Tag Archives: Santa Claus

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Great World But Story Doesn’t Quite Deliver

The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Before I get into my thoughts, this is going to be one of a few Holiday themed film reviews leading up to Christmas. This review is probably going to be one of my more controversial ones as I know I am most likely in the minority here, but I don’t think “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is great. I think it’s alright but when it came to characters and story it didn’t quite deliver, even though the world it takes place in is fascinating and I see why “Kingdom Hearts” keeps returning to it. Tim Burton is a director and artist who creates wonderful worlds, sadly what I’ve noticed is he doesn’t always fully flesh out the events or characters of said world and this movie truly is a good example of that.

       The film was directed by Henry Selick, written by Caroline Thompson with story by Michael McDowell and produced by Tim Burton and Denise De Novi.

     The story involves Jack Skellington the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town having a crisis of want and identity that changes him when falls into Christmas Town. From here he brings Christmas back to Halloween Town and takes up the identity of Santa Claus which causes dire consequences around the world.

The Pros: The World – Tim Burton created an amazing world. The basic theory is each holiday has a town where the denzines of the holiday live…whether it Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. They can crossover to one another as well, as seen by Jack’s discovery of the place.

The Animation – The stop motion animation is really beautiful. Each place whether it is Halloween Town, Christmas Town or our world has a distinct flavor and tone to it, which lend strength to the events that go down.

Halloween Town – Halloween Town is the best town and is based all around scaring people. The monsters in this town have great designs and everyone in the town is either mad or demented. Sally and Jack are the most normal members of the population.

The Mayor of Halloween Town – The Mayor is literally two faced and has a happy and unhappy face that turns on his head. He can’t do anything himself and is all about Jack the celebrity. He’s a funny character and has some great lines.

Oogie Boogie – Oogie Boogie is a fun villain as he loves to gamble with lives and is a sentient living mass of bugs. He is threatening and is very much the bully of the town who lives to stick to himself unless his boys bring him lives to play with. Ken Page was great.

Okay: The Soundtrack – This isn’t Elfman’s best work, mostly because the songs aren’t all that good. They are okay but “Darkman” had a much stronger soundtrack, as did “Batman.” This one is a very weak Disney soundtrack and I can’t think of any song that really stood out beyond the main theme.

Jack Skellington – Jack is okay, if he wasn’t a major celebrity he would have been more sympathetic but from the beginning he is the man who has everything. All the people of Halloween Town love him, he always wins the Halloween events and the only thing not going for him is he’s bored and feels lonely. I didn’t get the loneliness given everyone wanted to be with him and he just had to open up. He was okay, Chris Sarandon was a good voice acting choice though.

Sally – Sally is the woman trapped in the castle by her evil creator Dr. Finklestein. She keeps poisoning him and escaping, so she is an active character…but I didn’t know why she liked Jack beyond the fact that everyone liked Jack because he was popular. She could have done a lot more and I wish she’d gone from quiet to active. She tries to stop the Nightmare Before Christmas with Fog with Jack’s ghost dog Zero had a glowing nose. I really liked the idea of her character, but like Jack she didn’t feel fully formed.

Message – The message is largely to be comfortable in yourself and don’t try to be other people. This is good but I felt the execution would have been better if Santa had been more explicit to Jack or if Sally had.

The Cons: Santa Claus – The character is pretty useless. All he does is fix the Nightmare Christmas Jack causes on the populace, but for a Magic guy he was useless against Oogie Boogie.

    This is a film that even given my criticisms of it, and the fact that it is a bit overrated is still worth seeing at least once. Tim Burton’s creativity is on full display and Halloween Town is a lot of fun. This is a also chance to see some beautiful Stop Motion animation and even though this world isn’t fully formed on screen, it is still a lot of fun to visit.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10

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The 12th Doctor – Doctor Who Specials – “Last Christmas” – Letting Go of Dreams

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    Besides “Waters of Mars” and “A Christmas Carol,” this is by far my favorite of the Doctor Who Specials and definitely the most character heavy of the Christmas Specials which is what gave it so much power. It wasn’t about the stories it took inspiration from, it was about the characters who inhabited the story, which is what made it so brilliant.

    “Last Christmas” was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Paul Wilmshurst.

SPOILERS ahead.

       The premise of the episode is a base under siege story. It begins with the Doctor picking up Clara from her home and taking her to the North Pole. It is there they work with the survivors of the base against the Dream Crabs who are killing 4 of the people on the base. When Santa comes to the rescue we soon learn that all is not as it appears to be and the Dream Crabs are more powerful than first realized.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise reminds me of “Inception” meets “Alien” or “John Carpenters The Thing” as the Dream Crabs have a creepy slimy design and so much of who they are is what you don’t see since by seeing and thinking about them is how they get power. They are a great enemy who I hope we see again. They raise the stakes and keep us guessing about what is real during the story, which makes the reveal of Clara telling the Doctor Danny is dead and the Doctor telling Clara he didn’t find Gallifrey all the more powerful. The base is haunting too, which makes the dream sequences all the more creepy.

The Humor -The best joke in the series is the Professor says the premise reminds him of the film “Alien.” The Doctor is horrified, “There’s a horror film called “Alien!” No wonder everyone keeps invading you.” Santa and the Elves relationship is great too as he has to put limits on how they praise and talk about him…at one point even giving a warning to stop.

The Survivors – Each of the survivors is living the life of who they wished they were. They are all scientists because of the shared dream and the movies one of them watched before the Dream Crab got her. One of them wakes up and finds she was in a wheel chair and younger than she was in the dream, the other was a teenager who was a woman in the dream and the final person who held them in her dream was alone and her mind had sought out others. It’s powerful and we see Clara needing the Doctor and Dream Danny to help get out of the Dream within a Dream as she wants to be with Danny so much. All of them are human and scarred in different ways. Michael Troughton, son of the 2nd Doctor also appeared in this episode as a professor, he isn’t given much to do but does a good job.

Dream Danny – Dream Danny is great in that he gives Clara the chance to grieve and have one last Christmas with the man she loves. It’s a great scene because it isn’t real and Danny isn’t coming back, it is there to help Clara heal and let go…which is what lends it power.

Clara – Clara is wonderful in this episode. She realizes they are still in the dream after they manage to wake up from one of the dreams and we realize how much she loves the Doctor. It is powerful in how she grieves for Danny and in how she helps the survivors escape the Dream Crabs. She sees the bigger picture and still functions as the Doctor’s conscience to some degree. At one point we get her good-bye where she is an old woman, until the Doctor is given another chance playing with the twist on what is real or not. I wish she had said good-bye. Her story as an old woman was awesome! She traveled and taught but Danny was her one love besides the Doctor. I really liked that. Well, I guess we’ll see if her last good-bye can compare to the last 2, which have been amazing.

Santa Claus – Nick Frost does a fantastic job as Santa, and his sarcastic elves actually end up adding some great humor. From hating being called Elves or other people being called humans…to other sarcastic quips. Santa is one who knows he is a dream and helps the others get out of the dream the Dream Crabs have them captured in because it is who he is.

The Doctor – Capaldi is amazing and I’m really glad he’s sticking around for at least 2 more seasons. He is the Doctor who speaks harsh truths. He recognizes some traumas never go away and that the person may never be okay, and he is able to connect with Santa since they are both immortals who are not quite human. We see how afraid he is of hurting Clara too and in the first ending doesn’t return to her for over 60 years. He’s afraid of disappointing her that he didn’t find Gallifrey and fears hurting her. Capaldi adds so much depth and sadness to the role, as well as excitement like when they make their escape from the Dream Crabs in Santa’s Sleigh which helps them to wake up. He is one of my favorite Doctors for sure, I just hope his next two seasons can keep up this quality and that we can avoid “Robot of Sherwood” and “The Forest of Night” type stories…given the rest of the season has explored him in great ways and been at least good if not great. This episode captured 12’s coldness, passion, fear of hurting others, empathy and showed just how much he cared about Clara, even if he was unable to let himself care about others for fear of losing them. This Doctor has learned and I can’t wait to see where else that growth takes him.

The Message – Even things like Santa that aren’t real can inspire us. It is in the dream that Santa saves the day and his existence is left up in the air at the end. He’s not overpowering but still is there as a support and the one thing binding all our characters together. This is the power of belief, and when that belief is positive it can in fact make a difference in the lives it touches…much like Santa Claus…or even the fairy tale like Doctor.

Okay: Clara’s Good-bye – Clara almost got her second Good-bye but the Doctor getting a second chance took away from what could have been the best of the companion exits. This could still work, but twice now a great chance for Clara to leave on great terms has been passed up to keep her around. That’s why this is okay and not a pro.

       I highly recommend this episode. Clara doesn’t have Danny come back and gets to say good-bye to him and chooses to live. This episode had consequences and almost the best companion exit of the series. I wish the Doctor had said good-bye to Clara when she was an old woman so he’d be forced to change and learn without her. She’s been a great addition this series but this is the second time she was given a great exit that was taken away. First with her and the Doctor lying to one another, and second with her as an old woman who had lived a full life. The Doctor got his second chance with her, which is great, but eventually he too will have to say good-bye. Major props to Nick Frost as well for playing a very human Santa Claus who was stern, real and compassionate. I really liked his character.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. One of the best of the Doctor Who Specials. Merry Christmas all!

Rise of the Guardians (2012): The Power of Fun

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“Rise of the Guardians,” is a concept that was similar to one that my brother and I had as a child…though instead of Classic Fairy Tale Characters, ours were from children’s literature and some Disney films. So coming into this film, I was intrigued. A few days ago was my second time watching it, the first was on a flight and it impressed me. How did it fair with a second viewing? I’ll go into that with the assessment. The film was created by Dreamworks studios and was directed by Peter Ramsey while also being inspired by “The Guardians of Childhood,” book series by William Joyce.

The premise of “Rise of the Guardians,” is that the Man in the Moon chooses people to become Guardians to safeguard the children of the world from fear. The latest person the Man in the Moon chose is Jack Frost who is seeking his origins as well as working in a group, since he likes being alone and causing playful trouble. The arrival of the Boogeyman Man Pitch Black changes things as all of them are sustained by belief and he wishes to destroy the belief in the Guardians through his power of fear and nightmares. From here the story unfolds as Jack wrestles with himself, his role in the world and his relationship to the Guardians.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The idea – The idea is wonderful, again it was like what my little brother and I did when we were children and it’s what I’ve done with some of my themed Holiday stories that I’ve written. Seeing it through the eyes of a new Guardian in Jack Frost is brilliant too, given the others are already so well established (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Sandman and Tooth Fairy).

Santa Claus – I love this character and Alec Baldwin does a good job with the Russian accent he makes for the guy. We see Santa Claus as the unofficial leader given it is his world device that first shows him Pitch Black is free. He also has an army of yetis who make toys and elves who are there mostly for comedic relief and so he can make them feel important. He is the most fun loving character besides Jack Frost in this and is the biggest mentor for Jack outside of his anti-mentor Pitch.

The Easter Bunny – This role would have been easy to mess up, but it plays on him being a bunny originally at one point and the fact that he is kangaroo size now and has an Australian accent. He is the but of most of the jokes but when it comes down to helping he is great, taking the heroes to his warren after Pitch’s attack on the Tooth Fairy’s kingdom. He has large eggs that protect the little eggs and the making of the eggs sentient fit the theme of the Tooth Fairy’s hummingbird fairies and Santa’s elves.

The World – The world in this fantastic! It starts out kind of dark with Jack drowning to death and being resurrected by the Man in the Moon. Yep, it starts with killing a teenager. We see how powerful the Guardians are through and why they need Jack when Pitch Black arrives given they’ve become complacent and outside of Sandman, never go out in the field, having their underlings do most of it.

Pitch Black – I almost put him as okay, but if a sequel happens he may be worthy of this spot again. Suffice to say the Man in the Moon messed up giving this guy power. Here is someone who is alone and wants to make everyone afraid and alone. We see him turning Sandman’s dreams into Nightmares and he even manages to destroy the Sandman, nearly destroy the Tooth Fairy, and stops Easter. My only issue with this character is we don’t get motivation. Was he good at one point? Fear doesn’t have to be a bad thing, a little caution can help. I like his attempts to corrupt Jack too since Jack Frost is already a pretty selfish character. Jude Law’s voice is what really does it. He feels it with such emotion that the character elicits sympathy…until he does horrible things.

Jack Frost – Jack Frost is the main protagonist and is played by Chris Pine. This is probably Pine’s least dickish character, even though Jack is always starting play fights and harassing the Guardians until he becomes part of the team and has to protect them. We see how he used fun to save his little sister and in the process drowned because of it. He uses this same tactic to defeat Pitch, giving children laughter and energy to fight the fear and darkness of Pitch. I liked his character arc, I just wish it hadn’t taken away from the Tooth Fairy, Sandman and Pitch’s development as much as it did.

Okay/Good:  The animation – There are moments where the animation doesn’t look quite right…like you have super detail and after it looks like you can see clearly that it is computer animated. This is contrasted with the fact that there are some beautifully animated scenes too, such as the two resurrections and time in The Warren, North Pole and Tooth Fairy Kingdom.

Okay: The Tooth Fairy – She is energetic and obsessed with teeth, and probably has a crush on Jack like the rest of her fairies. I like her but she’s more defined by her relationship to the protagonist and her job…not like Bunny and Claus, who do a lot of action based on their personalities. We learn later she collects teeth because they hold childhood memories…but this is never used in regards to her. Who was she before she was the Tooth Fairy? What does she see in Jack? These were the questions I had.

The Sandman – It is is creative in that they made it gender neutral as a character and it talks through making symbols with sand, but Sandman has Tooth Fairy’s problem. Why does it give children dreams? Does it know the Guardians need the belief so it is giving them an energy source? How is he tied to Nightmares? Because Nightmares destroy him, but children’s laughter resurrects him. Again, I like the character, but can’t really list as a pro, though I’d like to. There isn’t enough there to like. The Sandman is a force of nature like the Man in the Moon almost. When everyone is strong, he is strong and can one-shot Pitch, when everyone is weak, Pitch can absorb him into his Nightmares.

The Final Fight – Pitch isn’t really a threat in the end, which is a fitting way to tackle nightmares, but we never see why the Man in the Moon created him or why he is suddenly so weak after owning nearly all the world but this one child. I think it falls a little into the savior trope with the kid and Jack Frost…which is a shame since when they fight him it is as a team with all the Guardians with a resurrected Sandman present. Pitch threatens to come back, but he is no longer a threat…I wish he’d still felt like one. Fears don’t just go away, and I’d expect a bit more out of the living embodiment of fear.

The Writing – The writing isn’t the best. It is no Pixar, it is alright, just isn’t great. It kind of falls into the comic book writing trap where it becomes cliche…but the voice actors and animators are able to elevate it thankfully.

In the end, “Rise of the Guardians,” was really good, but not great with a second watch. It doesn’t have the depth of the “How to Train Your Dragon” Franchise but is still one of Dreamworks better films. Jack is a good protagonist, even though he takes away from time with the rest of the Guardians…and his arc is a little predictable, but it is fun. His power and center of fun is really the theme of this movie and it achieves that. This film was a lot of fun, and I definitely recommend it. It was a pleasure to watch it again with a bunch of friends.

Final Score is 8.5 / 10