Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Films Watched

On Christmas Day, we planned to watch three movies with a Christmas theme. We ended up watching two on Christmas Day, and the third one on the day after Christmas.

First up was the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The basic plot of the movie is that a group of Martians kidnap Santa Claus because their children are sad and they have been told that Santa Claus can make them happy. Unfortunately two earth children are kidnapped too. The rest of the story takes place on Mars, with Santa setting up a workshop and the kids helping him produce toys for the children of Mars.

If you are not familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000, also known as MST3K, this was a television show that first was carried by Comedy Central and then later picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel.  The basic premise at the beginning of the show was: a man has been sent to space in a satellite, creates two comical robots, and is forced by the evil scientists to watch bad movies. They comment on the movies, and do several skits each show. The show ran from Thanksgiving Day, 1988 (starting out at KTMA in Minneapolis, Minnesota) to August 1999.

The movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, is aimed at children and is hilarious and without logic. Pia Zadora had her first role in a movie as the Martian daughter. That alone makes it worth watching. The skits on the satellite are fun. To fit the shows format, a small amount of the movie is cut.

Our other two Christmas movies were more traditional -- Holiday Inn and The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Holiday Inn, released in 1942, is a favorite because it has Fred Astaire and tap dancing and some great songs by Irving Berlin. Many of the songs were written expressly for the movie, including "White Christmas." Although the movie covers all the holidays in the year, it starts and ends at Christmas.

The film also stars Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, and Walter Abel. Astaire and Crosby both play cads who are competing for Reynold's attentions. Crosby and Astaire have a song and dance act and Crosby wants to retire to the country. He sets up his farmhouse as "Holiday Inn," where he will have shows only on holidays, fifteen days a year. Reynolds plays in the shows, is discovered by Astaire and he tries to steal her away.

The photo above shows Crosby and Reynolds singing White Christmas, one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

On the day following Christmas, we watched The Man Who Came to Dinner. This film, also released in 1942, is a comedy based on a stage play  by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Its stage origins are obvious, because almost all of the scenes in the movie are played in one room.

Radio personality Sheridan Whiteside (played by Monty Woolley) slips on the icy steps of the house of the Stanleys (Grant Mitchell and Billie Burke). He had merely come to dinner (under protest), and because of injuries sustained, insists on recuperating in their home during the Christmas holidays. Under threat of an expensive suit, he takes over their home, banishing the family to the upstairs rooms. He and his overbearing ways come to have an effect on the family members and others who visit the home. Sometimes negative, sometimes positive. 

One of my favorite characters in the film is played by Bette Davis, in an uncharacteristic performance. She plays Whiteside's assistant. There is a romantic subplot when she meets a hometown newspaperman, and Whiteside tries to undermine the romance using the charms of an actress, played by Ann Sheridan.

We also have a fondness for Christmassy action movies. We often watch Die Hard or Lethal Weapon at Christmas, because Christmas figures into the story. This year, a few days before Christmas, we watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, released in 2005, and starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan. This movie is a mixture of genres: a noir thriller with comedy and romance, with allusions to Raymond Chandler's books and based partly on Brett Halliday's novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them. The story isn't very realistic but it is lots of fun, and Downey and Kilmer have great chemistry.

The poster for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is from enigmabadger via Flickr.


Bill Selnes said...

I am an irregular movie watcher. On Christmas Day the rest of the family watched Die Hard. I shared some chips and salsa and watched the beginning before going downstairs to read. I do not find many contemporary Hollywood thrillers of interest.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - Oh, I'm so glad you mentioned MST3K! I really liked that series. Offbeat, 'goofball' and sometimes absolutely hilarious!

TracyK said...

Bill, I think I lose a lot of reading time to movie (and TV) watching. I confess to being a fan of Bruce Willis' action films.

TracyK said...

What a good description of MST3K, Margot. I liked that it could be watched and enjoyed by all ages. It was not dumbed down for kids, but they kept it appropriate for kids.

col2910 said...

Nice viewing Tracy - I can't claim to have seen any of these myself. KKBB would be the most likely one for me and mine. I've had a quiet film month, Christmas included..maybe 3 or 4 tops.

TracyK said...

We enjoyed it, Col. I think you would like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It is fun and a nice mystery too. We have seen more movies this month (old and new, to us) because we have been off for a while.

Clothes In Books said...

I had forgotten that The Man Who Came to Dinner was Christmas-themed - we watched it again a while back when my husband was recovering from foot surgery, I told him he was like Sheridan Whiteside! I haven't seen Holiday Inn for years, I must get hold of a copy. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an absolute favourite of mine - I love Robert Downey Jr in (almost) anything, but I think this film is very very funny and clever, and Val Kilmer good in it too.

TracyK said...

Moira, even watching The Man Who Came to Dinner as a Christmas movie, it is easy to forget the Christmas theme. The tree is there, the presents are there... but I guess I focus more on the interactions and not the time of year. How mean to compare your husband to Sheridan Whiteside (though he does have some good qualities). We just discovered Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in the last couple of years and have enjoyed it many times since.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I missed "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and will watch out for it on cable. Val Kilmer is a fine actor.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Was that your first time for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? I do so love that movie. It was the film that really put Robert Downey, Jr. back on the map for me and turned me into a fan. It made me excited when he was cast both as Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man. I think part of the reason why Iron Man 3 was one of my favs this year is that Shane Black directed RDJ again.

Your Christmas films sound fun. The only one I've seen is Holiday Inn. I like that film and am not sure why we don't watch it every Christmas. We tend to want to watch White Christmas instead and then forget about Holiday Inn.

TracyK said...

Prashant, I hope you get to watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It is a fun movie with good actors.

TracyK said...

Carl, we had watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang several times before, we tend to watch a movie to death if we like it, especially action films. We did not discover it until several years after it came out and I cannot remember how we did. We are now big Robert Downey Jr. fans too. Especially the Sherlock Holmes movies. We did watch the first Iron Man movie and plan to catch up on 2 and 3. We did not know that Shane Black directed Iron Man 3. (My husband is the one that notices those things, me less so.)

We need to watch White Christmas. It has been many many years since I have seen it. I like Vera Ellen a lot, but I like tap dancing more than other kinds.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Yes, Vera Ellen is quite amazing. She floats around the floor. We got to see White Christmas on the largest screen at the local movie theater in December and it was amazing. The detail you miss on the small screen is really brought home seeing it this way.

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, although I assume it was some mention online, because I ended up first renting it then buying it on DVD.

Iron Man 2 has some issues but is okay. It is worth seeing for build up to 3 though, and Black does a great job with it.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the info on the Iron Man movies. I do like to see all parts of a series of movies if I am going to watch any of it. We ended up watching Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol after skipping MI3 after being very disappointed with MI2, then we had to go back to MI3 and enjoyed it too. Partly because I like Simon Pegg, and Michelle Monaghan was in MI3 too.