Scrooged – 25th December

Scrooged is a film from the 1980s that I do not think has aged very well. There was a lot of unnecessary violence in this twist of the classic Dickens tale and a lot of female gaze. I finished the film but wasn’t impressed. Watching this a few years ago, I enjoyed it but as a more mature viewer I saw the many things wrong with it. I only recognised two names, Bill Murray and Carol Kane. The basic premise is that a narcissistic, selfish business man, president of a TV channel is shown his own failures with three ghosts whilst scheduling a live performance of Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

Frank Cross is visited by three ghosts: Christmas Past, Present and Future. They each show him where he has been failing, including firing a man on Christmas Eve for little reason and leaving the love of his life. The film itself is very dated with plenty of prejudice in the work place and Frank’s own views. The way he regarded women was an aspect I didn’t like, at one point kissing a stranger, one of the dancers, just because there was mistletoe above them.

When the disgruntled employee who was fired ends up on the streets after his wife left him and took their daughter, he comes back to the office with a shotgun to kill Frank. In this scene, there was a lot of shouting and screeching by both characters. Americans do love slapstick and gun violence in films but this was a stretch too far. I feel that this film is Bill Murray at his worse. His manic persona was quite off-putting and hard to sympathise with. When he is redeemed at the end, I did not reconcile with the character.

Overall, 3/5. A good premise but ultimately not executed well and it has not aged appropriately. Would not watch again.

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Arthur Christmas – 24th December

Even though Arthur Christmas is marketed towards children, I would say it’s a film able to be enjoyed by all ages. It answers a question that has puzzled kids and adults alike about Christmas: How does Santa deliver presents to all the children in just one night? In this version of the Father Christmas tale, Santa no longer delivers the presents himself but has a crack team of elves and his son, Steve leading the military planned operation. They use a massive sleigh-shaped aircraft that can travel at light speed and deliver hundreds of presents at once. Father Christmas is about to pass the mantel on to one of his sons.

Arthur Christmas is nothing like his brother and works in the letter writing department, answering the wishes of children of what they hope to find under the tree on the big day. In the film, Steve and the elves finish making their deliveries. It all goes very well and the family sit down for Christmas about 4 am. Then an elf finds a present in the factory that hasn’t been delivered and she along with Arthur Christmas, Grandsanta and the descendants of the famous eight reindeer head off to Trelew, England to help make little Gwen’s Christmas.

They run into countless troubles; losing reindeer, being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. The film shows that every single child does matter and that Christmas is truly a magical time of year.

I think this film is thoroughly entertaining along with a few adult jokes and enough real life aspects that to make it believable. There’s a great voice cast with James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane and Joan Cusack. A modern day classic that I love to watch every year. Overall 5/5.

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Christmas with the Coopers – 23rd December

A modern day classic of a big family trying to get through Christmas Day. Each group has their own little story going on and they all converge for the family Christmas. Some great actors in this film make it a real favourite of mine. I think of it as sort of a Love Actually story but all the characters are related and have group scenes towards the end.

Each generation has their own story, there’s Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman), the head of the family who are in a rut and thinking of separating. They also pick up Aunt Fishy from her retirement home for the Christmas Eve meal. She suffers with memory loss and is played by the delightful June Squibb (The Proposal).

Sam and Charlotte’s children are Hank and Eleanor. Hank (Ed Helms) and his wife (Alex Borstein) have separated and he has the children for Christmas. They are played by Timothée Chalamet, Maxwell Simkins and Blake Baumgartner. The kids all have their own adventures too. Charlie (Chalamet) is keen on a girl but has difficulties talking to her. His brother wants to find the perfect gift. Their sister, Madison spends the day with her grandparents and has trouble controlling her bladder.

Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meanwhile doesn’t enjoy spending time with her family and is headed back via the airport when she connects with Joe (Jake Lacy), an army officer. They spend the day bonding at the airport and she brings him home as her boyfriend to impress her family.

There’s also Aunt Emma (Marisa Tomei) is looking for presents for her family and is arrested for shoplifting and taken downtown by Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie). She gets him to open up during their ride.

The last pairing is Bucky (Alan Arkin), Charlotte’s father goes to the same diner every day and bonds with Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), a waitress. When she decides to leave to pursue her dreams, he invites her to family Christmas.

I enjoy this film very much and will be watching it for years to come. I think the chemistry between all the characters really makes you believe they are a real family. The film has plenty of hilarious moments and some real family love. The story is completed by Rags, the dog voiced by Steve Martin who narrates the story and gives the viewer insight into the lives and thoughts of the characters. Overall I give this film 5/5.

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The Christmas Chronicles – 22nd December

This Netflix Original has similar traits as another film on my list: Get Santa as Father Christmas spends some time in jail but it is a very different film. Well, as different as a Christmas film about Santa can get.

In this one, Kate is trying to catch Santa on videotape after watching back some old home footage and seeing a glimpse of something. Her older brother, Teddy reluctantly helps. On Christmas Eve with their mum working and their father having passed away the year before, the kids are left up to their own devices to try and see Santa. After Kate manages to follow him out to his sleigh and hide aboard, a crazy adventure begins after Santa crashes the sleigh.

In this film, Santa is played by Kurt Russell, giving more of a cool dad rock and roll vibe than the usual sweet old man. After the sleigh crashes, Santa uses a cool street racing car to get around. Kate makes her way to the North Pole to get help from the elves. Kate and Teddy help Santa deliver the rest of the presents as he lost his magical hat in the crash.

I really enjoyed this film and will be watching it again this year. Just enough of a Christmas caper with non-believers and elves and actual grown-up fun. One way that Santa tries to prove his identity is by recounting what gifts people asked for at Christmas in their childhood.

Overall, 5/5. I have not got any faults with this film and it is great for children and adults.

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Die Hard – 21st December

I watched this film recently on the big screen at my local cinema, The Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford. I hadn’t seen the film before and seeing it at the cinema for the first time was a really exciting experience. I have heard a lot about it and the subsequent sequels from other popular culture such as FRIENDS and Brooklyn 99. I thought that the film was really good and definitely lived up to the hype it has gathered in the last 30 years. I went in thinking that the film was about an LA cop taking down some bad guys and saving some hostages but the actual film is so much better.

The basic premise is that John McClane, a cop in the NYPD goes to Los Angeles to visit his wife. She moved there with their young children for her career and McClane wanted to stay in New York to finish catching criminals. After 6 months apart, McClane goes to her office Christmas party to surprise her. He discovers that she goes by her maiden name and he makes friends with his limo driver, Argyle. After a tense reunion in the bathroom where McClane has taken off his shirt and shoes, his wife Holly rejoins the party.

Then all hell breaks loose as German terrorists storm the building and take everyone hostage. McClane was not spotted and managed to escape the 30th floor. The phone lines have been cut and exits are covered so all he can do is try to rescue the hostages. He is barefoot, in a vest (tank top) and has only his gun to fend them off. The Nakatomi Plaza is the setting for the film and as the building is not yet finished, there are plenty of materials to use and spaces to hide out in.

It takes a long time for McClane to actually get the authorities’ attention but once he does, the police and FBI descend and try to work out how to rescue everyone. The film is filled with daredevil stunts, explosions, family connections and Alan Rickman as a German terrorist.

I really enjoyed the film including all the little twists such as Holly placing a photo of her and John face down so that later the terrorists don’t realise the connection and the fact that she is known by her maiden name. In fact they do not figure out McClane’s identity until the reporter for the local news put their kids on TV to say goodbye to their parents. I wouldn’t say it was particularly Christmassy but as it is set around Christmas, it has turned into a classic for the festive season.

This film was definitely a patriotic, root for the American Hero type of film with people of a different nationality as the enemy but despite this there was a lot of diversity for the 1980s. There were good and bad white people, good and bad Asian people and and good and bad black people. A real balance that I did not expect from this film.

I thought the acting was excellent. I did not recognise Alan Rickman at all as I mostly know him from his later work in Harry Potter and Love Actually. I was surprised to see Bruce Willis with hair as I also know him from later work such as Red, The Whole Nine Yards and Moonrise Kingdom. I thought he was a great action hero and I am now interested to see how he does in the other Die Hard films.

Overall I give this film 4.5/5. I would watch it again but definitely not one for young people as it is rated 18 due to the violence.

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Holiday Rush – 20th December

This new Netflix Original was enjoyable if a bit unbelievable. The basic premise of the film was that a rich radio DJ loses his job and has to downsize his lifestyle. His four children must give up their life of privilege and move into their aunt’s house. A rags to riches story mixed in with moving on from the loss of a parent. Another branch to the story is that Rush’s producer, Roxy starts getting closer to Rush, the DJ and she helps him to set up his own radio station.

What I found unbelievable was how spoiled Rush’s children acted in the first two thirds of the film. The daughter, Mya was putting in a pool in the garden and bossing around the workmen so rudely. They all wanted ridiculous Christmas presents and when they had to sell their house so their father could buy a new radio station instead of making the best of it, they all complained. I know some kids can be like this but I don’t think anyone would treat their father that way, especially since their mother died when they were all young and they were raised in a small or normal sized house.

Apart from this, I thought the film was entertaining, especially after the kids realised how selfish they were being whilst watching old home videos of their mother. A pet peeve I have with recent films is that old footage or photos always look too new. It couldn’t hurt to put a few filters on it surely. I liked the characters of Rush and Roxy played by Romany Malco and Sonequa Martin-Green. I also liked that the black characters were in positions of authority and wealthy for once while the white characters were the workers. A real twist on the last 100 years of cinema.

Overall I would give this film 3/5. Might watch again in a few years, if only to point out the flaws of the children. Something that children would probably enjoy but maybe a little too simple for adults. A cute Christmas story though with a twist.

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Daddy’s Home 2 – 19th December

A big ensemble cast lead this Christmas sequel to the popular comedy Daddy’s Home. I actually watched this film in summer as I have been waiting for a couple of years for it to come on Netflix. It was Christmassy but the cast was entertaining enough that I didn’t think anything of it. I never thought I would be someone who watches a Christmas film in August but it happened.

If you’ve seen the first film, you will be aware that the film is about a blended family. Will Ferrell is the stepfather to his wife’s children. When their father comes back on the scene, Dusty (played by Mark Wahlberg) tries to outdo his rival and attempts to get his ex-wife to leave Brad (Ferrell) and win back his children. The film ends with the two dads getting along and Dusty finding a new girlfriend and stepdaughter.

In Daddy’s Home 2, the dads of both Brad and Dusty come to stay as the whole family go away to a cabin for the holidays. Brad’s father, Don (John Lithgow) and Dusty’s father, Kurt (Mel Gibson) are very similar to their sons. Don is a softy and someone in touch with their feelings whereas Kurt is a loner and very alpha male type. They passed on their issues to their sons.

With Brad and Sara’s (Linda Cardellini) new baby and the dad’s and now grandfather’s all competing for best parent, the film is full of slapstick and dad jokes. With an A-list cast of great comedic actors mixed in with family Christmas fun, I really enjoyed this film and will be watching it again this holiday season.

It was interesting to see Mel Gibson and John Lithgow do comedy as they normally take on more dramatic roles but I think they pulled it off. John Cena also stars as the father of Dusty’s stepdaughter. As someone quite new to acting compared to the others, Cena held his own and he manages comedy well enough. I thought that the finale was quite heart-warming. Overall, I give this film 4/5.

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Get Santa – 18th December

A different take on the usual American Dream Christmas film. I thought it was a fresh look on a very overdone genre. The British Christmas film often starts out in a more lowly place than US versions. The film is about Steve who gets out of jail on 23rd December. He takes his son out on Christmas Eve and after Father Christmas crash lands on Earth, Steve and Tom end up on an adventure to save Christmas. Their crazy journey takes them to Dasher the reindeer and eventually to the North Pole. Meanwhile, Santa has been arrested for trespassing while trying to rescue his reindeer and is in the very prison that Steve was released from.

There are lots of consequences for Steve and Tom. A part of Steve’s parole, he must see his officer every day but to help his son, he jeopardises his freedom. With police car chases, secret doors, communicating reindeer and crazy convicts, this film is certainly entertaining while keeping its feet somewhat in reality. Full of the best of British actors including Jodie Whittaker, Jim Broadbent, Rafe Spall, Ewen Bremner, Warwick Davis, Joanna Scanlan and Stephen Graham. Kit Connor who plays Tom was also great in his first main role.

A great Christmas caper if you’re looking for something a little less fluffy and a bit more adventurous. 4/5.

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Crown for Christmas – 17th December

The third of the Hallmark Christmas Trio. This film however does not star Lacey Chabert but Danica McKellar the other Hallmark Christmas star. She has starred in more Hallmark films than Chabert but as she is older so has different roles. This film reminds me of Maid in Manhattan because the main character is a maid but the film then evolves into A Christmas Prince where an American stranger becomes the governess to a European princess.

Firstly, I thought that the King looked a bit young to have a 10 year old daughter and his prospective wife hardly looks 30 but apart from this the film was quite enjoyable. If you love the Netflix Original Christmas films or Hallmark ones then this definitely would hit the spot.

The basic premise is that Alison who is struggling to pay bills works as a maid at a hotel. She finds a watch just as she gets fired and hands it back to its rightful owner, King Maximilian. As a thank you, she is hired to go to Europe and be his daughter’s governess. The King must re-marry soon and his people are arranging a marriage with another royal but he wants to marry for love. Alison becomes like a mother to the princess and becomes closer to the King.

A particular highlight was the snowball fight with the princess and all the staff. I enjoyed this film but thought it very predictable and not as good as the other Hallmark Christmas films I previously reviewed. Another thing is that everyone sounded British when they were meant to be from a European country. American films often do this such as The Princess Diaries or A Prince & Me. It is as if they think all Europeans sound the same. Overall 3/5.

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A Christmas Melody- 16th December

Lacey Chabert has dominated the Hallmark Christmas film market and this film is no different. I have coupled the Hallmark films together with the third one coming out tomorrow. I think these films have had a bit of a bad press as cheesy and predictable but I think they make great Christmas films and I haven’t been exposed to them as they aren’t shown on UK television. I think its great that Amazon Prime are showing these films as I think they are modern classics.

In this film, Lacey Chabert is Kristin Parson, a fashion designer living in Los Angeles. Then she gets an opportunity to move back to her home town, Silver Falls in the Mid-West with her daughter Emily. Her aunt’s house becomes available so after her fashion boutique goes under she makes the move. She reconnects with an old school pal who is Emily’s music teacher.

The focus of the story is the talent show that the elementary school are putting on. Mariah Carey also stars as a mother of one of the popular girls and the head of the PTA. Other actors in the film I didn’t recognise but I thought they all did a great job.

I would say that this was a family film, as all Hallmark films are and it is not set around the big day so one to watch in the lead up to Christmas. I give this film 3.5/5.

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