Watching - December 2021

Christmas on 5th Avenue (2021)
Slightly above average Hallmark (or similar) Christmas TV movie. Entirely predictable but kind of fun. C said she'd read the book on which it is based, so I ordered that from the library and read that too.
Nostalgic Christmas (2019)
Formulaic stuff, with two leads who look way too airbrushed to be real, but the story is sweet and wholesome.
Love Actually (2003)
Probably my favourite Christmas film, despite being the usual, frustrating Richard Curtis mix of terrible, single-use-only jokes and genuinely moving scenes. And in fairness, some of the humour does stand up to repetition - which is probably more than can be said about the fat jibes. There's some great performances, but overall it's probably Emma Thompson who stands out (although in fairness her role has more emotional depth than, say, Hugh Grant's). And great choice of "God Only Knows" as the outro music.
Abominable (2019)
This was on the telly so we watched it, despite having never heard of it before. It's cute but not deserving of the level of critical praise it seemed to get (82% on Rotten Tomatoes): the animation is the same as all DreamWorks films, with no real improvement noticeable over earlier films (unlike Pixar and Disney, whose animation get better each time), the plot is pretty predictable and the deus ex machina of the Yeti's magical powers is over-used. My guess this was aimed at the Chinese market, as it's set in Shanghai and when challenged over the use of a controversial map boundary, Universal refused to remove it - which nails their colours firmly to the mast on this issue.
Encanto (2021)
Disney's big holiday release doesn't disappoint. The story runs on fairly well-worn rails but reliably delivers top quality entertainment - laughs and sighs and a few tears - while the animation is so impressive, not just for the level of detail but for the expressiveness: I don't think I've seen such human faces before. The songs, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, are very musical theatre (and have inevitable shades of Moana) and not really my thing, but the sequences during the musical items are stunning. Family fun, enjoyed by our family.
Frozen II (2019)
Family's suggestion for Boxing Day family viewing. Meh.
The Beatles: Get Back (2021)
I've been listening to The Beatles since before I can remember, I've read plenty of books about them and I've even met and chatted with Mark Lewisohn (at a wedding). I'd consider myself a fan. Yet this was a struggle - a really odd mix of fascinating and really dull. Watching it is a bit like panning for gold: hours and hours (literally) of low-grade musical farting around and then, suddenly, everything coalesces into "Let It Be" or "The Long and Winding Road", and suddenly we're seeing alchemy in action. I think it's important that this material is preserved, but if this is the "Director's Cut", then I wish there'd be a "Studio Cut" that's about a third of the length. Yes, anyone who's been in a band will recognise the interminable tediousness of trying to get everyone to play the same thing (watching this gives me a new respect for Ringo, who waits patiently and then just calmly plays perfectly each time), but I'm not sure I needed to see another band, even The Beatles, doing it in such detail. That said, the last episode, with the concert on the roof, is much better, and it's good to see the songs come together (to coin a phrase). So overall, I'm pleased I made the effort to watch it. But can we have a shorter version please? (Here's an interesting piece that discusses similar points.)
Cruella (2021)
Origin stories are all the rage these days (thanks, Marvel) and why should Disney villains be any different? This is a bit of a hodge-podge of film types but is mostly a heist movie, I think (going by Mark Kermode's masterly analysis). Emma Stone (one of my favourite current actors) is very good in bringing a little depth to a role that doesn't have an awful lot. There's plenty going on to keep our attention but overall the film is a bit unengaging.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Excessive, funny, but soulless and morally suspect.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
New Year's Eve family viewing - a mini-HtTYD-marathon (we don't have the third one for some reason). They're good films, enjoyable and involving, but to anyone familiar with the books - which is all of us in this family, since we have them on audiobook and listened to them in the car a lot when the kids were younger - it's a constant source of puzzlement why the plot was changed so much for the film. Oh well!

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