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. 

Christmas Film Advent- Santa Claws (2014)

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

Length: 1 Hr 26
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
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- 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

Christmas Movie Advent- Nativity (2009)

“It’s the Nativity, you can’t look cool.”

Watching on Netflix
Length: 1Hr45

A primary school teacher, who was once a failed actor in a former career, is given the task of directing the school’s Nativity play, which doesn’t have a positive track record. Attitudes change however, when it transpires that a Hollywood producer is coming to film the play.


The Good

For kids, there’s plenty to love. It’s fun with a basic plot and some cute characters that little ones will be entertained by. Being the best of a bad bunch, you will be forgiven for thinking that this is a made of tv outing.

The songs in the final act are quite fun, even from an adult’s stand point. It helps that you have the perfect faux misery in the form of Martin Freeman, in a pre-Sherlock performance that keeps me from pressing stop. Ever since seeing him in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he’s been the perfect person to play the miser who really just wants to be loved. I couldn’t think of anyone better to play the patsy to Mr Poppy’s foil.

Can’t leave the ‘good’ without mentioning Jason Watkins who steals every scene he’s in as the self obsessed Gordon Shakespeare. His role of the antagonist is probably the best bit of the whole film and he’s able to bridge the gap between the adults and children in a way that is organic and fun.

The Bad

It’s a little too cringe-worthy for anyone watching sans children. The children are adorable, most of the adults do their best but together they really don’t work so well together. It has that feel of Outnumbered; the adults get a script and the children get to do what they want. It just doesn’t fill me with that joy a Christmas film should.

Some of the ‘talents’ the children demonstrate are not going to stand the test of time. Even now, just shy of 10 years, some feel outdated. It’s a shame because I know what they were trying to achieve with it.

The Ugly

While I am certain there is nothing intended beyond a funny, innocent man child to make kids on both sides of the screen, I am not comfortable with Marc Wootton, his portrayal or even the character itself. Mr Poppy, in like of changing social perceptions makes me feel like he’s one thoughtless action away from being on the sex offenders register.

While I have no issue as such with scenes that have Freeman and Wootton interact alone, his relationship with the students and his inability to follow basic protocol just has me on edge and takes me out of the film. Tone it down and I think it would rescue this franchise.