BaHumbug!

Invented Christmas

 

Christmas gets started way too early for me most years, but nevertheless the holiday themed movies are happy to take to the masses in hopes of getting the spirit going.  Yet the definition of the modern Christmas we celebrate can be traced to legendary author Charles Dickens who made the timeless classic A Christmas Carol.  Such an epic story is stemmed in the spirit of giving, hope, and redemption, a symbol that we aspire to hit and often not succeed.  Where did the inspiration come from though? How did he get the ideas?  I don’t know, but the movie I’m reviewing tonight attempts to answer that question in an entertaining manner.  Robbie K here sharing his opinions on The Man Who Invented Christmas starring Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer.

 

LIKES:

 

The World:  If you read my reviews, you know I’m a big fan of world building and settings.  The Man Who Invented Christmas recreates the nostalgic world of 19th century London and all the class that once inhabited the world.  Seeing the society of the times reemerge from the London fog brought a homey feeling to me, invoking the beginnings of the Christmas season in a world that once treated as a minor holiday.  The attention to detail is astonishing, primarily in all the chaotic organization that was Dickens’ life, primarily the study to where he pondered all his works.  It is this factor that will pull you into the movie as the stage continues to unfold.

 

Clever Presentation:  When attempting to answer how Charles got his motivation and do it in an entertaining manner, the team has to think outside the box for this one. The Man Who Invented Christmas managed to do this quite well in most manners, primarily in rendering his thoughts as personified beings, capable of interacting with him.  His conversations with the characters is a creative representation of the stresses of his mind and how they influence the progression of the story.  And very much like a scene out of Slum Dog Millionaire, the movie was able to also bring his supposed history into the mix to also motivate moments of the book.  Much of it was predictable, but it was a nice homage to his life that filled in the gaps I had forgotten.

 

The Acting:  By far the best element for me though is the acting held in this movie.  The secondary characters do their part in serving as obstacles, motivations, and support for Dickens himself, especially his best friend and his father.  Yet, the main piece to watch are the characters of Scrooge and Dickens himself.  Christopher Plummer still has life within his older bones, playing the pompous Englishman to the letter.  He captured all the quips, jabs, and sarcasm of the character and managed to get that bitter attitude toward life.  Yet, Plummer also got the humorous part of the role down pat, almost like a rival/mentor showing tough love to accomplish the task. As for Stevens, his portrayal of the talented writer with the obsession for perfection was fantastic.  Stevens managed to take the dual role of Charles Dickens and personify the internal struggle that was his life as he pursued his muse of an epic story. All the anger, frustration, and joy were quite balanced in this movie, hooking me into his life and keeping me in my seat until the final sequence faded to black.

 

DISLIKES:

Scene Placement:  The movie does a nice job filling in the gaps, but at times I didn’t enjoy the placement of the scenes.  Mainly the flashback scenes, much of Dickens’ past was scattered through this movie, dropped at odd moments that offset the momentum of the sequence. Some of these moments could have been better delivered at earlier moments, and may have minimized the confusion of why he was so angry.  Not sure whose direction it was to place things in this order, but it didn’t work for me at times.

 

Background Characters:  As you watch his story progress, you get to see new characters emerge as his world starts to motivate him to write.  Yet unlike Scrooge, with whom he constantly interacts with, many of the other characters are just background bodies who smile, laugh, and kind of look odd.  Sure, I understand the personification of what they mean during his writer’s block and how they were connected to his central character, but why did they remain constantly in the background?  I don’t have those answers, but it was kind of odd having them randomly walking around with him and doing little past that.  Sorry guys, not a fan of limited use characters.

 

The diluted emotion:  I expected the movie about the guy who revolutionized Christmas to be a little more emotionally charged.  Sadly, this film didn’t quite pack the holiday joy and magic that his tale was able to elicit long ago when I watched the Muppet version long ago. While inspirational, I didn’t get overwhelmed with feelings that made me embrace the holiday season.  I felt this was due to some of the movie magic being left out of the movie, giving it that realistic twist, but unfortunately drying up the specialness those hokey, overdramatic effects bring to the table.  This tale would have benefitted from a page in the Hallmark channel book in terms of motivating you to inherit the spirit of Christmas.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Man Who Invented Christmas is an immersive film that uses setting, presentation, and incredible acting to bring the 19th century to life.  Despite all the cool insights into Dickens’ life though, this movie lacks cinematic magic, logical use of characters, and pacing that is important in films.  This movie could have done well on a television release, or streaming movie rather than a theater presentation.  It does hold potential for a church outing, but this reviewer recommends holding out until it comes to home viewing.

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Comedy/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

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The Message and Family Fun Shine Bright! Yet Would Have Been Better Direct Release

The Star

 

The spirit of Christmas a common theme of movie around this time of year trying to teach us the main reason we get a vacation and give gifts in December.  And about every five years, we get the retelling of the first Christmas that brought with it hope, grace, and salvation from how horrible of people we are.  This weekend that retelling comes through again, but this time from the perspective of the animals and what they went through that fateful night.  Robbie K here with a review on the Star, an animated movie that hopes to shine bright in this weekend of big releases.  What’s in store?  Read on to find out my friends!

 

LIKES:

Good animation:  With the age of computers, you expect fluid animation, and the Star doesn’t disappoint.  The animal movements are excellent examples of anatomical study, capturing the foot, neck, muzzle, or whatever other body part you want your animal to move in an accurate manner.  In addition, the designers do a nice job of anthropomorphizing the animals as well, creating a hybrid of personalities that are fun to watch.  And while your either admiring, or ignoring the animation, you can be sure that your little one will be stoked to see the characters clumsy antics and slapstick humor result in a laughable adventure with fluid details.

 

The Voice Acting:  While acting in full form is a highly challenging task to try to accomplish, there is something to be said about the art of voice acting.  The assembled cast gets two thumbs up for me in their ability to bring the simplistic animal roles to life with semi-memorable characters.  There are too many characters to name, but Steven Yeun as the main character carried a heavy load as the adventurous, yet stubborn donkey Bo who was a fun character to watch.  Keegan-Michael Key was another welcome addition to the cast, his solid comedic delivery perfect for the comical character of Dave the Dove whose quips have been diluted down for the kid friendly atmosphere of this movie.  However, my favorite character was the camel Felix, Tracy Morgan who had the most zany, crazy, and comedic punch of the whole movie with his sarcasm and sheer idiocy. All in all, they do their parts well, and create that wholesome family feeling.

 

Artistic Tale of Christmas:  When it comes to religious and kid’s movie, it can be difficult to find the balance that lays between cheesy, annoying, and of overzealous religious zeal.  Fortunately, the Star was able to accomplish this goal to the point that it delivers the manner in a heartfelt way without falling into Hallmark sappiness territory.  The Star maintains its cute, slapstick tones throughout the whole movie up to the predictable ending that we all know is coming.  And when that climax occurs, it somehow delivers the powerful message and keeps things fun, which isn’t easy given the imbalance that plagues the cinematic world.  Nevertheless, this movie has an art to its delivery, which nets points in my book.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Character Use:  The Star is another example of jumping the gun and hiring too many actors for a limited cast.  While there are a few characters, Bo, Dave, and the wolves, who get an adequate amount of screen time on camera, many of the characters are reduced to unnecessary cameos that serve little purpose.  The Field Mouse, the random goat, even the bad king himself are just expensive shout outs that could have been used towards developing a stronger story.  Hollywood may be doing favors for the friends, but this reviewer found much of the characters a waste of time.

 

The story: Before you shout blasphemy towards me, I don’t hate the first Christmas story, far from it.  What I mean in this dislike is how bare the story felt in this telling. It’s one geared towards kids, doing little to curtail the story to adults, which limits its entertainment purposes for a variety of people. Yes, I get it, it’s a kid’s movie, but think of how well Pixar can cater to both audiences and get the job done.  The Star’s message is great, the package is cute, but it’s limited in the audience members it can truly entertain. 

 

The Animation:  Other major studios know that every detail is important in animation.  While Bo and the main characters movements look great, the rest of the characters (primarily the secondary background characters) walk stiff or are limited in their movements.  While a minor dislike to some, this reviewer has developed an eye for world building, and the Star kind of failed on that level for me. Biblical times may not have been the mega city behemoths of the modern world, but I’m pretty sure it had more splendor than this movie made it out to be.  The Star seemed to cut costs on this movie where it could, unfortunately making the world succumb to characters caught in mundane worlds.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Star is cute, it’s spiritual, and it is one of the most family friendly movies of the entire year to bring your little ones too.  With good primary animation, voice acting that is energetic and fun presentation, this is a Christmas story I can get on board with.  However, this studio dropped the ball on using their characters and world building, cutting corners to give a simplistic presentation that is dull compared to Disney’s worlds.  In addition, the limited audience entertainment faction is also a strike against a tale that held much potential.  The Star is good for a church group to go to, but it’s place would have been better in a direct release film in my opinion, instead of a costly theater run.

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall: 5.5-6.0

Raunchy Party In The Office Tonight

christmas-party

 

Christmas office parties, a time-honored tradition that often brings us together to play some silly games, eat some preserved cheeses, and potentially get in a few holiday shenanigans.  So why not use this as a medium to make a holiday comedy to entertain the masses.  My review tonight is on the simplistically titled Office Christmas Party starring Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, Olivia Munn and Jennifer Aniston.  Will this comedy bring a twinkle to your Christmas season, or will it ruin your holiday like a bad cold? Robbie K here to share his opinions on the latest films to hit the big screen.

 

LIKES

  • Very funny
  • Clever at times
  • Kicking Soundtrack
  • Character Development

 

When you have a comedy, chances are you hope to laugh.  Good news, Office Christmas Party will deliver the laughs promised in the trailer. This film has a little something for everyone including crude genitalia jokes, one liners, slapstick comedy, and bathroom humor.  Our Hollywood writers continue to put out incredibly stupid lines that we eat up, but managed to time it very well to keep the laughs going.  Fans of TJ Miller and Kate McKinnon will get their fill of awkward rants, screaming dialogue, and ridiculous faces associated with the dialogue. Those who want a little more cleverness behind their comedy will also get their wish, for the office is packing a few puns and pokes geared towards the holiday season. These moments, as well as a few fart jokes, were my favorite, primarily seeing Jennifer Aniston whip out some angry moves on some extreme extras.

Yet what’s a comedy without a little music to amp the stupidity up?  Office Christmas Party has you covered here too, with a list of tracks to keep your feet moving in the aisles.  Hilarious raps mirror the theme of the scenes, while upbeat techno songs pave the way for high speed chases and epic party montages. It fit well with the overall theme of the movie, and having a character DJ bump most of them was another example of creativity.

And surprisingly the comedy has some character development that extended past a character getting laid or getting an ideal job.  This particular film did a decent job expanding on the cast, giving them some backstory that explained the challenges they were facing.  TJ Miller and Aniston’s family dynamics have some emotional moments to them, while Bateman and Munn have a conflicting lifestyle approaches that involve compromise.  Yes, it’s simplistic, but it’s a lot better than some of the other comedies out there who rely on shallow laughs.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Sometimes crosses over the line
  • Plot hitches/Concepts dropped
  • Jillian Bell’s Character

 

No surprise, R rated movies keep pushing the line more and more in order for more disturbing “unique” ideas to arrive.  Office Christmas Party crosses the inappropriate line at a few points often involving sexual humor, a few religious jabs, and carefree use of a gun.  These ideas, while funny to some, were a little too much for me and a little insensitive to some of the issues that are hot topics.  Fortunately, these are few and far between, but they may leave a mental imprint that can be hard to shake, and could have been left to an optional director’s cut.

Speaking of director’s cut, the editors of this film seem to be relying on an extended cut to help fill in some gaps.  There were times I felt they built up a particular concept or plot element, trying to amplify the trouble they could get into.  However, these elements were suddenly dropped, never to be followed up on.  Some of the bloopers also hint at these moments, supporting a potential added content to the movie.  While this isn’t the biggest dislike, I felt the editing could have been slightly reworked to add implement these points or at least smooth out the rough edges. 

Finally, Jillian Bell’s character was not my favorite.  It is more a personal issue, but her characters usually annoy me more than anything.  Her acting continues to be over the top and feels as if she is trying too hard to be funny.  Why she can’t have a more balanced role, or at least better writing, continues to baffle me, but again her screen time is fairly limited.  Perhaps it is also the fact that her character was pretty pointless, and really didn’t integrate into most of the party scenes.  Another example of not shooting first and thinking later.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Office Christmas Party fulfills its intended goals, as a mindless laugh fest meant to brighten your holidays.  It’s a very fun movie and has a little more character building dynamics that expand the movie past ridiculous levels of stupid. With all the comedic styles, most audience members should enjoy this film, but you’ve been warned that there are a few over-the-top moments that might be more offensive/uncomfortable for the more sensitive viewer.  Worth a trip to the theater?  In terms of having fun at the movies I think it warrants a visit, but otherwise hold out for it to hit Redbox.

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy:  7

 

Movie Overall: 5.5