Good Christmas movies are easy to make. Pretty much any Hollywood star, however awful, can have a hit with one because of exactly that, and often do, playing one of only three main roles these films offer. Even Vince Vaughan made the All Time Top 100 with Fred Clause! You just need the classic ingredients of single or separated dad seeking personal redemption through keeping our belief in Christmas through his cute kids relationship improving and you have a hit. If you don't have those three elements then you just won't have a hit. The Americans seem to have the Christmas movie formula down to a fine art although less about the need for Christmas spirit and more about making money as they know Christmas movies will make a certain return, however good or bad. Even the most anti-Christmas spirit movie of all-time, Home Alone, made a record $500 million dollars for a Christmas movie. They do the same thing for Halloween.
My first of the top five would have to be Scrooged and believe it or not but Bill Murray actually made great films once, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack and Quick Change brilliant vehicles for his obnoxious but sharp style of humor. But once he got involved with oddball director Wes Anderson he went all laconic and serious and that was the end of screwball Murray we all loved. Now he is almost unwatchable. Will we ever get over Lost in Translation?
Scrooged was a sharp and clever witted double send up of the famous Dickens classic 'A Christmas Carol' and very funny too as cynical TV executive Frank Cross encounters the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to put him straight. Its one of those Christmas films you can watch over and over again and still not remember all the jokes and what happens at the start, middle and end, a proper grown ups Christmas movie.
If you loved Scrooged then The Family Man with Nicholas Cage would also be a recommendation in that wake up to a new existence scenario, as would Bad Santa with the rather naughty Billy Bob Thornton, also falling into that grown up dark and funny Christmas film category.
Like British sports films, good British Christmas movies are few and far between. We tend to dust down the old thespians and handout the sideburns and tall hats at this time of the year and leave it up to the performer's personal appeal to get an audience. Nativity with Martin Freeman and Love Actually broke that trend and a thoroughly modern take on the genre and the most notable successes of late. The final nativity school play scene in Nativity is one of the best twenty minutes in seasonal British film I can remember and what Christmas films are supposed to be about, that of family and children, and its hard not for Love Actually to grow on you every time you see it, a similar improv style delivered. Richard Curtiss knows how to work your heart strings and chimes our Christmas tickers better than any a peel of seasonal bell ringers ever could.
Elf is my second choice and whether you like Will Ferrell or not this movie is very funny and ticks all those Christmas clichés you demand from a Christmas movie, although the son a little older and less cute to estranged father James Caan.
The premise is a baby Ferrell is somehow adopted by Elves and lives at the North Pole and grows up thinking he is an Elf, before he decides to head south and find his real father. As he is three foot taller than the Elves it's not a bad idea he does stretch his wings for all concerned. He just doesn't have elf potential. In Manhattan he falls for a pretty shop girl and brings Christmas love to all in a city that has stopped believing in the Christmas spirit. Again it's another movie you can watch over and over again and puts you right in the mood for the season. Once Elf is on Channel Four you know Christmas is here.
Romantic yuletide films are always popular and Serendipity with John Cusak one of my favorites, the third of my top five. It has that essential special Christmas warmth around the chance meeting with the girl of your dreams at the most romantic part of the year and the journey to get the girl. The girl in question is sexy Kate Beckensale, who trusts to luck and fete when meeting men, serendipity ruling her life, and to see if they are indeed ideal for each other she will only take his number if they meet again by chance in the big city. Like in Die Hard (technically a Christmas film), our hero will win the girl if fete lets him complete the task, in Cusack's case returning a lost glove to Beckensale, if he can find her in New York City, a sort of anti statement to the sexually permissive nineties.
I must admit I never thought I would mention Tim Allen in any of my favorite lists but 'The Santa Clause' is almost the perfect Christmas trilogy and makes my top five. The films have the perfunctory ingredients of the modern day Christmas story, that of estranged hard working dad trying to win back the attentions of his young son from his manipulative divorced wife - with new partner - as old dad tries to explain to mum and son both that they cant have the perfect suburban American house, car and family without dad working all hours at Christmas. That contradiction is a head scratcher for American men and why it features in nearly all Christmas movies there.
The basic premise here is Tim Allen kills Santa Clause on Christmas Eve by knocking him off his roof whilst having his kid round for the night, and by killing Santa he activates the 'Santa Clause' and has to become the new Santa there and then by putting on the suit and driving the reindeer to finish the present's delivery. After achieving this fete with his kid on board the sleigh a better bond forms with his lad and although he writes it off as a dream the next day the kid knows it was real and dad is now Santa, soon growing a bog tummy and beard as the following December nears. It's a surprisingly sweet movie and just seems to hit every target.
As good as they say 'It's a Wonderful Life' is it doesn't make my list and I prefer the Miracle on 34th Street as my oldest film in my top five, the 1980s version with Richard Attenborough as Chris Pringle my chosen version. Again it gets to grip with the point of Christmas, that of children and the need to keep the fantasy of Santa Clause alive for all as we are all big kids at heart and if Chris Pringles lawyer can prove Dickie Attenborough is the real father Christmas then he will not only get the pretty girl to be his wife (again working long hours so estranged from her) but keep the spirit of Christmas alive, that of giving and hugging (or capitalism and greed a sits known now).
"Bend It Like Beckham" thinks it's about a girl realising her passion for football, when it's really about two girls who refuse to admit their homosexuality. I am not a critic who looks for sexual subtexts in everything I see, but there's definitely something going on here, intentional or not. Ironic, how this movie teaches us to follow our urges while refusing to realise its own. Parminder Nagra stars as an 18-year old girl from London who supports Manchester United and does her best to stay clear of her parents' traditional Hindu lifestyle. She rolls eyes at her sister, a trendy pipsqueak who minces around with fashion-conscious buddies and whispers behind their backs, "Bitch! Why did she have to go and get a dress like that? I can't wear mine now!" She tries to watch footie in the comfort of her bedroom, but keeps getting interrupted by her mum, who barges in and declares, "I can't believe that your sister is planning a wedding, and you're sitting in here watching these skinhead boys!" Nagra spends afternoons with male friends, running around the park and kicking a ball. Keira Knightley, who plays for a local girls' team, notices her skills and invites her to join. The team is going places, and it starts going much quicker once the talented Nagra gets on the field... but Nagra's parents don't approve of her playing football, and so she has to keep it a secret. As you will have guessed, the movie is a comedy that follows Nagra's attempts to convince her family to accept her unconventional choice of lifestyle. Obviously, this plot could be taken as an extended metaphor for coming out of the closet, but you don't see me accusing Billy Elliot of being gay. There's more here. Nagra and Knightley have pictures of sportsmen and butch women all over their rooms. Nagra has a scar on her leg that makes her anxious about wearing shorts, which is clearly supposed t
o symbolise that she's carrying around things she doesn't want to reveal. And, quite simply, Nagra and Knightley relate to each other with a clear sense of longing and attraction. Consider the instant intimacy of their friendship, and how it is characterised by both fascination and apprehension. Look at Knightley's eyes in the early scenes of the picture, where she jogs past Nagra and gazes at her with palpable sexuality. I felt more of an attraction between these girls than I felt between Mariel Hemingway and Patrice Donnelly in "Personal Best", and that was a pretty convincing movie. "Bend It Like Beckham" refuses to act on its implications. It is so dishonest, in fact, that it dispels our suspicions by mocking them through the character of Knightley's mother, who starts to muse that her daughter might be a lesbian, and comes off as paranoid and harebrained. There's also a subplot whereby Nagra and Knightley both fall for their coach, who is played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. At first the possibility is left open that the girls are projecting their feelings onto Meyers to distract themselves from their true nature, but then a romance really does blossom between Nagra and Meyers, despite the fact that not a stage of the relationship rings true. Nagra is wonderful in the lead role -- she expresses emotion through a style of being, rather than through easy tones of voice or facial expressions, and is convincing as someone who feels different in some fundamental way. She simply does not respond to the interests and customs of those surrounding her, and like most creative people seems to be harbouring a feeling that she's not only looking for something alternative, but is the only sane person in an insane world. Knightley, the co-star, has a clear screen presence -- yes, she bears a resemblance to Winona Ryder, but Ryder plays characters with a disturbed, confused or even suicidal edge, and Knightley is loud
and bold, breathing life into her character in a quite thrilling way. Furthermore, the scenes involving Nagra's family find truthful humour -- the filmmakers proceed with confidence, exaggerating behaviour into fairly broad histrionics without going so over the top that they cheapen their material. Shaheen Khan, the actress playing Nagra's mother, spends most of the movie screaming things like, "What's the good in knowing how to run around kicking a ball if you don't know how to make round japatis?" It's funny because it's truthful, not because it's wacky. "Bend It Like Beckham" works more than adequately as a comedy about an Indian girl who wants to play football, because of the wonderful performances and the fact that the family backdrop is not treated as the formula gimmick that it might have in a lesser movie. This is filmmaking far above the level of "There's Only One Jimmy Grimble". The fact that it makes us consider implications beyond the events onscreen is impressive. Still, there's something missing. What's the point of capturing the spark of two wonderful girls if that spark is going to be ignored? This could have been a great film if it had been courageous enough to follow things through to their natural destination.
General/Summary: You are a guy trying to earn the respect of three gangs by completing their missions for them or by killing other rival gangs in turn trading your respect for that gang. Steal a car, shoot a cop, blow some S!@$ UP and earn respect for doing it! Gameplay: Gameplay takes a little getting used to because of the birds eye view deal. Once I was ok with the view the game went great. Sometime that birds eye view just eats at you along with the sound (discussed later) but overall I enjoy this game a good bit. I can run it on my back up back up PC which is a 233 mhz with only 64mb of RAM. Get used to the view and the game is ready for some hours of playtime. Graphics: Not too upset for the amount of system resources the game actually uses. I guess you can only judge so much with a birds eye view of everything. Sound: Eeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrr... Scrrrrrreeeeeeeee..... the sound gets really anoying so turn it down. The music when you jack a car is cool. The commercials are the best.