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

 

LOVE HARD. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LOVE HARD. (2021) DIRECTED BY HERNAN JIMENEZ.
STARRING NINA DOBREV, JIMMY O. YANG, HARRY SHUM JR. AND DARREN BARNET.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

My kids and I have been really enjoying watching what we call the ‘Bad Christmas Movies’ on Netflix lately. We call them this because they’re not usually up to the standard of the so-called ‘Good Christmas Movies’ not featured on Netflix, like WHITE CHRISTMAS, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, etc., but also because some of them are pretty awful.

That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t some bright little gems in there too, sparkling away happily under all the dross. Your Honour (pompously, of course), if it please the Court, I find LOVE HARD to be one such movie.

It’s called LOVE HARD on account of the two Christmas movies discussed and referenced by the protagonists in it: LOVE ACTUALLY and DIE HARD. Yes, according to the lead girl, DIE HARD is a Christmas film, so either state your case for the opposing view or get over it, lol. It’s probably better, too, that they went with LOVE HARD for the title of the movie, as its alternative, DIE ACTUALLY, isn’t as festive. Ahem.

Anyway, to the plot. Natalie Bauer is a modern girl-about-town who lives in Los Angeles and writes about her bad dates and train-wreck romantic life for a dating app. The readers lap it up. The more disastrous the date, the better they like it, the ghouls. But then, one day, Natalie starts an online relationship with Josh, 30, from Lake Placid, New York, based mainly on his photo, which portrays him as a hunk…

Their online relationship becomes super-hot, very fast. He makes her laugh, he reads her to sleep, he’s there for her- via this app, of course- when she wakes up in the morning and when she goes to sleep at night. Natalie’s in love. Crazy in love. So, when Josh casually remarks that he wishes they were together for the upcoming Christmas, Natalie mulls it over- for, like, a second- then hops on a plane to New York to surprise him…

It’s Natalie who gets the biggest surprise. Josh has apparently ‘catfished’ her, meaning that he’s used a photograph that’s not of himself to attract her to him online. The real Josh falls down in the looks department, and Natalie is devastated. Still, she’s the one who flew 3,000 miles to ‘surprise’ a stranger, so who is she to grumble…?

She livens up, however, when she meets Tag, the man whose photo Josh has used to ‘catfish’ her. Tag is a real man who actually exists, in fact he’s a friend of Josh’s, and Natalie totally falls for him, again based purely on his looks. The dorky Josh, who still lives in his parents’ basement, works in their ‘outdoors gear’ store, which he hates, and has lived a fairly girlfriend-free existence thus far, makes a bargain with her.

If she stays with him for Christmas and pretends to be his girlfriend in front of his family, he will fill her in on Tag’s interests and hobbies and, basically, get her noticed by Tag and even get her going out with him, which is what Natalie thinks she wants.

Natalie agrees to Josh’s zany scheme, but only because she fancies Tag so much. But does she really want what she thinks she wants? And, even if she does, should she get it? Fate might have other plans for the desperate dater…

The funniest scenes? The hilarious karaoke session in the pub (‘and I would anything for love, but I won’t do that…!’) and the Lin family carol-singing expedition, in which Josh’s patronising older brother Owen attempts to steal the limelight- yet again- with his show-boating.

Owen has always loved lording it over Josh with his lovely wife and his handsome good looks, so, when underdog Josh has a chance to come first in their parents’ eyes for a change, we’re all totally rooting for him.

I was happy with the ending. At first, I was afraid that Nat would get with Tag and a dorky female with poor social skills and braces on her teeth might be rolled in for Josh. That would have made me so darned mad, with its outmoded stereotyping message.

Good-looking people should get with other good-looking people. Dorks and so-called ‘losers’ should only marry other dorks, etc. But why shouldn’t the dork, for once, get the girl? Why shouldn’t opposites attract, for once, or the lead girl decide that she’s looking for something more than just vapid good looks for a change?

And why the dickens should anyone, male or female, have to change themselves and pretend to be someone they’re not, pretend to like stuff they’re not into, just in order to bag a boyfriend or a girlfriend? Good on this film for not ending in the obvious way, and sorry if I’ve just completely spoiled the ending for you, lol.

By the way, is DIE HARD a Christmas movie? The answer is, apparently, Yippee Ki Yay, m*therf*cker…

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:

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:

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.

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

chitty childcatcher

IAN FLEMING’S (Yes, THAT Ian Fleming…!) CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) DIRECTED BY KEN HUGHES. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD M. SHERMAN AND ROBERT B. SHERMAN. SCREENPLAY BY ROALD DAHL AND KEN HUGHES.

STARRING DICK VAN DYKE, SALLY ANN HOWES, ADRIAN HALL, HEATHER RIPLEY, GERT FROBE, ANNA QUAYLE, LIONEL JEFFRIES, JAMES ROBERTSON JUSTICE, ROBERT HELPMANN, BARBARA WINDSOR AND BENNY HILL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, this family musical is a real Christmas cracker, or a cracker for any other time of the year you care to name as well. I remember watching this during childhood Christmases and being terrified by the evil Child-Catcher, enchanted by the real-life ‘dolls’ performing at the awful Baron Bomburst’s birthday and mildly annoyed by the repetitive nature of the theme song, lol. Here’s the deal, anyway.

The oddly-named Caractacus Potts (we’ll call him Pottsy here!) is a crackpot English inventor in either the late Victorian era or the early Whatever-Came-After-That era. He’s tolerably good-looking- not hideous, at any rate- and he’s a widow with two perfect little pre-teen Aryan youths for children. Well, excuse me but could they be any blonder?

Jemima and Jeremy are allowed to skip school and run wild around the English countryside dressed in rags, while their inventor father spends hours closeted in his laboratory tinkering about with the mechanics of yet another Truly hare-brained scheme. See what I did there? Their cut-glass accents can be a tad irritating (Oh Deddy Deddy, we DO love you so and all that type of thing) but they’re basically good kids, just badly in need of a mother. And a bath and a square meal.

A potential mother hoves into view in the form of the beautiful and divinely-dressed Truly Scrumptious, a wealthy young local lady who almost runs the young’uns down in her splendiferous motorised vehicle. She’s horrified to see the children dressed like ragged urchins and endangering themselves and the public on the good decent English highways and byways.

She comes home with the children to give Pottsy a piece of her mind. Why aren’t these children at school and so on and so forth. Pottsy sends her away with a flea in her ear. Mind your own business, young lady, these are my children and I’ll sorely neglect their moral and educational upbringing as I see fit or words to that effect. Now be off with you at once, young woman, or I’ll turn you into, erm, marzipan. That’s it, marzipan. Harrumph!

The gorgeous young lady turns out to be Truly Scrumptious of the wildly successful Scrumptious Family Sweetie Emporium, however, and the daughter of its wildly eccentric owner. (Not as wildly eccentric as Pottsy’s father, however, who can’t forget the time he was a soldier- and a brigadier’s batman- in India.)

This is awkward for Pottsy as he’s just invented a new sweet he wants to flog to Poppa Scrumptious, a stick of whistling candy that has the family dog’s seal of approval. Woof woof! Truly generously gives Pottsy tips on how to handle her brusquely-mannered father and, from then on, a beautiful friendship is born and Truly and the Potts family are as thick as thieves together.

Truly and Pottsy are deeply, truly attracted to each other. The attraction on Pottsy’s part is simple to understand, as Truly is a stunning bit of stuff who wears fabulous dresses and likes to be independent and speak her mind, which quality makes men thinks that chicks are feisty, see? Men love feisty women, or so I’m told. They never seem to like it when I get feisty…

The attraction that Pottsy holds for Truly is obvious too. There isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t be drawn to a lonely widower with two lovely motherless children. Her desire to be a mother to the sproglets and a comfort and a helpmeet to their poor dear father is simply overwhelming. It over-rides all other desires.

Let’s just hope that Pottsy makes a better husband than he does an inventor. His Automatic Hair-Cutting Machine that leaves the user looking like that guy out of The Three Stooges is worse than Homer Simpson’s make-up gun that shoots women in the face with their daily requirement of cosmetics. CARRY ON star Barbara Windsor features in the hair-cutting section as the little blonde bombshell girlfriend of the poor bastard being so brutally barbered.

Danger strikes the little quartet, anyway, Pottsy and Truly and the kiddiewinks, when the awful Baron Bomburst of the little European monarchy of Vulgaria decides he wants to get his royal mitts on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This is the old vintage car lovingly restored by Pottsy at the kids’ behest. Oh Deddy Deddy please, you’ve got to save our precious automobile from the knackers’ yard and all that jazz.

Two nutty emissaries of the Baron’s kidnap Pottsy’s Dad and spirit him away in a hot-air balloon. They mistakenly believe him to be his son Caractacus, the eccentric British inventor whose magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is able to float and fly.

Pottsy, Truly and the kids duly hop into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and fly to Vulgaria to save Grandpa Potts from a grisly fate at the hands of the Baron. Vulgaria is a very strange Kingdom indeed where no children are allowed because the Baron’s wife, the Baroness, is afraid of the sticky-fingered little blighters.

All the Kingdom’s children have to live in a gloomy underground cavern and the Child-Catcher, the terrifying but brilliant star of the whole shebang, is the guy who’ll catch any new kiddy-winks who turn up in town and sling ’em int’ chokey.

He captures Jeremy and Jemima neatly in his net with his blood-chilling cries of ‘Lollipops! Get your free lollipops and ice-cream here, and all free today, and not a penny to pay…!’ Kids are such dopes, lol. Imagine falling for that line. Oldest trick in the book, that is.

One good shove and they’re in the van, off to some place grim and grey from which they’ll never escape and, more importantly, from where their precious Deddy Deddy can’t spring ’em. (We hope, snigger. Serves ’em right, the headstrong, wilful brats. Maybe a spell in the Child-Catcher’s van will teach ’em that the world’s not their own personal bloody playground. Humph.)

So now Pottsy and Truly have a mammoth task on their hands. They have to rescue both Grandpa, who by now is gloriously immersed in growing ‘the roses of success,’ and the nippers from the Baron’s Guards, and then get themselves and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the hell out of Vulgaria before ze wicked Baron has them killed and made into cushion-covers.

And some would say that they now have a moral obligation to help the captured children and the oppressed downtrodden inhabitants of Vulgaria as well, now that they’ve seen what goes on there.

And especially as Pottsy has already crooned his Hushabye Mountain ditty to the kids in the underground cavern and given ’em a semblance of hope. You can’t sing that at ’em and then just bugger off with a ta-ra then, chuck. It wouldn’t be right.

Benny Hill the comedian is excellent as the Toymaker who can only make toys for the spoiled-brat Baron now that all the children of Vulgaria are imprisoned. My favourite bit of the film, next to the scary Child-Catcher scenes, is when Truly and Pottsy perform for ze Baron on his birthday as real-life, life-sized dolls. I always loved Truly’s song the best. ‘What do you see, you people gazing at me? You see a doll on a music box that’s wound by a key.’ She makes a Truly Beautiful Doll.

When Pottsy reacts the wrong way near the end of the film to the kids’ suggestion that he marry Truly, I always want to bonk him on the head with one of his stupid inventions. What a wuss.

The woman’s been to hell and back for him and his rugrats and he’s balking at the idea of marriage. You dope, Caractacus. She’s gagging for a ring. Give the lady what she wants. It’s simpler in the long run to just surrender now. You know she’ll get you in the end…

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

 

THE SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

sound of music

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S THE SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ROBERT WISE. BASED ON THE MEMOIRS OF MARIA VON TRAPP. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD RODGERS (MUSIC) AND OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN THE SECOND (LYRICS).

STARRING JULIE ANDREWS, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, RICHARD HAYDN, PEGGY WOOD AND ELEANOR PARKER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens,

Brown paper packages tied up with strings,

These are a few of my favourite things.

………………………………………………….

When the dog bites and the bee stings

And I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favourite things

And then I don’t feel so bad.’

The sight of a nun with a guitar gives me the willies, straight up. Reminds me of Fourth Year in secondary school when Sister Assumpta, nicknamed ‘Stumpy’ for her lack of height inches, tried to teach me to play the guitar after school. After only two lessons, I was expelled forever from these after-school jamborees for Crimes Against Music. Well, we can’t all be good at everything. Music’s loss was writing’s gain, lol.

Anyway, there’s a nun with a guitar in the multi-award-winning THE SOUND OF MUSIC, set in the last days of the 1930s. Her name is Maria, she’s wonderfully played by Julie Andrews and she’s a source of constant frustration to the other nuns in the convent. Let’s just say she’s a little, well, different.

She sings all the time, not just in church, she’s late to everything- except meals- and she’s as scatty as a dotty old professor of physics who wastes a morning looking for the spectacles that were on his head the whole time.

Furthermore, she’s always up in the hills where she was brought up, singing and twirling and twirling and singing and generally acting like she’s taken leave of her remaining senses altogether.

The kindly and extraordinarily understanding Reverend Mother of this lovely little convent in Austria is convinced that Maria is not quite ready to take her final vows as a nun. She thinks that Maria hasn’t quite made up her mind what she wants to do with her life and she thinks that the girl might benefit from a spell back out in the world outside the convent walls once more.

With this in mind, she sends Maria to the Salzburg home of one Captain Von Trapp, a widowed and much decorated sea captain who is in urgent need of a governess for his seven children. Maria will be this governess. Off she duly repairs to the Captain’s magnificent abode.

She’s immediately struck by the tall, handsome and autocratic bearing of the Captain (Christopher Plummer), but she’s less impressed by the rather cold, super-regulated way that he treats his children as if they were little sailors under his command at sea. They march instead of play, they wear uniforms instead of normal kiddy clothes and they jump to attention when the Captain blows his shrill whistle.

Where’s the love? Where’s the heart? Where’s the music, the singing and dancing and, God forbid, the fun? The Captain does love his children very much but he seems unable to show them this love. Certainly it’s hidden beneath layers and layers of strict, in fact rigid, naval-style discipline, timetables, constant drilling and whistles. Always with the whistles.

Maria sets out to bring the heart, the music and the fun back to the sad Von Trapp household. Such things have been practically banned from the household by the Captain, because they remind him of his late wife and the pain of his bereavement.

That’s all well and good for Georg (inexplicably pronounced not as George but as Gay-org with two hard ‘g’s), but it’s surely a bit unfair on his children, isn’t it? After all, they lost their mother, didn’t they? Should they lose everything else that’s good and nice and fun in life as well?

The children, ranging from sixteen-going-on-seventeen-year-old Liesl to five-year-old Gretl, with Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta and Marta in between, all adore Maria and are more than willing to help her to restore the fun and games to their heretofore excessively regimented lives. With Maria encouraging them, they play to their hearts’ content, they sing and dance and run and climb trees and fall in the lake and get filthy dirty and soaking wet as kids are meant to do.

The Captain, though he won’t admit it, is enchanted by Maria, by the way she dispenses with rules and silly whistles and just whole-heartedly throws herself into loving the children and being there for them in a way that previous governesses were unable to comprehend.

There’s an immediate attraction between the two adults that quite flusters Maria and flummoxes the Captain. Who knows if they’d have ever done anything about it if it hadn’t been for a fly in the ointment in the form of the marriage-minded Baroness Schraeder? Marriage-minded for herself and the Captain, that is, not for Maria and the Captain, goodness me no. This one’s purely all out for Number One. 

The Baroness is the Captain’s girlfriend at first and then his fiancée. The children and Maria are deeply unhappy at the thought of the Captain marrying the Baroness. She’s blonde, attractive, uber-sophisticated and super-rich, but she’s cold and superficial also and probably older than the Captain.

She knows very little about children (‘Have you ever heard of a marvellous invention called boarding school?’ she says slyly to family friend Uncle Max) but her worldly-wise eagle eyes spot immediately the mutual attraction between Gay-org and the couldn’t-be-less-sophisticated-if-she-tried Maria. I love it when the Baroness says to Maria:

‘Come on now love, we’re both women, who are ya kidding? Let us not pretend that we don’t notice it when a guy is making eyes at us.’ Or words to that effect…!

The Baroness isn’t the only fly in Gay-org and Maria’s ointment. It’s the time of Nazism and the Third Reich and Hitler has just Anschlussed Austria to Germany, much to the seeming delight of most of the Austrian populace. Well, they lined the streets of Austria cheering for Hitler’s troops and they carpeted the Nazis’ path with flowers, didn’t they?

Anyway, Gay-org is at least one Austrian who is virulently opposed to Nazism and he’s brave enough to speak his mind on the subject. When, by virtue of his status as a naval war hero and his naval expertise, he’s given an important commission in the navy of the Third Reich, he finds himself with only two hard choices.

He can accept the commission for the sake of his family’s safety, but to go along with Nazi beliefs and ideology would sicken his stomach. Or he can throw the commission back in Hitler’s (represented locally by Gauleiter Herr Zeller) face and risk bringing the wrath of the powerful Third Reich down on his own and his childrens’- and Maria’s- heads. What to do? Richer men than he, who might have thought they were safe by virtue of their position, probably fell afoul of Hitler’s terrible regime…

The scenery and the songs are to die for. The hills are alive with the sound of music indeed. I love the clever lyrics and puppetry of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ and I cried my eyes out when Gay-org sang ‘Edelweiss,’ with the poignant last line of ‘Bless my homeland forever,’ at Uncle Max’s precious folk music festival.

The Reverend Mother is an absolute boss when she belts out ‘Climb every mountain’ in an effort to show Maria that sometimes you have to work really fucking hard for what you want, lol. You go, girl.

It’s sad when Liesl’s childhood beau Rolph has morphed into a fully-fledged-and-indoctrinated member of the Hitler Youth, and the scenes in the beautiful Abbey crypt are nail-bitingly tense.

I only saw this film properly, from beginning to end, for the first time yesterday, but it’s going on my Christmas to-watch-every-year list from now on. All together now: ‘Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun…!’

The Von Trapp Children:

Liesl: Charmian Carr.

Friedrich: Nicholas Hammond.

Louisa: Heather Menzies.

Kurt: Duane Chase.

Brigitta: Angela Cartwright.

Marta: Debbie Turner.

Gretl: Kym Karath.

Did any of ’em grow up to have eating disorders or take their clothes off for nudie mags or porn flicks? Hang on, I’m looking ’em all up now…!

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

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge patrick stewart scared

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS. WRITTEN FOR TELEVISION BY PETER BARNES. DIRECTED BY DAVID JONES. STARRING PATRICK STEWART, RICHARD E. GRANT, SASKIA REEVES, DOMINIC WEST AND JOEL GREY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Patrick Stewart does a terrific job as Ebenezer Scrooge in this made-for-TV version of the timeless Christmas tale. No matter how many versions I see, and there are quite a few knocking around, I never get tired of watching this story of festive cheer and redemption unfolding on the screen before me.

Patrick Stewart makes for a very fit and trim-looking Scrooge, a Scrooge whose bearing is noble rather than stooped and bent-over and who looks as if he might just be able to run after you- and catch you!- if you endeavoured to pull an Artful Dodger on him and pinch his wallet or pocket handkerchief right out from under his very nose. This is no decrepit or dilapidated Scrooge. This is a Scrooge in top physical form, a Scrooge to be reckoned with. He’s still a miserable git, though.

Anyway, it’s Christmas-time once more, Christmas Eve in fact, and a full seven years ago tonight since the demise of one Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner and the only person he could really call his friend.

Scrooge, the renowned miser and whizz-kid down at the Stock Exchange, is in his office as usual, grumping and bitching at his humble clerk Bob Cratchit about how much coal he’s putting on the fire. Scabby or what?

Richard E. Grant plays the servile but good-natured family man Bob Cratchit. I was surprised by this bit of casting because I was fully expecting him to be playing Scrooge’s posh nephew Fred but no, he’s playing Bob and they’ve even blacked up his gnashers to make him look like a proper povvo from Dickensian times. Realistic, I have no doubt, but somewhat off-putting, if I may say so.

Bob and his equally black-toothed Missus have six hungry chilluns atween ’em. Which only goes to prove the long-held opinion that there wasn’t much to do of an evening before the invention of the telly. Scrooge only pays Bob a measly fifteen bob a week, which is nowhere near enough to keep his six scraggy urchins in Playstation games and iPhones and whatnot. Better call CHILDLINE…!

Still and all, though, the Cratchits are determined to celebrate Christmas together no matter how poor they might be. Unlike mean old Mr. Scrooge, who’s busy screaming abuse at the child carol singers and telling the gentleman charity collectors looking ‘to make some slight provision for the poor at this time of year’ to bugger off. Bah humbug indeed.

While Bob runs gleefully home to his family at close of business on Christmas Eve, Scrooge returns home to his gloomy chambers alone. Here he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. Jacob, wrapped in ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the lock-boxes and money-bags that were his stock-in-trade while he lived, has a terrible message of hope and despair for his old mucker.

Change your money-grubbing, miserly ways, you greedy old bastard, is the message in a nutshell. If you don’t start loosening the purse-strings and making the welfare of mankind your business tout de suite, you’ll end up like me, Jacob Marley, doomed to walk abroad for all eternity without the power to intervene where you see misery, hunger and poverty!

It’s a pretty clear and chilling message, but Jacob can’t be sure that it’s penetrated Scrooge’s thick skull. Three ghosts will be coming, he warns Scrooge before he takes his leave of the frightened old miser, to make sure that the message to ‘change’ really gets through. Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one…

As we all know by know, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future do come to see Scrooge and, through little vignettes from his own past, present and future, show him the error of his ways.

Joel Grey, who positively sparkled as the wickedly bitchy and lecherous MC in CABARET some two-and-a-half decades earlier in CABARET, is lacklustre and as flat as a pancake here as the Ghost Of Christmas Past. I hate slagging him off when he was so mesmerisingly good in CABARET, but his heart’s clearly not in this role here.

Scrooge, of course, ends up changing his miserly ways and becomes ‘a man who knows how to keep Christmas well.’ He befriends Bob, raises his salary and vows to help Bob and his hungry family in the future. Bob thinks his master’s gone mad, of course, but he’ll go along with the madness as long as it means a few more shillings in the family coffers.

Scrooge also eats large helpings of humble pie round at his nephew Fred’s place, where Fred is entertaining his guests at Christmas dinner. Fred is the child of Scrooge’s dead sister Fanny (tee-hee, fanny is a rude word!), the one person in the world who truly loved Scrooge and thought there was some good in him.

Why Scrooge wasn’t kinder to poor good-natured, warm-hearted Fred for this reason from the start is a mystery, unless it was the case that Fanny (snigger!) died giving birth to Fred and that’s why he’s hated Fred all this time.

In some versions, we hear that this is the exact same reason for Scrooge’s father disliking his son and forcing him to live at school all year round. In other words, Scrooge’s mother died birthing him and Scrooge’s father wanted nothing to do with the boy.

Having been treated like this himself by his own father, it’s surprising that Scrooge would have behaved the same way towards his nephew. It’s a very harsh and unfair way of going on, isn’t it?

The child can’t be blamed for the demise of the mother, heart-breakingly sad and unfortunate as that is. In any case, Scrooge now determines to be the best uncle to Fred he can possibly be, so all’s well that ends well.

Except that Scrooge now owes Dominic West’s Fred about thirty years worth of back-payments in Christmas and birthday book-tokens, lol. I can’t imagine that Scrooge would have gifted any young’un with the cash to heedlessly fritter away on penny candy and saucy French postcards, can you? Not while they could have been doing something useful with the money.

You’ll see one or two recognisable faces in the cast. Ian McNeice (NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER!) plays Scrooge’s first employer, dear old Mr. Fezziwig, he of the fat wife and equally plump daughters.

It will be very hard to marry off all three of these hefty lassies unless old Fezziwig can give each of ’em an equally hefty dowry to sweeten any potential marital deal. I’m just saying. I’m genuinely concerned for the romantic futures of these three comely heifers, lol.

Liz Smith (THE ROYLE FAMILY) is perfectly, beautifully cast as the cackling old Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s ancient charwoman-housekeeper, and Celia Imrie, from every English film ever made, or so it would seem, is suitably ringleted and corseted as one of Fred’s rather frivolous Christmas dinner guests. They do love their silly games, Gawd bless ’em every one.

And Gawd bless Mr. Scrooge too who, from this day forward, will be ‘the founder of the feast’ in a properly meaningful way. This will be my last Scrooge review for Christmas 2018 (I’ve finally run out of Scrooges to review, can you believe it!), so I’m glad to be going out on a high note with this one.

Patrick Stewart makes a top-notch Scrooge. And Tiny Tim, lightly roasted, makes a more than acceptable turkey substitute in a pinch. I’m only surprised that none of his hungry relatives ever thought of it before, to be honest. Tuck in while it’s hot, folks…

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

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

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

muppets scrooge

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. 1992. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HENSON. MUSIC BY PAUL WILLIAMS. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS.

STARRING MICHAEL CAINE, STEVEN MACKINTOSH, MEREDITH BRAUN, ROBIN WEAVER, KERMIT THE FROG, THE GREAT GONZO, RIZZO THE RAT, MISS PIGGY, FOZZIE BEAR, SAM THE EAGLE, ROWLF THE DOG AND KERMIT’S NEPHEW, ROBIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The years performed their terrible dance.’

The Marleys were dead, to begin with… This is, quite simply, the best Christmas movie ever made. It’s a top-notch reworking of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, the meanest man in Christendom, is visited on Christmas Eve by Three Spirits who show him the error of his ways.

Michael Caine is superb as Scrooge, the Victorian moneylender who’s so mean he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss, as we say here in Ireland. He underpays his employees, he’s a horrible uncle to his nephew Fred and he gives short shrift to the gentlemen who come collecting for charity on Christmas Eve.

He only lets his workers, among them Bob Cratchit, brilliantly played by Kermit The Frog, have Christmas Day off work because there won’t be any other businesses open to do business with. Tsk, tsk. What a cantankerous old skinflint.

Bob is glad to be rid of him when close of business finally arrives on Christmas Eve because Bob, along with his wife Emily and their four children, twin girls Belinda and Bettina (the living image of their mother Emily, played by Miss Piggy!) and two boys, Peter and the ailing Tiny Tim, do know how to keep Christmas well. Which is more, much more, than can be said for Mr. Scrooge. Humph.

Scrooge goes home alone to his cold, dark gloomy chambers. From the moment he sees the face of one of his long-dead business partners, Jacob Marley, materialise superimposed over the front door knocker of his house, he gets an uneasy feeling that tonight isn’t going to be like most nights. And by Jiminy, he’s dead right!

Statler and Waldorf, the two incorrigible old jokers who sit up in their box at the Muppet Theatre every night and gleefully heckle the performers, turn up to his chambers first as the ghosts of Scrooge’s deceased business partners, Marley and Marley.

Wearing the terrible ‘chains they forged in life,’ the two auld lads try to convince Scrooge that living for his cashboxes the way he does is the way to end up in hell, chained for all time to the things you mistakenly thought were important in life. They don’t have much luck. Scrooge is going to need more convincing.

Next, the Three Spirits, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, whose ghoulish coming was foretold by the shades of Marley and Marley, arrive bang on schedule on Christmas Eve night.

They give the terrified Scrooge what for, showing him what a miserably lonely child he was in his youth, how he is scorned and shunned by all in the present, and how little he’ll be missed on his death.

Scrooge, as we all know, repents his tight-fisted ways and pays festive visits to both his gobsmacked nephew Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family, who are delighted to see that he comes bearing gifts.

One of my favourite scenes is where Bob Cratchit, an amiable man who only sees the good in people, tries to get his wife Emily to join him in drinking a toast during Christmas dinner to ‘Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast.’ 

She nearly becomes apoplectic with rage, saying things like: ‘Founder of the feast indeed!’ and ‘If he were here, I’d give him a piece of my mind and I hope he’d choke on it…!’ She doesn’t have quite the rosy-eyed view of the world that her husband has, and I don’t blame her.

While Bob is out at work, she’s the one who has to feed her family out of fresh air and find clothes for them and heat their freezing little icebox of a house. She also has to watch her youngest child, Tiny Tim, grow steadily weaker for the want of good food, a bit of warmth and the right medicines.

The wife of a rich Victorian banker may have been able to lie on her chaise-longue all day, pale and languid, but the wives of poor men were up against it all right. It’s no wonder that the spirited Emily Cratchit, fiercely loyal to her husband who busts his hump daily for Scrooge for tiny wages, would dearly love to ‘Hi-yah!’ Ebenezer Scrooge into the middle of next week. You go, girl.

The songs are fantastic, every single one of them an unforgettable Christmas classic. This is a great karaoke film because you and your whole family can sing along as loudly as you like to the tunes, especially if you have the subtitles and therefore the words.

There are some genuinely spooky and atmospheric scenes in Scrooge’s dark, cold old chambers as he awaits the arrival of the spectres. The Ghost Of Christmas Future is particularly grim. I think he’d put the willies up most people, this fella.

The atmosphere of love and togetherness in the Cratchit household, despite their poverty and Tiny Tim’s imminent death, would bring a tear to the eye of the most hard-hearted viewer. They have a sense of family that’s most fitting for the time of year, but that you can imagine sustains them right through the rest of the year as well. And yet they’re not too sickly-sweet, like the Waltons, lol. Bob’s genuine warmth and Emily’s feistiness and fierce protectiveness of her family sees to that.

The film is chock-a-block with typical Muppet comedy too, as you might expect. The Great Gonzo playing Charles Dickens is an inspired piece of casting, and Rizzo the Rat makes an adorably funny sidekick to the great nineteenth-century novelist. It’s the perfect Christmas film and a wonderful tribute to the season that the Victorians are credited with, if not inventing, exactly, then at least putting their own stamp on it.

Let’s not forget either, though, that it’s ultimately a horror story, involving the visitation by ghosts of a man who seriously needs to change his miserly ways. And change them he does, in the many versions of the story committed to celluloid. Could this even be the most often-told ghost story of all time…?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that this little film is top of my Christmas movie-list every single year without fail. It’s a heartwarming, brilliantly-scripted classic. What else can I say about it? Just watch it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean. But make sure you try to get an early night first, okay? After all, there’s only one more sleep till Christmas…

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