• Film reviews

    #590 – 8-Bit Christmas (2021)

    8-Bit Christmas (2021)

    Film review #590

    Director: Michael Dowse

    SYNOPSIS: Jake Doyle is pestered for a mobile phone by his daughter. Visiting his parents for the Christmas holidays, Jake recounts a similar story from when he was young, when he was desperate for his parents to buy him the one thing he wanted more than anything…a “Nintendo”…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 8-Bit Christmas is a 2021 Christmas comedy film. As Jake Doyle’s daughter pesters him for a phone of her own for Christmas, Jake regales her with a story of his youth of a similar predicament he faced: growing up in the 1980’s, the one thing he wanted more than anything else…a “Nintendo” (or Nintendo Entertainment System). The film hails back to the films of that very era, riding a certain wave of nostalgia about the 1980s and a time when only a few privileged kids would own a “Nintendo” and be the most popular kids in school. The story is told through flashback with Jake narrating the story, and occasional cut backs to the present with Jake and his daughter playing on his Nintendo. While the beginning has quite a bit of narration that interrupts the smooth telling of the story, it does eventually settle into a more seamless rhythm. rather than organically introduce the cast, the narration does tell us about nearly every character, which is a bit distracting, but I suppose you don’t really need to establish the characters when they’re all playing very typical roles and personalities. Again, riding that certain wave of nostalgia, it is appealing to the fans of 80’s films that have all of these tropes and characters anyway, so you don’t need too much of an introduction. The problem with this is – as with a lot of movies that try and capture the feel of that time period – is that it is never going to move out of the shadow of those films, so you’re wondering why you would watch this instead of the other films it is paying homage to.

    The film is balanced between both appealing to younger audiences, but also those who grew up in the 1980’s and have children of their own. There’s a lack of specific references that would only appeal to particular demographics, so it’s intended as a more rounded picture that the whole family can enjoy, but I can’t help but feel it would have been better to lean more into the retro games aspect of it.

  • Film reviews

    #539 – Alien Xmas (2020)

    Alien Xmas (2020)

    Film review #539

    Director: Stephen Chiodo

    SYNOPSIS: An alien race called the Klepts, who take everything from the planets they visit, have set their sights on Earth next. They send X to the north pole to build an anti-gravity machine that will send everything on earth into space for the Klepts to correct. However, X has landed just in time for Christmas at the north pole, and Santa is busy preparing for the big day…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISAlien Xmas is a 2020 Christmas film. The plot centres around an alien race called the Klepts that plundered their homeworld of all resources, and now move through the galaxy taking everything they can from other planets (get it? Klepts?… Kleptomaniacs?…). The Klepts have set their sights on Earth as their next target, and their leader sends X to earth to plant an anti-gravity device at the North Pole, which will turn off gravity and send everything into space; making it easy for the Klepts to take. Unsurprisingly, the plot of the film has X have a change of heart about giving rather than taking, and the rest of the plot points involve a lot of the typical plots surrounding Santa getting ready for Christmas, A Dad working too hard and neglecting his family, and the true meaning of Christmas. Nothing you haven’t seen before, but this film is really aimed at young kids, so it has to have all the typical Christmas stuff you’ve probably seen a hundred times before, but they haven’t. There isn’t anything really for older viewers to get or enjoy, so it really is just aimed at the young kids. The “crazy” twist (as Santa calls it) that this is a Christmas story that includes aliens doesn’t really make it enough of an interesting twist for those who have seen these films many times before.

    With a runtime of forty-four minutes, the film doesn’t fluff itself up with anything it doesn’t need: it tells a Christmas story with it’s own small twist, but doesn’t offer much else. I’m sure young kids will enjoy it because it’s simple enough to follow, is full of colour, and the stop-motion animation has plenty of expression, but again, anyone who isn’t a young kid won’t find anything new or interesting here. 

  • Film reviews

    #538 – The Christmas Martian (1971)

    The Christmas Martian (1971)

    Film review #538

    Director: Bernard Gosselin

    SYNOPSIS: Frank and Cathy are two kids out in the snow looking to bring home a Christmas tree, when they stumble upon a spaceship on the ground. Inside, they meet an alien who is trying to repair his spaceship. They decide to have some fun and make some mischief while the people of the town try to hunt down the alien.

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Christmas Martian is a 1971 Canadian TV movie. Somewhere in a small Canadian town in the wilderness, siblings Frank and Cathy are playing in the wilderness, and have gone to chop down a tree for the family to use as this year’s Christmas tree. I’m not sure in what reality you send out your children who are no older than ten into the woods to chop down a tree and somehow drag it home, but that’s what’s happening I guess. On their wanderings far from civilisation, the two kids find a spaceship parked on the ground. Upon entering, they find an alien who is trying to repair his spaceship, and since the children have not been taught not to approach strangers apparently (especially ones not from this planet), they decide to have fun with the alien causing mischief, stealing vehicles, and other stuff around the town, while the residents try to capture the alien. The film’s plot is nonsensical and barely a plot: it’s just this alien and the kids having a mild amount of fun with “flying” through the air using a large matchstick or something. The kids then “borrow” their uncle’s snowmobile (without permission) and a snowplough later on, which I’m not sure children should be driving. Actually, most of this film is just kids doing stuff that is illegal or just not safe; again, I particularly find the fact that these kids are sent into the wilderness to chop down a tree and drag it home is just bizarre. The running “joke” is that the kid’s mother wonders where the kids are, and the Father’s only reply is that it’s the school break and they’re probably just enjoying themselves.

    The whole thing feels like a very cheap TV movie (which it is): the props and sets are fine in some respects, but things like the flying through the air looks pretty cheap and daft. The dubbing is also pretty atrocious, and barely matches the mouth movements. The spaceship has some effort put into it’s design, which is more than can be said for the Martian; who is just wearing a raccoon coat with some sort of net over his head. The only reason you might enjoy this film is if you saw it as a young kid and you have some nostalgia attached to it, but even then it would be a very tenuous link. The main problem in this film is that nothing of consequence ever really happens, and the stuff that does is so unimaginative that it’s hardly going to capture children’s imaginations, let alone anyone else’s. At least in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians there was a plot: an absurd one, but one nevertheless. You don’t need to watch this this Christmas.