Saturday Morning Brain Drain [18/12/21]

A place to let it all out.

Image via Marie Claire

This is your holly jolly Brain Drain, brought to you by @HammerZeitgeist and @Elliecoo.

What HammerZeitgeist watched: ‘Tis the seaon for folly jolly Xmas movies. Every year, I load up on a seasonal blend of winter magic, relationship drama and happy endings. The following is a mix of shows and movies that I watched this season. Some are a few years old and some are new. All are totally cheesy and predictable which is what I love/hate about them. Cheers! HZ

Home for Chirstmas is an outstanding show and should replace Love Actually as everyone’s favorite Xmas watch. Set in a small Norwegian town it follows Joanne, a nurse in her 30’s, who is constantly badgered by her family for being single. To shut them up, she lies and says she has a boyfriend. Naturally, she must now spend all of December going on dates before Xmas eve. As far as main characters go, Joanne is more fleshed out than any others in the genre and she is lovely. I rate it: Five Skål out of five

The Holiday Calendar and Single All The Way are basically the same movie with a different cast. The protagonist is either a Black woman (Bonnie from Vampire Diaries) or a gay white guy. Both are searching for love and fail to recognize that their perfect match is their bestie. The former has a magical element to it in the form of an Advent Calendar that predicts the future with its daily trinkets. The hoarder in me loved that! The latter has more of a snarky vibe but is Christian centric which I guess is allowed because it is Christmas but it still puts me off a bit. I rate them: Four transcended friend zones out of five

A Castle for Christmas Brooke Shields is an otherwise successful romantic fiction writer who finds refuge from recent bad reviews in a small Scottish village. She befriends all the locals by learning to knit in the hotel pub. She loves it so much there that she decides to buy a castle from a well meaning but out of touch bankrupt Duke. Thereby reversing gender norms by saving the castle, the Duke, and the village from gentrification ruin. I rate it: Four ceilidhs out of five

Love Hard is about a woman (Elena from Vampire Diaries) who falls for a guy over the phone. Then she finds out that he catfished her with pictures of some mega hot other guy (Paxton Hall-Yoshida from Never Have I Ever). Then she blackmails her catfisher into being her Cyrano to help her catfish Paxton Hall-Yoshida. Their Baby It’s Cold Outside duet was cute. Paxton Hall-Yoshida is hot. I rate it: Three swipe rights out of five

Dash & Lily is a show about a teen girl who is having a lonely xmas. She sets up a scavenger hunt for randos to stumble across in hopes of luring out someone who meets her criteria for a perfect xmas companion. Dash finds her first clue and leaves her his own clues in return. They play at this for a few too many episodes until they meet and have a falling out and then get together. I rate it: Three penpals out of five

Christmas Flow is a French show about a feminist blogger who meets a sexist rapper. He plans on using her media clout to absolve himself of his misogyny publicly. She plans on making a name for herself by tearing him down. They fall in love and the show does an excellent job of commodifying feminism. I rate it: Two wrongs out of five

Princess Switch 3 Romancing the Star This trilogy is so bad that I could barely watch it let alone remember any of it. My main takeaways are 1. I successfully erased the second movie from my brain because I had no idea they had already introduced a 3rd doppelganger (drittelganger?). 2. Vanessa Hudgens’ third character was heavily inspired by Elizabeth Hurley in a bad way. The latter is what got me through to the end. I rate it: Two snarling Vanessa Hudgens x Elizabeth Hurleys out of five

Father Christmas is Back The real Elizabeth Hurley stars in the worst xmas movie that I’ve ever tried to watched (and I’ve watched The Princess Switch and A Christmas Prince trilogies). I’m going to assume the cast was in it for the Netflix $$$ and sold their souls to Krampus (side eye to Hurley, John Cleese and Kelsey Grammar). I called it quits when two horny elders started rutting in a barn in front of a cow… as if the manor didn’t have enough bedrooms to contain their lust. I rate it: One voyeuristic cow out of five

What Elliecoo read: The holiday romance book genre is totally a thing, often repackaging as collections, “new content” or multi-author compilations. There is a lot of drivel out there, hoping to exploit the holidays and grab a quick dollar or ten. There are also some sweet, classic books I reread every year. These books are being scored on the Regency Romance Duke system, with five out five Dukes being the best:

  • 5 Dukes Winter’s Charms: A seasonal novella collection by Celia Lake, the author of lovely magic/romance/class/alternate Albion universe books.
  • 4 Dukes – Mistletoe and Mireworth: A Manners and Monsters Christmas Novella by Tilly Wallace. Wallace uses the novella to wrap up her excellent series based in an alternative Regency England where supernatural beings have rights and a disembodied hand can find love.
  • 4 Dukes – Making Merry: A Regency Holiday Romance (12 Dukes of Christmas Book 13). The prequel to the 12 Dukes series, but a rehash of what is know from the other books. Points for style, but not the best work.
  • 5 Dukes – The entire 12 Dukes of Christmas series (previously read and reviewed), a smashing good romance series by Erica Ridley. Here is the blurb “The 12 Dukes of Christmas is a laugh-out-loud historical romance series of heartwarming Regency romps nestled in a picturesque snow-covered village. After all, nothing heats up a winter night quite like finding oneself in the arms of a duke!”
  • 2 DukesHunted Holiday: A Vampire Romance (Bureau of Paranormal Investigation Book 1) by Mandy M. Roth. Some of her prolific offerings are fun; this book was not.
  • 3 Dukes – Sealed with a Yuletide Kiss: An Historical Romance Advent Calendar by Sophie Barnes. Cute idea – a little snippet of a regency story, wrapped up in very few pages, one a day leading up to Christmas.

What I listened to this week: All nostalgia, all the time. Nat King Cole – “The Christmas Song” (1961); Bing Crosby – It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas; and Tony Bennett – Winter Wonderland (from A Swingin’ Christmas).

So, my darling DeadSplinterites, what’s up? What have you watched, read, or listened to? What’s new with you? Please check in, tell us how you are, and share what you are up to!

About Elliecoo 506 Articles
Four dogs, one partner. The dogs win.


  1. Hmm. As far as Christmas stuff, I watched Great British Baking, which I am glad they openly acknowledged was filmed in May. Noel was out on paternity leave but his replacement was fine, and I enjoyed the relaxed air.

    I also watched the Always Sunny In Philadelphia Christmas, which was a deranged as possible. The Big Lebowski is in it, but this time he doesn’t have a trophy wife involved with nihilists.

    I will be watching this collection of animated shorts, possibly while frantically wrapping presents.

    • I watched Great British Baking as well. The replacement was fine, I agree. The atmosphere and the criticism is always less intense in the one-off specials.

  2. What I watched:  Margin Call, a movie from 2011, which is a fictionalization of how the financial market destroyed the world economy.  The company, characters, and certain events were made up, but the overall story most certainly was not.  This was very well done, especially in light of my not having seen this before and viewing it 10 years after the fact.

    What I read:  Deadsplinter.

    What I listened to:  My journey through the best engineered albums of all time has brought me to Ol’ Blue Eyes and Strangers in the Night.  The man’s ability to carry a tune got worse as he got older, which is weird, but by that time he had a top-flight budget with the ability to hire a producer like Jimmy Bowen who made this album what it was.   Fun fact:  the title track was initially instrumental music for the soundtrack of a James Garner film called “A Man Could Get Killed.”  Bowen asked a friend of his to get lyrics written for the song so he could put it on Sinatra’s album.  Unbeknownst to either Bowen or Sinatra, the publishing company which employed the lyricists had also pitched the song to Jack Jones who had recorded it and was shipping it out the day after the Sinatra session was scheduled to take place.  Bowen finds out the day of the session, cuts the Sinatra single, presses 50 acetate discs (which lose their quality after a few plays but he was racing the clock), sends them with a bunch of $20 bills to runners who take them to LAX, who then bribe stewardesses to take the acetates and hand them off to people upon landing in the fifty largest radio markets in country, who then rush them to the top radio jocks to spin.  So, instead of Sinatra releasing a Jack Jones cover tune, he had a number one hit.


    • Look at you, contributing to the discussion, when if it were I, I would be hoarding content for the next Brain Drain. Also…my torte hasn’t arrived yet? 😜

    • Butcher, THANKS for sharing that Sinatra story, it’s fascination & neat!😉


      This is exactly the sort of thing I end up losing half a day on, if I end up looking things up/googling artists on a weekend–so for the COOL story about that song *and* the fact that you just saved me from rabbit warrens by sharing all that info about the song, THANK YOU my friend–you rock!😉😁💖

  3. This was a great collaboration between the two of you. In honor of the effort I’m going to watch Home For Christmas tonight, and see if my library has a copy of Manners and Monsters. 🧑🏻‍🎄


    I’m reading Letters From Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien. It’s something I do every year in the days leading up to Christmas. It’s a beautiful collection of short stories he wrote for his children.I watched the first episode of Season 2 of The Witcher last it night, not festive but very good. I also watched the Christmas episode of Trailer Park Boys but I know you’re all sick of me trying to do you an entertainment favor by encouraging you to watch what may possibly be the best comedy ever made for television, so I won’t tell you how much happier you’d be if you just watched it already.

    • Thank you @Hannibal for the compliment; certainly the quality of the “watched” portion increased by 1,000%.

      I tried to start season one of Witcher and bailed after 20 minutes. Dark sets/cinematography are really hard for me to see/follow, and I didn’t love the grunts in lieu of words from the Witcher. But, I can be convinced, and generally agree/appreciate your recommendations…should I try again?

      • I found that his grunting is better than his talking and his silence is top notch. There are plenty shirtless scenes in which his acting excels. Also Yennefer is the more interesting character.


      • @Elliecoo It is a little hard to follow. I read the books and I still have trouble. My daughter played the game and I read the books because she wanted me to. If I didn’t know the story I think I would have quit too. So I’m not sure I’d recommend you try again.

        • Yeah I had trouble following the plot for the first few episodes because I was not expecting timelines to not be start->finish and the sub-standard Tarantino-ing of the storyline was a little rough at first.

  4. I would rather jump off a roof and be in a body cast for six weeks than watch smooshy, feely xmas movies 🙂

    I started Mr. Mercedes on Prime. I read the book (King). So far it’s fine. “They” have a tendency to just absolutely bork King adaptations so we’ll see.

    I’m reading “Republic of Lies” by Anna Merlan, my favorite former Jez writer. It’s really good. Would recommend.


    Hey, what goes better with an edible, box set of Kids in the Hall or box set of Adventure Time? Cuz that’s the plan for today.

  5. oo nice job to the two of yous

    far as christmas goes….ive watched die hard and gremlins…its tradition.i had to

    ill watch santa’s slay later…its terrible and i kind of love it

    and currently listening to…and singing along to

    its cathartic……

  6. …so I’m liking the expanse…which is no surprise though it sucks that it’s going to be over in about four more episodes

    …& am persisting with the wheel of time…but it isn’t quite landing with me the way I think it’s meant to

    …it might just be that I’m not really much of a fan of the “main” protagonist…which isn’t a surprise as the character in the books was fairly insufferable…but seems a shame because there are some pretty good performances from other members of the cast but it’s seeming like less than the sum of its parts, if that makes sense?

    …hawkeye on the other hand I think might be managing to be more than the sum of its parts although I think that’s also a short count in terms of episodes so I’m a little curious how much they can wrap up vs how many loose ends they aim to leave for other stuff to pick up down the line

    …& lastly (because I forget if I mentioned it when I started) there’s a marvel cartoon series called hit monkey that’s on hulu…it’s pretty daft but I quite enjoyed it…for whatever that’s worth

    • This answers so many of my questions! I’m holding off on the Expanse until all episodes are available and will be sad it is over. I loath the main dude in Wheel of time so I stopped after E2. My husband read the whole series and was also dissatisfied with the show. We’re still holding off on getting DisneyPlus (until all the interesting series are fully available). You are the only one that I know who has watched Hit Monkey. I was on the fence about starting it. Glad to hear it is enjoyable!


      • …if I had more patience I can totally see the expanse working better as something to binge so that makes sense

        …the wheel of time thing…I’m sort of on the fence, I think…the books had some things going for them but definitely had some flaws…the show manages to do something about some of those…not least in that the plot seems to be moving forward considerably faster than I remember that going in the books…but it has its own flaws…I sort of suspect that if I remembered the books in better detail there’d be more about the show that rubbed me the wrong way but on the flip side I think if I didn’t remember as much as I do about the books the show wouldn’t have given me enough on the world-building/character development side of things to keep me interested?

        …rand is insufferable & I don’t think you could really avoid that being the case but the supporting cast of characters absolutely have the potential to make it a narrative that could be more compelling than I’ve found it so far…so I guess I’m still watching in the hope that it’ll find its feet but I don’t know as I’d put money on that outcome

        …as for hit monkey…there’s a lot of mismatched elements to the thing but I thought it made for a surprisingly satisfying whole…there’s a sort of misanthropic kinda-sidekick who owes a lot to archer…there’s some hand-wavey mystic stuff…& there’s a decent hong kong movie’s worth of violent gangsters & other assorted targets of vengeance…it’s funny in places & surprisingly successful with the not-funny stuff it pulls along the way…I don’t know that I’d sign up to a new subscription just on its merits alone but if you get a chance to watch it my guess is you’d enjoy it?

      • …ok, so that looks like it could be a lot of fun

        …although…the film jcvd sort of threaded a needle in a way I can’t quite see working for cage?

        …thanks for pointing out the trailer though because I’ll definitely look forward to finding out how that barrel load of crazy works out

  7. First, bravo on the tag-team intro. I read the whole thing, despite the fact that I will never watch or read a single holiday-romance thingy. You do you, and you both write very well.


    I finished Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust”, which I really cannot recommend because for me it dragged in places way beyond my tolerances. I finished it to finish it, which always makes me sad. Mind you, I did not disagree with her main issues (walking is good, walking has done much to shape our societies, etc.) But parts of it went so far down side-quest rabbit-holes that I would lose interest.

    I finished “We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends” by Billy Baker. Would recommend this to males, as this is a very guy-centric book about the difficulties for men in making and maintaining friendships in adulthood, especially after family obligations have set in. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have the same issues, but I have some issues regardless, and this book gave me some good ideas. A lot of reviewers were wanting more of a self-help book, which this really isn’t. I went into it with an open mind and felt it was fine. Not amazing, but fine.

    I finished “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes”, by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is one of the first books written about travel for recreation/pleasure rather than for commerce or exploration. It was first published in 1879. Totally fascinating for me, and I am currently entertaining the fantasy — once international travel isn’t a complete crap-shoot — of retracing his route on a multi-day backpack. I’ve not done any trekking around south-central France, and this would give me a great reason to do so. If I start bugging @matthewcrawley for French lessons, you will know why. Highly recommended.

  8. I binge read Grace Burrow’s “The Duke’s Disaster” last night. It was such a good romance, like she really lived with those characters when she wrote the novel and I was sad to have finished it, because I’m going to miss reading about them.

    Christmas Romances Week kicks off with me reading “How the Dukes Stole Christmas” (4 novellas from Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Joanna Shupe, and Sophie Jordan) and then another collection I got off Amazon – “Twelve Lords for Christmas” (from a bunch of authors I don’t recognize). 

    If either of those is lackluster, I will be returning to Erica Ridley’s “12 Dukes of Christmas” because I completely agree, that is a fabulous read.

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