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REVIEW: Wizards

August 5, 2016 Leave a comment
WizardsDirected by: Ralph Bakshi
Produced by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Ralph Bakshi
Edited by: Donald W. Ernst
Music by: Andrew Belling
Starring: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, James Connell, Susan Tyrrell, Mark Hamill
Year: 1977

 

I’ve only seen a few films of Ralph Bakshi – Cool World, Fritz the Cat, and now this movie – but there was a time when his works were always in the back of my mind whenever the subject of animation history came up. Ever since I was a kid, in fact, which is funny since almost none of his work is remotely child-friendly, except for perhaps his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. As a nerdy kid who studied almost anything that piqued my interest (but especially movies and video games), reading about Bakshi’s subversive, gritty, adult, and oftentimes controversial works always fascinated me. Revered as, if anything, noteworthy departures from the traditionally family fluff that, even today, is usually thought of as the default mode for animation in America, his stuff always stood out as almost mythical or even forbidden to my adolescent mind. I’d see references to it in stuff like The Simpsons and recognize the reference for what it was, but apart from maybe a few clips here and there, Bakshi’s animated films seemed to be spoken of in terms normally reserved for “banned” films like Song of the South and the infamous Censored Eleven – eleven Warner Bros. animated shorts that have been withheld from distribution due to their controversial, racially insensitive material. (I wasn’t far off in that regard, in retrospect, either.) Read more…

REVIEW: The Santa Clause

December 4, 2015 2 comments
The Santa ClauseDirected by: John Pasquin
Produced by: Robert Newmyer, Brian Reilly, Jeffrey Silver
Written by: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Karey Kirkpatrick
Edited by: Larry Bock
Cinematography by: Walt Lloyd
Music by: Michael Convertino
Starring: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, Paige Tamada, Peter Boyle, Kenny Vadas, Chris Benson
Year: 1994

 

It occurred to me while watching The Santa Clause that the film, thematically, has a surprising amount in common with another holiday classic (albeit a film dealing with a far more tedious holiday than Christmas) that was released just the year prior: Groundhog Day. No, really, think about it. Both films center upon a self-centered jerk who alienates those he would otherwise get along with and even grow to love if only he would give into the spirit of the holiday. Both films also feature comedians who were incredibly popular at the time the movies were made. And both films feature some kind of inexplicable supernatural/magical device which is foisted upon them, to their comedic chagrin, throughout their daily lives until they get the lessons right and embrace it. Both films obviously differ quite a bit in terms of their respective target audiences (though there is a surprising amount of adult humor in Disney’s film that will supposedly go over the kids’ heads), but, as with most holiday films, both are also about the importance of not becoming jaded with life and use their holidays as metaphors. Read more…

REVIEW: Arthur Christmas

December 25, 2014 2 comments
Arthur ChristmasDirected by: Sarah Smith
Produced by: Steve Pegram
Written by: Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
Story by: Sarah Smith (uncredited)
Edited by: John Carnochan, James Cooper
Animation studio: Aardman Animations
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Ashley Jensen, Imelda Staunton, Marc Wootton, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Ramona Marquez, Michael Palin
Year: 2011

 

Every year, we hear that people are losing the true Christmas spirit, how everything’s become focused on material possessions rather than family togetherness. Horror stories from Black Friday sales frenzies flood the news, and having the most presents under the tree dominate our thoughts, so we’re told. But what if that attitude started spreading to one of the season’s most iconic figures, Santa Claus? That’s the basic start for the premise of Aardman’s contribution to the Christmas film pantheon, Arthur Christmas. Read more…

REVIEW: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

December 17, 2014 5 comments
Rare Exports: A Christmas TaleDirected by: Jalmari Helander
Produced by: Petri Jokiranta
Screenplay by: Jalmari Helander
Story by: Jalmari Helander, Juuso Helander
Edited by: Kimmo Taavila
Cinematography by: Mika Orasmaa
Music by: Juri Seppä
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen, Per Christian Ellefsen, Ilmari Järvenpää, Peeter Jakobi, Jonathan Hutchings, Risto Salmi, Jens Sivertsen, Sigmund Bøe, Olav Pedersen, Nils M. Iselvmo
Based on the 2003 short film Rare Exports Inc. by Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander
Year: 2010

 

Santa Claus has largely been portrayed as being a saintly old man who travels the world delivering gifts to children on Christmas night, but that’s largely been because most productions are based on the image cultivated by American pop culture – you know, the one seen in film and on soda cans. Some films have attempted to stray from this mostly by making a point of it, incorporating some traditions while adapting and adding their own twists – Rise of the Guardians still portrayed him as a large, jolly man, but also a Russian brawler who will gleefully leap into battle with dark forces, while Arthur Christmas had Santa and his crew of elves leading a technologically advanced operation that adapted to each culture they visited, though Santa, by default, was still largely influenced by the traditional Santa. It seems like a hard thing to get away from, and it can largely become pretty stale, no matter what twist they may put on it. Rare Exports, as its name suggests, is as far from tradition as one can get from tradition without losing any semblance of who the central figure is supposed to be, though. Read more…

REVIEW: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

December 4, 2013 4 comments
Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerDirected by: Larry Roemer
Produced by: Arthur Rankin, Jr. (producer), Jules Bass (co-producer)
Written by: Romeo Muller, Robert L. May
Animation supervised by: Tadahito Mochinaga
Music by: Johnny Marks
Starring: Burl Ives, Billie Mae Richards, Paul Soles, Larry D. Mann, Stan Francis, Paul Kligman, Janis Orenstein, Alfie Scopp, Carl Banas, Corinne Conley, Peg Dixon
Based on the story and song written by Robert L. May
Year: 1964

 

I’m going to allow for my first 2013 Christmas movie review to make me out to be a Scrooge.

A 1964 TV special done in the medium of stop motion capture, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has become one of the most beloved and influential examples of the medium – if someone doesn’t know what the term “stop motion” means, you could undoubtedly point to Rudolph or one of its other Rankin/Bass Christmastime siblings as an example that nearly everyone will then immediately understand. It’s arguable that even the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas owes its aesthetic style to these holiday productions, albeit with the obligatory Tim Burton-esque macabre twist, not to mention the countless spoofs, knockoffs, and affectionate references that followed across TV and film. Beyond the aesthetics and styling, however, this short TV movie also stands as one of the longest running TV traditions, airing annually each Christmas season since it was first shown. Read more…

Christmas Movie Month 2012 Commences!

December 2, 2012 1 comment

The Nightmare Before Chriastmas - What's This

It’s that time of year again. 2012 has nearly gone, and yet it always seems like there’s even more to do this time of year than any other time of year, what with Thanksgiving leading into Christmas and then into the New Year. I spent last week with my family for Thanksgiving, as well as my mom’s birthday soon after, and so I didn’t really get around to getting my Miracle on 34th Street review out around the time that I intended, so I basically considered it an unofficial start to my second Christmas Movie Month. It’s mere coincidence that my mom wanted to go see Rise of the Guardians, which features Santa, but isn’t necessarily about Christmas, so that was kind of a happy accident. Now, however, I’m switching gears fully into Christmas mode, once again!

In case you missed any of my reviews from last year, here’s a quick rundown of films that I reviewed for Christmas 2011:

Elf
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Polar Express
Meet Me in St. Louis
Die Hard
Scrooged
, A Muppet Christmas Carol, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol in an ill advised Grudge Match Review that I came to despise doing – Part 1 & Part 2
Joyeux Noël

For this year, I plan to stay on task a bit more, and I’ve already got several reviews planned! Let’s also not forget that the aforementioned Miracle on 34th Street pulls double-duty as both a Thanksgiving and Christmas film! I also promised last year that I would review Eight Crazy Nights for those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, but the film disappeared around that time from Netflix, and I wasn’t about to use up a Blockbuster movie exchange. This year? … Maybe. But I’m not making any promises. That movie was pretty awful… Anyway, aside from maybe a few incidental theatrical reviews and one “special” review that I’m planning on writing at the end of this week (hint: it’s all about the supposed oncoming of the end of the world, and I’m not about to watch that movie or write that review without a few drinks to help me along), you can pretty much just expect Christmas movies until that day comes!

Until then, just in case I don’t get around to that awful Adam Sandler Hanukkah movie, please enjoy this classic Saturday Night Live animated music video instead, “Christmas for the Jews”:

Trailer: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

December 20, 2011 1 comment

Unexpected indeed! Santa apparently forgot one gift after he delivered The Dark Knight Rises trailer. Back down the chimney he came to deliver one final (?) gift!

As soon as that music played, I got shivers down my spine. I’m not nearly as much a Lord of the Rings fanatic as my friends are — I’ve barely gotten into the first book and find it hard to get through Tolkien’s wordy, heavy prose, which is why I’m so thankful for Peter Jackson’s film series, which are masterpieces in their own right. I imagine those fans of the books and their related stories are kind of like when I scoff at people who think a great song is by a newer artist who covered it (or, sadly, just sampled the older, better song in one sad case involving Kid Rock and “Sweet Home Alabama”…), but I just can’t get into the books (or most books in general) as I can film. I’m a very visually-oriented person in many ways, and thanks to Jackson, I am able to at least partake in some form of Rings fandom, even though I at least am aware that it is a much different experience. Hey, you don’t necessarily expect everyone to read every book of every film adaptation, do you?

 

Anyway, my seemingly anti-intellectual habits aside, I’m so glad that Peter Jackson has been able to revisit the world of Middle Earth. Sam Raimi may have done well, and it’s still a tragedy that Guillermo del Toro wasn’t able to put his own touch on Jackson’s take on the world, but if it couldn’t be him, it might as well be the original, right? Of course, The Hobbit is decidedly lighter in tone compared to the heavy warfare of The Lord of the Rings, but it looks like Jackson has been able to put just the right touches on this adaptation — touches that I hope hold over into the second film in this revisit, which will be an almost entirely new story that bridges The Hobbit to the epic trilogy.

Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen don’t look to have aged a day since Return of the King, which is good since they’re technically supposed to be younger here, and it looks as though we’ll be in for a treat with fun looking new characters in the film, new takes on familiar characters (with The Office‘s Martin Freeman taking over as the younger Bilbo Baggins), and, of course Gollum along for what looks to be a gentler, more light-hearted adventure. Also cast in the film series are the returning Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Elijah Wood and Ian Holm as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins (apparently these films are flashbacks), and Christopher Lee as Saruman, with new cast members consisting of Stephen Fry, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, and several others I admittedly don’t recognize but will likely in the future.

Of course, the question remains: are we going to see an extended, 4 hour version of each of these films, as well? I don’t think marathoners can take it…

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