Tag Archives: Christmas

‘Trolls’ (2016) – 6/10

I have been awake for hours. I don’t think I have ever been to the cinema this early. I had an early physio appointment and was trying to kill time before going shopping, so decided to go watch a Christmas showing of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993) at my local cinema. Unfortunately, I was there so early that I was not allowed to go into the screening without a child…. (something I have never heard of before). So instead of watching this, I waited and watched the next film scheduled, which was ‘Trolls’, and was pleasantly surprised.

‘Trolls’ is a new animation musical based on the dolls of the same name (created by Thomas Dam), in which small creatures with fantastic hair called “Trolls” live in a perpetual state of happiness, achieved by singing, dancing and hugging all day long. Large creatures called “Bergens” also exist, who are mean creatures that believe that they can never discover happiness unless they eat Trolls – and so hold an annual festival, called Trollstis, during which each Bergen consumes a Troll. However, the  Trolls, led by their King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor), manage to escape from this through underground tunnels on the day that the Bergen crown Prince Gristle Jr. (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) was supposed to try first Troll. Consequently, the furious Bergen King Gristle Sr. (John Cleese) banishes his head Chef (Christine Baranski) who was in charge of the Troll preparation.

20 years later, the Troll King’s daughter, the extremely happy pink Troll Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), throws a big party to celebrate the Trolls’ escape, despite the warnings of the grey grumpy Troll Branch (Justin Timberlake) that this will attract the Bergen. Branch’s fears are realised when the banished Chef hears the commotion and captures some of the Trolls. Poppy and a few others  manage to hide, but discovers that none of the other Trolls dare to venture to Bergen Town to rescue their friends. Consequently, Poppy, along with the reluctant help of Branch, has to save the captured Trolls – but are met by many obstacles/have to spread happiness along the way to overcome these (in spite of opposition from Branch).

From first glance, ‘Trolls’ has an extremely strong cast of both main characters and supporting roles, including; Russell Brand, Zooey Deschanel, James Cordon and Gwen Stafani (to name but a few). I read somewhere that Jason Schwartzman (known for his roles in numerous Wes Anderson films like ‘Rushmore’ (1998), and ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2014)) was originally down for the main role of Branch, which would have been great, as he is one of my favourite actors. However, I must say that I really enjoyed Justin Timberlake’s performance. There is something about his voice that really suits animations… He also helped produce the music of this film, which is a plus, as the soundtrack is fantastic.

Anna Kendrick is also ok in this film. I’m not a massive fan of her… I did not like her in either ‘Pitch Perfect’ film, ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ (2016) or any of the ‘Twilight’ films (there is something annoying in every one of these characters that irritates me). I did, however, really like her in ‘The Accountant’ (2016), so am starting to warm to her. I am hoping that she will start playing more diverse, stronger roles as her career progresses. Her role as Poppy in ‘Trolls’ is really cute (and not over the top), so she captures this optimistic, happy character perfectly.

The best part of this film, for me, is the animation. It’s amazing!!  I was so fastinated by this that I decided to read up on it after leaving the cinema, and discovered that this is the first film from DreamWorks animation since 1998. Considering this, I think they have done a great job. A large portion of this film is stop motion. I read an article that described the techniques used on this film, and discovered that the surroundings were made of felt and the ground of carpet, both of which, like the scrapbook effects, were actually cut and sewn. I really like this hand-made effect, as well as the fibre look, that this creates. I also read that one of the hardest features to capture, in terms of animation, is animating hair, which of course is a crucial element in ‘Trolls’ (as the Trolls use their hair as a superpower). Glitter is also tricky, as having to mirror the reflections of this (pardon the pun), is extremely hard and time consuming. Both directors (Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell)  began working in the art department, working on amazing stop motion pictures like Roald Dhal’s adaptation of ‘James and the Giant Peach’ (1996), and animations like the ‘Shrek’ films, so have more than enough experience behind them to have overcome and nailed such a daunting project. They also provide a number of the voices, including Cloud Guy (Walt Dohrn) – my favourite character.

As mentioned above, I think that the soundtrack is fantastic. I hate with a passion the auto-tuned style used, but loved the selection of covers and the original songs that were written for this film. Similarly, I like how the songs were used in this film. This is not a traditional musical, in that musical numbers are not buildt up to. Instead because music is so ingrained into the Trolls lifestyle, they use it as a way of communicating and expressing feelings. Consequently, large parts of the script are songs or parts of songs, and are sporadically sung – not introduced as big numbers that all the cast get involved with.

‘Trolls’ is a very uplifting, feel-good movie. The setting created is a very immersive world, and is beautifully animated with vivid colours, and I love that the film has a female protagonist. ‘Trolls’ definitely made me feel happy, and the humour was on point, I am just not sure it was the right time of year or time of day to watch it. It was a rather intense spectacle to be watching so early, and because of the large pallet of colours used, it is definitely more of a summer film. I was not a massive fan of the auto-tune used, but excused this by the strong cover and original songs in the film. In terms of the script I really liked it, but would have liked to have seen more or Cloud Guy. Other than that, if you like animations then you’ll love this.


‘Elf’ (2003) – 9/10

I rewatched Elf the other day, so decided to review this as I have not had chance to watch many new films (I broke my laptop and am too busy to go to the cinema – you’ve got to love the holidays).

I want to start off by saying that this is not just my favourite Christmas film, it is my favourite film period!! So I might be biased with my review (so take heed)!

‘Elf’ (2003) is a film about a baby, living in an orphanage, who accidentally gets taken to the North Pole by Santa Claus when he slips into Santa’s bag trying to attain a Christmas present. Consequently, an elderly elf adopts the baby, names him Buddy (Will Ferrell) and takes care of him as if he is his own. Buddy grows up believing he is an elf, but one day overhears a couple of elfs saying that Buddy is in fact a human (which explains his drastic difference in size to them, as well as his perceived clumsiness), and so decides to travel to New York in order to find his biological father, a business man named Walter Hobbs (James Cann).

The reason I like this film so much is because it has every factor I like/hope to see in a film. Firstly, it is a Christmas film. For some reason, I love Christmas films. I do not necessarily love Christmas the day itself, but rather I love the build up and anticipation of it. I love the ‘magic’ of Christmas that is captured in Christmas songs and movies. The excitement, the nostalgia and the ‘spirit’ that these films and songs somehow magically capture is just beautiful/evokes emotions in me that make me love this time of year. ‘Elf’ nails this. It obviously features Santa (Edward Anser), a toy store  (Gimbels), features a singing duet (between Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel), and stars an Elf (Will Ferell) – but it also features a Christmas message (‘the best way to spread holiday cheer is singing loud for all to hear’), and of course spreads the importance of family.

Secondly, I think the plot is genius. It’s a simple story, but is told from the perspective of a story within a story. The film is narrated by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who recounts Buddy’s story up until present day. I won’t give much away about this (for those who have not seen the film), but it is very cute how the plot is tied up. It is simple yet effective (and not too cheesy).

Thirdly, I like the animation in this film. The film mainly relies on forced perspective (to make it look like Will Ferrell is massive in comprison to the ‘elves’ he works with in the North Pole), but it also has stop motion, which works perfectly. The dynamic between real life and this style of animation works really well (which is mainly down to the sets used/the entire mis-en-scene of the film). The emergence of actors with animation is seemless.

Finally, the cast is strong, as is the directing, editing and script – which makes ‘Elf’ such a stand-out film for me. This film has some of my favourite actors involved, and they are all hilarous. I love Will Ferrell. Everything I have seen him in  (apart from maybe ‘Bewitched’ (2005)) has been excellent. I really like comedy films, and his style of humour – this dry/slapstick style – is right up my street. I also like Zooey Deschanel (who plays a similar cute role in films like ‘Yes Man’ (2008) and ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009)),  James Cann (who played Sonny in ‘The Godfather’ trilogy), Peter Dinklage (who plays just as a commanding role as when he plays Tyrion in ‘Game of Thrones’), Mary Steenburgen (who features alongside her husband Ted Danson in one of my favourite American sitcoms ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’), and Jon Favreau (who also directs this) – to name but a few… All these actors execute the script brilliantly (which is written by David Berenbaum, and full of sublime one-liners), which is set against a feel-good score (composed by John Debney), that neatly ties up all the great aspects of this movie.

This is my favourite film. I can watch it repeatedly anytime of year. It is my favourite genre of film (a Christmas rom-com), has my favourite style of humour (a ridiculous hybrid on slap-stick) and is edited together brilliantly. The cast is strong, and the sets, animation and overall cinematography makes this film timeless/it has fared well!! I think it’s one of the best ‘modern’ Christmas films. I once did not get a job at a cinema for saying this was my favourite film (as most people there named art-house/blockbuster films as theirs) – but maintain that this is still my favourite. It’s so simple yet well crafted. I read somewhere that Will Ferrell turned down $29million to do a sequel , and rightly so. This is timeless and should be kept as it is! A must see, family feel-good Christmas film starring Will Ferrell dressed as an Elf – what more could you ask for?

‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009) – 7/10


I don’t know why it has taken me so long to watch this film. I have been recommended to watch this for the past 5 years, and still had not got round to seeing it. So yesterday, I decided to force myself to watch this, and got mad at myself for not having seen it sooner. It was wicked! I love Jim Carrey. I love Christmas films. I love animations. This film was the ideal film for me – I just wish I had seen it in the cinema, rather than seeing the animation for the first time on my laptop via a poor quality version I ha d found online…

‘A Christmas Carol’ is based on the 1843 Christmas novella of the same name by Charles Dickens. It is about a banker called Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey), whose business partner, Jacob Marley (Gary Oldman), visits Scrooge on the 7th anniversary of his death in the form of a tortured soul wearing the chains he forged in life from his selfishness and greed, who has to roam the Earth as part of his punishment. He warns Scrooge that 3 more ghosts will visit him (the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present  and Christmases Yet to Come – all voiced by Jim Carrey). As warned, these ghosts emerge, and show Scrooge the error of his ways, and what will happen if he does not change.

This story has been told many times, in many different forms. I think this is partly why I was so hesitate to see this movie. Consequently, I think because I love the ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992) that much, I feared that another film might replace this – so held back on watching this Carrey version. Nonetheless, I feel that the reason that the Muppets’ version resonates with me so much is because of the memories tied to this film, rather than it being a stand-out version of this story.

This aside, everything I was told about ‘A Christmas Carol’ (a film directed by Robert Zemeckis – who directed the ‘Polar Express’ (2004)) held true. It was a thoroughly entertaining kids film, incredibly animated. It blew my mind how, at having researched this movie, many voices the likes of Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman perform. They are such diverse and strong actors. Now arguably, Jim Carrey has played very similar roles throughout his filming career (which includes goofball characters in films like ‘Liar, Liar’ (1997), ‘Dumb & Dumber’ (1994), and ‘The Mask’ (1994)). However, he does have an emotional side to him, which cuts through the sometimes too heavy humour he is known for (seen in films like ‘The Number 23’ (2007), and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)). This is evident in ‘A Christmas Carol’, and is why I think I liked it so much. I was half expecting to see Carrey voice a Scrooge version of The Grinch (a character he plays in Ron Howard’s 2000 film ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’), but was happily surprised to see his subtle, humbling humour enacted, as opposed to his overt humour, that would have overpowered more important themes and factors in the film, and therefore showed him in a different light.

I thought the animation was amazing! As said above, I wish I had seen this in the cinema, to get the full effect of how great these characters’ features actually were. I thought that the ghosts were terrifying – to the point where, had I been a child, I would have been scared shitless. Then again, I was terrified by certain scenes from old Disney films, like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1959)… Anyway, I thought the animation was that good (even without seeing it in HD) that I researched how it was created, and like many films now, this is done through facial recognition. The actor’s have small dots applied to their faces’ and filmed by a series of cameras positioned around them. This is then applied to the face of the animation, making the animations’ expressions look believable and real – which is arguably why I like the animation so much, as Jim Carrey has such an expressive face, which works perfectly on Scrooge.

I liked the humour. It was not overboard, as the theme of this film is a sombre one, and this would have killed the overall purpose of the film. The humorous parts that came through added just the right edge to this film. Similarly, I liked how dark it was. The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come, amongst other scenes, were gothic and disturbingly good. The cast was strong, and full of distinct characters (despite many actors doing numerous voices in this). Overall, it was recreated very tastefully, and goes to show that much can still be done with a simple story (despite it already having been done). I will definitely put it on my list of Christmas films to watch year in year out – I am just gutted it took me so long to watch!

‘Office Christmas Party’ (2016) – 5/10


On Wednesday, I went to see ‘Office Christmas Party’. This is the new comedy directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, the comedy duo who directed ‘Blades of Glory’ (2007), which is one of my favourite Will Ferrell films. I was so excited to watch this, as I have not seen a Christmas film at the cinema this year yet. Nonetheless, I did have reservations about this film. From the adverts, I was expecting this film to either be ridiculously hilarious, full of brilliantly timed stupid one-liners (like ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ (2010)), or would flounder like the ‘Zoolander’ sequel (like ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’, a second film was not necessary)!

On researching this film, I have found out that there was a solid writing team behind this movie. This included a writing team composed of Jon Lucas and Scott Moor (both of whom worked on ‘The Hangover’ (2009)), and an equally skilled screenwriting team, including Dan Mazer (a comedian who helped write screenplays for films like ‘Ali G Indahouse’ (2002), and ‘Borat’ (2006)). Consequently, I was happily surprised that the jokes in the advert were not the only jokes I found funny in the film – and I think this was mainly due to the strong team mentioned above.

‘Office Christmas Party’ is a film about just that, a Christmas party. The film begins with Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston), the CEO of Zenotek, threatening to close down her brother Clay’s (T.J. Miller) national branch if they do not exceed their predicted sales target by the end of the quarter – giving them 2 days to turn their figures around. Consequently, Clay, his Chief Technical Officer Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) and his genius technician Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) come up with a plan to help save their failing branch. They must rally their co-workers together to host an epic office Christmas party in order to impress a potential client and close a sale to save all their jobs and guarantee everyone’s promised Christmas bonuses. However, things turn for the worst when a colleague opens the party up to the general public, and the party starts getting out of hand.

‘Office Christmas Party’ was consistently funnier than half of me was anticipating it would be. I liked the bond between Clay and Josh (a brotherly bond where they both look out for each other in their own way), the cultural references (especially the Vin Diesel jokes), and the appearance of some of my favourite comedians, like Rob Corddry (as mentioned previously, I love ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’)! Overall the film was very entertaining, and definitely helped psyche me up for Christmas, like a Christmas film should. However, there are a few key factors where the film fell short of being a standout comedy for me.

Jason Bateman (who played Josh) arguably played the same character I have seen him play in most comedy/rom-coms he is featured in. He plays the fall back character (like in the television series ‘Arrested Development’), the loveable guy who could get along better alone, but chooses love and friendship over anything else, in spite of all the unpredictable hard times that may come with this (because he’s such a loveable guy). Nonetheless, I actually liked this. I liked the dynamic between Clay and Josh, and enjoyed what his characters’ traits brought to the table (despite having seen them before) – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?! Similarly, I thought that Jennifer Anniston (who played Carol) was playing a role similar to the role she played in ‘Horrible Bosses’ (2011). In this, she also plays the mean, annoying ‘bitch’ role, but is sexually provocative (as she plays a sex addict), which she does not bring to ‘Office Christmas Party’. In spite of having seen this side to her before, I really liked it. I thought she played the role well, and created a great tension that the film required, when she banned the Christmas party that Clay hosts regardless.

I felt that T.J. Miller was a good choice as a lead character. I liked his voice, his quick comebacks, and his overall demeanour. He plays Clay, a rich kid who dropped out of college and so was given his dad’s branch of Zenotek which unnerves his sister, who is the CEO. Consequently, there is a lot of hostility and rivalry between Clay and Carol, which Miller and Anniston execute brilliantly. He is a loveable idiot, who you cannot help but love.

Overall, I liked the acting, and I must say that from them, Kate McKinnon was my favourite. I did not really like her in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016) – but then that was more of a reflection of my feelings about this remake, not her. If they are going to remake a classic, then they should think long and hard about which ones to choose (‘Ghostbusters’ (1984), in my opinion, should NOT have been one). I do not care that they got the backing from the original actors/writers, and that it is supposed to help feminism – I like the original because I like the film, not because it is arguably a male dominated film. Instead of recreating a cult blockbuster hit with a female cast, write a completely new film…

Anyway, in terms of the plot of ‘Office Christmas Party’, it was a little predictable, but it literally did what it said on the tin. They had a Christmas office party. Things got out of hand because they partied too hard, but they saved the day. Nonetheless, I applaud the writers’ efforts at trying to expand on this, and construct more of a plot than the audience just watching a bunch of characters get drunk in ridiculous scenarios. I liked that fact that they tried to give it more depth (by focusing on themes like family bonds), and created a Christmas spirit that is arguably required from a Christmas film.

On reflection, I feel that I was more excited by the film being Christmassy than the comedy side of it… As I have said, I was half expecting to be disappointed by this. Personally, I think that I prefer awkward comedies (like Ben Stiller movies), or stupid comedies with ridiculous one-lines (like ‘Borat’ or ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’), and I came out of the cinema noting that this film with neither (other than the fart jokes made by Kate McKinnon – I love toilet humour).  In all fairness, I felt that this Christmas party theme is quite a limited, closed-off theme – once you’ve seen one ridiculous scenario, its hard to top it. Similarly, I actually thought that certain scenes were just gross, and not funny. That being said, I liked the juxtaposition of reindeers, Santa, and Jesus smattered with coke, escorts and drug dealers – I just wanted something punchier/funnier to happen…. Nonetheless, it was a good effort at comedy, but I left the cinema feeling a little dirty (like effect that hangovers usually have on me, without having had the good time of being drunk). It made me feel slightly better and more uplifted than when I walked in (because it’s a Christmas film), but will not stand the test of time in terms of comedy films, and will just fade into the background like so many other comedy films that are churned out at this time of year. Definitely see it if you want a laugh, just don’t expect it to be a loud one.