Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Diet Of Christmas Films VI

It's that time of the year again. The Diet of Christmas Films is celebrating its sixth edition.

For those new to this concept, this is how it goes - I spend the weeks leading up to Christmas Day watching films with a festive theme and, after viewing each title, I post a few words writing about what it was about and what I thought about it. Then, at midnight on Christmas morning, the blog post is published.

Last year's edition almost ended on a sour note after watching Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. I have ensured this will not happen again in 2013 as the final title I intend to watch is a movie that I haven't seen for a while but is set at Christmas time. The version I own comes in a special Christmas Blu-ray case so it qualifies. More on that later.

It's November 30th as I am writing this introduction and I have just opened up an envelope filled with DVDs that I had recorded last year. I am behind which is good as it ensures I can keep this tradition going for another few years. I'm also planning to record more from this year's telly so I hope to end with with another envelope full for 2014.

To get to 2014, I need to start 2013. Here goes..

A Christmas Story (1983)

Brief Description:
Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940s.

I chose to watch this film first as I have heard a lot about it over the years. Some have said it is the best Christmas movie they have seen so I had to see for myself.
It's nowhere near my personal best. However, it is a really nice film.
It's more a story about childhood than anything else and is seen through the eyes of a narrator's memory of growing up in 1940s America.
Even though the story was charming and funny in parts, the thing I liked the most was the prose from the narrator. It was well written. I might try and get a copy of Jean Shepherd's book 'In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash'' which the film is loosely based on. I guess that in itself proves that it has appeal.

Since watching the film, I've read more about it on and it seems that it inspired the creation of The Wonder Years. I also read that the original house used for the movie was purchased on eBay. The new owner went about replicating the interior to resemble what it looked like in the movie. He also bought the house next door in order to build a gift shop and museum dedicated to the movie. That, my friends, is a fan.

Anything But Christmas (2012)

Brief Description:
An author with a phobia of Christmas learns how to celebrate the holiday from a widow and her son.

IMDB doesn't have a short synopsis of this movie so I had to make up my own 'brief description'. The film is about a man who has grown up in fear of Christmas because it reminds him of the rows his parents would have during it. He moves in with his girlfriend whose husband had died while working overseas during Christmas so she uses the holiday to hide her grief from her son. As you would expect, by the end of the movie, everybody lives happily ever after.
I enjoyed the film even though it was predictable (name me a Christmas movie that isn't predictable!). Christopher Lloyd played the man's father and did a splendid job playing the curmudgeon.

12 Wishes Of Christmas (2011)

Brief Description:
A woman must set things right, when a mysterious lady named Noel grants her 12 wishes and they magically come true for Christmas.

For some reason that I cannot recall, I watched the first five minutes of this film last Christmas but decided to hold off and catch it this year. I think it may have had something to do with Elisa Donovan being in it. If you recall, she appeared in two films I viewed in 2012 so I more than likely decided to wait until this year to cover another one.
Donovan plays the main character who uses up her twelve wishes and then has to fix some of the consequences the wishes take once they have been made. It's typical of what you would expect from a movie with wish granting as the main plot. With that said, it wasn't too predictable in parts and did make for a good story about looking out for others during the festive period.
I spent the majority of this film trying to work out where I had seen the neighbour, Harry, before. By the end of the movie, and once again with the help of, I realised he was played by the actor who portrayed the father in the TV series - Family Ties.

Nativity! (2009)

Brief Description:
An improvised comedy based around a nativity play.

You will not believe how long it took me to finally see this film.
I had it on a Love Film list back when it first came out (and when I had a free month trial with the DVD/Blu-ray company) but it didn't get delivered. I saw that it was on Christmas Eve last year so decided to record it for this year.
Was it worth the wait? Not really. That's not to say I hated it. I just didn't like it as much as I thought I would.
Firstly, the description above claiming it to be 'improvised' is a stretch. It may have been improvised in some scenes (I don't know).
It had its moments as there were some funny scenes. It just felt rushed, I suppose. Another thing is that I have grown accustomed to the American version of Christmas being portrayed in these films I watch. Therefore, as this is a British-made film, there's something missing. It's up to the viewer to make their mind up on whether that's a good or bad thing.
I really should embrace that this is how the Brits do Christmas movies and leave it at that. So I will.

Snow (2004)

Brief Description:
Set in San Ernesto, California with only three days before Christmas, Nick Snowden needs to rescue a young reindeer from a zoo.

This is an American  Christmas made-for-TV movie that I enjoyed.
'Nick Snowden' is really Santa Claus' son who has taken over the job from his father and - in his first Christmas - he loses a reindeer to a hunter who puts the animal in a zoo so Nick's job is to try and find a way to teach the reindeer to fly so he can escape. Along the way, he falls in love with one of the zoo attendants (as you would expect!).
One of the best parts of the film is the fact that Bobb'e J. Thompson is in it. This actor played the wisecracking youngster in Role Models. He plays a somewhat similar character here.

Battle Of The Bulbs (2010)

Bob Wallace makes sure to go all out every year on Christmas decorations so that he can have the brightest and most festive house in his neighbourhood. This year, he notices that his new neighbour has put up an even brighter and more lavish display. The fight is on when they declare war for the best Christmas decoration display in the neighbourhood,

We've been here before, right?
This film was quite similar to other movies I have seen in the past where neighbours are battling each other over their exterior Christmas displays.
With that said, I think this film came up with a unique ending that, despite it seeming to be rushed, did make sense as well as have a good Christmas message to it (ie be good to your neighbours over the holidays)

Snow 2 :  Brain Freeze (2008)

It's three days before Christmas, and Nick Snowden forgets about spending early Christmas with his wife, Sandy due to pressure at work. After a fight, Nick walks through a magical mirror and ends up with amnesia. Now it's up to Sandy to recharge his memory and save Christmas once and for all, but Nick's old nemesis - Buck Seger - returns and uses Santa's amnesia to his advantage.

As you've no doubt worked out, this film is the sequel to Snow.
It's set a year after the events of the first movie. It's slightly different in that Sandy is more the hero in this one as she has to make Nick remember who he is without outright telling him otherwise it will ruin Christmas.
It was a letdown not to see Bobb'e J. Thompson in this one. It wouldn't have worked, anyway. Even though this film is set a year later, there was a four year gap between productions.
I'd like to see a Snow 3. Not sure if there is one but it would be nice to catch up with things and see how Nick and Sandy get on beyond their second Christmas, which ends with Sandy telling Nick that they're expecting a baby.

A Perfect Christmas (2012)

NYC ad exec Holly Maddux dreams of the perfect life, the perfect job, and of course, the perfect man to sweep her off her feet. When she wakes up one day to find the 'perfect man' awaiting her, who is nothing more than a mannequin come to life, she must decide if 'perfect' is the perfect fit for her.

I spent part of the movie thinking to myself 'this will end up being a dream'. I spent the rest believing otherwise.
It wasn't bad, if I'm being honest. It's one of the most interesting films from a storyline perspective that I have watched this Christmas.
The original title is Holly's Holiday. Not sure why it was changed for the UK.

Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus (2004)

Brief Description:
Nick's plan to let fate bring his wife to him must be altered because he must replace his father as Santa Claus on December 26.

It seems the 'Santa's son taking over' storyline is the in-thing this year!
With that said, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
Steve Guttenberg played the part of Nick. Guttenberg was one of the main stars from my childhood (I was Police Academy crazy) so it was interesting to see that he is still finding work.
And he found work a year later in the sequel to Single Santa.
I wonder what's next on my viewing list...

Meet The Santas (2005)

Because she is marrying the man who assumed the mantle of Santa Claus last December 26th, Beth's postponed wedding has to be rescheduled for Christmas Eve. Overwhelmed by selling the house she and her son share and the prospect of the duties of Mrs. Claus, she has to call on her estranged socialite Grinch of a mother to arrange her wedding. Of course, her mother has never met the fiance nor his family and has no inkling of his secret.

Yet another good one!
Sequels to Christmas movies are good because you get to see how they live happily ever after (albeit with another hiccup they have to overcome before living happily ever after all over again or until another sequel.)
The minor characters from the first film have more prominent roles in this film so that was also another thing good about it.

As I write this, it's Sunday December 22nd. I have watched ten festive films and still have a batch to go through. I also have a number recorded onto the hardrive of my DVD recorder. The last two films have been so good that I've decided to finish things here and go ahead and watch the final film on this year's list. The remainder of the DVDs can wait until 2014.

And 2015!

The final film I'll be watching this year is Gremlins. Some might say it's not really a Christmas film. To them I say - it is.

If it being set around Christmas doesn't classify it as such, then the fact that I have purchased a limited edition Blu-ray of the movie with a Christmas cover does.

It has been a very long time since I have seen this movie and I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Gremlins (1984)

A gadget salesman is looking for a special gift for his son and finds one at a store in Chinatown. The shopkeeper is reluctant to sell him the 'Mogwai' but sells it to him with the warning to never expose him to bright light, water, or to feed him after midnight. All of this happens and the result is a gang of gremlins that decide to tear up the town on Christmas Eve.

I have surprised myself.
It must have been at least ten-to-fifteen years since I last sat through this movie in its entirety and I knew it almost word-for-word.
As mentioned previously, I've been a fan of the film since I first saw it when it originally came out on VHS so it was cool to see it again. It was also good to know that I was finishing the Festive movie viewing with a film I knew wouldn't disappoint (unlike what could have happened last year).
Gremlins isn't your typical Christmas movie but I bet a lot of people would agree it can classify as one with a little push.
If you haven't see it, seek it out. If you have, and it's been a while since you have - watch it again!

It's now December 24th as I type this final part out. It's time for me to select the best film of the season.

I'm going to disqualify Gremlins because I had seen it before and knew what to expect.  This leaves three others and I find it hard to determine which one to choose.

I enjoyed A Christmas Story and also have good feelings towards both of the Steve Guttenberg movies so I'm going to have to call it a three-way tie.

All in all, I found the films to be good this season. Remember, I still have a batch ready for next year.

Merry Christmas to you all.

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