10 January 2016

EIGHT INTERNATIONALLY-FLAVOURED KIDDIES' CHRISTMAS FILMS FOR FREE AT MY LOCAL LIBRARY! EIGHT REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS.


EIGHT INTERNATIONALLY-FLAVOURED KIDDIES' CHRISTMAS FILMS FOR FREE AT MY LOCAL LIBRARY!!! EIGHT- FESTIVE-REVIEWS-FOR-THE-PRICE-OF-ONE BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

When the Christmas trees were all being taken down and hauled off to God-knows-where (Shriek! I don't like to think about it!) and the decorations were being packed away in the attic for another year, I wasn't as disconsolate as I would normally be.

That's because, this year, my local library put on a Childrens' Christmas Film Festival in the first few days of the New Year, all free gratis and for nothing, which is one of the many reasons I love Dublin libraries so much.

They're always putting great stuff on for free: talks, films, art displays, plays, local history exhibitions, etc. I love the library! That's only a fraction of the brilliant things they can do for you, haha. Check out the eight terrific films below.

1. THE SEARCH FOR SANTA PAWS. 2010. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ROBERT VINCE. STARRING JOHN DUCEY, BONNIE SOMERVILLE, ZACHARY GORDON, KAITLYN MAHER AND MADISON PETTIS.

On Day One of the Festival, my kids and I snuggled down in our seats to watch THE SEARCH FOR SANTA PAWS, a gorgeous film that filled us with oodles and oodles of Christmas spirit and an abundance of festive cheer and all that good stuff. It's really two separate stories that intersect to the mutual benefit of all parties involved, if you follow me.

Long story short, the real Santa Claus accidentally finds himself working in a toyshop at Christmas as their Store Santa. He rapidly becomes a huge success, given of course that he's the real Santa and not some cotton-wool-bearded phoney, heh-heh-heh.

It's not all good, however. His life source is running out due to a stolen crystal and it's up to his new best friend, a puppy called Paws, to save him. Paws is voiced, incidentally, by the young man who portrays Jeff Kinney's greatest creation, Greg Heffley, in the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID movies.

The other storyline involves two adorable little orphan girls, Quinn and Willamina, who live in the nearby Home For Girls. It's run by the odious Miss Stout, who must certainly have been taking lessons from ANNIE's Miss Hannigan on how to run an orphanage for curly-headed little mop-topped females.

Quinn and Willamina, whose only wish is to be adopted by lovely parents, end up helping Paws in the quest to save Santa Claus in particular and Christmas in general. Will the two girls get what they really want for Christmas...? You'd better believe they will, haha! It's a Christmas film after all.

2. ELF: BUDDY'S MUSICAL CHRISTMAS. 2014. DIRECTED BY MARK CABALLERO AND SEAMUS WALSH. STARRING JIM PARSONS, MARK HAMILL, ED ASNER, KEVIN MICHAEL RICHARDSON AND JAY LENO.

This charming little musical offering is based on the ridiculously successful Christmas smash hit movie, ELF (2003), starring Will Ferrell. It's faithful to the story of the original film in that Buddy the (Human!) Elf leaves the North Pole where he's lived all his life to search for his real dad, Walter Hobbs.

Walter is a grumpy, work-obsessed book publisher living in New York with his wife and young son, Michael. He has zero (and I do mean zero!) Christmas spirit. Can Buddy's own generosity of spirit and unrelenting Christmas cheer melt Walter's heart and show him the true meaning of Christmas...? Well, I think you guys can probably work that one out for yourselves...!

The songs are all uniformly terrific with clever, funny lyrics, especially the opening number, HAPPY ALL THE TIME. The animation is an absolute treat to watch and there isn't a nipper alive who wouldn't be entranced by the sight of Buddy capering about in his own inimitable way. A great choice for any Christmas to-watch list! 

The original ELF is my own favourite Christmas movie, along with, of course, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL, but I'll actually go one better and say that it's one of my favourite films overall, it's just that good.

3. THE SECOND STAR TO THE LEFT. 2001. DIRECTED BY GRAHAM RALPH. STARRING HUGH LAURIE, BARBARA WINDSOR AND MARK WILLIAMS.

This is a delightful animated short film. It's the story of three darling little creatures, a hamster, a wascally wabbit and a guinea pig, who embark on a dangerous journey to deliver a Christmas gift lost by Santa Claus. The voices of the characters are instantly recognisable.

We've got Barbara Windsor, who of course is probably better known for saying 'Gerrout of my pub! Go on, gerrout of it!' from behind the bar of the Queen Vic in EASTENDERS; Hugh Laurie, famous for his work in JEEVES AND WOOSTER, BLACKADDER and, more lately, as the crotchety and eccentric Dr. House from HBO smash hit HOUSE; and, last but not least, Mark Williams, best-known for his work on iconic comedy sketch show THE FAST SHOW and also for voicing Daddy Weasley in the HARRY POTTER films. Talk about a star-studded cast...!

J.M. BARRIE, of course, the author of childrens' classic story, PETER PAN, is the man who came up with the quote 'Second Star To The Right And Straight On 'Til Morning.' Just so you know. Don't say I never teach you folks anything...!

4. TOYS IN THE ATTIC. 2009. DIRECTED BY JIRI BARTA AND VIVIAN SCHILLING. STARRING FOREST WHITTAKER, JOAN CUSACK, CARY ELWES , DOUGLAS URBANSKI AND VIVIAN SCHILLING.

This is a stop-motion animation film from the Czech Republic. As the title might suggest, it tells the story of a motley crew of discarded old toys who live together in the attic of a family home. When one of their number, the kind and beautiful doll Buttercup, is snatched by some ne'er-do-wells and spirited away to the Land Of Evil, it's up to the rest of the toys to get her back.

The chums include a marionette called Sir Handsome, a teddy bear, a mechanical mouse and a random plasticine creature called Laurent. Their quest is fraught with mild peril (naturally!) and the Giant Golden Talking Head who rules the Land Of Evil is genuinely disturbing.

Anyone who's ever wondered what toys get up to the minute their human owners turn their backs will love this film. Films like TOY STORY are all based on this very successful premise and kids generally adore this kind of thing.

Another star-studded cast voices the little characters, and the whole thing is great fun, if mildly unsettling at times, thanks mainly to the Giant Golden Talking Head. Don't let him put you off, though. That's what he wants, you know. Don't let him win, don't let him win...!

5. THE NUTCRACKER SWEET. 2015. DIRECTED BY EDUARDO SCHULDT. STARRING ALICIA SILVERSTONE, ED ASNER AND DRAKE BELL.

This is a modern animated version of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet. The beautiful music we all recognise is out in full force for this seasonal tale of two squabbling siblings, Marie and Fritz, who receive a very special Nutcracker from their Godfather Drosselmeyer as an early Crimbo pressie.

This one act sparks off a chain of events that sees the kiddies witnessing a terrible battle between the Nutcracker and his army of toy soldiers and an army of mice led by the terrifyingly muscular Mouse King. Believe me, you don't want to find this fella nibbling on the open packet of cheese in your fridge...! He's a bloody monstrosity.

Anyway, Marie and Fritz's seasonal shenanigans take them to such wonderfully-named places as the Christmas Forest, the Kingdom of Dolls, the Palace Of The Marzipans and the Almond Milk Sea. They also learn a thing or two about the importance of loving your brother or sister and not fighting with them all the bleedin' time, a lesson which is long overdue for the quarrelsome pair.

6.THE SNOWMAN AND THE SNOWDOG. 2012. DIRECTED BY HILARY AUDUS. BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY RAYMOND BRIGGS. DEDICATED TO JOHN COATES,
THE FILM'S PRODUCER, WHO DIED IN 2012.

This gorgeous animated short film was made to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie to which it is the sequel, THE SNOWMAN from 1982. THE SNOWMAN, of course, is a timeless Christmas classic that is shown every year without fail. If ever it wasn't shown, there'd surely be riots in the streets, that's how much of a perennial staple it is.

It's the story of a little boy called James whose lovingly-constructed snowman comes to life and takes him on an unforgettable festive adventure. It features the song WALKING IN THE AIR, credited in the film to Peter Auty, although of course it was Aled Jones who famously sang the song on TOP OF THE POPS.

THE SNOWMAN AND THE SNOWDOG is the story of another little boy. His name is Billy and he's living in the house once occupied by the original boy. Long story short, he has his own wonderful adventure with the recreated Snowman, only there's a twist. He's made a little Snowdog as well who also comes to life and manages to console Billy for the loss of his own dear canine companion who lies buried in the back garden. All Billy wants for Christmas, you see, is another puppy...

This time, though, unlike in THE SNOWMAN (!), the story has a happy ending. Yes, the Snowman melts again at the end, but Billy isn't left entirely bereft. Can you guess what happens? I won't tell you for fear of spoilers, but let's just say that Billy's going to be needing an endless supply of doggie-dins, a collar and leash and a lifetime's subscription to DOG'S WORLD. Catch my drift...?

There's a new song specially written for the film called LIGHT THE NIGHT by former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrowes. Nothing could ever replace WALKING IN THE AIR but this song has a damned good try. It had me and my own kiddywinks (and our own toy dog, Precious!) clinging to each other in floods of tears, anyway, which is always a sign of a good Christmas movie...!

7. SHREK THE HALLS. 2007. A DREAMWORKS ANIMATION FILM. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY GARY TROUSDALE. STARRING MIKE MYERS, CAMERON DIAZ, EDDIE MURPHY AND ANTONIO BANDERAS.

This is a brilliant romp of an animated short film. Shrek the Ogre is married now to Princess Fiona and they have three delightfully wriggly Baby Ogres between them. All green, of course. Shrek, being an Ogre, is not naturally filled with Christmas spirit. Fiona, however, is looking forward to their first Christmas together as a family. She wants it to be perfect...!

Cue a desperate attempt on Shrek's part to cobble together the perfect Christmas with the help of a how-to book and the irritating but endlessly enthusiastic Donkey. The results are chaotic, messy and heartwarming. Miss this festive treat at your peril!

8. THE SANTA WHO FELL TO EARTH or WHEN SANTA FELL TO EARTH. (ALS DER WEIHNACHTSMANN VON HIMMEL FIEL) 2011. BASED ON THE BOOK BY CORNELIA FUNKE. DIRECTED BY OLIVER DIECKMANN. STARRING ALEXANDER SCHEER, JESSICA SCHWARZ, FRITZ KARL, NOAH KRAUS AND MERCEDES JADEA DIAZ.

This charmingly off-centre Bavarian film, which literally translated means 'THE WINTER MAN WHO FELL FROM HEAVEN,' was probably our favourite movie of the whole Christmas Festival, apart, of course, from THE SNOWMAN AND THE SNOWDOG.

It tells the story of a little boy called Ben who moves to a new town with his parents. He's finding it hard to make friends and he's fed-up because his parents plan to take a sunshine holiday at Christmas-time instead of staying home and having a traditional family Christmas in their village, which is so lovely and Bavarian and Christmassy that it looks like something off a picture postcard.

Lucky for Ben, though, he's got plenty of exciting adventures to take his mind off his woes. The last real Santa Claus left in the world, a super-cool, long-haired young chap called Niklas, has
accidentally crash-landed near to his home and is living in a quaint old caravan along with his cheeky little Christmas elves and Christmas angels.

All of them are in danger of being captured and prevented from going about their legitimate Christmassy business by the evil Gerold Geronymus Goblynch (of course he's evil, just look at his name!) and his army of scary Nutcrackers. They're out to transform Christmas forever into a season ruled by greed and money alone. Niklas, however, wants to keep Christmas magical and about the pure and true wishes of children only. After all, isn't that what Christmas is supposed to be all about...?

Join Niklas, Ben and Ben's new friend Charlotte as together they try to save Christmas from the Nutcrackers and somehow manage to have a happy Yuletide season themselves. The scenery is gorgeous, the kids are adorable and the magic of the last real Santa Claus turns this Christmas into one that Ben and Charlotte and their overworked, knackered parents will hold in their hearts forever.
This really is a wonderful Christmas story. Everyone who's ever felt tired and fed-up at Christmas-time should watch it. 'Tis better than a tonic.

All of these films are available to watch at your local library and the great thing about them is that some of them (TOYS IN THE ATTIC, THE SANTA WHO FELL TO EARTH, etc.) are films that you mightn't normally get to see on television. Seriously, who needs to see FROZEN again? Treat yourself to something different for a change. Check out your local library. You'll be surprised at what you might find...!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers' Centre, The International Bar, Toners' Pub (Ireland's Most Literary Pub), the Ha'penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.

Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland's Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home. In 2003, she was invited to be a guest on Niall Boylan's 98FM late-night radio talk show purely on the basis of having a 'sexy voice.'

She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director's Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com




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