Pop culture and entertainment reviews by the Gama News Team's own video editor, Fred the Mole

Happy holidays everyone!!! You didn't think I'd let my first year as a pop culture columnist go by without spreading some Christmas cheer, did ya?? I love the holidays, mainly because I'm among one of the few types of furry mammals that don't need to hibernate in the winter, so hey, more lovely snow-covered woods and fields for me!

Speaking of the holidays and mammals who usually hibernate, I should probably introduce Christmas Bear over here. He tends to turn up every December to make everyone's lives all the more jolly. Like there was this one year he showed up and covered all the staircases with holly and garland. Or what about the time he poured eggnog all over the front sidewalk to freeze overnight so that when one slipped they were treated to a tasty delight? And oh the horrors of that fateful Christmas Eve last year in which he had me pretend to be Santa...by shoving me down the chimney.

Sure, each time I end up fracturing something or requiring a transfusion of some kind, but it's all in the spirit of the season. I would rather have Christmas Bear teach me the true meaning of the holidays, about it being about peace on earth and love and friendship, than have all the presents in the world.

No, wait. I take that back. Christmas Bear really is a jerk sometimes.

What I'm NOT Currently Seeing

Unaccompanied Minors
Directed by Paul Feig

Warner Bros.

Look, I'm not here to review this movie. This movie doesn't need a review. It's the same old "scrappy, privileged kids are smarter and therefore better than stupid old adults" crap that we've seen recycled again and again since the days of the first Home Alone (and come on, let's be honest, that wasn't even all that great of a movie in the first place!). No, I am here because I just have one question I want to throw out there.

Why, Lewis Black? Why?!?

Lewis Black is one of the sharpest, most insightful stand-up comics of recent years, so why does he continually insist on tarnishing his career by starring in some of the stupidest movies in recent years? This year alone Lewis already starred in the Saved by the Bell: The College Years-esque bomb Accepted and Robin Williams's uninspired Bulworth rip-off Man of the Year. Is he just desperate for work, or does he really think that showing up in these trainwrecks to mug and scream for a few minutes will get people interested in his stand-up? I refuse to believe that he has been convinced that Accepted is better exposure for a political comedian than, say, The Daily Show.

And I certainly don't mean to single out Lewis, since he's only the most recent comedian to fall victim to this trend. If one was to look back, they would see such other perceived-to-be-smart comedians like Bill Maher appear in Tomcats and Ed TV, or D.L. Hughley in Inspector Gadget and the depressingly unfunny Scary Movie 3, Chris Rock in Down to Earth and Head of State (which he even directed...ugh!), Richard Pryor in Moving and Superman III, Robert Klein in Two Weeks Notice and the insulting How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and the great George Carlin in dreck like Outrageous Fortune and Jersey Girl. And even though he was about as funny as an orphanage explosion, even the "innovative" "genius" Andy Kaufman was reduced to Heartbeeps.

So, what is it? These guys are famous for making witty, intelligent observations about the world and culture around them. Yet how come when it comes to choosing film work their judgment suddenly ranks somewhere between pond scum and old cheese? Can't we talk some sense into some of them already?? I'm not sure I want Bill Maher's crowning cinematic achievement to be as the sleazy record producer in House 2: The Second Story, do you?

Please, Lewis Black, before you accept that offer to star with Luke Wilson and Jennifer Garner in Goofball Love or who knows what, just consider this question: How would you react to the news in your own act?

Movies That Are Better Than Titanic and Why:
A Christmas Story
Two words: Darren McGavin!
The Worst Christmas Movie of All Time

People always make lists of their favorite time-honored holiday whatevers, be it movies or songs or television specials. I might do that myself one year, who knows. Right now, though, I want to rant about the lowest of the low...the bottom of the barrel...what I consider to be the absolute worst Christmas-themed flick ever. It's turbo time!

Yep, I'm contemptuously referring to Jingle all the Way, the moronic, insulting 1996 comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad and directed by Brian Levant (The Flintstones, Problem Child 2, Snow Dogs).

First of all, Arnold is painfully miscast here as a workaholic who has more or less ignored his child. He just doesn't have the look of someone smart enough to maneuver successfully in the business world, as his facial expressions never seem to coincide with the events around him. And also, and I can't be more clear about this, he is not a comic actor. Director Levant didn't seem to understand that Arnold's past comedies were only funny because of Arnold in that his physical presence provided the humor, not because he was the next Rodney Dangerfield. The concept of Twins was only funny because big, lumbering Arnold was paired up with tiny, wormy Danny DeVito. Otherwise, it was Perfect Strangers. This holds true for Arnie's other excursions into comedy, from Kindergarten Cop (big mean-looking cop teaching kids?!?) and Junior (big muscle-bound guy pregnant?!?!???). The plots are only funny because Arnold makes them appear funny. Here, it could be anyone in the lead role. In fact, if one was to take four of the movie's main actors--let's say Arnold, Sinbad, Jim Belushi, and Rita Wilson--and switched the parts around however they'd like, they would end up with the exact same movie. The thin plot is unaffected by Arnold's presence.

And what an ingenious plot it is! Grown people fighting over a toy? Wow, what a novel concept for 1996! Or, at least it would have been if every other sitcom didn't already do an episode like that, be it Family Matters, Full House, or any other show in the Miller-Boyett universe. Hollywood seems to think that frenzy over a toy is a universal comedy concept, since people have picked fights over everything from Cabbage Patch Kids to Tickle Me Elmo. But really, who wants to be reminded let alone entertained by our most embarrassing social moments?

I guess it would make a difference if this movie tried to actually exist in reality, but instead we're talked down to. No store can legally mark up the price of a product just because more people showed up to buy it than they had stock for (that's called price-gouging). Radio contests don't offer "rainchecks" as prizes, and stations certainly don't let random people off the street just barge into the studio. And can we please stop pulling out the cliche in which a character is just so darn happy to 'tis the season that they actually rented real live reindeer! None of these things happen in real life, and one would really have to turn off their brain and set it on fire to accept that these things could even happen in a fictitious version of real life. This movie really could have done its homework and been a biting satire on Christmas commercialism, the steps people are willing to take to make their kids happy, and the companies that exploit that. But no, instead we get a lazy slapstick-fest with evil mall Santas and a major metropolitan area patrolled by just one cop. We get stupidity rather than true comedy.

This season, do yourself a favor and just forget that this movie exists. Please, please instead just check out some of the better recent holiday comedies, such as Christmas Vacation and the uberclassic A Christmas Story. Jingle all the Way just sucks, period, and I guarantee that if Hell has a Christmas party, this is most definitely being played on a continuous loop.

I Don't Give a Crap About Lost So Much That...
I couldn't figure out why anyone got excited that the guy who barfed out Taking Care of Business, Regarding Henry, Forever Young, Gone Fishin', and Armageddon became involved with the next Star Trek movie.
What I'm Currently Reading

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
by Lou Harry

Chamberlain Bros.

You spell it S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S, hooray for Santy Claus!

Christmas is just ripe with literary traditions. You have Clement Moore's time-honored poetic story "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Dr. Seuss's beloved How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and of course Charles Dickens's oft-mistreated A Christmas Carol. So in that vein comes this hysterical, fairly recent book.

It can probably best be described as the novelization of the embarrassingly infamous Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a low-budget child-friendly sci-fi movie from 1964 in which Santa is...well, kidnapped by Martians who want him to spread Christmas cheer to their planet, whether he wants to or not! Now in the public domain and made popular today thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and probably also some of the more fun-loving local movie hosts across the country), SCCTM is a horribly executed, and almost patronizing, kids film meant to do nothing more than keep butts in seats for eighty minutes while moms went shopping. In recent years people have found delight in the fact that it features a very young Pia Zadora as the Martian youngster Girmar, clearly the first step in a stunning career.

In the book, an older Girmar attempts to recount the events of the movie. While adapting the movie's dialogue quite faithfully, the book's humor comes from its ridiculous descriptions and expansions of minor elements from the movie, from character descriptions to explanations of Martian technology. While he sometimes has trouble deciding whether he wants it to be deadpan or tongue-in-cheek, author Harry is clearly mocking out of love for the cult classic.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a hilarious take on an underground holiday favorite. Whether you're a reader of science fiction or humor, it's the perfect addition to your library. You'd have to be Dropo to not want to go out and get it right now!

DVDs We'll Never See

Santa with Muscles: The Blake's Rules Edition
Studio: Lions Gate
SRP: $26.98
Packaging: Digipak
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles: English, Spanish

Special Features
Commentary by star Hulk Hogan, director John Murlowski, and screenwriter Fred Mata
You Sleigh Me: The Making of Santa with Muscles featurette
WWE Backstage: Santa RAW! featurette
Photo gallery
Cast and crew biographies
Theatrical trailer

Speaking of people with bad movie careers, what the heck happened to Hulk Hogan?? He was actually making a name for himself as a lightweight movie star. Granted his career was a little hit and miss, but still he was on his way up.

Sure, in Rocky III he played a wrestler, which is about as much of a stretch for him as George W. Bush playing a retard, but he was still relatively likable and well-received. This was back when Hulk had a fun-loving charisma about him. He was fun to watch. Now, seeing him on any kind of screen, such as on his lame VH1 reality show, is a little depressing, like watching someone suffer from a skin disease.

Hulk's first starring role was in No Holds Barred, another movie in which he played yet another wrestler. From on-screen fecal matter to cookie-cutter characters, this movie was low-budget, badly executed, poorly shot, and about as entertaining as a cavity. But, for some reason, it convinced the folks at New Line that the Hulkster could be a bankable movie star.

And they almost got their wish with Hulk's next project, the severely underrated kids comedy Suburban Commando. Finally shedding any connection to professional wrestling, Hulk played intergalactic space cop Shep Ramsey, who crash-lands on Earth and holes up with the family of uptight architect Charlie Wilcox (Christopher Lloyd!). While hardly the greatest movie ever made, it was nevertheless charming, goofy, and knew how to play its star for laughs. This same basic formula, putting big lunkhead Hulk in a goofy situation, was used soon after for Mr. Nanny. It was clear someone thought Hulk had a very possible career as a kids comedy star.

The final official attempt at this was with Santa with Muscles, an odd movie from the early '90s but not released until 1996 (can't imagine why). To quickly sum up the plot, Hulk plays a fitness millionaire who gets amnesia and is convinced that he's Santa Claus, so of course Santa Claus would start kicking butt! Whatever.

Maybe the Hulkster was destined in star in Thunder in Paradise after all.

Until then, you're stuck with the VHS release


Sorry, but he had it coming.

Happy Holidays!!!

Fred's Shelf - October 2006
Fred's Shelf - September 2006
Fred's Shelf - May 2006

The Gama News Team ©2006 GAMA Productions. The Gama News Team, Fred the Mole, and related characters are the exclusive properties of GAMA Productions. All rights reserved.