The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 16

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love actually

Richard Curtis is a man who divides opinions. Specifically he divides my opinions. In some respects the man achieved a God-like status in my esteem in my formative years, because he was one of the people responsible for bringing the world  Blackadder. No-one linked with that peerless television programme could ever do any wrong in my eyes. Except that some of them obviously have.

It’s not anyone’s fault, when you’re involved with something that good, everything else you do is bound to suffer by comparison. Fellow  Blackadder writer, Ben Elton, has certainly produced his fair share of crap in subsequent years, and even Rowan Atkinson, a man who generally renders any movie or TV show significantly funnier by just being in it, did blot his copy book by starring in Elton’s genuinely dreadful 90s sitcom  The Thin Blue Line.

As for Curtis, as well as  Blackadder, he’s been the creative force behind a lot of TV shows that I’ve loved over the years, almost too many to list. But when it comes to his cinematic output, I’m not sure how I feel about him.

I mean I’m genuinely not sure.

Notionally, both Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill seem, on paper, like movies I wouldn’t like.  But I do quite like both of them.

However, enjoyable though those movies both are, there is a tendency, within Curtis’ films, towards a world in which fairly privileged Brits bumble around being slightly awkward. It’s a cliché that works well in Four Weddings and a Funeral. It still works in Notting Hill  but you get the feeling that it’s a stchick that will eventually run its course.

I didn’t go out of my way to avoid subsequent movies linked to Curtis, but I hadn’t seen Love Actually until this year. A fact which has been greeted with incredulity by every person I have known over the years. It’s almost as if watching this movie is like a rite of passage or something. Like you can’t be truly British if you haven’t seen Love Actually.

The movie was Curtis’ directional debut (he served as screenwriter on the other aforementioned movies) and it is everything I feared it would be. Saccharine, sickly, with more clichés and platitudes than would seem possible in 136 minutes, it’s a bit of an incoherent shambles in many respects. It sort of works, but it’s best not scrutinise the narrative too closely.

The cast is, quite simply, phenomenal, but with that much acting talent on display, it’s hard for anyone to really shine. Hugh Grant’s prime minister did seem quite a refreshing, albeit, implausible alternative to the kinds of choices we’ve had on offer in recent years. Although it’s not hard to imagine Bo Jo having a relationship with one of his staff, it wouldn’t be the endearing romance that Grant’s character enjoys with Martine McCutcheon’s ‘Natalie’.

I can see why people would like this film. It’s the kind of feel good movie that is bound to appeal to certain audiences.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But, based on my usual cinematic tastes, it really shouldn’t appeal to me.

But I did quite enjoy it.

Damn you Curtis.

 

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 5

When, two years ago, I started the first ‘James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films’, a friend of mine suggested that I had to include Love Actually, and insisted that I leave the pub that we were sitting in imbibing alcohol to go and watch it immediately (having been as appalled as everyone else that I hadn’t yet familiarised myself with this most seminal exemplar of British culture). 

I was a bit sceptical, assuming it that it was an out and out Christmas movie and therefore had no place on a list of  Christmas(ish) movies.

But, after two years I succumbed and watched it.

And I suppose it could be argued that it isn’t technically a movie about Christmas.

Because it’s about Love.

Actually. 

But it is very Christmas(ish) and you probably wouldn’t watch it at any other time of year.

 

 

 

 

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

stocking 5

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 6

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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 3

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tangerine-lead-image

Door 3 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films and what do we find. Why it’s 2015’s Tangerine.

A movie shot entirely on iPhones, starring a largely unknown cast and focusing on a day in the somewhat unorthodox lives of two transgender sex-workers was not exactly top of my list of ‘must-see’ movies and were it not for the Christmas Eve backdrop I’m not sure I would ever have got around to seeing this.

I’m really glad I did though.

As much as it is, at times, a little bleak, there are some genuinely heart-warming moments.

It’s also very funny.

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 2

It’s set on Christmas Eve though there is little in the way of festive cheer on display. But Christmas is frequently referenced throughout and though it isn’t central to the narrative, it does add something to the overall effectiveness of the film. It’s worth a watch any time of year, but it is Christmas(ish) enough to merit a December viewing. Plus tangerines are supposed to be a bit Christmassy aren’t they?

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

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Image result for the specialist 1994

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.

 

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

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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:

3t

 

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

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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

James Reviews ‘The Rentokil Advanced Fly Trap Window Sticker’

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There are no flies on me.

Literally.

There were yesterday though.

It’s unseasonably hot in the UK at the moment.

I mean it’s summer so I suppose it is actually ‘seasonably’ hot but no-one really expects nice weather in Britain at any time of year and British summers are notorious for being miserable and wet.

So the fact that the sun is shining, and has been for some weeks now, must surely be regarded as ‘unseasonable’.

Or at the very least ‘unseasonably seasonable’. Continue reading James Reviews ‘The Rentokil Advanced Fly Trap Window Sticker’

James Reviews 2015, Just In Case Nobody Else Remembered To Do It

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Well it’s the last day of 2015 and that calls for some kind of review of the events of the past 12 months. I’m probably the only blogger that’s even thought of doing this. It’s a pretty original and exciting idea is it not? Continue reading James Reviews 2015, Just In Case Nobody Else Remembered To Do It

My 2015 Blog Report

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I wasn’t going to post anything today.

I haven’t really got anything to write about.

I’m still very much in the weird world of Twixmas, whereby I know that Christmas is ostensibly over, but there’s still a Christmas tree in my living room and lots of really unhealthy food in the house. I’m also still off work. But I’m not doing anything especially useful or exciting with my time off. And I’m feeling guilty about the fact that I’m not doing anything useful so I’m not really relaxing either. It’s like I can’t switch off my natural need to procrastinate, even when I don’t especially have anything I need to be doing. Continue reading My 2015 Blog Report