Whoa whoa! Hold up… It’s Christmas already?!
Yes, in this wild, crazy year that at once felt like it was moving at light speed and a snail’s pace all at the same time, we have finally fought our way to the jolliest of days. Thank goodness this miserable year is almost over, here’s to a happy, healthy 2021.
And with that…
Happy Rusev Day!
Happy holidays to everyone! Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a great one!
December the twenty-fifth is always a means to celebrate the things that are important in life: family, friends, peace on Earth, goodwill to men, curmudgeons like Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch learning to not be jerks, and jolly fat guys breaking into houses via chimneys to eat cookies and deliver Playstations.
Ever since 2014, Christmas Day has also been a means to celebrate this site! That’s right, paisanos, Wizard Dojo launched on Christmas Day of 2014. Makes it easy to remember.
So let us now take the time to celebrate this festive season, and by extension my wonderful, wonderful website, with a good dose of nonsense. Is there any better way to celebrate something?
Now let’s get this party started old school, yo!
Chapter 1: Mario Kart 9 Wishlist
Well, first on the wishlist: I wish there were any word on Mario Kart 9! Mario Kart 8 is the best kart racer ever, there’s very little to dispute this. It’s also the best-selling game on two different Nintendo consoles (Wii U and Switch). But seeing as the game was originally released on the Wii U in 2014, this is the longest Nintendo has gone without releasing a new Mario Kart entry since the series began. Okay, so there is Mario Kart Tour for mobile platforms, and while that’s a surprisingly hefty game for something you can play on your cellphone, I still don’t think it’s quite the same. So come on, Nintendo. At least tell us you’re making Mario Kart 9. Like Thanos, it’s inevitable, but to hear something official would be nice.
Anyway, seeing as I’ve played a surprising amount of Mario Kart Tour in recent months, it’s really had me wondering what the next “proper” entry in the series has in store. Here are just a few things I’d like to see.
1: Manually swapping double items
The Deluxe version of Mario Kart 8 for Nintendo Switch resurrected the ability to carry two items at once, a feature first seen in the series in Mario Kart: Double Dash. Mario Kart Tour also adopted this feature, and even an additional third item (though in the mobile game, only certain characters on certain levels can use multiple items). There was a caveat though, in that Mario Kart 8 didn’t allow you to choose which item you could use first, and Tour does the same thing, where you have to use the items in sequential order.
This sounds like a minor thing, but considering the very nature of Mario Kart, there was a lot of strategy to be had with Double Dash’s ability to switch which of your two items to use first. If you had a banana in the first item slot and a mushroom in the second, and you were in second place, you could swap them to use the mushroom to boost into first place, and then drop the banana behind you to trip up the racer you just passed. In Mario Kart 8, you can’t do that. You’d have to use the banana first (either dropping it behind you or testing your luck by throwing it ahead) and then the mushroom, which wouldn’t give you the same advantage.
And that, my friends, is probably the only time Double Dash bested Mario Kart 8. But it’s a nice feature that I would like to see brought back.
2: A Story Mode
Okay, this one isn’t a must, but it would be a nice addition that would differentiate Mario Kart 9 from past entries all the more. Having recently played a lot more of Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, I remembered how much I liked the idea of a story mode in a kart racer. This brought back memories of Diddy Kong Racing, and how – when I was a kid – it seemed mind-blowing that it was like Mario Kart combined with Super Mario 64.
A Mario Kart game with a Diddy Kong Racing/Crash Team Racing type story mode seems overdue. I don’t want it to pull a Super Smash Bros., and try to have this big, epic storyline that doesn’t mesh with the nature of the game. It could just be “Bowser is trying to take over some kart racing kingdom, so Mario and friends have to win races to collect some magic items to stop him.” Nothing fancy from a plot perspective, but a means to have that world/level structure like Diddy or Crash.
The traditional cups could still be there, of course. But the story mode could make for a great means of unlocking secret content (maybe some courses are unique to the story mode until you beat that world, and it becomes a cup in any mode). Plus, it gives an excuse to have bosses. I know Mario Kart DS and Wii had challenges that included bosses. But nothing beats conquering a sequence of stages and capping it off with a boss fight.
3: Just make alternate versions of existing characters into skins/costumes
Pink. Gold. Peach.
Pink Gold Peach is an actual thing that happened in Mario Kart 8. Why did this piece of creative laziness have to be its own character? It just devalues the roster (like Dark Pit in Super Smash Bros.). If you’re going to add more characters, make them mean something (more on that in a minute).
Things like Pink Gold Peach, and even Metal Mario or Tanooki Mario, could easily be made into unlockable costumes for the base characters. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled includes over 50 playable characters, each one with multiple unlockable costumes. It would be great to see Mario Kart adopt a similar idea. Have a large array of characters that expand the history of the Mario series (and no series has as much history as Mario), and have unlockable costumes for each one. It would be better than trying to pass off things like Pink Gold Peach as their own characters.
4: Guest Characters… But Not Too Many…
There’s a vocal minority out there of people who want Mario Kart to transition into Nintendo Kart. Like Super Smash Bros. but as a kart racer, instead of solely focused on the Mario series.
That’s stupid and wrong.
Last thing we need is another Nintendo series getting overrun with Fire Emblem characters. Keep Mario Kart Mario Kart. With that said, I did like how Mario Kart 8’s DLC introduced guest characters Link, Villager and Isabelle (with the Inkling boy and girl being added in the Deluxe version). I was actually surprised it took Link so long to make it into Mario Kart.
I think they could expand that a little bit in Mario Kart 9. Bring Link back for sure (the others can return, but I feel Link is the only one that must). And then maybe bring in two or three new ones. Kirby for sure. Kirby really deserves more attention than he gets. Put Kirby in Mario Kart.
As for the others. It doesn’t really matter to me (though I’d also like to see King Dedede). Just keep it to a minimum.
5: A Better Representation of the Greater Mario Series
While playing Mario Kart Tour I couldn’t help but notice Dixie Kong and Pauline were among the playable characters. Alright, I can understand why Pauline is just now in the series, but why did it take so long for Dixie Kong? I mean, geez, Funky Kong made it into Mario Kart Wii. Dixie Kong finally makes it in after all these years, and it’s in the cellphone game? Why can’t Dixie Kong catch a break?
Anyway, this got me thinking: Mario Kart can expand on its character roster so easily. I mean, again, no other series has the same amount of history as Super Mario. Why not go all out with Mario Kart 9?
Bring back The Chimp from Super Mario Galaxy 2! Bring in Il Pantissimo from Super Mario Sunshine! Let’s bring King K. Rool into the mix! Let’s resurrect Wart! Hell, Kamek was originally going to be one of the eight playable characters in Mario Kart 64, and he somehow still hasn’t made the cut all these years later. Let’s finally rectify that.
I also wouldn’t mind seeing a WarioWare character join the proceedings, but I understand that’s like its own separate universe, whereas the Yoshi and Donkey Kong series are more canonically linked to Super Mario. But I mean, the Inklings made it into Mario Kart, so why not Mona?
Still, there’s so much history here. I guess the last three entries of this Mario Kart wishlist are basically one longer means to say Mario Kart could do better with representing the Mario series’ unrivaled history. Hell, why not add Stanley the Bugman from Donkey Kong 3, or Foreman Spike from Wrecking Crew? Naturally, I would love to see the Mario RPGs represented in some way: Cackletta and Fawful would make a lot of sense in the way Double Dash established that every Mario character seemingly has a ying to their yang. And of course, seeing Mallow and Geno return is long since being long since overdue. Of course, these are Mario RPGs so I expect Nintendo will continue to have their hands over their ears and shout really loudly when anyone brings them up…
Let’s stop with the Metal Marios and Pink Gold Peaches. They can be unlockable costumes for their respective characters. Let’s use Mario Kart as a means to celebrate the series’ (and sister series Yoshi and Donkey Kong’s) vast history. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to see The Chimp make a comeback?
Chapter 2: I’m Actually Genuinely Excited for the Sonic Movie Sequel
I liked the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Go ahead and hate me. I don’t care. It was fun.
Was it a flawed movie? Most certainly. Was it the ideal Sonic movie? No, it wasn’t. But – like Detective Pikachu before it – the Sonic movie was a lot of fun. A decent family movie that’s filled with action, humor and entertainment.
Sure, perhaps I like it all the more because my expectations were set so low, but I don’t think that discredits the film’s merits. It’s a goofy good time that pays respect for its source material (which, for a video game movie, is really something). And the film was successful enough (one of the few of 2020 that could be described as “successful”) that a sequel has been greenlit, and planned for a 2022 release.
Spoiler Alert: the mid-credits sequence to the first movie confirms that Tails will be in the sequel, and the early parts hint that Knuckles could be included in the series at some point (I think the first sequel is likely).
I actually really liked how the movie brought things back to basics, with Sonic and Dr. Robotnik being the only characters from the games included. But I think introducing the other classic Sonic characters in the sequel makes sense. Hopefully they won’t get out of hand and start tossing in the countless other animal characters who have been brought into the games over the years.
What I hope the sequel does, however, is double down on the elements from the games. Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik was great, but he just looked like Jim Carrey for most of the film. It wasn’t until the end that he adopted his classic Teddy Roosevelt-esque appearance. I have a feeling this was done to ease in movie audiences who weren’t too familiar with the games (they may not be familiar with Sonic’s nemesis, but they would probably know Jim Carrey). But now that Sonic fans and casual moviegoers have seen Jim Carrey’s character, the sequel can get away with making his physical appearance much less Jim Carrey. I kind of hope this bleeds into other aspects of the sequel.
The 2020 film had a few musical numbers based on the iconic Green Hill Zone theme from the very first Sonic game. Why not use the sequel to squeeze in some more iconic tunes from the games? They don’t have to go overboard, and can have plenty of original music too, but a few new cinematic renditions of some Sonic classics would always be welcome, given the sheer quality of the music in early Sonic games (and later ones even, though I just don’t see them using post-Genesis era music in the movies yet).
The first movie also had an emphasis on Sonic’s Rings as a plot device. Why not bring in the Chaos Emeralds or the Force Fields and such? And now that Jim Carrey looks like Dr. Robotnik proper, maybe now his robots can start being the more cartoony machines from the games (spiky robot caterpillars? why not?).
Now that audiences have eased into the Sonic movie, I hope the sequel really adopts the look and sound of the games. Again, they can still keep the real-world characters and locations as well, but why not go a little crazy with the fanservice?
I am genuinely looking forward to Sonic 2. The first Sonic movie was a surprising delight, and here’s hoping the sequel is even better.
Oh, and I want to hear Jim Carrey say “Snooping as usual, I see!” You know you want to hear it, too.
Chapter 3: My Top 5 Guilty Pleasure Christmas Movies
There are a LOT of Christmas movies. But they can’t all be It’s a Wonderful Life or The Nightmare Before Christmas. A lot of Christmas movies flat-out suck.
Still, even with that said, there are some Christmas movies that win me over, even with their questionable quality. The following five films are the Christmas movies that are usually considered “bad” by either audiences or critics (or both), but that I still get some enjoyment from watching. The first two I legitimately enjoy, though admit to their flaws. The latter three are bad movies that I enjoy watching. Maybe not “So bad they’re good.” But at the very least “So bad they’re entertaining.”
No. 5: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Audiences don’t seem to mind this one, and it’s looked back fondly with rose-tinted nostalgia. Critics, on the other hand, derided the film for being a forced, copy-and-paste sequel that plays out far too close to the original. In terms of creativity, Home Alone 2 is what the French call “Les incompetents.”
Admittedly, the critics aren’t wrong here. Home Alone 2 is essentially Home Alone 1…but in New York. Though I have to say, if any sequel could get away with basically being the first movie but a second time, it’s this one. I mean, Home Alone is a slapstick comedy about a kid whose home alone at Christmastime, and outsmarts a duo of bumbling burglars with cartoonish traps and antics. It isn’t exactly Shakespeare.
Yes, somehow, Kevin McAllister’s parents inadvertently abandon their son again during the holiday season…and the very next year, no less. Only this time, due to a series of mishaps, Kevin ends up on a plane to New York, while the rest of his family are already in the air on their way to Miami.
As if the stars aligned, the very same crooks who failed to burglarize Kevin’s house one year prior, Harry and Marv, have escaped from prison and also find themselves in New York. Luckily, Kevin has his father’s credit card, and finds a temporary home in the Plaza Hotel (if the movie has one key difference from its predecessor other than setting, it’s in Kevin’s antics to dupe the hotel’s staff into thinking he’s staying with family). Naturally, everything culminates with Kevin laying a series of cartoonish, devilish traps for Harry and Marv (this time in his uncle’s townhouse, which is being renovated).
It is an uninspired sequel, to be sure. But as far as lazy sequels go, this has to be the most fun one: It has the same humor as the original (maybe to the point of self-parody), it features Tim Curry as the hotel concierge (always a bonus), and the booby trapped finale is longer, more comedic and more gruesome than ever. It’s a lot of fun.
Perhaps the notable drawback in Home Alone 2 is in how it tries to replicate the sentiment of the first film’s “Old Man Marley” character through the Pigeon Lady. It’s hard to replicate comedy, but it can be done. But trying to repeat emotion with something so similar to what it already did just prevents said intentional emotion from having an effect.
Is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York a Good Christmas Movie? Yes, in a “turn your brain off for some lighthearted fun” sort of way.
No. 4: The Santa Clause 2
The original “The Santa Clause” film is considered a holiday classic of the 1990s. A family comedy about a divorced father trying to keep his son happy after his parent’s separation, The Santa Clause had some adult elements to it, while retaining enough “Christmas Magic” to make it appeal to children as well.
The second installment axed the former elements and doubled down on the latter. It is very much a movie aimed at a younger audience. The jokes are sillier, the characters are more cartoony, and the overall film just has a more childish look to it. So it feels like a very different movie than the first one. I guess you could say The Santa Clause 2 has the opposite problem of Home Alone 2, then.
Still, I can’t help but be entertained by The Santa Clause 2. Maybe it’s because I find Tim Allen to be an underrated talent, but his comedic chops help keep the film afloat. The plot of Santa Clause needing to find a new wife in order to keep his status as Santa Clause is a little wonky, but the side story of a Toy Santa clone (also Tim Allen) taking over the North Pole like a dictator and decreeing all children to be on the naughty list is good cartoonish fun.
Yes, The Santa Clause 2 is much more saccharine than its predecessor, and lacks the nuance of the original. But hey, it’s entertaining in its own way. Though the less said of The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, the better…
Is The Santa Clause 2 a Good Christmas Movie? For young kids, yes. And for adults who don’t mind a bit of nonsense every now and then. But it isn’t as genuine as the first film.
3: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The 2000 live-action adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ perennial holiday classic was reviled by critics (sans for Jim Carrey’s praised portrayal of the titular curmudgeon), but now that a generation of kids have grown up watching it, Ron Howard’s – yes, RON HOWARD’S – take on the Grinch is looked back on more fondly.
That doesn’t mean its sins have washed away, of course. But the 2000 Grinch film has a bizarre appeal to it nonetheless. Yes, most of that appeal is Jim Carrey, but the movie also plays out like some kind of fever dream. It’s oddly stressful and unnerving, and unfortunately more about the gags than it is the Grinch learning why he’s wrong about Christmas. There are even a few adult jokes that simply don’t mesh with a Dr. Seuss story (“Honey, the new baby’s here! …He looks just like your boss.”), though not to the extent of the later (and far worse) Cat in the Hat movie starring Mike Myers.
Still, I have a strange curiosity and fascination with this movie. I fully admit that part of it is nostalgia (though even as a kid, I thought the film didn’t feature enough of the actual process of the Grinch stealing Christmas). But something about watching the film play out feels like some kind of surreal experience. It’s an episodic bedlam of a movie. Yet I can’t look away…
For Jim Carrey alone, however, Ron Howard’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is worth an annual viewing
Is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas a Good Christmas Movie? Jim Carrey as the Grinch is classic, even if the movie itself isn’t. Still, the film provides a kind of warped sense of entertainment. Some additional points are taken away for the film’s weird, foggy look, however.
2: Jingle All the Way
Now we enter the “so bad it’s good” territory. A category that I think is much less common than people make it out to be. I’ll fully admit there are plenty of movies that are so bad they’re entertaining to watch. But only a few handfuls of movies that are so bad the scale rotates back around to being in the good area again. Jingle All the Way is one of those movies.
How do I put this? Jingle All the Way is one of those movies that takes a famous action star, and puts them in a family comedy, thinking that the juxtaposition alone will make for comic gold (even though I don’t think it ever has). It happened a lot in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, and even continued a bit into the 2000s. Hell, you’ll still see one creep up here and there even today, they’re just mercifully much less frequent.
Jingle All the Way is one of way too many such films that utilized the action star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, for such a fish out of water role.
Jingle All the Way tells the story of an absent father (Schwarzenegger) trying to make up for lack of time with his son (Anakin Skywalker himself, Jake Lloyd) by getting him the perfect Christmas gift. The problem? He forgot to buy the gift, and it’s Christmas Eve! Dun dun DUN!
So chaos ensues as Arnold tries to find his kid’s dream toy (a super hero action figure called Turbo Man). But with stores either closed or out of stock on Christmas Eve, Arnold is having no luck. It becomes all the worse when he keeps running into an equally desperate father in a mailman named Myron (portrayed by comedian Sinbad, in one of the two movies Sinbad was in).
It’s actually not a terrible plot for a Christmas comedy. Last minute gift shopping can feel disastrous. Anyone who lived through the 1990s will remember the apocalyptic chaos created by the Tickle-Me-Elmo. Even today, the shortages of Playstation 5s has become something of a joke. Using this as the basis for a movie, which can amplify things all the more, could make for a classic Christmas comedy.
There are two problems here, however: The first we already discussed. “Action star in family comedy” movies just don’t work. The second issue is, well, it’s a 90s movie, which means all logic is thrown out the window. So the concept of last-minute gift shopping isn’t only amplified, but taken to ludicrous levels…and then went Super Saiyan!
We have Arnold periodically injuring a police officer (and never getting arrested). Sinbad fibbing that he found a bomb in the mail disguised as a Christmas present, which turns out to actually be a bomb which then explodes in the aforementioned police officer’s face (don’t worry, he’s okay. Because this movie). Arnold fights an army of con men dressed as Santa Claus (including pro wrestler the Big Show). The late, great Phil Hartman portrays Arnold’s pervy neighbor with eyes for Arnold’s wife. And the whole thing culminates with Arnold inadvertently becoming Turbo Man himself in a Christmas parade, complete with working jetpack and projectiles (naturally, Sinbad becomes Turbo Man’s nemesis)!
If the live-action Grinch movie is like a fever dream, then Jingle All the Way is like if that same fever dream downed waaaaaaaaaay too much sugar.
Is Jingle All the Way a Good Christmas Movie? Jingle All the Way is a clunky, incoherent whirlwind of stupidity. But if you tell me you can sit through the whole thing and not crack a chuckle, you’re lying.
1: Christmas with the Kranks
Make no mistake about it: Christmas with the Kranks is a bad movie. Not so bad it’s good, or even so bad it’s entertaining. It’s just bad.
And yet – maybe it’s because I appreciate the talents and effort of Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, or maybe it’s just some kind of self-inflicted punishment on my part – I don’t mind watching Christmas with the Kranks.
The plot – or what there is that resembles one – is about the Kranks, Nora and Luther, suffering from empty nest syndrome after their daughter goes off to Peru on a Peace Corps assignment (because I guess going off to college was too obvious for a movie as crafty as this). The couple then decide to escape their woes by skipping Christmas (which reminds Nora of her daughter) and go on a cruise instead. Luther did his math, and the cruise will ultimately cost them less than their usual Christmas antics. Go on a cruise, save money, sounds good.
There’s only one problem: The Kranks live in a neighborhood of underdeveloped characters who are obsessed with Christmas festivities, and the neighborhood unreasonably takes offense to the Kranks’s skipping Christmas and going on a cruise (a situation that seemingly could have been easily avoided if the Kranks simply said the cruise was their way of celebrating Christmas that year).
A host of sub-plots are introduced and go nowhere, including: the supposed “top Christmas guy” in the neighborhood, Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Akroyd) being introduced like he’s going to be the antagonist of the movie or something, before doing absolutely nothing of note. There’s a kind of creepy umbrella salesman who ends up being Santa Clause (despite being skinny and not having a beard). There’s something about Nora fighting for a ham at the supermarket. The whole movie is like a series of poorly-written gags randomly stapled together in an attempt to make a comedy. It doesn’t work.
Oh, but there’s a twist! Halfway through the movie, the Kranks’s daughter reveals she’ll be home for Christmas! So the Kranks cancel their cruise, and with the help of the neighborhood, rush at the last minute to put their traditional Christmas together for their daughter. Everybody wins! Well, everybody who’s a conformist, I suppose.
Is Christmas with the Kranks a Good Christmas Movie? Hell no. Yet, I’ve seen it more times than any human should, and if I see it on TV, I’ll watch it again. There’s something wrong with me.
The Last Chapter
Yes, I know, this Christmas Special is notably short compared to past years (especially the first couple). Part of that is my usual “2020 has been rough” reason that has been true of my overall slower updates as of late. But as I was writing this, I decided to save a few of the ideas I had planned here to be used for my impending 1000th blog spectacular. Normally, I’d hate to sacrifice one blog special for another, but I figured I plan on doing a Christmas Special every year. I won’t be able to celebrate 1000 blogs again until I reach 2000, which could take some time.
Still, I hope you had a decent laugh and good jollies from this here Christmas Special. I’ll do my best to make up for it with an extra special Christmas Special in 2021. I mean, if somehow… Palpatine can return, then so can my meatier Christmas posts.
I hope you all had a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanza, a happy everybody! Take care, stay safe, wear a mask! I hope you look forward to my future posts (including the aforementioned 1000th blog spectacular), I have some bigger ideas planned for this site, so here’s hoping 2021 proves to be the most fruitful year yet for the old Dojo.
Happy Holidays Everyone!