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Mr. C. Gelderd "aka GelNerd" (Basingstoke, UK)

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Blackadder's Christmas Carol [1988] [DVD]
Blackadder's Christmas Carol [1988] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rowan Atkinson
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Humbug!, 28 April 2015
A nice 42 minute run-time, aimed straight at the British public who love the ‘Blackadder’ comedy series, and those internationally, who have been won over by the cutting edge, satirical and wonderfully observant comedy.

Rowan Atkinson reverse the tale of Scrooge to start of well-meaning and full of spirit, gradually turning bitter and greedy to become the Blackadder we know and love so well, full of fantastic one-liners, put-downs and insults. Tony Robinson, as loveable and dead-pan as ever is on fine form, just like the series.

With faithful support from the likes of Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson and Hugh Laurie reprising their roles from the series, along with guest star Robbie Coltrane, this is a perfect festive offering which does the job for a Christmas special.

“Mr Baldrick, I want you to go out and get a turkey so large you’d think it’s mother was rogered by an omnibus!”

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas [DVD]
Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kelsey Grammer
Price: £3.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Xmas Disney Fun, 28 April 2015
Featuring the classic hand-drawn animation from Disney Studios, this encapsulates the heart of Disney through their founding characters set around the most wonderful time of the year; Christmas. Couple the sugary-sweet and heart-warming stories with this festive season, and Disney really come into their element.

With brilliant animation, family friendly humour and three simple stories with very clear and meaningful themes, this lasts for only 60mins but never outstays its welcome. Each character is given time to shine in different ways, my favourite being ‘Donald Duck Stuck On Christmas’, playing out like a festive Groundhog Day. Exceptional voice talents bring the loveable characters to life in the usual way of witty scripts and comedic action and chaos.

You can’t really find fault in these seasonal tale unless you’re heartless or just hate Disney in general, but I doubt many can hate something that is presented in the classic way Disney originated from; classic family characters and no CG animation in sight proving that even in 1999, this style of animation adds so much charm to things it’d be a crime to lose it.

Mickey's Twice Upon A Christmas [DVD]
Mickey's Twice Upon A Christmas [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matthew O'Callaghan
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £3.44

3.0 out of 5 stars Disney Treats For Xmas, 28 April 2015
Another festive helping of Disney stories including:

‘Belles On Ice’, where Minnie Mouse (Taylor) and Daisy Duck (MacNeille) take part in an ice-skating competition, starting slow and steady but gradually increasing the risk and danger as each try to better the other…

In ‘Christmas: Impossible’, young Huey, Dewey and Louie (Taylor) sneak away from Uncle Scrooge (Young) in Duckburg and head to the North Pole when they are convinced their names are on Santa’s naughty list, and they will do anything to put it right…

‘Christmas Maximus’ re-unites Goofy (Farmer) and Max (Jason Marsden) as he returns home with his girlfriend Mona (Kellie Martin) for Christmas. However Goofy manages to provide his own style of welcome for the two in a series of comical mishaps…

‘Donald’s Gift’ sees Donald Duck (Anselmo) try to have a quiet, peaceful Christmas but becomes increasingly frustrated by the over-bearing community spirit and festivities and tries to avoid everything, especially when his large family arrive for Christmas…

Finally, in ‘Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas’, Mickey sends Pluto out of the home when the excited dog causes chaos when decorating the home. Fleeing from home, Pluto finds himself shipped off to the North Pole and becoming part of Santa’s reindeer troupe, as Mickey desperately searches for his best friend…

This time we have a similar brand of heart-warming and well-meaning stories told by Disney across their original line-up of popular characters at Christmas time. Sadly gone is the classic hand-drawn animation first seen in 1999 and now we have CGI animation bringing out characters to life.

While the heart is still there and much of the 1999 foundation still stands, something about the CGI reduces the over-all charm of this seasonal tale. It still is very entertaining and enjoyable, but with 5 stories to fit in over an hour, we are treated to a little less content in each to fit them all in.

But with seasoned veterans providing the iconic voices, along with many singing and dancing routines, this does the job that you’d expect from Disney at Christmas time and is very amusing in places with lots of mad-cap animation and dizzying set-pieces that CG allows more-so than hand-drawn animating.

The Polar Express [2004] [DVD]
The Polar Express [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Price: £4.97

4.0 out of 5 stars All Aboard!, 28 April 2015
The first ever fully motion-captured film comes from the imagination of director Robert Zemeckis, adapted from the novel of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. With such a creative and imaginative director at the helm, it doesn’t surprise you to see this is fantastical journey taken where laws of physics are ignored, and the thrills, danger and excitement is heaped on sequence after sequence where it is obvious in places this has been made to profit the 3D experience on the big screen.

However this doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of top-quality animation and the creepy-realism of the locations, the train itself, the wisps of snow, smoke and ice and the characters themselves. All are all rendered via computer animation to the point they can be 99% real, but it allows the other 1% to be escapist, thrown into danger and fantasy with no real risk to anyone – except maybe young viewers.

It will capture the imagination on first, maybe second viewing, but gradually on repeated watches you come to see that the first 45/50mins or so is basically one long, dangerous train journey. It is also quite scary, un-nerving and perilous for our young heroes – scary hobos appear out of thin air to be in your face with demonic laughs and grins. Scary puppets are present in the rear carriage of the train that seem to have a mind of their own. The train itself is a monstrous beast that thunders towards and over the screen, and also races along the edges of cliff faces, ice lakes and mountain peaks where, if you’re not totally at ease, can be more nerve-wracking for young viewers than intended.

It edges into Tim Burton-esque surrealism with creepy imagery, peril and lots of tense moments that fail to capture a magical train journey to the North Pole but rather a nightmarish and disaster filled ride that easily demonstrates exciting animation but loses that festive spirit in the story. Even segments in the finale at Santa’s Workshop edges us into peril and disaster, offering visual thrills as we race towards a crash or collision but are saved at the last minute. The soundtrack saves the film in places it drags; a thrilling and enjoyable flurry of music that is exciting, rousing and very bombastic with sprinkling of festive charm along the way.

Tom Hanks does a superb job in his various mo-cap and vocal roles to keep your faith present as best he can, but it’s the opening and closing moments of the journey and the finale at the North Pole where he shines brightest – that wry, warm and witty Hanks gives us characters that are likeable and heartfelt, and his range is clearly on show. Our other supporting cast of relatively unknown actors help lend innocence to the children in their discovery of faith, friendship and Christmas cheer, while the mo-cap performances are near perfect in rendition.

So while the journey is itself not as magical as it could have been, the finale offers a few tender moments, much needed calm and a feel-good cheer as we discover what it means to believe in Christmas and Santa Claus; much more than toys and treats, but more about simply believing in all that is good, decent and honest. The message in the closing moments does tug at my heart-strings as it’s a wonderful summary of what Christmas should always be about, and how important it will be to preserve the magic for younger generations to come in a society so close to destroying it with commercialism.

Christmas with the Kranks [DVD] [2004] [2005]
Christmas with the Kranks [DVD] [2004] [2005]
Dvd ~ Tim Allen
Price: £3.67

1.0 out of 5 stars Worse Than Dry Turkey, 28 April 2015
Probably one of the few Christmas films that I think is ok every year before watching, but when I actually DO watch it I remember how poor it really is on the surface. It’s got everything you need for a basic, run-of-the-mill madcap seasonal film; the festive community, chaotic shopping sprees, decoration disasters, a picture-perfect happy ending with cranky neighbours and bitter families alongside slapstick chaos…but something about this film is done in a way that is more irritating and drab than others.

Most of the film spends time making you resent the community the Kranks life in, as the basis of the story revolves around how two parents, parted from their grown-up daughter, want to go away on a cruise for Christmas. Sounds nice. BUT we are introduced to cantankerous and creepy, stalker-ish neighbours, headed by a silly and wasted Dan Aykroyd, who spend a good portion of the time bullying, moaning and threatening the Kranks to make them stay around and decorate their home.

Basically, pushing them into something they have no right to participate in. The Kranks are a very irritating couple from the outset – frumpy Jamie Lee Curtis has two good assets in front of her but comes across as very screechy and very unstable. Tim Allen, who increasingly comes over like he is the King of Christmas Comedy (after his ‘Santa Clause Trilogy’), gurns, goofs and over-acts his way through this in a series of un-funny set pieces, dialogue exchanges and slapstick.

With an irritating couple to start with, mixed with a creepy community, this doesn’t give you anything other than maybe a few chuckles as the mad-cap dash to escape Christmas ensues (it’s been done better), and then the finale of the film has it all reversed for a mad-cap dash to build Christmas (it’s been done better).

Very flat supporting characters, and very clichéd (the lazy cops, the grumpy old man, the cheeky children etc) give you something that is very un-memorable and rather un-funny unless you like your Christmas films to come over as very over-acted, very hammy and very tacky – festive films are usually a mix of all three, but there is a charm and heart behind it. This has nothing like that.

Look Back, Don't Stare - A Film About Progress [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Look Back, Don't Stare - A Film About Progress [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Take That
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.37

4.0 out of 5 stars A Slice Of TT History, 28 April 2015
This documentary charts the progress of 90s British band Take That, re-formed in their original 5 piece line up as they embark on the journey to record a new album for the first time in over 15 years. It clocks in at 60mins, but leaves you wanting much more!

Looking into what makes a perfect album, a fusion of different genres to stay faithful to their pop roots but modern and contemporary, this moody, atmospheric and mature film shows the highs and lows of what was one of the most excitable reformations in British musical history.

Touching and revealing interviews paint a raw picture for all 5 members as they explain just what motivated them to continue in darker days and what being in the industry means to them.

From composing music and writing lyrics, to keeping their secret quiet when performing on TV and charity events in the public eye, this is a wonderfully entertaining look into the behind-the-scenes journey with Britain's most successful boy/man band.

A Christmas Carol (Blu-ray + DVD)
A Christmas Carol (Blu-ray + DVD)
Dvd ~ Jim Carrey
Offered by produXa UK
Price: £5.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Scrooge At His Best, 28 April 2015
One of the greatest Christmas stories ever written, and told in many adaptations over TV, radio and film, always manages to convey the real spirit of what Christmas is all about in a heart-warming and entertaining, simple way. This adaptation, via the imagination of Robert Zemeckis, following his 2009 motion-capture animation ‘The Polar Express’, combines that same dizzying 3D spectacle with nightmarish action, well presented characters and a well-meaning narrative.

Jim Carrey is on fine form in motion-capture and vocal mode as Ebenezer Scrooge; wiry, mean and cantankerous to the best, almost looking like a man corrupted by the bitterness he embodies with claw-like hands, a bent frame and leather face. The animation is superb, with lots of detail to every hair, inch of skin and location we see. Mixed with a great vocal performance, this Scrooge I feel is one of the best and probably one of the closest interpretations to the Dickens original; coming over at times like an old beast rather than an old man.

With good support from a fairly British cast including Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth, the simple story isn’t lost amidst the made-for-3D action that we are treated to; flying through a beautiful wintery Victorian London, or around a snow-capped countryside or even down the dark and dangerous streets at night-time. This manages to capture the time in history perfectly and looks just the part, with the animation helping our characters bend the laws of physics for a fantastical tale that never puts the actors in danger as they fly, fall and fight.

For a story that nearly everybody knows so well, the way it is presented is key to staying fresh and current, and this is clearly the first 3D motion-capture adaptation giving us lots of nice touches that brings the story to life (literally) with great detail to all the settings we see; flickering candle lights, creaky wooden houses, furious snow falls.

While the film may not be generally suitable for younger viewers thanks to, once again, the love of nightmarish visions Zemeckis injects into these tales that seem innocent enough (we have laughing skeletons, terrifying ghosts who scream at the camera, feral children and demonic horses thundering towards the screen), maybe younger viewers should stick with the fluffy fun of ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’.

But, on the whole this is a nice 90mins run time and doesn’t change the foundations of the story at all. With a wonderfully rousing and traditional soundtrack that channels that festive spirit, and a beautiful rendition of 'God Bless Us, Everyone' by Andrea Bocelli, this offers a very authentic adaptation of a classic with fresh fantasy injected to take not just Scrooge on an amusing and dizzying journey, but audiences too.

Home Alone [Blu-ray] [1990]
Home Alone [Blu-ray] [1990]
Dvd ~ Macaulay Culkin
Offered by b68solutions
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Christmas Classic, 28 April 2015
With plenty of silly moments and wonderfully funny set pieces, courtesy of the famous booby-trapped finale, this delivers lots of heart in a story full of witty and charming moments. It made an international star out of Macaulay Culkin, and it's easy to see why at just 8 years old. He delivers everything you’d expect from a little one home alone; joy, sadness, fear, confidence and pride.

Coupled with fine support from Catherine O'Hara and John Heard as Kevin's parents, who head the family and their chaotic race back to America, this is a wonderfully family orientated film. From spending too much time together, from NOT spending enough time together and then bickering, laughing, fighting and valuing each other, this film has it all which we identify straight away from the opening scene. The chaotic family Christmas is made more relevant and easy to slip right into the frantic world of the McCallisters.

When the jokes and mad-cap fun and games of being home alone settle, we have some really nice tender moments seeing how scary the world can be for a child who has to learn to grow up far sooner than they should. Branded as a shop-lifter by accident, learning to conquer the fear of his basement and navigating a supermarket are all shown here in a nice way, but Culkin and the others convey a real sense of isolation and sadness away from the joy of the season that heightens how much family is important at this time of year.

BUT Kevin has much more time to raise smiles with his cheeky ways at fending off the ‘Wet Bandits’ time and time again, and his inner-monologues as he discovers adult pleasures such as eating as much junk food as you want, looking at nude Playboy pinups and using Dads aftershave are also a relatable sight!

And kudos to the dastardly duo, our ‘Wet Bandits’, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern (who has THE best scream on film ever). They easily make the film something memorable with their imposing little and large appearance and their toe-curling, painful suffering at the hands of Kevin in the finale, which has nothing to do with ‘Skyfall’ thank you very much. They’re a great comedic pair and work so well together; Pesci being the brains, Stern being the oaf. And we have no swearing or no graphic violence – action comedy films CAN be just as effective without it (or it could be back in the 90s).

With a brilliant festive soundtrack, wonderful dead-pan performances and a very original premise that all children have dreamt about at some point and full of memorable one-liners and action, this works its way up to be a real classic Christmas family film.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York [Blu-ray] [1992]
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York [Blu-ray] [1992]
Dvd ~ Macaulay Culkin
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Sequel, 28 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Full of charm and many repeated jokes and reference to the first film, this tries to capture the innocence and fun of the original, which it does in places, but other times comes over as a little recycled and devoid of real imagination. The same ideas and motives are used for the characters which is amusing at first, but what was charming the first time now just drags a little as you wait for the pay-off of another booby-trapped finale (actually more painful than the first!). However this time with a good 10mins extra run time, it does drag in places it doesn't really need to and sometimes feels like they're trying too hard to make something more of the film when, really, it's a template copy of the shorter first film.

Our returning stars are all on fine form, delivering the comedy and emotion expected from their characters – Kevin is more confident and brave in his actions, but still isolated and alone (it makes you think after his experiences if he is psychologically scarred!). The Sticky Bandits are still as dumb and dangerous as ever, and the McCallister family still do what every other parent would in a convincing way.

New comers Tim Curry as the Plaza Hotel concierge and Brenda Fricker as the Pigeon Lady (a mirrored role to Old Man Marley), do well and add some new blood to the proceedings, even if Fricker’s character is a recycled device from the first to scare Kevin, enlighten Kevin and then save Kevin. Curry is on fine, slimy form and steals every scene he is in with that inimitable delivery.

Culkin, Pesci and Stern pick up where they left off a good 50mins into the film (the first half deals with Kevin living it up in the city) and we have plenty of slapstick, non-violent danger and a few laugh out loud moments in the finale thanks to Stern’s physical and vocal acting as he is hit in the face with bricks, electrocuted and stapled.

From the opening sequence, to the closing credits, this is a step by step “remake” of the first film, but in a much larger, more opportunist world where we remove the house and put in a city. It’s still enjoyable in places and is full of that festive sentiment and good-natured spirit, but just doesn’t hold up to the original.

It's a Wonderful Life: 65th Anniversary Edition (includes free poster and artcards) [Blu-ray] [1946]
It's a Wonderful Life: 65th Anniversary Edition (includes free poster and artcards) [Blu-ray] [1946]
Dvd ~ James Stewart
Price: £13.30

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Great, 28 April 2015
I've only seen this film twice, and both times I admire the qualities about it and the production, but fail to see how it tops the lists of "Greatest Christmas Films" year on year.

The acting is top quality for the era, and the story is as iconic as 'A Christmas Carol', showing the more humane and sensitive side to the Christmas season and how hard, dark and pressured it can be for many of us trying to keep on top of our game.

I feel it takes off more in the final act, showing how things would have been without George, which is always interesting to see after following characters and settings over the course of the film, but something about it doesn't win me over, and I can easily leave this one to watch for a couple of Christmas's to come. At times I found it boring, and at times I found it too full of that style of wholesome entertainment song and dance genre when I just wanted a grounded story.

But then, we can't all be the same, can we.

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