Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Posted on December 23, 2011. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , |

After a flurry of posts I’m signing off for Christmas now.  My non-blogging life (I know, I actually have one!) has got in the way a bit this year so posts have been a few and far between, but hopefully you’ve enjoyed any you’ve read, and thanks for coming back to the site even though it’s not updated that regularly.

It’s been a good year for movies, and even though I haven’t been to the cinema as often as I’d like, (which would be daily) I’ve seen some great films, both new releases and late discoveries.  Highlights for me have got to be InceptionReal Steel, Scott Pilgrim and, of course, Sherlock Holmes.

As for the blog, 2011 was  the year I somehow managed to blag my way on to BBC Radio 4 and got a free phone from Windows/Nokia, which is pretty good going for someone who’s writing ability barely rivals Dan Brown.  I’ve also added a new page where you can suggest movies you think I need to see or would like me to review.

I haven’t written any Christmas movie posts this year because over the last two I’ve pretty much covered everything, but I did catch two movies this year that I hadn’t seen before which deserve a quick mention.

The first is Elf, a movie people have been telling me I need to see pretty much since it came out but which I’ve avoided because *ducks for cover* I just don’t like Will Ferrell.  The movie was cute, and did everything a Christmas movie should, but I found it a bit short on laughs for a film which people talk about as one of the funniest Christmas movies ever.  All in all, it was disappointing, but hey, it’s Christmas, and I didn’t really care as long as it had the right amount of festive spirit.

The second film I watched had completely the opposite effect. I wasn’t expecting it to be that good and was pleasantly surprised.  Turns out Nativity! is actually kind of good.  Packed with British comic actors and cute little kids (I want to take that little ginger boy home) it’s got everything you need for a cosy Christmas film, with a surprising amount of heart.  You might have overlooked it because it kind of flew under the radar, but if you’re not one of the Scrooges that hates Love Actually then I think you should give it a whirl.

And that’s it from me for 2011. I’ll be back in the New Year for this blog’s third birthday! (Who would have thought?)

Hope you all have fantastic Christmases and get your New Years off to a great start.  Thanks again for taking the time to read my incoherent ramblings.

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Quote of the Day

Posted on December 23, 2010. Filed under: Quote of the Day | Tags: , , |

I found an unlikely bit of festive spirit in this film the other day:

“How is it that we’re always talking on Christmas Carl?”

Merry Christmas Eve Eve 😉

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So if you really love Christmas…come on and let it snow!

Posted on December 11, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

It’s that time of year again.  Kind of sneaks up on you doesn’t it?  Apparently it’s only two weeks to Christmas.

Those of you who’ve been around a while will know that last year I did a series of posts on “The Twelve Films of Christmas” counting down the days to go with a collection of increasingly festive films.  There’s no point in repeating myself, so I’m going to (slightly lazily) put the links up here for anyone who missed it.

The 12 films of Chrismas, Part One: The Build Up
The 12 films of Christmas, Part Two: Christmas Hols
The 12 films of Christmas, Part Three: Christmas Eve!

I’ve already started my seasonal screenings with Love Actually last weekend.  I know a lot of people out there hate it but I really can’t think of a better bit of festive schmaltz to start you off.

I also managed to catch Fred Claus recently and was pleasantly surprised.  I’d written it off into the Bad Santa pile but I was completely wrong.  It’s actually quite a sweet, if predictable, bit of Christmas fun, with some funny moments and a strong ensemble cast (Vince Vaughan, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, Miranda Richardson, Rachel Weisz).  The “Siblings Anonymous” scene is just briliant, gotta love Stephen Baldwin for that.

With that little lot to keep you busy, you’ll be singing carols and roasting chesnuts over an open fire before you know it!

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The 12 films of Christmas, Part Three: Christmas Eve!

Posted on December 24, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Here we are with the third and final part of my 12 films of Christmas. The deckies are up, the presents are wrapped, the turkey’s defrosting and there’s only one thing left to do; get in those final few films to really get you in the mood!

Before I get going, a quick reminder of the 12 so far:

12. The Nightmare Before Christmas
11. Die Hard
10. Edward Scissorhands
9. Love Actually
8. The Grinch
7. Home Alone
6. Miracle on 34th Street
5. The Santa Clause

Onto the top 4 then. Here’s my recommendations for what to watch on Christmas Eve and one for Christmas Day.

A Muppet Christmas Carol

OK, so I have a confession to make. I’ve cheated and already watched this one.  Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the Muppets. As I’ve said to Caz, as far as I’m concerned this is the definitive version of the Dickens classic (although I haven’t seen the newest offering.)  For starters Michael Caine sings in it!  All the music is great and the puppets are woven seamlessly into the human cast to make what is actually a very truthful rendition of the classic Christmas tale.  Although I do blame Jim Henson for my misguided belief that there were two Marley brothers (and that Scrooge’s first job was in a rubber chicken factory :P)

At some point during Christmas you have to see a version of A Christmas Carol. And if you’re me, this is the one you’re reaching for.

Getting into the evening now with: The Snowman

When I rule the world I’m passing a law that says everyone has to watch this on Christmas Eve.  It’s only 26 minutes long, there’s barely any speaking in it and the ending is one of the most heartbreaking on screen, but it is Christmas for me.  Howard Blake’s score is iconic, as is the animation, and for me as well as (probably) hundreds of other children it used to be the last thing I’d watch before I went to bed on Christmas Eve.  In the last couple of years however, it’s been replaced by my next choice…

Possibly a controversial one here…: The Polar Express

This was one of the first pioneers into the world of 3D cinema and therefore has some rollercoaster train rides to make the most of the effects and some slightly strange looking animation for which it’s got a bit of stick over the last few years. I’ve recently said I’m not that into the whole 3D thing (…until I see Avatar…) so you might be wondering what it’s doing at the top of my list. Let me explain.

I have never seen this film in 3D.  In fact the whole 3D thing only came to my attention because I was looking into the rollercoaster scenes.  So when I saw this film I wasn’t judging it on visual effects but on the story.  True, the animation of the people is a little off, mainly because it’s layered over actual performances, but I kinda like the fact that you can just about recognise Tom Hanks in each of the 6 characters he portrays.  I also think the plot is original and perfect for Christmas Eve.  Again, the idea of people not believing in Santa is used a lot this time of year, but the train for non-believers is a new one, and the juxtaposition between the different children works well.  My favourite theme in the movie though is the bells, such an essential part of the whole Santa image and used cleverly in this film.

If you haven’t seen it (or heard of it) I can’t recommend it more. It’s become a staple of our family Christmas, one which I will definitely be watching tonight.

So, that’s Christmas Eve sorted. Off to bed now or Santa wont come.  I have one more film for you, to watch tomorrow after your turkey.  In a way it’s a predictable choice, although you might not recognise it at first…

My Christmas Day film is: Chicken Run!

Is there anything more British than Aardman animation? When the rest of the world was wowing with CGI and the first of the Pixar sensations, Nick Park got out the plasticine and started building.

Chicken Run is a great film, full of dry humour, an awesome voice cast (Mel Gibson, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson, Timothy Spall) and fun for all the family.  It’s great for any occasion, so why Christmas? Simple.

Chicken Run is The Great Escape, possible the most watched film at Christmas. Only it’s the less boring, less depressing, far more fun version of the same story, which in my opinion is infinitely better for you while you try to work out if you have any space left for that green triangle Quality Street.  Steve McQueen and his motorbike might be what most people reach for on Christmas Day, but I’ll take a rooster on a tricycle any day.

And that’s it. Christmas wrapped up in 12 great movies. All that’s left to say is Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope you all have a great time with whatever you’re doing.

I’ll be back in the New Year for this blog’s first birthday.

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The 12 films of Christmas, Part Two: Christmas Hols

Posted on December 21, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Even if you don’t go to school anymore (or happen to work in one) you’ll probably remember that the Christmas excitement really takes hold once you go off on holiday.  And as my school was closed on the last day of term because of the snow, the festive spirit is really flowing.

The fact that I’m completely snowed in has also helped me cross off a few more of my pre-Christmas movies. So here’s part two of my must watch yuletide films, this time bringing you some undeniably merry movies.

The Grinch

Jim Carrey has been a bit of a feature round here recently, and like many of his films, The Grinch tends to divide people.  I guess if you really hate him you can trade the new version for the traditional animation, but I really like Ron Howard’s adaption which stays very close to the book and has a great look which brings to life Dr Seuss’s mad imagination.  Even if you’ve never seen the movie/read the book, you’re bound to have some idea what The Grinch is all about.  In a way, it’s a bit like A Christmas Carol, with a grumpy outsider finding “the meaning of Christmas” but it also is increasingly relevant as both  Cindy-Lou and The Grinch struggle with the idea that Christmas seems to be all about who can spend the most money.

HomeAlone

I have absolutely no idea why I like this film, I just know that I have to see it before Christmas.  I think a lot of it is down to John Williams beautiful score, my favourite monent being where he weaves Carol of the Bells into his main theme.  Yes, this film is unutterably cheesy, but that’s just what you need at Christmas. Plus, the child in me will always laugh at two bad guys getting hit in the face with paint cans.

Miracle on 34th Street

Again, there’s a few versions of this, but the one I’m voting for here is the Richard Attenborough, because I could totally see him being Santa.  This film has great memories for me, especially as it is one of the first (if not the first) films I ever saw at the cinema; back in the dark ages when my town still had one.  It’s a cute story about getting people to believe in Santa Claus, and although it’s sickly sweet, it gets away with it thanks to some strong performances from Attenborough and Mara Wilson (AKA Matilda). The idea of a legal battle over the existence of Santa is also a pretty neat one, oroginal enough to be taken off in numeous parodies ever since the black and white original.

This final spot I’ve struggled with.  In the end I’ve decided to leave out Gremlins on account that it’s not so much a family film (although since I discovered it two Christmasses ago I haven’t looked back).  So my final Christmas Hols film is:

The Santa Clause

This film has a lot fo similarities with Miracle on 34th, with both trying to get grown-ups to believe in Santa, but this time with a modern twist. Tim Allen stars as the half-hearted Dad who falls foul of “The Santa Clause” after accidentally knocking St Nick off the roof.  Forced to become the new Santa, the plot follows the not so shocking arc of him coming to terms with his new responsibilities, but with the nice side story of him bonding with his son (Daddy issues anyone?)  It’s a fun film with some real laughs, making me all the more sad that it’s not on this year and I don’t have it on DVD.

So that’s the holidays sorted (and I don’t mean that in the American sense.)  If you’re snowed in like me, crank the heating up, grab a blanket and get stuck in!

Final installment coming on Christmas Eve (ish) with my recommendations for the films to finally get you ready for the big day. And one to watch while you can barely move after all that dinner.

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The 12 films of Christmas, Part One:The Build Up

Posted on December 2, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Once again, I’m being entirely unoriginal here, but what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t have some kind of Christmas post on here?  Everyone has their Christmas traditions, and among mine are a certain set of films which absolutely must be watched before the big day.  Some start to get you in the mood in the early days of December, others are the full on Tinsel and Fairy lights, perfect for Christmas Eve.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my festive favourites, split into three groups depending on when I reckon is the best time to watch them, starting with the ones which aren’t necessarily all about Christmas, but have just enough jingle bells to remind you it’s getting close.

So it’s December. The shops have been playing carols since August but you’re still not quite there with the Christmas spirit yet.  Now is the time for the build up films, the ones that don’t hit you over the head with festive cheer, but start to remind you why it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.”

To start you off: The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I’m never quite sure when to watch this film.  Too Christmassy to watch at Halloween, a bit too cynical to watch at Christmas.  In the end I’ve decided it fits nicely into the end of November and beginning of December; the perfect film to remind you that the season has begun.

I’ve written about Nightmare before, but for those of you who don’t know it’s a cult classic Burton film telling the story of Jack Skellington the King of Halloween town.  By accident he stumbles into Christmasland, where “absolutely no one’s dead” leading him to try and recreate the magic back home.  Poor Jack gets it a bit wrong though, and it’s up to Frankenstein monster Sally to show him what Christmas is all about.

The film is full of Christmas spirit, but it’s also full of goblins and ghouls meaning it’s not the DVD you’ll be reaching for on Christmas Eve.  Whatever the time of year however, it’s a brilliant movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet and are still waiting to be caught up in the yuletide fun, this is definitely the place to start.

Die Hard (no, really)

You might be wondering what I’m getting at here, but I refer you to the quote: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.”  Any excuse to watch this wicked film is fine by me, and in my book a film which takes place on Christmas Eve is a Christmas film.  OK, so it might not exactly be brimming with the joys of the season, but at its heart it’s a film about a guy trying to get home to see his kids for Christmas.  There’s just the issue of a few German terrorists to get past first.  Not you’re typical seasonal fun granted, but a brilliant film in it’s own right with just enough holiday spirit to get you on your way.

Back to Burton for: Edward Scissorhands

It’s the story of where snow comes from. What could be more Christmassy than that?  The film documents roughly a year of Edward’s life, but the final showdown takes place at Christmas and it’s those scenes which stick in most people’s memories.  Another sensational film, this tells the tale of Edward; a boy made by an inventor who died before he could finish, leaving Edward alone in an empty mansion with metal shards instead of hands.  Both hilarious and tragic, Edward is a beautiful film with an equally gorgeous soundtrack that will start to stir up warm fuzzy feelings you never knew were there.

And finally, the first of the real Christmas films: Love Actually

Stop rolling your eyes like that.

For some reason a lot of people don’t like this film, but as far as I’m, concerned Richard Curtis can do no wrong, especially when you’re looking for some festive schmaltz.  This film was made for the build up, as that’s exactly what it’s about! Travelling from mid November to Christmas Eve, it juxtaposes the stories of a great ensemble cast, whose lives all intertwine as they try and make it to the big day.  Stand out performances include Emma Thompson’s perfectly British “Joni Mitchell” moment and, of course, Bill Nighy singing “Christmas is all around.”

If you’re looking for your Christmas spirit, look no further than Love Actually.  It’s got everything you need to get you in the mood, with enough different types of character to be sure of having someone there you identify with.  Of the four on this page, it’s the one film you can be absolutely certain I will watch before Christmas. It just has to be that way.

(Yes, it's blurry. But I couldn't resist a screenshot of that moment.)

Hope that starts to get you in the mood. Part two coming soon.

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