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Saturday, 29 December 2012


0 - No Redeeming Feature
1 - Poor
2 - Passable
3 - Good.  Rent it.
4 - Full Price
5 - Must See!

Well now, I trust everybody got fat, jolly, and had a good time over the Christmas holiday?  I trust you are all looking forward to a great new year; it can't be worse than 2012, surely?!  Anyhow, I write this new entry on my brand spanking new laptop, and so far it is very nice, although I must say I'm not keen on the Windows 8 start screen.  Anyone know how I can convert it so that the laptop starts up with the classic Vista or 7 feel, do feel free to let me know.  Anyhow, as you might expect, aside from visiting friends, entertaining family, giving and receiving gifts and eating and drinking a lot, some of the holiday was spent on the sofa, and once in the cinema, in front of Christmas movies.  Here is a rundown of films seen this week, which I have not yet mentioned on this blog.


Chris Pine lends a good vocal to Jack Frost, who for a long, long time, has been unseen by children and whilst having a great deal of fun, remains at a loss as to his purpose.  It is when an evil spirit named Pitch Black threatens to wipe out all hope and belief in the Guardians, North, Pitch, Sandy, Tooth and Bunny (no prizes for guessing who is who) that Jack is summoned to help fight for the wonder and joy of children's belief.

It is a perfectly good idea, visually impressive, features reasonable performances from Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin, along with a notably fun one from Jude Law, and I do not doubt that it will be a kids' seasonal favourite.  Personally, I would have liked a bit more development on the idea of darkness being part of growing up, rather than the focus on it as an enemy to be banished; for a children's movie it seemed the character of Pitch lacked any learning curve about his role, and that disappointed me.  That said, it is what it is and for its audience it works perfectly well; not a classic, but I had a good time with it.

Still at cinemas.

3.5 / 5

Catch it if you like:  Seasonal animated features


Yes it is a Christmas movie, and yes it is a classic.  In fact, do I need to talk about it?  John McClaine kick ass, rocking the vest look, in the best of the lot; it is the only Die Hard with pretty much zero flaws.  A fast paced riot of a movie, full of witty dialogue, great characters, and lashings of humour and excitement.  If you haven't watched it at Christmas time, shame on you!

Pick it up as part of the box set now.


Catch it if you like:  Good action films!

Upon first inspection it is perhaps easy to understand why when first released, Frank Capra's Christmas movie, inspired by a simple seasonal card, was not well received.  It is a movie that opens with a fantastical scene of a star, later revealed to be an angel, talking to a faceless God, the voice-over stilted in sweet humour, and immediately suggesting the film is going to be one that is too saccharine a pill to swallow.  The thing is, beyond that, It's A Wonderful Life is the ultimate exercise in feel-good cinema, its virtue as such much referenced in TV and other films.

The film presents George Bailey, played by James Stewart, who would go on to refer to it as his own career favourite; Bailey stifles his lifelong dreams of traveling and discovery in order to save and run his father's Building And Loan Association.  It has long been responsible for the affordable housing in his hometown Bedford Falls, and he cannot see it lost to the scoundrel of the piece Henry F. Potter, who is a major shareholder in the Building And Loan and the only man residents could otherwise turn to.  A run at the bank leaves the Building And Loan on the brink of financial ruin, George's Uncle Billy misplaces $8000, and in an act of desperation George attempts suicide, at which time he is saved by the angel Clarence.  Understandably confused, he wishes he had never been born, and so his wish is granted.

If the plot seems familiar even though you have not seen It's A Wonderful Life, it is probably because you saw the idea loosely re-worked in the Nicolas Cage film The Family Man.  For all its up to date technique, its colour, modern setting, etc, this version could not capture what made the original.  So, what did make the original? What may surprise people is how Capra clearly believed in the notion that you have to suffer the low to get the high.  The second act of the movie gets really quite dark, with Bailey seeing what the world would be like without his birth, coming to understand just how important a person is to everybody else's existence, and bringing him to a full appreciation of his worth as a husband, father and friend.  The finale is obviously that classic scene that we all know, even if we do not realise it, with his daughter's famous, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings", and despite how much you might think the whole thing sounds cheesy, silly, saccharine and sentimental, the power of the film is to bring a genuine tear of pure enjoyment to your eye regardless; for a while you are full of the joy of life and completely happy, no matter what.

A lot of the film's success comes down to how believable James Stewart makes the plight; his performance is another illustration of why he is one of my all time favourite actors.  He shows how well he can hit any emotional beat, not to mention handle rather complex moments where a lot is being unsaid.  For just one example, check out the scene in which he wanders into Mary's mother's home and takes Sam's phone call - incredible!  For any flaws you may find with it, its colourful characters, its tremendous performances, humour, heartbreaking moments, perfectly pitched highs and lows, and its' unabashed final sequence make this an inexplicably perfect film.  No wonder it remains at the top spot of many people's favourite Christmas films, and so it should!  Oh, and see it in the original black and white, not the new, fancy colour, which is clever, but ugly.

Pick it up in stores or online.


Catch it if you like:  Good seasonal movies, as it may well be the best of the lot.

Okay, let's get this straight, at any other time of year the cynical critic in me would poo-poo this movie, to a certain degree, at least.  It is all over the place and even by Curtis' standards, it is no masterpiece.  Yet, at Christmas, it is perfect.  Every thread, every performance, from the completely stupid to the utterly believable and heartbreaking, balance out to make a strangely enjoyable film.  A mishmash of true to life love stories and utterly laugh out loud moments, strung together by coincidence and people who are minor characters in others' lives, this always leaves me feeling warm inside.

Buy it anywhere.


Catch if if you like:  To feel good.


Robert Zemickis works with Tom Hanks again to bring the wonder of Christmas home.  The story of a young boy doubting the existence of Santa does not preach or treat the subject in any sort of patronizing way one might expect.  Instead what we get is a visually stunning Christmas film about the wonder and joy of the idea of Santa, while it lasts, and the magic of the time of year.  On repeat viewing, I did find myself realizing just how much like a dream the films plays out, and how it may have been improved with a bit more narrative meat, but when you're sat in on a cold Christmas eve, drinking hot chocolate, there is nothing you'd rather be watching.

Buy it anywhere.


Catch it if you like:  Seasonal movies.

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