NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. (1989) WRITTEN AND BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY JOHN HUGHES. DIRECTED BY JEREMIAH CHECHIK.
STARRING CHEVY CHASE, BEVERLY D’ANGELO, RANDY QUAID, JOHNNY GALECKI, JULIETTE LEWIS, DIANE LADD, DORIS ROBERTS, SAM MCMURRAY AND JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION is the story of Clark Griswold, ably played by Chevy Chase. Clark just wants a nice perfect family Christmas for his family. He wants the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect turkey and the house all decked out with so many lights that you can see it from space. I’ve said this before, but the Americans really do do Christmas better than anyone else, and nowhere do they do it better than in these lovely ‘Eighties Christmas movies.

Clark’s so looking forward to the perfect family Christmas that he doesn’t even mind that his own parents and his in-laws will be joining them for the holidays. The more the merrier, is how he sees things. That is, until his wife’s cousin and her deadbeat hubby rock up in their decrepit RV with their nippers and delinquent mutt Snots in tow and announce their intention to stay indefinitely. Just what you want to hear at Christmas, isn’t it?

And when the expected Christmas bonus from his Scrooge-like boss doesn’t materialise and he’s seven and a half grand out of pocket on the deposit for a swimming pool for his family, Clark finds that he’s really up against it. Can he recover his Christmas spirit and manage to enjoy the holiday season to which he’s been looking forward so fervently? We can only hope he does…

There’s a load of slapstick comedy in this film to satisfy the viewers who love to see people being hit in the face with planks of wood, electrocuted hilariously and attacked by squirrels. Yes, I said squirrels. Randy INDEPENDENCE DAY Quaid does a great job as the hilariously obnoxious but lovable Eddie who sees fit to empty the foul contents of his RV’s ‘shitter’ on Sparky Clarky’s lawn. Dontcha just love visitors who come for the holidays?

There’s a whole host of familiar faces in the film that you’ll have seen in many other movies since this one, so have loads of fun playing: ‘Now where the diddly-dickens have I seen him/her before…? And what the devil was the name of that thing they were in…? Martha, get in here! Who’s that actor there? No, not that one, that one! I’ll be up all night trying to remember unless I can think of their name, it’ll drive me mad…! Martha, get the kids in here, maybe THEY’LL know!’ Let’s see if I can help a little bit…

Doris Roberts used to play Mildred Krebs in REMINGTON STEELE, that sexy American detective series featuring Stephanie Zimbalist and the swoonsome Pierce Brosnan. Juliette Lewis, the Griswold’s teenage daughter, is known for such films as CAPE FEAR with Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange, and NATURAL BORN KILLERS with Woody Harrelson from CHEERS.

Sam McMurray once played Chandler Bing’s boss in sitcom FRIENDS. He was the boss who’d give anyone who did good work a resounding slap on the butt, and, at first, this made Chandler deeply uncomfortable, but then he started to really miss it after he’d made his boss stop doing it, haha. That was a good episode. Mind you, they were all good episodes. A winner every one. Bill Doyle-Murray, who plays Clark’s boss in the film, is actually the older brother of actor and comedian Bill Murray, of SCROOGED and GHOSTBUSTERS fame, a fact I didn’t even know myself until now.

Johnny Galecki used to be in sitcom ROSEANNE, starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, and in THE BIG BANG THEORY, and multi-award-winning comedian and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays the Griswold’s yuppie next-door-neighbour, Margo, was in SEINFELD and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE.

Diane Ladd is the mother of actress Laura Dern (JURASSIC PARK). William Hickey was nominated for an Oscar for his role in PRIZZI’S HONOUR, also starring Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and Anjelica Huston, but I personally remember him best for playing Al Pacino’s gravelly-voiced, poetry-spouting old dad in sexy thriller SEA OF LOVE, which co-starred Ellen Barkin.

And now to the piece de resistance of who-used-to-play-what-role. Mae Quetzel, who portrays dotty old Aunt Bethany, used to voice animated characters Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in the ‘Thirties. Anyone who did anything at all that long ago is surely worthy of our respect and a round or two of applause, lol. And, overall, that’s quite the line-up for just one movie, isn’t it? It’s got a classy, even iconic, cast.

The pre-Christmas mishaps come thick and fast and the scene in which cute but uncouth little Ruby Sue asks her Uncle Clark if he’s Santa Claus is as sweet as sugar. The film has all the trimmings and trappings of the ideal American family television Christmas so, you know what? I’m perfectly satisfied. Sometimes that’s all you need from a festive film.

I’m not American, by the way, I’m actually Irish. In case you were wondering why I’m bigging up the Americans and their festive traditions so much. But there sadly aren’t any Irish films in which a determined but misguided paterfamilias falls off a snow-covered roof while trying to put up twenty-five thousand twinkly Christmas lights, for the sole edification of his family and neighbours. More’s the pity.

By the way, if you carefully watch the credits of NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, you’ll see that someone called Frank Capra the Third worked on the movie. Could he possibly be the grandson of the original Frank Capra? That would be amazing if it were true. Answers on a postcard, film fans and movie nuts.

PS, if you’re the kind of person who switches off the credits or even- Gawd ‘elp us!- walks out of the cinema while the credits are playing, you’re running the risk of, firstly, missing a funny bit at the end, secondly, missing the weaker second credits song, and, thirdly, disrespecting the efforts of the hundreds or even thousands of good peeps who worked hard on the movie and made your viewing experience as good as they could possibly make it. So sit your butt back down there, mister, and pay your dues. It’s not much to ask. Oh, and Happy Christmas to you and yours…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE HOLIDAY. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE HOLIDAY. (2016) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY NANCY MEYERS.
STARRING KATE WINSLET, CAMERON DIAZ, JACK BLACK, JUDE LAW, SHANNYN SOSSAMON, RUFUS SEWELL AND ELI WALLACH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

People were telling me for ages that this was a great movie, I should watch it and why hadn’t I watched it already, and so on. So, then, I watched it on Netflix last weekend and guess what? I hated it, even though I normally love top actresses Kate TITANIC Winslet and Cameron Diaz of VANILLA SKY fame.

I just found it mushy, sickly and unbelievable, and, you know me, I’m immensely gullible and will willingly believe most any romantic scenarios put before me for my edification, but this one just didn’t pass muster with me. The behaviour of both female leads left me ashamed for the whole of womankind, and no kidding.

And I can’t stomach the sight or sound of Jude Law, who, as you’ll all know, is generally considered to be a Grade A heart-throb. But not by me. Does that make me unusual? I don’t honestly mind if it does. I am unusual, lol.

I would have tolerated the floppy-haired, Liz-Hurley-dating Hugh Grant in the Jude Law role. He’s posh and privileged and no stranger to wearing a dinner jacket, but he’s funny, warm and endearing as well, even when he’s playing a cheating bastard. He’s brilliant in romantic comedies like NOTTING HILL and ABOUT A BOY. What might have been, eh?

Kate Winslet plays Iris Simpkins, a society columnist for an English newspaper. For years and years and years, she has been letting a posh prick of a writer- with curly hair- called Jasper Bloom string her along something terrible. She gives him free editing and writing advice for his books, and he offers her sex in his car when he gets a minute.

She buys him a thoughtfully chosen first edition of a book he loves for Christmas, and he gets her nothing, that’s the kind of non-relationship ‘relationship’ they have, and still she simpers about after him like a moonstruck puppy. Iris Simpkins indeed. Iris Simpers, more like.

Even when he gets engaged to someone else right under her nose, she can’t even muster up the balls to speak harshly to him or, better yet, tell him to sling his hook. Instead, she abandons her gorgeous, picture-perfect cottage just a few minutes’ drive from London to go haring off to the home of a movie producer in Los Angeles, in a daring, slightly too trusting, even foolhardy move known as a ‘house swap.’

The house belongs to Cameron Diaz’s character, Amanda Woods, who’s every bit as much of a ‘simperer’ as Iris Simpkins, the simpering Queen of the Simperers. Amanda has been cheated on by her boyfriend Ethan, and, after a lot of ‘how could you do this to me?’ and ‘get out of my house!’ and other relationship-related drama (all initiated by Amanda, a talky little thing), she packs a bag and flies to England to Iris’s house.

The ladies are swapping lives, to a certain extent, as well as just bricks and mortar. They each meet new blokes as a result of being domiciled in each other’s residences. For Iris, it’s a laid-back film music composer called Miles Dumont, played by the adorable and cuddly Jack Black, an actor I love and who I’d fancy over Jude Law any day of the week. Miles is being messed about by his cheating actress girlfriend, Maggie, played by Shannyn Sossamon, but is deeply attracted to Iris, so we’ll see how that works out, as if we couldn’t tell…!

Iris really meets two new men, strictly speaking, because she befriends Arthur Abbott as well, an elderly neighbour of Amanda’s who used to be a script-writer in the Golden Age of Hollywood a million years ago.

Played by the still-sprightly big screen legend Eli Wallach (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, 1966), Arthur helps Iris to grow a pair and develop some much-needed gumption around blokes. Iris, a fitness fanatic, in turn helps Arthur to get in shape for a big Hollywood retrospective of his work being held to honour him. Sweet, and just about bearable in terms of the mushy factor…!

Meanwhile, in England, in the picture-perfect Christmassy snowscape that is Iris’s patch, Amanda is initiating sex with Iris’s book editor brother Graham Simpkins (Jude Law), when he turns up pissed on her first night and looking for a place to crash.

We’re supposed to melt like butter on the hob when we observe that he’s not just a tousle-haired English posh bloke-slash-heart-throb combined, but also a ‘tragic’ widower with two ‘adorable’ little daughters to bring up alone.

I forget their names. Probably Daisy and Lily, or Poppy and Araminta, or some such country garden Englishness. Either way, I’m afraid my own heart remains stonily unmoved at the sight of a single father and his sprogs, but Amanda can’t throw herself into Gray-Gray’s arms fast enough.

The scene where she is running, in high heels, along a snow-covered country lane, to reach him and the cosy domesticity he brings with him all the faster is completely unbelievable. It’s just not possible to run that fast in the snow in high heels. Even if you’re Hollywood superstar Cameron Diaz.

Call me cynical, but have you ever noticed that she’s really only got one good move? That’s right, it’s when her mouth widens into that gorgeous smile. She’s beautiful all right, but I don’t know if there’s much else going on there behind the glitz and glamour.

A bit like the film itself, maybe. Some nice packaging to disguise the basic lack of any real substance underneath. Oh, I just don’t like this movie. It’s upsetting to see women being so badly jerked around by such, sleazy self-serving blokes.

Dustin Hoffman has a cameo role in the video store scene, though, which was nice. Apparently, he was in there just by a coincidence and wandered over to see what the story was and what they were filming, and they just gave him a spontaneous cameo on the back of it. That’s how you do things when you’re Hollywood royalty…!

Much as I love Dustin Hoffman, though, I was nearly even more excited to see the video store itself, I must admit. What an emporium of magic and wonderment these places used to be in their day! We should never have just let them die out like that. Anyway, happy holidays to you all and enjoy THE HOLIDAY if you decide to watch it. Just because I hated it doesn’t mean that you’ll hate it too…!

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

 

DIE HARD. (1988) A VERY CHRISTMASSY, MERRY CHRISTMASSY MOVIE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DIE HARD. (1988) DIRECTED BY JOHN MCTIERNAN. BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘NOTHING LASTS FOREVER’ BY RODERICK THORP.
STARRING BRUCE WILLIS, BONNIE BEDELIA, ALAN RICKMAN, ALEXANDER GODUNOV AND REGINALD VELJOHNSON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I can’t believe there are some people out there who still maintain that DIE HARD is not a Christmas movie, just because it’s also an action thriller film, a heist movie and a one-man-succeeding-against-all-the-odds movie. My God, it’s nearly as Christmassy as Scrooge and his CHRISTMAS CAROL!

Bruce Willis’s character, John McClane, is a New York cop who travels to Los Angeles on CHRISTMAS EVE to reconcile with his wife, who’s called HOLLY, and he’s coming FOR CHRISTMAS, TO SPEND CHRISTMAS WITH HIS FAMILY, THAT MOST CHRISTMASSY OF ALL CHRISTMAS PURSUITS.

He meets her at her office’s CHRISTMAS PARTY, for Dickens’ sake, and there are CHRISTMAS TREES, CHRISTMAS PRESENTS, CHRISTMAS MUSIC, CHRISTMAS CHEER and very definite signs of FESTIVE FORNICATION AND WASSAILING around the building. John is bringing a giant teddy bear home to his two little daughters as a CHRISTMAS PRESENT. SANTA CLAUS is very visibly present in ornamental form.

How much more Christmassy do you non-believers need? Lol. Not to mention that the film was voted BEST CHRISTMAS FILM by the readers of British film magazine, EMPIRE, in 2015.

Seriously, anyone who doesn’t believe that DIE HARD is a Crimbo movie after all that deserves to be boiled with their own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their heart, and let that be the end of it. Still don’t believe, eh? Then watch out for the first spirit when the clock strikes one…

I normally hate action thrillers, but I was drawn to this one both because of the CHRISTMAS ELEMENT to it, and the fact that I’d had a soft spot for Bruce Willis after watching him flirt with Cybill Shepherd in a little ‘Eighties detective series called MOONLIGHTING, which ran from 1985 to 1989.

The very genuine-seeming sexual tension between David Addison (Willis) and Maddie Hayes (Shepherd), employee and boss of the Blue Moon detective agency respectively, and the will they-won’t they get together element was just off the chart.

Willis’s witty one-liners, his flirty double entendres and that little quiet sexy smirk thing he does turned him into a total heart-throb, plus he looked equally divine in a tux or in a sweaty vest with pronounced bed-head.

DIE HARD made Willis into leading man-action hero material, but it was probably MOONLIGHTING that first got him noticed. The show had a terrific theme tune as well, performed by jazz icon Al Jarreau.

MOONLIGHTING was one of the earliest successful examples of comedy-dramas or ‘dramedy,’ and some of us have never forgotten the antics of the little ‘family’ at the Blue Moon Detective Agency. Take a letter, Miss DiPesto…

Anyway, back to DIE HARD. The aforementioned John McClane meets up with his estranged wife, Holly, at her office Christmas party on Christmas Eve, high up in the Los Angeles skyscraper that houses the Nakatomi company.

John gets there just before a group of deadly European thieves, posing as terrorists, gain unlawful access to the building in order to relieve the Nakatomi company of the $640 million of untraceable bearer bonds locked in the building’s vault.

The people at the office Christmas party become the hostages of the robbers, but believe me when I say that this particular group of Eurotrash are no babysitters and have no qualms about killing anyone who gets in their way.

It’s up to solitary cop John McClane and his trusty, standard-issue cop gun to thwart the terrorists and save Christmas, by which I mean everyone at the party and, of course, his terrified but still cool-thinking wife, Holly.

If anything happens to Holly, and his two little girls lose their mother, John will never forgive himself. But John knows now for sure that he loves Holly and wants to make their marriage work, so, for John, the stakes have literally never been higher…

A ridiculously young-looking Alan Rickman plays Hans Gruber, the lead robber/terrorist, and he’s very slick in the role. I must say I prefer him, though, a few pounds heavier, a few years older and with his hair longer and dyed jet-black to play the role of Severus Snape in the HARRY POTTER franchise, haha. There’s just something about him in that role that melts my butter…

I love the long-haired, oh-so-‘Eighties robbers, who stride around the building with their seriously scary machine guns and long flowing locks shouting in German, in particular the devastatingly attractive former ballet dancer Alexander Godunov as Karl, Gruber’s second-in-command. Karl has a personal reason to bring down John McClane, after John kills his brother, another one of the terrorists, so watch out for their showdown.

I love the friendship that develops between a tired and bloody John, up near the roof of the skyscraper, and the cuddly cop-on-the-ground, Al Powell, via their walkie-talkies. Those two are going to be firm friends forever, you just know it, and their kids too. A shout-out also to De’voreaux White as Argyle, the exceedingly accommodating limo driver who drives John from the airport to the Nakatomi building.

I also love that Bruce Willis was chosen for the role of John over, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, the movie industry’s muscle-bound hunks. John McClane is much more empathetic as an ordinary bloke and not an action hero who routinely eats terrorists and bad guys for breakfast.

John, in his torn, bloodstained vest and his poor cut-up and bleeding bare feet, is vulnerable and breakable. He’s mortal, he can be hurt or killed, and he’s scared stiff of anything happening to the wife he now knows for sure he loves and doesn’t want to lose. He’s just a regular Joe Soap who just wants to get home to his family, whom he misses like crazy, for Christmas. Hear that? CHRISTMAS, lol.

Of course, we also know that John is resourceful, quick-thinking, nimble enough on his pins and courageous, especially when it comes to protecting those he loves. If anyone can defeat these yobbos single-handedly, John McClane can. God bless that sexually attractive and beguilingly tousle-haired man.

I thought the scriptwriters missed an opportunity to have him say something like, ‘it’s time to take out the (Euro)trash…,’ but we’ve still got ‘yippie ki-yay, motherfuckers,’ from the Roy-Rogers-loving New York cop. So yippie-ki-yay in turn to all my readers, and enjoy this unmistakably Christmas movie, at whatever time of year you choose to view it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

A CASTLE FOR CHRISTMAS. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A CASTLE FOR CHRISTMAS. (2021) DIRECTED BY MARY LAMBERT. STARRING BROOKE SHIELDS, CARY ELWES, LEE ROSS AND DREW BARRYMORE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this schmaltzy Christmas romantic comedy, even if there’s enough cheese and corn in it to feed a family of five for a year. I love Cary Elwes- who the hell doesn’t?- and I have no objections to Brooke Shields, whom I’d only ever seen in THE BLUE LAGOON, her 1980 film. (No, I’ve never seen Pretty Baby, her controversial 1978 film, though I’d like to, it’s meant to be good! Oooops, just heard it’s been ‘cancelled,’ I’m obviously too late!) Both stars are now well into their fifties and still looking absolutely fantastic, and that’s no word of a lie.

I love Brooke as Sophie Brown, a bestselling American author and newly-divorced mother of a daughter in college, Lexi. Sophie flees alone from the US to the wilds of Scotland at the start of the film, in order to escape the furore that occurs when she kills off the heroine’s boyfriend in her latest in a series of romance books.

It’s a bit like in Stephen King’s terrifying book MISERY, when Jaames Caan- yes, I intentionally put two ‘a’s in his forename as well as his surname, lol, it’s got more balance that way!- kills off the character of Misery Chastaine in his series of MISERY books. Now, if he’d had the sense to high-tail it to Bonnie Scotland straight after he’d done this terrible ‘murder’ of a beloved fictional character, he might be walking straight on his two hind legs today, so think on’t…!

Anyway, Sophie doesn’t just select a destination randomly by sticking a pin in a map. She chooses Scotland because her late father’s ancestral village is there. Apparently, he used to work as groundskeeper (Willie?!) for one of the Dukes in the castle of Dun Dunbar, an estate near the village. She flies there hoping to recapture some of that old childhood magic.

What happens is that she immediately falls in love with the village, the non-stop-knitting and surprisingly ‘woke’ villagers, the fabulous castle of Dun Dunbar and, also, its grumpy fecker of a laird in the form of one Myles Dunbar, played by the still blonde and still trim Cary Elwes.

They have one of those relationships where they get off to a terrible start and hate each other’s guts, but then they fall in love and they fall really, really hard for each other. Sophie thinks Myles is arrogant and rude and up himself- he is!- and Myles sees Sophie as some rich Yank who swans in with all her ideas and her money and her American-ness and starts taking over everything. You can’t really blame him for this.

As he says himself, Sophie really is everywhere, all of a sudden. She’s buying the castle from him because she loves it, and he hasn’t much choice in the matter as he’s stony-broke and he just can’t afford the upkeep any longer. She’s a firm favourite with the villagers, who all read her books and are thrilled to have her here in their twee little village. They teach her to knit and everything, for goodness’ sake.

Myles’ best friend, Thomas, who also helps him keep the castle afloat by running tours and operating the gift shop, thinks that Myles has been alone too long and that Sophie would be great for him. Even Hamish, Myles’s adorable woof-woof, is dizzy with love for Sophie. This could be the romance of the century, but naturally there’ll be a few flies in the ointment to sort out first. The course of true love and all that…

If you like men in kilts and loads of unoffensive Scottish slang, you’ll love this film. No-one says ‘och aye’ in it, though, strangely enough, and that’s the most Scottish phrase I know. If you love beautiful woods and snow-capped trees and fabulous Christmas decorations and lights, you’ll go crazy for this film, because it’s genuinely gorgeous and festive to look at.

I love that the couple, no longer in the first flush of youth, are so awkward and nervous about dating again after being out of the game for so long; it’s really sweet. I love that Sophie bravely decides to change direction with her books and write the one that means the most to her at this point in time. Drew Barrymore as ‘Herself’ is a little scary-looking. Has she had some work done? And is it okay to still ask that? I don’t want to be ‘cancelled’ too, lol.

I didn’t like the suggestion that the laird of the manor, the something-th Earl of Dunbar, is somehow better than the villagers because he lives on a big estate in a big fancy house and they rent their much smaller homes from him.

He’s only the Earl by an accident of birth. He is not better than the villagers because he lives in a bigger house, keeps himself aloof from them and has a Great Hall in which to hold parties. Am I allowed to say that, even? God Almighty, it’s tough being a writer in these ultra-politically correct times.

Myles seems to have kept himself remote from the villagers for this last while, and he’s mortified to suddenly become the centre of attention because of Sophie and their great romance, which has all the villagers tickled pink. The film is heart-warming and ‘feel-good’ to the nth degree, though it might be too soppy for some folks’ taste.

There are some massive plot-holes, of course, and there’s some really strange editing involved. This isn’t CITIZEN KANE. And I’m really disturbed as to the fate of one couple, the Donatellis, who appear in the film briefly, asking for a room at the village inn. Their scene seems as if it might be portentous, important, significant, meaningful even, but then, after this one scene, they literally never appear again.

Did something ominous happen to them, inside the world of the film? Were they kidnapped for ransom? Have they been abducted by aliens? Are they still alive, even? If you have any information at all as to the fate of this poor, poor couple, who, after all, only wanted a bed for the night at Christmas-time, then please, for the love of puppies, contact your nearest police station. There might still be time to save them.

Wait a minute. A poor couple, who only wanted a bed for the night at Christmas-time? Where have I heard of that situation before? A thought is coming to me, it’s not here yet, not here yet. Oh yes. It’s here. Here it is. Oh yeah. I forgot to buy sprouts. Happy Christmas…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

FATHER CHRISTMAS IS BACK. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FATHER CHRISTMAS IS BACK. (2021) DIRECTED BY PHILIPPE MARTINEZ AND MICK DAVIS.
STARRING JOHN CLEESE, KELSEY GRAMMER, ELIZABETH HURLEY, CAROLINE QUENTIN, NATHALIE COX, TALULAH RILEY, NAOMI FREDERICK, KRIS MARSHALL, RAY FEARON, KATY BRAND AND APRIL BOWLBY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a pretty bad Christmas film, if you’re comparing it to the likes of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, WHITE CHRISTMAS, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, any of the adaptations of A CHRISTMAS CAROL or even JINGLE ALL THE WAY starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of my personal favourites. However, if you just want a couple of hours- it’s a long ‘un, as the actress said to the bishop- of tinselly fluff that takes your mind off your life for a bit, then this one just might do the trick.

Four sisters with the unlikely surname of Christmas, Caroline, Joanna, Paulina and Vicky, all re-unite for Christmas in Caroline’s fabulous Yorkshire stately home, which is owned by her rather dozey husband Peter.

Joining them will be their mum, their uncle, Joanna’s new boyfriend Felix, the father who walked out on them on Christmas Day twenty-seven years ago, and that father’s American bimbo girlfriend. Pressure cooker, much?

The sisters have never really gotten along with each other, and the stress of having their beloved father walk out on them on that Christmas Day so long ago has given Caroline, in particular, a sort of festive PTSD that leads her now to try to make every Christmas positively picture-perfect.

This is extremely trying, as you might imagine, for her long-suffering family. It genuinely seems as if, the more pressure you put on the festive season to be just right, the more the chances of its blowing up in your face. This Crimbo in particular, after the year we’ve all had, I intend to keep my expectations low and my blood alcohol count high, lol.

Joanna, played by the fabulously attractive Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Grant’s former safety-pinned squeeze, is my favourite character. She works in fashion, is a total bitch who changes her blokes as often as she changes her designer togs (Felix is the latest in a long line) and is harbouring a very precious and worrisome secret that may well come out this Christmas if she’s not careful.

Vicky, the youngest Christmas sister, is an annoying, thinks-she’s-cool Kate Moss lookalike and a promiscuous runner-away from her problems. Paulina is the most one-dimensional of all the sisters. They’ve given her an ugly page-boy haircut which is supposedly explained when we hear that she’s obsessed with the Beatles.

Meh. Boring, and a tad unbelievable. Oh, and she’s gay as well. Ho-hum. Of course the plain, lonely and unfashionably dressed one is gay. Stereotypes, anyone? Oh, and wasn’t it a happy coincidence that a girl child named Paulina should grow up obsessed with the Fab Four…? A load of old bunkum, if you ask me.

Caroline Quentin of MEN BEHAVING BADLY fame plays Elizabeth, the sisters’ mum, whose break-up from her husband twenty-seven years ago might have more to it than the sisters are aware. I love John Cleese as her still randy, ancient brother-in-law with whom she’s enjoying a saucy, full-on sexual affair. It’s nice to see old folks being portrayed as still-valid sexual beings at their advanced time of life.

Kelsey Grammer (FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS) is pretty good as the dad who returns from America after twenty-seven years to- hopefully- reconcile with his four daughters. Jackie, his blonde trophy girlfriend, is a complete airhead whose lack of knowledge of electrics nearly scuppers the entire family Christmas idea.

There’s not really much else to say about the film. Except that, maybe, the plot is somewhat suggestive of a sequel so, if the film-makers fancy bagging another few bucks, they’ll get in there quickly and bash it out. Hopefully Liz Hurley’s marvellous breasts are free to star in any proposed sequel, as they were by far and away the best things about FATHER CHRISTMAS IS BACK.

The breasts sadly declined to be interviewed for this piece, claiming a glamorous charity fund-raiser followed by drinkie-poos somewhere flash and upmarket as their reasons for so doing. They have promised us, however, that 2022 will be their biggest, plumpest and squishiest year yet, so obviously we’ll be very much looking forward to that. Over and out. 

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234
 

JACK FROST. (1998) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

JACK FROST. (1998) DIRECTED BY TROY MILLER. STARRING MICHAEL KEATON, KELLY PRESTON, MARK ADDY, HENRY ROLLINS AND JOSEPH CROSS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I saw this movie in the cinema with my daughter back in 1998 when she was just a nipper and we have lovely memories of so doing, but when we re-watched it together at the weekend on Netflix, we each agreed that it sucks to high heaven, lol.

It’s probably just that everyone has lovely, fuzzy memories of the late ‘nineties, before international terrorism, global recessions and climate change really began to kick in and the world suddenly became a much scarier place to live in.

Also, we’d both completely forgotten exactly how much bloody ice-hockey is in the film (a lot, a very lot…!), and there’s not much to like there for a couple of Irish women who loathe pretty much all sports, but especially boring American ones where you can’t even see the players because they’re armoured from head to foot. No offence, America. Who loves ya, baby…?

Michael Keaton plays the festively-named Jack Frost, a struggling, nearly-middle-aged-by-this-stage musician who plays blues covers and some original material with his band, which includes cuddly English actor Mark Addy (THE FULL MONTY, GAME OF THRONES, and much more) as Jack’s bezzie mate, Mac. They are desperate for a record deal, and it’s almost within touching distance of them when the big thing that happens in the film happens.

Jack is a nice guy, but his dedication to his music career means that he’s pretty much a deadbeat dad to his kid, Charlie. He doesn’t turn up to the lad’s ice-hockey games, he’s late for everything, that’s if he bothers to show up at all, and he just generally lets Charlie down at all the times when his kid needs him the most.

Jack’s wife, the aptly-named Gabby, played by John Travolta’s missus, Kelly Preston, dishes out some top-level guilt to her hubby for letting down their sprog. Oh, I don’t care about it for myself, Jack! I mean, I chose this, I knew what I was letting myself in for when I married you, it’s Charlie I’m worried about, Jack, you need to be a proper father to him…! And so on. It’s some pretty good guilt.

Then, suddenly, the unthinkable happens. Dad dies in a car crash, shortly after ruining Christmas for his wife and son by saying he’ll be absent for it due to work. Don’t worry, though, folks, he comes back a year later as a snowman- you heard me- and uses the extra time he’s been gifted with to put things right with his son.

That’s about all I’m prepared to say about this sport-heavy festive movie, other than the fact that disc jockey and columnist Henry Rollins is mildly funny as the ice-hockey coach who gets freaked out by Jack in his snowman form.

And three of Frank Zappa’s four children have roles in the film but don’t ask me why, I have no idea. Also, some of the soundtrack music is pretty good, in particular Fleetwood Mac’s haunting song, LANDSLIDE.

Oh, and for a struggling musician whose wife grumbles about needing a bigger house, their house is pretty damn huge. Typical Americans. It’s because everything is so much bigger over there. What would be considered a mansion by us Irish, they’d probably use to house the dog.

Oh, and there’s a lot of snow in the film, possibly the most snow ever used in a Christmas film. Oh- a final ‘oh’- and I thought Gabby should have got with Mac as soon as was decently possible after Jack’s death. He might be at his best on the couch, but at least he’s bloody well there. Happy Christmas…   

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

LAST CHRISTMAS. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LAST CHRISTMAS. (2019) INSPIRED BY THE SONG OF THE SAME NAME BY WHAM! WRITTEN BY EMMA THOMPSON AND GREG WISE. DIRECTED BY PAUL FEIG.
STARRING EMILIA CLARKE, HENRY GOLDING, EMMA THOMPSON, MICHELLE YEOH, PATTI LUPONE, SUE PERKINS AND PETER SERAFINOWICZ.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a fairly entertaining Christmas romp, if you don’t mind a few plot holes and cliches and slightly far-fetched storylines. It’s the story of Kate Andrich, the adult daughter of Yugoslavian immigrants living in London in modern times.

Kate’s a bit of a mess. She couch-surfs amongst her friends because she doesn’t have a place of her own, and she’d apparently rather be homeless than go back and live with her parents. Yes, Emma Thompson as a Yugoslavian immigrant from ‘the old country’ is a bit of a nightmare, but at least she adores her quirky daughter with a mother’s love and care.

Kate boozes and eats junk food and has one-night stands with total strangers and doesn’t get enough sleep. She doesn’t look after herself at all. Yep, she’s a mess. And, even though her friends love her, she keeps letting them down and accidentally destroying their stuff and being downright irresponsible around them.

It’s as if everyone else around her has grown up except Kate, who even ‘outs’ her sensible older sister Marta to their parents in a fit of spite, an act which alienates her sister from her, and maybe even some viewers as well. That’s not Kate’s story to tell, after all.
 
Kate works as an elf in an all-year-round Christmas shop run by Michelle Yeoh as ‘Santa,’ but she keeps letting Santa down with her complete and utter flakiness and disappearing acts and being on her phone all the time when she’s meant to be working. It’s actually really sad when Santa’s beautiful store gets broken into and trashed one night because Kate carelessly forgets to lock up properly behind her when she clocks off.

Kate wants to be a performer, a singer, and we see her going to various auditions and flopping badly each time. Comedienne Sue Perkins and actor Pete Serafinowicz (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, BLACK BOOKS) each have funny little cameos on the different casting panels.

Kate is starting to think that she’s lost ‘it,’ but what’s happened in her life that everything is suddenly so messy, messed-up, dreary and hopeless? I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that, one day, right out of the proverbial, a handsome and endearing guy called Tom Webster drops into her life and gradually, inch by inch, Kate begins to look at things in her aforementioned life through a different, and certainly more gratitude-based, viewfinder…

The film attempts to be very, very politically correct and inclusive. Marta’s girlfriend is black, and Kate’s friends whose couch she stays on are in a mixed-race relationship too. Kate has a trans doctor, and there are disabled and mixed-race people galore at the homeless shelter that Tom gets Kate involved in. It’s just too PC for words.

That being said, wouldn’t Emma Thompson’s Eastern European accent murdering songs from ‘the old country’ count as cultural appropriation, one of the new ‘sins’ against political correctness? I just don’t know any more. It’s all very complicated.

By the way, I loved that Patti LuPone turns up- very randomly, maybe she’s a friend of Emma Thompson’s or something!- in Santa’s Christmas shop as a customer. Patti starred in a sort of teen family drama from 1989-1993 called LIFE GOES ON, which I loved.

She played the mom of the goody-goody Thatcher family. There was a dreamy guy in it called Jesse, who was the boyfriend of Patti’s screen daughter Becca, and it was really shocking and so sad because Jesse was HIV-positive, and we all had big crushes on him and wanted to mammy him because he was sick, oh my, those were the days…!

I also love the way that Kate, a basically selfish person, learns in this mostly enjoyable and entertaining film that she’s not the only person in the world with problems, and that there are more ways than just one to look at something.

Example. Did you ever walk down the other side of a street you’re accustomed to walking regularly, only to discover that the street looks completely different from the other side and you even see things you never noticed before?

I particularly liked that Tom teaches Kate to look up occasionally. Yes, a bird might shit in your eye, but there’s a whole beautiful world up there above eye-level that you’re missing out on if you just keep your eyes trained on the ground.

I also love Kate and Tom’s secret garden, and the fact that this is a new Christmas movie for us to watch that’s not LOVE ACTUALLY, which I’m quite tired of by now. All that LAST CHRISTMAS is really lacking is the wonderful Bill Nighy, looking bemused and saying ‘…arse, head and hole…’ for some mad reason.

Better say a word about the music of George Michael and WHAM!, which is featured throughout the film. To be honest, I preferred Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet to WHAM! way back in the ‘80s, although I’ll admit that LAST CHRISTMAS is a great Crimbo song and the video is iconic, to say the least, if a bit cheesy.

I definitely prefer the music of George Michael to the music of WHAM! Songs like FAST LOVE and his duet with Elton John DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME mark him out in my mind as a superior singer-songwriter. By the way, Andrew Ridgely supposedly has a cameo in the film but I obviously wasn’t quick enough as I seem to have missed it. Let’s hope you have better luck…!

    AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

THE WIZARD OF OZ. (1939) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WIZARD OF OZ. (1939) DIRECTED BY VICTOR FLEMING. BASED ON THE 1900 CHILDREN’S NOVEL, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ BY LYMAN FRANK BAUM.

MUSIC BY HAROLD ARLEN AND HERBERT STOTHART.

STARRING JUDY GARLAND, BILLIE BURKE, MARGARET HAMILTON, RAY BOLGER, JACK HALEY, BERT LAHR, FRANK MORGAN, CHARLEY GRAPEWIN, CLARA BLANDWICK AND TOTO THE DOG AS HIMSELF.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The ultimate chick flick…two women killing each other over shoes.

Transported to a surreal landscape, a little girl kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers to kill again…

‘There’s no place like home…’

‘How about a little fire, scarecrow…?’

‘I guess we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto…’

‘I’ll get you, my pretty… And your little dog, too…!’

‘Erm, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…!’

You can’t watch this classic film without singing along at the top of your voice to the terrific songs. It’s just not possible. Try it yourself and see. I’ve just re-watched the film and now the neighbours are banging on the walls in protest at my singing but I don’t care. I’ve had a lovely time and I don’t care who knows it, lol.

This is the story of Dorothy Gale, played by the then seventeen-year-old Judy Garland, who would forever be associated with the role. Dorothy is a much-loved little girl from Kansas who lives on a farm with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry and her beloved terrier, Toto.

The only fly in Dorothy’s ointment is local citizeness of note, the grumpy and humourless Miss Almira Gulch, who has it in for Toto and keeps trying to get him put to sleep for biting her. On foot of Miss Gulch’s latest dirty rotten trick, a court order permitting her to take Toto to be euthanised, Dorothy determines to run away with her dog.

She picks a dodgy time to do it, though. A twister (tornado) blows into town unexpectedly and, while Uncle Henry, Auntie Em and the farmhands are all safely hunkered down in the family bunker, Dorothy and Toto are whirled up into the sky, knocked about a bit and finally deposited (with a witch-killing bump) in a land that’s about as far from Kansas as you can get… the merry old land of Oz.

Here, of course, is where she inherits the ruby slippers, meets the Munchkins of Munchkinland and is advised by the Good Witch Glinda to follow the Yellow Brick Road, which should eventually lead her to the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City. The Wizard, as if you didn’t already know, is the one person who might be able to help Dorothy to return home to Kansas, the one thing in the world she wants more than anything.

Along the way, she picks up the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, who all want to meet the Wizard too and ask him for, respectively, a brain, a heart and courage. The raggle-taggle motley crew will have many adventures together before they’re finished, not least of which is greatly incurring the ire of Miss Gulch’s dreaded and dreadful alter ego, the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Witch with the long pointy face and green skin is the best and most kick-ass character by miles. Enraged by the fact that Dorothy has (inadvertently) dropped a house on her, the Witch’s, sister, and ‘stolen’ her magical ruby slippers, she’ll stop at nothing to get those slippers back, even if it means killing the person whose feet are currently occupying them…

The colour scenery in this musical fantasy extravaganza is fantabulous and the songs plentiful. Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead and Somewhere Over the Rainbow & Co. will all leave you breathless, and infused with an amazing sense of well-being.

Dorothy and her pals learn a few gentle moral lessons along the way, and we, the viewers, are highly entertained from start to finish. It’s a win-win situation. Dig this one out if you have it, along with CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL for a fun and musical Christmas.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

NATIVITY! and NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! A DOUBLE FESTIVE MOVIE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nativity 2

NATIVITY! (2009) and NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! (2012) BOTH FILMS DIRECTED BY DEBBIE ISITT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched these two films as a double bill on Christmas Eve, and they weren’t half as excruciating as I was expecting ’em to be from what I’d heard, lol. In fact, my son and I were laughing out loud at times at the implausible but warm-hearted and well-intentioned silliness of it all.

In NATIVITY!, the original film, Martin Freeman (THE HOBBIT and about a million other things) plays an unhappy primary school teacher called Paul Maddens. He’s unhappy because his lovely bubbly blonde girlfriend Jennifer has left him and buggered off to Hollywood to become a film producer. ‘Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach primary.’

Now he’s embittered, cranky and seemingly incapable of having any fun. The kids in his class are definitely suffering under his tense and rigid play-everything-by-the-book rule. He’s become a bit of a Scrooge, frankly.

Paul is horrified one morning at Assembly when the headmistress of St. Bernadette’s, Mrs. Bevan (played by Pam Ferris), announces that he, Paul Maddens, is to take charge of the school Nativity play this year.

This will possibly be Mrs. Bevan’s last year as the Head, and her dearest wish before she retires is to have St. Bernadette’s take the five-star-review for their Nativity play from local critic and super-bitch Patrick Burns (‘That’s why they call ’em ‘Burns’ Victims…!”), played by Alan Carr. (Ricky Tomlinson from THE ROYLE FAMILY cameos here also as the local Lord Mayor.)

Normally the five-star-review goes to Oakmoor, the local posh school, whose Nativity is run by Gordon Shakespeare, Paul’s old friend from drama school and his fiercest rival. No pressure then, Paulie my man.

Paul is horrified at the thought of having to shoulder this new challenge/burden/responsibility/millstone, but never fear, Mrs. Bevan has lined up some help for him…

This help comes in the form of overgrown-schoolboy-type Desmond Poppy (played by Marc Wootton), Paul’s new classroom assistant who just so happens to be Mrs. Bevan’s nephew. Mr. Poppy is much more interested in playing the fool and having fun than helping the children to buckle down and learn anything.

Mr. Poppy is excited beyond measure at the thought of the Nativity play, especially when he overhears Paul boasting- lying- to his rival Gordon Shakespeare about how Jennifer, Paul’s old girlfriend who’s now a bigshot Hollywood producer, is coming to the Nativity play at St. Bernadette’s with a big fancy Hollywood camera crew.

This lie grows legs and is all over the school and, indeed, the town by lunchtime. Paul is in a quandary. He can either tell the truth about how there is no Hollywood production team coming to see the Nativity play, thereby making the school famous, and devastate the kids and their parents, or he can bloody well get on the blower to Jennifer in Hollywood and try to make it happen. Of course he can do that. It’s not like he’s still hopelessly in love with her or anything…

NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! is much funnier, I feel. Mrs. Bevan has not retired, and the fun-loving Mr. Poppy is still in situ. This time around, he’s terribly excited about ‘A SONG FOR CHRISTMAS,’ a talent show for schools that’s taking place in Wales this Christmas.

Mrs. Bevan says that they can’t take part because St. Bernadette’s has neither the time, the talent (cheek!) nor the transport to manage it. But since when have rules and regulations ever stopped the ebullient Mr. Poppy from doing exactly what he pleases? He throws himself into the singing auditions in true Simon Cowell-style, and before long he and the pupils of Class Seven have a song for the show.

One of the many flies in the ointment is the new Class Seven teacher Donald Peterson, played by Scottish heart-throb David DR. WHO Tennant. (Mmmmmm, David Tennant…!)

As a new teacher, Donald Peterson is anxious to play-everything-by-the-book and if Mrs. Bevan says that there’s to be no show, which she most assuredly has done, then that’s that.

So how come he suddenly finds himself aboard a presumably stolen amphibian bus full of eager kids, being driven to Wales by the irrepressible Mr. Poppy, who knows as much about navigation, child safety and the rules of the road as he does about the flippin’ Periodic Table?

Mr. Peterson is beside himself with rage and anxiety. He’s got a pregnant wife at home who’s due to give birth at any time, and Mr. Poppy has chucked his (Donald’s) phone out the bus window so now he has no way of contacting her. Nice one, Mr. Poppy…

The journey to Wales becomes utterly unbelievable at times. We’re expected to believe that a class full of kids, two adult males (Mr. Poppy and Mr. Peterson) and a donkey and a baby (don’t ask!) can casually climb up and down mountains that experienced hikers who’ve been planning for months would find hard to do. Just do what I did and say to yourself: It’s a film. These things happen in films…

A SONG FOR CHRISTMAS is hilarious and deliciously bitchy. Class Seven is not only up against their old enemy, Gordon Shakespeare and his little coterie of poshos from snobby Oakmoor, but against Roderick Peterson as well.

Roderick is the world-famous conductor who just so happens to be Donald Peterson’s identical twin brother (also played by David Tennant) and their father’s favourite, more successful son. There’s obviously a lot at stake here.

The songs in the contest are funny and witty and Angel Matthews, the celebrity soprano-cum-presenter, is an utter bitch who quite obviously fancies the terrifyingly ambitious Roderick Peterson, who represents St. Cuthbert’s School. (‘Inhale success, exhale doubt.’) Well, he’s even more of a bitch so they ought to complement each other nicely.

So, does Mr. Peterson win the contest and grab back some of his self-respect from the father (played by Ian McNeice) and brother who’ve spent his lifetime trying to erode it? Can the two brothers ever be friends after all the animosity and hostility that’s come between them in the past, and that their father has clearly encouraged in order to spur them into further competing with each other? It’s a surprisingly common method of parenting but not one, I fear, that yields the sweetest results.

Does Mr. Poppy keep his job after the Head finds out what he’s done? Can St. Bernadette’s come out on top for once? The kids certainly deserve it after the journey they’ve made, but will they be disqualified for breaking nearly all the rules of the contest? We’ll see…

The crowds of people arriving at the contest in their droves for St. Bernadette’s reminds me of CLOCKWISE. This is a comedy film starring John Cleese about the headmaster of an ordinary comprehensive school who’s travelling to a much posher school to give an address during a headmasters’ conference. CLOCKWISE is a genuinely witty and funny film. Watch it if you can.

The kiddie actors are great in both NATIVITY! films, by the way. There’s an especially cute little boy called Bob (played by Ben Wilby) who Wilby (will be!) a very good actor when he grows up.

NATIVITY! and NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! aren’t exactly on a par with CITIZEN KANE but they’ll keep the kids busy- and in fits of laughter- while you peel the sprouts this Christmas. Job done.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (1946) THE CHRISTMAS CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

its_a_wonderful_life_still

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. 1947. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘THE GREATEST GIFT’ BY PHILIP VAN DOREN STERN. DIRECTED BY FRANK CAPRA.

STARRING JAMES STEWART, DONNA REED, HENRY TRAVERS, THOMAS MITCHELL, GLORIA GRAHAME, BEULAH BONDI, H.B. WARNER AND LIONEL BARRYMORE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Attaboy, Clarence…!’

‘I got a punch on the jaw in answer to a prayer a while ago.’

‘My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! Whaddya know about that?’

‘Merry Christmas…!’

What can I say about this cinematic offering that hasn’t already been said? God only knows! It’s a gorgeous fairytale of a film that has been topping ‘BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES’ lists for nearly seventy years now.

Everyone knows it. Most people, I’m guessing, love it. Maybe some people hate it. I know some people who refuse to watch it because they think it’s ‘too soppy.’ You certainly can’t get the festive season started without it. So what’s it actually all about…?

It’s the story of George Bailey, played by James Stewart at his All-American best and handsomest. George has spent his whole life in picturesque American small town, Bedford Falls, though his dearest wish is to travel the world and have adventures. Fate intervenes time and again, however, to prevent George from following his heart. Could Fate possibly have a reason for so doing? We’ll find out…

When George’s beloved father dies from a stroke, George is obliged to stay in his home-town and run the Baileys’ Building And Loan. This is the business Mr. Bailey Senior set up so that the people of Bedford Falls could someday buy their own homes and not have to live in the slum dwellings owned by Mr. Potter, the town’s richest man and a regular Scrooge/Mr. Burns-type.

Mr. Potter owns everything in Bedford Falls except for the Baileys’ Building And Loan and, man, doesn’t it gall him! He’s tried every trick in the book to get his hands on this surprisingly successful little family concern.

There’s an awful lotta love in Bedford Falls for this little financial institution. Not only is it run on decent family values of honesty and hard work, but it also provides the locals, as we’ve just noted, with a choice, a choice not to live in Mr. Potter’s exorbitantly-priced slum houses. This choice is crucial for the people of the small town and they appreciate that the Bailey family have given it to them. 

Mr. Potter tries to make a grab for the Building And Loan when Pa Bailey dies, but George steps in to stop him. Mr. Potter then tries to bribe George with twenty thousand bucks a year and the promise of European travel to bring George over to his way of thinking, but George holds firm. It’s a real ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ moment, though.

All that’s really left for the mean, immoral and scurrilous old Mr. Potter to do, aside from fuming privately about his loss, is to wait for George to fuck up in some way, to put it bluntly, and see if he can acquire the Building And Loan that way. He gets his chance one gorgeous snowy Christmas Eve.

Bedford Falls looks a pretty as a picture under all that snow. It looks just like a winter wonderland from a Christmas card. George’s Uncle Billy is en route to the town bank to lodge eight grand of the Bailey’s Building And Loan’s money before close of business today. Should be simple enough to do, right?

When George’s Uncle Billy loses eight thousand dollars of the Building And Loan’s money, however, and the police are called in, George is so distraught and fearful of the shame and disgrace about to befall him that he contemplates suicide. He wishes, in fact, that he’d never even been born. Next comes the trippy part. Pay attention now…

After a series of painful misadventures that only serve to bolster George’s notion that things would have been better for everyone if he’d never been born, an elderly angel called Clarence is sent down from Heaven to help him.

His mission? To show the despairing George just what the lives of his friends and family would have been like had George never been born. And guess what? That’s right, you guessed it. It turns out that everyone he knows would have been a lot worse off for not having known George, who is the kindest and most generous man you could ever meet in a day’s walk, as we say here in Ireland.

I always get annoyed, though, when I see that Mary Hatch, George’s loving and endlessly loyal wife, would have been doomed to a sexless, repressed and colourless life as the town’s spinster librarian if George hadn’t been around to ‘save’ her.

She had other suitors, hadn’t she? Why couldn’t she have married Sam ‘Hee-Haw’ Wainwright and had loads of sex and kids with him? I just don’t see why she has to turn out like the very model of someone’s maiden aunt just because some guy wasn’t there to save her from it. Very sexist, that is, very sexist indeed. It just irks me, that’s all. 

I love Gloria Grahame as the feisty Violet Bicks. Not quite as soft and genteel as the more fortunate Mary Bailey, Violet is a woman who’s had to fight and struggle for her place in life. I also love that Ellen Corby, the Grandma from THE WALTONS, has a small role in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE as the little woman who only wants seventeen-fifty from the kitty at the Baileys’ Building And Loan.

Anyway, when George sees all that Clarence has to show him, he decides that he wants to live after all. Clarence lets him go back home to his wife and children, who are waiting for him with the most marvellous news.

Yes, it appears that at George’s house, a Christmas miracle has occurred. Everyone in Bedford Falls has rallied round the Baileys with enough of their hard-earned cash to make up the shortfall and then some.

Then good old Sam Wainwright, George’s old schoolfriend who’s now become something of a millionaire at business, comes through for George as well and things are all hunky-dory and tickety-boo once more. 

The Building And Loan is saved and so is George. Clarence the Angel gets his wings at last and we nod off in front of the telly with a surfeit of turkey and plum pudding inside us. Aw, isn’t it a wonderful life after all…? Of course it is. Just ask George Bailey. He knows…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor