Category: Movie reviews

Christmas Film Advent- The Polar Express (2004)

This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas – as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.

Length: 1 Hr 40

Rating: U

About: Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”; “Cast Away”) reunite for “Polar Express,” an inspiring adventure based on the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.

Nice List

  • It’s a wholesome story that has many layers; the journey is physical, philosophical and spiritual. What child at heart wouldn’t want to spend Christmas Eve onboard a steam train going to see Santa?
  • The protagonist’s journey from sceptic to believer is quite beautiful. He’s a logical child and the beginning shows him using his intellect to collect information so it’s understandable that he questions Santa’s existence. Following his journey and watching him experiencing the magic of Christmas is heartwarming.
  • The film has diversity without feeling forced; yes, the young boy is who we start and end with but it can be argued that the young girl makes up part of the ensemble. While it had the feeling of being set in the 50s, choosing not to root it in an era allows the film to focus on the spirit of Christmas without bogging itself down in social politics. Which makes a nice change.
  • The music is something that keeps the film progressing and much more of a traditional score that fits Zemeckis’ catalogue of films.

Naughty List

  • The animation style is just not for me. It comes across more as computer game play, especially in those scenes that look like the characters are on theme park rides; something which is done one too many times for my liking.
  • The stereotype of the Know-it-all Kid is like fingers on a chalkboard. So overkill annoying that I spent the film wanting to beat the shit out of him.
  • I’m not sold on the casting of Tom Hanks. He’s the modern answer to Jimmy Stewart and I’m not sold on him as the impatient and cranky train attendant. He’s perfect when insightful and kind, but anything else is just lost on me. This is one where I think Jim Carrey would be perfect for the role.
  • It feels way too long. Once the film had finished I was certain it had been on for a little over two hours. This could be due to certain scenes being style over substance.
  • The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.” There’s just so much wrong with this statement! So, so, wrong. I’ve gotten on a train before and not paid attention to where it was going. It buggered up my day royally.

Final Thoughts

This film is not for me. I can’t get past the animation that pulls me out of the story. I’m sure there is an audience for it, and my nephew’s love of trains will see it part of my regular viewing for years to come.

Christmas Film Advent- Home Alone (1990)

Damn. How can you give Kris Kringle a parking ticket on Christmas Eve? What’s next, rabies shots for the Easter Bunny?

Length– 1Hr 43

Rating– PG

About– When bratty 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) acts out the night before a family trip to Paris, his mother (Catherine O’Hara) makes him sleep in the attic. After the McCallisters mistakenly leave for the airport without Kevin, he awakens to an empty house and assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement sours when he realizes that two con men (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) plan to rob the McCallister residence, and that he alone must protect the family home.

First Thoughts

My first memory of this film was my choice of seeing the second one for my birthday being vetoed by my mother. You can’t see a sequel without seeing what precedes it. Of course this was the days before prequels and the 1990 outing had yet to grace terrestrial tv so I lucked out and went to see Aladdin instead.

When Home Alone eventually did make its way to channel 4, it was at a time when films started at 8pm, but my bed time was 9pm. This sticks in my memory as one of those films that my mum bent the rules in order to see it in its entirety.

Over the years, I think I took this film for granted and it was only when I went to the Prince Charles Cinema for a Christmas Pyjama Party marathon that I really began appreciating this film again. Seeing it on the big-ish screen with about 70 other geeks made the film shine and new again. That said, I haven’t watched it since so I am curious as to how I’ll feel.

Naughty List

Kevin McCallister is a little shit. I hate him and wouldn’t have blamed the parents if they had left him at home on purpose. For me, I could have done with Kevin’s saltiness tuned down. As Macaulay got the role because of his performance in Uncle Buck, I’d have liked to have seen him closer to that performance. Perhaps seeing him with a friend would give the audience something other than moody, privileged knob.

Not sure I like the dad. He’s too cool about the whole situation. There’s a Buzzfeed or something out there explaining why he’s the true villain of the story and I have to agree. When there’s Uncle Frank, his wife and other adults; why isn’t daddy McCallister offering to go with his wife?

I could do without Uncle Frank. He’s just the wrong shade of nasty and with an already soured first act, I could have done without his money grabbing comments.

The mother’s journey is a little too Trains, Planes and Automobiles for me and I hate the fact that the rest of the family get there at the same time. It removes any importance of her journey.

Nice List

This film has all the right names attached; Chris Columbus, John Hughes and John Williams. It’s a magic formula of storytelling and music.

As much as I hate Kevin, Macaulay is the ideal actor for this role. Elijah Wood perhaps could have been a contender at the time, but Jurassic Parker Joseph Mazzello, who would have been perfect in the role, was too young at the time. Macaulay brings innocence and intelligence to Kevin.

Harry and Marv are a brilliant, and slightly scary, double act. Their determination to rob the McCallister house sees some of the film’s best set ups and pay off. Then when it comes to that final, slightly implausible, act they’re all in. You almost feel sorry for them both as they are nailed, burnt and pummelled within an inch of their lives.

Old man Marley for me is the winning storyline. The plot is so incredibly heart warming and brings with it a true meaning of Christmas. I love how Kevin gives it to Marley straight. Once he’s gotten over his fear that the neighbour is a serial killer.

Final Thought

It didn’t have the full charm from previous viewings; perhaps I need to leave it longer between viewings to get the full impact. That said, watching on the same day as Uncle Buck makes for good companion watching.

Christmas Film Advent- Gremlins (1984)

Christmas carolers. I hate Christmas carolers. Screechy-voiced little glue sniffers.

Length: 1Hr 47

Rating: PG

About: A gadget salesman is looking for a special gift for his son and finds one at a store in Chinatown. The shopkeeper is reluctant to sell him the `mogwai’ but sells it to him with the warning to never expose him to bright light, water, or to feed him after midnight. All of this happens and the result is a gang of gremlins that decide to tear up the town on Christmas Eve.

First Thoughts

This was horror film to me for many years. It scared the crap out of me. Obviously Gizmo was adorable and cute, but the creations of the after midnight feast was petrifying.

I wasn’t looking forward to watching this, and I wasn’t sure why. It recent years it’s become a classic that has stood up against some modern movies of similar ilk.

The Naughty List

  • What the hell was that Phoebe Cates monologue about?! “That’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.” What the fuck? How do we go over an hour without knowing that this sweet slice of American pie loathes Christmas like a Grinch? While we’re at it, there’s no mention of her dad being dead. Just don’t think we need it
  • What happened to Judge Reinhold? They set him up as this massive dick and slime ball who has his sights on Phoebe Cate’s Kate. It’s brilliant; Zach has a challenger for her affections (It doesn’t matter whether Kate has any interest in him, Zach is worried that she might and that’s enough). Reinhold either needs a character development in which he helps them fight the gremlins or he needs to see his gristly end at the hands of Stripe.
  • Another dropped character was Corey Feldman’s Pete. Considering this is written by Chris Columbus, who is known for his friendship group films The Goonies and Harry Potter, its ripe for grouping the young ones together to fight.

The Nice List

  • The music is brilliant. I love the way in which it progresses from the theme of gizmo to the much more complex gremlin theme. This is certain a film I would love to see with a live orchestra.
  • I love the first hour’s set up. I’d mis remembered the wicked witch music playing when Mrs Deagle blasts through town and into the bank. I loved the way her character is disposed of by the gremlins; it’s quite possibly my favourite scene; even if it wasn’t when I first watched it.
  • I love that one of the most auctioned filled scenes is the one in which Zach’s mother, Lynn, gets to be a massive bad ass and take on the gremlins single handed. She does really well and dispatches at least two of the bastards before one attempts to strangle her.
  • The chief of police getting his after the shit he gives Zach is pure genius. I especially love his second in command’s mutters of fear.

Final Thoughts

I’m actually still not sure how I feel about it today. I feel as if the second half needs a little more work to match the first and I found myself feeling really restless once Kate’s ‘I hate Christmas’ blabbings.

I also feel it would have been improved by having Feldman and Reinhold joining forces to help beat the “little green men”.

Christmas Film Advent- Just Friends (2005)

Well, if she wants Mr. Rogers, then I’m going to show her the biggest pussy she’s ever seen.

Length: 1Hr 35

Rating: 15

About: High school student Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) loves his best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). He finally confesses his feelings, but she tells him that she just wants to be friends, and he leaves town in shame. Ten years later, Chris is a successful record executive and involved with self-absorbed pop star Samantha James (Anna Faris). He still pines for Jamie, though, and when his plans to go to Paris for the holidays fall through, he returns to his hometown to try and win her heart.

First Thoughts

This is another one that I know I’ve seen, was certain I owned on dvd but didn’t remember much about it. I don’t remember being to enamoured by Ryan Reynolds and I certainly wasn’t too impressed by his previous film, Van Wilder. I’ve not been inclined to rewatch it and I didn’t remember that it was set at Christmas.

The Naughty List

  • The plot is a little over complicated. The key problem I have is that it needs to lose at least one of the characters. Either Chris Kline’s Dusty or Anna Faris’ Samantha needs to be left on the cutting room floor for me, at the very least. I have a feeling that over the years I will change my mind as to which one causes the most problems to the plot. Today, it’s both.
  • On the one hand, Samantha is just too underdeveloped and too wacky for this sweet film. She’s a brilliant foil for Reynolds’s in a different movie, but her insistence that she’s dating Chris is a thread that’s not followed through properly and I feel as if parts of their relationship have been rewritten.
  • Then there’s Dusty; they live in a small town, how has Jamie never bumped into him before, why doesn’t his alter ego at the very least preceded him and why on Earth was he waiting to get his ‘revenge’? The better, funnier and missed story here would have been to have him make moves on Chris’ mother.
  • I’m not sure, in hindsight, Amy Smart was the best casting choice. In 2005, she was in everything and perhaps considered to be the next ‘Meg Ryan’. However, I find her a little too harsh and far from the sweet girl that would be friends with the larger Chris. She comes across as the mean girl cheerleader. The irony being that The Notebook, the film within the film, stars Rachel McAdams who effectively transitioned from mean girl to American sweetheart.
  • There were just a few sour notes that could have been sweetened by easy changes in the plot; Chris works in music and Dusty plays. Couldn’t we have had Chris help him out? I just find it odd that it’s so overlooked and it feels a little like a rewrite.

The Nice List

  • Chris’ development is brilliant. From his soured ‘I’ll hurt before I get hurt’ approach to a return to his teen-like persona is a heart warming and sweet approach to the film.
  • I absolutely love the relationship between Chris and his brother, Mike. Not only is it where you see Chris most himself, it prompts most of the laughs. I’d have happily sacrificed Faris or Kline to see more of this relationship.
  • I like that the film didn’t go for the obvious root of having Faris pretend to be his girlfriend to make previous love interest jealous, only to discover he now loves Faris. Although, not having this plot point makes me feel like Samantha is a redundant character.

Final Thoughts

A fair film and much funnier than I remember. While Reynold’s doesn’t have the balance of charming bastard he brings to the Merc with the Mouth, he won me over with this viewing.

Change the reason why Chris is on the plane that takes him home and remove Samantha and I think I’d be on my way to loving this.

Oh, and one final thought. Chris Pratt circa Guardians would be a perfect fit for the role of Chris and it would have been awesome to have seen him act alongside Faris.

Christmas Film Advent – Scrooged (1988)

I’m gonna give you a little advice Claire. Scrape ’em off. You wanna save somebody? Save yourself.

Length: 1 Hr 41

Rating: PG

About: In this modern take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is a wildly successful television executive whose cold ambition and curmudgeonly nature has driven away the love of his life, Claire Phillips (Karen Allen). But after firing a staff member, Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait), on Christmas Eve, Frank is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.

First Thoughts

This version of Dickens’ classic has been in my life so long I couldn’t tell you when I’d first watched it. I’ve always been a fan of Bill Murray and love him even more when he’s playing the grump.

Part of my enjoyment of Bill Murray and his films, Ghostbusters in particular, is that he reminded me of my brother. Murray’s dry humour, confidence and what I’ve always considered faux grump are comparable to my brother’s charm.

The Naughty List

  • About the only thing I can really pull this up on is the uptight ‘Lady Censor’ who pulls a Weinstein in the final act when she jumps the tied up Brice. Hell, I get that some people will find it funny, but but them in the reverse and people would be up in arms. It doesn’t matter what way an assault goes, or how ‘small’ the act is; if society is going to pull some up, we need to pull them all up.
  • I also wish the film presented us a different look at the Ghost or Christmas Yet to Come. It had done so well with the others, Marley being one of the most creative, I’d have like to have seen something different. However, I did appreciate how more time was spent within this perspective and how much of an impact it has on Frank.

The Nice List

  • The biggest change to the story’s narrative is the film’s biggest strength. Always relegated to a sub plot, the relationship between the titular Scrooge (Bill Murray) and the woman he loved and lost (Karen Allen) is the focus of Scrooged and the key to Cross’ salvation. The romantic element is heart breaking and setup from the appearance of the Marley figure. It ensures that it’s not just a paint by numbers retelling. It does mean that the ghosts do focus much more on her impact in his life and, in some cases, his on hers. It’s not a sweet romance, but you can’t deny that it’s true.
  • Ghosts of Past and Present are wickedly good. In all of the versions I’ve watched, these two incarnations are my favourite. David Johansen is wonderful as the Ghost of Christmas Past who takes no shit from Murray’s excuse giving Cross. Then there is the ever glorious Carol Kane with her high pitched, high maintenance fairy-like Ghost of Christmas Present. As a child I giggled away at the physical comedy she brought to the section and it wasn’t much different watching today.
  • The role of Cratchit is played by Alfre Woodard. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the cast/gender changes of some of the characters is way ahead of its time and something to be commended. It’s a perfect example as to why you shouldn’t force artistic forms to conform to a politically correct tick box: this is organic and beautiful. The Cratchit family (named Cooley for this production) wouldn’t be complete without its Tiny Tim. Young Calvin has been rendered mute since his father died. It’s an interesting change and it’s understandable why it is something to worry about, but also is a better infliction to be cured than in previous versions. Calvin’s brave moment never fails to reduce me to tears before warming my heart.
  • Murray’s change of heart is powerful and his speech that goes out to all watching, ties up so many of the plots threads and, with a breaking of the 4th wall, brings the film to a musical end.

Final Thoughts

I was worried when I’d watch the 1951 version that this glorious 80s offering would pale in comparison. It’s been my favourite for so long that I wasn’t quite ready for it to be replaced.

It’s hard to compare the two side by side, as there are fundamental differences that make them both unique. It means that Scrooged currently, with a few days left to go, remains my all time favourite Christmas movie while it is fair to say the 1951 offering is the most true to the source material.

Christmas Film Advent – A Christmas Story (1983)

The line waiting to see Santa Claus stretched all the way back to Terre Haute. And I was at the end of it.

Length: 1Hr 34

Rating: PG

About: Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved holiday movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully (Zack Ward) and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.

First Thoughts

I did not like this movie. Not only was I not aware I was ‘missing out’ on a classic, I still don’t think I was.

This is not to say it’s a badly made film. It’s a solid effort from all involved and I would argue that I was never part of the intended target audience.

What I do admire about the festive offering is its obvious legacy. By being detached from the story, I was able to pick out what perhaps became influential techniques for film makers in the US. The sad part being, I was so detached from the film I was begging for it to be over.

The Naughty List

The ‘fault’ with the movie for me is it’s anecdotal and episodic storytelling. It relies on nostalgia and familiarity to engage the viewer and I felt there was no hook at the beginning.

I’d also say that the film relies on you liking the main character, Ralphie. I struggled to connect with the character and I suspect that is partly down to the film makers choice to have the older counter part narrate throughout the 94 minutes. In defence of the film, I have discovered that I struggle with any format that relies heavily on a narration approach. Rami Malek fronted Mr Robot should be the perfect show for me, but the format means that I’ve never gotten past the first few episodes.

I found myself uncomfortable with the desired gift that is the focus of the film; a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle.

It’s truly a personal thing and a sign that I’m far removed from the time in which the film is made, but in the current climate I struggle to find it cute or charming for the kid to want a gun so badly.

The Nice List (the Legacies)

The Wonder Years is possibly the earliest tv show that makes this style of film making successful. While The Goldberg’s is perhaps the most recent. What makes both of these nostalgic tv shows successful is that they take The Christmas Story’s concept and pace itself through a series. It allows the audience to connect with the characters and stops the story feeling rushed and bloated.

How I Met Your Mother was the show I was reminded of instantly. Perhaps it was initially the adult Ralphie’s voice that reminded me of the long standing comedy show, but it was one scene in particular that stood out for me. Upon helping his father with a tire blowout, Ralphie ends up swearing. “Oh fudge.” Recounts the narrator. “Only the word was not fudge…” which I suspect inspired the use of the word sandwich as a substitute for weed in Josh Radnor’s retelling of his life.

Final Thoughts

A film I feel is of it’s time and perhaps will have aged better stateside. I’d have liked less narration, but I appreciate the method of film making.

Christmas Film Advent – Fred Claus (2007)

Yeah, but all that matters is that each of the kids get a toy. That they have something that they can open when they wake up in the morning. Most importantly, they all know there’s somebody who’s thinking about them.

length: 1 Hr 56

Rating: PG

About: Of the two Claus brothers, Fred (Vince Vaughn) is the troublemaker and polar opposite of his saintly sibling, Nicholas (Paul Giamatti). When Fred’s criminal ways finally land him in big trouble, Nicholas bails him out and brings him to the North Pole to work off the debt by making toys. The headaches mount for St. Nick, who not only must deal with his troublemaking brother, but also an efficiency expert who has come to evaluate Santa’s operation.

The Naughty List

  • I felt it was a little slow to get going, but I understand it was necessary to get in the relationship between Nick and Fred.
  • There’s an obvious naughty here and that is our film’s bad guy. It’s a solid performance and Stacey’s presence doesn’t ruin the film, but it does cause a little sadness for me.
  • Think they missed a trick with Bobb’e J. Thompson as Slam; the puppy wanting orphan. There was an amazing connection between Slam and Fred and I, personally, would have loved to have seen Fred adopt him. Or, at the least, have him in the film more.

Nice List

  • This film gets right what some of Vince Vaughan’s films often don’t. Thinking of the Internship primarily, Vaughn is a perfect front for films with heart and ideal for the whole family. However the adult humour is present but not fully developed, rendering the film a 15 when an edit would see the film drop to a 12 and with an appreciative audience. Fred Claus being the example that it works and is just charming.
  • The plot is adorable and sends a really important message to children, and adults, alike. Fred’s insistence that there are no naughty children, while a little too broad a statement, the sentiment and explanation are heartwarming.
  • The chemistry between the leads, Vaughn and Paul Giamatti is fantastic and the true heart of the story.Giamatti gives a stunning performance of Santa that is neither too harsh like some of his other roles, or too sickly sweet like others may play him.
  • Vaughan’s Fred makes an almost Scrooge-like development as a character. What i love is that, much like Alistar Simm’s Ebenezer, you can really feel the reluctance towards the anger Fred presents.
  • I absolutely loved one of the film’s more oddball scenes in which Free goes to Siblings Anonymous. It did take a look on google, but the Baldwin gave the less than anonymous siblings away. It was done in the name of fun and hits the perfect tone for the film.

Final Thoughts

My only regret is that I’d never seen the film before today. It’s funny, relevant and just so charming.

Christmas Film Advent- Rare Exports A Christmas Story (2010)

Watch your mouth! It’s Christmastime, so let’s act like it

Length: 1 hr 25

Rating: 15

About: A young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) think a secret mountain drilling project near their home in northern Finland has uncovered the tomb of Santa Claus. However, this a monstrous, evil Santa, much unlike the cheery St. Nick of legend. When Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) captures a feral old man (Peeter Jakobi) in his wolf trap, the man may hold the key to why reindeer are being slaughtered and children are disappearing.

First Thoughts

Rare Exports first came on my radar when it appeared on YouTube as a self contained short. It was something rather different. The training of feral Santa’s was unsettling in a weirdly good way. It perhaps was one of my first explorations into Christmas horror and the film itself became a Christmas Eve watch for me and my brother once our dad had gone to bed. Which year is was, I’ll leave to my brother to inform me.

I don’t remember the inclusion of what I would come to call Krampus (Joulupukki in Rare Exports) in the short and I’m definitely certain this was my introduction to the anti Santa.

The Naughty List

  • It’s length is a doubled edged sword. While a short film, it’s pacing is rather slow compared to the film short that preceded it. You feel every minute of celluloid. Some minutes even feel doubled. Watching it this time, I was able to appreciate how this creates atmosphere and comments upon a different lifestyle than the one I’m used to living, but when I watched it the first time; it felt like Rosemary’s Baby all over again.
  • It won’t feel very Christmassy to some when you consider that the profession of the main family is to kill Rudolph for its meat. The film could risk dampening your Christmas spirit, depending on your outlook. Me? I’d eat Rudolph for Christmas dinner if he tasted good.

The Nice List

  • It’s a short film at 82 minutes and if I was well versed in the original language it would feel even shorter than it already does.
  • Subtitles aren’t for everyone. Even I sometimes veto a film on original language alone, the only thing I hate more being a poor dub. Original language films get my attention better when I’m in a cinema and free of all distractions. That said, I would never want to see this film given a Hollywood treatment; it’s more about the culture and mythology than anything else.
  • The kid (Onni Tommila) holds his own in the film and it’s quite refreshing to have a young lead in this type of film.
  • I know this is stupid thing to pick up on, but I loved seeing Pietari using nails in a candle as an alarm clock. It’s such a vivid image that immediately came to mind before I started my rewatch.

Final Thoughts

It’s not one for the whole family and certainly one that would make very few people’s regular festive viewing. That said, with the lifestyle Swedish and Finnish becoming popular within the UK, this should be on everyone’s list to ensure they’re of an understanding that life isn’t all about hygge hipster bullshit that’s now bordering on a stereotype.

Christmas Film Advent- Trading Places (1983)

“You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”

Length: 1 hr 58
Rating: 15
About: Upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy). An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.

First Thoughts

I know I’ve seen this before at some point. I’m just not sure why I’ve not made it a regular watch. On the surface it checks all the boxes, so I wasn’t sure why it never made regular billing like holiday staples such as Die Hard and Home Alone.

The Naughty List

  • There’s a few too many breast on show for my liking. Not sure about anyone else, but the only breasts I’m after at Christmas are those that can be found on a turkey. The 80s was rife with the gratuitous topless scene, and Trading Places is no exception. When you’ve got ‘Scream Queen’ J-T dropping clothes not once, it becomes trite and unnecessary. Of course, there will be many who completely disagree! 
  •  Based on the current climate, I predict this film being put on society’s naughty list alongside Baby it’s Cold Outside within a few years. While I’m not one for censorship, there are a few scenes that aren’t appropriate and made me cringe. To contextualise, it was the 80s and even Mystic Meg didn’t see the revolution of political correctness coming.
  • So, where are the issues? There’s a few niggles throughout and I didn’t like the use of the N-word, even if it had been long established that the dude who said it was a knob. However, my biggest problem lies within the final act. Who on earth thought black-face Dan Akroyd was a good idea? Or funny? I’m sure it was fine at the time, but I’d very much like to edit it out.

The Nice List

  • Quite possibly one of the best life swap movies out there. Not only does it comment upon social status, elitism that money festers in the world and the dangers of power but it at least tries to explore the pitfalls of the race divide. While to today’s eyes, it only appears to be an attempt, I still can appreciate how brave it may have appeared at the time.
  • It’s funny, its clever and its wonderfully retro. From the computers to the price of money, it’s all now so far removed for this to no longer seem cutting edge, but still sharp enough to be saying something.
  •  Dan Akroyd is on top form as an Ivy Leaguer with a silver spoon in his mouth. While there’s elements of his goofiness in the later half of the proceedings, its the stiff and proper gentleman that’s a brilliant touch. It’s like seeing Chris Barrie in the role of Rimmer after watching him play Mr Brittas.
  • Brody! Wow, how was Denholm Elliot ever cast as Alfred or Q is beyond me. What I love so much about his role in Trading Places is that he gets to play the ‘stuffy’ British stereotype who gets to break the convention and have fun with it. His straight faced interaction with the downtrodden Akroyd is pure brilliance.
  • Jamie-Leigh Curtis runs laps around Julia Roberts for the prostitute with the heart of gold. She’s delightful, intelligent and the perfect partner in crime for Akroyd. Their chemistry is better than most of their modern counterparts. 

Final Thoughts

It’s a dated festive film and there are bits that I’m not entirely sold on, but while the PC police are up in arms, I will be fighting for this film to stay on everyone’s Christmas viewing list.

Christmas Film Advent- Surviving Christmas (2004)

“Some things cannot be unseen.”

Length: 1 hr 31
Age: 12
About: A wealthy executive, Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) has no close relationships and becomes nostalgic for his childhood home as Christmas approaches. When he visits the house and finds another family living there, he offers the residents, Tom Valco (James Gandolfini) and his wife, Christine (Catherine O’Hara), a large sum of money to pretend they are his parents. Soon Drew tests the couple’s patience, and, when their daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), arrives, things get increasingly tense.

The Naughty List

  • Little heavy on the incest and porn jokes. Which is funny, for the first one or five. For such an uplifting film, it just seems unnecessary to lay it on so thick. Either it needs to be toned down, or diversely amped up in order to earn a 15 rating.
  • Thank god Jennifer Morrison realised these dipstick princess were not how she wanted to spend her acting career and landed two plump roles on prime time TV. She’s just not believable as the pampered Legally Blonde wannabe and is nothing more than fingernails on a blackboard the entire time she’s on screen.

The Nice List

  • James Gandolfini is a grumpy delight in this comedy. He’s the perfect chalk to Ben Affleck’s cheese. He’s downright perfect and, in all honesty, I’d happily have had more of him in the film.
  • Catherine O’Hara is the Queen of Christmas. I couldn’t think of anyone better in the role of the mother. She is able to roll with the unusual scenario and sass everyone while doing so.
  •  The plot has a heart underneath its strangeness. At the root of the plot is family and while playing pretend, something real came home. Working with what could perhaps be considered a clique, Surviving Christmas manages to make something new and charming. Even with Ben Affleck circa twat in the lead.
  • Its really funny and the chuckles don’t come from the ruder portions of the film. 

Checking it Twice

I’m still not sold on Ben Affleck in the lead. He works well with the cast and there’s a nice chemistry with Christina Applegate, however I want to punch him in the face most of the time he’s on the screen. I think I would have enjoyed it better had someone like Adam Sandler or Jason Bateman. That said, Affleck handles the heartfelt reveal really well and does show potential that’ll recognised fully in 2012 with an Oscar nod for his role in Argo.

Final Thoughts

It’s a fun film that is a little flawed, but will always be charming enough to stay on the festive watch list.

Han x

Christmas Film Advent- Scrooge (1970)

“You said I can’t have none of them, so I might as well like them all.”

2 Hr
Ebenezer Scrooge (Albert Finney) is the definition of a miser. He is rich, but completely stingy with his money, and he exploits the good nature of his employee Bob Cratchit (David Collings). On Christmas Eve, however, Scrooge is in store for a rude awakening when he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness), who informs him that he is going to be visited by three ghosts, including the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Edith Evans) and Present (Kenneth More).

First Thought

The second Christmas Carol of the advent and another I’ve not seen before. 

Naughty List

  • I love Albert Finney so it pains me to say that I really didn’t enjoy his performance. He’s too much of a miser and I don’t quite believe his change of heart. His portrayal jars with the levity that the songs bring to the tale.
  • Speaking of the music; I hate it. It’s very Oliver-esque and I’ve soured towards this style of musical over the years. It’s just a little to high pitched and ‘happy’ for my liking.
  • The additional scenes don’t add anything to the character’s development. For example, the diversion Scrooge takes to bully the people who owe his company money. It detracts from Scrooge’s conflict and makes me struggle to see him as a redeemable character.

Nice List

  • We have an adorable Tiny Tim. I feel the loss of this one a little more than the 1951 version and I can understand Bob’s turmoil a little more.
  • The colours and cinematography is enjoyably psychedelic and remind me of Christmas as a child; a kitsch Christmas card and those ceiling decorations. It doesn’t really fit with the film, but it sits comfortably as the definition of Christmas and I’m sold.

Final Thoughts

It’s an inoffensive version of the film, that pales in comparison of the Simm’s delightful offering. It’s a shame because the bar was set unreasonably high with last weeks retelling. 

Dumplin’ (2018)

“I’m not the Joan of Arc of fat girls”
Netflix 1 Hr 50 The plus-size, teenage daughter of a former beauty queen signs up for her mum’s pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow in her footsteps, revolutionising the pageant and their small Texas town.

The Good

The cast is incredible. Rising star Danielle Macdonald is incredible as protagonist and revolutionary, Willowdean. Having seen Macdonald in the equally brilliant Patti Cake$ I knew the film was in safe hands, but I didn’t expect her to become a role model for me. Jennifer Anniston is going from strength to strength with her role choices. While the romantic comedies during her time on Friends suited her well, she was made for these grittier performances. Rounding out the cast and adding depth the plot that looks at the lack of diversity within beauty pageants is the ever amazing Bex Taylor-Klaus as the alternative Hannah. Bex brings with her the confidence and cool personality that make me miss Scream: The TV Show. I love that the addition of Bex shows that there are exclusions beyond body shape in the world of Miss Teen. I also adored that her androgynous appearance is not commented upon in any way. It’s what I’ve been waiting for; androgyny not identifying someone as belonging to a particular label.

The Bad

The bad is that this film didn’t get a theatrical release. This film needs to be watched by all; it’s message is one of strength. With such negative films finding their way onto Netflix recently, it’s good to see one that promotes a positive attitude to the diversity of women and the beauty each and every one of them has.

The Ugly (tears)

The film hits all the right notes for tears central. The story deals with grief, self esteem and an uplifting hope that brings a tear to your eye. The charm is found in it’s sincerity; something which is difficult to achieve when the subject focuses on beauty pageants.