God Bless Us, Everyone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Instead of doing a traditional ‘best Christmas movies’ list, I thought I would put a slight spin on it. Below are my top three Christmas films, my top three films set at Christmas (where the main plot revolves around something other than Christmas) and my top three films screened at this time of year (but that have nothing to do with Christmas).

Traditional Christmas Films

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

What is Christmas without The Muppet Christmas Carol? A surprising faithful adaptation of Dickens’ perennial classic (albeit with Muppets and songs), Brian Henson’s 1992 film is heart warming. Tiny Tim is one of the most endearing characters in film history, while the songs and humour make The Muppet Christmas Carol a festive essential.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

With beautiful imagery, a great score by Danny Elfman and a charming plot, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a Christmas staple. Jack Skellington does what we all secretly want to do; take over Christmas. Kidnapping the Sandy Claws is not the standard Christmas fare, however it is an awful lot of fun.

3. Scrooged

Another version of A Christmas Carol makes my top three, but for good reason. Yes, the very ending of the film descends into a reservoir of schmaltz. However up to this point, Scrooged is most amusing in its rendition of the Dickens tale by way of a television executive in late 1980s New York. It also features the cutest human Tiny Tim in the form of Calvin.

Films Set At Christmas

1. Batman Returns

‘Come what may, Merry Christmas Mr Wayne’. Batman Returns, set against the backdrop of the festive season, is rather a tragedy. But a fine comic book film, with the festive season rearing its head again and again. Gotham’s own Santa Claus turns about to be not as charitable as you would hope.

2. Gremlins

Subversion is the order of the day in Joe Dante’s Gremlins. The Bedford Falls-esque town is terrorised by small malevolent creatures in this black, Christmas-set comedy. Gizmo is one of the hottest characters ever committed to the silver screen, who wouldn’t want him as a Christmas present?

3. Die Hard

The ultimate Christmas-set action movie, Die Hard is nothing short of iconic. The office Christmas party goes awry, and only one man can save the day. No matter how bad your Christmas Eve may be, it’s a certainty that John McClane’s is worse.

Films Screened At Christmas

1. Labyrinth

I first saw Labyrinth on 24th December 1989. I am not sure if Labyrinth is one of my favourite films because I saw it on Christmas Eve, or if Christmas Eve is my favourite day because that was when I first saw Labyrinth. Whichever way, Labyrinth is a glorious 1980s fantasy musical.

2. The Wizard of Oz

I first saw The Wizard of Oz as a toddler around Christmastime. Needless to say, I was terrified by the Wicked Witch, and confused as to why mother was letting me watch a horror movie at such a young age. Wizard of Oz became a classic because of its constant scheduling in the Christmas period, something that still holds true today.

3. Singin’ in the Rain

My first viewing of Singin’ in the Rain was on Christmas Day. It is another film which has nothing to do with Christmas but is frequently screened in the holiday period. It is easy to see why; memorable tunes, some great comedy and the beguiling talent of Gene Kelly.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man is a decent summer blockbuster. Despite being entertaining, Marc Webb’s film may nevertheless suffer from the audience’s superhero fatigue.

Growing up with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter Parker is having difficulties understanding why his parents appeared to abandon him. When he finds a clue about his father’s work, Peter tracks down Dr Curt Connors, former colleague of his father. Visiting Connors at his work, something strange happens to Peter in the lab…

The Amazing Spider-Man features everything that viewers would expect from a superhero movie; a personal transformation, big action set pieces and a love story. The narrative offers nothing particularly original; it is the same journey that has featured in other films of this type. Nonetheless, Peter Parker is a likeable and well-developed protagonist. Moreover, The Amazing Spider-Man is well paced, and entertains throughout.

Marc Webb’s film really does not do anything wrong. The problem with it is the feeling of déjà vu it provokes. After all, it has only been ten years since the last Spider-Man franchise began. More telling are the allusions to various Batman films. References, seemingly indeliberate, appear to recall Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The effects in The Amazing Spider-Man are good overall. It certainly does not seem as if the CGI in this film will age quite as quickly as its 2002 predecessor. The extra dimension also works well, with Spider-Man swinging through the New York landscape being a particular highlight of the 3D. James Horner’s score is fitting, although it can make emotional moments seem excessively saccharine.

Andrew Garfield makes a good Peter Parker. His chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey makes their scenes together a joy to watch. Rhys Ifans makes a suitable antagonist for this origins tale, though the character may have struggled to be a  worthy opponent in an epic battle.

The Amazing Spider-Man is an enjoyable film. The problem is that it does not elevate itself to the level of Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight. In these days of abundant superhero movies, it is this echelon that needs to be reached in order for a film of this kind to be box office-breaking and truly memorable.

The Dark Knight Rises Full Trailer

So here it is: the first full trailer for next year’s The Dark Knight Rises. I watched the prologue at the Imax last week and was a little disappointed as it didn’t blow me away like the intro to The Dark Knight, and I found it difficult to understand Bane. This however looks incredibly exciting. First thoughts are that the scene with Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne dancing is highly reminiscent of Batman Returns, and that Bane looks like a monster. We’ll have to wait to July 2012 to see the finished film, but I cannot wait.