Solidly entertaining Christmas movies are so rare that when one comes along it feels like the best gift ever. Perhaps more horror filmmakers should turn their hand to family-friendly action comedies. This one is written and directed by Christopher Smith, the British filmmaker behind freak-outs like Severance and Triangle. But this movie is a pure joy, deploying a warped sense of humour that will have adults laughing a bit more than the kids, who will be caught up in a terrific wish-fulfilment adventure of their own.
In London, Steve (Rafe Spall) has just been released after two years in prison, and his first priority is to see his 10-year-old son Tom (Kit Connor), who lives with Steve's ex Alison (Jodie Whittaker) and her new husband. That same night, Tom finds a beardy man (Jim Broadbent) in the garage who claims to be Santa Claus and needs Steve's help. Steve is more than a little skeptical, but wants to spend time with Tom so heads off on a rescue mission that gets increasingly complicated with every passing moment. Mainly because Santa gets himself arrested while trying to liberate his reindeer after they were caught roaming around the city streets. Coincidentally housed in Steve's old prison, he gets some help from Steve's former fellow inmates (including Stephen Graham, Warwick Davis and Nonso Anozie), while Steve discovers that maybe something magical is going on after all
This may be one of those "find your childhood love of Christmas" movies, but Smith never pushes the sentimentality. Instead, he keeps the story moving with brisk momentum, piling on some hilariously deranged gags along with madcap action set-pieces that include chases, dress-up silliness and, yes, a prison break. The script is tight and funny, including the requisite poo and fart jokes, as well as some more sophisticated movie sight-gags and clever character detail. These people may be faintly ridiculous, but the actors dive in headlong and bring us with them.
Continue reading: Get Santa Review
'Twas nights before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring. until a loud crash was heard in the garage. Nine year-old Tom (Kit Connor) heads out into the darkness and snow to investigate, and to his surprise, he discovers non-other than Santa Claus (Jinn Broadbent), having crashed his sleigh and lost his reindeer. After attempting to recover them, Santa is arrested and sent to prison. Tom confronts his dad, Steve (Rafe Spall), and encourages him to help recover the reindeer, sleigh and then rescue Santa before 24th December, otherwise Christmas will be ruined. Hilarity ensues as the father/son team work against the clock in a desperate attempt to save Christmas for everyone.
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In a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly ice age has taken over the Earth, there are only a few survivors, all of whom have taken shelter in an enormous train propelled by perpetual motion. While the rich and powerful live in luxury at the front end of the locomotive, the poor have been forced to dwell at the tail with limited supplies by the dictatorial Minister Mason. During a routine deliverance of protein blocks, one tail inhabitant, Curtis, decides to round up a rebel army to invade the front, though no-one could have imagined the amount of bloodshed the ensuing revolt would trigger. In a bid to destroy the barbaric class hierarchy this new life has caused, Curtis plots a major act of disaster. It starts to look like the human race really will be the death of themselves.
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We may sigh heavily at the thought of yet another fairy tale blockbuster, but the filmmakers and cast here demand a bit more attention. And sure enough, it's refreshingly smarter and funnier than we expect. There are still the problems of unnecessary 3D and far too many digital characters, but the restless pace and the witty performances make it a lot of fun to watch.
It's Jack and the Beanstalk with added action mayhem, as orphaned farmboy Jack (Hoult) sells his horse for a bag of supposedly magic beans. When one inadvertently gets wet, a massive beanstalk manages to propel Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson) into the realm of the giants, reawakening a legend that had died off centuries ago. So the King (McShane) enlists Jack to join a rescue team of guards (including McGregor, Marsan and Bremner) and Isabelle's intended, the shifty Roderick (Tucci). Up above the clouds, they encounter two-headed giant Fallon (Nighy) and his nasty horde. But rescuing Isabelle is only the first problem they face.
The freewheeling plot zips along without pausing for breath, encompassing massive set pieces and more gritty battles as well as small moments of drama and romance. Meanwhile, Jack and Isabelle cast lusty glances at each other, even when they're in physical peril. Director Singer brings out the energy of the characters to keep us involved, playing on the vertiginous angles of the settings while playfully deploying fairy tale imagery in the sets, costumes and landscapes. it's understandably why he decided to digitally create the giants rather than have actors play them, but this leaves a hole where the monsters should be. Aside from Nighy's more obviously performance-captured face, all of them look like dead-eyed cartoons, which essentially turns the film into a medieval Transformers movie.
Continue reading: Jack the Giant Slayer Review