Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, Directed by Nicholas Webster) English 3

Starring John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Pia Zadora, Chris Month

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) - Watch on Prime Video, fuboTV,  Shout Factory TV, ConTV, Epix, Tubi, PlutoTV, Vudu, PopcornFlix, and  Streaming Online | Reelgood

(3-Horrible Film)

Well-meaning. Inept. Campy.

Hargo: What’s soft and round and you put it on a stick and you toast it in a fire, and it’s green?

Kimar: I don’t know what?

Hargo: A Martian mellow.

Occasionally, maybe once a decade, a film comes out with an utterly absurd concept and, against all odds, is a hit. Who would have bet on Babe (1995) or Ratatouille (2007) being good films based solely on their stories? But Santa Claus Conquers the Martians doesn’t have nearly the level of talent behind the scenes that those two films had. Instead, it’s exactly as bad as you probably imagine it being just reading the title, and the title was clearly the whole point (someone was really proud to have come up with this title). On the planet Mars, otherwise satisfied children watch television with Earth programming (for some reason) and envy our planet’s rich Christmas tradition; specifically, the tradition of Santa giving presents. Mars’ leader, Kimar, notices his kids’ longing and sets out to kidnap Santa, bringing him to make toys for the Martians. There’s no reason to belabor the faults of this movie. They’re obvious and inevitable. Maybe with more self-awareness and a sense of humor someone could make a decent family flick with this material. The creators of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians opt, however, for earnestness and sincerity. The result is a classic bad movie that’s actually fun to watch despite it all.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,059)

It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947, Directed by Roy Del Ruth) English 8

Starring Victor Moore, Charlie Ruggles, Don Defore, Ann Harding, Gale Storm, Edward Brophy, Alan Hale Jr.

Top Holiday Picks: It Happened on 5th Avenue

(8-Exceptional Film)

Wonderful. Charming. Classic.

Aloysius T. McKeever: And I would like to feel that you’re all my friends. For to be without friends is a serious form of poverty.

Wise words from Mr. McKeever (Moore), a wanton leech and scoundrel. He wanders through life, sneaking in and out of mansions while their owners are away on vacation. This Christmas season, he’s staying in the home of Michael J. O’Conner (Ruggles), the second richest man on Earth. Gradually, other people join Mr. McKeever in the house: principled Jim Bullock (Defore), O’Connor’s daughter, Trudy (Storm), who’s fallen for Jim, Mr. O’Connor himself, as a favor to his daughter, and Mary (Harding), O’Connor’s estranged wife. This is a really wonderful movie that takes its zany, promising setup in a number of surprising directions. Victor Moore is called on to be both comedic scoundrel and Christmas angel all at once. He achieves this effortlessly. Though light on actual Christmas content, It Happened on 5th Avenue is still regularly described as a Christmas classic. Really, it’s a comedy for all seasons.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,042)

Godmothered (2020, Directed by Sharon Maguire) English 6

Starring Isla Fisher, Jillian Bell, Jane Curtin, June Squibb, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Santiago Cabrera, Stephnie Weir, Utkarsh Ambudkar

Godmothered Trailer Looks Like A Spiritual Successor To Enchanted

(6-Good Film)

Pleasant. Amusing. Satisfying.

Tagline: Be careful who you wish for.

Inspired (quite conspicuously) by Disney’s earlier hit, Enchanted, and Will Ferrell’s Elf, Godmothered attempts to put a similarly modern touch on the classic Princess fairy tale formula. Jillian Bell plays Eleanor, a fairy godmother-in-training. Belief in magic has greatly diminished in recent years and the fairy godmothers aren’t doing too well. They’re running out of business and appear destined to close shop and restart as tooth fairies. Eleanor runs away on a last ditch effort to save fairy godmothers by helping a widowed mother, Mackenzie (Fisher), find her happily-ever-after. Godmothered has a solid foundation of sweetness and goodwill to carry it along. The cast is full of charming people. It’s a lovely, colorful film, but it’s light on laughs and fairly conventional even with its modern touches and ideas on relationships (again, because it’s so much like Elf). Ultimately, though, this is a nice movie and an enjoyable one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,041)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, Directed by Bill Melendez) English 8

Voices of Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Tracy Stratford, Cathy Steinberg, Chris Doran, Karen Mendelson

Image result for a charlie brown christmas

(8-Exceptional Film)

Poignant. Charming. Thoughtful.

I’ve watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special countless times, but somehow I’ve never seen A Charlie Brown Christmas until this year. It’s wonderful. Charlie Brown wades through the holiday season being the young neurotic that he is, asking some big questions. Lucy convinces him to direct her Christmas play.  Eventually, he’s reminded of the true meaning of Christmas just in time to enjoy it. Iconic, endearing, and Vince Guaraldi’s music is gorgeous.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(845)

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983, Directed by Burny Mattinson) English 8

Voices of Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Clarence Nash, Hal Smith, Will Ryan

Image result for mickey's christmas carol

(8-Exceptional Film)

Short. Sweet. Endearing.

Splendid version of Charles Dickens’ much-told tale, this 26 minute short special might be my favorite Christmas Carol. Scrooge McDuck takes his natural role in the story as Ebenezer Scrooge, a hard-hearted old businessman without any empathy or love. One night, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts-the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. They open his eyes and force a change of heart, causing old Scrooge to turn his life around. Short and sweet, Mickey’s Christmas Carol is a fantastically animated special.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(844)

The Little Drummer Boy (1968, Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass) English 7

Voices of José Ferrer, Greer Garson, June Foray, Teddy Eccles, Paul Frees

Image result for the little drummer boy 1968

(7-Very Good Film)

Nostalgic. Striking. Memorable.

One of Rankin and Bass’ Christmas classics told in their indelible stop-motion style, The Little Drummer Boy adapts the popular Christmas song of the same name and provides a little background. A young Jewish boy named Aaron lives only to play his drum. Swindled into joining a talentless traveling troupe leads Aaron ultimately to Bethlehem where he humbly plays his drum for the newborn baby Jesus. Like all of their specials, Rankin and Bass’ The Little Drummer Boy is one part creepy and two parts sweet, nostalgic, memorable, and a testament to their creativity. One of their best.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(841)

Unaccompanied Minors (2006, Directed by Paul Feig) English 4

Starring Dyllan Christopher, Tyler James Williams, Gia Mantegna, Quinn Shephard, Wilmer Valderrama, Lewis Black, Rob Cordry, David Koechner, Brett Kelly, Jessica Walter, B.J Novak, Mindy Kaling, Teri Garr, Rob Riggle

Image result for unaccompanied minors

(4-Bad Film)

Unfunny. Spiritless. Aggravating.

A group of kids-Spencer, Grace, Charles, Donna, and “Beef”-are cooped up in D.C’s international airport on Christmas Eve thanks to a snowstorm. Grouchy Head of Passenger Relations, Oliver Porter (Lewis Black), seems determined that they have no fun during their stay, so the children respond by running wild and “outsmarting” him at every turn. Maybe the filmmakers thought they had a bit of the Home Alone formula in hand. Neglected, resourceful child (in this case, children) versus dimwitted adults. The problem is, in Unaccompanied Minors, the children’s cleverness isn’t all that clever, the adults, though militant, aren’t necessarily even wrong, and the children are basically brats for most of the film. Unaccompanied Minors is never funny and often annoying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(839)

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019, Directed by Michelle Johnston) English 5

Starring Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Isabella Gomez, Barclay Hope, Johannah Newmarch, Chanelle Peloso

Image result for a cinderella story christmas wish

(5-Okay Film)

Fine. Formulaic. Silly.

Kat Decker (Laura Marano), an aspiring singer, lives under the oppressive roof of her step-mother and two vapid step-sisters. While working her menial job as a Christmas elf to support her family, she meets Dominic Wintergarden (Gregg Sulkin), wealthy, handsome, and kind. Is there any way that he could actually be interested in her? This is a romantic comedy so, of course, there is. Let’s start with the positives: the actors are fine. That’s about it for me. It’s very straightforward, underwhelming fare with bad music thrown in.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(838)

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019, Directed by John Schultz) English 5

Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Sarah Douglas, Tahirah Sharif, Theo Devaney, Crystal Yu

Image result for a christmas prince 3

(5-Okay Film)

Retread. Predictable. Corny.

There’s no reason, as far as I can tell, that Netflix shouldn’t just keep rolling out these ultra-cheesy, predictable Christmas Prince movies every year. The Royal Baby, the third film in this watershed trilogy, brings back Queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) as they prepare for the birth of their first child and also to sign a treaty that would continue the alliance between their made-up country, Aldovia, and some other made-up country, Penglia. When someone steals the treaty before it’s signed, the king and queen go into detective mode. Enjoyable, treacly to the extreme, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is satisfying viewing for those who like laughable, corny entertainment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(836)

Shrek the Halls (2007, Directed by Gary Trousdale) English 6

Voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Conrad Vernon, Gary Trousdale

Image result for shrek the halls

(6-Good Film)

Fun. Unspectacular. Satisfying.

How Gary Trousdale went from directing two of the best-animated films of all-time (Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to directing this, I’ll never know, but it’s a decent Christmas special without being essential. Shrek prepares for his first Christmas spent with friends and family but when the day comes, he finds it doesn’t go as planned. There’s not a lot of meaningful action here, but the characters are still classic despite being worn out by their studio, and the story is amusing with a number of good jokes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(835)