List, Television

CHRISTMAS ADVERTS 2015 :

The results are in for the top christmas adverts of 2015

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If my recent posts haven’t managed to give it away already, I am a huge fan of this time of year. Christmas is my favourite holiday – its the time when I get to come home, relax and spend time with my family. The build up to christmas day is an exciting time, and when the christmas adverts start to appear on TV I know it’s time to start getting excited. The big competition for this years crown as the king of the christmas adverts drew to a close yesterday, and a list was released with the top nine adverts based on Youtube views up until 12pm on the 21st of December.

The list features nine christmas adverts released in the UK this year, but before going into those I want to mention a personal favourite of mine that wasn’t on the list…

VODAFONE – TERRY THE TURKEY

Vodafone opted for a hilarious advert this year. A family rear a turkey for christmas dinner, only to become so attached to it that it joins them at the table on the day for a nut roast as Westlife’s Flying Without Wings transports your soul to uncharted heights. The idea is to “get closer to the ones you love this christmas” and presumably to also realise that turkeys can actually be quite cute (in a creepy kind of way). This advert has it all – cute(?) animals, drama, suspense and Westlife.

Moving onto the list, click on the links to see each brands christmas website…

9 – ASDA #BECAUSEITSCHRISTMAS

340,000 views

Verdict: There’s nothing wrong with Asda’s advert, but there also isn’t really anything that makes it stand out from the pack. It features a variety of christmassy scenarios, but the accompanying song – Sax by X Factor runner up Fleur East – ruins any attempt at a true festive feel created by the visuals. This is nothing against the song per se, but as upbeat as it may be it certainly detracts from the overall aim of the advert, and probably has a lot to do with why it ranked last despite being one of the first released, whole 54 days before christmas.

8 – LIDL: SCHOOL OF CHRISTMAS

520, 000 views

Verdict: I am a huge fan of Lidl’s advert and was surprised to see it come in eighth place (I would easily have it in the top five, at least). The advert features a ‘school of christmas’ which has a variety of classes teaching festive etiquette, from how to react to a sub-par gift to creating the perfect leftover sandwich. It’s a funny and slightly different take on christmas advertising, and it certainly fulfilled its function of being memorable – all in all a great effort from the German supermarket chain.

7 – ALDI #ALDIYOURFAVOURITETHINGS

600,000 views

Verdict: Just winning out ahead of its rival comes other German supermarket chain Aldi, who went for a festive take on the song My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. It’s a nice idea that allows them to cram in a number of reasonably priced festive treats, but I personally found the song to be slightly grating and was prone to turning it off whenever it came on TV, probably the opposite of the desired effect.

6 – TESCO – 4 ADVERTS

660,000 views (average)

Verdict: Tesco went for a different approach this year, releasing a series of shorter seasonal adverts based around a family, played by Ruth Jones (Gavin & Stacey), Ben Miller and Will Close. All in all the segments didn’t prove to be overly popular, though I found some of them to be pretty amusing – particularly The Final Shop, the latest one to come out. Other efforts were more cringe than funny, but Ruth Jones is so likeable that it is hard to say anything too bad about these adverts, plus Tesco should be commended for daring to do something a little different.

5 – WAITROSE #MAKESYOURCHRISTMAS

660,000 views

Verdict: This one falls pretty much into the same category as the Asda one for me, though Waitrose admittedly has a much better version of the same idea. The advert features christmas scenarios and poses the question – what makes your christmas? It also features celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, who has endorsed the supermarket chain since 2010. It apparently cost almost £1 million to make (read about it in this article for The Telegraph), and whilst it does have a very polished look about it, its hard to see where all that money could have gone. It’s a decent effort, just not a memorable one.

4 – ALDI SPOOF JOHN LEWIS

2 million views

Verdict: Talk about cheeky marketing! As if it wasn’t enough to deface a musical classic, Aldi then had the gall to take on John Lewis, the grandaddy of all christmas ads, by taking their price comparison format and applying it to a spoof of the Man on the Moon advert (more on that later). It is admittedly pretty funny, but at 2 million views to John Lewis’ 23 million, the joke might be one them.

3 – M&S #THEARTOFCHRISTMAS

2.5 million views

Verdict: This is probably the only advert that I really actively dislike on the list. Sure, the Aldi song one was irritating  but it was a nice concept that didn’t pan out upon execution. This offering from M&S however, is just plain awful. It’s a festive take on the chains recent line of #theartof ads, and it is certainly something different, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s not christmassy enough – where are the cute animals and soppy stories? THAT’S what we want, not whatever this is. It just feels like overcompensation to me, and using what is potentially the most overplayed song of the century doesn’t help – Uptown Funk is not christmas soundtrack material.

2 – JOHN LEWIS: MAN ON THE MOON

23 million views

Verdict: Onto the big dogs now – John Lewis moved away from cute animals this year and went for another area that is sure to tug at the heartstrings with the elderly. Teaming up with Age UK, the department store giants urged us to “show someone they’re loved this christmas” after telling the story of the lonely man on the moon to Half the World Away as sung by Norwegian artist Aurora. The advert reportedly cost £1 million and was just one component in a £7 million campaign, with profits from a mug, gift tag and card on sale in stores going to Age UK. Coincidentally, christmas day will feature a full moon, which is a nice little touch to add to your enjoyment of this wonderful advert.

1 – SAINSBURY’S: MOG’S CHRISTMAS CALAMITY

26 million views

Verdict: As good as John Lewis’ effort was this year, there could be no other winner. Sainbsbury’s, in a stroke of complete genius, brought back Judith Kerr’s beloved Mog the cat in an adorable three minute advert narrated by none other than Emma Thompson. It is a true embodiment of everything one would want in a festive ad, and it was released to public acclaim on the 12th of November. A book – Mog’s Christmas Calamity, and a cuddly toy were also released, with proceeds going to Save the Children. A great idea and an even better cause, Sainsbury’s are the worthy winner of the 2015 battle of the christmas adverts.

What was your favourite christmas advert of 2015? Let me know in the comments section!

If you would like to find out more about Age UK or Save the Children, or if you would like to donate, click the links above to be taken to their respective websites.

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Film, List

5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE:

Some facts you might not no about everyone’s favourite christmas flick.

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It’s A Wonderful Life is a true christmas classic – I count myself among one of the thousands who watches the film and gets a little misty eyed every festive season. It can hardly be accused of being subtle, and there is no doubt that it can be a little sickly sweet for some, but I see the film as essential yuletide viewing. It’s been 59 years since Frank Capra’s film came out, and much of the story surrounding it is common knowledge – based on short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, it initially flopped at the box office before being revived due to the copyright expiring in the 1970s – but there are also some lesser known fun facts about It’s A Wonderful Life, five of which I have compiled here…

5 – IT INVENTED A NEW KIND OF ARTIFICIAL SNOW

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Snow set under construction (Cornell Library) 

The film was nominated for five oscars back in 1946, but unfortunately didn’t win any. It was however awarded a Technical Achievement Award for its innovation in creating a new method for artificial snow. Before It’s A Wonderful Life, films featuring snow usually used cornflakes that had been painted white. This meant that any scenes featuring both snow and dialogue had to be redubbed due to the racket from walking over cornflakes. This situation wasn’t ideal for a film set in a town in the depths of a snowy winter, so RKO’s Head of Special Effects Russell Sherman worked together with Capra to come up with a quieter form of fake snow. This was achieved by mixing together famine – the material used in fire extinguishers – sugar, water and soap flakes, creating a sprayable and totally silent type of artificial snow. Chances are the makers of cornflakes weren’t too happy at this innovation – there must have been quite a drop in sales in the Hollywood area post 1946.

4 – IT’S AN EARLY EXAMPLE OF PRODUCT PLACEMENT

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Business Insider

Product placement is something that is generally thought of as the bane of modern filming (yes we are all looking at you, Jurassic World), so it is surprising to see that it actually dates back decades, and even wholesome classics weren’t immune from its wily ways. Mr. Gower’s drugstore is a hotbed of product placement action – ever wondered why you always have a hankering for some Coca Cola when you watch that scene? (you probably don’t have such cravings, but roll with me here). Coke is only one of numerous products which are on display in the background of the store, which mostly features brands of cigarettes and cigars. Sweet Caporal cigarettes were the biggest benefactors however – George looks at their advertisement, which reads ‘Ask Dad. He knows”, as inspiration to go talk to his father. See what they did there – product placement done right. Take note, modern day Hollywood.

3 – BEULAH BOND WAS JIMMY STEWART’S MOTHER FOR THE FOURTH TIME

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Pintrest

By the time Beulah Bondi came to play Mrs. Bailey she was no stranger to playing Mum to James Stewart – she had already done so three times. The actress, who made a career playing maternal roles, played Jimmy Stewart’s mother in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts and Vivacious Lady. She went on to do it one last time on The Jimmy Stewart Show: Identity Crisis (1971). Despite her reputation for playing motherly roles, Bondi never married or had children, but she is warmly remembered for being a twice oscar nominated character actress who was particularly active through the ‘classic Hollywood’ era of the 1930s to 1950s.

2 – UNCLE BILLY WASN’T AS DRUNK AS YOU THOUGHT

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The Guardian

Remember that scene where Uncle Billy drunkenly makes his way home, only for a big crash to sound out and him to yell “I’m all right, I’m a llllll right!”? Believe it or not, that little chunk or hilarity was not in the script. In reality, a crew member dropped a large piece of equipment and Thomas Mitchell, who played Uncle Billy, went along with it by coming out with the line. Jimmy Stewart followed suit with his reaction, and Capra enjoyed the segment so much that he kept it in the film, enhancing the crashing noise and giving the stagehand who dropped the equipment $10 for “improving the sound”. Whilst only a small moment in the film, it is a great example of the charm that has made it so enduring, and is made all the funnier by the fact that it was unintentional.

1 – IT WAS CAPRA’S FILM THROUGH AND THROUGH

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AFI

Frank Capra generally both wrote and directed his films, but he took things a step further with It’s A Wonderful Life. Capra directed, produced, financed and co-wrote the film, making it a true passion project for the director. In his autobiography he stated that he believes it to be the best film he ever made (a sentiment now shared by the masses, it would seem), and it is clear that he believed in the project wholeheartedly. This makes it all the more tragic that the film did so poorly in it’s initial run. After the Second World War Capra’s films became less popular – his work was deemed to be overly idealistic and simple for the prosperous post war climate, and was seen as better suited to the Depression and pre-war era that he had found such success in. On the bright side, Capra lived to see the film gain the iconic status that it has since afforded itself, and much of his later work has been reassessed as being excellent, so it wasn’t a total Van Gogh situation.

What are your favourite facts about It’s A Wonderful Life? Let me know in the comments section!

 

 

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Film, List, Opinion

2015 IN FILM

Looking back on an amazing year in cinema. 

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The end of the year is almost upon us – and what a year it has been for cinema. My Cineworld Unlimited card was put to good use over the past twelve months and I managed to cram in an impressive number of viewings. Whilst there have been a few disappointments along the way, there were also plenty of high points, and even a couple of masterpieces. I have compiled here my top five films of the year – no easy task – with a few honourable mentions for good measure. Let me know what your cinematic highlights were in the comments section!

TOP 5:

BROOKLYN

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domnhall Gleeson

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Chud

It feels like every year cinema is getting bigger and as the MCU and other superhero worlds dominate the box office the human element can be left behind. Richard Linklater reminded us of the extraordinary power of the ordinary with Boyhood last year, and John Crowley has followed suit with Brooklyn – based on the novel of the same name by Colm Toíbín – adding a period setting for good measure. Brooklyn is an understated masterpiece, blending gorgeous visuals with a simple and powerful story, alleviated to near perfect status by the incredibly apt casting  – Ronan has been scooping awards for her central role, and oscar glory is well within reach come February.

On a more personal level, Brooklyn resonated with me much more than I expected it to. The film is about a girl close to my age being torn between her desire to be home with her family and to forge a new life in America, a common struggle that transcends time. Brooklyn is a welcome reminder that a film doesn’t have to have superheroes or CGI to impress.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Director: Alfronso Gomez-Rejon

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman

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Anticool

After the smash hit success of The Fault in our Stars last year, another John Green adaption was a safe bet, and sure enough Paper Towns came along this summer. The film was marketed on Cara Delevingne, who was mostly absent from the largely forgettable flick. However, the genre had some life breathed back into it by Alfronso Gomez-Rejon, who took a script from Jess Andrews (author of the book of the same name) and came up with Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, a film that avoided cliche whilst still packing an emotional punch.

I was not initially hopeful  – the marketing made the film look like a quirky Fault in our Stars rip-off – but it stood out due to its rarely static camera work and the incredibly funny script – it reminded me of 50/50 (2011) in that it manages to be a film about cancer that is funny without being crude. Add this to strong leads, a brilliant supporting turn from Nick Offerman and an incredible soundtrack (which I discussed here), and you have one of the most memorable films of the year.

LEGEND

Director: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston

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Trailer Addict

Based on The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, Brian Helgeland takes on the Krays in his biopic, which sees Tom Hardy in the dual role of Reggie and Ronnie. The gangster genre is overcrowded, so its hard to nail the genre in a way that stands out, but the Krays are hugely interesting source material and this film is worth seeing, if only for the technical wizardry of seeing Tom Hardy fight himself.

Legend is not without faults – Emily Browning’s character Frances is used as a narrative device to get to the story of the twins and is criminally underwritten as a result – but it still stands out as one of my favourite films of the year. Mixing the funny with the violent, Legend brings a distinct sense of Britishness to the gangster genre, and is all the better for it.

STEVE JOBS

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

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Hollywood Reporter

There is a good chance that audiences – particularly those in the US – are getting Steve Jobs fatigue. Since the Apple founder and CEO passed away in 2011 there has been a slew of material on the man, but it would be foolish to pass on this latest effort from Danny Boyle, with a script by Aaron Sorkin.

With a theatre-like three act structure, Steve Jobs is a far cry from the done -to-death biopic structure, and Sorkin’s razor sharp script blends perfectly with Boyle’s unique eye for visuals, and Fassbender manages to inhibit the character despite not physically resembling him. It’s Fassbender’s film through and through – as the title would suggest, he is the focal point of the entire film – but he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast with Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet all providing fantastic turns in their own right.

Read my review of Steve Jobs here.

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK 

Directed: Brett Morgen

Starring: Kurt Cobain

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Collider 

Since his suicide in 1994 Kurt Cobain has been somewhat of an enigma, the voice of dissatisfied youth, and the wealth of unauthorised material produced on the man did little to dispel any of the myths that arose. However, Brett Morgen’s documentary – the first to be done with the agreement and co-operation of Cobain’s family – cuts through the cultural obsession to look at the man. Morgen stated in an interview that the film aimed to:

“….present an American icon – a revered American icon – in a completely naked and honest manner. Without tearing him down and without building him up, but where we can look him in the eye.”

Blending animated segments with interviews, Montage of Heck is a welcome departure from the typical over reliance on talking heads in documentaries, and is without a doubt the definitive account of who Cobain was. The only thing missing is an interview with Dave Grohl, as a member of Nirvana he seems like a crucial person to talk to about that period in Cobain’s life, and his presence is missed.

Whilst it is at times unsettling to see how deep-set his issues were, and knowing what happened to him makes it all the more upsetting,  Montage of Heck is essential viewing for Nirvana fans, and an enjoyable watch regardless.

RUNNER UPS:

DOPE 

Dope manages to be a crime caper, a comedy, a drama and a coming of age story all rolled into one excellent script. Rick Famuyiwa’s film tells the story of Malcom, Jib and Diggy, three geeks obsessed with 1990s culture who accidentally end up with a rucksack full of MDMA. The lead performances are fantastic and A$AP Rocky even shows up for a supporting role. The film is one that is designed to make you think about the role stereotypes continue to play in society, and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

MISTRESS AMERICA

Director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, who penned the script together, are at their best in Mistress America, a screwball comedy that allows Gerwig to shine. Their collaboration, which worked so well in Frances Ha (2012) has been honed to perfection here, and the film is full to  the brim with laughs, as well as raising some interesting questions about the self obsession in the age of technology.

SUFFRAGETTE 

Undoubtedly one of the most important films of the year, it’s hard to believe UK women’s  fight for the vote had not already been committed to the screen. Starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bohem Carter, with an appearance from the ever-fantastic Meryl Streep, Suffragette is a fantastic period drama made all the more emotive by the fact that it is based on true events.

MOST PROGRESSIVE: 

SPY/MAD MAX:FURY ROAD

It would be madness not to include Mad Max: Fury Road in talks about progressive depictions in cinema, but I have not yet seen it, so alas my comments cannot extend much further than acknowledgement of what is by all accounts an incredible film.

However, I genuinely believe in years to come Paul Feig’s Spy could be looked back upon as a landmark in comedy. Spy is a sign of progress – perhaps the most notable since Bridesmaids (2011) – with women who are capable, independent and not used as the butt of jokes. The film turns everything that is so awful about James Bond on its head – here we have men that are inept, being helped along by badass women (not a damsel in distress in sight) – and it’s about time.

It seems real change is finally on the horizon, and as ridiculous as it is that it is only the case in 2015, that can only be a good thing. Misogynists need not worry too much – Spectre brought the already questionable James Bond back a few steps in the progressive stakes (read more on that here). You win some, you lose some I guess.

BIGGEST LETDOWN:

KILL YOUR FRIENDS 

Based on John Niven’s (who also penned the script) novel of the same name, Kill Your Friends had the potential to be the British American Psycho (2000), but turned out to be a hollow disappointment. Despite the best efforts of the cast, led by an appropriately stoney Nicholas Hoult, the script feels empty and you’ll be hard pressed to remember the film long after viewing.

Read my review of Kill Your Friends here.

BEST ANIMATION:

INSIDE OUT 

A true return to form for Pixar, Inside Out shows the studio do what they do best – blending beautiful animation with innovative storytelling that tackles big themes in a way that is accessible to all ages. The casting is incredibly well sourced – Phyllis Smith was born to voice sadness – and the timeless concept is one that has already solidified Inside Out as a modern animated classic.

WEIRDEST:

THE LOBSTER 

The english language debut of Greek director Yorgos Lanthinmos, The Lobster is without a doubt the most unique film of the year. A hilariously deadpan story about a hotel where single people go and if they fail to find a partner in 45 days, they a turned into an animal. The film satirises social constructs in a hilarious manner, and whilst there is no doubt that it won’t appeal to everyone, I found the film to be one of the funniest I saw all year.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Not forgetting Macbeth, Ant Man, Trainwreck, Ex Machina, The Martian, Man Up, Mr Holmes, Danny Collins, Jurassic World, Irrational Man and so many more…


 

I’ve shared this video before, but it’s so good that I’m going to share it again. Ben Zuk created a 2015 Salute to Cinema on Vimeo, incorporating 164 movies into a wonderful montage that reminds us just how great movies can be. Enjoy!

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/147217969″>2015 Salute to Cinema</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/benzuk”>Ben Zuk</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What was your favourite film of 2015? Let me know in the comments section below!

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Film, Opinion, Reviews

FILM REVIEW: KRAMPUS

An anti-holiday flick that owes more to Gremlins than Black Christmas

Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Certificate: 15

Directed: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Colette, David Koechner

IMDb: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 65% critics/62% audience

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Horrorbuzz

It’s the most wonderful time of the ye- wait, what? Krampus is coming? Perhaps not then. Based on Austro-Bavarian folklore, Krampus is the so-called “shadow of Saint Nicholas” who is sure to punish you if you find yourself on his naughty list, which is exactly what happens to a suburban family in Michael Dougherty’s festive horror-comedy.

Paying heavy homage to Gremlins (1984), the film has a lot more in common with The Gingerdead Man (2005 – it’s a real film, which features Gary Busey and spawned two sequels) than yuletide slashers such as Black Christmas (1974) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), meaning Krampus errs much more on the side of comedy, and is relatively gore free as a result.  This is not necessarily a criticism, as the film has various laugh out loud moments (perhaps not all intentional) and there is heaps of B movie appeal. However, horror fans may feel shortchanged after an ominous marketing campaign focused around what turns out to be sparse scares.

The comedy element should have perhaps been clear based upon the cast, featuring Parks and Recreation alumni Adam Scott and Anchorman (2004) joker David Koechner as part of a greater ensemble, with further star power injected by Toni Collette. Whilst the cast is strong, the characters are generally unlikeable which means that it never feels like the stakes are very high – nobody really cares what happens to them.

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Metro

The script is (hilariously) deadpan and thus somewhat of an acquired taste, whilst Krampus himself is a bit of a letdown. The big bad isn’t remotely funny, and doesn’t have enough scare factor to counteract this. His little helpers on the other hand are the perfect blend of creepy and outright hilarious – a particular highlight are the evil gingerbread men, who are like the love children of Gizmo and the Gingerbread Man from Shrek (2002).

There are unexpected moments – such as the animated sequence – that keep the film from being a paint by numbers flick, but suspense is short in supply, and Chuck Wilson at the Village Voice argued in his review that Dougherty has been:

“….charged with delivering a wide appeal PG-13 film”

This point has a strong basis, as it feels like Krampus is holding back from being the sort of film it wants to be. Dougherty is known for 2007 cult hit Trick ‘r Treat, and it would perhaps be interesting to know what this film would have looked like without any input from Universal Pictures, who were obviously keen to cash in on the holiday season and appealing to as many people as possible.

Various quibbles keep the film from being the anti-christmas classic that it wants to establish itself as, but there is still plenty of fun to be had and a fair chance that Krampus will go on the Santa list of those people who find that annual viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life isn’t their bag.

Score: 3/5

What did you think of Krampus? Did it jingle your bells, or are you happy to stick with Santa? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

 

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List, Television

FRASIER CHRISTMAS EPISODES – RANKED:

Ranking beloved sitcom Frasier’s (1993-2004) Christmas offerings.

 

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Daily Mail

Despite ending 11 years ago, Cheers spin-off Frasier is still held in high regard as one of the best sitcoms of all time, and certainly one of the greatest spin-offs ever created. Starring Kelsey Grammar in the titular role alongside David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leevis and Peri Gilpin, the show is a hilarious classic that only gets better with repeat viewings. Over 11 seasons the show produced an impressive seven festive episodes which feature everything that made Frasier so great, combined with a dash of festive cheer, ranked here for your pleasure…

7 – THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (SEASON 7)

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Fanpop

Frasier is at his haughty best here, having planned a traditional christmas party with only Roz (Peri Gilpin) allowed to attend from the KACL gang, only to find that rival Cam Winston is also holding a party and has poached his guests. This provides the festive setting to the episode, which revolves around the previous ones revelation to Daphne (Jane Leevis) of Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) long standing feelings for her. I doubt I am alone in thinking that the Niles/Daphne dynamic was at its best when he was infatuated with her and she was hilariously unaware of it, so I was never a fan of them getting together, as much as Niles deserved them to. Whilst the episode does have some funny use of the crossed wires trope, it ranks last as it it signified the beginning of a period of decline for the show.

6 – WE TWO KINGS (SEASON 10)

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TV Guide

This episode revisits one of the show’s most common occurrences  – Niles and Frasier arguing. This time they are bickering over how to spend christmas, which drives Martin (John Mahoney) to announce he is going to work on the day. This leads the brothers to attempt to mend fences by putting together a surprise for Martin which, low and behold, does not go to plan. Even in its darker days Frasier was bolstered by its phenomenal cast, and this is an example of that situation at work, with laughs throughout. The Frasier-Niles rivalry rarely disappoints, but this episode loses marks for giving Roz a lazy subplot volunteering as an elf at the mall, whilst Martin’s decision to work feeling like a rehash of season one, suggesting the show was running out of steam by its tenth year.

5 – MARY CHRISTMAS (SEASON 8)

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Sarah TV

Frasier is realising a dream of his by hosting the Seattle Christmas Parade, but worries it won’t go to plan when his co-host comes down with food poisoning and is replaced with Mary (Kim Coles), who he had previously clashed with at KACL. As predicted, chaos ensues, with incidents including Frasier hitting Santa with a microphone. Season eight was a tough time for the series, with changes in dynamic and a decline in quality, and it shows in this episode. Whilst funny moments are scattered throughout, it’s nothing like the offerings from the shows hey-dey.

4 – FRASIER GRINCH (SEASON 3)

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The ‘Frasier learns an important lesson’ storyline wasn’t unique to christmas episodes, but plays well here. Frasier is determined that he only get Fredrick (Luke Tarsitano) high-end educational toys as gifts, even though Martin thinks he should just let Fredrick be himself. There is a great balance between the funny and touching here, with the end of the episode holding a sweet message. Eddie features – dressed to the nines in a santa suit and hat – and we get to see the Crane apartment in fully fledged Martin christmas mode, talking Santa and all. The only reason this episode doesn’t rate higher is because it lacks the laugh out loud hilarity of other episodes.

3 – MIRACLE ON THIRD OR FOURTH STREET (SEASON 1)

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Lockerdome

This early episode was when the show was still finding its feet, and features Frasier facing christmas alone after Fredrick receives a chance to spend the festive in Austria and he and Martin argue. The first christmas episode of the series, it sets a trend of the Cranes arguing about decorations, which goes on to be a fun staple of the festive specials. Eddie is hilarious, drinking from Niles’ cup and hiding under a pillow when the argument occurs, whilst the latter half of the episode with Frasier’s depressing christmas callers becomes increasingly hysterical. The episode does lack the shows winning ensemble in the latter half, but it’s still great festive viewing.

2 – MERRY CHRISTMAS, MRS. MOSKOWITZ (SEASON 6)

frasiermoskowitz

Neogaf

The best episodes of Frasier tended to have a very simple premise – events would conspire, building up to a hilarious and absurd finale – a formula that served the series well for 11 years. This festive offering is a perfect example – Frasier is set up on a blind date with the daughter of a woman he meets in a department store. It transpires that Mrs. Moskowitz (Carole Shelley) believes Frasier to be Jewish, leading to a visit to his apartment where he and her daughter Faye (Amy Brenneman) attempt to cover up the fact that he’s not. This is complicated by the delivery of a christmas tree and Niles dressed up as Jesus, leading up to a truly hilarious final act.

1 – PERSPECTIVES ON CHRISTMAS (SEASON 5)

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First Time Mom

This season five episode came out when the show had really hit its stride, utilising the winning formula . Various different plot lines intertwine and culminate in hilarious misunderstandings, providing laugh out loud moments aplenty. The story is told through flashbacks as Martin, Roz, Daphne and Niles get massages as a Christmas gift from Frasier and the episode plays out as a series of interlinking sketches where we get to see each character at their best – the winning sequence has to be when crossed wires leads Daphne to believe that Martin is dying when he is actually appearing as a shepherd in a christmas pageant. Brilliant stuff.

Which festive Frasier is your favourite? Let me know in the comments section below!

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List, Music

TOP 5 CHRISTMAS SONGS:

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The countdown is on and it will soon be Christmas. One of the best things about this time of year are all the Christmas songs that dominate the airwaves. There are literally hundreds of brilliant tunes to get you into the festive mood, but I’ve ranked my five personal favourites here for your listening pleasure:

Honourable mention…

CHRISTMAS IS ALL AROUND – BILLY MACK

As my previous post made abundantly clear, I am a huge fan of Love Actually (2004), and it will therefore come as no surprise that I think the song my favourite character Billy Mack sings in the film is on the shortlist for my favourite christmas songs. A festive version of The Troggs’ Love is All Around, the song is best when accompanied by the undeniably hilarious video.

5- LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS – MUD

This Elvis-esque track actually has a very sad theme of being alone at christmas, but it still makes it way onto my list of favourites due to just being so damn catchy. Seriously, try listening to it getting lodged in your brain for at least 24 hours. It’s also a nice old school departure from some of the more poppy, cheesy christmas hits that we all know and love.

4 – DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS? – BAND AID 20

I was born in 1995, and I was therefore nine years old when Band Aid 20 released their single in 2004. It is for that reason that the song is a favourite of mine, a nostalgia trip which allows me to reminisce over all the artists who were big in 2004 – Dido, McFly, Busted, The Darkness, Bono was still there for some reason…

3 – WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS TIME – PAUL MCCARTNEY

This song is one of my favourites due to the fact that it features on the soundtrack of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (1998), an animated christmas film that I loved watching on VHS when I was younger. The song bass everything you look for in a christmas song – it’s retro, cheesy, upbeat and was written and recorded by a former Beatle – a surefire winning formula.

2 – ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU – MARIAH CAREY

The majority of christmas classics were produced from the 1950s to the 1980s, and there are actually surprisingly few additions since then that would be classed as a bonafide ‘classic’. Mariah Carey proved to be the exception to the rule in 1994 when she released the self penned All I Want For Christmas is You, a song that has become a staple of the holiday season. Interestingly, Carey released a children’s book based on the song – which has by now raised over $50 million in royalties – this year.

1 – FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK – THE POGUES AND KIRSTY MCALL

I’m sure i’m not alone in holding this song dear as my favourite christmas song of all time – this irish folk-ballad actually holds the title as the UK’s most played christmas song in the 21st century. The song is sung from the point of view of an Irish immigrant in New York, who is in the ‘drunk tank’ (prison cell) and thinking about his girlfriend, who he has an apparently love/hate relationship with.

What are your favourite christmas songs? Let me know in the comments section! Meanwhile, enjoy the songs featured on this list right here:

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Reviews, Television

PEEP SHOW – FINAL EPISODE

peep-show-episode-6Who can believe it, it’s finally over. After 12 years and nine fantastic series, Peep Show finally drew to a close on Channel 4 last night, marking the end of an era as we bid goodbye to the El Dude Brothers, this time for good.

Series nine has been another excellent series, with quite a few episodes that are sure to acquire the label of ‘classic’ Peep Show in coming years. The clever writing has allowed us to return and say goodbye to an impressive amount of the characters that have played supporting roles in previous years, and whilst it was disappointing not to see Big Suze or Nancy make a return, it is equally heartening that the writing did not resort to a ‘greatest hits’ medley in its closing episodes.

In the finale Jeremy is turning 40 and struggling to keep up with younger boyfriend Joe, who is an advocate of the hard partying and drug taking that Jez has spent the majority of his life partaking in. The thing is, it’s a young man’s game, and no amount of eating cashews and drinking your own pee (yes, really) is going to take away from the fact that Jeremy is hitting middle age.

imagesMark on the other hand looks like he might be getting his life on track. Granted, he gets fired by Johnson and replaced by old rival Jeff, naturally all at the hands of Jeremy, but it also looks like he might actually ride off into the sunset with April. April was the one all along, and it seems like she might be able to overlook the fact that Mark tried to bury Sophie in a ballpit last week. But alas, this is Peep Show, and there was no way that anyone was going to end up happy. Sitcoms like Friends were all about wrapping things up nicely and allowing everyone their happy ending, but to do so with Mark and Jez would be to go against the grain of what the show was about all along.

So instead we end with things pretty much as they started – all they have is each other – Jez likes how things are, Mark wants him out. April left Mark after it emerged that he had gone along with Super Hans and Jeremy doing a little kidnapping of her husband, Joe left Jez for being unwilling to stay up for a week, and Molly left Super Hans for partaking in the aforementioned kidnapping. Matt King has been undoubtedly one of the best things about this series, and the show as a whole, and his exit was suitably hilarious. As for the El Dude Brothers, we can be sure that they will be continuing to make each other miserable as they embark on middle age.

Here are my five favourite quotes from an episode full of them…

“It’s complicated. We’ll probably never fully understand – like Stone Henge.”

– Jez explains the unexplainable

“Hello Dad, you’re living inside me now, are you?”

– Mark catches himself sounding like his father

“Do I smell corporate lube? Am I about to get organisationally fucked?”

– Mark senses trouble ahead just prior to getting fired

“When I was doing the invites it became clear that you’ve betrayed everyone you’ve ever been close to”

– Mark sheds some light on the revolving door of Jeremy’s friends and lovers

“Bollocks to it. I’m gonna van it to Macedonia, finally set up the moped rental”

– And with that we say goodbye to series favourite Super Hans

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