The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Review

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One look at Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will instantly remind one of their earlier Alice in Wonderland and Oz: The Great and Powerful, where the Mouse took classic children’s novels and added armour, swordplay and prophecies to disappointing results. The films boasted excellent, jaw-dropping scenery and some entertaining performances but were ultimately empty and forgettable, with The Nutcracker and the Four Realms being little different.

Nutcracker is slightly better than the aforementioned Alice and Oz, however, especially when it comes to source material. If you’re going to make an epic fantasy out of a children’s favourite, ETA Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King makes more sense than Wonderland and Oz, given that there were battles and grudges in there already (even if the ultimate fight between the two title characters takes place off-screen). Unlike Alice and Oz, Nutcracker is not a sequel or a prequel but a reimagining, so it’s a little easier to judge it on its own rather than against its source material.

That said, fans of the novel may be disappointed in some of the choices made. Mouserinks in the film may steal a key and call upon an army of mice to form a giant mouse, but is not as interesting or memorable as her novel counterpart; the evil mother of the Mouse King who curses a princess with ugliness and made the Nutcracker what he was in the first place. Speaking of the Mouse King, while a giant mouse made up of smaller mice is a good idea, a large, seven-headed monstrous mouse would have been more welcome.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms seems to have several influences other than the novel and the ballet, so you’ll also find a bit of Babes in Toyland, Narnia and even Frankenstein in this film, which sadly make the script feel disjointed and the world feel less real. A shame because, once again, the world created for this film looks marvellous. Despite the film’s title, we only spend a little time in realms other than the sinister “Fourth Realm”, which perfectly captures that cliché that refuses to die: the haunted abandoned amusement park. It is so beautifully sinister it almost justifies the too-close-to-Halloween-for-a-Christmas-film release date.

The cast is a mixed bag. Morgan Freeman was the perfect choice to play Drosselmeyer, but sadly, we do not see much of him. Keira Knightley, in a role that takes influence from Glinda the Good Witch, is a delight to watch, but Mackenzie Foy, playing heroine Clara, sleepwalks through the role, making it hard to care about the story and her adventure.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms provides some entertainment and some interesting, surreal visuals, but don’t expect anything you haven’t seen before.

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Top Ten Movies I Reviewed in 2017

10
Logan

A fitting end to the character of Wolverine, at least until his inevitable introduction into the MCU.

9
Better Watch Out

Surprisingly clever film which will make good viewing for those who seek something other than saccharine holiday fare.

8
It

Proof that horror remakes are not always unnecessary, and has a lot of fun with its monster.

7
Split

Thrilling and suspenseful with a surprising and satisfying twist, but worth watching just for McAvoy.

6
Spider-Man Homecoming

While not the best superhero or Marvel-related release this year, this was still enjoyable and had a great performance from Michael Keaton.

5
The Lego Batman Movie

A tonne of fun and a barrel of laughs, it’s strange that a Lego movie is a better 2017 Batman movie than a live-action Justice League.

4
A Monster Calls

Not only has some interesting visuals but a heartfelt story as well.

3
Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was one of the best parts of Batman v Superman and shines even more in the best DCEU film yet (or ever, it might seem).

2
Baby Driver

Hilarious, exciting and makes good use of music.

1
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Speaking of a film that makes good use of music, this is a film you could watch again and again, filled with great comedy, action and even emotion.

 

Better Watch Out Review

What holiday works better for the world of horror then Christmas? You might say Halloween, but that holiday’s a little too obvious. Christmas works well for horror because not only do the usual cheer and festivities make great contrast with blood and terror, the holiday itself has a little sinister side too (see 2015’s Krampus for a film that makes fun use of one of Christmas’ more sinister characters).

It seems every year brings forth a new Christmas horror flick, and so here we have Better Watch Out. Now that does seem a rather generic title for a Christmas-themed horror, bringing to mind the “All Through the House” episode of Tales From the Crypt somewhat, and like that episode, deals with home invasion.

Don’t let that fool you, however. Better Watch Out knows what came before it and subverts the viewers’ familiarity with the genre wonderfully. It’s not unlike Cabin in the Woods in that regard, and like Cabin in the Woods, it’s best to go into this one blind. Thus I don’t really want to go into too much detail with this one, but let me just say Better Watch Out offers great suspense, excellent performances, and a despicable, monstrous villain, and all with a sense of twisted humour.

Some people may like watching nice, heartwarming Christmas movies, but for those who prefer a little bit of gore in their Yuletide flicks, Better Watch Out is a good choice.

The Man Who Invented Christmas Review

There have been so many adaptations of A Christmas Carol over the years that a film about the book’s creation seemed a no-brainer. However, I suppose The Man Who Invented Christmas could be considered a “version” of the classic story itself, as in some ways Charles Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) story mirrors that of Ebenezer Scrooge. The movie isn’t exactly subtle about it either; Dickens is frequently visited by his miserly creation (Christopher Plummer), as well as the four ghosts, most of them made to look like people Dickens has encountered.

Indeed, subtle isn’t the right word to use for The Man Who Invented Christmas. It sadly doesn’t include the famous story about Dickens misreading a grave to come up with his main character’s name, but there is a sequence where Dickens hears a man talk about the “surplus population”, then sees two children resembling Ignorance and Want, then comes across an unmourned death. Scrooge represents Dickens’ dark side, and his redemption means Dickens’ own, which is more or less firmly said in the film’s finale.

That is not to say this makes it a bad film; the original Christmas Carol wasn’t exactly all that subtle itself, after all. The film still manages to be fun and festive, capturing some of the holiday cheer of the original novel. Stevens is a delight to watch as Dickens, and Plummer is a fantastic Scrooge. Like Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, I would like to see him play the role in an actual adaptation, along with Donald Sumpter as Marley, who I would have liked to see more of in this film. The film has some creative ways of bringing the ghosts to life, as it were, like making the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come a gigantic, gangly figure that creaks when it moves.

On a side note, Plummer also appears as King Herod in this year’s The Star and the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries, and voiced Barnaby the crooked man in an animated adaptation of Babes in Toyland, so he’s an actor who’s played Scrooge among other Christmas villains. The only other actor I can think of off-hand who can also boast that is Jim Carrey.

The Man Who Invented Christmas isn’t perfect, but with its fine acting and visuals, it’s a good film if you’re looking for something to get you into the spirit early.