Ever since December of 2008, I've dedicated each Christmas Day post to listing all of the festive films I've watched in the days leading up to the big day.
The series has witnessed me watch some great - and not so great! - movies. It has also seen me fight to get through an endless 'to watch' list: a fun battle that I will never win because I always find myself adding new titles to the pile each year.
I always begin writing these posts weeks, but sometimes months, ahead of Christmas Day. I write about the films as soon as I have watched them aiming to have each post ready to go live on Christmas morning.
This year's binge began on October 31st. I chose something appropriate to start with...
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Bored with the same old scare-and-scream routine, Pumpkin King Jack Skellington longs to spread the joy of Christmas. But his merry mission puts Santa in jeopardy and creates a nightmare for good little boys and girls everywhere
Here's something that might surprise you - I hadn't seen The Nightmare Before Christmas until this viewing. I was even more surprised that this film was made in 1993. I thought it was made later than that.
The film wasn't too bad. It slightly reminded me of The Grinch. More like a reverse Grinch, though, because Jack Skellington wanted to embrace the festive spirit.
I started with a decent film. Next!?
The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)
A mysterious, very old solicitor - Mr Blunden - visits Mrs. Allen and her young children in her squalid, tiny Camden Town flat and makes her an offer she cannot refuse. The family become the housekeepers to a derelict country mansion in the charge of the solicitors. One day, the children meet the spirits of two other children who died in the mansion nearly a hundred years previously. The children prepare a magic potion that allows them to travel backwards in time to the era of the ghost children. Will the children be able to help their new friends and what will happen to them if they do?
The summary above, as is often the case, was found on IMDB. To answer the question - yes, the children from the present (or rather 1918 England) are able to help the children from 1818 England.
I hadn't heard of this film before I saw it advertised on Talking Pictures TV last Christmas. I set the cable box to record it and held onto it until this year's Christmas movie viewing season. The problem I have with this film is I don't really know if I can call it festive.
Sure, it opened at Christmas when Mr Blunden visits the home of the Allens. But that's it. It is a regular time from then on.
My argument for movies like Die Hard and Gremlins being Christmas films is because they are set entirely during Christmas. The Amazing Mr Blunden is only set during Christmas for the first five minutes or so. If that.
With that said - if you're into ghost stories, this is the film for you.
November 8th Update: A few hours after watching The Amazing Mr Blunden, I found out that a 2021 remake is coming out in December.
Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa (2018)
Lisa Palmer's trip home to Evergreen for the holidays finds her fulfilling the wishes of a Christmas past and finding a romance full of Christmas magic.
This has been a Christmas movie I have been on the lookout for since I watched the first part of the series in the Diet of Christmas films in 2018. There have been other films based in Evergreen in 2019 and 2020 as well as this one. I recorded the one from 2019 but have kept it on hold until I watched 'Letters To Santa'.
Well.. I have now done that.
I found this to have a really nice story. I have forgotten almost everything that happened in the first Evergreen film, but that didn't matter because the main story focused on new characters. Holly Robinson-Peete, who is the only person I remember from the original because I know her from my favourite TV programme as a child - 21 Jump Street - is back in this.
Mr Krueger's Christmas (1980)
An elderly widower relies on his daydreams and faith to get through a lonely Christmas
Christmas 1989. That was when this TV movie first was brought to my attention. I saw it listed in Satellite TV Europe magazine in a list of movies. Silly old me assumed it was something to do with A Nightmare on Elm Street so recorded it. Imagine my reaction when I played the VHS back only to see it had nothing to do with Freddy Krueger celebrating the festive period. I cannot even recall if I watched the film again. Until this year.
I came across Mr Krueger's Christmas in 2021 while looking through YouTube. As soon as I saw it, I thought 'Ahhh.. I have got to watch this for the Diet of Christmas Films because it'll allow me to tell the story from the late-80s'.
As for the 2021 viewing - I thought it has aged significantly.
Jimmy Stewart plays the role of Mr Krueger - a lonely old man who spends most of the short film daydreaming about having a better Christmas with people. In reality, he is set to spend it with his cat - George - along with his memories of his deceased wife.
The reason why I said this film has not stood the test of time is because of a couple of scenes in the film. In one, he singles out a little girl and tries to talk to her. The girl is ushered away by the parents. They kind of make it look like the parents are in the wrong (ie lacking in Christmas spirit) by shielding her away from the old man who wanted to talk. As someone who was told as a child not to talk to strangers, I felt Stewart came across as creepy in this part even though it's obviously not the intention.
Mr Krueger's Christmas is a far way away from It's a Wonderful Life.
Speaking of It's a Wonderful Life...
Unlikely Angel (1996)
Dolly Parton plays a self-absorbed singer who meets an untimely death and gets the opportunity to earn her wings if she helps a family overcome the loss of its matriarch by getting the father and his children to once again embrace Christmas.
Now here's an older film that hasn't aged at all and has a nice story to it.
It has the usual angel help a family at Christmas tropes. I must have seen a ton of these movies over the years but - despite having identical plots - they're enjoyable. This one wasn't one of the rare exceptions.
Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)
Alone for the holidays, Max Mercer will do whatever it takes to protect his home from trespassers
Home Sweet Home Alone is a movie I had been looking forward to seeing since it was first announced back in 2019. Back then, the reports stated that the film would be a reboot. It didn't turn out to be the case.
In this film, the main child is an English lad who lives in the US with his mother. The reason why this is in no way a reboot is because Buzz McCallister - Kevin's bully of a brother from the original movies - appears as a policeman. There is a funny part in the movie when the dispatchers ask Buzz to Max's home because there are reports of a child being left behind while his family travelled overseas. Buzz disregards the call by stating that the call was a prank by Kevin because of what happened in 1990 and 1992. That was a really funny addition to the film.
I've watched all six of the Home Alone franchise movies over the years. This is definitely not the best (the first one is!) but it's absolutely not the worst because this one had a good story to it. To avoid spoiling it - the baddies are not really THAT bad but are forced to be and end up proving how good they really are at the end.
So, yeah - this isn't the best Home Alone film, but I didn't expect it to be.
The Night They Saved Christmas (1984)
An oil company is exploring two Arctic sites for oil. The needed blasting at the first site rocks Santa Claus' North Pole city/ He realises that any blasting at the second site will destroy is home. He enlists the aid of a woman and her children to convince her husband - who works for the company - that the first site is where the oil is. Along the way, Santa explains all his secrets in delivering presents all around the world.
The summary, taken from IMDB, is very concise. This is exactly what happens in this made for TV movie. It was okay, but nothing special.
I had seen this film advertised on TV over here a few times over the years, but was never able to get a recording of it (this was when I had Windows Media Center on my PC). I stumbled upon a copy of it on YouTube (it was uploaded May 1 2020).
One of the cool trivia notes about the film is one of the children is played by Scott Grimes, who would later star in Critters and Critters II. He's also a cast member of The Orville.
By the way, another 'film' I came across on YouTube shortly after finding The Night They Saved Christmas was this:
You know I had to watch it, right?
Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story at the Grand Theatre (2013)
This was a really cool performance of the A Christmas Story play. Granted, my only real experience in A Christmas Story on 'stage' is by listening to the CD and watching A Christmas Story Live a few years ago. The less said about the latter the better.
This wasn't the musical, but was a straight up play. Everyone did a superb job. The adult Ralphie, who narrates throughout, appears to be the person who uploaded this to YouTube.
I would watch this again if it's still available online in years from now.
In this updated retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, ruthless businesswoman and department store owner Elizabeth Scrooge (or 'Ebbie' for short), is taught the true spirit of Christmas by three spirits who visit her.
It wouldn't be the Christmas film watching season without some sort of narrative that uses A Christmas Carol as inspiration.
This was okay. It had a few interesting adjustments to the Scrooge story. The main one obviously being the name for the feminine Scrooge . I thought the 'Ebbie' - short for Elizabeth - was a funny touch considering she was this story's Ebenezer.
I'm sure I'll see more films like this over the years. This isn't one I care enough to want to revisit, though.
Miracle on 34th Street (1973)
A department store Santa Claus ends up on trial trying to prove that he's the real Santa.
I watched the original Miracle on 34th Street in the Diet of Christmas Films VIII and have had this 1973 TV movie edition on my cable box for a couple of years.
This edition was very good. In fact - I'd go so far as to say I found it just as enjoyable as the 1947 edition. Mainly because - for some reason - I find myself enjoying 70's films or TV programmes. There's something charming about that era in TV/Movies.
I also have the 1994 movie version of Miracle on 34th Street on the cable box, so I'll watch that one soon enough.
To quote The Smiths - How soon is now?!
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
The 1990's version of Miracle on 34th Street was an adequate remake. Richard Attenborough played Kris Kringle and Mara Wilson - who seemed to be everywhere back then - played Susan.
This was the first time I had seen the 1994 film. I remember seeing the key scene (see above) on TV when it first came out, but that was all.
With all that said, if the original is number one - I kind of have to lean on the 70's film ahead of this one.
One other interesting thing about 1994's Miracle on 34th Street is the department store - Macy's - did not want its name used like it has been in the previous editions. What a bunch of Scrooges!
Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy (2019)
A sceptical writer shows up in Evergreen to get the scoop on the town's famed passion for Christmas during a search for a long-lost time capsule
We're back to Evergreen.
I've got to be straight up here. I liked the first Evergreen film and - as you've seen above - the second film in the series was also good. The third? Well - I did not enjoy it as much as the earlier couple.
What I will say about these films, though, is that they're a really cool idea. Having the same characters hovering around underneath the main love story in each film is a nice touch. I can't help but think that people who watched these films over the consecutive years they aired found it welcoming to revisit the townspeople each year.
A Boy Called Christmas (2021)
In this origin story of Father Christmas, an ordinary boy named Nikolas - with a loyal pet mouse and reindeer at his side - sets out on an extraordinary adventure to find his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of Elfhelm
Based on the novel by Nick Haig, this was the big Christmas movie produced by Sky this season. It was co-produced by Netflix and aired on Sky Cinema in the Britain and Ireland and Netflix in other countries.
It told a really nice story and was packed full of well-known stars. The special effects were also great.
Children will really enjoy it.
The Holly and the Ivy (1952)
A heart-warming tale of an English minister and his family reunited at Christmas. Their story includes remembrance of their World War II trials.
This was the oldest film I have watched so far this Christmas season (up to this point?). It was also the one I found the least appealing (up to this point!?).
It's more than likely my fault. I was interested to start, but I lost my way somewhere in the middle and I was unable to find my bearings in regards to what the story was all about. I kind of found my way back into it right at the end, but - by then - I had already decided this wasn't an enjoyable film despite knowing many of the actors and actresses in it.
Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing (2020)
As Michelle's wedding approaches, Hannah steps up to help finish the launch of the new Evergreen Christmas museum while questioning her relationship and future with Elliot
This was a major improvement from the third film in the Christmas in Evergreen series.
What was really cool about this edition is that one of the minor characters from all three of the previous films steps up is the main in this one. All of the Evergreen residents we have regularly seen in those films are also back.
There wasn't a new Christmas in Evergreen film released in the US this year, so this might have been the last one. Had it ended with the third film, I would have thought it was time. This one made me want to see a few more made.
'Twas The Fight Before Christmas (2021)
In this true-life twist on a holiday fable, Jeremy Morris brings a while new meaning to Christmas spirit when his extravagant seasonal display sparks a dispute with his neighbours that lands them all in court
This is a documentary that is available on Apple TV+. It's about a man who hosted Christmas light shows from his house and angered the local neighbourhood. There were times in the film in which I sided with the man, then - at other moments - I found myself rooting for the neighbours. By the end, I was in the middle.
I also spent a lot of this film wondering if it was a mockumentary because of some of the craziness which went on between the warring parties.
I've watched films about neighbours arguing about Christmas lights a few times over the years, so 'Twas The Fight Before Christmas deserves its place in this list of festive films I've watched this season.
Before I get to the next film, I must give you a backstory.
One of the things I have been doing this Christmas viewing season is watching the films that have been stored on my cable box for three to four years. After watching Ebbie, I deleted the film and saw that The Christmas Train (recorded from Christmas 24 in 2018) was next.
The following morning, I received an email from Amazon with the 99p Kindle Deals of the Day. The Christmas Train by David Baldacci was one of the titles on the list.
I immediately thought it would be fun to buy the book, read it and then watch The Christmas Train film to compare them.
The Christmas Train (2017)
A cynical journalist decides to take a train from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles for Christmas to get inspiration for a story in honour of his late father. He gets to know the other passengers and runs into an old flame while aboard
I enjoyed both the book and the film. It was an easy read / watch. The story of the two journalists falling back in love was perfect to made into a film for Hallmark.
With that said, and as is often the case, there are some things from the book which didn't make it to the screen. Some characters didn't even make it to the screenplay. A couple of characters had some major transformations that didn't really hinder the narrative.
One of the characters of note is a priest named Father Kelly. In one of the subplots, there is a thief on board the train. Passengers' items are stolen along the way. By the end of the novel, it is revealed that Kelly is not a priest but a petty thief who has returned to his criminal ways after forty years due to the recent passing of his wife. In the film, Kelly is not a priest, but the story about him being recently widowed and a crook from before his forty-year marriage is still told. So, they got to the point without having the swerve which was the revelation that it was a fraudulent priest who carried out the thefts only to see the light at the end.
How The Toys Saved Christmas (1997)
A group of toys take matters into their own hands when their Christmas delivery is in jeopardy
This is an animated film that was made in Italy, but given English-speaking voiceovers. I can't exactly put my finger on what it reminded me of, but it sure does look like a foreign cartoon from the 1990's.
As for the film itself - it had a charming story with the toys finding their own way to new owners on Christmas Eve after a baddie has prevented a good witch from delivering the presents.
8-Bit Christmas (2021)
In 1980s Chicago, a 10-year-old sets out on a quest to get the Christmas gift of his generation: the latest and greatest video-game system.
This is another film based on a book, but I hadn't heard of its existence until after the movie ended.
I thoroughly enjoyed this. A strong reason why is because it relates to my generation as a fan of Nintendo and having wanted an NES for Christmas (albeit they became a big thing over here in the UK three years after this film is set).
There is a swerve at the end of the film that I don't want to spoil. It caused some damp eyes because I felt lulled into believing this film was all about a boy's wish to get a Nintendo for Christmas 1988.
The picture I've chosen is from a scene in the movie when the boy is at a Nintendo display in a department store. This brought back memories of me also falling in love with the console with those displays.
The scene is also appealing to me because of the game that is played on the store's Nintendo system. The Commodore 64 version of Rampage was given to me - by my aunt and uncle - as a Christmas gift in 1987. I wrote about it in a tribute to my uncle in 2017.
Good Morning Christmas! (2020)
Two squabbling TV hosts are sent to a festive town over Christmas. While pretending to get along for the sake of appearances, they discover there's more to each other than they thought
This film had a similar storyline to other Hallmark films with the two protagonists at loggerheads until near the end where they find their true feelings for each other. I liked how they found their way together.
The Santa Squad (2020)
Allie, an out of work art teacher, has to accept a job with the Santa Squad to help wealthy widower - Gordon - and his two precious daughters rediscover the magic of Christmas
This film has a score of 6/10 on IMDB. I'd rate it slightly higher., but not by much.
It's one of those Christmas films which has an outsider coming in to help look after the children of a person whose job has taken over their life. The newcomer brings them all together and ends up saving the relationship between the man and his daughters. And - as you would expect for a narrative for a made for TV Christmas movie - love blossoms between the man and his employee.
Switched For Christmas (2017)
When identical twin sisters are stuck planning their respective Christmas parties, they're convinced the grass is greener on the other side. Deciding to swap lives for the holidays.
I found this to be a pleasant film. Seen many identity switch films in my lifetime and this certainly wasn't the best. It absolutely wasn't the worst, however.
There's something interesting about the film in that it appears to be set in the same universe as Evergreen because it's mentioned by one of the characters at the start. If you look at the picture below, the character is the first man starting from the left. He's the same actor from 'Christmas in Evergreen: Letters from Santa' (see above). Both were different roles!
A Very Merry Toy Store (2017)
Two rival toy shop owners reluctantly join forces when an unscrupulous toy magnate opens a box store in their town
Thoughts:The story in this film seemed quite rushed to me. It started off with the two opposing shop owners at loggerheads before the new store opens. They then fall in love shortly after teaming up and end up married by the end. I'm used to these kinds of romances developing across the film right up to the end. I guess I have to give them credit for surprising me.
The fall of the magnate was also rushed. It seemed the closing scenes just came out of nowhere even though we were set up for it earlier in the film.
A Christmas Number One (2021)
A young girl desperately wants her uncle to find love and for his song to hit the number one spot by Christmas Day
Another film produced by Sky.
I don't really know what to write about British Christmas films. Some are not good. Some are okay. This was better than okay although it took me a while to go from 'this is rubbish' to 'okay, this isn't too bad'. It has a nice heart-warming story and it did make tears well up (slightly!) near the end.
Santa's Boot Camp (2016)
Willy Wonka meets 'The Breakfast Club' at Christmas. When kids become so bratty and self-centred that Santa's elves go on strike, Santa - in desperation - must bring six unscrupulous youths to his boot camp to help save Christmas.
Willy Wonka meets 'The Breakfast Club'? Are they having a laugh? This was more like Why Don't You meets your local amateur dramatics society.
I did not like this film at all. The story was rubbish (I lost the plot at key points) and the acting was not very good.
This film has been on my cable box's hard drive since 2017 or 2018. It was such a pleasure to finally hit delete.
Christmas Cookies (2016)
A corporate agent is sent to a small town to buy a cookie company and shut down its factory. When she starts falling in love with the factory's owner, the town's Christmas spirit overtakes her
This had the usual 'outsider coming into a Christmas town' plot that you would expect from a Hallmark movie. However, there was a really nice twist at the end which allowed everything to end happily ever after
Last Train To Christmas (2021)
Tony Towers is a local celebrity, a successful nightclub manager and he is engaged to a younger woman, Sue. Things get a little strange when he embarks upon the 3:17 to Nottingham for a Christmas family reunion
This is another film produced by Sky with a load of famous British stars.
I thought it was brilliantly done.
It would be foolish of me to say that this film is like a modern-telling of A Christmas Carol because it isn't. However, it did make me think about that narrative in way because Tony travels to the past, present and future - by entering different train carriages - and sees his life just like Scrooge did in Dickens' work. It doesn't have the themes of A Christmas Carol, though.
Such a wonderful story. The thing which really made me enjoy it that much more is the way the camera changes with each era Tony enters. For example, it starts in 1985 and the screen is made to look like a standard definition with a camera style of that period. In some of the concluding scenes, the film is in black and white because it has Tony on the train as a child.
I really wanted to end there with Last Train to Christmas, but there is one more I must do....
The Amazing Mr. Blunden (2021)
The 2021 remake of The Amazing Mr. Blunden, which I referred to earlier in this post, aired on Sky yesterday, so I thought - considering I watched the original earlier in this marathon - I would conclude this year's Diet of Christmas Films with the new one.
Just like the 1972 edition, it begins at Christmas. However, the majority of the story is set in the middle of summer, so I still find difficulty in considering this a festive film. The closing scenes of the 2021 edition seem to be set during Christmastime, though.
In some ways, I found this edition better than the original. It obviously had better effects than the 1970s which allowed the story to be told in a better way.
I'd have to be fair and say the acting was equal between the two films.
An interesting thing about the original is the close of the film had the actors and actresses break the fourth wall and say goodbye to the viewer. This was reintroduced at the conclusion of the remake, which - I felt - was a cool nod to the original.
Speaking of goodbyes, that is all for this year's edition of A Diet of Christmas Films. Of the many films I've watched for 2021, I'd have to give the 1973 Miracle on 34th Street the thumbs up for the best on this year's list. There are close seconds. The one which was the least enjoyable has to go to Santa's Boot Camp.
I still cannot believe that this is fourteenth edition of ADOCF. On to number 15!