Less interested in being a biopic and more interested in being a look at the writing process and something of a loose adaptation of A Christmas Carol in it's own right, The Man Who Invented Christmas works surprisingly well. The general bullet points of Dickens life and how the story came to be are, for the most part, represented here. However, some of them are certainly exaggerated or at the very least shuffled around. To the larger point, the film uses the unique narrative device of having Dickens literally see his characters come to life and discuss their personalities with him. Was this true to him? Who knows, but it's a fascinating look at the creation process and that's really where the story shines brightest. Having Scrooge talk to him about the type of person he is or have the characters torment him in his day-to-day life is intriguing as hell. It also works in a lot of ways as a loose adaptation of A Christmas Carol. First of all there's just the fact that Christopher Plummer could actually be a great Scrooge in a genuine adaptation because he really nails the character (except for one key scene). There's also the way it uses some great staging choices like having a statue in London come to life as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come to show Dickens's inspiration, but it's such a great visual I'd love to see this in real Christmas Carol adaptation. Beyond that though, Dickens life parallels Scrooge's in a lot of ways, and he does better himself through the film. Again, how true is this? Who's to say. Historians I guess, but that's beside the point. As a film, it works, and it's quite a delightful little Christmas film and an inspirational look at the storytelling process.
There's basically two ways you can take on this type of story: Saturday afternoon b-movie, or Jaws-style suspense. Crawl leans more towards the suspense angle. In a lot of ways, with the hurricane in an enclosed space story, it reminded me of the movie Bait 3D. But whereas that movie relished in the cheese and gore of being a glorified SyFy movie with a bigger budget, Crawl goes more for character and tension. For the most part, it works. The idea of having just two characters (and their dog) makes it tights and thrilling. That being said, whenever a new character does show up, we know they're just there to be gator bait. I mean really, if that helpful police officer coming in at the 11th hour isn't going to get eaten, then what the hell are we even doing in this alligator movie? I will also say while the clear angle was tension, the sheer number of times they almost got out but were put right back where they started to annoy me more than anything else, often with a grand set-up failing in under a minute. Maybe that's personal taste, but it just didn't work as tension for me. There are going to be people that find the movie incredibly tense though, I am certain of that, I just kind of recognized a lot of its moves. That being said, it's still a fun movie. Especially in the third act seeing the outright destruction when the alligators have free reign of the house is a lot of fun. It's tight, enjoyable, and it works. It's a very solid natural horror flick.
Of Mel Brooks' catalogue, this may be his best. Spaceballs and History of the World Part 1 hold nostalgic appeal to me, but this one is arguably his most complete movie. A lot of the humor is, admittedly, pretty dated by todays standards, but not as much as you might think. A couple homophobic jokes perhaps but nothing outlandish, and some sex jokes (in particular a running gag with a chastity belt) that really aren't as funny as Mel seems to think they are, but nothing that outright ruins the experience. The movie is, at its core, commited to a friendly level of silliness that I can absolutely appreciate. The best part has to be Cary Elwes's approach to it all though. He could easily have played this role in a more straightforward Robin Hood film, and he basically is playing this role like a more straightforward Robin Hood film, which makes it all that funnier. He's charming and sarcastic about the absurdity surrounding him. It's a fun, lighthearted, just goofy time and a loving send up of an age old tale.
Even though I've seen the first Die Hard a few dozen times, every time I've sat down to watch Die Hard 2 I always sort of lose interest. Well, this Christmas I forced myself to actually watch the whole thing and I finally get why that was. Die Hard 2 is not a bad movie, but it suffers pretty hardcore sequelitis and at the end of the day, I'd much rather be watching Die Hard.
It feels like when they were making this movie, they though about all the elements they needed for Die Hard they would have to bring back. The cop, that a-hole reporter, a charismatic terrorist…oh wait, what's that? Alan Rickman in the original Die Hard wasn't really a terrorist? And this new guy is entirely forgettable? Yeah, there's some attempts at recreation that just plain don't work, and that's one of them. In other ways they try to make it bigger. Bigger location, bigger threat. We're in an airport now, and as I said the terror threat is real now. But there was such a glorious simplicity to Hans Gruber that is lacking in this one. Something about a warlord and drug running? Honestly I didn't care.
Now all that said, it is still a solid action movie of its time. The idea that the terrorists control the technology and can actually crash the planes is a genuine threat, and leads to some good set pieces. We get several shootouts, two of not being one very early in the baggage area that's pretty creative and even one on snowmobiles on a lake that I really enjoyed. Plus, this is back when Bruce Willis actually gave a damn, and his portrayal of John McClane is a lot of fun.
Think of it this way: Die Hard is the steak, Die Hard 2 is the burger. The burger is good, nothing wrong with the burger, but that steak is just so much better. However, if you've been having the steak a lot, then sure mix it up and try the burger.