New (to Me) Christmas Movie Review Roundup

It’s the holiday season again, which means I revisit some movies that I watch almost every year. But I’m not content to always just watch Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story. I like to break new ground. Explore new territory. And so I’ve already seen a few movies for the first time this year. Should you watch them, too? Read on and find out!

First up is a film that had been appearing on tons of “Best of Christmas” lists: Love Actually. It had gotten a lot of hype, and it has a great cast (Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, etc.). So did it live up to its promise? Yes and no. It’s very much a vignette movie–tons of characters, tons of intersecting plot lines, all focused on love and relationships around Christmas. For the most part, it’s ooey-gooey fluff, and quite good fluff at that. I personally really enjoyed it–8 out of 10. Why does it feel like there’s a big “but” coming? Because there is. In the middle of all this fluff is a plot line that just makes it so most of you reading this likely won’t watch the movie at all: two of the characters meet by being stand ins for famous actors. What kind of stand ins? Sex stand ins. So they’re naked and simulating sex acts every time they appear. As I put it to a friend, imagine You’ve Got Mail, but add in Tom Hanks visiting a strip club a time or two. Then throw in 11 f-bombs, just for kicks. Yeah . . . So in the end, I’d have to say catch this one on television if it ever airs there. Sheesh.

Second was a new Christmas Carol adaptation: the 1938 version, which is actually one of the oldest, but I hadn’t seen it yet, so it was new-to-me. If I’ve already seen a ton of these, why do I keep watching them? Because I’m an adaptation junkie. I love seeing different approaches to making adaptations, and this one had some great things I’d never seen done before. First up, they spent a whole lot more time with the Cratchits. We saw Bob and Fred interact, Bob play around with kids, the family spending time together at home. It was a nice touch, because by knowing the Cratchits more, we sympathize with them that much more. It makes what Scrooge does and who he is that much more dreadful, which allows his redemption to be that much more sweet. The acting in the film bordered on manic at times, but it’s an early movie, and you get that sort of thing from time to time. This would be a 7.5 out of ten for me. Great production.

Next up? Rare Exports. It’s a Finnish film that asks the important question: what if Santa Claus were real–and really really ancient and evil. Some wicked archaeologists are doing their best to find Santa’s grave. When they do, they release the still-living Santa into the world today. He starts nabbing naughty children and killing off bad adults. It’s horror, fantasy, and Christmas in one tidy package. Kind of grisly in places. I enjoyed the movie, though I likely won’t be watching it again. 6.5 out of 10. The pacing and plot had some issues that got in the way for me, but I loved the premise.

Finally? Kon-Tiki. Yes, I realize this has almost nothing to do with Christmas (although it does have a conversation that occurs at Christmas . . . ), but Denisa and I watched it last night, and we both loved it. It’s a look at the Kon-Tiki voyage–the Norwegian expedition from Peru to Polynesia by 6 men on a balsa wood raft. 5,000 miles. Nothing but wind and currents to get them there. Really great movie: wonderfully filmed, intense action, great plot, and not that long. 8.5 out of 10. If you’re looking for a great movie to watch on Netflix, look no further. Highly recommended for all.

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