One joy of having children is having the opportunity to force-feed them the entertainment that you grew up with. And, in that way, the offspring of '80s babies are lucky. It was the decade for the family Christmas special. Every beloved character got one. Here are four that you simply must dredge up on YouTube and pass along to the next generation
A Garfield Christmas (1987)
While Garfield's usual grumpiness is a true comfort to those of us who have difficulty tolerating the Odies of the world, a holiday special demands he soften up a bit. Garfield, Jon, and Odie trek out to Jon's family farm where Garfield bros out with Jon's feisty grandma and Odie constructs his frenemy the best present ever: the ultimate backscratcher. Adults should keep tissues handy for the unexpectedly poignant discovery of a pack of love letters from Grandma's deceased husband.
Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Your family could do worse than this Academy Award-nominated short, which was also the first theatrical Mickey Mouse cartoon produced in 30 years. Mickey plays Bob Cratchit, of course, and Scrooge McDuck, since he co-opted his whole game anyway, is his miserly boss. All well and good, but casting Daisy Duck as Bob's fiance Isabella seems a little uncool. What would Donald think?
A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
Jim Henson himself cameos in this Muppet adventure, which is just as essential as any other. A childhood without Muppets shouldn't be allowed, so don't even try it.
He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
Christmas comes to Eternia via two suitably diverse Earth kids, Miguel and Alisha. And the attempt to shoe-horn a Christian holiday into a alien world of god-like princes and flying unicorns is so '80s that it hurts. Even Skeletor can't escape the Christmas spirit, though he's relieved that he still gets to be a bad guy for the rest of the year.
The pilot episode of The Playboy Club gives us a glimpse into the first Playboy Club in Chicago, which opened in 1963. The swanky club features "bunnies," who serve privileged keyholders. Each girl on the show has her own secret and it looks like the show will unfold those secrets throughout the season. So what happens when the world's most famous bunny not named Bugs meets Mad Men? Hopefully something that does more than just cater to the teenage-horn-dog in us all.
We get a voiceover from Hugh Hefner himself, which attempts to set up the anything-can-happen vibe of the 60's-era show. We meet Maureen (Amber Heard) and besides her dancing skills and a great set of teeth (yes, I said teeth), she's pretty and the pilot does a great job showing us that through constant close-ups. However, this is all we get to learn about her in the pilot, as the show seems content with holding off on her backstory. She wants to be a star of the show, and she's got a ways to go. Of course she winds up with hunky club member, Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian), who’s also dating the aging queen bunny, Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti).
So how much is skin does NBC show on a Monday night at 10 p.m.? Is it enough to warrant the NBC Salt Lake City affiliate from refusing to air the series? Is it enough to really upset feminist activist (and Christian Bale's step-mommy), Gloria Steinem, who once protested against the clubs by going undercover as a bunny and called for a boycott of the show? Surely there's more than enough gratuitous nudity to make the Parents Television Council demand NBC pull the show from its lineup? Sadly, for the naysayers, there's more skin shown during an autopsy on a procedural than on this series. Heck, Ashton Kutcher showed more skin in his first Two and a Half Men show than was seen on this series. It's just about a girl who wants to be the best sexpot she can be and that's all harmless fun.
Also roaming around the bunny-building is the aforementioned Carol-Lynne, who relishes using her acid tongue to cut people down to size. You can sense her lack of trust in people. As queen bunny, Carol-Lynne advises bunnies how to behave while working. No chewing gum, no leaving your post to dance. One can only assume someone will break the rules every few episode so that Benanti can get some snark in.
Another character running around is the club's manager, played by a very out of place David Krumholtz. Maybe the role will grow a bit as the series goes on, but the character seems badly miscast as Krumholtz is just not smarmy enough. Besides, his biggest moment in the pilot was answering a phone call from Hef.
It's easy to see why NBC picked the show up; it’s a period piece based around the glamorous and tumultuous sixties. Considering the time period has worked for Mad Men for four years now, the peacock is trying to deliver their own version of the decade, although Mad Men uses advertising for nostalgia's sake to reflect on current times works far better than using sex, which will always just be sex.
It's pretty hard to judge any series based on its first episode. The Playboy Club is no different. You have to introduce the main characters and the main story lines and a few characters like Naturi Naughton's Brenda seem primed for meaty, juicy story lines going forward. Chicago in the sixties is also known for an excess of organized crime, which is hinted at in the pilot. While it was a bit of a lackluster first episode, NBC could have a really good show on their hands if they can nurture it correctly, but as we all know, during the fast and furious fall premieres, that's easier said than done.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.