Movie Watching (December)

Another year has passed me by.  For the final month of 2015, I watched mostly Christmas themed movies (or movies set at Christmas time).  The lone exception being a rewatch of “Jurassic World”.  Here are the reviews:

New:

Arthur Christmas- This is a really fun, animated Christmas movie that is probably just a notch below some of Pixar’s best work.  The plot is actually very simple.  Santa is getting on in years and he overlooks giving a bicycle to one little girl.  Santa’s clumsy son, Arthur, swings into action in an attempt to save the little girl’s Christmas.  Although the plot is basic, the way this story is told is genius.  It is an entertaining time for the entire family.  ****

Holiday Inn- “Holiday Inn” is one of those old movies (released in 1942) that I had always heard about but never seen.  That has changed this Christmas season and alas, I was disappointed.  Jim Hardy and Ted Hanover (played by the ole crooner Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire respectively) are competing for the affections of an up and coming performer, Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds).  Jim opens up a holiday inn that’s aim is to throw parties for every holiday on the American calendar.  He is head-over-heels for Linda but it looks as if Ted may be taking her off the market.  The love triangle, and particularly the ending, are incredibly unbelievable and there doesn’t seem to be much build up to give the audience an explanation of why the people who end up together got to that place.  The film seems distracted with giving Astaire his tap dance numbers (he is definitively an exceptional dancer) and Crosby his musical numbers to sing (the first time America heard the song “White Christmas”).  Those two aspects are the strength of the movie.  There are white actors in blackface during the Lincoln birthday scene which is nauseating to the say the least.  I realize this was a sign of the sad times of the past but it does not stop the scene from being stomach churning.  **1/2

Rewatch:

Trading Places- One of the movies where we can see the sheer comic genius of Eddie Murphy on display.  He is begging for money in a park and accidently runs into a stuck up investor which becomes the launching point for a scene of hilarity and the plot.  The owners of the firm Mortimer and Randolph Duke witness this event and hatch a wily plot:  what if the homeless guy (named Billy Ray Valentine) and the snobbish investor (Louis Winthorpe III played by Dan Aykroyd) were to switch places in respects to the career (or no career).  The result is a considerable commentary on class system and even how racism plays into how people are ordered in society.  While focusing on very serious themes, the film never loses its comic touch.  ****

Gremlins- Rule # 1: Don’t get them wet.  Rule #2:  Don’t feed them after midnight.  Rule #3:  No bright lights.  All of these rules are violated by a boy whose father brings home a mogwai (a cuddly looking ewok type creature).  This turns the mogwai into Gremlins who furiously reproduce and wreck rambunctious havoc upon a small town during Christmas time.  I don’t think I had seen this movie since I was about ten years old.  This is purely B-movie bliss and has a ridiculous vibe and humor to the film.  ***

How the Grinch Stole Christmas- Jim Carrey seemed like the perfect casting choice to play famous Grinch.  There are times when director Ron Howard cuts Carrey loose while rolling the cameras but sadly, those are the parts of the movie which seem flat.  Carrey has been better at improv in other places.  That is not to say that there is a certain amount of charm to this live-action retelling of one of Dr. Seuss’ most widely known stories.  Howard and screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S Seaman even tell a backstory of the Grinch explaining why he hates Christmas so much.  The film doesn’t take itself seriously and certainly meanders to expressions of sentimentality by the ending but what Christmas movie doesn’t go there?  ***

The Polar Express- I’m a huge fan of “The Polar Express” and love the execution of this movie from the best-selling Chris Van Allsburg book.  Director Robert Zemeckis works from his own screenplay written with William Broyles Jr to craft a movie that is brimming with wild imagination, child-like wonder and sheer mystery.  The latter part of this has received a lot of criticism.  They say the movie is too dark or the look not cheery enough for a Christmas film.  I believe that these elements are the films strength.  The story is shrouded in a dark mysteriousness.  Not dark as in evil or disturbing but the mysteriousness of fanciful imagination…or is it?  Tom Hanks plays six different roles in this stop-action animation film (Hero boy, Santa Claus, father, conductor, Hobo and Scrooge).  There are not many animated movies that bring this degree of wonder.  ****1/2

A Charlie Brown Christmas- Is there anything more classic around Christmastime than the famous “A Charlie Brown Christmas” featuring the Peanuts characters created by the legendary Charles Schulz?  Maybe “It’s a Wonderful Life” but not much else.  Charlie Brown becomes repulsed by the crass materialism he sees around him and sets off to find the true meaning of Christmas.  This is a rebuke to America for the ages.  Of course, Linus helps Charlie Brown see the true meaning of Christmas.  He recites Luke 2:8-14 effortlessly and simply without explanation and declares: “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”  Indeed.  *****

Home Alone- Every year on Christmas Eve, my family watches “Home Alone”, the slapstick Macauley Culkin film that finds him home alone while his family travels to Paris.  He ends up taking on two would-be burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) with eyes to rob his house (and several on the block).  I can’t believe that this movie came out 25 years ago now.  ****

Jurassic World- I caught this movie in the theaters this summer.  The 4th installment of the money-making franchise is basically a remake of the superior Jurassic Park except the theme park is fully functioning now and therefore, more humans can get munched on by loose dinosaurs.  Yes, there is a certain amount of fun to be had but the next sequel needs to take this series in a bold new direction.  ***

 

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About dangeroushope

Striving to follow Christ, love people and learn more about the world.
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