Tuesday, December 31, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 14. Arcade Academy: Untitled Acoustic Demos

14. Arcade Academy Untitled Acoustic Demo

This is the weirdest thing to appear on this list. Most of my write-ups as much as they are intended to be a peak into the inner workings of Matt Kelly (and a writing exercise to force myself to always have weekly content) it’s also intended to advertise and promote something I love. This is the first and only product that is physically impossible to own as it was never completely recorded and released.

During my last semester of college I had a serious break up through what I felt like was infidelity. I took the girl back (and then we broke up six months later, but that’s a moot point), during my heart-break I began talking to Mike Doyle of New Jersey Pop-Punk band Lanemeyer. I had met Doyle a year or two prior at a Weston/Lanemeyer reunion show. We talked occasionally about music but were never close friends. Regardless of this he happened to be online and thus became the person I vented too.

Doyle had gone through a similarly rough break up a few years before-hand. He had gone to a therapist and started writing his emotions out in some songs for his band at the time Arcade Academy. He sent me the demos to cheer me up (but also I’m sure for me to listen and give him opinions). The Demo is only 5 tracks, but it saddens me that more people won’t hear the five songs.

The opening track For Like Ever was my favorite. It begins with ‘Today I took all your things, your notes and our photographs/Dowsed them all, lit it up, watched our past fill up the sky in smoke’. Ben Folds covered similar themes in Smoke but regardless Doyle has set the ground work of a bad break up. One of my favorite lines in the album comes from this track in the lyric ‘And it’s all my fault/Cause I hate that we like the same songs’. There’s nothing worse than a break up that affects your enjoyment level of movies, books and songs, but it happens.

The next song I Need to Have a Chat With Doug Hopkins continues the as each day starts to feel better. Doyle begins reflecting on the negative aspects of their relationship how he ‘tried hard to impress’ and received ‘no love at all’. Meanwhile the next track I’d Rather Take a Bat to your Face is the angriest and spiteful of the five songs.

We see even more of the story in Hey California, Jersey’s Better Off when the mysterious and nameless girl seems to have gotten engaged after just seven months of her new relationship. The closing track Thanks Dr. DePaul ends on a happy note. Doyle has moved on, the power of songwriting has helped Doyle move on with his life. Ending with lyric ‘I have some songs that I will write and it makes this better/We stay up and follow our hearts’.

Doyle moved on and is now married. Meanwhile Arcade Academy broke up. While this demo was something that only a select few people have ever heard, it was one of the most important recordings I’ve ever heard. It got me through the first rough patch in the break up and Punchline: 37 Everywhere/Just Say Yes helped me through the final break up.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 25. It's a Wonderful Life

Like most of the world I've been aware of this movie for as long as I can remember but I actually never saw it until a few years ago when I was 22.

The background to my viewing of this is crucial to everything that happened to me during my viewing experience. It was the week before Christmas, it came in the netflix, it was my first Christmas NOT living at home and my grandfather had died a few years earlier and vocally spoke his love of the movie in the past.

By the end of the movie I was crying my eyes out (thankfully late enough that non of my roommates saw). It's become part of my Christmas Tradition to watch this movie every year and without fail… I end up crying. It's that ending. It reminds me of every good hearted person in my life and the importance of friends and family. It is undeniably the most beautiful ending to any film (christmas or otherwise).

Yet I am the only person in my immediate family who has seen it from start to finish before. Weird.

Merry Christmas readers.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 24. Clone High: Snowflake Day A Very Special Holiday Episode

If I were to compile a list of the most painfully short-lived shows in TV history Clone High, USA would be in my top 5. One of the best examples of the shows satirical brilliance came in the Christmas special that never got to air (available only on DVD).

In the world of clone high it's been decided that to avoid showcasing a specific religion holiday they should celebrate the politically correct Snowflake Day. Without a doubt the most ridiculous holiday in TV history. It involves a pirate with a candy cane for a hand, getting spices and doing a yearly cabbage patch dance.

My favorite moment involves a parody of the Rankin/Bass christmas specials involving Snowflake Jack (the pirate I mentioned earlier) making Santa Claus, King Kwanza and Dredialstein to walk the plank.

If you can find a copy of this series on DVD you should purchase it immediately.

Monday, December 23, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 23. South Park "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" (Season 3: Episode 15)

I'm aware that most people love the Woodland Critter Christmas and consider it the best christmas special. While I enjoy how dark and demented it is, it doesn't make me laugh as much as the ridiculousness of Christmas in Canada or this special from Season 3.

Having sat and watched a ton of south park recently Season 3 is where I think South Park really started to begin to get more satirical and smarter (It would be full blown in it's witty satire/parody by season 4). This episode is one of my favorites of the whole season mostly because I love musicals and that's basically what this episode is.

The highlight is Christmas Time in Hell which is a song I MUST listen to every christmas now. Thanks Matt & Trey!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 22. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

It took me a long time to get around to watching this film compared to other christmas specials. I immediately fell for it (as most people did). There's so many random moments that crazy families can relate to but it also has the occasionally touching moment … for a few seconds.

The moment that I'll always love involves Clark going up in the attic and watching old home movies from Christmas past. It's a genuinely touching scene that comes to a comedic end when (with the help of his wife) he falls out of the attic.

That scene allow kinda sums up the movies entire tone, it's full of moments from your childhood you kinda remember but once you think it might be slightly sentimental they pull the rug out from under you (or open the attic door).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 21. Muppet Christmas Carol

Leave it to the muppets to make the most faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens novel while packing it with comedy, puppets and musical numbers.

This is best remembered for being the first project from Henson Productions after Jim Henson's death. It was based on an idea for Jim shortly after selling the Muppets to Disney. It's funny because while watching this there was so much I wanted to say and now all I want to say is go watch it!

I do want to call out one particular thing though, the song When Love is Gone. The song was cut from the theatric release for being too sad and serious for a kids movie. If you get the DVD watch the Extended cut, not only is the song beautiful but contains one of the best performance moments from Michael Caine as he sings along. The way in which he sings implies that while watching this moment from his past he is slowly remembering the exact words Belle said to him when she left him. It is simply heartbreaking.

Friday, December 20, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 20. Go

This one is a little bit of a stretch since the plot has nothing to do with Christmas. I mean there's Christmas elements (a Christmas rave, Katie Holmes talks about getting a present, one characters car is decked out in tinsel and christmas lights) but whatever I love this movie.

The film tells 3 seemingly unrelated tales that end up connecting in the end. It's stylishly shot, wickedly funny and constantly bizarre.

The three stories involve a group of teenagers going to a Christmas themed rave, a crazy trip to Vegas and 2 actors having to work undercover for the police.

If you've never seen this before GO out and pick it up (see what I did there!)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 19. Elf

I was late to the party for Elf. I had no real interest in the movie. Now that I've seen it I can't even explain why I thought that. It's a hilarious family film that's also one of the few Christmas movies I think you can watch any time of the year. This was also the film that started my crush on Zoey Deschanel that went on for about 5 or 6 years.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

25 DVDs of CHristmas - Day 18. Pee Wee's Christmas Special

Another special from my aunt's old VHS tape. My friend Eric has frequently called this the "Gayest Christmas Special ever" and he means it in the most positive of aways. Everything in this special is campy, over the top, flashy and filled with some of the strangest guests ever.

Where else could you find Oprah, Magic Johnson, Frankie & Annette, Little Richard, K.D. Lang, Charo and many more all in one 45 minute special?

The most interesting thing is that the special explicitly talks about the birth of Jesus in the middle of the special. Something that you rarely see in christmas specials past or present (the only other one I can think of was Charlie brown).

Regardless it's one of my all time favorite specials.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 17. Home Alone 2

I remember seeing this movie as a kid. I loved it at the time and probably even said it was better than the original. In fact a few weeks ago when I posted Home Alone 1 I immediately had a few people tell me that they prefer the sequel. While I love this movie, it's not as good as the original.

It's a fun and I laugh but it does something I hate that sequels do frequently. It's basically a carbon copy note for note of the original film. What bothers me is simply that while there are touching moments; those moments don't hit me on the same emotional level as Kevin's conversation with his neighbor Marley.

That being said the funhouse of boobie traps in this sequel is much better and more crazy. Regardless of all that, it's still a christmas classic.

Monday, December 16, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 16. Silent Night, Deadly Night

It's been a while since I covered another Horror Christmas film. Silent Night, Deadly Night is definitely the most notorious slasher film of the 80's. Sure it's not as popular as Freddy or Jason, sure there were a handful of Christmas horror films before this one, but this one created massive panics across the US. Mothers protested for the film to be pulled and for a few years it was banned in 48 states (according to the cover of the VHS tape I purchased).

What's particularly ironic is that the movie itself is noting more than okay. It has a decent psychological element, a handful of good deaths, a bizarre rape sequence and plenty of boobs but it's nothing better or worse than other films of the same year. If it wasn't for the controversy it'd probably have been forgotten and maybe we'd have been spared it's 3 unwatchable sequels (I'm actually a huge fan of part 5: The Toy Maker). 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 15. Chuck "Versus Crown Vic" (Season 1: Episode 11)

I never watched Chuck before this week. It all started the week before Thanksgiving when the show came up in conversation. My friend and I were recording a podcast and he mentioned that I reminded him of Chuck. He then began to explain the show and it sounded interesting.

Flash forward to Black Friday and the first season was $7.99 so I figured it was worth giving a shot. I immediately fell in love with the show. Now here's the tough part about discussing this episode. I want to avoid spoilers for people who've never seen this cult show and this episode is kinda the middle of a story arch, so I'm gonna do my best summarize without spoiling much.

First... breaking down the premise. Chuck is basically a Geek Squad member (they call it Nerd Herd), through a random email his brain basically downloads every government secret ever. He now must help the CIA solve various cases with his knowledge of everything. As a cover a sexy secret agent named Sarah poses as his girlfriend. Chuck has feelings for her (and it's implied she feels the same). There's three story arches in this episode.

Story 1: Chuck and Sarah trying to find an international counterfeiter

Story 2: Chuck's geeky best friend Morgan meeting his girlfriend Anna's parents for the first time ever.

Story 3: The planning of the annual Nerd Herd Holiday Party.

All 3 of these stories tie themselves together quite nicely.

Not much to say about Christmas in this episode (beyond the usual time spent with friends), I just recommend watching the show.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 14. A Garfield Christmas Special

This was another one of the specials found on that VHS tape my aunt made me all those many years ago. Garfield & Friends (and even the comic strips) don't specifically stand the test of time, but this is not the case with with Christmas Special. I have the same feelings when I watch it now at 28 that I did when I was 8.

The jokes still make me laugh, but more importantly the sweet moments are still sweet. The most difficult scene for me to watch (more so since my grandfather died 12 years ago) is the sequence where Grandmom rocks in her rocking chair talking to Garfield about dealing with the loss of her husband. It's a pure and beautiful moment in a cartoon about a "talking" cat (I realize no one hears what Garfield says).

Friday, December 13, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 13. Scrooged

I will always remember this movie as the first christmas film to actually scare me. I was really into the movie being a Ghostbusters fan as a kid. I was never too bother by the Ghost of Christmas Future like you'd assume but more so from the frozen dead body in the middle of the film. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Scrooged (as the title would imply) is a modernized version of A Christmas Carol. It's a combination of wacky 80's comedy and horror film really playing up the darkest elements of Dickens beloved tale.

I've read that the original tone was to be much darker and I'm always curious what that cut would have ended up being like. Regardless this is another eternal Christmas classic.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 12. Charlie Brown's Christmas

I don't think there's any special that's aired every year as long as Charlie Brown Christmas special. IT's basically an institution of Christmas now. That being said, it doesn't really hold up very well. Despite the fact that I consider this special to be the longest 18 minutes ever and not very good, it's not Christmas if I don't take the time to watch it.

Not much to say about this particular special as I'm really not a fan. Not all Christmas traditions are good.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 11. Home Alone

John Hughes had a ton of different moments in his career. This is extra impressive given that his career was relatively short. He had his Teen Flick period, followed by his films about love/marriage and then finally his family film phase. It's difficult to pick a best movie for him but Home Alone was definitely his best Family Film and his most profitable film.

It's funny that as a kid I found most of this movie boring except for the ending with all the booby traps. Now as an adult that element is my least favorite part. Now what makes me love the film is the beautiful dramatic pieces, specifically involving the lovely moment shared between Kevin and his creepy neighbor.

Last year I watched this as I sat alone in the house wrapping presents. It was the most lovely Christmas Eve I could have possibly imagined.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 10. Muppet Family Christmas

This is my all-time favorite Christmas special. No competition. I watch it every year and own it on VHS and DVD (Region 2 so I had to burn a copy of it to play on my DVD player). It's also one of the specials on the VHS tape that my aunt made for me all those years ago.

As a kid I loved it because I loved the muppets. As an adult I still love it because of the Muppets but also because of how much I love Jim Henson in general. There's not a moment in this special that doesn't fill my heart with joy.

At the end when Jim Henson begins washing dishes and says "I like when they're having a good time" I can't help but get a little teary-eyed. This is what Henson loved to do with his painfully short life and this is everything he loved in one magical special.

Monday, December 9, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 9. Community "Intro to Knots" (Season 4: Episode 10)

Season 4 of Community was a bit of a disappointment. Without Dan Harmon there was definitely something missing. While there were good moments and good episodes none of them were as entertaining as any of the previous seasons. That being said I still enjoyed season 4's christmas episode (despite not being nearly as good as the claymation or Glee christmas episodes)

The backdrop of this episode is the gang gathering for a party. Annie has discovered they failed their history paper and they work together to kidnap their professor and try to get a pass grade out of it.

It contains various other stories including Chang being a spy, Dean living next door to Jeff and everyone bringing gifts to the party except Jeff.

If you already like community you've seen this episode, if you've never seen community this is not a good starting episode.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 8. Beavis and Butthead's Christmas Special

There was no other cartoon my mother disapproved of more than Beavis & Butthead. The only time I was allowed to watch this show was at christmas. I always wasn't allowed to watch it technically but since every Christmas Eve I'd go to a family party and all the kids were allowed to watch the special (except me) my mom would let it slide so I could at least try to fit in (Thanks Mom!)

There's no new ground here. It's the same old B&B (2 shorts, music video commentary) just with a few little skits of Santa Butthead. The highlight of the show is their commentary to Buster Poindexter's Zat You Santa Claus. I've met a ton of people who know all the words to this song and I can only assume it's because of this Christmas special.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 7. Parks & Recreation "Citizen Knope" (Season 4: Episode 10)

Parks and Recreation started off as one of the worst TV shows I'd ever seen. It's a good thing the first season was short because those first episodes are nothing but a terrible Office rip-off with selfish and unlikable characters.

Season 2 they figured it out. Suddenly you had a show about narcissistic characters but they cared about each other still. While it's laugh-out-loud funny, it's also got plenty of moments that will choke you up and make you bite your knuckle. No episode ends as lovely as their Christmas episode Citizen Knope.

Christmas is far from the central focus but much like Millions the underlying theme is season of giving. In the beginning of the episode main character Leslie Knope delivers christmas gifts to each one of her coworkers. Their joyful reactions prove that she knows her friends better than anyone but it's the ending where her friends come together to give her an equally perfect gift that always chokes me up just slightly.

I don't want to reveal the ending as it's a major plot point to the season but if you were turned off by that first season, I strongly recommend powering through it and enjoying what is now one of the best comedies on television.

Friday, December 6, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas: Day 6. A Claymation Christmas

When I was a little kid my aunt made me a VHS tape of all the Christmas specials that aired that year. I would watch it all year round. It's part of why I love Christmas so much. Many of the things I'll discuss over the next couple days I first saw on that video, this being the first one I've mentioned from it.

No one could have predicted how massively popular the California Raisins would end up being. I remember I had tons of Raisin memorabilia including toys and the Meet the Raisins TV Special on VHS. So of course my aunt figured I'd enjoy this special.

As a kid I always loved the California Raisins and We Three Kings segment. But as I've grown up I've realized that the two segments I found most boring (Oh Christmas Tree and Joy to the world) are visually the most impressing.

This special may no longer come on TV every year, but I certainly watch it every year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 5. Millions

Danny Boyle is one of the finest directors of this generation and while he's made an impressive collection of films full of beautiful camera movement and graphic visuals (Trainspotting and 28 Days Later come to mind) his best film was the children's film Millions.

The film is a Christmas movie in the same sense Love Actually is. The story is not focused directly on Christmas but it takes place during the last week of December. Beyond that it's heartwarming story reminds us of what makes Christmas great. It's really not the getting but the giving.

Alex Etel is absolutely charming in his acting debut and it's a true shame he's done so little after this (only a handful of movies and TV films). It's a beautifully crafted and unique look at childhood innocence, dreams and faith.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 4. Merry Christmas Mr. Bean

When I was a kid this was one of those Christmas Specials that I used to watch every year. There's a ton of great memorable moments but the most classic segment is obviously Bean getting his head stuck in the Turkey but that's not my favorite segment.

The highlight of this special is a sketch where Bean is shopping and finds a nativity set in the store. He immediately begins to play with various other toys including a Dr. Who Dalek, a T-Rex and a tank. The segment ends with an angel (with a magnet attached) air lifts the baby Jesus toy from the manger scene.

This was the first time in many years I sat down and rewatched it. It still holds up to all my childhood memories.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 3. Scrubs "My Own Personal Jesus" (season 1 episode 11)

This is the first of what will be a few random TV show Christmas Specials to pop up on this list. The first season of Scrubs is basically a blueprint of doing a successful Dramedy. While the first few episodes are funny right away in episode 4 they slam you with "My Old Lady" one of the most beautifully sad episodes of any comedy series out there.

A few months later they hit us with this lovely Christmas special. While many TV Christmas specials have some issue a character must overcome Scrubs goes that extra level of making one of our beloved characters Turk struggling with his faith. Turk is a faithful christian in the beginning of this episode and fills the hospital with christmas cheer. However his love of the season (and belief in God) is destroyed when he works Christmas Eve and has to deal with lots of death and pain and sadness.

While he is depressed, fellow doctor Elliot Reed is panicked when she is rude to a young girl named Meredith who is 9 months pregnant. Meredith disappears shortly afterwards and Elliot is terrified she did something drastic. It's only when Turk suddenly knows where Meredith is and is able to help her deliver the baby that his faith is restored.

This episode continues to show Scrubs' amazing way that they were able to blend sincere drama and laugh out loud comedy while being able to remain grounded in reality.

Monday, December 2, 2013

25 DVDS of Christmas - Day 2. Santa's Slay

Anyone guess this one yesterday? Congrats you know my sick sense of humor and shitty DVD collection.

So I've known of this movie since it first came out. But I refused to believe it was any good. Then I'd see it pop up on "Horror Films Better Than Expected" lists and my friend purchased it and raved about it. 

Last christmas I finally watched it and I couldn't believe how much fun it was. It's so over the top, Bill Goldberg is completely intense and the plot line is so beyond bizarre that it's impossible not to be charmed by it's absurd nature.

While I can't recommend this to everyone if you like horror films (specifically so bad, its good) you should do yourself a favor and watch this crazy shit.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 1 GREMLINS


So I'm gonna pull the curtain back on this blog a little bit. I typically watch and review stuff a few days in advance. Since I didn't want to start doing the Christmas thing till after Thanksgiving I decided to get a jump on these 25 movies I'd start with something not explicitly christmas. What I'm saying is... today and tomorrow are horror movies that take place at Christmas. Feel free to try to predict tomorrow's movie.

Gremlins is one of those movies that takes place at Christmas but never feels specifically like a Christmas movie. Which is kind of weird when you consider how much of the plot revolves around Christmas. Beyond the snow and the fact that everyone is watching different christmas specials throughout the movie the two biggest plot points are because of the holiday.

First, Gizmo is a christmas gift. Secondly, the boy delivering the christmas tree (Corey Feldman) is the one who gets Gizmo wet causing him to multiple. 

This film is still a ton of fun all these years later but I still like the Sequel more (as I have ever since I was a kid). This film is a little too serious at times and the puppets while well done aren't nearly as cool as the bizarre mutations we get in the A New Batch.

Not a Christmas classic by most standards I still enjoy watching it every year!