Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

I've still got some Christmas Countdown films to write up, having been without an internet connection for about a week, but I'll get those done eventually.

In the meantime, Happy Christmas.

Hope everyone is having a lovely day, that you've got everything you wished for and more.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: Film #18 - The Grinch & Film #19 - A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

Yesterday we had a bit of a film marathon. Having spent Mr. Click's birthday watching the Toy Story films we needed to get caught up on some of the Christmas films, so we decided to watch four throughout the day on Saturday.

First up was The Grinch (also known as How The Grinch Stole Christmas). Last year we'd been unable to watch it because our copy at the time was a version of the DVD from Germany. For some reason our blu-ray player refused to play it in English and wouldn't let us change the language. This year we have an English DVD (which for some reason our blu-ray player still was a little unsure about playing it) so we didn't have to worry about missing 'Der Grinch'.
We felt a little like we were watching an entirely new film, both of us kept on noticing little things that we hadn't seen before, like when the baby Grinch arrives the Christmas party in the house appears to be a swingers party, hehe! It's quite nice that there's plenty for the adults to pick up on while the children are enjoying their film about the mean old Grinch.

I love the style of the film, it doesn't surprise me learning that Tim Burton had been in line to direct it because it really makes me think of some of his films. It's captured the style of the books really well and I noticed that the signs are all in the same sort of font as the text in the books.

The set looks fantastic and you can get totally lost in the world created there. It feels magical and Christmassy, and I love the clothes and the decorations. It's wonderfully zany and Jim Carey makes a brilliant Grinch. You get the idea that he's adlibbed a fair bit during the making of the film. He is upstaged a little by the dog who is just lovely.
And at the end of the day, it has a lovely message, that it's not the presents and toys that matter at Christmas, but being with people you love. Which is kind of a theme that I've noticed throughout all of the Christmas films that we've watched.

We followed The Grinch with It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. I can't remember when it was that I first saw this one, but I know we had it on DVD for a while. For me The Muppets means Christmas and this one is definitely a firm favourite. I'll even got so far as to say that I prefer this film to It's a Wonderful Life, I'm not sure what it is about adding the Muppets to classic films, they only seem to make them better.
I like the idea behind this one and although it's starting to show its age, it's still funny and sweet. It's clearly a made for TV affair and you can pinpoint where the commercial breaks would have been in the original. The cast of celebrities who pop up will probably seem incredibly obscure in ten years time, but right now I recognise them and it reminds me of when I was that little bit younger.

I love the idea of the play that the Muppets are putting on in the Muppet Theatre. When I heard that there was going to be a new Muppet film coming out, part of me was desperately hoping that it would be a feature length version of Moulin Scrooge. I love all of the little nods to other films, like The Grinch (which we'd watched just a few hours before watching this one).
David Arquette as Daniel the angel who doesn't really seem to know what he's doing is funny, and it's good to see the Muppets as they would have been without Kermit. I especially like the bit with Gonzo as well, I have a huge soft spot for Gonzo. I also like the little nod to Yoda as well when Daniel 'accidentally' takes Kermit to a different world. Plus it has Whoopi Goldberg in it as well.

I think it's a lovely little film. Just a bit of fluff for the run up to Christmas, and everything turns out right in the end (as you knew it would at the start). Plus it always reminds me that I really have to get hold of the complete series of Scrubs on DVD and watch it all again at some point.

I'm not sure when I'll next get to update with the other films we've been watching, we've just got a few left to go so I'm guessing I'll have to spent my post Christmas holiday getting caught up with things then. For now, I've got to go write some Christmas cards!

Christmas Countdown: Film #16 - Home Alone 3 & Film #17 - Flint Street Nativity

The boxset of Home Alone films included both the third and the fourth ones, so film number 16 was Home Alone 3. I don't think of this film as being a particularly Christmassy film, unlike the others it's taking place in the run-up to Christmas, rather than actually at Christmas. But there are wreaths on the doors, Christmas trees in the gardens and snow on the ground, so it's Christmassy enough.
I think of this one as more of a children's film than the original two films. It's a lot more slapstick and it doesn't have as many of the more sensitive moments as in the first two - though it does a good job with the elderly nextdoor neighbour.
This one is a little bit more contrived than the others, I always feel a bit annoyed at the way that the parents go away and leave the little boy home alone during the day when he's not well. But it's obviously done just to get them out of the way. Because of the change in family and burglars it feels only tangentally linked to the original franchise whereas with a few changes it probably could have been a perfectly acceptible stand alone film.
The kid playing Alex is really cute, I love the way he giggles and laughs. I get the impression that he probably had a great time making the film, he certainly seems to be having fun on screen. The team of burglars works well in this film and the climax of the film with them assaulting the house is really funny.

I also love the rat in the film. We sat watching the film with all of ours out. I couldn't help but notice that the apparently female rat is quite clearly a little boy rat. I wish I'd taken a photo of the moment when two of our girl rats were both sitting on top of the cage watching the big rat on TV.

One of my favourite films in the run up to Christmas is Flint Street Nativity. I actually remember watching it when it was originally on TV in 1999 and then wanted to see it for years afterwards. When I discovered that it had come out on DVD I snapped it up and it's been part of our Christmas TV tradition since then.
I've also discovered that it's now a stage play as well, that's something I'm really going to have to keep my eyes out for (or bully my local drama group into doing in the future). I love everything about Flint Street Nativity, the fact that there's adults playing the parts of children is just an added bonus.

I love seeing the way everything is made bigger to make the adults seem smaller. It looks just like hundreds of other primary school classrooms up and down the country. After a while you almost forget that you're watching adults pretending to be children and just get caught up with all the classroom politics instead.

I remember when I saw it the first time thinking that this was pretty true to life. It's a bit compacted to fill the hour long slot it was originally in, but everything that goes on there happens in real primary school classrooms. I especially love the fighting over who gets to be Mary and the kids getting stage fright, forgetting their lines and generally making it up as they go along in the play.
As well as being ridiculously hilarious, it's also got some lovely sensitive moments. Especially with the child with the lisp and Tim, the narrator. It actually ends on a bit of a sad note. But it is very clever how the children's parents are played by the actors themselves. It brings it round to the end nicely.

My one complaint with the DVD is that it retains the original breaks from when it was on ITV. It's kind of cute the way the children's recorder choir introduces the beginning and end of each break but it would have been a bit nicer to just run the whole thing through without chopping it up.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: Film #14 - The Nightmare Before Christmas & Film #15 - Miracle On 34th Street

At Halloween this year we first watched The Nightmare Before Christmas because it occupies that nice position between Halloween and Christmas film. It's one of those ones you can pull out to watch in the run up to Christmas when it's still a bit too early to start on the Christmas films and CDs.

It's one that I'd love to get on blu-ray at some point, the sort of animation that it is must look fantastic on blu-ray. But the version we have looks very nice, I bought it for Mr. Click's stocking a few years ago. It looks pretty much identical to this:
I have to admit that this film does kind of creep me out. I was given the option to see it in the cinema when I was much younger and I'm very glad that I didn't, it probably would've given me nightmares. It really reminds me of the more modern Corpse Bride and now I've seen it twice in just a couple of months, I think I'll have to get a copy of that on DVD or blu-ray as well.

One of my favourite things about this film has to be the music. The story is pretty straightforward but the music is what makes it really special. The songs are the sort that worm their way into your head and you find yourself humming and singing them for days afterwards.
I really love the way that it's animated. Nowadays when we're so used to computer animation, this really stands out, especially when you think about the amount of time and effort that would have had to go into producing this one. It's so well done that you forget that you're watching something that was created by hand. It's so distinctly Burtonesque as well, with the curls and curves and zany architecture. I have a huge soft spot for Tim Burton's films and I fully intend to expand my collection!

The other film that we watched, just yesterday, was Miracle on 34th Street, the more recent one that was made in 1994. This is another traditional Christmas film for me, I've seen it pretty much every year since I was eight.
As much as I love the original, this is my favourite version. It's been very well done to make it feel rather timeless. Little things, like the children's clothes, are designed to look slightly old-fashioned, so although it's made in the 90s, there's not really anything standing out immediately as being from that particular era. It feels as though it could be happening ten years ago, or right now.

Richard Attenborough is Santa Claus for me. Everything about him is just how I imagine the man himself would be. He's really lovely and I much prefer the modern version of the story to the original one. I prefer Kris defending himself against the other Santa and being set up, rather than just attacking the psychologist as he does in the original. I also prefer the way that it is resolved with the Judge deciding that he can't really rule either way, rather than the whole thing hinging on the decision of a couple of guys in the Dead Letter Office.
Unfortunately, age is making me into a bit of a cynic so there are some points that stand out rather more now than they have on previous viewings. We did joke, as we watched it, that this could have been called Home Alone 3, Susan's mother seems to have no problems leaving her daughter apparently on her own on Christmas Eve.

Brian's proposal to Dorey seems to come a little out of the blue as well, judging from how surprised she is by it. You get the impression that you're seeing their story from about halfway through and that perhaps there has been something between them, but as we're not told what that might have been, their relationship is a bit confusing. I mean, they obviously love each other and get together by the end, but I really wish I knew what the deal between them was.

Other than that, it's still a magical film. It's still one of my absolute favourites and I'm glad that I've not missed out on it this year.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: Film #12 - Merry Christmas Mr Bean & Film #13 - Home Alone 2

As part of our Christmas collection this year we've acquired a DVD copy of Merry Christmas Mr Beanwhich I have to admit is not one of my favourite Christmas films. I vaguely remember seeing it when I was much younger, but even now Mr Bean annoys me incredibly.
That said, it is funny. But it's not really my sort of funny. I'm not so into the slapstick sort of humour, I prefer something a bit more verbal and considering that Mr Bean largely communicates in grunts and mumbles, there isn't a whole lot of that.
It is quite interesting to compare the difference between this and Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder's Christmas which we'd watched just a short while before. He even looks totally different, to the point that you feel as though you're watching someone completely different.
But it's not that long, so I can tolerate it. If it was any longer, then I might find it a little more annoying, but I can just about handle it. And there are some very funny bits, the turkey and the girlfriend's gift spring to mind, it's just not one of those things I feel like I have to watch to make it feel like Christmas.

We then watched Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. I've seen this film many times over the years, most recently in August this year (because apparently that's the best time of year to show Home Alone) but it's not often that I've watched it from start to finish all the way through without interruptions.
The thing I love about both this one and the original is the way that everything is carefully set up through the film, so at the end with the bandits, you've seen almost everything that's used against them. It's quite clever. There's also lots of little nods to the previous film, with the film that Kevin watches as well as the family watching It's A Wonderful Life in a different language.

It's also got some wonderful little sentimental moments, this time with Kevin and Brenda Fricker's character (unfortunately I can't see her as anyone other than Megan in Casualty). I especially like the bits with Duncan's toy store as well - the toy store itself looks fantastic and I just want to be able to go there and play with everything!
I wouldn't say I like this one as much as the first one, but it's still a nice little story and it works well. I doubt whether or not the same film could be made today, especially when you think about the way Kevin manages to board the wrong plane without being stopped at all. Plus with all most conveniences, by age ten you'd imagine that Kevin would probably have a mobile phone so it would have been relatively easy to track him down. It's very much a 90s film, but it certainly has that Christmas feel.

Christmas Countdown: Film #10 - Father Christmas & Film #11 - Muppet Christmas Carol

I've fallen a little behind in my Christmas film write-ups. We've actually managed to watch almost ten Christmas films since the weekend, so while we're well on track to get finished before Christmas, I'm needing to pull my socks up if I'm going to get a little review posted for each film!

Following on from the last films we watched, during one of our marathon sessions where we watched about three in quick succession, we saw Father Christmas. Now I know that I'd seen this one before, I could remember it very clearly, but I couldn't say exactly when it was that I saw it. I've definitely not watched it in the last ten years or so.
Our copy is very conveniently a double set with both Father Christmas and The Snowman on the one disc. I think of the two, I kind of like Father Christmas slightly more. It seems to be a little more for the parents than for the children.

I like the idea of Father Christmas living in a little suburban terraced house with his reindeer, dog and cat, deciding to take a bit of time to himself and have a holiday. And what a holiday! Overeating in France, gambling in Las Vegas and, my personal favourite, spending some time in rainy Scotland.
I prefer the animation in Father Christmas to that in The Snowman. It's more modern and somehow cleaner. As much as I love The Snowman, the animation has a flickering quality to it, Father Christmas is smoother and easier to watch.

I do also love the little nod to The Snowman, at the Snowmen's party, it ties the two together very nicely. It's been a long time since I've had anyone small enough to share the two books with, but I'm thinking it's time I got hold of a couple of copies for the future.

The second film that we watched on Saturday - yes, it's taken me that long to get around to writing these up - was my personal favourite Christmas film; The Muppet Christmas Carol. I've managed to watch this film pretty much every Christmas for as long as I can remember, pretty impressive considering that I didn't own a copy of it until it came out on DVD.
Over the years I've bought about three different versions of the DVD, each time hoping that they will have replaced the missing song which can be seen in most televised versions of the film and which is present on the video. When Love Is Gone is one of my favourite songs in the whole film and the scene where is missing really feels incomplete without it.

But aside from that, it's a wonderful film and despite all the other versions of the tale that we've watched so far this year, it's still my favourite version. I'm a huge fan of the Muppets anyway, but I love the way that they are fairly seamlessly integrated into Dickensian London for the story.

Perhaps because I've seen it so many times, but for me, Michael Caine is Scrooge. Whenever I read A Christmas Carol it's Michael Caine that I'm picturing. I think he does a fantastic job acting alongside the Muppets and from the deleted scenes on the DVD it looks as though he enjoyed himself making the film.

Normally I would watch it about once a week in the run up to Christmas but this year it looks as though I'll just be seeing it once because we've not got the time to watch each film multiple times. But at least I've got a copy of the soundtrack now, so we can keep replaying that for the rest of the year!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: Film #8 - Blackadder's Christmas Carol & Film #9 - Home Alone

Luckily the week when we found ourselves with less time to actually watch the films in our Christmas Countdown, we ended up with all the shorter films to watch, several of which were the made-for-TV ones which we've acquired on DVD recently.

We watched Blackadder's Christmas Carol late on Friday night. I like the way that it subverts the traditional story of A Christmas Carol and the visit from the ghost turns Blackadder from the nicest man in England to the same sort of person as all his ancestors.
I like the little scenes from the previous versions of Blackadder, especially Blackadder the Third. And you can't help but think of Robbie Coltrane as the ghost is incredibly similar to Hagrid, I always expect his first line to be 'You're a wizard, Blackadder!'
The whole thing is classic Blackadder humour and it's great to see the future as well. It reminds me of the old episodes of Doctor Who with the black and white set with the funky special features. I think my favourite character is Prince Albert, played by Jim Broadbent, he's totally dippy and his accent is brilliant.

I think it's one of those things that I appreciate more now than I did when I was much younger. It's got the visual comedy that appealled to me when I was little but now I get the jokes as well, so you can carry on finding something new in it each time you watch it.

The second film that we watched was Home Alone. I did actually watch it at one point in December last year, but missed several large chunks of it. Mr Click has also watched it several times, but had never seen it all the way through before, apparently it makes a lot more sense once you understand how Kevin came to be left at home alone.
Mr Click picked up the boxset of all four Home Alone films just after we'd got our final film for the Christmas Countdown. We'd decided not to get any more, then he saw it on offer and decided to go for it, despite it not being one of his favourite films.

With this film, I always forget all of the rest of the story and just remember the bits with the burglars, when in reality that actually makes up a relatively small part of the film towards the end. It's another one which you see through different eyes when you watch it as an adult as compared to seeing it as a child.
I like the way that in the first half hour of the film there's a huge amount of set up for what's going to come later. You see the little things like the basement and the film that Kevin uses to scare away the pizza guy and the burglars, it's quite clever really. And I don't think that I've ever really paid much attention to Mr. Marley's story either, have to say, I love the little nod with the character's name there.

It was a perfect Saturday afternoon film as well. It's another one which will be good for watching with the family in the future, there's jokes for the kids and for the grown ups. We've still got Home Alone 2 to watch (which I've actually seen a fair bit of recently because for some inexplicable reason Film 4 decided to show it in August) as well as the other two in the boxset, one of which (number 4) I've never actually seen before.

After Home Alone we watched Father Christmas and (my personal Christmas favourite) Muppet Christmas Carol.

Christmas Countdown: Film #6 - The Snowman & Film #7 - A Christmas Carol

A bit of bad weather this week (read: hurricane force winds) disrupted our viewing schedule somewhat this week. I'd hoped to update my blog earlier in the week, but when I had access to an internet connection, the weather decided we'd have more fun without electricity so I've fallen a bit behind.

We watched The Snowman which I don't think I've seen in years. I've probably seen it on TV around Christmastime, but I honestly can't remember actually sitting down to watch it. We've certainly never had it on DVD before.
I clearly remember watching it at infant school, because I was one of the older kids, we were allowed to sit on benches at the very back of the hall. I also had the board game of the film or book as well. I loved the little model snowmen that you played with and always liked to be the green one because that looked most like the real one.

It's not a long film, so it slotted into our schedule quite nicely considering we were starting to fall behind. I think it's more of a children's film than any of the other 'family films' that we've watched so far this year. The way it's animated makes it seem magical and kind of childlike anyway. Although I do wonder if some children, especially nowadays, might be bored by the lack of dialogue in the film.
It's one that I'm looking forward to watching again in the future, and I kind of want to find a copy of that board game again. It reminded me of being much younger. And I kind of want to get my colouring pencils out as well and copy some of the pictures from the film.

The second film that we watched was A Christmas Carol - the version from 1984 starring George C. Scott. The cover of our version looks nothing like this:
We got ours from HMV when we decided to splurge on a bunch of DVDs during a trip to Glasgow. It wasn't one that I'd heard of before, it one of those stories that has been turned into TV and film versions so many times that it's kind of tricky to keep track of them all - we've got about seven different versions of one sort or another in our collection alone.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting to. I hadn't recognised the name of the actor playing Scrooge, and our DVD cover doesn't show anyone else, so I had the impression it would be a bunch of unknowns. Instead I ended up spending most of the film playing 'what-do-I-know-them-from?'
I think this is one of the closest versions to the book that I've seen (I'd just finished reading the book before we watched it so I suppose I picked up on things that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed). There were some little changes, but on the whole I felt as though they fitted in very well, the 'similies' game that Fred's nephew played at his Christmas party helped to add to Scrooge's 'I'm as light as a feather, I'm as happy as an angel, I'm as merry as a schoolboy'.

Watching all the versions of A Christmas Carol so close together has also made me notice how similar they all are visually. You could almost take the actors from this version and put them into the same sets as the one made fourteen years earlier and nobody would look out of place. I suppose that's what helps to add to the story's timelessness.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: Film #4 - White Christmas & Film #5 - Scrooge

Cold, wet and gale force winds kept us indoors on Saturday, so we had a small Christmas film binge.
We started with that old classic: White Christmas, for me it's not Christmas unless I've watched that film. There's nothing particularly new about watching this film. I practically know it off by heart, I certainly know most of the songs off by heart!

I think each year I watch this film, I love it a little bit more. It was especially interesting to watch it so soon after watching Holiday Inn, because it meant that I was able to pick out the bits of music that had been reused.
It's just so well constructed and I have to admit, I love all the outfits, especially the dresses at the end of the film. If I'd had an unlimited budget for my wedding, I would've worn a dress like that!
Later in the day we watched Scrooge, the first film of the bunch that I hadn't seen before. It was made in 1970 and starred Albert Finney as Scrooge.
I wasn't entirely sure what to make of this film, not having heard of it before, and I'll admit that for the first song I was still wondering what I had let myself in for. By the Ghost of Christmas Present I was well into it though, and this was a nice start to the first of seven versions of A Christmas Carol that we'll be watching this month.
Albert Finney seemed like an unusual choice to play Scrooge, especially considering the fact that he was only 34-years-old at the time. While we were watching it I couldn't help but be reminded of Rex Harrison in Doctor Doolittle, so it was interesting to learn today that he had been considered for the role of Scrooge - in some respects the songs were very similar to those in Doctor Doolittle.

I liked the fact that, despite the singing and dancing, it remained very faithful to the book. And it was wonderfully creepy in places, what with the ghouls and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. All in all, I enjoyed it and I'm quite looking forward to adding it to our collection of films for the run up to Christmas.
Next up on the DVD player will be The Snowman which I don't think I've actually seen since I was at primary school.