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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 5

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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

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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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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

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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.

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

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Well it seems like only yesterday that we were enjoying the beginning of the final month of 2019, yet here we are already on December 2nd.

Happily, that does mean it’s time for door number 2 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

But wait, the door won’t open.

It looks like someone has changed the locks.

Maybe it’s because we haven’t paid our rent.

Much like the protagonists of 2005’s musical drama Rent. A movie in which a bunch of struggling artists and political idealists seem to believe that they are entitled to live in a building for free. Which they aren’t.

Rent is not an especially good film. I suspect some people love it, but I suspect they will be people who also love the stage show. Which is supposedly very good. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen it, but it won awards and seems to be fairly well thought of.

I think that, in part, the stage show was critically acclaimed for dealing with topics such as drug addiction and AIDS. Which was pretty ground-breaking stuff for a stage-show in 1996. Possibly less so for a movie in 2005.

Another issue with the movie is possibly the decision to recast many of the original stars of the Broadway show in the movie. They are clearly all very competent performers, but they all seem to be a little bit older than the characters they are portraying in the film. If I was to be specific, I’d say they are about nine years too old.

Ultimately Rent (the movie) is largely inoffensive stuff (in spite of its best efforts to be challenging) and mostly plays like an homage to the original stage-show, rather than a genuine attempt at cinema in it’s own right.

Score for Christmasishness

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To be fair, while it’s not a great movie, for the purposes of The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films it’s actually a bit of winner. Although the timeline supposedly spans a whole year, most of the action is set over the Christmas period, and the fact that it’s a musical (albeit one that deals with some quite depressing topics) only adds to the Christmas cheer. So if you’re going to bother watching it at all, then Christmas is by far the best time to watch it.

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

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3 days of the condor

And so it begins. December 2019 I mean. And with is comes The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

And let us begin, as is only numerically cogent, with door number 1.

And lurking behind, what do we find, but Sydney Pollack’s 1975 espionage thriller Three Days of the Condor.

Starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, it’s a film with a fairly run-of-the-mill premise, that somehow manages to be significantly better than it probably should be. Given that it’s loosely adapted from a novel entitled Six Days of the Condor, you could feel short-changed about the three days that didn’t make it from print to celluloid but, while I’m no expert in the optimum number of days one needs to extract full enjoyment from a Condor, in the case of this movie, three days seems ample and allows the narrative to move along at a reasonably compelling pace. The plot is, for the most part, entirely preposterous, but somehow seems plausible within the context of the film, which is really all anyone can ask from a movie.

Definitely one I’d watch again.


Score for Christmasishness

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It’s definitely, quite visibly, set in the period leading up to Christmas but Christmas doesn’t seem wholly relevant to the plot. Or at all relevant. But there are Christmas decorations, and Christmas songs throughout the entire movie so it deserves to be considered quite Christmas(ish).


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

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As today is the last day of November, I’m quietly confident in predicting that tomorrow will be the first day of December. Obviously that presumption relies on the fact that the Gregorian Calendar is still in common usage. I haven’t checked, but I think I’m probably on safe ground.

The first day of December is, of course, the first day of Advent. Which means that those of us who have chocolate Advent Calendars can enjoy our first taste of Advent Calendar Chocolate. Which is sometimes of dubious quality but none the less exciting for that.

These days the notion of the Advent Calendar has been appropriated in a number of ways and many a blogger has utilised the concept to produce Christmas-themed content for their little corner of the internet.

And this is certainly a band-wagon that I have leapt aboard for the past two years, with the The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films. Which, as it ‘says on the tin’ is a daily dose of a description of a movie that has some, often quite tenuous, link to the season.

The 2019 edition begins tomorrow, but below is a reminder of the 48 films that have previously contributed to this annual waste of time and effort:


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


Door 1 – Submarine
Door 2 – Catch Me If You Can
Door 3 – The Life Of Brian
Door 4 – King Kong
Door 5 – When Harry Met Sally
Door 6 – Hook
Door 7 – Go
Door 8 – Behind Enemy Lines
Door 9 – The Ref
Door 10 – Jaws The Revenge
Door 11 – Jurassic World
Door 12 – The Hateful Eight
Door 13 – Red
Door 14 – The French Connection
Door 15 – The Lion In Winter
Door 16 – Stalag 17
Door 17 – The Royal Tenenbaums
Door 18 – Last Action Hero
Door 19 – Eastern Promises
Door 20 – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Door 21 – The Apartment
Door 22 – Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Door 23 – Ronin
Door 24 – Die Hard 2

But enough of past glories – ‘The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films’ begins in earnest tomorrow. Who knows what surprises await behind each metaphorical door?

Well, obviously a bad film review awaits behind each door.

And unlike previous years, none of those films will be an instalment of the Die Hard franchise.

And they might not all be very related to Christmas.

But they will all be a little bit Christmas(ish).