The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Every December – and, more often than not, November too – brings a ton of new Christmas movies. Most of these are not high profile releases. Instead, they fill out cable channels, DVD dump bins, and the obscure corners of various streaming sites. Yet, as the way we watch movies has evolved, going straight-to-Netflix is not necessarily a sign a film is cheap or bad. “The Christmas Chronicles” starred a fairly big actor, in the form of Kurt Russell. Netflix even doled out enough cash to get balloons promoting the film into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Netflix clearly threw their hat into the holiday movie ring with this one.
Since their dad died, siblings Teddy and Kate do nothing but fight. Things get especially tense as the holidays approach, Kate still believing in Santa Claus and Teddy falling in with a bad crowd. That's when Kate, rewatching an old family home movie, seems to discover irrefutable proof of Santa's existence. They set up alarms up and, indeed, discover the mythical figure in the flesh. After sneaking into his sled, they accidentally collapse the red sleigh and loose the magical bags of gifts. Now the brother and sister must team up with Santa Claus as they go about gathering what the jolly old elf needs to save Christmas.
So the script is unspectacular. That doesn't stop Kurt Russell from doing his damnedest to elevate the material. By applying his trademark wink and coolness to the part, he creates probably the hippest version of Santa to ever grace the screen. He constantly complains about the way pop culture depicts him as fat, even though he's lost weight, or saying “Ho ho ho,” which he doesn't actually do. After his sleigh goes down, he quips about “fake news.” Russell's Santa remembers every kid he's ever visited and even what they wanted, an incredibly charming attribute. This peaks during a funny sequence in a restaurant. Undoubtedly the highlight of the film is when Santa pulls together a rock band while in a jail cell, leading to a rousing rendition of “Santa's Back in Town.”
Really, it would've been easy to make the movie more interesting than it ended up being. Just forget about the kids and their totally cliched storyline. Make Kurt's Santa the main character, devoting the adventure to him entirely. Ditch the fluffy elves too. Instead, we get an otherwise typical holiday distraction with a likable central performance and some slight visual zest. Oh, and a pretty cute post-credits scene. Netflix will never tell us how often their original programming is viewed but it sounds like “The Christmas Chronicles” did just fine for them. However, it's pretty clearly not going to become a new holiday classic. [5/10]
Bible Games 2
Two years after reviewing a bunch of shitty religious games, the Angry Video Game Nerd was back at it for another Christmas episode. The episode focuses on another collection of mostly unlicensed Nintendo games, primarily developed by the sketchy Wisdom Tree company. The Nerd grapples with monotonous puzzle game “Exodus,” an irritating group of simple religious games for the CD-I, the decent but baffling “Noah’s Ark” by Konami, before spending most of the episode on “Sunday Funday.”
The main appeal of AVGN is usually seeing the Nerd swear creatively while loosing his shit at frustrating video games. There’s certainly plenty of that here, such as the Nerd’s growing frustration at the shitty level design and mechanics of “Sunday Funday.” My favorite line of dialogue here is when he describes the voice acting in the CD-I games as the “fuckest bologna shit” ever. I also like the way the repetitive and obnoxious sound effects in the same games quickly drive him up the wall.