Deck the Halls (2006)

Director: John Whitesell Cast: Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristen Chenoweth, Kristin Davis

Popular local figure Steve becomes frustrated when a new neighbour, Buddy, moves in across the street and rivals him for the title of the town’s “Christmas guy”. Buddy is determined that his house is so lit up with Christmas lights that it can be seen from space, however Steve won’t let that happen.

While Deck the Halls will never quite become a Christmas classic, it’s an enjoyable if perhaps low-quality watch. Overall it’s a pretty rubbish film by usual standards, but I did enjoy it and I certainly felt Christmassy watching it. I laughed out loud a few times, and while much of the comedy is basic slapstick it’s not too over-the-top. The plot is a classic Christmas movie setup, with the two main characters learning some life lessons and everything ending up right in the end.

There are certainly better Christmas films out there but this is worth a watch, and I would probably watch it again (although it won’t be an annual feature of my Christmas viewing list). It’s lightweight and family friendly, so good for a cosy December evening in.

2.5 stars

Advertisements

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Director: Henry Selick Cast: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, Ed Ivory, Ken Page, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix

The Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, becomes tired of doing the same thing every year for Halloween. He stumbles across Christmas Town and is taken in my its magic, and decides to take Christmas into his own hands this year. However, it doesn’t go quite to plan and he needs Santa to save the day.

It’s one month until Christmas everybody!!! And that means I’m back onto my annual Christmas Crackers series- which in 2016 included a grand total of one whole review, so if I can beat that I’m doing a good job. Anyway, I thought I’d start with A Nightmare Before Christmas as, to be honest, it’s pretty early in the year to go full-scale Christmas so this Halloween/Christmas crossover is a good compromise.

As far as Christmas films go this one’s not really particularly Christmassy, which was a bit of a let down, but like I say it’s still early so I’m willing to let that slide. Plus, if you usually hate sickly-sweet Christmas films then maybe this one’s for you. I did enjoy it and it’s not too Tim Burton-esque compared to some of his other seriously weird stuff (he was the writer for this), in that it’s not hugely creepy or sinister, which does certainly make it for family appropriate for this time of year. The animations are very cool, and there are lots of little details with the characters and the sets which are fun to spot. Plot-wise it’s fairly predictable, but it’s not very long and it kind of makes a nice change to not have too much squashed into one film. The blossoming romance between Jack and Sally is a little forced towards the end and the plot would have worked without the romantic angle- but still, it’s a festive film to you kind of need something like that. But really the film is about the animation and design, which is top-notch.

I liked this more than I thought I would and it works as a family film as it’s not quite scary enough to put off kids. It’s worth a watch as it’s fun and a bit different from your usual Christmas film, but just don’t save it until Christmas Eve.

3 stars

Jingle All The Way (1996)

jingle-all-the-way

Director: Brian Levant Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd

A father wrapped up in his work forgets to buy his son the one gift he wants for Christmas, leaving him only Christmas Eve to track it down. However, it turns out everywhere is out of stock and he’s not the only one looking for a last minute gift.

Another year, another addition to my seasonal Christmas Crackers series, this time featuring the thrilling combination of the Terminator and young Anakin Skywalker. Let’s just say T + AS does not equal GA (good acting). Having said that, literally no film ever made can be worse than The Santa Clause, last year’s Christmas horror, so it’s not all bad.

First things first, before whiney Jake Lloyd desecrated the Star Wars universe with his incessant moaning, his whinging actually makes him an ideal casting choice for this role- the classic demanding child growing up in a world of consumerism who only wants material objects to make him happy. There must be a Christmas lesson for him to learn in there somewhere! And there is. I don’t think it would be classed as a spoiler to say that by the end of the film both father and son learn that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but about family.

Poor acting aside, I did laugh a few times in this film. It’s quite slapstick which produces a few amusing moments, plus I did laugh at the (unintentional) dry delivery from Arnie. It’s not a Christmas classic, but I didn’t hate it and if it was on telly on a free Saturday afternoon next December, I would probably watch it again.

This film gets no points for things like originality, acting or cinematography but it’s mindless and inoffensive, plus it’s Christmas and at this time year people will watch anything. Worth a go if you’ve already watched all the classic seasonal hits and need something else.

2 stars

ScreenSnap Goes Global: Star Wars Identities, The O2, London

Given that I actually live in London, this isn’t one of my more “global” adventures, but certainly worth talking about nonetheless. Star Wars Identities is an exhibition that is currently in London but has been travelling around various cities around the world, with more to come. It’s just opened at The O2 in Greenwich and will be there until September 2017, so plenty of time to give it a visit.

Face to face with Darth Vader in real life
Face to face with Darth Vader in real life

The exhibition, unsurprisingly, is all things Star Wars-related- primarily from the first six films with a few bits from the more recent The Force Awakens. It includes costumes, props, concept art and loads of other bits which were all used in the actual films (I can’t even begin to imagine how much some of that stuff is worth!). Personal highlights were the original Darth Vader costume, the prop used for Han Solo frozen in carbonite, and the real R2D2 and C3PO.

I picked Bounty Hunter as my career path, obviously
I picked Bounty Hunter as my career path, obviously

The unique selling point of the exhibition is the “identities” element. As you go around, you have the opportunity to answer various questions and make choices interactively with an electronic wristband that you’re supplied with. You’re asked questions which help you to form your own character from the Star Wars universe, such as what species you are, where you’re from and what your skills are (btw, I picked Wookiee). At the end, you make the final decision over whether or not to succumb to the Dark Side. It’s a bit gimmicky but it was something I’d never heard of or done before, so it was certainly unique (although I would have been more than satisfied if it had just been the standard exhibition).

If you’re a Star Wars fan, this is totally worth a visit. I think it was about £25 to get in, but we spent a good hour and a half there and I felt it was worth it. People that aren’t that into the movies probably won’t have quite as much as a nerd meltdown as I did upon seeing all the original paraphernalia- while a lot of the stuff is fairly recognisable, some of the props and characters you’ll only appreciate if you know the movies really well. Just one word of advice: when you pick your name, don’t choose something embarrassing as your final character gets projected onto a huge screen at the end for everyone else to see…

Photos my own