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Added by PvtCaboose91 on 23 Nov 2020 03:29
493 Views 2 Comments

Christmastime Viewings: 2020

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People who added this item 48 Average listal rating (37 ratings) 5.1 IMDB Rating 5.9
First Viewing

Plot: While fulfilling a contract with the United States military, Santa Claus is hunted by a ruthless hitman hired by a spoiled child as retribution for receiving coal on Christmas morning.

I was greatly looking forward to Fatman, it was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and, luckily, it truly delivered. First things first: Mel Gibson haters can fuck off, your favourite celebrities have definitely said worse things in private while drunk or high (James Gunn's tweets were way worse), and I'm so glad to see him back on the big screen. Gibson fucking pwns as a grizzled, badass old Santa Claus, playing the role like an old war veteran, and he never appears to be in on the joke... which is why the dark comedy hits its mark consistently throughout the movie. Walton Goggins is also a great pick for the assassin, and the action-packed final showdown is a real treat. It's a joy to see real, practical blood squibs as opposed to outright digital effects, and it's still pitched at just the right tone - it doesn't tip over into the callous or cruel. The movie runs a brisk 90 minutes and doesn't outstay its welcome. I had a blast with this flick, and it's about to become a part of my yearly traditions...along with Bad Santa and a slab of bourbon & coke.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 99 Average listal rating (68 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.5
First Viewing

Plot: Kate is a young homeless woman with a history of bad decisions, working in a Christmas shop and ignoring her family. Her life takes a turn for the better when she meets Tom, but it all seems too good to be true.

Well, I knew the title of this flick was a reference to the Wham! song, but I didn’t know it was a literal adaptation of the song until I watched it... what an interesting choice. Anyway, this one looks lovely, has great energy behind it and the cast is wonderful, with Emilia Clarke doing something more fun and light-hearted after that final season of Game of Thrones. I can’t say it’s especially funny, though, nor is it overly festive - the Christmas stuff is window dressing, as the story is a bigger focus, and I can’t help but think this could’ve been a more successful film without the Christmas angle. Oh, and the ending took me by surprise, and actually took the film up a couple of notches in my books. Not great, not bad.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 22 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 5.2 IMDB Rating 5.7
First Viewing

Plot: After an unexpected tragedy, Suzanne struggles to put her life back together during a sad, strange Christmastime in suburban Virginia.

This was...somewhat underwhelming. Not a traditional Christmas film by any stretch of the imagination, this is a pitch-black comedy-drama which never quite makes it out of first gear, and that's a shame. Indeed, there are real charms to White Reindeer, especially the leading actress (Anna Margaret Hollyman) who's an absolute joy as well as a captivating presence. I also appreciated aspects of the story, such as Suzanne making friends with her husband's stripper mistress, but the movie seems to lose direction and momentum before the third act, and that's a problem. In the end, I was left feeling a little hollow, wishing the script was wittier and the final edit was tauter - and since it's only a 78-minute film, wishing for a tauter edit is problematic as hell.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7.9
First Viewing

Plot: On an outback farm ravaged by drought, the lives of a struggling family are upended when a runaway criminal dressed as Santa Claus crashes onto their property.

Not bloody bad, mate. I can count the number of Aussie Christmas films on a single hand (or even a single finger, really), so it was nice to get some festive content a little closer to home. This is a bit of a cross between The Ref and Bad Santa filtered through an Australian lens, and it's also a fairly relevant movie since it touches upon the recent Aussie outback draughts with families struggling to make ends meet. There's not much new here in terms of plot, and it's not always entirely believable, but the characters are endearing and there are some standout sequences which left this reviewer cracking a smile (including a sort-of fight scene scored to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"). It also looks great; this is not another cheap Aussie indie which belongs in the bargain bin. And best of all, you don't necessarily need to be familiar with Aussie culture to appreciate it - so everybody else can have at it.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
First Viewing

Plot: Kate Pierce, now a cynical teen, is unexpectedly reunited with Santa Claus when disgruntled former elf Belsnickel threatens to cancel Christmas forever.

Kurt Russell is still an incredible Santa Claus here, and the lore of this particular iteration of Father Christmas is further explored in endearing and creative ways while bringing in a new villainous character (Belsnickel, who was infamously brought to light by Dwight in The Office). However, Netflix's follow-up to the 2018 picture The Christmas Chronicles is an imperfect family festive offering, due to problematically rote and episodic plotting (when ostensibly major complications are resolved easily in mere minutes, there's an issue) as well as some risible dialogue that panders directly to the youngsters in the audience. Goldie Hawn also brings absolutely no life to Mrs. Claus (her presence is better in theory than execution), and there are some eye-rolling feminist undertones that the film absolutely refuses to let go, to the detriment of the story ("It's Mrs. Claus' village," the characters proudly proclaim, without actually finding out her first name...). The uneven structure is the big problem with The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, as there's still a good 20 minutes of film left after the villain is overthrown, and some of the padding (i.e. the musical numbers) becomes tiresome. And, oh, they do a slight time travel detour and have a character meet their father as a teenager (it's head-slappingly obvious, but takes a while for said character to realise), because the writers refuse to introduce any original ideas. However... I still enjoyed it well enough. It looks nice, Russell gives it his all despite the slipshod scripting, Darby Camp is charismatic as hell in the protagonist role, and I can't say I was necessarily bored despite the prolonged runtime. Also, it's nice to see Chris Columbus direct something new. This one won't get replayed much, but I didn't feel like I wasted my time watching it. And I'm still all in for any potential third film.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
First Viewing

Plot: When a zombie apocalypse hits a small English town close to Christmas, a group of friends work together to fight through the horde and reach their loved ones.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a good fun British horror-comedy-musical. It's a slick and high-energy endeavour, with a fun soundtrack of original songs ("The Fish Wrap" is my favourite), genuine heart, and some memorably gory zombie kills. It's also a boldly original picture; although the plot is formulaic, the execution feels fresh and innovative, since this is a Christmas zombie movie musical (the director ostensibly parodies High School Musical). It does start to run out of steam in the third act, though I later found out I watched the extended version rather than the U.K. theatrical cut, so perhaps the theatrical cut is tighter. I don't think Anna and the Apocalypse will become a quintessential part of my annual festive movie line-up, but it's an entertaining watch all the same.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 6 Average listal rating (5 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 5.3
First Viewing

Plot: When thieves steal horses from a family property in Australia, three children and an Indigenous bushman set out across the bush to track them down.

I wasn't aware that Bush Christmas even existed, especially as the list of Australian Christmas movies is shorter than a nun's body count, but this one popped up on Stan. and I decided to give it a whirl. This is Nicole Kidman's film debut (she was 15/16 at the time of filming), and it was helmed by Storm Boy director Henri Safran, but I can't say that this flick is entirely appealing or engaging. It works in fits and starts, such as a particularly intense scene as the main characters try to sneakily steal from the horse thieves, but it never comes together as well as it should. And even though it runs a brisk 90 minutes, I still feel that the movie outstayed its welcome. There isn't much in the way of festive cheer here, either, as the Christmas setting is pretty incidental to the plot. Bush Christmas isn't bad, but I can't recommend it too strongly, either.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
First Viewing

Plot: The intertwined stories of four generations of Coopers unfold right before the annual family reunion on Christmas Eve.

And here we have a more "traditional" Christmas movie after a few left-field titles. Love the Coopers is another title I never knew about until stumbling across it on Netflix, and I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. The intermittent narration from Steve Martin is a huge win, giving the movie an instantaneous charm, and there's one hell of a cast at the centre of this flick - there isn't a single unfamiliar face in sight. This is actually Jessie Nelson's first feature film since I Am Sam all the way back in 2001, and there's some terrific gravitas to the material; this is very much a drama first and foremost, as opposed to a dysfunctional slapstick family comedy. It looks slick and attractive, the soundtrack is superb, and there are some really nice moments scattered throughout (see Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy goofing around in the airport). Admittedly, the film isn't perfect, as there are some ludicrous moments which contradict the otherwise realistic vibe (a police officer just letting someone go after they're placed under arrest), but I had a good time watching this one, and I wouldn't be averse to revisiting it in the future.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 54 Average listal rating (38 ratings) 5.7 IMDB Rating 5.8
Let It Snow (2019)
First Viewing

Plot: In a small town on Christmas Eve, a snowstorm brings together a group of young people.

One of Netflix's seasonal offerings from 2019, Let It Snow is a surprisingly enjoyable and charming Christmas movie in the Love Actually mould. Adapted from the 2008 book of the same name (with a screenplay co-written by Pitch Perfect scribe Kay Cannon), this is a better-quality holiday movie than your usual Hallmark offering, with a great cast of recognisable young actors and some eye-catching Toronto scenery. I was surprised about how involved I found myself in the characters and their respective stories, even though there's a heavy smattering of cliche throughout, and it tends to be on the corny side. Nevertheless, the sincerity actually pays off, and I appreciated the tender LGBTQ+ subplot that manages to exist without preaching politics or propaganda. It's not perfect, but it's worth watching.

I think this quote from the Los Angeles Times pretty much sums it up: "But like the formulaic Christmas movies that fill the Hallmark Channel this time of year, this film isn't exactly a timeless classic. It's more like something to put on in the background, while making cookies or wrapping presents."

PvtCaboose91's rating:
First Viewing

Plot: Bill Murray worries no one will show up to his TV show due to a terrible snowstorm in New York City.

Well, this was...disappointing. After five years of this sitting in my Netflix watchlist, I finally sat down to watch this hourlong Bill Murray Christmas special, and I should not have bothered - I should have paid attention to the low ratings. It starts off with promise, as Murray's opening song is soulful, and there are some great actors here (including a Chris Rock cameo which made me laugh), but then it steadily goes off the rails. By the midway point, I was feeling bored, and I had to force myself to keep on watching. The plot, such as it is, is forgotten after the first twenty minutes, after which the movie becomes a plotless string of songs that aren't even that good. George Clooney and Miley Cyrus appearing briefly in a fantasy sequence is a missed opportunity, too. I wish this was funnier. I wish there was more to this. And, side note, it's confusing that half of the actors play themselves while the other half play characters. But at least Murray is fun to watch.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 59 Average listal rating (37 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.8
First Viewing

Plot: When a weary and discouraged Santa Claus considers skipping his Christmas Eve run one year, Mrs. Claus and his Elves set out to change his mind.

Here we are with a Rankin and Bass stop-motion Christmas that has eluded me for so many years. Indeed, The Year Without a Santa Claus has been on my watchlist since I first started exploring the Rankin/Bass filmography many years ago, and it was nice to watch another of their beloved efforts. There is ample magic to this particular special, with catchy songs (the Snow and Heat Miser songs are fantastic) and colourful characters, though it is a little dated and stilted on the whole. Still, the thematic messages are worthwhile and I had fun watching this one.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 113 Average listal rating (72 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.8
First Viewing

Plot: A drama that focuses on the period in Mary and Joseph's life where they journeyed to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.

And now for something completely different... a dramatic recreation of the nativity story, which is a bit of a left-field choice for a Christmas movie since there are no trees or decorations or festive cheer. (What an eclectic selection of titles I've watched this year.) While I won't deny that this is a good-looking movie with exceptional period detail and slick cinematography, it is also a dry and often dull retelling of this religious tale which comes up drastically short in terms of substance and humanity. I rarely felt fully invested in the story or the characters, though the performances from Oscar Isaac and Keisha Castle-Hughes are great.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 113 Average listal rating (76 ratings) 5.4 IMDB Rating 6.3
First Viewing

Plot: The legend of Santa Claus is put in jeopardy when an unscrupulous toy manufacturer attempts to take over Christmas.

Santa Claus: The Movie is yet another title which has been part of the to-watch list for years - in fact, I started watching it last year, but decided to take a nap instead and never resumed it. And now, finally, I've taken the time to watch this 1980s VFX-laden Christmas extravaganza, which goes over the origins of Santa Claus before flashing forward to our modern era where the meaty aspects of the story unfold. There is honest-to-goodness charm and magic to Santa Claus: The Movie, and I was greatly entertained by almost every frame. The ensemble cast is great across the board, and, even though the story is deliberately catered to the younger viewers in the crowd, it's surprisingly compelling. The production design is also bursting with creativity, and the movie is full of optical special effects and rear-projection shots which have dated horrendously, but there's an inherent charm to the old-fashioned cinematic techniques on show here. I could see myself watching this one every few years as Christmas approaches.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 11 Average listal rating (10 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.2
First Viewing

Plot: Bitter old miser Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three spirits who seek to convince him to pursue redemption.

Produced by FX and the BBC, this is a brand new rendering of the oft-adapted Charles Dickens novella of the same name which manages to actually justify its existence. Indeed, rather than slavishly following the same familiar old framework, writer Steven Knight uses the broad strokes of the story merely as a jumping-off point, and spends three hours working through loads of story material without creating something that feels unnecessarily padded out. This feels like a movie first and foremost, as it's not structured like a standard miniseries, and it feels like a missed opportunity that this didn't sneak into cinemas as a theatrical feature. The technical presentation is easily as polished and confident as a cinema release, while the cast is peppered with well-known names; not just Guy Pearce, but Andy Serkis, Stephen Graham and Jason Flemyng, among others. Plus, the performances are superb right down the line. Naturally, this adaptation does incorporate some of the more familiar scenes from the novella, but feels fresh for the most part, and this is easily the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol in decades. The tone is more grim and realistic, and Scrooge's past is full of despicable things which render him almost unredeemable. And, indeed, this version doesn't end with an optimistically cheery Scrooge laughing and showering everybody with kindness, because he understands that redemption does not come easy and there's a long road ahead. Again, this is such an interesting take on the material and I only wish that it were longer.

From a narrative standpoint, my only real complaint pertains to the treatment of Ebenezer's nephew, Fred. He's introduced coming into Scrooge's workplace to invite him to Christmas dinner, but is never heard from again - he's not seen in visions of Christmas present, nor does Ebenezer go to his house to take him up on his invitation. This feels like a dangling plot thread. But this aside, 2019's A Christmas Carol is superb and definitely worth checking out. I mean, Ridley Scott and Tom Hardy produced this, so you know the pedigree is damn good. I'm also pretty sure this is the first version of A Christmas Carol to contain f-bombs.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
People who added this item 123 Average listal rating (92 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.5
Scrooge (1970)
First Viewing

Plot: A musical retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about an old bitter miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

Phew, here's another Christmas title I can finally tick off the list after about a decade of intending to watch it. This is also the last "major" adaptation of A Christmas Carol that I hadn't seen - methinks I can live without seeing any further iterations of this story. Anyway, this musical retelling of Charles Dickens' novella is robust entertainment, peppered with terrific songs and with a mostly terrific cast (except for Alec Guinness, who's frankly awful as Jacob Marley's ghost - he would barely pass muster in a school play). Albert Finney was in his early 30s here, yet he manages to convincingly pull off the bitter old miser, while also being able to play younger versions of Scrooge. The storytelling is effective, and, even though it hits the same old familiar narrative beats, it's still compelling entertainment. However, it is inarguably long in the tooth at nearly two hours (one of the longest versions of A Christmas Carol to date), and some of the sets are clearly just sets, rather than feeling more authentic or lived-in. Nevertheless, 1970's Scrooge is a good flick.

PvtCaboose91's rating:
PvtCaboose91's rating:
First Viewing

Plot: A poor otter family risks everything for the chance to win the cash prize of a talent contest for Christmas.

And to cap off what has truly been an eclectic December of Christmas titles, we have the wonderful Jim Henson-directed television special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. Heartfelt, soulful, humorous and bursting at the seams with terrific original songs (there's also a Kermit the Frog cameo for good measure), it's easy to see why this special is so renowned and held in such high esteem. The characters are adorable and easy to like, and the special welcomely eschews cloying or saccharine optimism. This is one of Jim Henson's finest creations.

PvtCaboose91's rating:

Well, hey, I'm back for another Christmas film list after bringing these back last year. Let's watch some festive flicks over the 2020 holiday season.

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