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  In the last couple of years however, it’s been replaced by my next choice…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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Quote of the *last* Day

Posted on May 28, 2009. Filed under: Quote of the Day | Tags: , |

There was only one choice.

Today’s the day I finish my undergrad degree (my first one at least).  I’ve been in exam and revision hell for about 2 months now…so there’s only one quote that sums up how I’ll feel at 12:00 today:

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”

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Yipee ki-ay….

Posted on January 30, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

I’m a big fan of films involving guns and explosions and, having wathced Die Hard 3 last night, thought I’d give you a run down of the best action films out there.

In my opinion, the movie that defines the genre is Die Hard.  The original movie is a spectacular cocktail of explosions, one liners, german-speaking terrorists and profuse bleeding; what more can you ask for in an action film?  John McClane is probably the best action character ever, created out of a well established formula of maverick cop who doesn’t always obey the rules but gets the job done.  Die hard is so well made though, and the combination of Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman is perfect, making it the ultimate action comfort film (if such a thing exists).  Die hard also gave us the immortal line that I’m using as a title, and for that we are eternally greatful.

McClane

As for the Die Hard sequels, none of them stand up to the original, but Die Hard with a Vengeance (3) comes pretty close, aided by the work of Samuel L Jackson and the brilliant Jeremy Irons.  The two even numbered sequels are not quite up to standard, with Die Hard 2 being a favourite kicking post for critics, but the most recent 4.0 isn’t bad and does have some great moments.  The digital plot is just a bit flat, especially since the original is such a classic 80’s movie. McClane just wasn’t built for the digital age.

For me Die Hard is the ultimate action movie, but I know others would argue that Lethal Weapon is the author of the genre.  Having only seen the first installment once, I’m not quite qualified to put up a defence, but I’ll come back when I’ve watched it again.  What I do remember is that Lethal Weapon is that little bit darker than Die Hard, with an underlying suicide theme which is great for character development but makes it that little bit less fun than watching wise-cracking Willis running around a skyscraper bare foot.

Another contender for ultimate action movie is Speed, a movie in which Keanu Reeves actually acts (almost)!  Another great collection of explosions and unhinged psychopaths out for revenge, but this time set on a bus, Speed has some great movements; most famously that jump over the gap in the highway.  Reeves is good in the role, supported heavily by Jeff Daniels and Dennis Hopper.  The decision to carry Sandra Bullock’s character into a sequel, I think, was a bad one, especially since she’s pretty irritating in the original, but at least Speed 2 has Willem Defoe giving it his creepy best.

The score of Speed is also pretty great, but there is pure genius in the use of Beethoven’s 9th in Die Hard, which keeps coming back in inverted forms throughout the score.  A similar idea is used in Die Hard 3, unfortunately I can’t remember what the piece of music is called (please someone comment and help me ‘cos its maddening) but if you ever sang “the animals went in two by two” in primary school you’ll know the tune I’m on about!

All of the above are going into the movies to see before you die, but if you’ve only got time for one, go for Die Hard.

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