The Grinch

2018

Dir. Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Pharrell Williams, Rashida Jones, Cameron Seely, Kenan Thompson, and Angela Lansbury

Christmas is almost here, and what is more Christmasy than The Grinch. Each generation seems to get their defining version of the green, Christmas hating grouch. For some it’s How The Grinch Stoke Christmas, the 1960’s cartoon. For others it’s Jim Carey in Ron Howard’s take on the Dr Seuss classic. For a brand new generation The Grinch will be 3D animated, and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. I probably wouldn’t have had too much expectation for this movie, made by Illumination, the team behind Despicable Me, but then I heard that Scott Mosier was one of the directors. Scott is the producer behind most of Kevin Smiths early work, and someone who I had listened to pretty much weekly on Smodcast, the podcasts he co-hosts with Kevin Smith. Suddenly, I was interested.

The Grinch follows the same old story as the original book by Dr Seuss. The Grinch lives in a world inhabited by Whos. He lives with his dog Max in a mountain on the outskirts of Whoville. The Grinch is a green furred grump who hates everything and everyone, but most of all he hates Christmas. Unfortunately for him, the Whos love it, and have declared that this Christmas will be three times bigger. The Grinch soon sets off on a plan to steak Christmas from the Whos, including young Cindy Lou Who, who is hoping to meet Santa so she can get a special gift for her mum.

There are a couple of nice little touches in this movie, which I think work really well. The Grinch is no longer mean to everyone, he treats Max with a great deal of love. He tries to avoid his friendly neighbours, as they annoy him, rather than being actively rude to them. This portrayal, shows him as a lonely outsider, rather than an evil monster. It makes the message at the heart of the film easier to swallow too. The story of Cindy Lou Who is also a nice touch, and the film focuses primarily on these two characters and their separate quests which collide on Christmas Eve. It’s clever scripting, which allows the movie to breeze by at a quick pace, without getting tangled up in any sub plots.

The animation is splendid, and the world of Whoville is fantastically realised. It’s a real joy to behold, and can’t help but evoke the cinnamon scented feeling of Christmas. The opening sequence introduces us to the town in breathtaking fashion. It’s a great sequence, and I loved the little nod towards Mooby’s, a fictional fast food chain from the View-askewniverse. The Grinch looks great too. The redesign is a more cuddly , child friendly version. Gone are the yellow and red eyes, replaced by something a lot more puppy-dogish.

The voice cast is great. There’s clever casting with Benedict Cumberbatch as The Grinch. He voices the lead character flawlessly. The casting of Pharrell Williams as the Narrator is inspired, and he fits perfectly into the tone of the film. I thought the film was also very funny, in a slapstick sort of way. There’s a couple of tremendous sequences one involving reindeer, and one involving particularly loud snow which were real stand outs.

If there are problems with the film, it may be that the story is too slight. It’s a simple story, told simply, but if you already know it, this film doesn’t offer up anything new. It lacks the depth of Pixar, and as such doesn’t offer any real appeal to anyone over the age of 10. The edges have all been sanded down, and the film plays everything incredibly safe.

It’s not a classic, but if you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit, this is one great way to do it. It’s not Illuminations best film, even though it does look fantastic, but it’s nowhere near the atrocity of Minions. It’s a well told adaptation of the story, but for anyone who has already seen any other version of The Grinch it may seem a little redundant.

7/10

Top 10 Christmas Movies Of All Time

2017, Uncategorized

It’s the festive season, and that means the age old argument of which Christmas film is the best heats up again. It’s a topic which sparks huge debate, not least of all over what actually qualifies as a Christmas movie. For the sake of this post we are defining a Christmas movie as any film whose plot is set around the holiday season. So whilst Wizard Of Oz is on TV every Christmas Day, it doesn’t qualify as a Christmas film. Same goes for Harry Potter, which even though it does contain scenes set at Christmas, the bulk of the film isn’t. Films that do qualify don’t have to have a Christmassy feel, they just have to be set during Christmas. So it’s that simple, get all the films that are set at Christmas and decide which one’s the best. Will the old classics win out? Or will something more recent cement itself as an insta-classic.

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10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Arguably the best National Lampoon film, Christmas Vacation sees Chevy Chase’s dreams of a perfect family Christmas go up in smoke when Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie pitches up his trailer outside the Griswald family house. Cue a festive period comedy which has laughs to spare. It comes with the classic Christmas message too, that Christmas is all about family, but be careful because your family might just ruin it.

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9. Home Alone

Home Alome may be looked down upon now, but if you were a kid who grew up in 90’s then it was a Christmas staple. With a career defining performance from Macaulay Culkin, and great comedic turns from Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as hapless burglars Harry and Marv. What kid didn’t dream of being left home alone, ordering pizza, and messing up their house. Home Alone is a Christmas film which has laughs and heart in equal measure.

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8. The Santa Clause

Is it saccharine? Yes. Is it a little cheesy? Definitely. Do we still love it? Of course. This is the perfect family film for Christmas. Filled with laughs for the adults, and validation for know it all kids. The premise of a man who kills Santa, so has to become Santa is strangely dark and twisted, but the film never lets up on the laughs, and has a heart as pure as snow. Featuring all the Christmas tropes we love, such as Santa’s sleigh, reindeer, elves and the North Pole, this is a crowd pleaser that will entertain everyone. Just don’t watch the sequels.

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7. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Before Robert Downey Jr hit the big time with Iron Man, and before writer Shane Black found commercial success as a director with Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guy’s, came Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Set at Christmas, like all Shane Black films, this darkly comic film is an underated gem. With RDJ as a criminal, who ends up getting a break in Hollywood, only to become embroiled in a conspiracy. The film is uttterley hilarious, with a humour streak as a dark as black ice. Unlike the films that have come before it on this list, this film is just a great film which just happens to be set at Christmas.

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6. Gremlins

Another great film that just happens to be set during Christmas. This is a slice of pure 80’s fried gold. Produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Christopher Columbus, and directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins showcases some of Hollywoods top players at the height of their Blockbuster making, crowd pleasing powers. Gremlins is pure fun. Just remember the three rules: One, kept them out of the light… oh I’m sure you know the rest.

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5. Carol

A film which uses the warm colours of Christmas as a gorgeous back drop to a slow burning love story, which sears with sensuality. Not your traditional Christmas film, but watching this under a blanket during a cold December will never fail to warm you up. Combining a sensitively told love story with the sexual politics of the 1950’s, and career best performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. This really is the best Christmas Carol. Dammit, I promised myself not to make that pun.

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4. The Nightmare Before Christmas

This is Halloween! This is Halloween! No, it’s Christmas, and this is the perfect film to get you into the Christmas spirit. With a left of field sensibility, Henry Selick and Tim Burton created a counter-culture icon in Jack Skellington. Filled with the images that would become Tim Burton’s stock in trade, it also has some of the best songs. You’ll be singing along throughout December, and well into January.

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3. Die Hard

Some may argue that Die Hard isn’t a Christmas film. They’re wrong. Set at an offfice Christmas party, and with the end credits playing out to “Let It Snow”, this is definitely a Christmas movie, just not a Christmas I’d like to be invited to. This is a genre defining action movie, which turned Bruce Willis into a Hollywood star. Filled with ingenious set pieces, and Alan Rickman on terrific form, this isn’t just one of the best Christmas movies ever made, it’s one of the best action movies ever committed to film. Yippee-ki-yay…

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2. Elf

Modern day classic is a term that fits Elf perfectly. I was lucky enough to see it at the cinema on it’s initial release, and it’s a movie I’ve seen every Christmas since. It’s joyous seasonal fun, with Will Ferrell as the man who grew up on the North Pole. It’s a fish out of water comedy with endlessly quotable dialogue, it’s heart firmly in the right place, and maple syrup in its coffee. If you haven’t yet seen Elf (where have you been) then watch it this Christmas. If you have seen it, just watch it again. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

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1. It’s A Wonderful Life

If you’ve read to this point and didn’t realise It’s A Wonderful Life was going to be number one, then you obviously have never seen it. A bonafide classic, this is a film which not only stands up to the test of time, but seems to grow more charming with it. Frank Capra shows himself as a masterful storyteller in this feel good movie, with James Stewart using all his movie star charm as George Bailey. The family man who, after a financial mix up, considers taking his own life. What’s most surprising is that the film doesn’t skirt around the darker subject matter, which pays off in dividends when the emotional climax hits.

So there it is. Our Top 10 Christmas movies of all time. Agree? Disagree? Any notable omissions? Let us know,in the comments section below.

A Bad Moms Christmas

2017, Uncategorized

A Bad Moms Christmas

 

Dir. John Lucas and Scott Moore
Staring: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn

 

Having accidentally stumbled upon Bad Moms on Amazon Prime, I was pleasantly surprised by its humorous and unconventional take on parenthood, which was relatively amusing and a fun watch for a Saturday afternoon. How this film got a sequel? I’m not quite sure, but in the run up to Christmas, and after a few drinks with dinner, I cautiously booked my ticket, hoping for a similar experience to the first and that’s pretty much what I got, but perhaps too similar?

The film starts with Mila Kunis’s character, Amy, sat on the stairs of her suburban home, explaining through voice over, that she’s ruined Christmas for her two children on their first Christmas since divorcing their dad. Flash back then takes us to several days before Christmas where we’re, in very quick succession, re-introduced to the other main characters and each of their Moms arriving unexpectedly for the festivities. Promptly, the daughters declare that they are ‘taking back Christmas’ from their moms, particularly Amy’s mom (played by Christine Baranski) whose disapproving thoughts of Amy’s mellow Christmas plans with the kids, are the primary focus of the film.

An enjoyable watch for most part, I can’t say it got me in the Christmas mood nor did it convince me that a sequel was warranted but I enjoyed seeing these three ladies working out their relationship problems just in time for Christmas and I found myself laughing along with the gags and generally enjoying the plot.

However, the first act of this film is very similar to the original, with the writers clearly harking back to the previously successful gags of moms getting drunk in public and lots of slow mo laughing and jumping up and down – at one point they even take all the kids to a trampoline park and there’s a good 10 minutes of middle aged women jumping in slow mo. A little uncomfortable and doesn’t move the plot forward, at all.

Perhaps not one for the big screen, but if you’ve got a spare 90 minutes of an afternoon, it’s a decent watch. It will never be a Christmas classic, in fact the season could have been interchanged for any holiday and the story could basically stay the same. It’s an enjoyable way to pass the evening if you want to leave your worries, and your brain at home.

5/10