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

James Proclaims (6)

Image result for la confidential

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

1t

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

James Proclaims (6)

Image result for lethal weaonpan

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

3t

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

James Proclaims (6)

Image result for ironman 3

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

James Proclaims (6)

Image result for kiss kiss bang bang

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…

James Proclaims (4)

christmas-161316_640

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.

Supernatural Indifference

pumpkin-2890150_640
Today is All Hallows Eve, or Halloween as it known in some circles. It’s a day which fill me with terror.

Though it is not a phobia of phantoms, a horror of harpies or a dread of Dracula that fills me with fear.

I have no worries about witches, warlocks or werewolves, no stress over spirits and spectres and certainly no unease over the undead.

But I dislike the 31st of October for several reasons.

The first reason is the ridiculous pretence that Halloween is a holiday. It is not a holiday. I had to go to work today.

Secondly, I’m bothered by the perplexing notion that because ‘it’s Halloween’ children wearing masks can knock on my door and ask for sweets on the basis that failure to provide them with sweets will result in some kind of ‘trick’ being played upon me. Why does Halloween suddenly legalise blackmail? Normally I avoid this issue by switching off all the lights and refusing to answer the door. I would rather sit in the dark all night than fall victim to this outrageous extortion.

Also, there are no sweets here.

I mean there were sweets here, but I got hungry.

Alas today I have made the foolish error of ordering my grocery delivery for this evening, which means I can hardly ignore the doorbell all night. But I will be most disappointed if, upon opening the door, I am not greeted with an array of essential foodstuffs and am instead greeted by small people covered in sheets demanding treats.

My third reason for disliking Halloween is because it’s the last day of it not being November, before I have to tolerate 30 days of it being November.

November is a dreadful month.

January is also an awful month.

To be honest I only tolerate December because of Christmas.

Ah Christmas – now there’s a holiday. Two glorious weeks off work, fabulously festive food, and people even buy me presents.

Of course, I’m also expected to buy them presents but no holiday is perfect.

We Have No Time To Sit And Stare

James Proclaims (4)

tv-1529259_640

As of tomorrow morning the Christmas holidays are officially over.

In fact the tree and decorations are coming down today.

I know that Twelfth Night is not for another few days so it might be a bit premature for me to be halting the festivities but frankly it is time.

It is time because Mrs Proclaims and I have eaten all the nice food.

It is time because I’ve drunk all the wine.

It is also time because I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Nothing quite kills the festive mood like having to go to work. Continue reading We Have No Time To Sit And Stare

The Obligatory New Year’s Eve Review Of The Year That Was

James Proclaims (6)

anniversary-157238_640

Last year I wrote a review of 2015 on the 31st December so it seems only fitting that I review 2016 today.

Except that I’d rather not.

It seems to be universally accepted that 2016 was a bit of a rubbish year all around.

Not for everyone obviously – some people might well be thinking that 2016 was quite good.

If you’re British and you hate immigrants then you might be feeling like 2016 was a pretty good year, what with Brexit and all that. Obviously 2017 is going to be a bummer for you when you realise that Brexit isn’t going to deliver on any of the things you thought you were voting for. Then again it might take until 2019 or even 2020 for you to work that out.

But thanks to Brexit, us Brits can pretty much write off 2017 before it even begins. Continue reading The Obligatory New Year’s Eve Review Of The Year That Was