Wednesday, December 14, 2022

'Tis the Season - Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (2022)
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Musical
Length:  1h 36min
Rating: TV-Y7
Production/Distribution: Timeless Films, Netflix
Director: Stephen Donnelly
Writer: Leslie Bricusse, Stephen Donnelly, Charles Dickens
Actors: Luke Evans, Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Fra Fee, Giles Terera, Trevor Dion Nicholas, James Cosmo, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver Jenkins, Rupert Turnbull, Devon Pomeroy, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jemima Lucy Newman, Jeremiah Daley, Rebecca Gethings, Sheena Bhattessa, Homer Todiwala, Ayesha Antoine, Ewan Bailey, Graham Silcock, Stephen Donnelly
IMDb Blurb: A supernatural, time-travelling, musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's cult Christmas story

Cat’s Point of View:
There have been so many retellings of Charles Dickens’s classic novella of A Christmas Carol. We’ve seen versions tackled by Disney, The Muppets, and countless other adaptations for both the large and small screens. It’s a timeless tale of holiday cheer, the resilience of the human spirit, and a journey of personal redemption. There are likely going to be many more interpretations of this Dickensian masterpiece for years to come.
Though, with that being said, it makes it harder for new versions to stand out when compared to everything that has come before. One would think there are only so many ways you can tell the same story, right?

You wouldn’t even be too far off thinking you’ve seen this particular movie before, if you’ve watched the live action musical Scrooge (1970). Scrooge: A Christmas Carol is actually an animated remake of that very movie. The dedication in the credits to the lauded British composer Leslie Bricusse (1931-2021) harkens back to the original 1970 production, which he wrote the music, lyrics, and screenplay for (as well as the 1992 stage play). Bricusse also wrote the screenplay for this Netflix adaptation, including 6 of the original songs. Sadly, this was his final film project and he passed in 2021, unable to see its release.
When I first saw the trailer for Scrooge: A Christmas Carol, I was thinking it might be cute but basic – because I was getting that ‘been there, done that’ feeling. I was worried that it wouldn’t hold my attention. This time of year, I’m burning the proverbial candle at both ends and sometimes it’s really easy for me to drift off if I’m not well-engaged with what I’m watching.
I didn’t have any problems staying tuned in at all.

The music was gorgeous and didn’t feel recycled. The animation was smooth and well integrated the old 2-D style with the more updated computer enhanced cinematics. I really enjoyed the direction they took Scrooge’s redemption arc through the animations shown at each ghost-led journey. The way the thoughts played out as he connected emotions with his actions and their consequences was very well done, and in a freshly innovative way. Then there was the cast…
I can’t get over this cast, really. The production team made some phenomenal decisions here. Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, The Alienist, Pinocchio) voiced the titular character, and let me tell you, this man has a gorgeous singing voice on top of his great acting ability. Olivia Colman’s (The Lost Daughter, Empire of Light, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish) portrayal of Past was both funny and touching. Jessie Buckley (Beast, Chernobyl, Women Talking) had me misty when she sang in her role as Isabel Fizziwig. Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes, Save the Cinema, The Crown) was hauntingly wonderful as the embodiment of Jacob Marley – and his ghost. I could go on, but I’ll rest there.

Scrooge: A Christmas Carol was absolutely everything I expected it to be – and then some. I was surprised by how engrossed I became with the story and the music. Yes, some parts were a little silly – but aren’t most musicals at one point or another? This film would be a great selection to watch with family, especially if you have children that haven’t really experienced this story before. I would caution, however, showing this to very young children. There might be some scary imagery and concepts that could disturb them when Scrooge visits the future.
All told, I’d say I enjoy this version more than the old fashioned period piece it was adapted from, and I might just watch this again before the end of this Holiday Season.  

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore – 46%
Metacritic User Score – 6.3/10
IMDB Score – 6.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 12, 2022

'Tis the Season - 8 Bit Christmas (2021)


Streaming Service: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: 8 Bit Christmas (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Family
Length:  1h 37min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: New Line Cinema, Star Thrower Entertainment, Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Pictures, HBO Max
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer: Kevin Jakubowski
Actors: Winslow Fegley, Neil Patrick Harris, Steve Zahn, June Diane Raphael, Bellaluna Resnick, Sophia Reid-Gantzert, Che Tafari, Santino Barnard, Max Malas, Brielle Rankins, Braelyn Rankins, Cyrus Arnold, Chandler Dean, Jacob Laval, Katia Edith Wood, Tom Rooney, David Cross, Kathryn Greenwood, Louise Nicol, Erica Levene, David MacInnis, Monica Dottor, Sofie Michal Maiuri, Alex Spencer, Miles Kerim, Luca Doulgeris, Mike Wilmot, Christy Bruce
IMDb Blurb: In 1980s Chicago, a 10-year-old sets out on a quest to get the Christmas gift of his generation: the latest and greatest video-game system.

Selina’s Point of View:
If you took The Princess Bride (1987) and mixed it with A Christmas Story (1983), you’d get 8-Bit Christmas. I know that sounds like a hell of a pairing. Both those 80s flicks have huge followings. I’ll admit that I’m only part of the fanbase for The Princess Bride, out of the two of them, but I can appreciate those that really love A Christmas Story.
I think both groups would greatly enjoy 8-Bit Christmas.
In this flick, the story is told by Neil Patrick Harris’ character. His daughter wants a phone for the holidays and he’s comparing it to a time in the 80s when he really wanted a Nintendo. It takes place in the part of the 80s when people were starting to try and say that video games cause violence. (They don’t. Thousands of years of violent history before video games were invented prove that, but I digress.)
It’s a very cute story, mostly played out in flashbacks. The child actors are all very good, especially for their ages, and the nostalgia (for an 80s baby like me) hits hard.
December is my least favorite month for movies, that’s no secret. Christmas flicks just get a tad repetitive. That said, every year there seems to be at least one stand out that’s still part of the family or romance genres. This year it comes early with 8-Bit Christmas.
I loved it. Even the cringey parts still managed to be mild enough that I didn’t have to look away. It was funny, cute, and the ending still brought tears to my eyes.
8-Bit Christmas is worth a watch, and perfectly fine to put on while the whole family is gathered. 

Cat’s Point of View:
In all honesty, I’d forgotten that 8 Bit Christmas had come out last year. I am very happy that we put it on this month’s schedule because it was a lot of fun. The nostalgia made the heart of this ‘80s baby happy, and there was a connection within the story to draw in kids of today.
It felt like a very heartwarming and funny ‘back in my day’ story that I would tell my kid but brought to life on the screen. I’m sitting right there in the generation of the father character. Good grief there was so much to relate to within his story. Though, I couldn’t go to the neighbor kid’s house to play a Nintendo. I could only play on one when I was visiting with cousins. I remember my own burning desire for a game console as a kid. (I didn’t get one ‘til I was in high school. It was a Sega Genesis.) So much of this movie hit home. I was in stitches.
In preparing this article today, I’ve seen a lot of critics compare 8 Bit Christmas with A Christmas Story (1983). They’re not wrong. I got a lot of the same ‘feels’ that the older holiday classic provided. I do, however, feel that this is a more elevated and updated narrative that can connect better with the current day. Some aspects of the classic just don’t translate to today’s audiences in the same way, and I think it’s beginning to lose ground for that reason. I appreciate it when new voices step up to bridge the generational gap like that – whether they intended to or not.

8 Bit Christmas also blended in the ensemble factor where the group of friends hatches a plan for a caper, rather than focusing on the single child’s ambitions for the desired Christmas present. It played out as a significantly more family-friendly set of shenanigans than Good Boys (2019) while giving off some of those same vibes.
Then, of course, I absolutely adored the cast.
I sincerely believe that the presence of Neil Patrick Harris (A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Matrix Resurrections, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent) in a cast makes any project better. I adored him as the adult Jake Doyle character, telling the story. I enjoyed his interactions with his on-screen daughter. The small scene interjections they had together called back a bit to the storytelling grandfather in The Princess Bride (1987), as well.

Steve Zahn (George & Tammy, Night at the Museum: Kamunrah Rises Again, Where'd You Go, Bernadette) was also an excellent pick for the somewhat zany DIY dad. A lot of the heavy lifting, however, went to Winslow Fegley (Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Nightbooks, Lyle Lyle Crocodile) anchoring the cast playing young Jake Doyle. I believed every minute of his delivery and I am really looking forward to what he does in the future. Frankly, all of the kids were great. I have zero complaints whatsoever.
Nostalgia and ensemble comedy aside, 8 Bit Christmas was just overflowing with heart. It’s a great story about family and not getting sucked into the materialism that drowns the Holiday Season. It’s hard – we’ve likely all done it at one point or another. This story, however, doesn’t get preachy at all. It was a likable and fun ride that gave a subtle nudge rather than beating you over the head with the message.
I was actually misty at the end. These movies are making me leak from the eyes left and right this year, I swear.
I would absolutely recommend 8 Bit Christmas to anyone that enjoys family comedy, and I can’t wait to watch it again with my teen since she didn’t get a chance to watch it the first time with me.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%
Metascore – 66%
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
Movie Trailer: