Showing posts from December 4, 2022

I Come in Peace [aka Dark Angel] (1990)

I'm honestly not sure which title to go with. It was originally released in the United States as "I Come in Peace," but the working title was actually "Dark Angel," which is how it was released in other markets. Since it's a US movie, I'll go with the US title, despite "Dark Angel" being the original intent. As you can probably guess from the fact it's being reviewed here, I Come in Peace is set around Christmas and makes heavy use of holiday decorations, music, and the like. The movie is an R-rated sci-fi/action/suspense/comedy starring Dolph Lundgren and directed by Craig R. Baxley, who seems to have primarily been a stunt coordinator, including work on The Predator (which is going to be extremely relevant to this discussion). Both titles reference the movie's alien antagonist, a super-strong humanoid visitor dressed in black with milky eyes and a propensity for uttering the words, "I come in peace," before murdering his vic

What (Almost) Every Adaptation Gets Wrong About Ebenezer Scrooge

At the moment of writing this, I've seen around three dozen adaptations of A Christmas Carol this year, and while there are numerous aspects that vary from one to another, there's one mistake virtually every version I've come across shares. As you can probably guess from the title, the aspect in question relates to Scrooge himself, specifically in how he's presented at the beginning of the story. With few exceptions, he's depicted as comically mean, a cartoonishly greedy, self-centered man who cares nothing for others. He isn't merely a bad person, but rather he's presented as the worst  human being, the absolute epitome of materialistic excess. And, as odd as it may sound, I think that depiction is a mistake. I don't believe that's at all an accurate representation of the character as he behaves in Dickens's novel. If you're familiar with the book, you're probably confused right now - or perhaps you think I'm confused. You're lik

Ghosts of Christmas Always (2022)

While it stops short of greatness, this Hallmark Christmas Carol/romantic comedy comes significantly closer than you'd expect. Frankly, only a weak ending keeps this from securing a full recommendation, and even then it's a close call. And coupled with the fact this thing offers quite a few surprise turns, if you generally enjoy these sorts of TV movies, you might want to stop reading and start watching before getting spoiled. First, I need to clarify that even compared to other border cases this isn't really an adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Instead, it attempts to build on movies like "Scrooged" and "It's Christmas, Carol" to further build out the sub-sub-genre of quasi-sequels set in a world where A Christmas Carol is based on a true story. I'm actually not the one choosing those examples, by the way: Ghosts of Christmas Always alludes to those movies when a character calls them out as his favorite versions of the story. I'm guessing &qu

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)

Love Finds Andy Hardy is the fourth installment in a series of sixteen movies  about a family living in a generic, fictional America town. The titular character is played by Mickey Rooney in all sixteen of the films, and he has by far the most significant role in the film. Apparently, earlier installments were more focused on the family as a whole, but by now the series had turned into a vehicle for Rooney, who was at the time one of Hollywood's biggest draws. If you're wondering why time basically swallowed up a film series that lasted into double-digits, the answer - at least in my opinion - is that this thing is about as boring as movies come. That's unfair, of course. I'm watching this more than eighty years after its release, and - as I'll cover in a moment - it likely influenced countless pieces of media I'm familiar with. Tropes and jokes are boring after you've seen them a thousand times, but they were all original once. And, as far as I can tell, th

Book Review: The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge Charlie Lovett, 2015 After my first two forays into expansions on A Christmas Carol, I was worried that I would never find something enjoyable that respected the source. Happily, this one was a delight. Set ten years after the events of the original story, this sweet and playful novella takes the form of both a loving parody and a thematic expansion. Scrooge is still the subject of gossip in the street, only now the consensus is that he's taking this whole keeping-Christmas-all-the-year thing a bit too far. He's generous beyond his means, affectionate to a fault, and comes off as more than a bit eccentric, wishing people Merry Christmas in July. I was a bit worried early on that the story would conclude on a wishy-washy moral of moderation in all things. I could not have been more wrong. Instead, Scrooge realizes that as one man, he can only do so much to help the world. So he proposes a scheme to the Christmas Spirits to multiply his

A Christmas Carol (2009) [Revisited]

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)

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)

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)

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)

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

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