living in Alberta, and looking at the 10cm+ snow outside that’s fallen in just the last few hours, I find it deeply amusing to see what Tulsa’s definition of “snowed in” is…

Three out of Five Snowmen

Movie #3: Santa’s Little Helper

Last year I made the terrible mistake of watching the movie Christmas Bounty. It starred “The Miz” from WWE. It was utterly terrible and had precious little to do with Christmas. I’d go as far as to call it one of the worst films ever made!

When I heard Miz was doing another Christmas movie I recoiled in horror. When I heard it was called Santa’s Little Helper I had hope somewhat restored. Surely THIS would actually be Christmassy, right?

My hope was rewarded. The movie stars The Miz and Paige, both performers in WWE. The movie is a WWE Films production, like the appalling Christmas Bounty. However this time it’s very good. Miz is a business jerk who gets fired. After having a chance encounter with Santa, he is given a series of tests for the job of being the HoHoHo. (I won’t spoil what it stands for.) This leads to many comic shenanigans. There was also an odd side plot involving another elf which, while not detracting from the story in any way, served very little purpose.

Unlike Miz’s last effort this is a terrific Christmas movie. Very funny in spots. Miz is awesome in it. Paige is good as the… Well let’s not mince words, evil elf…

I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Four Snowmen out of Five. (Revised score after more consideration and comparison to later movies.)

Movie #4: The Christmas Parade

Another Hallmark movie. The plot involves the usual cynical Christmas hater coming to love the holiday. This isn’t great. In fact I was almost falling asleep. (Okay that’s partially due to medication I’m on…)

Plot involves a TV host who finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her (bizarrely her boyfriend is played by Drew Scott from Property Brothers!) and goes on a drive to clear her head, and crashes into a fence in a small town. (Just how far did she drive??? She starts in Manhattan!) Fence belongs to judge. Judge sentences her to community service in their small town where she helps a single guy build a Christmas float for the parade.

There’s shady business dealings. There’s art. There’s adorable kids. There’s inordinately slow bits that will try your patience, but it all picks up in the final half hour and becomes very Christmassy.

Has my favourite trope of Christmas movies I’ve found during this and last years viewing. The AERIAL ESTABLISHING SHOT! It especially amuses me when it’s of Manhattan for some reason. Probably because so many movies take place, or at least start there.

Three out of Five Snowmen, rounded up as I don’t want to cut Snowmen in half as that just seems cruel!

Movie #5: Help for the Holidays

Starts with our dear friend THE ESTABLISHING AERIAL SHOT! This time of the North Pole… Short scene… THEN ANOTHER ESTABLISHING SHOT!!! This time of the area of California where the movie is set.

SUMMER GLAU IS A FREAKIN’ ELF! I love Summer from Firefly/Serenity. Seeing her as an Elf was too much of a chance to pass up!

Here we have a family. Mother, father and daughter hate Christmas. Parents run a Christmas themed store. (Which begs the question… How do they make money from January to, say, September?) Young son loves Christmas. Summer is an Elf, sent by Santa after said son sends a wish to Santa. She inserts herself into their life as a Nanny to fix their Christmas spirit make the parents get their crap together. Shenanigans ensue!

It’s a delightful film. Summer is awesome in it. Absolutely adorable. The kids are great actors.

This was a great Christmas movie! I wound up having to drop the rating of Santa’s Little Helper as I couldn’t really give that five and this one five as this was way better as a Christmas movie.

Avoids a lot of the cliches. Very sweet plot. Lovely ending. If you don’t feel Christmassy after this I advise you go to the ER because you may actually be dead!

Five out of Five Snowmen!!!

Movie #6: The Christmas Consultant

It’s David Hasselhoff! Or David Hoff as he’s known now? Let’s just call him THE HOFF! Saw this a couple of years ago and loved it so much I BOUGHT IT THIS YEAR!

An overworked Mom has to arrange a Christmas party on Christmas Eve to seal an important business deal for her boss. A large portion of the Mom and Dad’s respective families are visiting too. Overwhelmed, Mom and Dad decide to hire a consultant who arranges everything at Christmas. The titular consultant being THE HOFF in a bow tie and, over the course of the movie, many awesome Christmas sweaters!

I’ve seen reviews say this is a terrible movie… Well it is… IF YOU HATE CHRISTMAS! Anyone with Christmas Spirit will love this. The Hoff is amazing as Owen, The Christmas Consultant. Has some truly funny segments and its hard to picture anyone other than Hoff doing it to be honest, but then I always was a fan. I want Owen to spend Christmas with MY FAMILY!

The rest of the cast is equally good. The youngest daughter has a Wednesday Addams vibe which just adds to the fun. The star, however, is The Hoff who is absolutely delightful as Owen.

I love this movie. I’ve watched it. And I guarantee I’ll watch it again before the big day.

Five out of Five Snowmen! 

Movie #7: A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas

This is on the list from last year. I love this movie. So few adult Christmas movies, and NONE have the heart or humour this movie has. So many movies aimed at kids and families mention the “Santa not being real” thing…  (One reason it’s no longer in my rotation.) This makes me extremely angry. Yet here is an R rated movie, for adults, AND SANTA IS IN IT!If you’re of legal age I highly recommend this movie. It’s crude, it’s rude, it has a baby on drugs, it has so many great gags, and DANNY TREJO! MACHETE CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS!

Cannot give this movie enough love. It has more Christmas Spirit than a lot of NORMAL Christmas movies, and it’s a tie between this and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as my favourite Christmas film.

Five out of Five Stoned Snowmen!

Movie #8: 12 Gifts of Christmas

ESTABLISHING AERIAL SHOT OF MANHATTAN! Ah hello there, my favourite Christmas movie trope! In the opening few minutes this movie REALLY bashes you around the face with “WE ARE IN MANHATTAN! SEE! CENTRAL PARK! SEE, BROOKLYN BRIDGE!!!” shots. For the entire movie it’s BONK! BONK! BONK! BONK! With visuals of Manhattan.

The audio is clearly ADR’ed on a lot of occasions. I also love that movies like this don’t license actual brand names, so the ubiquitous search engine in this movie is the delightfully named Thurbble.

So to the plot. Uptight advertising executive has no time to Christmas shop. Hire’s someone to do it for him.

There is an African American briefly in this movie! I wasn’t going to bring this up, but it’s only when he appeared I realised these Hallmark movies seem to take “White Christmas” very literally. In fact off the top of my head I can only remember A Snow Globe Christmas from last years list actually having an African American in it! (Donald Faison. Turk from Scrubs.) That’s pretty bloody pathetic!

Usual scenario follows, budding relationship, something sabotages it, but all is well in the end.

Three out of Five Snowmen.

Movie #9: Charming Christmas

Julie Benz, who I only really know as Darla from Buffy/Angel plays a shop manager who has to play Mrs Claus opposite Santa at the store she runs.

Nick is the store Santa. Or is he the real Santa?

This is quite the unique movie in that it didn’t follow the normal conventions or tropes of Christmas movies. It was that rare beast… An original Christmas movie! It also follows multiple characters stories which was nice.

Really enjoyable. David Sutcliffe is extremely likable as Nick. Benz is great as Meredith who opens her heart to Christmas.

By the end you’ll feel Christmassy, I guarantee!

Four out of Five Snowmen!

So I did a terrible job of blogging again, but I’m back for the holidays where, like last year, I’m going to briefly review every Christmas movie I watch. At current count, I’ve got over 50 movies to watch. Will I watch them all? Who knows, but I’ve been acquiring all year, and of course there’s those on TV. I read Hallmark have 17 new movies airing this holiday! So there will be blog posting as soon as I start the great watch… Stay tuned..

In 2013 I made the new years resolution to not buy any games. It was more from a fiscal standpoint than any stand against the gaming industry. That went out the window when we received some money unexpectedly and I went “Woohoo!” and bought a PS3… Which I’m grateful for as I would never have gotten to play Journey if I hadn’t, and since that was one of the greatest gaming experiences of my life…

So here we are. As I write this it’s a few hours from 2015, and I decided a few days ago that for 2015, I’m done spending so much as a single cent on games. No I am not turning to piracy. Frankly that’s too much hassle as well and is filled with as many egos. In the Amiga days it was fun. I was quite involved with the scene. These days, sure you can torrent most new games, but is it really worth it? It’s invariably going to eat a ton of disk space, and you’ll invariably delete it within the hour. All of you’ve done is waste bandwidth downloading it. No, this is not me putting my wallet away and taking to the high seas with an eye patch and going “Yarrr!” a lot. This is me putting my wallet away, saying “Fuck this shit” and turning my back on the industry. Pirating a game is still a statement of support, even if not financial. Not playing the game at all isn’t.

I’ve been a gamer since the mid 70’s. That fateful day my Dad bought home a cheap Pong machine was the gateway into gaming and I’ve never looked back. From the original Atari VCS/2600, through into various computers, including a very long (and still ongoing if I’m honest) love affair with the Commodore Amiga, through to the PC, where I still game now 20 years later. Also there’s been game consoles. The Sega Megadrive/Genesis. Three generations of Playstation. A Sega Dreamcast. An Xbox 360. Nintendo Wii. Not to mention a Nintendo Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS and 3DS. Also the Sony PSP and Vita.

In short gaming has been a part of all but the first few years of my life. In that time I’ve seen the industry collapse, evolve, and become the multi billion dollar behemoth we see today, and you know what?…

I’m done.

I’m done funding this industry. I’m done paying $70 for a new game when 6 months later they’re less than half that. When a year later the sequel is out. I’m done buying unfinished titles that have been asset stripped for the purposes of post release DLC. I’m done buying games that have day one DLC that comes with the game. I’m done contributing to the unending greed of this industry.

A lot of things have contributed to me being sick of this crap. The final straw was the recent beta of Elite Dangerous.

I paid for the beta of Elite Dangerous, and it was good. I bought it on the understanding that there would be an offline single player component as had been promised. Being online is not an issue for me, but as with many online games and services, you’re beholden to the other party keeping their damn servers up for you. Sure they may say “Hey we’ve got 99% uptime!” But if that 1% falls when you have time to play, well it may as well be zero uptime. Not to mention what happens in five years? Ten years? Anyone who has a pre-iTunes digital download of a movie can tell you how great relying on other people is. Terminator 2 came with a Windows Media format file of the movie in HD for your computer! Amazing! Except now the disk it’s on is a coaster because the server for the digital rights management was shut down years ago. I paid for it, and now can’t play it. The result of my access being controlled by a third party.

We’ve experienced something similar this year in gaming, with the shutdown of Games for Windows Live. While some developers are moving their titles over to Steam, other developers aren’t bothering meaning a lot of games will be largely broken now. Too bad, so sad. That’s what you get buying into an industry where you own nothing, only the license to use it, which they can revoke at any time.

So back to Elite Dangerous, closing in on the end of beta a sneaky announcement was quietly made in the newsletter that gets sent out every week, that for bullshit pretentious aesthetic reasons, offline mode was being pulled. Sure you can still play in a solo universe, but it HAS to have an online connection.

Now first of all, this now means that anything else out of the developers mouth is suspect as we know their word cannot be trusted. Second of all, surely it should be up to the customer to decide if they are prepared to make the aesthetic sacrifice. As near as I can tell the only benefit is an active marketplace, with prices going up and down, and storyline. Given many of us played Elite, Frontier, and had a perfectly lovely time without online bullshit, this is utter crap. It’s entirely down to anti piracy I believe. Forcing an online connection means if I want my 9 year old son to play, which he wants to, I have to buy another copy if I don’t want him messing with my pilot. A move based entirely on greed. Fanboys can argue all they want, but ultimately I believe someone somewhere made this decision based on the bottom line, once again leaving pirates to provide what the customer wants. I don’t have to buy multiple copies of the same movie to enjoy it with my family, so why should games be any different?

First there was that bullshit cavalcade of lies. Then there was the bobble head. You see there used to be a little bobblehead on the dash of your ship. It was a cute thing. It also gave a nice indication as to the movement of your ship. This was quietly removed at the end of the beta. Now the forums for the game are full of people saying “I WANT MY BOBBLEHEAD BACK! HERE! TAKE MY MONEY!”

Oh boy… First of all Frontier Developments sell ship skins for in game. During the recent anniversary of the original Elite they sold a skin for the Cobra ship for $20. AND IDIOTS BOUGHT IT! Something that I could have knocked up in Photoshop in half an hour (and I paint race sim skins regularly so I ain’t blowing smoke here) Now we’ve got the same fuckwits in the forum basically saying “Strip stuff from the game, we’ll gladly give you more money to get back what we already had until you stole it.” I guarantee a cosmetic bobblehead DLC will appear soon, for at LEAST $5.

Dickheads like this are why gaming is fucked, and why I’m out. It must be lovely to have money to burn with scant regard for the consequences. Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us who actually aren’t attached to a Bag of Holding full of cash.

Now I see arguments made “Well developers have to eat…” Funny, they didn’t seem to have any fucking problem eating before fucking Horse Armor reared its ugly head! Now all of a sudden it’s a financial crisis and we have DLC because developers cry and whine and their dumb fuck acolytes defending the endless emptying of the gamers wallet “for the sake of survival”. You need to nickle and dime your customers to survive? FIND ANOTHER BUSINESS TO BE IN, ASSHOLE!

Just like the whining about piracy hurting the industry. It’s never going away, so stop bitching, or find another industry, because you KNEW this was an issue before you came in, so fuck you. You don’t knowingly move to a shitty neighbourhood then moan about your car being broken into. No, you think “Damn, I should not have moved here.”

Fuck all of you. I’m done. I hate what the gaming industry has become. Even Nintendo, FUCKING NINTENDO, who said they’d never do DLC, do DLC now… The last bastion that felt like it was about gaming rather than profit and the DLC beast has been mounted forcefully, thrusting another hand into your already ravaged wallet, demanding more, and doing it’s damndest, like all the rest, to make you feel like you have to have the DLC or else your life is incomplete somehow.

It’s just no fun anymore. AAA titles are released amid much hype, like Watch Dogs (which I fucking fell for) and when it arrives it’s bugged to hell, not what was promoted, and all the other smoke and mirrors BS. “HAHA! FUCK YOU!” go the devs, because they know they can get away with it and 99% of you suckers will buy again. You get the latest Assassins Creed game released in such a broken state you KNOW damn well Ubisoft knew it was fucked and shipped it anyway because of shareholders and profits etc… And people complained, and moaned and shook their fists and said “Fuck Ubisoft” and you know damn well the next time those assholes vomit out another Assassins Creed these self same shitheads will lay there with their legs and wallets agape going “FUCK ME HARD UBI!”.

Companies are more than happy to chuck games out and have you pay to beta test them. So much so Steam have legitimized it with bullshit “Early Access”. You to can fork over a large chunk of money to play a barely Alpha title that may never actually reach beta. I’ve tried a few. While Starbound was worth it, and if nothing else happened I feel I got my money’s worth, there’s others like Carmageddon that seem to be going nowhere.

Then there’s Steam Greenlight, an exercise in fuckery that lets any hack get a game up there, game the system and VOILA! You’re now listed on Steam like a legit developer despite the fact you spent half an hour in Game Maker Studio making your visual excrement which a few people will buy and you made a few hundred bucks for almost no work.

Then there’s the indie scene… Urgh… What was once an exciting vibrant scene is now a cesspool of ego and bitching and pretentious shitheels. Phil Fish… Jesus Christ… Killed Fez 2 because people on Twitter upset him. Just… Prima donnas. There’s a few great indie devs out there, but the actual modest, talented people working on actual good games are drowned out by the endless stream of effluence. I used to love the indie scene. Now I’ve unfollowed most of the indie types I followed on Twitter as I can’t stand them anymore.

So the AAA devs are just out to fuck you. The indie devs are pretentious shagwits who think they’re making great art when in fact 95% of them are just adding to the noise. Early access is basically silicon snake oil. Steam Greenlight is like wandering into a second hand sex toy shop…

Steam has made PC gaming suck this year. First they revamped their interface to the point I can’t even bear looking at it now. Instead of sleek info we’ve got curated crap, and suggestions based on my games I own… Oh wait, I don’t actually own them I just license them… Anyhoo that moved the front page down from an every day visit to an every couple of weeks visit. Then there’s the sales.

The Steam sales are legendary. Or were. I don’t think they’re spoken of in such terms now. A few Christmases ago they ran the promo where you got lumps of coal for getting specific achievements and crafted them into gifts. I got a few free games on this which was very cool. (Though the only one I actively remember was Test Drive Unlimited 2.) It was great to see achievements actually have a point, and I greatly enjoyed spending the Christmas holidays seeing what games I had that were on today’s list and getting the achievement. Of course the entire thing was ruined by people gaming the system, rather like people with more money than sense ruined gaming, and it went away.

Still, we got the sales the next year. And the 8 hour voting on community choice etc…

Then we reached this Christmas. A bunch of lacklustre discounts, and a 24 hour vote cycle. Other places were no better. Seeing six month old games on PSN still up for $54.99 on “sale”. Fuck off.

I spent less than $20 in this years sale. It was just not engaging, no discounts were worth it, and the games of 2014 are just completely uninspiring and about as exciting as a damp towel.

I love gaming. I always will. There’s just nothing for me in its current state other than disappointment. I get to pay $70 because games just arbitrarily went up in price $10 here because fuck the customer. Apparently the billions being made aren’t enough. Games which will invariably have at least another $20 of DLC, maybe more. Take a look at Crusader Kings 2 on Steam. Now I love that game, and I love the developer, Paradox Interactive, but that game came out two years ago. To buy the whole thing at regular price a while back coist something like $300. FOR ONE GAME. That’s including the actual expansions AND the cosmetic DLC.

Mobile gaming is pointless as well. With devs charging $5 for their game and STILL having the temerity to include in app purchasing. PICK A FUCKING BUSINESS MODEL! Either make it free with IAP, or a one time fee you greedy fucks!

Another kick in the face this year was DLC for Football Manager. A game I’ve supported financially since it was Championship Manager and published by Domark on the Amiga! I’d already decided to skip this year’s incarnation as the game has long moved on from being actual fun. I was sickened when a company which has said they’d never do this sort of thing announced a DLC you can buy to nobble your opposing team with “dodgy lasagna”. Yeah, it’s optional, and idiots will defend them, but really it’s a game that’s supposed to be an idealistic view of football, and throws in an option to cheat. Of course now you have to PAY Sports Interactive for this, it’s perfectly fine.

Just fucking stop it! NOBODY can claim that SI need the fucking money. This is the biggest selling game in Europe EVERY DAMN YEAR. Miles and friends shit out a new one every year with a few additions and rake in the money. But like so many cases, people who like money want MORE money and will find as many ways as possible to relieve you of yours. And BOY are they being successful! The gaming public would have made PT Barnum wet himself with excitement. So many sheep to fleece, so little time.

Now I’m not some commie hippy, I know people gotta eat etc… But it’s the endless nickle and diming. Stuff in Football Manager that should be an option to turn off, like transfer windows… Nope, gotta pay. Stuff being removed from games just to take a few more bucks from you. “Oh but it’s only a few bucks, quit moaning”. Yeah, this time. Then there’s the next time, and the next time, and the next time. Soon those $5 and $10 add up and you’ve wound up spending over $100 more on content that’s “only a few bucks”.

I can only imagine soon games will come with colourblind DLC so those of us who suffer that particular ailment will have to pay more. Would that be the line people would refuse to cross? I wonder…

No other industry would get away with this. You buy a car. “Yes, you have a car… And here’s the day one DLC of the steering wheel and the rear brakes. Only an extra 10% of the cost of the vehicle!” Or when you buy a movie… “To see the finish of this movie, please give us $10.” Actually I better be quiet with this, or the studios may get some ideas…

Then you’ve got idiots like Leo Laporte on the mobile gaming side who freely admit to spending more than $400 on FUCKING DONUTS in Simpsons Tapped Out. Thanks, asshat! You’re contributing to the demise of good, honest gaming.

Gaming is being ruined by idiots who are too stupid to have money and give it away for absolute bullshit. The game industry has redistributed to exploit these idiots at the expense of those of us with actual common sense and fiscal responsibility.

Even my beloved race sims are taking the piss now. Okay iRacing set the bar on gouging, and at this point I feel like a heroin addict. I’m having a great time as they siphon the contents of my wallet. But hey, it’s not like iRacing pretend to be anything they aren’t. It’s a subscription service, and frankly I’ve had way more fun in that than I ever have in any MMORPG etc… But you’ve got RaceRoom which is charging $30 for a bunch of cars and tracks. And it’s just ONE SERIES. Want DTM as well? That’s more money.

The industry is a wasteland of greed, empty promises, deliberate and cynical exploitation, and creative bankruptcy.

Really I could stretch this article out to five times this size with shit that has gotten to me this year in gaming. Thank god I didn’t keep notes. I think 2014 sees the least I’ve spent on games in probably 5, maybe even 10 years! It’s been my hobby, my life and, for a time, my livelihood, and 2014 was where the blinkers finally fell off entirely and I could ignore the crap no more.

A hearty SCREW YOU to every single individual that perpetuates the survival of the slavering beast that is the current business model of the game industry.

I’m not quitting gaming, no siree. I’ve still got a massive backlog of games in Steam, on my PS3, on my Vita etc… I will maintain my PS+ subscription and get “Free” games every month for my trouble. If I stop buying games, PS+ becomes better value as there’s less chance it’ll be games I already own.

I just will not contribute one more dime to this ethically, morally and creatively bankrupt industry.

I just had to vent and get all this off my chest. I know there are decent devs out there. Hell I know a few on Twitter. Ones I didn’t unfollow because they’re decent people making decent games, both paid and free, and I love them for that. Sadly it’s like looking for the Last Honest Man. Sure they’re out there. They’re just jolly hard to find.

I realise I’m tilting at windmills, and my stand will mean not a damn thing, but I can’t, in good conscience, give money to any of these people anymore.

So I decided to write about my plan this Christmas. Starting November 27th (coincidentally US Thanksgiving, though I’m not in America) I’ve decided I want to watch as many Christmas movies as possible between now and the big day. Ratings are out of snowmen, and the movie is being rated as a CHRISTMAS movie, NOT as a movie in general. So without further ado:

Movie #1: Holly’s Holiday

An overworked executive falls for a store mannequin. Yes it sounds like a Mannequin rip off, except she never realizes that he’s a mannequin. It’s predictable, but doesn’t hammer you to death with Christmas.  Stars the lovely Claire Coffee who is currently best known as Adalind on Grimm. She’s not as lovely in that because she’s an evil Hexenbeast. It was great to see her star in something and not be evil. She’s lovely, the movie is predictably cute, and I can think of a worse way of spending 90 minutes. Three out of five snowmen.

Movie #2: A Snow Globe Christmas

An overworked executive falls for a store… Oops, nope, an overworked TV exec who has a very Scrooge like quality get smacked in the head. Shenanigans ensue. Alica Witt stars, with Donald Faison (Turk from “Scrubs“). Very sweet movie. Way more Christmassy than Holly’s Holiday. What’s fun is I follow Alicia Witt on Twitter (“Ooot”) and she was tweeting pics and Vine’s from the set when she was shooting this. The fact I knew it was filmed in the summer tarnished it a bit as I see poor Alicia standing there in scarf and wooly hat… Really loved the movie. Has a nice twist. Four out of five snowmen.

Movie #3: Santa’s Slay

A change of pace to a more adult movie. Everyone always mentions Bad Santa as a good adult Christmas movie, but it’s not that funny, and it’s pretty dark. This is actually a fun Christmas movie. With possibly the best opening in cinematic history, former wrestler Bill Goldberg plays Santa. Only in this universe Santa is an Icelandic demon who lost a bet to an angel, and for a thousand years had to be nice, deliver toys, and basically be the Coca Cola Santa we all know these days. Well the thousand years are up, and Santa is back in all his demonic glory. The movie is very funny, has some great cameos, all put there to be killed in amusing ways, and then there’s Goldberg himself. I was a big fan of him in his wrestling days, and he’s absolutely superb as demonic Santa. HIGHLY recommended. Also of note it was filmed just a few miles away from me. Definite five out of five snowmen.

Movie #4: A Cookie Cutter Christmas

Hateful rival girls grow up to be hateful rival women. In the first ten minutes it’s hard to cheer for anyone as the two lead characters suck. As the movie progresses though things improve. It’s about two rival schoolteachers competing in a cookie baking contest. Usual shenanigans ensue. It’s not SUPER Christmassy. Perhaps the highlight is Alan Thicke (father of misogynist piece of crap Robin Thicke, and also the father in Growing Pains whose son was another piece of crap, Kirk Cameron) who was basically paid to eat cookies in this movie. Nice work if you can get it. Two snowmen out of five.

Movie #5: Mrs Miracle

Last year the wife and I watched a Christmas movie called Call Me Mrs Miracle (or apparently Miracle in Manhattan is its alternate title.) It stars Doris Roberts as Mrs Merkel. A Mary Poppins-ish character who shows up like Sam Beckett and fixes everything. Doris is absolutely superb and brings a warmth that I can think of few other actresses bringing. It’s typical holiday fare, and has JAMES VAN DER BEEK in it, who is a bit of a twat and won’t tell his twin six year old boys anything about their dead mother. There’s also love etc… It’s predictable, but Doris is just so damn lovable it elevates the movie. Four snowmen out of five.

Movie #6: Christmas Angel

WordPress ate the review for this, which is a shame, as it was awesome. (The movie. My writing… Meh…) Five out of Five Snowmen.

Movie #7: Window Wonderland

I wrote a long glowing review of this movie. And WordPress bloody ate it. So I won’t rewrite it. Suffice to say the leads are awesome, the movie avoids a lot of the usual Christmas cliches, and it’s the best one I’ve seen so far over this little project. SIX out of a Five Snowmen. Yes. It was that fun.

Movie #8: Christmas Town

Stereotypical hard ass Christmas hater hates Christmas. Gets convinced to take her son and stay in this weird town called Hollyville that appears on no map and seems oddly Christmassy… Lazily made movie. No attempt made to hide the fact that it’s filmed at Burnaby Lake in BC. Can clear see “Burnaby Lake General Store” in one shot. Very poor. Also clearly shot in the middle of summer. It’s supposed to be Christmas. No sign the usual Christmas tropes like snow etc… Nope, clearly it’s the middle of summer. What a piece of crap. Words cannot express how terrible this movie is. I couldn’t even finish it. Zero out of Five Snowmen as they all melted due to it clearly being summer.

Movie #9: On Strike For Christmas

Bunch of angry wives go on strike when their deadbeat sons and husbands do bugger all at Christmas. Hilarity briefly ensues. Three Snowmen out of Five.

Movie #10: His and Hers Christmas

Rival newspaper columnists document the holidays, fall in love, the end. The sets for their houses are awful as the view from the windows is clearly added in post. Very rough. Also a terrible movie. Also for a supposedly family friendly Christmas movie there’s lot of sexual references. Also almost nothing Christmas related in the first hour which is all I could manage before my hand slipped and I deleted it off the DVR… Such a tragic accident… *cough* Utter crap. Zero out of Five Snowmen.

Movie #11: Pete’s Christmas

A teenage boy has to relive an awful Christmas over and over until he gets it right. Immediately scored massive points with more Christmas in the first five seconds than movie #10 had in the first hour! Really fun movie. With a teenage lead it really hung on him being likeable, being able to act etc… No worries at all there. Very good movie. Bruce Dern is the kids grandfather, and is also awesome. As is the teen female lead. Great twist on the Groundhog Day plot device. If anything it has more depth than the original movie! Really enjoyed it. Five out of Five Snowmen.

Movie #12: Christmas Mail

A postal worker is assigned to spy on a strange woman who is replying to letters mailed to Santa. Sweet, predictable, and not bad. Three out of a Five Snowmen.

Movie #13: National Lampoons Christmas Vacation

A classic. Probably my favourite Christmas movie. TOO MANY SNOWMEN.

Movie #14: Naughty or Nice

A woman named Krissy Kringle accidentally receives Santa’s Naughty and Nice list. Hilarity ensues. Very cute movie. Really liked it. Worth seeing for the parents from Family Ties being the lead’s parents. Really good movie. Only caught it because my wife saw it listed and thought it sounded good. It got past my Christmas movie radar. Five out of Five Snowmen.

Movie #15: Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

The Internet meme becomes a Christmas movie. This was on Lifetime. The channel renowned for cheesy, sappy Christmas movies. This turned that on its head. Grumpy, voiced by Aubrey Plaza, makes fun of Lifetime, routinely breaks the fourth wall, and interjects at various points. Thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Very funny. So very UNLIKE a Lifetime movie… Really, really fun. Five out of Five Snowmen.

Movie #16: Kristin’s Christmas Past

Spending Christmas alone, through a magic Champagne bottle, Kristin is sent back to what was her worst Christmas, 17 years ago. Cute take on the Christmas genre. Judd Nelson is utterly wasted in it. (And not in the drunk sense.) Elizabeth Mitchell plays Kristin’s mother and is, once again, a bitch that warms near the end, just like she was in The Santa Clause 2. I’ve certainly seen far worse on this little movie binge. Three out of Five Snowmen.

Movie #17: Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger

I admit the only reason I bothered with this is David Tennant is in it. I’m a big Doctor Who fan, all the way back to Pertwee, and Tennant is one of my favourites. The movie basically rips off School of Rock and revolves around a Christmas song contest. Shenanigans ensue. David is awesome, because he always is. It’s not bad. Very silly. Frankly without Tennant to enjoy it’d get a snowman less. Two Snowmen out of Five. (Revised down from an earlier Three when I realised it wasn’t a Two Snowmen movie without Tennant.)

Movie #18: A Merry Friggin’ Christmas

One of Robin Williams’ last films. Now first off I’m a big fan of Community and this stars Joel McHale from the show, is directed by a director of 24 episodes of the show, and the music is done by the individual responsible for the epic incidental music of the first three seasons of the show. So I was naturally predisposed to be interested in this. It’s about a guy whose Dad (Williams) is an ass and he’s avoided going to stay with his parents for Christmas. A word of warning: A large part of the movie is about Santa not being real, so this is not for younger kids who still believe. Christmas movies that do this piss me off. Wife and I watched it with the volume down while kids were distracted elsewhere. One thing that does pain me is my Dad and I don’t talk, so movies about strained father/son relationships hurt to see as they invariably are all fixed by the end because the father stops being an ass. It’s not a bad movie. Apparently was re-edited in the wake of Robin’s death. I guess maybe to increase his role. Movie does seem oddly edited at times. If you see it, be sure to stay to the very end of the credits. To put it in sarcastic terms, of all the Christmas movies I’ve watched, this was one of them. Two out of Five Snowmen

Movie #19: Christmas Bounty

I love pro wrestling. For my sins, among actual good wrestling from other companies and the likes of New Japan Pro Wrestling, I also watch WWE. I am not a fan of The Miz. I picked up this movie in the hopes that maybe it’d make me a fan. Holy crap what a turd of a film. A former bounty hunter has her old life interrupt her new life as a teacher when someone she put away in prison gets out. Movie is a shameless cash in on both The Miz, and the word “Christmas”. The former is in it, the latter barely is. A few decorations DO NOT MAKE A CHRISTMAS FILM! I mean yeah, Die Hard takes place at Christmas, but has a lot of Christmas stuff in it, such as “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.” Die Hard is a titan of the non-Christmas Christmas movies. This is just a terrible, terrible movie I recommend avoiding like the plague. The ending especially is horseshit. Never have I wanted a movie to end in slaughter more. Sorry Miz.  Zero out of Five Snowmen

Movie #20: A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas

Probably the hidden gem in this experience. Seen it four times now. Twice this season. (Once before I started this, so I didn’t count it, so I had to watch it again. HAHA!) Fantastic movie. Adult, crude, but has a huge heart. Really sweet movie ultimately, and the only movie I’ve ever wanted to actually see in 3D. You see it was originally released in 3D, and has LOTS of pandering 3D effects. In 2D it’s still just as awesome, but it’d be fun to see it in three dimensions. Can’t recommend it enough. In the small field of adult Christmas movies this is easily the best out there. Five out of Five Snowmen. And frankly I may watch it again before the big day as it’s so fun.

I’m back apparently…

November 28, 2014

It’s been a while. I miss writing. Time to shine.

Things will get silly if I link to every part at the start, so if you’re new, check the tags, and start with the intro.

So in part two things went wrong quite a bit. Lost my entire squad. How was I to know the bridge was going to blow? I reloaded my save. I’ve decided I am not doing that in future. From now I will play the game as the developer intended.

The reason the next part has been so delayed is the way I’m doing this is a pain. For technical reasons I won’t bore you with, saving the game is slow and unstable. I’m basically playing a bit, swapping back to the window to write it up, back to the game etc… In short to get about five minutes into the game takes about an hour of actual time to write stuff, edit screenshots etc… So I’m trying to figure out how to up my productivity.

I DID debate getting back to where I was in another version of the game so I could avoid said technical issues, but sadly given I HAD lost a squad member, it would be hard to get to that point in the exact same circumstance, so I’m stuck with the rod I made for my back. Lesson learned for a future Let’s Play…

So we’re on Mission 4, stage 3 now. Village People! We made it through the pier level. Just didn’t stand on them this time.

As you can see we have Jops, Stoo, RJ, Ubik and CJ in the squad. As you wander round this level, a nasty new element is introduced. Holes. In the ground. That enemies come out of. If you don’t know this is coming it can be very dangerous as your squad will get sneak attacked and you’ll die. Fortunately I remembered and lobbed a grenade or three down said hole to neutralize it. My colourblindness is causing me issues here as the troops blend in to the scenery more than they would for a normal person, so the difficulty bar is raised for me as often I can’t see the enemy until it’s far too late.


So far so good. Explodey thing chucked down that hole means no more baddun’s spewing forth from it. Hurrah! We slowly work out way down the map until we find a group of four huts. A grenade is lobbed. Disaster! The ensuing explosion kills two of the men. NO! Worse is yet to come while, in the confusion, TWO MORE DIE! In mere seconds we’ve gone from the above, to this.

We’ve lost all but CJ in the fire fight! A lone wolf against the odds. Further into the level something happens. I’m not entirely sure what, but there’s a big explosion and CJ is no more. My entire squad is dead. Shazbot! It’s hard to be upset. As the saying goes, “The death of one is a tragedy. The death of millions just a statistic”. Losing the entire squad is a hit, but unlike when we lost Jools, even though I lost Jops, my leader, this time, he’s not the first, and he won’t be the last to die.

The level reloads, with a bunch of newbies ready to die for the cause. Chris, Pete, Tadger, Hector and Elroy. All newbies. All green as a nine day old egg sandwich. I decide to change strategy here. I’m going to split the squad, and take two off on their own. Then if they die horribly I’ll take another two, and if they die, one to lone wolf the rest of it. We’ll see how it goes. First up, Chris and Pete get to go on an adventure together. Almost immediately Pete dies on a bloody grenade. This is going well…

Until next time…




The introduction is here. Part 1 is here.

So where were we?

Ah, yes. Off to the land of the ice and the snow from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow. Once more our mission is KILL ALL THE THINGS! And BLOW UP ALL THE OTHER THINGS! So with our mittens in our pockets, we bundle into the chopper and head for colder climes.

Friends are waiting immediately. In blue. On a white background. I CAN SEE YOU! TIME TO DIE! Amusingly they stand there, firing at me, their shots falling ludicrously short. I chortle a little. If I recall you can fall off the cliffs. It’s a quick way to get down, but I’m going to go the long way, lest it incapacitates me for any amount of time, giving the Blue Man Group a chance to shoot my spleen off. Once more we seem to have a GARDEN SHED OF CERTAIN REGENERATING DEATH! Only this time no obvious means of blowing it up. I believe FLYING PINEAPPLES OF LETHALITY, AKA grenades, will be found somewhere on this level. Either that or a nice big hammer.

Things turn ugly quickly. As we run along, slipping on the ice (seriously, you fall over), blue bastards pile in from all sides. We’re trying to get to a stash of grenades. You can see the tip of the shed to the right. The problem? Blue Man Group is pouring out of said shed. If I shoot them I stand a very real chance of blowing up my grenades. Worse, blowing myself up in the process. Oh the humanity!

We dash for the shed. A soldier runs out. We somehow lure him away and shoot him and grab the grenades. Two more soldiers appear. We fire…

NO! The grenade pile blows up. It takes the shed out, but poor Sergeant Jools is caught in the ensuing explosion! Bugger! A brief second to mourn is granted, then we must carry on with the mission. We run down to the south east corner to another shed. On the way another grenade is accidentally thrown. We have three left, with three sheds left to blow. Dodgy! Fortunately when we reach the southeast shed, there’s another handy box of exploding pineapples. The shed and the soldiers it dispensed are swiftly destroyed. Another brief second is spent mourning Sergeant Jools as we return past the scene of his tragic demise. This is no longer just a mission. This isn’t about justice. This is punishment.

A tidal wave of blue pours toward us as we rain hot lead upon them. Sergeant Jools will not have died in vain! We push on, more and more members of Blue Man Group trying to kill us, but we are victorious. As the last shed explodes in fire we run away quickly to avoid the falling roof. The mission is complete. We dance jubilantly in the snow.

And now, a moment of silence for our fallen hero. May he rest in peace.

The first gravestone appears on the hill as more conscripts arrive to join the line. Sergeant Jools took 17 enemies straight to Hell with him.

Staff Sergeant Jops, Sergeant Stoo, and Corporals RJ and Ubik toast their fallen friend before heading off for another mission.

From the snowy lands back to Vietnam. This phase is called Beachy Head, and it’s one of FOUR! YIKES! It’s BLOW UP ALL THE THINGS rather than KILL this time. The game informs me I have 55 recruits left. Hopefully that will be enough. Once more into the jungle my friends…

We start in the middle of the map, and look, a river… With no bridge. Oh dear. I figure for a strategy we’ll head east and around the little river inlet, work our way around, then cross the river at the top. This is going to be a tense one! We soon discover that a new terrain feature has been added. Swamp. It does exactly what you think it does. Slows you down badly. Through the forest we can see our enemy staring at us. Apparently the forests are immune to bullets, though we give it our best shot. We get to the first shed in the southeast corner and find a handy box of grenades. You’d think the enemy wouldn’t leave this just casually laying around. Their stupidity is our gain, however. Scratch one shed! No casualties so far. On our side at least.

Shed two is down. This time with a flying door. The tactic is to lob the grenade and RUN AWAY VERY FAST. The door goes whizzing past us but fails to hit any of us. What an ignominious fate, being killed by a flying door!

Now we have to cross the river. From the look of the map, and it’s such a blob it’s hard to tell, I think the shed is bottom left. However I am sticking to my plan of crossing to the north. I could break the squad into two but for the sake of speed I won’t, and just hope nothing is waiting to say hello with a high velocity piece of lead.

A bit of a panic ensues when, as we enter the water, we see an enemy swimming toward the other shore. This would mean he’d get there first, and have plenty of time to gun us all down in the water. A hasty retreat back to shore sees us there to greet him with the greeting he planned for us. Let’s try this again. We swim out. As we get just half way, an enemy comes running at us. Oh crap! The range is closing and it’s looking bad. Sergeant Jops leaps into action and fires as he emerges dripping wet from the water, saving the rest of the platoon from a lead filled watery doom. As we regroup on the shore, a soldier near a clump trees is halfheartedly firing at us. A grenade is thrown in his direction. He is soon dispatched.

Another conveniently placed batch of grenades are acquired and another shed joins the great garden center in the sky. I had somehow missed this one on the map. I thought three was a bit of an odd number. (Oh dear…) One shed to go, when suddenly an enemy appears out of seemingly thin air and starts blasting. Only quick reactions save the squad.

With soldiers closing in, a final grenade is lobbed at the remaining shed and VOILA! This phase is complete. The remaining enemy soldiers somehow lose the ability to use guns at this point, despite the fact we’re distracted, jumping up and down and clearly not paying attention. The phase two briefing, Pier Pressure: Kill everything that moves. Blow up everything that doesn’t. Righty ho then.

CRAP ON A CRACKER! The phase starts with multiple soldiers heading toward you. (The screenshot is from a few seconds in with a few dead as I was too busy trying not to die to hit the screen capture button.) The forces are wiped out and more start pouring over the water as we run east. I click to go on the pier but, the path finding being what it is, my squad run into the water… I click to get them out and then I run down the right pier, picking off enemy in the water as I go. “Surely it can’t be this simple, can it?” I think. I shoot the enemy soldiers heading for me, safe in the knowledge they can’t actually hurt me, and I hurl a grenade at the shed.

That went badly wrong. The shed exploded, sending debris flying over to the pier, which blew up, taking my entire squad with it. Bugger, bugger and thrice bugger. This is where we reach the dilemma. In an ideal world I’d play as the game was designed two decades ago. However the point of this is to get to the end and write as I play. Re-doing everything above seems sort of redundant as I’ve already written about it, so I will load the most recent save state and play to this point.

Only this time I won’t blow the pier up with my squad standing on it…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.