The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 13

James Proclaims (6)

Psycho1

It’s Friday the 13th. Which is considered unlucky by some. And possibly it is for the entire population of the UK who might well be waking up to find out that someone truly awful is now their prime minister. I wouldn’t know as I’m writing this in the past. Although given that both of the leading contenders were pretty dreadful, it’s probably a safe bet that no-one good actually won. In fact even the outsiders were all very much in the ‘hard to like’ mould so it probably is a safe assumption that we have a rubbish leader of the country this morning.

Then again – plus ça change.

What I do know with absolute certainty is that today is the 13th day of December, which must mean that it’s time for door 13 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

Because it is Friday the 13th, maybe it would be appropriate to go for something from the darker side of cinema. And what could be more appropriate than Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece, Psycho?

I had never seen Psycho before this year, but, because it’s a classic and it’s almost sixty years old, I had read one or two spoilers over the years. At least part of the appeal of this movie is that it contains a lot of twists, and given that I knew about a lot of those twists before I started watching, I assumed that I wouldn’t get that much out of the movie.

I was wrong. Even though I pretty much knew what was coming, I was on glued to the screen for the entire running time. In 1960  Psycho was pretty ground-breaking stuff, but it still seems pretty unique and certainly holds up well today. So much so, that the 1998 remake (which to be fair I’ve never seen) seems like it was probably a pretty pointless endeavour.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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Ok, so this one is not even remotely Christmas(ish). Except for one scene, right at the start of the movie, when Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is leaving town and we can see Christmas decorations on the high street. This wasn’t intentional – they were just there on the day that scene was filmed but this visible reference to Christmas led to the whole movie being set in December. Indeed, at the beginning of the movie a caption informs us that the date is the 11th December. This would in turn, according to the movie’s own timeline, mean that many of the events should actually take place over festive period. But aside from that one scene, Christmas is never mentioned again. 

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 12

James Proclaims (6)

a long way down

It’s December 12th and, if my understanding of current events is in any way accurate, then I believe there is a general election happening in the UK today. I don’t think too many people are feeling very optimistic about the outcome of that election.

Hopefully we won’t all feel the need to throw ourselves off a building tomorrow though.

And if that seems like a fairly clumsy way to deal with mental health and suicidal feelings then it’s no more clumsy than 2014’s A long Way Down.

Which is the movie behind door number 12 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

Like yesterday’s entry,  About A Boy, this movie is based on a novel by Nick Hornby. However, wheras  About A Boy is a really good film,  A Long Way Down is not. Which is a shame, because I remember really enjoying the book. It’s probably not Hornby’s best work and maybe the material never really lent itself to adaptation for the screen,  but it still deserved better than this.

The cast is decent enough. Pierce Brosnan feels a little miscast, but Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots all do their best with what little material they have to work with. It is, however, to little avail.

Such is the reverence that I have for Nick Hornby that I really wanted this to be good.

But it isn’t.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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There’s more of a ‘New Year’s Eve’ vibe to this rather than any explicit references to Christmas. The film opens on December 31st, at a time when things have hit rock-bottom for the four main protagonists, and conclude on the same date the following year when (spoiler alert!) things are a bit better. The majority of the action takes place in the six weeks which immediately follow the Christmas period, rather than during the festive season, but we do spend a lot of time getting to know the protagonists on that first New Year’s Eve, so there are lots of Christmas decorations and the like in the early scenes. Plus New Year is very much part of the whole Christmas experience so this still counts as a bit Christmas(ish). Which still doesn’t make it a good film sadly.

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 11

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about-a-boy

11 days into The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films and we arrive at 2002’s About a Boy. Which is about a boy. And also some other people.

Adapted from the 1998 novel by Nick Hornby (an author who occupies God-like status in my esteem)  About a Boy is not really like any other movie. And that is a very much a good thing. It deals with some pretty serious issues such as mental health and bullying but manages to remain light in tone and eminently feel-good throughout. A young Nicholas Hoult gives an early indication of the career that awaits him and delivers an excellent performance as Marcus, the ‘boy’ of the title. This is very much Hugh Grant’s movie though. Being a fan of the book, I wasn’t especially convinced that Grant was the right choice for the role, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the part of shallow but self-aware Will.

About a Boy is a near perfect adaptation of what is arguably Hornby’s best novel. Thow in a completely original soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy and it really doesn’t get much better.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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It’s not ostensibly a Christmas movie but two Christmases feature in the story – one at quite a pivotal stage in the development of the relationship between Will and Marcus and one at the denouement of the movie, which wraps the narrative up rather appropriately. Throw in the fact that Will’s bachelor-pad lifestyle is funded solely through the royalties generated by a Christmas song that his father wrote and there is certainly enough to evoke a Christmas(ish) feeling to this film.

 

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 10

James Proclaims (6)

rules of attraction

Door 10 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films brings us 2002’s The Rules of Attraction. Which is not the helpful guide that you might imagine it to be. Indeed I’m not sure that there are any rules of any description on offer.

As with Door 7’s entry  Less Than Zero this movie is an adaptation of a Brett Easton Ellis novel. According to those in the know (which definitely doesn’t include me, given that I have read only one novel by this particular author and isn’t either of the above) The Rules of Attraction is more faithful to the original novel.

The movie is, much like Less than Zero, largely about some fairly unpleasant and overprivileged young people who seem to not like anyone, least of all themselves. Starring James van der Beek, who at the time was probably best known as being Dawson off of Dawson’s Creek and …er… probably still is, the film is possibly easier to follow if you’ve read the source material.

But, as I haven’t, it all seemed like a bit of an incoherent mess.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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It’s not especially Christmas(ish) but the movie does begin at what appears to be a New Year’s Eve Party (dubbed the ‘End of the World’ party). The film then back tracks to the beginning of the academic term (so presumably circa September/October) before events lead up to the same party, which is where the film concludes. There are, therefore, visible Christmas decorations for enough of the running time for this to be considered, at least a bit, Christmas(ish). Also there is a lot of snow at the denouement of the film, which always helps.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 9

James Proclaims (6)

Shaft 2000 - Samuel L. Jackson

As it is very much the 9th Day of December, it seems only right that we open door number 9 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

And behind the door we find John Shaft II, protagonist of 2000’s Shaft, which is a sort-of-reboot/sort-of-sequel to the 1970’s trilogy of movies. Starring Samuel L. Jackson as the nephew to Richard Roundtree’s original John Shaft (although I believe that has been retconned in a subsequent sequel to him actually being his son), the 2000 iteration is an entertaining enough affair. Jackson is a suitably charismatic lead, while Jeffrey Wright and Christian Bale more than hold their own as the two (very different) main antagonists.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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Ok, this is one of the more tenuous films to make the cut (although probably not the most tenuous). Christmas is largely irrelevant to most of the movie, but the opening scenes do appear to be set around Christmas. However those scenes also depict the aftermath of a particularly brutal and racially-motivated murder. So not really one to get you in the festive mood.

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 8

James Proclaims (6)

just friends

Door 8 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films brings us 2005’s Just Friends.

Notionally a ‘rom-com’ it probably is a little more ‘com’ than ‘rom’. Which would generally make it more to my tastes. It’s not always as funny as it would like to be, but it deserves credit for effort and there are definitely some moments when it does hit the mark.

Ryan Reynolds is normally fairly reliable and he doesn’t let anyone down here, and Anna Faris seems to be having a lot of fun playing against type.

 A quick Google search will reveal that  Just Friends didn’t especially win over the critics, but I actually quite enjoyed it, and I really wasn’t expecting to.

Make of that what you will.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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Theoretically this movie could work without the Christmas backdrop, but it makes eminently more sense for it to be at Christmas, and it’s one of the few elements of the film’s internal logic that bears any kind of scrutiny. The Christmas setting also ensures that what would otherwise be a fairly diverting but ultimately forgettable movie will now be a Christmas tradition for some and consequently that it will get endless repeat viewings. I’m pretty sure I’ll watch it again in a future bout of festive film watching.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 7

James Proclaims (6)

Less_Than_Zero_072

As we move further into December, so too continues The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films. Today we are on door number 7. ‘7’ is a positive integer and therefore is ‘more than zero’. But the movie behind door number 7 is  Less than Zero.

This is not really a movie about negative numbers as such. Although debt does play a part in the narrative. So it is sort of about negative numbers. But I don’t think it’s really the point of the movie. Although I’m vaguely at a loss as to what the actual point is.

Sort-of-but-not-really adapted from  a Brett Easton-Ellis novel of the same name, it’s a fairly cheerless examination of drug addiction amongst the overprivileged and most of the characters are fairly unsympathetic.

It is, however, worth watching for a stand-out  performance from a young Robert Downey Jr.

 

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 4

It is definitely a movie set at Christmas time, and though it is utterly joyless for the most part, there is no denying that Christmas is integral to the plot. So it deserves a high score for Christmasishness, but it’s far too depressing to ever be a ‘go-to’ Christmas movie.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 6

James Proclaims (6)

DSC02295.ARW

It’s December 6th and therefore no coincidence that it’s time to open door number 6 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

And as luck would have it, we have a 2019 movie waiting for us in the not-at-all-bad Cold Pursuit.

You might recall that Liam Neeson made the headlines earlier this year for saying some pretty stupid  things while promoting a movie.

That was this movie.

Unfortunately Neeson’s comments rather overshadowed the film.

Which is a shame, because it is a pretty decent action flic.

It’s not going to change your life, but it’s an entertaining couple of hours of violence and irreverent humour. It’s sort of a cross between Tarantino and the Cohen brothers (Pulp Fargo?!) without being quite as good as either.

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 2

Given that this movie came out in February, it probably isn’t meant to be a Christmas movie at all but I’m fairly sure there are Christmas decorations up in the town, if not actually in anyone’s homes. And one of the bad guys is nicknamed Santa. Because he looks a bit like Santa. Although I hope he isn’t really Santa because he is dispatched in quite brutal fashion fairly early on in the film.

Also there is a lot of snow. Which is no reason in and of itself to think of a film as being Christmas(ish) but it certainly helps when the festive links are as tenuous as this.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 5

James Proclaims (6)

2012

I vaguely remember 2012. It wasn’t the best year ever if I recall. I enjoyed the London Olympics. One of my cousins got married, which was nice. Other than that I don’t think it was a vintage year.

Still, I think we can all agree that the world didn’t end.

Which was something I suppose.

It was certainly a better outcome that was predicated by Roland Emmerich in 2009 when he delivered the dreadful movie 2012.

Which is a film about how the world would end in 2012.

And frankly, once you’ve sat through 158 minutes of this dirge, you might welcome the apocalypse.

The movie boasts a surprisingly decent cast who do nothing to redeem this mess.

It doesn’t even have the decency to be ‘so bad it’s good’.

It’s just bad.

 

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 1

It’s not even remotely Christmas(ish). I watched it on the basis that the entire premise of the film is the realisation of a Mayan prediction that the world would end on the 21st December 2012. Although this date is vaguely referenced during the movie, there are no indications that any of the events of the film take place in December. Because there are no signs of Christmas at all. But if I omitted the film from the list then I’d have to acknowledge that I sat through this crap for no good reason at all. And I just can’t do that to myself.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 4

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Filth-2013-Christmas

Door four of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films is looking a little grimy. Indeed, when we open it, we are confronted with nothing short of Filth.

2013’s Filth is the aptly named black comedy starring James McAvoy as a sociopathic detective who seems hellbent on inflicting misery on his colleagues. And his friends. And pretty much everyone he meets.

Adapted from a novel by Irvine Welsh (the author who also brought the world Trainspotting) it’s unsurprisingly a dark and twisted tale in which nothing is quite what it seems.

It’s not one for the faint-hearted or easily offended but if you like this kind of thing (which I absolutely do) then it’s utterly compelling and McAvoy clearly relishes the opportunity to play against type. The humour is bleak, but it is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Nonetheless, the film hits hardest in when, amongst all the cynicism and cruelty there is a rare moment of tenderness.

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 4

Not exactly full of festive cheer, but there is no doubting the Christmasishness of this one. It is set entirely over the Christmas period, including the big day itself. Remove all things related to the season and the film could still work, but the Christmas setting does feel relevant and contributes to the effectiveness of the movie as a whole. It’s certainly Christmas(ish) enough for me.