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A Christmas Carol (2009) [Revisited]

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Strictly speaking, this probably doesn't need  to be revisited. Lindsay reviewed it back in 2011 , and while it's more a summary than what we do these days, it's more substantial than most of our reviews from the first couple years of the blog. Even so, I'm trying to rewatch every significant adaptation of A Christmas Carol, so I've got some thoughts. This is, of course, the CG motion capture version directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge and all three spirits. The intention was to bring Charles Dickens's story and John Leech's illustrations to life through the use of modern visual effects. Motion capture offered a way to merge performance with animation to an extent that hadn't previously been possible. It was a lofty goal. I don't think it's controversial to say they failed miserably. There's something deeply wrong with the way the human characters (and most of the spectral ones) appear. They resemble grotesque wax f

Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery (2015)

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I picked this at random, not realizing a few things: first, it's based on a novel  Lindsay read and reviewed  a few years ago. Second, it's the second movie in a series surrounding the same characters. This is, essentially, the Christmas installment of both the book and movie series. Because I didn't see the first movie, I'm not familiar with the characters, so it's possible (however unlikely, in this case) I'm missing significant context to appreciate jokes, arcs, and the like. In theory, movies are supposed to be made so viewers can watch without first seeing earlier installments, though television shows aren't under that assumed constraint. I'm not entirely sold on that idea as it pertains to movies, and in this case, the situation feels even more muddled. I'm really not sure this can reasonably be called a movie: it feels far more like a long television episode in terms of structure, character, and production values. I should mention this is a Ha

Mr. Soft Touch (1949)

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This one's going to be weird because I'm still trying to figure out what kind of movie I just watched. Wikipedia describes it as a noir crime, IMDB has it tagged drama and romance (in addition to crime), and until the end, I was certain I was watching a comedy (still not entirely convinced I wasn't, despite... well... we'll get to that). I don't necessarily consider it a bad thing that this is difficult to identify, though I'm torn on whether it's a case of a complex premise or just a disjointed tone. Normally, this is where I'd go read some articles on the movie, but those don't seem to exist. So... I guess I'm just going to do my best here. First, a word of warning. This movie contains a couple details that haven't aged well. First, there's sort of a running plot thread about spousal abuse that at times feels like it's being played for laughs. To be fair, it takes a turn and gets serious later - the movie is making a pointed argumen

A Christmas Carol (1999)

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Watching the 1999 made-for-TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol makes for an odd experience. It boasts an impressive cast, but the production values, script decisions, and effects are impossible to ignore. This really doesn't hold up at all. The role of Scrooge is played by Patrick Stewart. Apparently, he was cast in part because of a one-man play he performed (incidentally, if anyone knows of a way to legally view a recorded version of said play, I'd be fascinated to see it). As a rule, I typically like Stewart, both as an actor and because he just seems like an all-around great human being . Naturally, I'd love to say I thought he works here. Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. His portrayal of Scrooge feels largely one-note, and - to be perfectly honest - more or less indistinguishable from Jean-Luc Picard. My guess is this is in part due to the version of the character created for the one-man show. If one actor's playing numerous characters, it's

Bright Eyes (1934)

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For those of you who - like me - don't have much of a background in 1930s film, this is for all intents and purposes the movie that cemented Shirley Temple as a child superstar. Along with two other films she made the same year, it also netted her an honorary Juvenile Academy Award, the first of its kind awarded. This is also the origin of the song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop," which... is not a mark in its favor, in my opinion. Let's jump into the story. Shirley Temple plays Shirley, a part you'll be shocked to hear was written for her. Shirley is obsessed with aircraft, largely because her late father was a pilot. She spends most of her time at the airfield with her godfather, James, who'd been her father's closest friend. When she's not there, she's living with her mother, a maid boarding with her employers, the Smythes, who are greedy, selfish, and self-obsessed. Also living with the Smythes is their uncle, Mr. Smith, who's standoffish but

Musical Versions of A Christmas Carol: An Extended Analysis

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You probably noticed that we've been watching a lot of versions of A Christmas Carol. As we went, I started noticing how many musical versions there are. As a lifelong musical theater fan, I'm a sucker for a good musical. Because these are all adaptations of the same story, many use songs in similar places for similar purposes. I find it interesting how these songs can make very different choices, so let's take a few minutes today to explore that together.  I don't remember enough music theory to get too bogged down in whether these songs are necessarily "good" by any specific musical metrics. I'm interested in only a few things:  Does the song support the story, expand the character(s), or enhance the tone? Is it enjoyable to listen to: lyrics understandable and not annoying, tune catchy, performed well?  How do the songs which fulfill the same purpose in the narrative compare across adaptations? Here are the versions of A Christmas Carol I'll be visi

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) [Revisited]

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We've seen this before, of course - Lindsay did a brief write-up back in 2010 . But we were overdue for a reexamination of this even before I set out to watch every significant version of A Christmas Carol ever made. I realize this isn't a popular opinion, but I'm not a huge fan of this movie. There are elements I really like, and I admire what they're trying to pull off here. But as a whole, I think it fails more than it succeeds. It tries to be too many things and doesn't manage to pull its disparate parts together. First, let's try and break down what this is trying to do. The Muppet Christmas Carol represents a surprisingly high-concept approach to the material - this really isn't just the Muppets doing Dickens. The best description I can offer is it's a relatively straightforward adaptation of the story (aided by musical numbers), paying homage to previous adaptations, with a Muppet narrator and supporting cast accompanying Michael Caine as he encou

Every Time a Bell Rings (2021)

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We're trying to catch up on at least a few Hallmark Christmas movies this year. We mostly dropped them a while ago, in part because we got tired of writing what felt like the same review over and over again, and in part because it became easier to watch similar offerings from streaming services we were already subscribed to. But after stumbling across a few better-than-average offerings, we found ourselves wondering if the production company had improved, or if we'd just seen a few anomalies. Consider this a data point in what will no doubt be a long attempt to answer that question. And this data point is a check in the "anomalies" column. Every Time a Bell Rings is a Christmas dramedy centered around three adopted sisters, now grown up, dealing with unresolved issues, life events, and the loss of their father, all while reviving a childhood tradition in which they complete a scavenger hunt to try and locate a bell family legend claims grants wishes. I'll tell you

The Note (2007)

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We came across this movie on a list purportedly ranking the best Hallmark Christmas movies. We'd actually just seen one from that list we liked, which is absurdly rare for this studio, so had high hopes for this one, which was ranked at #4. Maybe we'd been too hard on Hallmark this whole time. Perhaps we simply saw a handful of bad films and foolishly dismissed them prematurely, we thought. Then we watched The Note, and... nope. Never mind. Okay, let me walk that back a bit. First, I have actually seen good movies - plural - produced for Hallmark's various channels. I do suspect I've been too quick to group these together: good or bad, I'm discovering they occupy a wide variety of genres and styles. And I remain optimistic that I'm going to see more good - or even great - films with Hallmark's branding. But it's not this one. That's not to say The Note is awful. It's fine for what it is, but we're talking 2007 TV drama quality. Not even TV mo