Bad Santa 2 is exactly the same as Bad Santa. So I automatically hate it. Then again Bad Santa was just bad by my standards. While Bad Santa 2 is bad by everyone else’s standards. Willie is back after 13 years and is just as mean spirited as ever. Well he is a little softer, but just as profane and sex-crazed. Ignoring the lesson learned in the last movie, his former partner Marcus returns to bring him back into another heist job. Along with his foul-mouthed mother played by a “desperate for a paycheck” Kathy Bates. This time their plan is to rob a Christmas charity (classy). The slow heavy kid also returns even though the actor playing him wasn’t all that active at the time. The only major character not to return is Willie’s sort of girlfriend. She’s replaced with Christina Hendrick’s. What follows is a lot of the same, only much more disgusting and offensive than before. Like the first movie, I only found the part with the kids sitting on his lap funny. And that’s barely in this one. Bad Santa 2 is just crude for crudeness sake.
Willie (santa) and Marcus (elf) return
Preceded by: Bad Santa
I don’t like Bad Santa, because I hate everything it represents. Raunchy vulgar offensive R rated comedies, swearing around children, and cynical Christmas movies. Needless to say, Bad Santa is not for me. I never looked forward to seeing it. Ever since I first discovered it when I was a kid. It was part of my library’s DVD collection. Even back then I didn’t like the idea of it. The titular Bad Santa is Willie T. Soke. A profane, sex-crazed, alcoholic, loser who works as a mall santa in order to rob the place. Along with his little person partner who plays his elf. As you can imagine, Willie gets drunk on the job, hooks up with random ladies, and swears around the kids sitting on his lap. It’s downright unpleasant at times. Then a slow heavy kid shows up and everything changes for him. Willie takes advantage of the kid by crashing at his house and taking his dad’s car. Of course Bad Santa isn’t just non-stop raunch. There is some semblance of a heart. Mostly when Willie tries to do something nice for the kid, but it’s still too offensive for me. Billy Bob Thornton is the perfect jerk though. Some people will find it funnier than I did, but for me Bad Santa is bad.
Willie (santa) gets drunk around Marcus (elf)
Followed by: Bad Santa 2
Krampus is a non-traditional Christmas movie. Something I’ve never really been a fan of. For me Christmas is a sacred holiday I don’t like to see messed with. Christmas horror movies aren’t a new concept. With the likes of Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night, and Jack Frost (1997) being examples. Even Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas fit that category (and I love those movies). So I figured a PG-13 Christmas horror movie like Krampus wouldn’t be too bad. Little did I know Krampus is actually a very old figure. Having existed in German folklore for decades. As a Santalike half-goat demon that punishes naughty children rather than reward them with gifts. I literally never heard of the character before this movie was released. Krampus is from the same guy who directed Trick ‘r Treat. His style shows in how he balances horror with comedy while making plenty of room for festivity. The Engel family finds themselves on Krampus’ list when the youngest Max wishes they would all just go away. Due to their difficult behavior. They get caught in a terrible snow storm where evil gingerbread men, monster toys, and demon elves await them. With most of it being almost too cartoonish. Although their use of animation in one scene is well done. Like most newer Christmas movies, Krampus probably won’t end up as a classic, but its willingness to take risks will connect with some this season.
Max meets Krampus
Joseph: King of Dreams is a prequel to The Prince of Egypt. Prequel because it takes place in the Book of Genesis. Which is before the Book of Exodus in the Bible when Moses’ story takes place. Much like Disney movies at the time, Joseph: King of Dreams is the only Dreamworks Animation movie released direct-to-video. Since the story of Joseph hasn’t been done nearly as much as the story of Moses. Here’s a quick Sunday school lesson. Joseph was the youngest of 11 sons. His father favors him the most, for he possesses the power to see the future in dreams. So his father gave him an amazing technicolor dreamcoat. His jealous brothers left him to die and he was taken in by an Egyptian pharaoh. Eventually Joseph’s ability to decipher dreams helps him to gain power and reconcile with his brothers. Joseph: King of Dreams does still have nice animation (specifically in its dream sequences) and good music. It only suffers from its direct-to-video status. Which keeps it from being as grand as it could have been. Frankly, I would have been happy to get several biblical animated movies from Dreamworks. Joseph: King of Dreams is just a pleasant piece of an even larger puzzle.
Followed by: The Prince of Egypt
The Prince of Egypt is a bit of an oddity in animation history. It was the first of two movies released by Dreamworks animation. Establishing themselves as a true rival for Disney. The Prince of Egypt was one of the first non-Disney movies to gross over $100 million and it was the highest grossing traditionally animated non-Disney movie for a long time. Yet it was a biblical tale made by a major studio. Never underestimate the power of a christian audience. The Prince of Egypt enlisted the help of several religious experts of all relevant backgrounds. In order to make it as true to the Book of Exodus as possible. The Prince of Egypt follows all of the most important parts of the story in The Bible. Moses in the basket, the burning bush as the voice of God, the snake staff, the ten plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and receiving the Ten Commandments. All done with respect and maturity for an animated film aimed primarily at children. The animation is beautiful and makes the story feel massive. What makes The Prince of Egypt really different though, is their focus on the brotherly relationship between Moses and Ramses. How close they were before they became enemies. Of course they do still take cues from Disney by including songs. My teacher even confused it for one (much to my annoyance). However, The Prince of Egypt is a rare non-Disney movie that truly makes its songs work. It even won the Oscar for Best Original Song “When You Believe” sung by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Being the only non-Disney animated film in history to win the award. The Prince of Egypt is an animated miracle.
Moses leads his people
Preceded by: Joseph: King of Dreams
Driving Miss Daisy is one of the easiest Best Picture winners you could possibly watch. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Coming in at the tail end of the 80’s, Driving Miss Daisy is the last Best Picture winner with a PG rating. Since most winners nowadays are something with a little edge to it. So it will always surprise me that Driving Miss Daisy was able to win. Not to mention the fact that the PG-13 rating was already well established. Based on an off Broadway play, Driving Miss Daisy centers on one Daisy Werthan. After crashing her car, her son Boolie (played by Dan Aykroyd) hires her a chauffeur. Much to her chagrin. Hoke Colburn is the man he hires and even though Miss Daisy is stubborn at first, she eventually warms up to him. As simple as the story is, Driving Miss Daisy does touch on some heavier topics. Like racism, anti-semitism, illiteracy, and dementia. Miss Daisy is jewish and Hoke is an African American. Their past experiences with mistreatment help them to bond more. They even listen to a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hoke is one of Morgan Freeman’s most beloved characters. While Jessica Tandy won the Oscar for Best Actress playing Miss Daisy. I guarantee her calling Hoke her best friend is enough to melt your heart. The movie also won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Makeup (since the characters age). Driving Miss Daisy is a ride everyone should take.
Hoke driving Miss Daisy
SPOILER ALERT! Then again, Soylent Green has the most well known movie spoiler in cinematic history. It tends to happen when your most memorable line is the movie’s twist. It’s so well known that its become an inside joke for many sci-fi comedies. Soylent Green can be viewed as part of a trilogy of science fiction movies starring the great Charlton Heston (the others being Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man). He plays a New York City police detective in the no longer distant year 2022. In this future, there’s mass overpopulation, lack of resources, and pollution. With a greenhouse effect that makes the city humid and hazy. The mere sight of meat, fruit, vegetables, soap, or hot water makes people emotional. Charlton Heston’s detective is tasked with uncovering the secret behind the murder of a wealthy citizen. The secret being that Soylent Green, the new “plankton” based food source, is actually made out of people. All in an effort to cut down on overpopulation. It’s a future I pray never comes to pass. Another noteworthy scene involves a futuristic assisted suicide process that involves classical music. Soylent Green has all the ingredients of a shocking sci-fi thriller.
Detective Thorn enters the Soylent Green factory
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is one of the greatest psychological horror films of all time. My mom suggested I watch the movie, but only after acquainting myself with a Joan Crawford and Bette Davis movie. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were two of the biggest personalities in Hollywood. With a rivalry so legendary it was depicted in the miniseries Feud. Bette Davis was a serious actress, while Joan Crawford was more of a starlet. In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Bette Davis plays the titular Baby Jane Hudson. An aging child star nobody remembers who’s lost touch with reality. Joan Crawford plays her sister Blanche Hudson. A more successful former actress confined to a wheelchair. What made What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? so different was how it gave aging actresses the starring roles. Something that was entirely unheard before the 60’s. Jane is a cruel caretaker who abuses her sister. Starting with little things like mimicking her sisters voice and throwing away her fan mail. To worse things like unplugging her phone, buzzer, denying her food, and beating her. Bette Davis fought to make her as ugly as possible… she succeeded. So she expected the same from Joan Crawford. By telling her to look as pathetic as possible. She succeeded as well, but Bette Davis still ended up with the sole Oscar nomination. So as an extra bit of spite, Joan Crawford accepted the award from the actress who actually won. To quote the movie, “they could have been friends.” What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? keeps you on the edge of your seat by introducing the scariest monster of them all, the psycho-biddy.
Jane (left) keeps Blanche (right) imprisoned
All About Eve is a tale of the theater, love, fame, and deception. It’s one of two films that screen legend Bette Davis is most remembered for. Bette Davis was a powerhouse of an actress known for her wit and improvisation. She was the first actress to be nominated 5 times in a row and to have 10 nominations overall. Although I knew of the film for many years, All About Eve was another suggestion by my mom. All About Eve is a timeless story of a fading star being surpassed by someone younger. Bette Davis doesn’t play Eve, but rather Margo Channing. An aging critically acclaimed theater starlett. Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington, a huge fan of Margo’s with aspirations of her own. Very similar aspirations in fact. You could even say, Eve is trying to be the new Margo Channing. All About Eve takes us through the life of someone in the theater. How sometimes the stage is more real to you then the real world. Having performed in the theater before, I could attest to some people feeling that way. All About Eve was actually the first Best Picture winner I saw from the 50’s. It also won for Best Director and Best Actor George Sanders to name a few, because it was the first movie to have 14 nominations overall. With it being the only movie to receive Oscar nominations for four different actresses. Not to mention its 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. All About Eve also features a then unknown Marilyn Monroe. She’s not in it much, but she steals every scene she’s in. All About Eve is a theatrical hit.
“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”
Mildred Pierce finally gave Joan Crawford some much needed recognition. Joan Crawford had been working in the film business for over three decades. Finally in the 40’s she won her first and only Oscar for Best Actress as the titular Mildred Pierce. Mildred Pierce is about a murder mystery. In the center of it is the wife of the murder victim. When taken in by the police, Mildred Pierce Beragon recounts her life story leading up to the events of the murder. How she was once a housewife living with her first husband and two daughters. Until financial problems cause them to divorce. Leading Mildred to work as a waitress and eventually open her own restaurant. While also marrying her second husband who was murdered. I guarantee that I probably wouldn’t have even known to watch Mildred Pierce if not for my mom suggesting it. My only knowledge of Joan Crawford came from the over-the-top biopic Mommie Dearest. Although some of what happens in Mildred Pierce is similar to what happened in real life. Particularly Mildred’s strained relationship with her bratty oldest daughter Veda. Making Mildred Pierce Joan Crawford’s best starring performance.
Mildred Pierce (left) has a word with her daughter (right)