These days, the mini-series doesn’t get much respect. Apart from the Tom Hanks–produced HBO behemoths, the genre’s output consists mainly of the occasional uninspired literary adaptation. But then the Sundance Channel’s The Best of Youth comes along to remind us that the mini-series can be the most dynamic, dramatic, and satisfying entertainment that TV has to offer (airing nightly, 12/25–12/28).
Originally produced for Italian state television, The Best of Youth premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and had a very limited theatrical release in the U.S. in 2005. The series follows four tumultuous decades in the lives of the fictional Caratis family, packing everything into six hours that an addictive mini-series should: family conflict, historical sweep, consuming love, heartbreaking loss, communist plotting, and mental instability. Plus, disarmingly attractive actors who inhabit characters you ache for.
Like a favorite Russian novel, The Best of Youth stays with you. It is about as good as TV gets.
Friday, December 21, 2007
The 10 Worst Christmas Movies Ever
Just as Hollywood launched us into the summer movie season with Spider-Man 3 in early May, they’ve jumped the gun on the Christmas season with Fred Claus. However, this wasn’t as heartwarming as the umpteen radio stations playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, ‘cause Fred Claus really sucked ass.
So that got us thinking… what other Christmas movies suck ass? For every It’s a Wonderful Life, there’s a crapstorm of a film to balance it out.
10. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
With a title like this, it’s almost too easy. And while you most likely have seen this one during the good old Mystery-Science Theater 3000 days, you can still catch it on video and even aired by one of the Turner networks in December. It features a wino Santa and Martians so crappy they put Plan 9 from Outer Space to shame. Oh, and it’s got Pia Zadora in it, too!
9. The Nativity Story (2006)
We can just imagine the pitch meeting in Hollywood. Some lunkhead producer yelled, “The Passion of the Christ made more than $300 million! What else can we mine from the Bible?” So they cast the 15-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, who got herself pregnant for the film’s release (which really pissed off the Pope). Here’s a hint… she wasn’t carrying the baby Jesus.
8. Fred Claus (2007)
Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti were cobbled by the family-oriented bent of this film. It just goes to prove that Vince Vaughn just ain’t funny if you don’t let him swear (or if he is wearing a dress and killing people).
7. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Who the hell had the brilliant idea of remaking this indelible classic… again? The cast was lame, and the climactic courtroom scene was ruined with an unnecessary rewrite. In the 60th anniversary DVD of the original, Maureen O’Hara giggles at the fact that every remake of this film has bombed. You go, Mo!
6. The Santa Clause 2 (2002)
Yeah, we know this is a cash cow for Disney, but that doesn’t make it any good. The first film was okay, but this one was lame. Even worse, the moronic director did the entire DVD commentary as if he got permission to shoot in the North Pole with the real Santa and his elves. I guess he didn’t realize that second graders don’t listen to DVD commentaries.
5. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Hey look! Another Tim Allen movie has made the list! Written by legal novelist John Grisham, this awkward holiday comedy showed that even a bestselling author can inspire crap.
4. Deck the Halls (2006)
Why does Matthew Broderick keep getting cast in movies? He hasn’t done a live-action film worth a bucket of snot since Election. And how could Danny DeVito sign on for this stinker? He must have needed rent money. A war of holiday lights turns into wacky family comedy… so much so, you’ll want to throw up.
3. Black Christmas (2006)
After the Weinstein Company’s dismal release of Wolf Creek on Christmas Day 2005, they tried to repeat their mistake with a horror movie remake in 2006… and they were successful in failing. Maybe they should have had some of the young hotties in the cast (e.g., Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lacey Chabert or Michelle Trachtenberg) do a gratuitous nude scene.
2. The Santa Clause 3 (2006)
It’s Tim Allen again, dishing out more holiday pain. But this time, he’s joined by the show-tune loving Martin Short as Jack Frost. Arguably a better premise than #2, the movie melts down in the end with the cheesiest ending since V: The Final Battle.
1. Surviving Christmas (2004)
Nothing says Christmas in October like James Gandolfini in a Santa hat. ‘Nuff said.
Jingle All the Way (1996) – We thought this would be a shoe-in, considering what a joke people remember it to be. But watch it with your kids, and you might agree it doesn’t even belong on this list.
The Preacher’s Wife (1996) – Okay, we admit it… neither Fat Guy actually has seen this film. We just figured that since it had Whitney Houston in it, it must suck ass.