Friday, December 25, 2020

A Diet Of Christmas Films 13

Ever since Christmas of 2008, I have published a post each Christmas Day with a list - and ultimately, my thoughts - of the festive movies I have watched in the weeks and months leading up to December 25th.

The tradition has continued this year. However, I did something completely different.

As everyone reading this should know, 2020 was a terrible year with the Coronavirus outbreak that hit the world. The epidemic killed many people and forced everyone to live a sheltered life in an attempt to stop the breeding of the disease as well as to relieve pressure on the healthcare industry.

Under the government imposed lockdown, I decided I would give myself head-start on the Christmas movie viewing by starting the marathon on March 31st. I kicked off slow, but picked up pace as the big day was in sight.

Here's what I watched in order....

Santa and Pete (1999)

It's the first Christmas without Grandma and a difficult time for the family, until Grandpa decides to share a story with his ten-year-old grandson, Terence.

I started off with a good one.

Santa and PeteThe grandfather - played by James Earl Jones - tells his grandson a story about St. Nicholas and his friend, Pete. The pair travel from Holland to a colony in New Amsterdam. They have a few things to do along the way like find a lady who has moved to the New World and deliver a ring to her from a gentleman back in Holland. They also have to find a way to reunite a young girl with her parents.

It's really an origin story of Santa Claus as, in the fable that is being told to the grandson, St. Nick is given his red coat, a hat, has his horses replaced with reindeer, enters a home through a chimney, has his sleigh built, flies with the reindeer and many other things.

I enjoyed it a lot. While it was going on, I was thinking that Pete would end up being the grandfather (I surmised he might have something that would prevent him from ageing!). I wasn't right on that one, but I think it did imply that Pete was an ancestor of the grandfather.

Once again, I really liked this film. It was a cool one to start this marathon with.

Santa's Workshop (1932)

Santa's little helpers must hurry to finish the toys before Christmas Day.

Disney's Santa's Workshop (1932)One thing that came out over here in the UK in 2020 is Disney Plus.

A subscription to this streaming service has allowed me to watch a lot of classic Disney cartoons and one of them is Santa's Workshop, which is a six minute animation.

It must have been great animation for its time and still kind of holds up if you look at it through nostalgic eyes.

The short shows Santa and his helpers preparing for Christmas Eve in the workshop. The animation shows the toys being built and sent on their way to Santa's sack in preparation for their delivery.

As i said, it was probably great animation for its day. One thing that made me laugh is one of the toys looked like a Charlie Chaplin figure with a policeman marching behind him. I'm sure it was meant to be Chaplin.

Christmas Wander (2017)

Christmas Wander (2017)Summary:
Amelia Pittman is forced to interact with her father, Fred Pittman, who abandoned her as a child and now has Alzheimer's.

There was more to this story than the 'summary' IMDB shares.

This is a road movie that happens at Christmas. Well, I thought that until the last few minutes of the film where there is a hidden - religious - message in it. This message doesn't necessarily have to be Christmas-themed, though.

Anyway, the pair travel to a cottage because this is where the father has hidden a bag full of cash he stole in a bank raid many years ago. The daughter is in need of financial help so is relying on finding the money.

They do indeed find the cash and I couldn't help but think that they were going to keep it. The money ended up not going to the lady in the end, but she did fall on her feet eventually. Well, it's a Christmas film what else could they do?!

It wasn't a good film. The story was okay, but the acting was a bit ropy.

Mr. Christmas (2005)

Mr. Christmas (2005)In 1941, a young father can't afford to buy his 5-year old daughter the bicycle she expects Santa Claus to bring her for Christmas.

This was a short film that evidently had a low budget because the acting and filming wasn't at its best.

With that said, it had a nice story.

One of the young daughters in a family is looking forward to having a bike from Father Christmas. Her parents are struggling to make ends meet and cannot afford to purchase the gift.

And did she get it? Well, it's a Christmas film - what do you expect?

Actually, the answer is no.

For the first time that I can recall, a Christmas film - in which one of the characters is desperate for a particular gift - does not get what they've wanted.

I guess that kind of makes it unique in a way. With that said, she does get a present that she is very happy with.

I won't spoil the surprise even though I've already spoilt the fact she doesn't get the bike!

The Beverly Hillbillies' Christmas Adventure (2017)

The Beverly Hillbillies Christmas AdventureSummary:
The Clampetts decide to head home to the country for Christmas to surprise Pearl and Jethrine, so Mr Drysdale and Jane arrange for the Clampettes first plane ride (with hilarious results). Later, back in Beverly Hills, the Clampetts receive gifts from the Drysdales, including a TV they think is a washing machine and boat with a pet chimp aboard, which they mistake for a sailor from another country

First things first, the title has 2017 on it because that must be the year the film was distributed. This is very much a couple of Christmas-themed episodes of the original Beverly Hillbillies TV series put together.

I had never really watched the programme at all growing up. It would be on our TVs frequently, but I never seemed to bother going out of my way to watch. It's a shame really, because, for the forty-eight minutes of watching this, I found myself laughing out loud.

Holidate (2020)

Fed up with being single on holidays, two strangers agree to be each other's platonic plus-ones all year long, only to catch reach feelings along the way.

Holidate (2020)

I saw this film pop up on Netflix and then saw that a former Home and Away actor was in it, so thought I'd give it a go.
The Australian actor played the lead character, for what it's worth. He played John Palmer's son in it many years ago (I had to IMDB him because he has matured since then).
As for the film - I was not keen on it at all. Too many lame - visual and verbal - jokes for my liking.
With all that said - I thought the film had a nice conclusion. It made me hate it slightly less than I did for the majority of it.

Operation Christmas Drop (2020)

Congressional aide - Erica - forgoes her family Christmas to travel at her boss's behest. At a beach-side Air Force base, she clashes with Captain Andrew Jantz, who knows her assignment is to find reasons to defunct the facility.

Another swing and a miss from Netflix, I'm afraid. 

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

Rey leaves her friends to prepare for Life Day as she sets off on an adventure to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure. Will see make it back in time for Life Day?

Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

The original Star Wars Holiday Special is something that appeared on American television in 1978. To say that it was well received would be a big fat lie. I watched the special for the 2015 edition of A Diet of Christmas Films. Back then, my opinion was that I didn't like nor dislike it. Anyway, Disney Plus - and Lego - decided to do a Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.
It was a an enjoyable and fun forty-seven minutes of famous scenes from Star Wars being given the Lego treatment. Kind of like what you would see in the Lego Star Wars video games. 
Is it better than the 1978 TV special? Hmm.. I would have to say, if I had both films in front of me - and had to choose one to watch again - I'd probably go for '78 because of how campy it is.

A Christmas Without Snow (1980)

A divorced woman moves to a new city, trying to rebuild her life. She joins the choir of a local church and is inspired by the choirmaster - a curmudgeonly old gentleman who will accept nothing but perfection from his group. As Christmas approaches, and the choir practices for a performance of Handel's 'Messiah', issues of racism, ageism, accusations against a young choir member - as well as a health issue with the director himself - threatens to undermine the performance.

This film was very dated. Not just with the acting and filming, but also had moments in it where there was white scratches across the screen. With all that out of the way, it was a nice TV movie to sit through.
The thing I liked the most about it is the message it had about community overcoming hurdles to celebrate the holiday period as one. 

Alien Xmas (2020)

When extraterrestrials attempt to steal Earth's gravity, one the gift-giving spirit of Christmas - and a small Alien named X - can save the world.

This short animated film was available on Netflix this festive season. It stood out to me because it was produced and directed by the Chiodo Brothers, who created one of my favourite horror films from the 1980's - Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
I think kids will enjoy this film. Especially fans of The Grinch as I found it to be similar. 

It's Christmas, Carol! (2012)

The story of driven, heartless, publishing executive Carol Huffler, who - on Christmas Eve - is visited by her former boss, Eve. 
Eve explains that normally there would be three ghosts for the job, but - due to budget cutbacks - she is in charge of Carol's journey through her past, present and future.

It wouldn't be a Diet of Christmas Films without watching a film based on - or loosely based on, for that matter - Charles Dickens' classic. 
In this film, we see a head of a publishing company realise the true importance of Christmas.
Some of these Christmas Carol films are repetitive, but I kind of enjoyed this one. I suppose mainly because Carrie Fisher played the part of the Christmas ghost. There was a laugh out loud moment in the film when Carol is telling Eve that what she is experiencing is like A Christmas Carol, but she cannot blurt out the title of the book and Eve is trying to help her by asking whether it's 'Miracle on 34th Street?' One of the titles Eve asks is 'Star Wars' for the in-joke.
So, yeah, a repetitive concept but I didn't dislike this one.

The Mistletoe Promise (2016)

Two strangers who don't enjoy Christmas make a pact to pretend to be in a relationship during the holiday period in order to advance their careers. But, as they get to know each other, they are able to enjoy Christmas. They soon realise that their contract may lead them down a road that neither expected resulting in questionable feelings.

I have seen similar stories over the years, and even seen one this year with Holidate, but this version was more enjoyable.

I'll Be Next Door For Christmas (2018)

A comedy about a family that's crazy for Christmas. Except for the 16 year old daughter - her family's over-the-top Christmas celebrations have made her life miserable. When her long distance boyfriend decides to visit for the holidays, she's determined to spare him her family's Christmas obsession, so she hires actors to play her parents and stages a fake Christmas dinner in the empty house next door.

This was a very funny film. It had a lot of wacky characters and the storyline was a lot of fun. 

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

Kate Pierce, now a cynical teen, is unexpectedly reunited with Santa Claus when a mysterious troublemaker threatens to cancel Christmas - forever.

I watched the first movie in this series when it first came out in 2018. I looked back at what I wrote about it after catching the sequel. Back then, I stated that I found the movie enjoyable, especially the special effects, and that I was certain my nephew would enjoy it.
The 2020 edition had great special effects as well. However, I think the first movie was a lot better. My nephew I spoke of in 2018 agrees that the sequel is not as good as the original.
With that said, other than Godfather II and The Empire Strikes Back, I cannot think of many sequels that eclipse their predecessors.

Which leads me to....

Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

In this sequel, John McClane - attempts to avert disaster as rogue military operatives seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington DC.

I have seen Die Hard 2 many times. Considering I've watched Die Hard in the Diet of Christmas Movies a couple of years ago, it's only appropriate that the sequel is covered. Yes, this too is a Christmas movie as far as I'm concerned.
When I first saw this film in the 1990's, I was not keen on it at all. I saw the trailer and knew it involved aeroplanes, so assumed that McClane would find himself fighting hijackers on a plane rather than fighting them in an airport. 
I still don't like the film as much as I love the original, but I guess I am older and wiser now and realise that it's impossible to have had John McClane fight baddies, single-handed, on a plane for over two hours.
Unfortunately, the third film in the series - Die Hard With A Vengeance - is not a Christmas movie. I consider that one the second-best in the franchise.

Christmas Eve (2015)

Hilarity, romance and transcendence prevail after a power outage traps six different groups of New Yorkers inside elevators on Christmas Eve

I didn't know what to expect when I stumbled upon this movie on a list of titles on Amazon Prime Video. I thought I'd give it a go and I'm very happy with my decision. When I first read the 'summary' on IMDB, I assumed it would be set in one lift. This isn't the case as it involves groups of people trapped in more than one elevator on Christmas Eve.
I really enjoyed this film. Possibly because I didn't know what to expect. There was even a moment at the end when my heart sank for one of the characters. 
Spoiler alert: there was a lift at a hospital which stopped with a person unconscious. When she wakes up, she is told she only has a few weeks left to live because there was a tumour on her heart. The lady tells the staff that she wouldn't want to tell her husband about her imminent passing. Anyway, in another lift elsewhere, one of the characters who did very little was asked near the end of the film - when power was finally restored - where he was originally meant to be going. He told his new friends that he was going to see his wife who had just had an operation to remove a tumour. I guess we don't know for sure whether he is the husband of the lady in the other elevator, but we do see the man walking out of a taxi and heading into the same hospital in which she's a patient.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Depressed at the commercialism he sees around him, Charlie Brown tries to find a deeper meaning to Christmas

Here's something that might surprise you - I hadn't seen A Charlie Brown Christmas until this year. Either that or I have a bad memory and forgot everything about it. And I doubt it's the latter. 
When I saw that it was available on Apple TV+, I thought I'd give it a watch. 
The animation is obviously dated, but I think children will enjoy it. Adults will too because there is an anti-commercialism sentiment throughout that would appeal more to mature minds. 
Charlie Brown - and Snoopy - wasn't a big thing in my world. I had a toy and a Snoopy annual, but - other than that - I wasn't too keen on it. I guess maybe that's why it took this long for me to finally watch this well-known special.

Home And Alone For Christmas (2015)

It's holiday season and thee really is no place like home, unless you are the Taylors. In a bid to reconnect with his family, Martin Taylor intervenes with an experiment and disconnects his home from all power! Now, with all distractions aside, will the family be able to bond again or is this a recipe for utter disaster? 

It was quite slow to start, but it eventually became.. okay. Nothing more. There was a bit of Home Alone to this, but not too much. Also - I cannot find this film listed on IMDB (maybe it's me not looking close enough, though!) so had to use the 'Summary' from Amazon.

The Nine Lives Of Christmas (2014)

After a stray cat adopts Zachary, he meets Marilee and realises the single life is not as fulfilling as he thought it was.

I noticed this movie when I was channel hopping one Sunday morning. The reason why I stopped was because Brandon Routh is in it. Routh played Superman in Superman Returns and Ray Palmer in Arrow and its spin-off series'.
As for the film - it was nice, but it did seem somewhat rushed at its conclusion.

'Twas The Night (2001)

A mischievous 14-year-old boy and his irresponsible uncle almost ruin Christmas when they decide to take Santa's new high-tech sleigh for a joyride.

This film popped up when I was searching on Disney Plus. It starred Bryan Cranston as the bad uncle, who - yes, you guessed it right - turns out good in the end. It was one of the better Christmas films I've watched this season. I found myself laughing at a lot of the comedy in it.

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

A struggling but talented photographer inherits an antique holiday advent calendar. The contents of which seem to predict the future. Will the magical calendar lead her to love this holiday season?

Netflix made this film. It was quite good. Ron Cephas Jones, from This Is Us, is in it so that is why I chose to watch it. 
I have to admit that I was tricked into thinking the lead character would end up with the doctor she was dating instead of the guy she had been friends with. Thankfully, this turned into a win for the Buttons character by the end of the movie.
Oh, and another thing I liked about the film is they referenced A Christmas Story in it. There was a special showing of it at the cinema and two of the characters went to watch it. 

The Christmas Consultant (2012)

A sought-after holiday consultant is hired by a workaholic mother to get her family through the holidays.

David Hasselhoff starred as Owen, who is 'The Christmas Consultant' that helps a family prepare for the festivities. I didn't know whether I would like this movie when a friend of mine from Germany told me about it. Well - I enjoyed it a lot. 
I even had a tear in my eye at the end when it was revealed that Owen's wife - who he speaks about fondly, as if she's still alive, at a few points along the way - had passed away years previously. When it dawns on the mother, it kind of brought back the closing scenes of Planes, Trains and Automobiles when we realise that Del is a widower even though he talks as if his wife as if she was living. 

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)

Garfield, Jon and Odie go to Jon's Grandmother's house for Christmas where Garfield finds a present for Grandma.

I enjoyed Garfield cartoons and comics when I was a child, so - when I saw Amazon had this Christmas special from 1987 - I thought I'd view it. While watching the special, I worked out that 1987 would have been the year I started liking the lasagne-eating cat. I even had a small Garfield cuddly toy for Christmas in '87, so it was cool to see something from back when he was popular to me.
I don't recall ever seeing this before now. It was okay, I suppose. I know I would have enjoyed it more back when it first came out.

The Silent Partner (1978)

A timid bank teller anticipates a bank robbery and steals the money himself before the crook arrives. When the sadistic crook realises he's been fooled, he tracks down the teller and engages him in a cat-and-mouse chase for the cash.

This is one of those films that is set at Christmastime and there is an argument whether it should be called a Christmas movie. I first heard about it a year or so ago in a documentary about Christmas films and then - in late summer or early autumn - I saw that it was on television and recorded it.
It's a really enjoyable thriller. Somewhat dated, I suppose, but it didn't stop me from liking it. Would I call it a Christmas movie? Absolutely! The robber is dressed as Santa Claus when he commits his crime. 
By the way, John Candy plays a minor character in this film. That's quite a coincidence considering I mentioned Del Griffith - from Planes, Trains and Automobiles - when I wrote about The Christmas Consultant.

Father Christmas (1991)

Father Christmas on holidays and on the job.

I watched Raymond Briggs' The Snowman and its followup - The Snowman and the Snowdog - in the Diet of Christmas Films of 2012. I've seen the film that would, I guess, go in-between it - Father Christmas - many times since it was first released in '91. However, it was only recently that I realised that I haven't watched it for one of these posts.
This short film is like Briggs' books about Father Christmas. The majority of it shows the man spending his off-season travelling to places like France, Scotland and the USA (Las Vegas to be precise). He holidays until people recognise who he is and then moves on. The latter part of the movie shows him doing his work on Christmas Eve as he sings a song (Another Bloomin' Christmas, I think it's called). There's also a cameo by The Snowman and the young boy from the book as they congregate with the other snowpersons at the Northern Lights on Chrisrmas Eve just like what we saw in The Snowman. 

Scrooge (1935)

Scrooge is a mean old miser who wants nothing to do with Christmas. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future appear to Scrooge, taking him on a journey into the very spirit and magic of Christmas itself.

It was really cool to see this version of A Christmas Carol. This is the first full-length talking film of Charles Dickens' classic. I would have to say it isn't as good as the 1951 version which starred Alastair Sim as the title character.

Just Another Christmas (2020)

Stuck in a time loop where it's forever Christmas, a family man - who hates the holiday - starts to learn valuable lessons about what's important in life.

This movie is from Brazil, so was dubbed. It took me a while to like this film. However, by the end I was enjoying the story. It's about a man who wakes up every Christmas with amnesia so he cannot recall anything other than previous Christmases. As you've guessed, by the end, the man no longer dislikes Christmas and finds his way back to the Christmas where the amnesia (curse) began with a changed outlook on the holiday.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever

I have to be straight up here. Even though I liked some of the songs, the special effects and part of the story in this film, I found it quite a - if you pardon the pun - journey to get through in one sitting. 
Children will enjoy it a lot more than I did. 

Last Christmas (2019)

Kate is a young woman subscribed to bad decisions. Working as an elf in a year-round Christmas store is not good for the wannabe singer. However, she meets Tom there. Here life takes a new turn. For Kate, it seems too good to be true.

This is the film I had on my list since it came out in cinemas, err.. last Christmas. It stars Emilia Clarke as the main character. I didn't really know anything about the film other than it was named after a George Michael song and had other titles by the artist on its soundtrack. 
I thought this film had a really nice story with a unique twist near the end. 

Home For Christmas (1990)

An old thief befriends a young child

Mickey Rooney stars in this made-for-TV movie about a down and out who - to cut a long story short - ends up staying with a family during Christmastime only to find out that the man of the house is really his long-lost son. 
This film was okay. Nothing more. Nothing less. 
It did trick me in the early part, though. There was a scene when the young girl was talking to her mother and the latter told her daughter that she didn't know her parents because they left her to be fostered out when she was a baby. I thought to myself 'ahhh, we're gonna find out that Mickey Rooney is her father by the end of this!' Well - I was swerved because it was the woman's husband who we eventually find out is related to Rooney's character.

Holiday Rush (2019)

After his sudden firing, a popular radio DJ moves in with his aunt, bringing along his four spoiled children and a plan to return to the airwaves

My friend recommended this film to me. I have to be fair - when I looked it up on Netflix and read what it was about, I thought 'there are so many other films on my list that I want to get through before I have to finish this marathon for the year'. I'm glad I decided to watch it because it had a nice story. It also flew by unlike the previous Netflix film I watched (Jingle Jangle).

The Christmas Tree (1966)

Outpatient Gary determines to get a tree for the children who will be in hospital for Christmas. He enlists the aid of his brother and sister as they set out to find one.

The Christmas Tree is a film made by the British Film Institute. There is a lot more to what the 'summary' tells us as the three children have to find a way to get to London, which is thirty miles away. On their journey, they find themselves causing a lot of chaos and end up in the back of a car with two crooks who have just robbed a bank. As you've probably guessed, Gary and his siblings manage to get the tree to the hospital in time for him to win his bet with the in-patient. 

Pluto's Christmas Tree (1952)

The tree that Mickey and Pluto chop down to bring home for Christmas is the tree that Chip 'N Dale live in

This was a short six minute cartoon featuring some of the popular Disney characters. It's what you would expect from something involving Pluto. He gets up to slight mischief as he tries to rid Mickey's home of the two chipmunks before his owner notices them only for Mickey to be welcoming when he finds his new guests.

* * *

That's it for another year.  And what a year it has been. As I mentioned at the start, I began this marathon on the first lockdown. I didn't go all-in until the final stretch, though. 

Ironically, after watching all of these titles, the one that I liked the best this year is the first one - Santa and Pete. I don't give thumbs down, but there is one that would have received one for sure. I'm looking at you Operation Christmas Drop!

You may have noticed that I haven't watched A Christmas Story this year. Yet. I thought I'd do like the Americans and watch it on Christmas Day, so - even though I've finished the marathon in time for 12PM on Christmas morning - I am going to finish off with one last movie for 2020.

A Christmas Story (1983)

No need for a summary or thoughts. 

Merry Christmas!

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