I haven't actually watched this one since it was in theaters back in 2005. At the time, I remember having a lot of fun with it, laughing at Ryan Reynolds' actions the same way we laugh at him in the 'Deadpool' movies now. This viewing was one I still had fun with, but it's not quite what I remembered. I had this listed as "Under the Radar" because I feel like no one talks about it anymore, and it falls under the "forgotten" category. Although I feel like one can still enjoy this, given its subject matter, it's a bit dated with some of its terminology. More on that later.
The film opens in 1995, where an overweight high school senior named Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is crushing hard on his best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). He confesses his feelings to her in her yearbook, which gets read aloud by her ex boyfriend, Tim (Ty Olsson). Despite Jamie thinking it was incredibly sweet, Chris is ruthlessly made fun of for it. To rub salt in his wound, Jamie also mentions how good of a "friend" he is, hence the film's title. Chris storms off and leaves town, claiming he'd make something of himself. Sure enough, fast-forward ten years, and he has lost weight, and become a successful record producer and womanizer - just about the opposite of what he was ten years prior.
Chris is asked by his CEO, KC (Stephen Root) to accompany a pop singer he once dated, Samantha James (Anna Faris) to Paris. The idea is to butter her up, so she'll sign with the company's label. Chris reluctantly agrees, knowing what he's getting into, having their relationship end with him in the hospital. Thing go awry almost immediately when Samantha sets fire to her private jet by putting tinfoil in its microwave. This causes them to make an emergency landing in New Jersey, close to Chris' hometown. This allows Chris to bring Samantha to his mother's house to spend the night, or however long they need.
Chris and Samantha hit up the town that night, where Chris runs into more of his past, including friends Clark (Fred Ewanuick), Darla (Amy Matysio) and of course, Jamie, who Chris realizes he has some mixed emotions for. He figures that now that he's made something of himself, he can simply seduce her and basically be shallow about things in a bit of a revenge plot. But somewhere deep down, is still the sweet, chubby man child he once was, and little by little he realizes his feelings are more genuine than his plans. This is especially true when he gets some competition in the form of Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein); someone even lower on the high school totem pole than he was, who has also seemingly made something of himself.
As mentioned earlier, I personally find myself still enjoying this movie despite a few dated aspects about it. The key to it is the whole "just friends" theme it plays; a zone I know all too well. I suppose to keep it short, this is a movie that suggests that the whole "friend zone" thing doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, AND that if you play your cards right as the friend, it COULD (no promises, whatsoever) lead to something deeper eventually down the line. It's a movie that suggests we need to just be ourselves if we want results, and not try so hard to impress. It's kind of an old and cliche message, I suppose, but it's also one that speaks to me on a personal level. I mean, why would you want to be with someone who doesn't like and appreciate you for you?
For my money, the film's funny aspects generally come a lot from the side characters. Chris' mother (Julie Hagerty) was a good laugh, being a touch senile, but ever so sweet. She's a bit of a reflection of Aunt Bethany from 'Christmas Vacation'. A lot of the loose throwing around of "gay is bad" comes from Chris' brother, Mike (Christopher Marquette) and it's something I can't quite wrap my head around. The kid is an 18-year-old dummy type in 2005, so I feel like one could see it as satire just as easily as one could find it offensive. A lot of his humor comes from the sibling rivalry he has with Chris, along with his obsession with Samantha.
Whether or not this is your cup of tea, it's a movie I still enjoy for myself. There's a lot of good laughs here, and by the end, an interesting message for those perpetually caught in that friend zone. To me, the film basically tells us how much of a pain in the ass the friend zone is, but with the right amount of patience, it can possibly lead to something great. The funny thing is, the whole movie ends on a gag that suggests this is something that's bound to happen to just about anyone, and it happens so quick, you hardly even realize it. It's not an annual watch for me, and honestly, Christmas is only really a backdrop for it. But there's a bitter yet humorous reality to it I can't help but appreciate, and I still get plenty of laughs through it.
Here's a title several people probably remember from when the 21st century introduced itself. In the past twenty years, it has seemingly gone unnoticed and/or tossed aside. Most people I talk to either haven't heard of it, or think I'm referring to the fairly fresh 2019 drama series of the same name. This all frankly sometimes surprises me, considering it's a movie that features Nicolas Cage in the lead role. But perhaps it's just that he's not quite "Nick Cage" enough for viewers here. Indeed, it's one of those times he plays it more serious, so if you wanna see whacked out crazy Cage, you're out of luck.
Cage plays the role of a Wall Street Executive named Jack. He, and his long-time partner, Kate (Téa Leoni) are parting ways at JFK Airport, as Jack is headed to London to take up a twelve-month internship. The fear of his leaving hurting their long-term relationship, however, gets to her. Then, as though it's already the end of any typical romance movie, Kate asks him not to go. She gives a short but pretty convincing speech about staying with her to start a nice, peaceful family life. He reassures her that their love will last through the worst, and takes off anyway, leaving her heart-broken at the terminal. So, right off the bat, we see who these people are - their introductions are quite solid for being so quick.
Thirteen years pass, and Jack finds himself living a carefree bachelor lifestyle. Things are going quite well for him; he's a successful go-getter on Wall Street, and loves what he does, making him the cocky type who cares a little more about his lifestyle than other people. This comes right down to Kate who evidently tries calling him, but despite the fact that he remembers her, he doesn't answer the phone. He leaves work one night, and heads into a convenience store where an average young New Yorker named Cash (Don Cheadle) tries to claim a lottery ticket that the clerk refuses, accusing him of cheating with it. This leads to an interaction of Jack attempting to find Cash some help, but little does Jack know what's about to happen. When Cash asks Jack if anything is missing from his life, and he responds by stating he has everything he needs, the magic begins with the offer of a "glimpse".
Jack awakens the next morning next to Kate, in a lovely house with two happy children. For the first while, as anyone probably would he goes around town freaking out just a little bit at the fact that people aren't recognizing him, or at least not recognizing him correctly. He's suddenly married with children and working as a car tire salesman, with people being a bit more friendly than usual towards him. He soon comes to realize this "glimpse" is what he could have had if he stayed behind from his opportunity in London, thirteen years ago. The big question is, which lifestyle does he want more?; the swinging lifestyle of a bachelor Wall Street executive, or the simple life of a "family man" where love and good memories is all one needs to be happy?
Just to get it out of the way, I found myself enjoying this quite a bit. It takes some of the best aspects of 'It's a Wonderful Life', sort of flipping it, and I'd even go so far as to say there's a bit of 'Christmas Carol' here just as well. It's a neat take on the idea, and the point that money can't buy you happiness is abundantly clear by the end. All in all, it's a film that goes from very cold to very warm, and things flow pretty well. It may not be entirely original, but it's sweet. It's a good film to make one appreciate what they have in the way of love and affection. It also puts the idea forth that being rich and successful are all well and good, but what if it makes you miss out on the love of your life? It's a good way to analyze the different paths we choose in life.
The film isn't without a couple of nitpicky flaws, but at the end of the day, that's exactly what they are - personal nitpicks. I think the prime example for myself is that the daughter (Makenzie Vega) was made a little too cute - almost as though she was a cartoon character. So there are certainly those aspects thrown in there just to make things sappy. But with that said, I was impressed at how much Cage was able to bring himself down, and how much Leoni was able to bring herself up. I tend to like Cage at his "Cagiest", but this was a role that proves he can settle his ass down for a couple of hours if need be. Leoni was someone I was never a big fan of, mostly because I find her to be very one-note and bland with almost no character in almost anything. But here, she shows some of her range, and I admit I was impressed.
The real takeaway here though, is the story. Once again, it's not entirely original, but it is some of the best aspects of some of those Christmas classics we all know and love. Regardless of anything, it's a movie that teaches the right lessons, it's warm, it's sweet, and it's something one could easily cuddle up with their partner to watch by a cozy fireplace in these cold December days leading up to Christmas. I wouldn't place it at the top of my list of Christmas recommendations, but it's certainly not something I'd try to steer people away from as a waste of time. It's quite good for what it is, and I enjoyed how sweet it was, so for many, it could be worth the watch.
For the month of December, of course my focus is gonna be on films that float under the radar around Christmastime. We kick things off with 2005's 'The Ice Harvest', directed by Harold Ramis, and its probably one of his darker movies; although it maintains a sense of humor. Indeed, this is one of those movies where a lot of the humor lies in the darker aspects of it, like working for the mob and all that entails.
As the film opens, we're introduced to a couple of criminals; mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) and a pornographer businessman named Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton). They have stolen about $2 million from mobster Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid), who also happens to be their boss, and are amped for an easy getaway. However, an icy rain comes along making the roads far too dangerous for driving. Vic takes the money for safekeeping, and they both try to evade capture and potential torture from Roy Gelles (Mike Starr), one of Guerrard's thugs, through this bitter Christmas Eve night. With Guerrard finding out their scheme, it seems to be only a matter of time.
The main backdrop of the movie is the Sweet Cage strip club, which Vic owns, run by Renata Crest (Connie Nielsen), the object of Charlie's affection. There's a whole "take the money and run" subplot going on with them, as she finds out about the money and essentially wants to get away from the lifestyle she's living. There's another subplot involving Charlie's friend, Pete (Oliver Platt), who happens to be married to Charlie's ex. Honestly though, it's hardly worth mentioning, as it's kind of crowbarred into the film. There is a reason for it, but by the end of it all it seems almost unnecessary. There's not a lot of charm to the Platt stuff, not so much because of Platt, but because his character is just perpetually drunk for laughs; he's the guy who doesn't know when to stop.
A lot of the stuff involving Charlie and whatever it is he wants to do with the money, is pretty good stuff though. There's not a whole lot of laugh out loud moments here, but it certainly got a few giggles. I generally really enjoy a good dark comedy, but this is one of those movies you have to be in the right mood for. A lot of it feels more serious than it probably should, and as a movie with a Christmas backdrop, it doesn't really use it a lot other than people humming Christmas carols the odd time. Not that a movie like this should feel "Christmassy", but it doesn't use enough elements from the holiday to consider it any sort of Christmas movie. I refer readers to 'Die Hard' which uses Christmas all throughout its action as a prime example of how to do it right.
The film is not, however, without a certain charm to it. It was interesting seeing Ramis take a darker look at things, and the weather sets the mood for the film almost perfectly. For those of us familiar with the idea, a winter rain is just awful. It's cold, wet, grey, slushy, slippery, and even dangerous under certain circumstances (like driving). It's the type of weather that has snow-haters saying "I wish this was snow". To be honest, I can't think of a lot of movies that use this type of weather for atmosphere, so points for originality. It's a good way to trap everyone in the same town and have to wait things out.
The performances here are pretty 50/50. I wasn't a fan of Platt's drunken schmoe character, and I didn't think there was a whole lot of personality to Renata other than being that "tease" type towards Charlie (in more ways than one). But I did enjoy Charlie, as this sort of awkward character who didn't fully know what he was doing, and Vic was just about as Billy Bob as Billy Bob can get, which is always great - imagine 'Bad Santa', just without all the alcohol. So, while the main cast and overall setting is enough to keep things entertaining, it's not entirely a must-see either. Not much sticks out, it's a touch forgettable, and I kind of get why it's a film located "under Santa's radar". Give it a shot if you have an hour and a half to kill, and your curiosity gets the better of you - just remember that it doesn't necessarily have to be seen around Christmastime either.
I decided to lean towards taking another look at a few found-footage films that I've missed over the years for the month of April. I have done this theme before, but there are so many titles to choose from that this probably will be a recurring theme every year. To kick things off, we actually have a special request from a friend who wanted me to check these first two movies out, 2014's 'Creep' and 2017's 'Creep 2', in regards to 'Creep 3' being released... whenever the hell that might be.
The first film is shot from the perspective of a videographer named Aaron (Patrick Brice). He's on the way to a remote mountain town, answering an online ad to videotape a dying man named Josef's (Mark Duplass) final messages, with a main focus on the man's supposed unborn son. Aaron hesitantly agrees to Josef's terms, but the messages get more dark and disturbing as filming goes on, and Josef himself seems pretty unhinged, and overly desperate for a friend. What this essentially boils down to is a found-footage horror version of 'The Cable Guy'.
All in all, this one ended up being pretty much what I expected, and ends up being somewhat predictable at points. However, I will give the film credit enough for blending a very dark and out-there sense of humor with its uncomfortable moments. If he was lightened up a bit, I could almost see Josef being a criminal on a show like 'Brooklyn 99'. This is rated R, though, so a lot the dark humor within is a little more uneasy - especially when it comes to a wolf mask that Josef dubs "Peach Fuzz".
To give you the perfect idea of the tone that this movie sets, "Peach Fuzz" has a theme song. The first time the song is heard involves Josef dancing around and singing it like some kid, having a great time with it. The second time, however, is the end credits, in which the tone is completely different and you sit there wondering if you should laugh at the ridiculous lyrics, or be scared by them.
It could be said that the film doesn't exactly know what it's supposed to be, between a horror and a comedy. However, the creepiness of the whole situation does get very real. Duplass pulls off a very disturbing performance here that, while you often laugh at, you're also often made to feel very uncomfortable by. Some of the real comedy actually comes from Aaron's reactions to Josef's behavior, which unfortunately involves several cheap jump scares. How cheap? He basically keeps jumping out from behind something, screaming. I can only appreciate a jump scare if it's done inconspicuously. In this, the moments were too obvious - tension followed by a jolt. I still might have jumped, but it felt wasted, especially if it's just someone essentially going "BOO!" to someone else. That is just elementary Halloween pranking.
Wrapping up this "Part 1", I can't say that it's anything too special, but it's certainly not without a few appreciative factors. The performances were great, overall, between our two leads, and the dark sense of humor this brings to the table is almost something to be admired. It doesn't quite take things too far, but it does get into your head as another pretty solid cautionary tale about who you meet on the internet. But while this one is a little bit unoriginal, I must admit that the second one impressed me for what it was...
Now, here we have something I consider very close to my heart. When I was a kid, and had no patience for old, black and white films (I've missed out on a lot of good stuff due to such stubbornness), this was my 'Christmas Carol' story. It was fun, had a great atomsphere to go along with it, and featured some favourite Characters, including Scrooge of 'Duck Tales' fame (a cartoon I really loved back then) in the lead role.
Back when I caught it on TV, it was a 30-minute special that aired after another 30-minutes or so of fun Disney Christmas stories. The grouping of it all together really used to ignite the Christmas spirit in me, as it all managed to capture everything great about the holiday. But of course, our main focus here is the story of Scrooge.
For the two or three people out there who don't know this story at all, Scrooge is a greedy old meiser who sees Christmas as a poor excuse to pick his pockets, and a holiday that hasn't exactly been kind to him. Upon coming home on Christmas Eve, he runs into the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley (a rather hilarious rendition from Goofy) who tells him he's gonna be visited by three spirits. These spirits are gonna help him sort his life out before it's too late and he has to walk around the afterlife as a lonely, chain-wearing ghost.
The spirits in question are the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Jiminy Cricket), Present (that Giant from 'Mickey and the Beanstalk') and Future (A mysterious hooded character with a reveal I'm not sure is worth calling a "spoiler" or not). They all show him shadows of things that were, are, and are to become, giving him a reality check and hopefully, getting him to change his ways.
One can probably imagine how it all ends, but the journey is always interesting. In this version, so much of the story is punctuated by a humor to make it kid-friendly. However, something to be admired here is the overall atmosphere of things. It still carries a darkness to it, like any version should. But it also, otherwise, features great animation in front of some beautifully drawn set pieces that really and truly manage to give you some sort of Christmas spirit injection. The funny thing is, it's not even really bright and colourful, due to the mood that's being established. But somehow, you still get it coming through.
I have this one as "Under the Radar", because I find that no one ever talks about it anymore, or even knows it exists. Most of my generation remembers it, but there's a whole gap going on between us and the younger generation (ie, kids and teenagers nowadays). While there are plenty of other versions of this story to chose from, this is a great one that's short, sweet, does everything it needs to, and ages extremely well. I highly recommend finding it in some way, shape or form and checking it out again - if nothing else, it kinda hits you right in the nostalgias.
I had to see it, eventually. Most people I know have at least heard of this. Some have even seen it. But the general consensus is that this is by far one of the strangest decisions for a Christmas special that has ever existed. As one could imagine, it's based on the song of the same name - a pretty strange thing to land on in the first place.
However, much like the song, I've always considered this special to me more of a humorous novelty than something to be taken too seriously, so in all honesty, I've gotta cut this special some slack here and there. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's pretty bad. But it's also fascinating in what decisions it makes, which ultimately does make it pretty fun to watch, I'm not gonna lie.
Much of the plot involves the Spankenheimer family (yeah, I know) dealing with the cousin Mel (Michele Lee) that the song mentions. Someone playing cards in the song turns into a full-fledged villain here, as her big story is trying to get her money-grubbing hands on the family store. In the confusion, our "hero", Jake (Alex Doduk) is sent to go find Grandma, whom he discovers has been the victim of a Santa's reindeer hit and run. The rest of the special balances Jake constantly trying to locate his grandmother, and prove to everyone that Santa is real.
So, here's the thing. The plot is pretty ridiculous as it is, but there are parts to this that just go way overboard for a kids special, almost making it more of a cartoon for adults. One of the local cops even utters the word "broad" when referring to Grandma. But then, we have the overall random stuff to this as well, which is mostly what makes it so hilariously awkward to get through.
It is actually kinda hilarious how off his rocker Grandpa (Elmo Shropshire) actually is. There's a scene with Grandpa making a deal with cousin Mel where he randomly breaks out into song because he misunderstands a word. He also has my favorite bit of dialogue with Jake - when Jake tells him straight up that he's going out on his own to search for Grandma and prove Santa is real, he does it pretty casually, and Grandpa's response would be equivalent to Jake telling him that he was just going next door to his buddy's house. You kinda have to see it for yourself, but I can't deny it gave me a decent chuckle.
This is such a strange title. It doesn't fall into the "so bad its good" category, and it's not really good by any means, yet not necessarily that bad, if your mind can open up enough to it. What can I really say? It's worth checking out once, just for its craziness, but it's not necessarily worth revisiting - unless of course you're like me and wanna show your friends how goofy it is.
This one isn't what you'd call entirely "under the radar", but it does seem to be a title that no one really talks about. It's the same with the Halloween Special. Garfield pretty much just takes a back seat to that 'Peanuts' gang (which is fine, 'cause Peanuts does have more substance). I always enjoyed 'Garfield' (as long as he was being voiced by Lorenzo Music), but I do get that it's the same jokes over and over again. 'Garfield' is just a big part of my childhood, so naturally, I watched his specials with as much interest as I watched the 'Peanuts' specials. This was one of the stand-outs.
It's Christmas Eve morning, and Jon (Thom Huge) wakes up Garfield (Lorenzo Music) so they can head to the Arbuckle family farm for the night, along with Odie (Gregg Berger). The rest of it, is just family bumbling, as the Arbuckles celebrate their traditional get-together. There's sincerely nothing much to it, at all. But it still carries this particular charm with it, and does have a few good laughs, even today, with some of the dialogue. We also get to see a bit of Garfield's sensitive side in the end, which doesn't seem out of character for him here, so much as a nice moment.
I suppose the thing that keeps this Special good for me is, in fact, it's simplicity. It's just a family Christmas with some likable characters who could reflect almost anyone's family. Most notably, there's Grandma (Pat Caroll), a feisty, go-getter type, despite her age. There's a pretty tender moment in this special where she reflects on her late husband, and even though we never meet him, we get an idea of what he was about in just a couple of minutes. The scene is the heart of the special, to me, even though it really just comes out of the blue and has little to do with anything. I suppose, in a way, her monologue remains grounded in the comfortable family atmosphere, and it adds some Christmas heart to the otherwise whacky family.
So yeah, I suppose this is a pretty short review for a short special that no one talks about, but I recommend checking this title out at least once, just to see if you get the same feeling I get from it. In short, it's just a very simple and cozy family special. There really isn't a whole lot of depth to it, but that's what makes it appealing. We have movies that show family Christmas hubbub like 'Christmas Vacation', sure, but they tend to get a little over the top a lot of the time. This is just... comfort food. You know it's not great, but there's something appealing about it.
Going back to 1987, this particular Christmas special that has remained completely under the radar for audiences ever since, IS my all-time favourite TV Christmas Special. That's saying a lot, seeing as it has such things like 'Rudolph', 'Frosty', 'The Grinch' and of course, 'Charlie Brown' to contend with. But this came along when I was 5, and for whatever reason, very much into the California Raisins.
For anyone unfamiliar, the California Raisins were claymated jazz raisins for kids, who sang real soul songs our parents probably enjoyed. Their biggest hit was 'Heard it Through the Grapevine', and they were often used for advertising. For many of us kids, it worked... I still dunno why, but it is what it is. Here's a quick pick of their raisin commercials.
Anyway, they had their share of specials for kids, but their best featured appearance was probably right here in this one. They do their rendition of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' as the big finale song for this special. And yes, I'm a 36-year-old man who still considers this to be the best version of the song, even over the talents of Burl Ives (whose rendition is from the 'Rudolph' special). A bold statement, perhaps, but there you have my unpopular opinion.
The special is hosted by a Tyrannosaurus named Rex (Johnny Counterfit) and a Triceratops named Herb (Tim Conner). Together, they go through the 24-minute special, introducing us to claymated music videos that cover specific Christmas traditions. Aside from 'Rudolph', they also tackle 'We Three Kings', 'Carol of the Bells', 'Angels We Have Heard on High', 'Oh Christmas Tree', 'Joy to the World' and 'Here We Come a Wassailing'. All are done in comedic fashion, except 'Joy to the World' which... honestly just plain looks awesome, and is probably my favourite version of THAT song too.
The special can be easily found to stream on-line, and each music video is easily found on YouTube. It sadly made its last run on television (that I'm aware of) some time back in the 90s, and has been well-hidden ever since. It's a special that, when brought up to people, no one seems to really remember. However, more people remember the next special I'm about to cover more, and it ran back-to-back with this for a little while. It's funny what our minds retain.
If you ever get curious about more claymation and those crazy raisins, however, check out this special's director Will Vinton. He directed pretty much all of the 'California Raisins' specials, along with an Easter special (that I have yet to see) and much more. He was an interesting and unique talent, who really seemed to understand that some kids wanted the strange and unusual. He only just passed away on October 4th of this year, and didn't seem to get any recognition for his work, even if it's completely dated. It should be known that most of the songs on that list, I was introduced to through this special. It's worth a watch for a mere good 24 minutes. Good laughs, good music, good animation, and a good way to get into the festive spirit.