The Second Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 3

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The Life of Brian was my introduction to the world of Monty Python, though the first time I watched it, while I found it fairly diverting, much of it was probably lost on me as I was a prepubescent teen, and my friends and I had rented it alongside a few other films (on glorious VHS no less) while attempting to stay awake for 36 hours in an ill-advised attempt to raise money for Comic Relief (incidentally, of the four of us who started that particular quest, I was the only one who made it past 24 hours of uninterrupted consciousness but alas, even I fell at the final hurdle, drifting off at somewhere around hour 34).

I can’t remember what else we rented but The Life of Brian stuck with me as being pretty funny, even if, at the time, it was only the more puerile and silly jokes (which to be fair there are no shortage of in the oeuvre of Cleese et al.) that tickled my funny bone.

Years later, and now a fully-fledged fan of the work of the Pythons, I am able to enjoy The Life of Brian on a more cerebral level. Although it is probably the puerile and silly stuff that works the best.

Often accused of being blasphemous, The Life of Brian is nothing of the sort. It may be set during the lifetime of Christ, but there is absolutely nothing within the movie that lampoons or criticizes Christianity at all.

Indeed, it is pretty clear that the eponymous Brian is absolutely in no way to be considered the Messiah. It’s all just a bit of an unfortunate mix-up.

Some of the humour is, even by the ground-breaking standards of Monty Python, a little dated these days (there’s really only so funny a man pretending to be a woman can be and it’s entirely unclear why, even in 1979, anyone thought there was a need for John Cleese to ‘black up’ in one of the opening scenes) but generally a lot of the jokes stand up pretty well and it’s so relentless that if one joke doesn’t make you laugh, the next one probably will.

It’s also the movie that gave us the fantastically catchy Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as well as a plethora of quotable lines, the pick of which is undoubtedly “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Score for Christmasishness

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Clearly it’s not a Christmas film at all, but the movie does open with the newly born Brian being visited by three wise men bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Brian’s mother is nonplussed with the myrrh although readily accepts all of the gifts, only for the wise men to realise their error, reclaim the offerings and head to the stable next door, where we eventually find out that the actual Nativity scene is unfolding.

Nothing else Christmas(ish) about the film at all, but a Nativity scene more than qualifies it to make the cut for this list.

 

The Second Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Preamble

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Last year I spent the build-up to Christmas by reviewing films that had a (sometimes tenuous) link to the festive season.

At the time I thought this was a clever and interesting idea, but the most basic of online searches reveals that this sort of thing has been done many times before and in most cases done better.

Nonetheless some people seemed to enjoy my incoherent and badly informed reviews.

And more to the point, I enjoyed writing them.

Not all of the films were as good as I remembered them being.

Some of them were awful.

But the quality of the films wasn’t really the point

It was the Christmasishness that was under scrutiny.

And I discovered that there were quite a few surprisingly Christmas(ish) films out there.

So many, in fact, that I managed to identify another 24 films to review this year.

And I already have another 24 lined up for next year.

And so far I’ve got 17 lined up for the year after that.

So, even though it could well be way of making a relatively unpopular blog even less popular for a month every year, this is potentially going to be an annual thing for some time to come.

And, given that content has been pretty sparse on these pages, since my darling daughter entered my life and decided that time I had previously spent writing inane posts about cartoons, morality and penguins would be better spent serving as her bed (because she’s perfectly happy to sleep on me but far less inclined to sleep anywhere else) then 24 posts about films that are vaguely linked to Christmas is probably as good as it’s going to get on this blog for a while. Also, one of the few activities I can do while my daughter is lying prone on my chest is watch films. If those films can be categorized unconvincingly as Christmas movies then so much the better

If you missed out on last years efforts and really have nothing better to do than go sift through some poorly written reviews, then these are the movies that made the cut:

Door 1 – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Door 2 – Iron Man 3
Door 3 – Lethal Weapon
Door 4 – Reindeer Games
Door 5 – Ghostbusters 2
Door 6 – Batman Returns
Door 7 – LA Confidential
Door 8 – The Long Kiss Goodnight
Door 9 – The Last Boy Scout
Door 10 – The Ice Harvest
Door 11 – The Nice Guys
Door 12 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Door 13 – Gremlins
Door 14 – The Bourne Identity
Door 15 – In Bruges
Door 16 – Trading Places
Door 17 – Eyes Wide Shut
Door 18 – Prometheus
Door 19 – Rocky IV
Door 20 – First Blood
Door 21 – Enemy of the State
Door 22 – 12 Monkeys
Door 23 – Brazil
Door 24 – Die Hard

Tune in tomorrow to find out which ‘sort-of-but-not-really-Christmas-themed’ film is behind door number 1 of:

The Second Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films

Christmas Comedown

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I don’t know what I’m watching
On my television
I didn’t choose the channel
That wasn’t my decision

It was already chosen
When I switched on the screen
To change it seems an effort
And for that I’ll need caffeine

Cos I’m feeling rather tender
I’m really not sure why
Perhaps I’ve overdone it
On the mulled wine and mince pies

Or is my incapacity
To move today by dint
Of eating that whole box
Of after-dinner mints

All I know is I’ve been rendered
A little bit inept
If fact I’m feeling worse
Now that I have slept

And for yesterday’s excesses
I’ll pay the price today
But I really don’t regret it
It was a great buffet

So I’ll just spend this morning
In an undignified slouch
Watching random telly
From the comfort of my couch

 

The Magic Of Twixmas

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Though Christmas is over
Remain in good cheer
For there’s plenty of food
To see us through to New Year

There are chocolates aplenty
A variety of cake
There are mince pies and stollen
(That I didn’t bake)

So much leftover turkey
Of that there’s no doubt
(But alas linger on
Some uneaten sprouts)

There are crisps and cashew nuts
And some more bombay mix
And to wash it all down
A glass of Rioja (or six)

So eat, drink and be merry
Without getting fatter
For until January
Calories do not matter

The Third Annual Christmas Message from James Proclaims

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If you’re reading this at the exact moment it was published, then you’re not watching the Queen’s speech live.

Because, as is now James Proclaims Christmas tradition, I’ve scheduled this post to appear at the exact same moment that our head of state makes her annual address to the nation.

I know HRH won’t be reading this when it hits the internet, because she does actually watch her own pre-recorded speech as it goes out. Apparently she watches it in a room on her own, while the other royal people watch it in an adjacent room. When she rejoins the others they aren’t allowed to mention the speech until she does.

Which begs the question, does she bring it up straight away or does she keep them waiting? I’d be inclined to keep them waiting personally, but maybe she’s keen to get immediate feedback.

Who knows?

Although, for the reasons stated above, Liz will definitely not be reading this when it hits the blogoshere, I expect she’ll be checking in later. I know she’s a big fan of this blog.

Well, if I’m honest I don’t know that she reads this blog, but I have an inkling that she does.

She’s certainly never denied that she reads it.

I think she probably even comments on my posts. Under a pseudonym of course. But I’m sure she does. Be honest ‘Pete’ – it’s you isn’t it?

Anyway, much as ‘Her Madge’ records her speech in advance, so too am I writing this in advance of the big day.

At the moment it’s still Christmas Eve and I’m typing this on a portable device while half-watching the telly. At the moment there’s this programme on where celebrities who aren’t singers are singing musical numbers at the London Palladium. I’m not sure why they are doing this. There’s probably a good reason. It can’t just be about their own vanity.

Interestingly the presenter of this particular show is Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. Which makes sense because he was an excellent cricketer and it’s not a huge leap from playing professional sport to presenting a show about musicals.

Oh wait…

Anyway the reason for this strange and perplexing show is Christmas no doubt. It  must be hard being a TV executive. There’s so much pressure on them to produce interesting and exciting TV shows at this time of year. Obviously they fail miserably most of the time and produce nonsense like the ridiculousness that’s on my screen right now.

Still, it is so strange that it is vaguely compelling.

I can’t quite bring myself to change the channel.

Anyway it is Christmas and having survived the nightmare crowds in the shops of recent days and having also spent more money than I actually have on gifts that the recipients almost certainly won’t want or need, it’s time to eat too much food, drink too much alcohol and watch endless bad telly.

I might see friends and family over the next few days. That is a distinct possibility.

And I’m fine with that.

I quite like most of them.

But I think it’s important to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Which is to do everything to excess and insist on maintaining annual  traditions no matter how inconvenient to other people they may be.

And obviously to eat too much food, drink too much alcohol and watch endless bad telly.

I can’t overstate how important that is.

If you’re reading this on Christmas Day then I hope you’re having a wonderful and magical day.

And if you’re not reading this on Christmas Day, (but presumably you are reading it on a different day) then I hope you had a wonderful and magical day.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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

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Behind door 7 of The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films we find the neo-noir crime masterpiece that is LA Confidential.

Released in 1997, it’s hard to believe this movie is twenty years old. There’s a genuinely timeless air about it, perhaps partially because of the 1950s setting, but more so because of a smart script, strong performances from an ensemble cast including Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and James Cromwell, and a pacing that is fast enough to keep you engaged but never so fast that the dense plot becomes overwhelming.

The twists, when they come, are genuinely surprising, but the plot doesn’t overly rely on them and the film bears up to multiple repeat viewings.

Of the three leads, Kevin Spacey is given top billing, but, although his performance is excellent, we can (thankfully given recent events) skip past him because the (then relatively unknown) Australian duo of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (the latter, at the time, better known to most people as Mike from the almost inexplicably popular soap opera Neighbours – a tag he has thankfully managed to convincingly shake off since) are the stand-out performers.

LA Confidential blew me away in 1997 and to this day remains one of my favourite film of any genre..

Score for Christmasishness

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It may surprise people to see LA Confidential in a list of CHristmas films, indeed I’d forgotten that there was anything Christmasish about it, but in preparation for this ‘Advent Calendar’ I did a bit of research into ‘films that are surprisingly Christmassy’. LA Confidential was on more than one list. It shouldn’t have been. It’s isn’t really all that Christmassy. The preliminary events of the film are set at Christmas, culminating in a pivotal scene of police brutality, which is subsequently dubbed ‘Bloody Christmas’. Then Christmas doesn’t feature again.

At all.

So it’s not a Christmas film, but it is still a really good film and probably a better use of your time than watching Reindeer Games if truth be told.

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 3

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Another day, another Christmas(ish) film.

But just what is behind door number 3?

Goodness me, it’s Lethal Weapon.

Which is, surprisingly enough, another Shane Black film. Although he’s not the director this time, but he did write the script.

Richard Donner was the man in the director’s chair (he also directed Superman the Movie and The Goonies, so is second only to George Lucas in the cinematic narrative of my childhood).

I’ve loved this film since I was a teenager so it’s pretty hard to be impartial.

I think I probably taped it off the telly but it was always one of my ‘go-to’ movies in the halcyon days when I actually had time to sprawl on the sofa and devote hours at a time to watching stuff and ignoring my homework.

Still, it holds up pretty well today, albeit the eighties soundtrack and Mel Gibson’s mullet do date it a little. It’s fun, fast-paced and comes in at under two hours, which is all I really ever require from a film.

Score for Christmasishness

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Like the previous two entries, Christmas is not the central theme to this movie, but it does manage to neatly weave Christmas into the plot at times – the drugs bust and subsequent shoot-out at a Christmas tree dealer is a nice touch, as is the ‘Dear Bad Guys’ note that is left on a Christmas tree for Garey Busey’s ‘Mr Joshua’ prior to the finale.

The movie gets  a bonus Christmas Tree for the carol-singing cops.

Plus the film opens and closes with Christmas music so I’m not sure what else you can ask for from a Christmas movie.

Except maybe a bit less violence and death.

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 2

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It’s time for Door 2 of ‘The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films’.

Today we find Iron Man 3.

Which, like yesterday’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is another Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. collaboration.

And it’s the first (and, to date, only?) movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be set during the festive period.

It’s not my favourite of the MCU films, but it’s by no means bad. At two hours ten minutes, it feels a little long but it’s pretty diverting for the most part. Ben Kingley’s ‘Mandarin’ is a particular highlight, with an enjoyable twist regarding his character, towards the end of the film, which may not be entirely faithful to the comics but works well within the context of the movie.

Score for Christmasishness:

2t

There are plenty of references to Christmas, and lots of decorations in many of the scenes. There’s a snow scene. Jingle Bells is playing as Tony Stark tests his latest Iron Man suit at the beginning of the film. In truth though, Christmas is rarely relevant to the plot and I’m certain I’d enjoy watching this film just as much in July.

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 1

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It’s the first day of December and coincidentally it’s also the first day of ‘The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films’

And what do we have lurking behind door 1?

Why it’s only Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Which is one of a number of Christmas(ish) films attributable to writer/director Shane Black, a man who thinks that Christmas and violence go together like icing and marzipan.

And who are we to argue? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang certainly has much to enjoy. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed romp with film noir undertones, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan and Val Kilmer spark off each other well, with the latter delivering some of the movie’s most quotable lines. It’s not the most original of plots, but the film has no pretensions of originality. Indeed much of the ‘fourth wall’ breaking (attributable predominantly to Downey Jr.’s Harry) alludes to the many tropes within the film and makes them ‘sort of’ OK in the process.

All in all it’s an agreeable way to pass 103 minutes. It is, sometimes, a little too ‘meta’ for it’s own good, but it’s also funny, expeditious and never boring. You can probably work out ‘whodunit’ in the first five minutes but that isn’t to the detriment of the entertainment value of the film.

Score for Christmasishness:

2t

I mean it’s set at Christmas. There are, I think, sleigh bells to be heard as the music plays to the opening credits, but it’s hardly a central theme. There are a few references to the festive period at the beginning. Downey-Jr.’s ‘Harry’ is involved in a heist-that-goes-wrong, where he appears to be attempting to steal a Christmas gift for his nephew. There’s also a fairly witty monologue from Monaghan‘s ‘Harmony’ about how she feels that Rudolph is a victim of ‘reindeer racism’. Then the festive theme largely disappears, aside from decorations in the background and a weird, ‘not-very-Christmassy’ Christmas party in the middle of the film.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like… No, My Mistake – It’s Looked Like This For A While…

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And so today is the last day of November.

Which is a good thing, because November is rubbish.

But tomorrow is December.

And December is better.

Because it means that Christmas is coming, and Christmas is good.

That said, Christmas has been very much on the agenda for a while now. I think my ‘office’ Christmas party was being discussed as far back as June, and certainly large sections of major retail outlets have been dedicated to festive fare for more than a few months now.

Throughout November innumerable towns and cities have turned on their Christmas lights. The John Lewis Christmas ad has been launched to the usual misplaced fervour of excitement, although this year it seems to be the subject of controversy on the basis that they nicked the idea off a children’s book. I thought that stealing the work of others was par for the course in advertising, but people are upset because the John Lewis advert is meant to be its own artistic endeavour for some reason. I suppose it has been a Christmas ‘tradition’ since 2007 so you can understand why people are upset.

Perhaps, more controversially, some people are claiming that this year’s Debenhams Christmas advert is better than the John Lewis one anyway.

So basically, Christmas is ruined already.

Although, now I think about it, the only John Lewis Christmas ad I can even remember is the one that had the penguin in it and apparently that was way back in 2014, so clearly, I haven’t been paying much attention to them anyway.

The penguin ad was pretty cool though.

Or was it?

I can’t actually remember.

But penguins are always cool, so it must’ve been ok.

Anyway, the point is that Christmas is almost upon us.

And, once December arrives, the Christmas cacophony just gets louder and louder, be it retailers who want to deprive me of my last few pennies, or everyone wanting to know what my plans for the festive period are (I don’t have any – I never have any, beyond eating lots of food and watching lots of telly and maybe, if push comes to shove and I really have no alternative, spending time with other people).

The 1st December also brings with it the magic of the Advent calendar. I always get a chocolate Advent calendar. I’ve had one every year for as long as I can remember.

Actually, that’s not true – I can remember when I was a small child having to make do with a picture-based Advent calendar, like a chump, but at some point I was upgraded to chocolate and I haven’t looked back since.

I’d genuinely be upset if I didn’t get one this year.

I’m 38.

Anyway, these days there are lots of other kinds of advent calendars available as retailers try to make us part with even more of our hard-earned cash. You can get beer, prosecco and even Lego Advent calendars to name but a few.

I’m not sure how I feel about any of those.

I’m happy with a daily bite of, often poor-quality, chocolate.

I’d certainly be disappointed if presented with the Kellogg’s Variety Pack Advent calendar, which I saw in a supermarket yesterday. Cereal variety packs are for summer staycations, not for counting down to Christmas and frankly, even if every door was Co Co Pops it wouldn’t be great but you know that some doors are definitely going to be Corn Flakes. Corn Flakes have no business in an Advent Calendar!

Still the Advent calendar craze is the inspiration for the next adventure on James Proclaims as, starting tomorrow, I will dazzle the blogosphere with a daily review of a film.

A film that is a bit Christmassy.

I’m calling it The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

To qualify the film (or TV special in some cases) has to have some link to Christmas. It also has to be something I plan to watch in the next few weeks (or have already watched so many times that re-watching it is unnecessary) which would rule out a number of films that other people seem to really enjoy around this time of year.

Like 2003’s ‘Elf’. Because although I have seen it, I don’t remember enough about it to write a review of it, but I do remember enough to know that I didn’t really like it that much. I know other people like it, but those people are wrong. Having said that, I did enjoy the 2014 cartoon-musical version of it voiced by Sheldon off of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and Mark Hamill off of ‘Star Wars’, but I won’t be including that either.

Worry not though, for that still leaves plenty of Christmas(ish) films to choose from.

Indeed I’m still not sure how I’m going to get it down to just 24 films.

But I will.

So get ready for a feast of festive films.

Yule Love it!*

 

 

 

*Bonus points if you can recall which Christmas Film that particular line is from.