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:

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
 

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

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

BLACK CHRISTMAS. (2019) BASED ON THE 1974 MOVIE WRITTEN BY A. ROY MOORE.
DIRECTED BY SOPHIA TAKAL. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY SOPHIA TAKAL AND APRIL WOLFE.
CO-PRODUCED BY JASON BLUM OF BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS.
STARRING IMOGEN POOTS, BRITTANY O’GRADY AND CARY ELWES.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Maybe Brian Huntley will think twice before he rapes another girl.’

This festive slasher movie is the second re-make of the famous 1974 film of the same name, but its’ themes of political correctness and women empowering themselves to stop taking men’s abuse/bullshit/sexual and other violence any more makes it a vastly different film to the original one.

I’m not even sure how men would feel about this re-make, written and directed by women and calling ‘frat boys’ out on their ‘rape culture.’ I don’t think the message of the film is that we should hate men exactly, but it definitely wants us to be wary of anyone with a penis, in case they try to put it in us after slipping us a ‘roofie,’ as per the film’s wonderfully shocking theme song.

Part of me while watching this was going, like, yay, women! You damn well empower yourselves, lol. The part that was seeking sheer holiday escapism, however, was a bit miffed that the film-makers tried to sneak in some modern-day themes of male violence against women, but, hey, maybe that’s what we should be doing nowadays, filling our films with socially conscious messages, I just don’t know.

The sorority girls of Hawthorne College, beautifully decked out for Christmas (the college, I mean, not the girls, although the girls look lovely too!), are getting ready to spend the holiday season on campus, for various reasons. A load of staff and students have already gone home for Christmas, so the college is emptier than usual.

The viewer knows, however, from the opening scenes, that a black-cloaked, masked killer has set his sights on the women of our sorority house. He has already brutally murdered one young lady, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the real-life abduction of college girl Georgann Hawkins by serial killer Ted Bundy in the early ‘Seventies.

Georgann was literally walking the very short distance home at night from the frat house where her boyfriend lived back to her sorority house. They’d been studying for a Spanish test which was to take place the next morning. Ted Bundy intercepted her somewhere along this very short route and walked off with her into the darkness. Georgann was never seen alive again.

Anyway, our sorority girls, led by Imogen Poots as Riley, have really pissed off the male population of Hawthorne College. At the college’s Christmas concert, four of them, dressed in sexy Santa outfits, get up onstage and call out the lads for the above-mentioned rape culture they seem to be embracing.

It’s not just empty words on the girls’ parts, however, as Riley has direct, first-hand experience of being raped by Brian Huntley, one of the top frat boys. Plus, in all seriousness, there probably isn’t a sorority woman alive who hasn’t experienced some form of sexual harassment at some stage at the hands of their counterparts, the college men.

Now the video of Riley and the girls singing their anti-rape song, with Riley accidentally name-checking Brian in a throwaway remark at the end, is online and clocking up the views. The frat boys are not happy…

Cary Elwes stars as a misogynistic professor who is clearly on the lads’ side as far as the whole male-female debate is concerned. Riley has glimpsed a secret ritual involving cloaked, masked and hooded frat boys that seems to revolve around the bust of Calvin Hawthorne, the founder of the college, which has been removed from public display after the sorority women protested at the glorification of a racist slave-owner. Those women sure aren’t standing for any nonsense, are they…? And what are the lads up to, as if we couldn’t guess…?

The slasher stuff is fairly standard, although the bow and arrow is probably a little different, if a bit clunky and awkward to put into practice. It increases the feeling that the women are being hunted down and stalked, as if they’re really just prey, like a deer or a moose, which of course they are in this film.

Bow and arrow notwithstanding, it’s good to see the women, who are being relentlessly stalked by the killer(s), standing up for themselves and fighting back instead of lying down and dying under male domination and violence. It makes a bit of a change.

Is this the shape of films to come, I wonder? Will women refuse to look pretty and be battered/raped/maimed/tortured/killed in the movies any more? Who will be the new victims in the movies of the future? Men won’t want to be, so I suppose we’ll have to invent a new third sex to take the flack. It’s all very complicated. Enjoy the film, though. Slay belles ring, are you listening…?

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
  

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

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

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THE THREE SCROOGES: THREE FILM VERSIONS OF CHARLES DICKENS’ ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge alastair sim

THE THREE SCROOGES: A TRIPLE FESTIVE FILM REVIEW OF CHARLES DICKENS’ 1843 NOVELLA: A CHRISTMAS CAROL. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A CHRISTMAS CAROL- 1951. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY BRIAN DESMOND HURST.

STARRING ALASTAIR SIM, GEORGE COLE, PATRICK MACNEE, MERVYN JOHNS, KATHLEEN HARRISON, HERMIONE BADDELEY, MICHAEL HORDERN, MILES MALLESON, HATTIE JACQUES, ERNEST THESIGER AND GLYN DEARMAN.

DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL- 2009. DIRECTED BY/CO-PRODUCED BY/ SCREENPLAY BY ROBERT ZEMECKIS.

STARRING JIM CARREY, GARY OLDMAN, COLIN FIRTH, BOB HOSKINS, CARY ELWES, FIONNUALA FLANAGAN AND ROBIN WRIGHT PENN.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL- A MUSICAL VERSION- 2004. DIRECTED BY ARTHUR ALLAN SEIDELMAN.

STARRING KELSEY GRAMMER, JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT, JANE KRAKOWSKI, JESSE L. MARTIN, GERALDINE CHAPLIN AND JASON ALEXANDER.

I guess I’d better get something straight right from the start. My favourite film version of Charles Dickens’ super-popular Christmas book will always be the one with The Muppets and Michael Caine in it, the 1992 version.

Michael Caine is the best he’s ever been, playing the famous miser who gets taught a stern lesson by three spirits on Christmas Eve a long time ago, and Jim Henson’s iconic puppets really help to drive home the message of Christmas to the viewers, who will all be in floods of tears by the end. Whaddya mean, speak for myself? I am speaking for myself, haha.

But just because I have a favourite movie version of the perennial Christmas phenomenon (trust me, it’s a freakin’ phenomenon!) doesn’t mean that there aren’t a load of other brilliant film adaptations out there too. I’ve picked out three great ones for us to look at today, all telling the same basic story but in different ways.

Does everyone know the story? It’s been filmed umpteen times and parodied about as often, so there’s probably not a soul alive today who hasn’t seen some version or another of Dickens’ probably most commercially successful work.

It’s true that if Dickens were alive today, he’d surely be able to retire on the immense royalties and the film rights that derive from this book alone. A CHRISTMAS CAROL would be his pension plan, in the same way that the song MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY would be for the band SLADE or I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY for WIZZARD. Sure wish I could get me some of that yearly Crimbo action…!

Anyway, Ebenezer Scrooge is an old moneylender living alone in gloomy chambers in pre-Victorian London. He is notoriously mean and heartless to the clerks who work for him and to the poor families who are obliged to borrow money from him.

To the rich fat-cat businessmen with whom he consorts, he’s a joke and a figure to be despised and pitied. His stinginess and penny-pinching are legendary throughout London. Not something you want to be known for, really, is it?

Things change forever, however, when Scrooge is visited by three spirits one lonely Christmas Eve. Well, it’s four spirits, really, as he receives a visit from his long-dead business partner Jacob Marley initially, Marley serving to kind of pave the way for the Big Three who’ll come along later as foretold.

The three spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, show Scrooge terrifying visions from his, well, you know, past, present and future that serve to scare the miserliness out of him forever. He does a complete about-face and, from that night forward, it was always said of him that ‘he was a man who knew how to keep Christmas well.’ Oh, the wonderful quotable quotes!

Alastair Sim is superb as the crotchety Scrooge in the 1951 film. He plays literature’s most famous miser in a wonderfully understated but utterly realistic way. This is quite a grim version, and the bit where the charlady Mrs. Dilber (a fine performance from actress Kathleen Harrison) boasts about taking down the dead Scrooge’s bed-curtains and stripping the corpse of its nightshirt would really put the willies up you.

‘Bed curtains? Do you mean to say that you took ’em down, rings and all, while ‘e’s a-lyin’ there…?’

The bit at the end, though, where Scrooge puts things right with the poverty-hardened old biddy would gladden your heart. Alastair Sim is almost maniacally happy as he gallivants about, delighting in his second chance, and the shock on Mrs. Dilber’s face is a sight to behold.

Especially when he does an impulsive handstand while wearing only his nightshirt and she gets to witness wiv ‘er own two eyes the wondrous image of his meat and two veg in all their unclothed glory. Not exactly a vision for a respectable woman to be seeing, now is it?

Funny though, lol, to see Mrs. Dilber’s utterly horrified face. She finks ‘e’s gone stark staring mad, she does. She wouldn’t be at all surprised if the men in the white coats came for ‘im and carted ‘im off ter Bedlam.

Miles Malleson (a much-loved Hammer Horror actor) is a superb choice for the role of Old Joe, the mercenary scallywag who buys the bed-curtains from Mrs. Dilber for a good price because he’s always had a ‘soft spot for the ladies.’ Harrumph.

George Cole, star of MINDER in his later career, has a heartbreaking scene in this film as the younger Scrooge with a lovely full head of dark curly hair. Attending his beloved sister Fan’s deathbed, he leaves before she can extract a very important promise from him. His premature leave-taking leads Scrooge to make the same kind of mistake his own father made with him, Scrooge, and it will take a long, long time to put right.

Ernest Thesiger (THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE) has a cameo role here as the undertaker who is waiting to see to Jacob Marley’s corpse even before the old fellow’s breathed his last. 

‘Ours is a very competitive business, you know.’ 

Hattie Jacques (the CARRY ON films, SYKES the comedy series) also has the briefest of cameos (now you see her, now you don’t) as Mrs. Fezziwig, the buxom wife of Scrooge’s first employer. She looks lovely and young in her dusky-pink dress, dancing with her husband and laughing her head off in the spirit of the season.

I myself have a colorised version of the film that came free with the now defunct NEWS OF THE WORLD and was introduced by the actor Patrick MacNee, who actually has a small part in the film. While the colour is lovely and muted and not at all garish, I imagine the black-and-white version to be even more atmospheric.

All those marvellous scenes where the snow is falling silently on the quiet Victorian streets! Just imagine seeing ’em in black-and-white. It’d be really something. This Alastair Sim version of the film is the one I feel most captures the Victorian feeling of Charles Dickens’ wonderful old book. The shops, the lights, the snow, the housewives scurrying along with their baskets and bonnets, rushing to grab a Christmas goose before they’re all sold out; it’s like stepping into another world.

The DISNEY version from 2009 is surprisingly good, surprisingly grim and surprisingly scary. I know one or two adults who freaked out when Jacob Marley’s long-dead jaw broke free from its cloth confines and flapped about like a pair of ladies’ bloomers on a clothes-line in a gale-force wind. If anything, it seems that death and dying were even grimmer in Victorian London than they are today. Shudder. 

Scrooge’s house and bedchamber are terrifyingly dark and shadowed and Jim Carrey, an actor I don’t otherwise care for over-much, does an outstanding job as the voice of the miser. Imagine his fear when he’s interrupted by the ghost of his former friend and business partner while he’s huddled over his meagre supper on that fateful Christmas Eve:

Scrooge: ‘Speak comfort to me, Jacob!’

Jacob Marley: ‘I have none to give.’ 

Heh-heh-heh. Tough titties, in other words.

The animation in this version is fantastic. I myself love the way that the characters closely resemble the actors who are voicing them. For example, Scrooge’s nephew Fred is played by Colin Firth and he not only sounds like Colin Firth, he’s the spitting image of him too, which is kind of funny. 

The rotund and cheerful Bob Hoskins is the rotund and cheerful Mr. Fezziwig, who gives the best Christmas parties in London, and Gary Oldman plays the quiet Bob Cratchit in whose breast hides a terrible suffering. Maybe the words ‘Tiny Tim’ might ring a bell with you guys?

All the good quotes are in there too, everything from: ‘There’s more of gravy than of grave about you!’ and ‘If they are going to die then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!’ to ‘These are the shadows of the things that have been; that they are what they are, do not blame me.’

Oh, and don’t forget ‘It’s a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December’ and ‘The spirits have done it all in one night; of course they have, they can do anything they like!’ Such brilliant lines, and all infinitely quotable.

I’ve even heard some people say that this DISNEY version of the film is the most accurate re-telling of the story they’ve seen. Whether it is or it isn’t, it really is surprisingly good, and everyone in my family always bursts out laughing when Scrooge actually steals the pennies off of the deceased Jacob Marley’s eyes with the words that just about sum up his utter stinginess:

‘Tuppence is tuppence!’

The musical version starring Kelsey Grammer is surprisingly good fun too. The songs are great craic altogether and the man we’re probably more used to seeing as Frasier Crane from both CHEERS and FRASIER and as the voice of criminal mastermind Sideshow Bob from THE SIMPSONS does a splendid job as the legendary meanie.

Scrooge makes the huge mistake in this version of throwing away the love of a well-tasty Jennifer Love Hewitt as Emily, a top bird the likes of which you probably didn’t get too many chances with in Victorian London.

He also refuses to help his former employer, the aforementioned Mr. Fezziwig, he of the simply splendiferous Christmas bash, when old Fezziwig’s business is in trouble. Given the kindness shown to Scrooge by old Fezziwig and his plump wife, this refusal to help old friends does not reflect Ebenezer in the best of lights, sadly.

I like this version too because it gives us an insight into what very obviously caused Scrooge’s terrible miserliness with money and his deathly fear of poverty. It’s probably no wonder that he turned out as he did but still, there’s such a thing as taking things too far, you know. He might do well to remember that, the little dickens…!

This version has a sexy blonde scantily-clad Ghost Of Christmas Past in it, by the way, who was leg-bombing away to beat the band a good decade before Brad Pitt’s gorgeous missus Angelina Jolie cottoned onto the trend.

The various Ghosts Of Christmas Future have been scaring the manners into kids since the cinema was invented, and I myself have always loved the Ghost Of Christmas Present, who never drops in without bringing enough festive food with him to feed an army. Now that’s the kind of guest you want round your gaff of a dark and dreary Christmas Eve. 

‘Come in and know me better, man!’

Well, that’s it. Only six days left till Christmas Day, 2018. Better go and get some provisions in. Do you happen to know if the poulterer’s in the next street still have the big prize turkey in their window? They do? How marvellous! I’ll just nip round and get it for Christmas dinner. It looks like it might be pretty heavy, though. Fuck it anyway. I’ll just shop online like I always do…

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