Category: Christmas

Christmas Film Advent- Elf (2003)

“You sit on a throne of lies”

PG
Watched via Prime Video
Length: 1 Hr 37
About: 
Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves this, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results.

First Thoughts

I hated this film the first time I’d seen it. Will Farrell was an adult and it didn’t sit right with me the childlike nature he ran around New York with. I found it hideous and as far from funny as any film could be.
However, over the years I’ve warmed to it, and Farrell.  One of the last time’s I watched it was as part of a movie marathon inside the Prince Charles Cinema and it was a delightful was to end the night.

Nice List

  • Now I know who Farrell is, this is a charming and adorable film. Farrell, as Buddy, is able to bring to the role an element of child-like idiocy that he is well known for. He brings joy and laughter that ensures its a fan favourite for many.
  • The cast is rounded out by some amazing people; James Caan and Bob Newhart are the perfect straight face actors to compliment Farrell’s insanity.
  • The films progression through the story is well paced and with enough humour to keep it from stalling. The final act’s action sequence is a stroke of genius and who doesn’t love a cameo from pre-GOT Dinkledge!

Naughty List

  • I’m not certain there’s enough chemistry between Farrell and the barely recognisable Zooey Deschanel. It’s a shame because I remember her presence was one of the film’s saving grace’s, but now she grates.
  • I’m still not sold completely on Farrell as Buddy. The only reason why it’s not passable is because he’s a household name. I’m certain if it was an unknown in his place, I’d struggle with the story and question how wholesome it is.

Final Thoughts

It’s a lighthearted and sickly sweet. It’s perfect for a post shop watch and I’ll happily watch it again this Christmas.

Christmas Film Advent- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

“Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.”

Length: 1 hr 37
About
The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.

Making Way for Christmas Vacation

Have you ever hated a film? No, not hate; loath. Yes, okay I guess that’s a given. Everyone has a film they’ve watched that they’ve not liked. How about a film you’ve hated with a passion without watching more than a few clips?! Yep, that’s me and this film. It borders on irrational, so hear me out before you judge.
1. Chevy Chase scared the crap out of me. I called him being part of Operation Yewtree before that was even a thing. I couldn’t explain why I thought he was sleaze, but I couldn’t shake it.
2. My dad stopped me from watching Johnathan Creek one Christmas because he wanted to watch Vacation. My argument that he had it on video wasn’t enough and when I decided I’d record the permed detective’s Christmas special it was decided we’d watch one of the films we’d bought instead. Me, being a teenager and a stubborn Capricorn laid the blame at the film’s door and my hatred for the film i’d never seen built further.
3. My brother knows how to push my buttons. He finds a weakness and exploits it. Thing is, its quite fun. So knowing my hatred of this film and knowing I had declared I’d never watch a single second of it, he conceived a rather funny Christmas tradition.
It was rather subtle at first. A dvd of the film which I gifted to a friend when they’d said they were in the mood to watch it early the following Christmas. A sigh of relief was had until (and I should have seen this coming), I unwrapped another copy come Christmas morning.
The following year, I hadn’t bothered to check the shelves and it turned out he’d pulled it off there and gifted it to me, again. I thought I’d learned my lesson for the following Christmas; DVD in hand, I scanned the shelves. Not that it matters; it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Two years ago, I opened the dvd with indifference. I’m guessing its what triggered my brother to change his tactics. I spent my birthday with him that year. Upon sitting down to open my presents I had what I can only describe as a learned response to seeing a wrapped dvd among everything else. Good on him, his indigence at my suspicion was nothing short of Oscar worthy.  There is was ‘Christmas Vacation 2″. 

So, I think it took my brother by surprise last year when I had offered to go see the film in the Prince Charles if they had a screening while he was over. Alas, they didn’t so we had to settle for me digging out one of the many copies I own on DVD.

The Nice List

  • Chevy isn’t the creeper I always thought him to be; on screen at least. I’m so done making comments on actor’s in that respect because over the past few years it has seemed that no one is clear or free from accusations. Clark Griswold is a rather likable character who has reasonable wants for the Christmas holiday. He’s actually what makes the movie and its his Christmas spirit that will have me watching it somewhat sporadically over the coming years.
  • It is funny. I can’t deny it, I do kick myself a little at leaving it so long to watch it. That said, I think the humour would have gone over my head on the most part when I was younger, so in one respect I was watching it at the right time.
  • You don’t need to see the other Vacation movies. While perhaps you might be more attached to the characters, you don’t lose anything by seeing it as a stand alone.

The Naughty List

  • It’s not really a movie. It feels more like an extended episode of Saturday Night Live; sketches stitched together a little too loosely. It feels a little clunky, a little dry and in need of a script redraft to give it more of a plot.

Final Thoughts

The film is okay, but the banter I had with my brother was much more fun.

Christmas Film Advent – Trapped in Paradise (1994)

“I detect resistance”

Length: 1 Hr 51
About: 
Residents of a friendly Pennsylvania town foil three brothers’ plan to rob a bank on Christmas Eve.

Naughty List

  • I’ve never been a fan of John Lovitz. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but he is the human equivalent of nails on a blackboard. He’s the American Joe Pasquale.
  • It’s too long and slow. The action sequences are brilliant, but there’s no pace or urgency between the set pieces. It would be fine if there was enough character development, but I didn’t feel there was enough to warrant the pace.

Nice List

  • Who doesn’t love a Nic Cage film?! Especially when he is being his impossibly wacky self. So many meme worthy facial expressions and unique verbal inflections that even if it was a rubbish plot, I’d sit through it again and again.
  • Cage’s character makes for quite a wonderful journey. The final act decision to head back to Paradise to redeem himself is rather charming, if not a little off set by the delivery of most of his lines.
  • The best part about this film though is Dana Carvey. Not at the start; he annoyed the hell out of me. However, when his character, Alvin, steps up and speaks out against Lovitz’ Dave, he becomes a less goofy, much more sympathetic character.

Final Thoughts

I’m happy to have watched it, but I can also see why its not a film I was aware of. With a good edit to cut it down to the 90 minute mark it might be a more digestible watch.

Christmas Film Advent- Santa Claws (2014)

“I’m old enough to decide if I celebrate Christmas or not.”

Length: 1 Hr 26
About: 
Santa is allergic to cats, but Tommy has been so good this year he decides to bring him a kitten for Christmas. When Santa has an allergic attack, the kitties have to take over the sleigh to deliver all the presents.

It’s 3am, I can’t sleep and I’m not quite ready to put on a ‘proper’ film. Now my cat is sat glued to the TV watching this kitten focused festive offering. For that alone, it’s worth the watch.

It’s hard to not watch this with a different mindset; its clear from the outset that it is not of the same quality as other films I’ve watched. However, this is not the sort of film that is wanting reviews comparing it to the countless Scrooge incarnations.

What it comes down to, is not how dire the plot might be or how many times I cringed. It doesn’t even matter if  special effects are ropy or the acting is top notch. What matters is if the target audience will love it. Parent’s, I give you warning; don’t show this film to your little ones without being prepared for it being the only thing you watch.

For a kid, its fun, cute and the plot doesn’t matter. The three kittens running about and causing mischief will entertain and engage. For the fury felines, just pop it on as your leaving the house. When you return, you’ll discover that your kitten hasn’t moved anything other than its head. Cassius’ head followed the kittens from start to finish.

Christmas Film Advent- Krampus (2015)

“It’s like Martha Stewart threw up in here.”

Length: 1Hr 38
About: 
A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a festive demon to his family home.

First Thoughts

I missed this in the cinema and I was gutted. I’d tried to get a few people together to watch it but I quickly discovered my friends aren’t horror people. I watched it late night one evening the following Christmas and wasn’t too impressed. However, to quote a much loved podcast, I’ve just looked at it with fresh eyes and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover I’ve had a change of heart.

On the Naughty List

  • I don’t like Adam Scott. It’s a personal thing and I put my first viewing misery down to putting up with his face. However, I will say he does a good job as a put down grown up boy scout made to step it up and protect his sheep. crew
  • The second act shifts the tone, and while I love how it brings the horror with the journey of the daughter, I do feel as if the film missed a trick with how it used its music. I found it a little too loud to invoke any sort of atmosphere. I perhaps would have preferred for the snow to bring an absence of sound rather than an excess. However, I love the use Christmas bells and later the film does explain why there was wind.
  • Aside from the creepy as Christmas cookies, I found the Krampus crew a little on the wrong side of silly. While the helpers bring with them a punchy action sequence, it reminded me that sometimes horror works best when they leave some things to the imagination.

On the Nice List 

  • I love the opening and the whole first act. From that icy themed Universal logo and the music fitting of a festive family comedy to the ‘Christmas time’ tropes and the offset tone of the movie. It sets me on edge knowing that this is a dark and twisted horror.
  • Most of the cast are on the approved list. I love Toni Collette; she’s a versatile actress but her strength is certainly horror and Krampus is no exception. There’s also the added surprise of Two and a Half Men’s Conchata Ferrell as Aunt Dot; her dry humour is a welcome addition to the proceedings, even if she wasn’t welcome at the Christmas home.
  • Emjay Anthony plays the protagonist and catalyst for the narrative. He’s a delightful young actor who seems beyond his years. While I welcomed other familiar facing, I don’t doubt he could have carried the film without them.
  • The German grandma and her animated back story are something I’m not certain I caught in my first watch and they are quite magical. I spent the film, both times, waiting for the lovely lady to become a type of demon and it really did keep me on edge.

That ending

I’m still not certain of what I feel about the ending.
Part of me wishes it ended with Max being left alone and the narration from Omi’s tale, reminding the audience that Krampus spares one as a reminder. Another was proud of Max for fighting for his family and was curious to how it would resolve.
Then it all goes tits up and we get a ‘it was all a dream sequence’. Yes, it’s a double bluff, but it goes on too long for me which is a shame as I’d be all up for it with the right execution. 

Final Thoughts

Better than I remembered and I’ll watch it again, but there’s some tweaks I’d need to make for it to be a regular watch.

Christmas Film Advent- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

“This never happened to the other fellow.”

Length: 2Hr 22
About: 
James Bond woos a mob boss’s daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld’s allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

Me Before Bond
I was never a Bond girl. It was there on ITV on a saturday afternoon and it may have kept my attention until the next ad break, but I certainly didn’t go out of my way to watch an Ian Flemming adaptation until Daniel Craig earned his 007 status in 2006’s Casino Royale.
I am however a legacy Bond girl. Without this franchise, I would not have Austin Powers or Kingsman: The Secret Service to love and enjoy so it’s only give this festive outing a shot.

The Ugly

There are quite a few bits that didn’t sit comfortably with me. While I’m aware that it is reflective of the time, Bond’s treatment of women within the whole film hits the wrong tone for modern times and my viewing pleasure. From the slap Diana Rigg takes, her not only being ‘bought’ by Bond but ‘sold’ by her father, to Bond’s Playboy theft and his late night bedroom hoping with Blofeld’s test subjects. It all is tasteless and dated that I struggled to engaged from the outset. 

The biggest problem that draws more attention to the above problem is that I am not sold on George Lazenby as James Bond. He lacks charm and that certain something that allows the character to blend in while standing out to the audience. There are a number of scenes early one, namely while at the casino I lose Lazenby within everyone else in the scene. Far from charismatic, Bond feels sleazy and cheap; for example, does a man who I’m meant to believe can get any woman to drop her knickers for him really need to steal a Playboy centerfold? Diana Rigg has more presence than Lazenby and a Bond girl should never outshine the protagonist.

The Bad

It’s a rather clunky affair. The opening feels as if I’d walked in on the film having missed the first twenty minutes; I never understood why Rigg’s Tracy was in the water and in need of Bond’s rescue nor did I have the inclination to find out.
The link between Tracy’s father, Blofeld and Bond’s actual mission seemed very messy and required a little too much focus for what I’m used to with a Bond movie. I’m aware that I’ve been spoiled with what has become a filmic formula, but I’d take that over this any day.

The Good

I know it’s not the way it’s meant to go, but I loved seeing tropes in this film that became nods to the franchise in films like Austin Powers and Kingsman. From the snowy cable car accessed facility, Blofeld’s iconic wardrobe to Bond’s shirt frill.
Dianna Rigg was a wonderful bit of casting. While her chemistry with Lazenby was lacking and I would argue the films plot didn’t warrant so much screen time for her character, I enjoyed every second she was on screen.
I also loved the very opening scene; the one between M and Q. It had a feel of Shakespeare in the sense that we learnt a lot about our main character through these two, much in the same way Hamlet opens.
I will also say that it was a bold way to end the film. It was a refreshing how downbeat the end was and it actually has made me want to see if this plot point is picked back up in the next installment.

Final Thoughts

A little too dated for my taste and not enough Christmas within it to be part of a future Christmas line up, but I can see why die hard fans would enjoy this 00 outing and relish putting it within their Christmas line up.

Christmas Movie Advent- Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

“But once a calamity ever so great occurred
When two Holidays met by mistake.”


Length: 1Hr 16
About: The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life — he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry.

This is an interesting film for me as I am possibly incorrectly remembering my mum banning my brother from taking me to see this film at the cinema and is perhaps how we ended up seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger fronted Junior (and even if it’s not, brother, it’s the story we’re going with! I watched Junior under protest). I won’t lie; at the time I LOVED good ol’ Arnie waddling around and pretending to be knocked up with Emma Thompson’s baby. But time has not been kind to that film and I’m not certain I’d be able to sit through it now.
It was the year after, when the film aired on my neighbour’s coveted cable, that I hazily remember seeing this film for the first time and not being completely enamored as I thought I’d be. That’s not to say 9 year old me had any taste when it came to films; I loathed Lion King the first time I saw that too.
So it’s quite curious actually that despite never declaring my love of Tim Burton’s cult, and contentiously festive, classic and probably never seeing it more than a handful of times I’ve been gratefully inundated with Jack Skellington based gifts. There are certainly other films of Burton’s that I regard much higher; Sleepy Hollow still hangs on in my ultimate top 10 films and Beetlejuice is not far away from being in it either. This has been my second viewing this year; I’d just finished watching it with my film club in school as part of our Halloween viewing so it’s been interesting watching it with Christmas in mind.

The Good

The stop motion is stunning. Jack is such a perfect character; both as a piece of artwork and as protagonist who is conflicted. While Tim Burton is only credited as the screenwriter on the project, it truly fits within his world. There’s elements that tie this up with Beetlejuice and other films in Burton’s catalogue. I can’t deny that visually, this film is a masterpiece.
Being a musical is a bit of a double edged sword for me, but for now I’ll concentrate on the positives. While I haven’t watched this all that much, I have listened to the soundtrack to death. Danny Elfman stands, for me, alongside the great John Williams for having an instantly recognisable style. Elfman has created beautiful imagery within the songs that they do stand strong away from the visual aspects of the story. There’s a wonderful homage to Beetlejuice within the film’s instrumental suite that I just adore and pulls me into this world further by implying the films are universally linked.
My favourite song will always be Kidnap the Sandy Claws sung by the trio; Lock, Shock and Barrel. Its a underrated song, but has all the charm, fun and blend of both holidays. That’s not to say I haven’t saved any love for the fan favourites, This is Halloween and What’s This?

The Bad

I’m not certain it’s a kid’s film or one that fits within Disney’s branding. Which fits, as it was originally released under the Touchstone banner. It’s rather dark; visually and tonally. I’m not sure when I was a kid I was able to appreciate the approach taken by it. I’d also be weary of showing it to any children I may, or may not, have for fear of scaring them.

The Ugly (Truth)

This, I am certain, will be an unpopular opinion but this doesn’t work as a film for me. The dialogue between the songs doesn’t quite have the punch that I need to keep me engaged with the narrative. And that’s saying something when it’s run time is 76 minutes; you can’t even get a Hobbit out of the Shire in that amount of cinematic time.
Its actually frustrating because the story is there, visually I am enchanted and I want to love it, but it’s those damn songs. They actually outshine, rather than compliment and it should never be that way.

Final Thoughts

So, I’m fond of that skeleton man. I’ll keep pining after the cookie jar the Disney Store bring out every year like Wayne Campbell after the Fender Excalibur, but I will always listen to the soundtrack before watching the movie.

 Han x

Christmas Film Advent- Christmas Carol (1951)

“There’s more gravy than grave about you”

Length: 1 Hr 27
About: Crotchety Victorian businessman Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) has no use for festivity, even at Christmas. After resentfully allowing timid clerk Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) to have the holiday to spend with his loving wife (Hermione Baddeley) and family, Scrooge is swept into a nightmare. The ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), appears, warning that Ebenezer will be visited by three more spirits who will show the cold hearted man the error of his parsimonious behavior.

If there’s ever a film that demonstrates the exact reason why remakes are redundant, this is it. 

The Good

I don’t actually know where to start. It’s not shiny, new or sickly sweet and I adore it. Alastair Sim is the Scrooge I never knew I needed; the bitterness that often comes across as one note is layered and tinged with such a regret that I feel for him, even before the supernatural visitors that will change his outlook.
 The famous Marley scene in which Scrooge is met with his late partner is nothing short of masterful; the music and sound effects are chilling, the acting is on point and Marley’s ghost is more realistic that the ghosts seen in 2016’s Ghostbusters. Sure, you can tell its some sort of camera trickery, but that is all part of its charm.
What caught my attention with this version was the religious commentary throughout. If you asked me to state one line from Christmas Carol, it would undoubtedly be ‘God bless us, everyone.’ Yet, I’ve never really considered it a religious film at all. Yet, the premise itself is one of salvation; Marley, knowing what awaits his friend sends Scrooge on a journey to save his soul. It’s a beautiful message that demonstrates a truer meaning of Christmas than any other film could ever address. 

The Bad

This isn’t so much a bad, but more of a sad. We spend so much time with the ghost of Christmas Past, and yet the Present and Future seem nothing more than fleeting lip service. It’s a shame because it’s quite clear a lot of his change in view happens within the latter two ghosts that its hard not to feel. in hindsight, a little overdosed by exposition. Of course, at the time I was just happy to see how the story played out.
Then, there’s the matter of what the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows dear Ebenezer. It’s hard to make out at first when the audience arrives at the Rag and Bone man’s shop who the three people are talking about with such disregard. Then you feel the knot tighten in your stomach and you hope that your suspicions are not going to be right. It’s the curtains that give it away; they’ve ransacked Ebenezer’s house for all its worth. It makes for an interesting contrast to Scrooge’s treatment of Marley’s estate, but this is something that has been overlooked in modern retellings. I can see why; its a dark, ashamedly realistic, portrayal of humanity. It, again, is here in the bad not because it shouldn’t be there, but because it pulled me up short. I’m certain its exactly how Scrooge would have felt hearing it.

The Ugly

Not something about children again?! Yes, I’m afraid so. Only, this time our leading man is free and clear of my wrath. This time my issue is with Tiny Tim. What the hell?! Aren’t I meant to feel sorry for the character whose described in ways that are no longer politically correct?! The actor they’ve got is an over acting little shit and I all but cheer at the future that sees him buried in a ‘lovely’ patch with shade.
That’s not how Tiny Tim should be; you should understand his popularity within the Cratchit household and feel the insurmountable loss that his absence brings with it.
Luckily, he isn’t burdened with my favourite line and outside of Christmas present, the actor’s lines are kept to a minimum and I can pretend he’s cuter than he really is.

Final thoughts

This film has not only shot to the top of my Scrooge/ Christmas Carol movies, ousting long standing Murray from his perch, it currently is claiming top spot of the all the movies watched so far this advent. I’ll be honest, it’s going to take something amazing to replace it.
I’m off to watch Lethal Weapon on my phone; the internet won’t play night and stream the Gibson festive offering on my TV. Humbug!

Good night and god bless us, everyone x

Christmas Film Advent- Holiday Affair (1949)

“Quit hanging onto something you’ve lost.”

Watching from DVD
Length: 1Hr 27
About:
Charming seasonal clerk Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) catches beautiful Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) in a fraudulent shopping scheme during the busy Christmas rush. But when he discovers that Ennis is a war widow and single mother, Mason takes pity on her and can’t bring himself to turn her in. His supervisor takes notice and fires him on the spot. Mason befriends Connie and her young son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert), and may complicate her plans to marry boring nice guy Carl Davis (Wendell Corey).

The Bad & the Ugly

Can’t seem to get away from scenes that make me feel uncomfortable, and Holiday Affair is no exception. Within five minutes of meeting Connie’s son, Steve asks to have a word with him, alone, in his bedroom.
Once again, it’s done with a timely innocence and what would be deemed socially acceptable; Steve was understanding the catalyst of Timmy’s anger. However, a grown man spending time alone with a young boy, to buy him a rather expensive toy mere days later screams all kinds of shady. While the biggest concern circa 1949 is making little Timmy understand that you don’t always get what you want in life, Hannah in 2018 is very worried that this casual grooming and the mother’s lack of concern is rather scary.

The Good

This is such an antidote to today’s fast paced movies. The plot is simple enough which allows the actors chance to develop and charm. They don’t make actors like they used to; I couldn’t think of anyone better than Robert Mitchum or Janet Leigh for the role of  Steve Mason and Connie Ellis. Their chemistry is not only better than those in any tween flick of recent years (Yes, you Twilight with your couple on, and off, screen lacking all of the chemistry), it will warm your heart.
It makes boring Carl and delightful Connie’s two year relationship born of her fear of being alone all the more relatable. There’s no added layer of jokes at the beau’s expense that is felt necessary in rom-coms today.
With Connie, comes Timmy and he is just adorable. From his hostility towards Carl to his mature and selfless decision to speak to the manager of a store, Gordon Gebert will melt even the coldest of hearts.

It’s the tone that’s set throughout the whole movie that truly makes it a brilliant watch. It’s not a sickly sweet story, but instead one that looks at the aftermath of war. It doesn’t focus upon the loss, but doesn’t shy away from it either. It makes for an honest and refreshing viewing with enough twee to make it feel like festive escapism. 

Final Thoughts

While there’s this one scene that seems off tone , it’s definitely a film that brings joy and is exactly the sort of film you’d want to be watching on a chilly December evening.

Christmas Film Advent- Love Actually (2003)

“This is shit, isn’t it?”
“Aye, solid gold shit…”

Watching from DVD
Length: 2Hr 15

Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

 The 2003 Richard Curtis penned festive movie that also doubles as the whose who of British talent in the early millennium. There are some excellent threads, perfect casting but equally there are some plots and people who could have remained on the cutting room floor.

The Good

Upon watching this for the first time, the narrative that has now become a formula for holiday based films was refreshing with that brilliant final act that brought all the threads together. I was worried that watching it today would seem a little cliqued and forced. I’m glad that its still novel and charming as it was the first time around.

America needs a president like Bartlett (West Wing). Britain is in need of a Love Actually Prime Minster. He’s the love child of Tony Blair and Richard Curtis and the perfect annecdote for our current political shitstorm. Such a shame both Barlett and PM Grant are complete works of fiction. However, the audience at least get a wonderful Curtis fiction in which the Oxbridge trained head of state is ‘so Labour’ that he’s caught dancing to chart topping music and falls for working class potty mouth Natalie, played by Martine McCutcheon at her height of her soap star fame.

Its a heartbreaking plot thread in hindsight, but Liam Neeson’s Daniel has one of the best stories in the whole film. There aren’t many films that address grief at Christmas (that’s actually a lie, seriously Christmas films are dark; The Apartment, The Family Stone, Christmas with the Coopers to name just a few that come to mind in regards to death at Christmas), let alone unpack it in such a heartfelt way that Love Actually does.
While adjusting to life as a single parent, Daniel is thrown the curve ball of his pre-teen step-son admitting that he’s fallen in love and that it sucks almost as much as losing his mum. Neeson’s relationship with a pre-Thrones Thomas Brodie-Sangster is nothing short of electric. If the film had been made just about their quest to woo Sam’s girl I would have happily watched as the self aware plan lends itself very nicely to a romantic dash through an airport.

Bill Nighy as Billy Mack staeals the show. Playing a faded rock star who is unashamedly on a promotion campaign for Christmas number one with a cheap rewording of another Richard Curtis theme song. It’s satire up to 11 and you can tell Nighy is enjoying every second of it. 

The Bad

It’s rather a shame that there are some redundant narratives that the removal of would see this become a much more family friendly affair. Namely Colin, played by My Family’s Kris Marshall. While his character, Nick, was a fan favourite on the BBC flagship comedy, his upgrade to the silver screen just shows how much of a small two-dimensional fish in an epic-ally large pond the actor is. At the time, he was a welcome addition, but I’ve really not enjoyed it this viewing.
The second being The Office and Gavin & Stacey make a porno. Its a story and it has a cute, happy ending, but get rid of Just Judy’s (Gavin & Stacey’s Joanna Paige) tits and John’s (Martin Freeman) grinding and you cut the movie down to a decent length and open the film up to a lower age grading.

2003 Hannah was very much loving everything Alan Rickman was in. It was my sole motivation for going to see this at the London Road Odeon one Thursday in the run up to Christmas. Good guy, bad guy; I didn’t normally care. My favourite roles being Die Hard and Robin Hood, this should be a performance I’d be, at the very least, indifferent to.
That’s not to say Rickman’s performance was bad. On the contrary, it was one of his best performances and I love his scenes with Laura Linney, his work colleague who has a long standing crush on Karl.
However, in a film about love it is the breakdown of his relationship with Emma Thompson’s Karen that ensures that I don’t make this a yearly watch during the yuletide. While I’ve become immune to the tears that well during the wedding surprise of ‘all you need is love’, I will always cry at Karen’s disappointed face as she opens that present. This is perhaps a case of not being able to see past the actors because every time I mentally shout ‘no one hurts Emma Thompson like that’. I want Rickman’s head removed, with a spoon.
It also doesn’t help that there’s no chemistry between Rickman and Makatsch. The fault seems to lie at the character of Mia; there’s no true feeling there; she doesn’t fancy Harry. Nor is there a sense that she’s simply trying to manipulate Rickman’s Harry for something grander than a gift and a fumble.

The Ugly

Rowan Atkinson. Someone had a cunning plan by putting the Blackadder star in a cameo role; its a shame that for me its on par with pure green being the next gold. There’s no doubt that the man is a comic genius and is a cameleon when it comes to his performances. With so many approaches that Atkinson could have taken with this shop assistant I loath that Rufus is closer to Bean and Baldrick than the mighty Blackadder.
It’s a scene that I cringe at every time I watch the film. It’s only worsened by Thompson’s disappointment that the gift she opens is not what Atkinson wraps.

Colin Firth is truly a British treasure, and his plot thread is inoffensive enough. It’s just that in a film that over runs by about 30 – 45 minutes, its the one story I don’t warm to and doesn’t get enough screen time to really play out. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s so disenfranchised from the rest of the movie, or that he’s only reintroduced at the halfway point.

Now, I’m off to watch the first premiere viewing of a Christmas film. All devices will be stowed away… only to be brought out if the film is boring.

Han x

Christmas Movie Advent- Arthur Christmas (2011)

“Santa, we know we shouldn’t believe rumours, but we do.”

Watching on Netflix
Length: 1Hr 37

Santa’s clumsy son Arthur sets out on a mission with St. Nick’s father to give out a present they misplaced to a young girl in less than 2 hours.

The Good

What an adorable addition to the Christmas movie fleet. With an all-star voice cast bringing the Santa family to life, you can’t help but feeling charmed and warmed by the story of the youngest Santa, who doesn’t quite fit the traditional expectations.

Arthur is voiced by James McAvoy and is passionate, clumsy and everything you want in the Christmas spirit. The character reminds me of the comedian Kieran Hodgson and he’d made a perfect live action counterpart.

The story brings together the old and the new. Tradition and technology are at the heart of the story that truly is about bringing joy and truly caring. It’s a message that can sometimes get lost. Evie, the traditional sleigh and Bill Nighey’s Grandsanta prove that there’s sometimes fault in relying in new routines.

There’s so many wonderful touches in this film; from the user manual for the S1, the batteries inside the toy and next in line santa’s Christmas camo uniform. And on that note, Steve is a welcome addition to the Santa role call. A character that is slightly removed from the true message of Christmas has been given the perfect actor to voice it. Hugh Laurie’s distinctive tones fit well among a high hitter family that also includes Broadbent. It also took a curious turn by not making Steve an outright antagonist. So often his character would be so hell bent on gaining the power that he would not be redeemable (2011’s Hop comes to mind). Thankfully, this feel allows the character to realise his strengths and accept there’s someone else to embrace his weakness’.

The Bad & Ugly

Clutching at straws here brings me to the fact that this charming beauty of a film is lacking a sequel. I saw clutching at straws because I’m not certain a sequel is needed. This was a self contained, charming film and the only thing that has me wanting a sequel is the fact that its so good that I’m quite curious to see what Sarah Smith and Peter Baynham could offer us again.

That’s all folks

That’s it for today’s advent calendar. See you tomorrow when Bill Nighey and Martin Freeman will be popping back into the festive countdown.

Han x