Tag: a christmas carol

A Christmas Carol


A Christmas Carol (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Ebenezer Scrooge (voiced by Jim Carrey) is an old man who holds onto his money so tightly, he eventually gets a reputation of being a parsimonious grouch around town. Christmas disgusts him because the very idea of people sharing food, exchanging good words, and being easy with money seem so foolish and false. Recognizing that Scrooge needs to change, Jacob Marley (Gary Oldman), Ebenezer’s deceased business partner, pays him a visit and announces that three ghosts— The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future—are going to show him why he needs to change his outlook on life and the way he treats others.

Directed and written for the screen by Robert Zemeckis, “A Christmas Carol” is a lively animated film that proudly takes some liberty in diverting from Charles Dickens’ classic novel. While others might criticize or dismiss the style of animation as “creepy” due to the characters’ blank and bug-like eyes, I enjoyed its artistry and level of detail.

I liked seeing the many wrinkles on Scrooge’s hand and face. By highlighting his physicality, the minutiae force us to look a little bit closer, especially on his facial expressions when another character says, does, or shows him something that pushes him to become emotional. It gives us a chance to look closely at the protagonist prior to his inevitable change of heart. For the record, I did not care if the animated humans looked convincing. (I did not they think were.) What matters is how well the story is interpreted, if its strengths overshadow its weaknesses, and if it entertains.

The film takes risks when it comes to embracing the scarier elements. For example, prior to Marley’s appearance, Scrooge is shown cowering in his chair when he hears strange noises in the other room. There is a dance between silence and a suspenseful score. I enjoyed the way the film takes its time to milk every emotion that Scrooge experiences: uncertainty, curiosity, and fear. When he hears creaking noises, he does not simply rush to the door and slam it close. His stubborn personality dominates even when his instinct urges him that something is very wrong.

Furthermore, there are some exciting and beautifully rendered chase sequences between The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, a shadow in the shape of the Grim Reaper, and Scrooge. While the scarier elements can potentially force younger kids to want to look away or leave the room, they are effective and necessary because the main character’s intractability needs to be shaken out of him.

However, the picture’s enthusiasm in featuring what it can do with its style of animation is not always for the better. There are a handful of scenes when it takes on a little too much like when Marley leaves and Scrooge sees a lot of suffering translucent green ghosts outside his window. Marley’s appearance and exit are executed just right but adding other ghosts just because they are pretty feels like an overindulgence. This problem persists in scenes where Scrooge must interact with the three ghosts. Instead of following a formula that works sans flashiness, the picture occasionally goes off on tangents in terms of its visual effects and I wondered when it was going to get back to simply telling a story.

“A Christmas Carol” is an optimistic exercise of an evolving technology. Since it offers some good humor, the more sensitive moments are believable. It just needs to pull back when necessary so the magic it wishes to show does not lose its power.

A Christmas Carol


A Christmas Carol (1984)
★★★ / ★★★★

Ebenezer Scrooge (George C. Scott) hated Christmas. When someone greeted him “Merry Christmas!” with joy and enthusiasm, he glared back at them in an attempt to bring down the merriment a couple of notches. Then he would reply, “Humbug!” as he walked away begrudgingly, leaving the greeter in utter disbelief. The only thing missing was Scrooge actually stealing people’s Christmas presents and he could pass as The Grinch. In order to show him the error of his ways and achieve redemption, the ghost of Scrooge’s former associate (Frank Finlay) visited him on Christmas Eve. The ghost informed Scrooge that the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Angela Pleasence), Present (Edward Woodward) and Christmas Yet to Come (Michael Carter) would pay him a visit so he could examine what he missed in life for being such a grouch toward everyone he encountered. Based on Charles Dickens’ short story, I was actually reluctant to see this film because, even though I had not yet seen any adaptation of the same story, I’ve watched countless spoofs to the point where it felt like I knew all key elements in the plot. The film caught me completely by surprise because the acting was strong, the story was interesting and moving, and, despite some of the special and visual effects being a bit dated, the big picture felt timeless. I was even more surprised when I found out later that it was a made-for-TV movie. Scott’s acting stood out to me because I was convinced with his gradual evolution from a penny-pinching blackhole of unhappiness to someone who made an effort to be liked. To his surprise, he might even be a natural at it. The scene I enjoyed most was when the Ghost of Christmas Present took Scrooge to Bob Cratchit’s (David Warner) home and learned that Tiny Tim (Anthony Walters), Bob’s son, was not only a cripple but the fact that he was dying and it might be his last Christmas. It was an important scene not only because it was the point where I became convinced I was watching not just a run-of-the-mill Christmas movie, but also because Ebenezer finally allowed himself to feel and accept that he had been wrong, not necessarily about his attitude toward Christmas (which I thought was secondary anyway–not everyone had to accept Christmas), about the way he unfairly judged and treated others. Directed by Clive Donner, “A Christmas Carol” is a highly enjoyable film with a great message. Despite the fantastic elements, Ebenezer’s journey–sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes sad–was believable.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past


Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)
★ / ★★★★

I knew I wouldn’t like “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” from the moment I saw the trailer because I’ve never exactly warmed up with the lead actor. Matthew McConaughey plays a photographer who gets his way with just about any woman he encounters. But when he goes back home for his brother’s wedding (Breckin Meyer), he sees the woman (Jennifer Garner) who he fell in love with as a child and is visited by the ghosts of his former lovers who tell him the error of his ways. Everything about this film was painfully predictable. From the bad-boy-turned-good lead character to a stressed out bride, it was all too formulaic to be even slightly inspiring. I think one of the fatal errors of the movie is that it didn’t give us a reason to care for McConaughey. During the first few scenes, he could still have been established as a player but if there was one or two sensitive moments when he was just by himself and regretted where his life was going yet can’t quite break from it, that could have been a good start because there was tension. Instead, we get to see a series of cruel stunts from him such as breaking up with women over the internet (over group chat!) and trying to desuade his brother from marrying the girl (Lacey Shabert) of his dreams. But what I loved about this movie was Garner which was not a surprise at all. I just love looking at her because she may look tough on the outside at times but I always feel this light coming out of her. I wanted her to just get over McConaughey and fall for the doctor who the bride set her up with. Inspired by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” directed by Mark Waters, was a very weak attempt at a modern romantic comedy. It desperately needed some edge, focusing of the main storylines, a much needed heart from the main character, better jokes and a significantly more astute dialogue. There were times when I thought to myself, “I don’t know anyone stupid enough to say something like that.” I felt like I was watching high school students trying to put together a wedding instead of adults. Perhaps the writers are partly to blame for writing such a soft and very simplified material. And to be honest, I really don’t understand why this picture even got a green light for production. A romantic comedy can still be successful with a bit of alterations from the usual fare. Watching “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” was, quite frankly, like eating bad cheese.