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163. Klaus – This Just In/Christmas 2020 (#176)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a belated Christmas treat. Sergio Pablos and Carlos Martínez López’s Klaus.

Exiled to the remote island of Smeerensberg, postal employee Jesper comes up with an elaborate plan to inspire the locals to write the six thousand letters that he’ll need to earn back his life of luxury. However, Jesper doesn’t count on the ways in which he’ll change the lives of the island’s inhabitants, including a lonely and isolated woodsman named Klaus who makes children’s toys.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 176th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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162. The Apartment – Christmas 2019/New Year’s 2020 (#113)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a Christmas (and New Year’s) treat. Billy Wilder’s The Apartment.

As the fifties give way to the roaring sixties, C.C. Baxter finds himself slowly climbing the corporate ladder by loaning out his apartment to other executives so they can conduct illicit affairs. However, things quickly become complicated when Baxter finds himself falling for the elevator operator Fran Kubelik.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 113th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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161. The Irishman – This Just In (#158)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Phil Bagnall and Jay Coyle, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

Sitting alone in an older retirement home, former gangster Frank Sheeran recounts a life story that spans the second half of the twentieth century, charting a life lived on the margins of greatness but also at the outskirts of decency.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 158th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 2, Episode 10 (“Midnight of the Century”)

It’s Christmas, so The Time is Now has a special treat lined up for you. It’s the night before Christmas, so it was the perfect opportunity to discuss Midnight of the Century with the wonderful Tony Black. It’s something of a companion piece to our discussion of The Curse of Frank Black at Halloween.

It’s strange to imagine Millennium producing a Christmas episode. It’s even stranger to realise that’s a pretty much perfect episode for the season, following Frank Black through his Christmas Eve as he tries to work through his own complicated feelings about the holidays. Then again, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the second season was show run by Glen Morgan and James Wong who had written Christmas-themed episodes like Beyond the Sea on The X-Files and River of Stars on Space: Above and Beyond. It is a delight.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below. Have a Merry Christmas!

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Non-Review Review: Last Christmas

Last Christmas certainly has its heart in the right place.

On paper, there’s a lot to recommend Last Christmas. Paul Feig is one of the most reliable comedic directors working today, and his work on films like Spy and A Simple Favour deserve consideration among the best comedies of the decade. Emilia Clarke is coming off an extended run as one of the two primary stars of genuine cultural phenomenon Game of Thrones, and has proven herself a likable romantic lead even in solid-if-unremarkable projects like Me Before You. Tony Golding has charisma to burn, as demonstrated by his supporting turn in Crazy Rich Asians.

Things are looking up.

Unfortunately, none of this really coheres as well as it should. Given the talent involved, this comedy should go down a festive treat. While it’s hardly a lump of coal, it is decidedly underwhelming. The problem isn’t a lack of surprises. After all, Last Christmas aspires to comfort rather than novelty. The problem is that Last Christmas is built around the assumption that it has the perfect festive surprise waiting for its eager and bright-eyed audience members to unwrap. Unfortunately, it vastly over-estimates how much some wrapping paper and bow can disguise a familiar outline.

Last Christmas feels far too pedestrian and far too predictable for what it is trying to do. There’s a potentially interesting premise here, but Last Christmas never really tries. It gives up the ghost too early.

Elf help.

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Non-Review Review: Klaus

Around midway through Klaus, the film’s title character has an introspective moment. The film’s protagonist, a wiry and self-interested postman named Jesper, has decided that Klaus need not settle for delivering the toys that he has already handcrafted. Instead, Klaus could fashion new toys for all the boys and girls of the local community. Klaus’ mood darkens. He stares off into middle distance. “I don’t make toys,” he tells Jesper, in an understated manner. After a beat, he clarifies, “Not anymore.”

It is a very strange moment for a family-friendly animated movie that promises a glimpse at the origin story of Christmas. It obviously hints at a dark and traumatic back story for the muscular woodsman. Klaus has experienced things. It is the children’s movie equivalent of the shell-shocked combat veteran, of Sylvester Stallone retreating from his failure at the start of Cliffhanger or Sergeant Powell having sworn off the use of his sidearm in Die Hard. What horrors could Klaus have experienced that would have made him stop designing adorable handcrafted toys for children?

Snow bad ideas.

It’s a very weird beat, one that feels all the weird for the way in which it tonally clashes with the more openly absurd slapstick elements of the plot or the occasional nods to contemporary pop culture. Klaus is a very odd film, which seems to have little idea of what it actually wants to be. It is a mishmash of themes and influences, awkwardly bouncing between various extremes and never settling on any one long enough to find a grove. It’s a film that really needed more time on the original story break and scripting phases, requiring a stronger vision of what exactly Klaus is supposed to be.

This is a shame, because Klaus looks absolutely gorgeous.

Making a play for the animation market.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #1!

Happy New Year! It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Grace Duffy, Ronan Doyle and Jay Coyle to discuss the week in film news. As the first podcast we’ve recorded in three weeks, since the end-of-year spectacular back in December, there is a lot to talk about. And so we do! Everything from T2 Trainspotting to Bird Box to Bandersnatch to The Dead, it’s an eclectic selection of films. It includes some of the new releases that we didn’t get to cover over the break, including Life Itself and Welcome to Marwen.

There is also understandably a lot of ground to cover. In awards season news, the success of The Favourite at both the Golden Globes and in the BAFTA nominations. The various Oscar-season gossip, including the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, the chaos around Green Book, Kevin Hart’s controversy and the decision to go hostless. Closer to home, there was an acknowledgement of James Hickey’s decision to step down at the end of his term as head of Screen Ireland and a brief discussion of the Dublin Bowie Festival.

The top ten:

  1. Holmes and Watson
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. The Grinch
  4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  5. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
  6. Aquaman
  7. The Favourite
  8. Andre Rieu’s 2019 New Year Concert From Sydney
  9. Bumblebee
  10. Mary Poppins Returns

New releases:

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.

110. L.A. Confidential – Christmas 2018 (#107)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a Christmas treat. Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential.

In fifties Los Angeles, three very different police officers discover their lines of inquiry converging as they uncover a deep and sprawling web of corruption and inequity.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 107th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: The Christmas Chronicles

The Christmas Chronicles is corny, clumsy, cheesy. It is more than a bit naff, to the point that it frequently seems to run on naff.

It is not especially inventive or creative with its premise, and often seems to have opted for the easiest manner of jumping from one set piece to the next. The Christmas Chronicles is incredibly broad, to the point where it even includes a weird castration joke about a computer-generated elf wielding a chainsaw in what had been (up until that point) a completely non-lethal. The film takes a fairly standard Christmas movie premise – what if a bunch of kids have to work with Santa to save Christmas? – and goes through the motions with it.

No Claus for concern.

Truthfully, that is about enough. It isn’t just that Christmas is a time for generosity and cheer, it is that Christmas is also a time to welcome very simple and very striaghtforward entertainment designed to be consumed by families with across a broad range of ages, in varying degrees of consciousness and sobriety. There is a time and a place for the broadly-drawn hijinx that drive The Christmas Chronicles, and Christmas itself would seem to be it. It is an affectionate old-fashioned family movie throwback to a time when emotional arcs could be drawn in crayon and a handful of creative juxtapositions could sustain a film.

The Christmas Chronicles pulls it off. Just about.

Filed by letter.

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Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (Review)

“What was that?”

“To be fair, they cut out all the jokes.”

– the First Doctor and the Twelfth Doctor discuss the power of editting

Snow escape.

Twice Upon a Time bids farewell to Peter Capaldi, perhaps to Murray Gold, and to Steven Moffat.

It does all of this within the context of a holiday special, much like The End of Time, Part I and The End of Time, Part II bid farewell to David Tennant and Russell T. Davies with a two-part bonanza split across Christmas and New Year’s. In a way, this makes sense. Christmas is a time for indulgence, and these sorts of grand farewells lend themselves to a certain sense of self-congratulations and celebration. Davies went bigger and bolder for The End of Time, Part I and The End of Time, Part II, opting for a cameo-stuffed blockbuster affair, his style turned to eleven.

Cooler heads prevail.

Twice Upon a Time does something similar, albeit in the style of Steven Moffat. Davies tended to jump from set piece to set piece with his bombastic Christmas specials like The Runaway Bride and Voyage of the Damned, with only the thinnest of plots holding them together. Moffat’s Christmas specials like A Christmas Carol or The Husbands of River Song have set pieces, but they often feel incidental to the characters and dialogue. Twice Upon a Time is a collection of witty banter and wry observations held together by a plot that even the Doctor has to admit does not exist.

In some ways, this feels like an appropriate way to bid farewell to Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner on Doctor Who, to draw down the curtain on an impressive and momentous six seasons (and almost eight years) that radically redefined what the programme could (and even should) be. Twice Upon a Time is a Christmas indulgence, but one that feels earned. It is an adventure that doesn’t really need to exist, and one which accepts that premise as its starting point. It is an episode dancing around the inevitable. It is not especially graceful, but is charming nevertheless.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas.

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