Showing posts from December 25, 2022

O luna in Thailanda/A Month in Thailand (2012)

I'm not going to go in depth into the intricacies of the Romanian New Wave movement, mainly because I know absolutely nothing about the Romanian New Wave movement, aside from what I can glean from Wikipedia. The short version seems to be a focus on realism and grounded storytelling - those are certainly qualities on display in "A Month in Thailand," a film which is set neither in Thailand, nor over the span of a month. Instead, the movie takes place over approximately 24 hours starting on the morning of New Year's Eve. The title refers to a theoretical vacation the movie's main character wants to go on with a girlfriend that also serves as a sort of stand-in for the kind of person he aspires to be and the sort of relationship he wants to be in. By design, the plot here is fairly sparse. The movie opens with the main character, Radu, in a relationship with Adina. It's clear early on that Radu isn't completely satisfied, but things really take a turn after t

A Christmas Carol (1997)

This animated TV/VHS adaptation is mainly notable for its cast, which includes Tim Curry as Scrooge, Ed Asner as Marley, Whoopi Goldberg as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Frank Welker as Scrooge's pitbull, Debit. Oh, yeah, also I should probably warn you they gave Scrooge a pitbull. It's that kind of animated adaptation. On top of everything else, it's also a musical, and not a particularly good one. The music itself isn't too obnoxious, but the lyrics are pretty idiotic. Let's talk about the changes to the story, of which there aren't many. Surprisingly, this sticks relatively close to the plot of the original, though the dialogue is somewhat modernized and simplified. The biggest change is (surprise, surprise) the aforementioned dog, Debit, who plays a fairly substantial role. I should probably specify the dog can't speak: Welker's making cartoon dog noises, not Scooby-Dooing in the middle of Dickens's work. Still, it's a very unwelcome ad

Ms. Scrooge (1997)

Ms. Scrooge was a made-for-TV Hallmark movie from the late 90s that attempted to update Dickens' classic while modernizing the setting and casting Scrooge as a black woman. To be clear, though, this isn't a case where the underlying situation and character are different: the main character is Ebenita Scrooge, and - while her backstory is a little different - the plot and most of the side characters are the same. This is still an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, rather than an homage or pastiche. I want to start out stating the obvious: this isn't at all good as a movie. But if you're approaching a Hallmark TV-movie from 1997 expecting cinematic excellence, you're going to be disappointed. This was never going to have the production values, time, or vision needed to turn it into something worthwhile. The effects are cheap and gaudy (though, for what it's worth, they're better than those in the 1999 TV adaptation with Patrick Stewart). That said, I think some

A Christmas Carol (1982)

This is the second animated Australian adaptation I've seen where Scrooge was voiced by Ron Haddrick, the first being released thirteen years earlier . I was actually a little surprised to find they were made by different studios: in addition to Haddrick, the animation is relatively similar. All that of course invites the question of why this was made at all. The answer, it seems, has less to do with A Christmas Carol and more to do with Charles Dickens. Burbank Films Australia, the studio behind this, produced a series of films based on various works from the author, and this is part of that collection. I suppose that puts it in similar company with the 1959 episode of Tales from Dickens . Of course, that doesn't answer a more pressing question: namely, why should anyone watch this? Unfortunately, the answer there is they probably shouldn't. That's not to say there's nothing good here, but to be frank it doesn't really stand out in any meaningful capacity. It&#

A Christmas Carol (1969)

This 45-minute-long Australian animated adaptation of A Christmas Carol is sort of a mixed bag, which frankly is quite a bit better than I was expecting. It stars Ron Haddrick as the voice of Scrooge, apparently for the first of two times - he's credited in an animated '80s version as well (no promises, but I'll try and get to it). I'll start with the visuals. The backdrops vary in quality and style from scene to scene. At times, they look like pastel crayons, like something out of a children's book. But there are also moments, particularly some early establishing shots, where they're more evocative, almost like it's mimicking Van Gogh. I have no idea how intentional that was, but a few of the scenes are surprisingly atmospheric for a low-budget animated special from this era. The character animation is at least easier to summarize: if you've seen early Scooby-Doo, this is virtually indistinguishable. That's not a bad thing! Scooby-Doo featured good

Tales from Dickens: A Christmas Carol (1959)

"Tales from Dickens," alternatively referred to as "Fredric March Presents Tales from Dickens," was an anthology series adapting stories by Charles Dickens that ran for four years. I think. See, here's the thing: there's virtually no information about this series anywhere online. It doesn't have a Wikipedia page, IMDB's data is full of holes, JustWatch hasn't heard of them, and - with one exception - every episode seems to have been swallowed by the abyss of time. Fortunately, that exception is their 1959 adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which was released on VHS, DVD, and can be easily found on YouTube. So while I'm a little light on context, I was able to watch the episode itself. This is notable for a couple reasons, the first being it features Basil Rathbone as Scrooge, a role he played three years earlier in the live television musical, The Stingiest Man in Town . This adaptation is very different - perhaps Rathbone wanted a chance to po

Shower of Stars: A Christmas Carol (1954)

I doubt this TV adaptation left much of a mark on future interpretations, but I will say it was interesting , albeit in the same way it's interesting looking at the wreck of a 1954 Chrysler Station Wagon on the side of a road. First, I better give a little context. Shower of Stars was an anthology show from the 1950s. For Christmas, they produced an hour-long adaptation (and I use that word generously) of Dicken's classic. Like every episode, this was broadcast in color, which was unusual for the time. This is of particular significance because every color copy of this episode has been lost. Black & white prints are pretty easy to find, though there's not much reason to bother. The role of Scrooge is played by a comedically long prosthetic nose affixed to [checks notes] Frederick March. Basil Rathbone, who'd play Scrooge a few years later in The Stingiest Man in Town, shows up briefly as Marley's Ghost. Virtually every existent adaptation of A Christmas Carol ma

Christmas Past and Future

We're closing out 2022 a little differently than past years, because this one's been different for us. We've done themes before, but not to the degree of this season, where we allowed A Christmas Carol to more or less overrun the blog. I'm covering my thoughts about that in a separate post , so they don't overwhelm everything else, because - even though it might not feel that way - our holiday this year wasn't just  about Charles Dickens. In fact, that wasn't supposed to be the theme at all. Last spring, I had a very different objective in mind: I wanted to check off every full-length Christmas movie made in the 1930s, in part to explore the differences between how those films treat the holidays compared to later movies and television shows. If you were wondering why we wound up reviewing Bright Eyes , Hell's Heroes , Love Finds Andy Hardy , and  And So They Were Married  in rapid succession, well... that's what was going on. But on the way, I also w

Christmas Present

What a year. For us, it's been a journey into the swirling vortex of A Christmas Carol. I posted a new review for an adaptation every day since Thanksgiving this year, which - as you might expect - has adjusted my perspective a bit. I actually didn't quite get to everything I wanted to see. The 1947 Spanish film,  Leyenda de Navidad , continues to elude me - I believe it's the only surviving theatrically released version I haven't been able to track down. If anyone knows a way this can be legally watched, please let me know. There are of course plenty other versions I haven't gotten to, but that's the only one I lost sleep over. I'm sure I'll cover more in future years, but don't expect another Carol-a-day thing in this lifetime. But here at least we've come to the domain of the second ghost, so you know what that means. Actually, do you know what that means? Because there might be some confusion. We haven't talked about it much, but there

Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock: Night of the Lights (2022)

Okay. First the simple. At time of writing, I've seen two episodes of the Fraggle Rock reboot including this holiday special, and they are really quite good. It's a lot like the original, just gently made more modern feeling. However, this special episode is dancing in the shadow of one of the all-time great holiday episodes, and that means there's a lot to live up to. I think the fairest thing is to talk about it on its own first, and then address the larger context. (I'll mark the sections ahead.) If somehow you are ignorant of Fraggle Rock's premise, here's the quick pitch: A race of cheerful creatures (Fraggles) live in a system of underground caves, in a sort of symbiosis with a race of tiny hardworking creatures (Doozers) and in fear of a family of giant pompous fools (Gorgs). The tunnels also open into a workshop owned by a human who is unaware of the Fraggles and often has a parallel plot line going on. The episodes are usually comic adventures that touc

A Sesame Street Christmas Carol (2006)

This is one of those things that both is and is not an adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Specifically, it falls within the sub-sub-sub-genre where the idea is used to establish a frame story justifying the use of loosely connected clips to repackage old material as a new special. Only this time it's Sesame Street doing it, so it's kind of good. I assume it goes without saying that the Scrooge analog here is Oscar the Grouch. There's a bit of narration courtesy of Tim Curry (who voiced Scrooge himself in a 1997 animated movie) establishing the setting, though Curry immediately bows out until the very end. We don't get much setup at all: there's no Cratchit, Tiny Tim, or Fred analogs, nor does Oscar actually do anything more aggressive than hanging a sign on his can demanding not to be bothered until after the holidays. But Joe Marley, who works for a ghost-related delivery service, shows up to deliver the first of three ghost-o-grams (an antique can of beans) along wi

The Christmas Carol (1949)

Just so there's no confusion, this isn't a movie: it's a 25-minute version of A Christmas Carol made for television. Actually, Wikipedia claims it's the first TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol - I have no idea if that's actually true, but let's give it the benefit of the doubt. If you're wondering how they're able to condense the entirety of A Christmas Carol into 25 minutes, rest assured the answer is "poorly." Very poorly, in fact, and it doesn't help that a significant portion of that runtime goes to overlong opening credits where Scrooge's first name is misspelled (seriously) and an intro from narrator Vincent Price. Don't get too excited: he's warm and friendly here - picture the Platonic ideal of "Christmas special host," and you should have a good idea of what he's wearing, how he's dressed, and what the set looks like. Also, try to act surprised when I tell you he reads the story from a book. Still, Pr

The Lodge (2019)

I want to state up front I'm extremely torn on this movie, and I don't even want to touch on why until I've hopefully scared off a few people who should see this unspoiled. One of my goals in writing reviews is to avoid spoiling worthwhile experiences. On this site, that's usually easy, because a lot of what I'm looking at is pretty old, and quite a bit... well... just isn't good enough to worry about. The Lodge, however, is extraordinarily well made, extremely well acted, and effective at what it's trying to do. It's really just a question of whether "what it's trying to do" is going to impress you or leave you feeling like you wasted two hours of your life. And I really can't offer a single detail as to why  without rendering the point moot by spoiling literally every significant twist and turn this takes. So... I guess it's time for as oblique a spoiler warning as I can offer. If you like horror - particularly atmospheric horror