Happy Holidays, Us Nation! Yes, the glorious winter solstice has passed and now many (though not all) of us look forward to the oncoming arrival of Christmas, where we spend time warning our younger relatives about the immediate arrival of Santa Claus and try to keep our older relatives away from the spiked eggnog. For many of us geeks of course, this involves watching our perennial holiday favorites. But what about some of the newer classics? Sure, there’s plenty of over produced trash released every holiday season; we all saw what Aubrey Plaza decided to do on her Parks and Recreation off time. Yet, there’s still plenty of modern classics to view in between viewings of the classics, including these;
A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas
Stoner comedies rarely are in season for the holidays, but leave it to Harold & Kumar to deliver on what seemed to be missing. Now, I’m not the hugest fan of the previous films in the franchise. White Castle is a solid if slightly overrated comedy and Guantanamo Bay is a boringly unfunny & vulgar follow up. Yet somehow, 3D Christmas manages to capture this surprising mix of creative vulgarity and genuine heart that really didn’t come though as well in the earlier films of the trilogy. Harold’s desire to better himself and his frustration at Kumar’s schemes is given more genuine stakes thanks to the comedically brazen work from Danny Trejo as Harold’s Christmas obsessed father in law and the creative use of the 3D medium that makes even the most familiar weed joke so much funnier. Add in a waffle making robot, Russian mobsters, a baby on cocaine and Neil Patrick Harris’ most ingeniously slimy role yet & the rest is a rauchey festive time.
Adventure Time; Holly Jolly Secrets
As much as the holidays are about big festive celebration, they’re also about the smaller intimate moments and bits of empathy we have for our fellow man. Adventure Time‘s two part holiday special “Holly Jolly Secrets” gets this in spades with a tale about our usual heroes Finn & Jake trying to find the secrets behind the abandoned video tapes of The Ice King, the resident villain of the Land of Ooo. The majority of the episode is a slow, but gradual build up to the ultimate reveal of the tape and The Ice King’s past. Those who watch the show are likely very familiar with the ultimate twist, but those unaware should give it a watch. It gives enough background to both the Ice King and the Land of Ooo to illustrate the enormity of what the reveal means and it leads to a touching ending that brings Christmas back to the post-apocalyptic world that had forgotten it… in some sense.
Christmas is about often said to be about family. So, it’s been a natural question to ask; what about the first family of Christmas, The Clauses? It’s not a completely original concept; exploring the idea that Santa Claus is less an immortal individual and more of a title passed on from generation to generation. However, unlike Fred Claus or The Santa Claus Brothers, Arthur Christmas takes the logic of said concept to the fullest logical extent. The main focus is on tradition vs. modern technology, mainly represented by the current Santa Malcolm Claus’ (voiced by Jim Broadbent) two sons; Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie) who’s turned the enterprise into the sleek computerized mission and the titular Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) who works in letters making sure the spirit of Christmas and belief in Santa is still alive and well in the hearts & minds of children everywhere.
This generational comedy uses the idea of the Santa myth to take on the concept of old school methods vs. modernity in a family unit. Each member of the family is going through some sort of crisis of identity, whether it be elder Grand Santa trying to prove himself one last time, Malcolm coming to terms with the idea of passing the torch to a new generation, Steve trying to make things overly efficient to please his father & take on the mantel or Arthur getting over his worrying to strike it out in the field. They’re all relatable issues of family that anyone can latch onto, yet the ultimate resolve isn’t related to whether one is better than the other. Instead, it’s about what the idea of Santa represents to children all around the world and that getting too caught in personal achievement and ego isn’t in the true spirit of the season. Along with some expertly done animated anarchy and clever bits of dialogue, the film constantly entertains and never strikes a false emotional note.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All
I know, I know. We’re all still reeling from the recent end of The Colbert Report. Then again, what better way to celebrate his absence than putting on his timeless Christmas special A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All? In this parody of old school celebrity star studded Christmas specials of yore, Stephen is trying to make it back to the Colbert Report set to film a giant special, but he’s stuck in a cabin in upstate New York, which is naturally surrounded by bears. While stuck up there, a series of guests come in to sing songs with Stephen, including Toby Keith singing about the war on Christmas, Willie Nelson serenading us with a diddy about a high wise man and John Legend crooning a love ballad dedicated to nutmeg. The whole special revels in Colbert’s over the top sensibilities, featuring scenes of Elvis Costello being attacked by a bear or Stephen being put on hold by an angel Feist. That sense of infectious silly fun spreads throughout the special, even during a mostly serious celebrity cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?”, making it all the more enjoyable as the viewers get sucked into a fugue state of silliness for the holiday season.
What Christmas would be complete without a little horror? In this case, horror comes in the form of living sentient pine trees ready to take out their revenge against the humans that took them from their homes. From the warped mind Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener, Treevenge is a short but oh so sweet piece of gloriously gory horror that pulls no punches, killing and maiming everyone in site without a lick of remorse. No one is spared and no over the top opportunity is missed, from the brutal head crushes to the angry yet regretful snipes that about “shouda stayed in school.” Watch the entire short in the above video and bask in the blood tinsel of the season.