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

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 11: The Specialist

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I saw 1994’s The Specialist in the cinema when it came out. Until recently that was the only time I’d ever seen it, so I imagine that even as a teenager I didn’t think much of it. Many years on, and when I saw it was freely available on one of the web based content providers I subscribe to, I thought I’d give it another shot. And that’s 105 minutes of my life I won’t be getting back anytime soon. Dubbed an ‘action thriller’, it’s not remotely thrilling and, while there is some action, there’s not a whole lot of it. What there is a lot of is brooding and staring and deep contemplative thought, although quite what the characters are actually thinking about is difficult to establish. There is also a lot of is really bad dialogue. Justifiably nominated for a host of Razzies at the time, age hasn’t been kind and it might possibly be even harder to watch now than it was then. I’m not even sure it could be considered as being ‘so bad it’s good’ – it takes itself far too seriously for that.

Directed by Luis Llosa, a man who is probably best known for 1997’s Anaconda, which probably tells you all you need to know about his credentials, the film stars Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Eric Roberts, and Rod Steiger, all of whom are better than this and none of whom manage to bring an ounce of credibility to the movie.

Stallone plays Ray Quick, a man who seems to have some kind of a moral code, but who literally blows people up for a living, and he’s probably the most plausible character in the film. Stone does do her best with the revenge-seeking May Munro, but honestly has nothing at all to work with. Woods, as villain, Ned Trent has some moments which are almost engaging and probably has the most potential to be interesting, but, actually, when he meets his entirely predictable end, it’s hard to care very much at all.

Truthfully, I didn’t hate The Specialist, it wasn’t anywhere near intriguing enough to provoke such a vitriolic reaction. What it provoked instead was a complete sense of indifference.

 

A Post In Which I Answer A Load Of Film-Related Questions That Someone Asked Me In the Comments Section Of A Different Post I Wrote

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It’s Thursday, which in recent months has been the day I have posted an unnecessary review of a film I watched when I was younger. But this week I’m posting something a little different. Because a few weeks back, in the comments section of one my Tuesday ‘James Explains’ features, I found a load of film related questions from a fellow blogger called Paul S. It seemed rude not to answer them, but as there are so many and as they are so film related, I thought I’d answer them on a Thursday, when I tend to write about films, as opposed to on a Tuesday, when I tend to write about…erm…well other stuff…

So, here are the film-related questions and my film-related answers:

1. What film has been sitting on your shelf for the last six months waiting to be watched?
Alas, more films than I care to mention. Thor Ragnarok and Baby Driver are two recently acquired movies that I really should already have seen, but still haven’t quite managed to find time to watch. I’ll probably get around to watching them soon though. There are others that I bought a while back that I still haven’t managed to watch. Logan is the most surprising of those. I bought it when it first came out and still haven’t seen it, even though it’s exactly the kind of film I would definitely enjoy. I’m quite particular about the conditions needed for the first time I watch a movie, so on the rare occasions I do have a spare two hours, I’m as likely to put on a film I’ve already seen, on the basis that I’m slightly less irritated by interruptions if I already know what’s going to happen.
2. What is the one film you know word for word?
There’s more than one I fear. I’m pretty good on all three of the original Star Wars Trilogy as well as The Princess Bride, the first Die Hard movie, Airplane, The Commitments, and the first Austin Powers movie. Also quite a lot of Christmas films.
3. What screen character breaks your heart?
While I tend to towards the often-quite-mindless blockbuster, I have watched a few more worthy films in my time. La Vita è Bella has always stuck with me and the character of Guido Orefice is definitely heart-breaking.
4. If you could bring an actor back from the dead, and had to pair them on screen with a current actor (who is no older than 40), what would your combo be?
Not sure about actors under 40 – they all look under 40 but turns out most of them aren’t. Emma Stone is pretty good though. As for dead actors – there are lots of those I could choose from too, (although turns out some I thought were dead are very much not). Maybe James Stewart. That could work right?
5. How often do you check your phone in the cinema?
Never! People who do that are beneath contempt.
6. What film do you love which no-one else quite seems to ‘get’?
I’m fairly mainstream in my tastes so there aren’t many films that I ‘love’ that are generally lambasted by others. Having said that, I definitely don’t hate The Phantom Menace as much as most people seem to, but it’d be a stretch to say I love it. I love Star Wars in general too much to hate it though. There’s loads wrong with it, but if you ignore the excessive CGI, annoying characters and unnecessary plot-devices, there is a good film hiding in there somewhere. It’s just really well-hidden a lot of the time.
7. What is your favourite Al Pacino film?
A lot of my friends would say Scarface, but I think for me it’s probably Heat, as much for when it came out as anything else. Movies from the mid-nineties tend to have a special place in my heart.
8. Why do they always manage to make us go one size bigger with the popcorn?
It’s because they call the middle-size ‘regular’ and when you order pop-corn, they ask you if you want ‘regular’, as if that’s the ‘normal’ one to go for. It’s really hard to then ask for ‘small’, without seeming a bit miserly. Even though ‘small’ is usually still massive. I never have any trouble eating it all though…
9. Share one memory from a cinema visit long ago
To be fair, most cinema experiences are pretty unmemorable. The film might be good, but the rest of the experience is often not much to write home about. That said, I do remember going to see Groundhog Day with a friend back in the early nineties and we accidentally walked into the wrong screen. By the time the film started and we found ourselves watching 3 Ninjas we were too embarrassed to leave. To be fair we were stupid teenagers and therefore we did quite enjoy 3 Ninjas, but I’ve never watched it again since. We went back to watch Groundhog Day the following week (is there irony in there somewhere?) and that continues to be one of my favourite films of all time.
10. Have you ever used a line from a movie, in your life, without anyone knowing you stole it? Give details.
Almost certainly. Probably more than I’d like to admit if I’m honest. Back in the early days of our courtship when my now-wife but then-girlfriend told me she loved me, I’d sometimes reply with “I know”. These days she knows I’m just channelling my inner Han Solo, but I think she used to find it quite perplexing at the time. She still married me though…

So that’s all those questions answered. I think the world is now a more knowledgeable place. It’ll be back to the rubbish film reviews next Thursday (as in rubbish reviews of films that may or may not also be rubbish) but I’ll be answering questions on a range of topics on Tuesday, as is my way.

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

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So far, the Christmas(ish) movies featured have been very much of the action genre. They’ve also been largely attributable to writer/director Shane Black. He’ll be back a couple more times before this journey is over, but door 4’s Christmas(ish) film is not one of his.

It is violent though.

Really violent.

For it is none other than Reindeer Games, directed by the award-winning John Frankenheimer. Although it’s fair to say he didn’t win any awards for this monstrosity of a movie.

It’s got a pretty stellar cast – Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron in the lead roles, supported by Gary Sinise and Dennis Farina. Oh and Danny Trejo is there too, (which I suppose is the first clue that there is going to be a fair amount of bloodshed…)

So, is it any good?

Well no, it really isn’t.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. But I didn’t really need to pay that much attention to be able to follow the plot (indeed I managed to mark and grade about thirty test papers while watching this). It does try to be clever but most of the twists, if not entirely predictable, are not really all that surprising either. And when they are surprising it’s mainly because they make absolutely no sense whatsoever. If you overthink the plot it will leave you genuinely angry at how illogical it all is. On the other hand, if you’re prepared to switch your brain off at the start, and you’re in the mood for a mindless action flick, then I’ve seen worse.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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For a film of such carnage, it does tick a lot of the requisite Christmas(ish) boxes. I mean the word ‘Reindeer’ is in the title (although apparently the film was renamed ‘Deception’ on its original UK release, which is awful. Fortunately, the version I saw had the proper title, with the reindeer fully restored to its rightful place). There’s lots of snow and the opening scene has multiple Santa Clauses. Admittedly they all seem to have been violently murdered but, as massacres go, it is pretty festive. Christmas songs abound throughout the movie and, after most of the characters have been brutally dispatched, the end is (rather contrary to the rest of the film) somewhat joyful and very Christmassy indeed.

James Complains About Unnecessary Seat Allocation

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About a week ago Mrs Proclaims and I went to see Jurassic World. It was an odd thing for us to do as we were both relatively ambivalent about seeing the film when it first came out and going to the cinema is not something we do very often.

I think we’re now at a stage in our marriage where we no longer have to pretend we like the same kinds of films as each other. This is something of a relief for both of us. Continue reading James Complains About Unnecessary Seat Allocation