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

Troy (2004)

troyDirector: Wolfgang Petersen Cast: Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean

Based on the classic Greek epic poem The Iliad, a large Greek army is provoked into invading the city of Troy after the Trojan prince, Paris, steals Greek King Agamemnon’s wife. Included in the invading forces are the sensible Odysseus and the famous warrior Achilles. The Greeks seem to be defeated until Odysseus comes up with a plan to get them within the Trojan city gates…

I really think that Troy gets an unfairly hard time. The story of The Iliad is probably one of the most famous stories ever told and has cultural references that still resound today despite being written thousands of years ago- everyone knows what is meant by an Achilles heel or a Trojan horse. So, for such a famous story I think the film does a pretty good job of portraying it, and I was pleased to see it put on the big screen.

The plot’s not exact, but it’s mostly on point. I remember when the film first came out it was criticised a lot for giving the story the Hollywood effect, but I struggle to think of any movie adaptation that doesn’t deviate from the original text. It features all the key characters from the original text, plus the short scene at the end where Paris gives the sword of Troy to Aeneas is subtle detail and a nod to classical literature that Ancient History nerds will appreciate (but it also brings back traumatic memories of having to study The Aeneid for my Latin GCSE…).

What did strike me about the film was how bad an actor Orlando Bloom really is. And trust me, it pains me to say it because Legolas is one of my favourite movie characters of all time, but when Orlando actually has quite a lot of dialogue to deliver he’s really quite bad. I’d much prefer him to stick to running around New Zealand and insulting Gimli.

Generally, the battle scenes are pretty standard- not too gory or over the top, and there’s not excessive use of CGI (*cough* Battle of the Five Armies *cough*). The film is long, but I don’t think it drags on and all the scenes add characterisation and are important plot points.

I think Troy is a fairly light watch, it’s not difficult to follow and is your standard action flick with a bit (but not too much) romance thrown in. Worth giving it a go- ignore the haters.

3 stars

The Village (2004)

the-village

Director: M. Night Shyamalanalamnayalanan Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt

A small village is surrounded by woods that cannot be entered due to mysterious and evil creatures lurking within. When once of the villagers is injured, another attempts to leave through the woods to find help.

So I actually knew the twist of this movie before I watched it, which I have to say did ruin it for me. It’s a shame because the twist is very clever, and I wish I had been surprised by it! So yes, if you don’t know what happens, do watch it- and be amazed.

Having said that, the twist is the best part of the movie and the rest of it is a bit weird and a bit flat. Do stick with it during the lulls to reach the shocking ending, but just be warned that not much really happens until the climax. If I hadn’t known there was a twist, I probably would have switched off to be honest as there is really very little plot. I find with M. Night Shyamalan that some of the time he gets it spot on and the rest of his stuff is just a bit meh. This was meh. (Except for the twist, I cannot express that enough).

The Village can be pretty creepy at points so not for those who can’t really do horror. It’s quite a thinking film so not a light flick. I probably would recommend it but I have no real desire to watch it again.

2 stars

Jumanji (1995)

jumanji

Director: Joe Johnston Cast: Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Jonathan Hyde

A young boy somehow finds himself pulled into the world of  magical board game, and ends up stuck there for 26 years, until a couple of kids start playing again and release him. But he’s not the only thing they release from the world of Jumanji…

With a sequel coming out December 2017, I thought I’d give this childhood terror another whirl. And, yes, I mean terror- this movie used to absolutely scare the pants off me, hence why I think this must be the first time I’ve watched it since I was about 8.

Fortunately for my sanity, I’ve grown up a bit since then and it’s not so scary anymore. Watching it in 2016, the graphics are unsurprisingly quite terrible, but the animatronics are still pretty good and I think actually much more effective than the CGI. It’s not as rip-roaringly hilarious or as comedically clever as some of Robin Williams’ other films (all time fave: Hook), but it’s standard family humour and is easy to watch. Let this be said though, there is still something very foreboding about those drums when the game is out to get you.

Having watched this movie as a child soon after it was originally released, I think I appreciated Jumanji for its nostalgic value. Watching it for the first time today however might not have quite the same impact, and it’s just another family film among many others. That said, there’s nothing bad about it particularly, it’s just fairly standard. It’s inoffensive and will probably be enjoyed by most audiences: solid.

3 stars