Tis the season to be jolly – jolly about the amazing array of celluloid treats that await us at multiplexes across the county. I for one love all things Christmas movie wise and this December is no exception.
All Is Lost, the second film from the young American director JC Chandor. Chandor’s debut feature was “Margin Call”, a thrilling study of the collapse of a Wall Street bank, and what that film did for Merrill Lynch, this new one may do for yacht charter companies (apologies now for those lovely folk at Brighton Marina but this really is harrowing stuff)
As the film opens, we see a large, strange object bobbing in the open ocean while a man – “our man”, as he is named in the credits – says what sound like last words. He explains that he was shipwrecked one week earlier, and has fought for survival until his dying breath. “All is lost here – except soul and body, or what’s left of them, and a half-day’s ration,” he croaks.
The croaker is Robert Redford, and these few words represents around three quarters of the words that pass the actor’s lips in the entire picture. This is a must for die hard fans of the Sundance Kid now older fella as his is also the only face that ever appears on-screen! We flash back eight days, and our man, who is in the middle of a solo voyage through the Indian Ocean, wakes to see water sluicing into the cabin. His hull has been punctured by an enormous red shipping crate drifting on the current. What are the chances we cry, well reports have it that the sea is teaming with them and his is loaded with cheap looking tennis shoes to add insult to injury
After dislodging the crate, he patches up the hull but this is only the start of this grueling fight for survival that has you gasping for breath till the bitter end of the movie. I loved it and watched in horror at this poor mans misfortune. 4 out 5 from me and out on boxing day!
Given its now-classic status among several generations of moviegoers and the constant repeats it gets on telly over Christmas it’s easy to forget that “Mary Poppins” seemed far from a sure bet when it first appeared in 1964 – Disney made cartoons well and live action badly up until this point. But Disney’s December release “Saving Mr. Banks” has a somewhat different story to tell, about the ways in which life influences fiction.
The film opens on images of blue skies and palm trees that suggest L.A. or Beverly Hills. But in fact, we’re in rural Australia circa 1906, where the young PL Travers – the author of Mary Poppins comes of age as one of three daughters of a harried mother and a loving but manic father (an excellent Colin Farrell) given to drink and inventing tall tales.
This film explores the plight of Travers with her sharp, clipped diction played excellently by Emma Thompson who is steadily pursued by Walt Disney -an effervescent Tom Hanks -for the rights to her book. Much of “Saving Mr. Banks” unfolds in a small rehearsal studio where Travers sits, stoic and unimpressed, as three of the movie’s principal architects give her their best pitch to create the screenplay Disney want to write for the film. This is great stuff and full of wit and great style. Its all the poignant when you consider in real life Travers, then well into her 90s, authorized producer Cameron Mackintosh’s stage version of “Poppins” only on the condition that no one added for the film version was in it! Oooh add cold water to the burn Walt!!!!
Great stuff from Disney and a fab Xmas treat for all and sundry 3 ½ out of five from me!
The Harry Hill Movie – In his silver screen debut, Perrier Award-winning TV comedian Harry Hill finds out that his beloved hamster Abu has only one week to live. The two embark on a road trip from London to Blackpool (no, we don’t know why either), and encounter many eccentric characters along the way. They meet Harry’s petrol-drinking nan (Julie Walters) – cue mobility scooter race – his long-lost evil twin Otto (Matt Lucas) who has been raised by Alsatians, and Harry falls in love with Shell Girl (Sheridan Smith), ‘an undersea shell person’. All the while they are pursued by a crazed vet, played by Simon Bird (‘The Inbetweeners’). This is just an orgy of cheap laughs and looks set to be the perfect Turkey buster for this season of goodwill and great laughs. Out on the 20th December this is must for fans and their Grans!
This month who better to give you their ultimate Christmas top five but the lovely Sally from In Brighton’s, Thomas Kemp pub – Brighton and Hove’s coolest, fluffiest and certainly most festive of all the City’s venues.
Wonderful Life (of course)
The Grinch (obviously)
Die Hard (Yipee Ki Ay)
Nightmare before Christmas (Tim Burton)
Life of Brian (for so many reasons)
Merry Christmas from all of us at Big Screen towers and a happy new year to all you film fans. See you on the beach in June!