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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008) Movie Review

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Henry Winkler, Brooke Burns, Warren Christie, Connor Christopher Levins, Woody Jeffreys
Director: Michael Scott
Release Date: 13 December 2008
Language: English
Length: 88 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Retired policeman, Ralph (Henry Winkler), is on his way to his niece’s house for Christmas when he makes friends with a stranger, Morgan (Warren Christie), at the airport.  Morgan has no place to go for Christmas and is ready to sleep on the airport floor while he waits for a flight to Colorado and his new job, but Ralph has other ideas.  He persuades his niece, Jennifer (Brooke Burns), to let Morgan stay with them for a few days.  Jennifer isn’t happy about it, but she desperately needs help cooking her first Christmas turkey and Morgan is a chef so she lets Ralph talk her into it.  Morgan isn’t in Jennifer’s home for long before he realizes that she doesn’t seem to have much of a Christmas spirit.  Morgan, Ralph and Brian (Connor Christopher Levins), Jennifer’s son, band together to make this Christmas one that Jennifer will never forget.

Review:

I always enjoy watching the Hallmark Christmas movies during the holidays, but Henry Winklermost of them are just average.  The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better ones.  I tuned in to watch it because Henry Winkler is the movie.  It was so fun to see him in a movie again!  Henry Winkler  plays Uncle Ralph and is a real character.  He is a retired policeman, so he is tough, but he definitely has a soft, squishy center.  Honestly, Ralph’s character seemed to be a grown-up Fonz from Happy Days, which is probably why I liked him so much!  I also appreciated that Henry Winkler was not afraid to act silly and have fun with his role.  No sense in resting on your dignity at an old age, I say!

The main plot deals with the romance developing between Morgan (Warren Christie) and Jennifer (Brooke Burns), who are polar opposites.  Morgan is a free spirit who has worked all over the world and has no permanent address.  He loves the Christmas season and quizzes Jennifer down on why she doesn’t enjoy Jennifer and Morganthe holiday as much.  Jennifer is a hardworking single mom who doesn’t have time for Christmas.  She sees no point in opening Christmas cards when the person’s name is on the outside of the envelope, has been sending Christmas cards to people she can’t remember for years and has the only undecorated house on the block.  Jennifer is seriously involved with a jeweler, Richard (Woody Jeffreys), but, of course, we all know that Jennifer and Morgan will end up together somehow.  Before the movie starts, you know how it will begin and it doesn’t take long before you know how it will end, but that doesn’t mean you know what happens in between.  It was a lot of fun to see these two characters interact and argue.  Jennifer creatively manages to locate the hot Hanging the LightsChristmas toy for the season for her son, Brian, but it is Morgan’s quick-thinking that enables them to actually get the toy in time for Christmas.  My particular favorite was the Christmas decorating.  Jennifer’s next-door neighbor is extremely upset that Jennifer’s house is the only one that is not decorated on the block.  Morgan gets drafted to hang the lights and very carefully inserts a single red bulb into the strand of white lights to drive the woman crazy – love it!

Morgan makes several good points about the holidays in this movie and it reminded me of how much I love the Christmas season.  I look forward to December for weeks and then, when Christmastime is upon me, it is so stressful that I can’t wait for it to be over.  This is such a horrible attitude to have and the Most Wonderful Time of the Yearwriters of this movie totally called me on it!  Watching this movie reminded me of all of the crazy things that I do not enjoy about the holiday like the pressure to decorate because your neighbors are, the huge feast that we force ourselves to make for guests we don’t even like, the eternal debate between real and fake Christmas trees, sending countless Christmas cards to people who don’t remember you and don’t care, and spending countless hours shopping for the perfect gift.  What I loved about the movie was Morgan and Ralph’s handling of the stress and pressure of the holidays.  Yes you can look at it as a huge list of things to do, but there are so many wonderful things that happen around Christmastime that it is totally worth it and this movie reminded me of that.  There are ways to have fun while performing all of these chores and Brian’s character, played by an adorable Connor Christopher Levins, helped me remember why it is all worth it.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better made-for-TV movies made in recent years and I am confident that your family will enjoy watching it Most Wonderful Time of the Year 2together.  There are plenty of little laughs and funny sequences for the younger children to get a giggle in, a handsome hero and beautiful girl who fall in love for the teens and a little bit of everything for the adults.  The DVD is very inexpensive for this movie, but I recommend catching it on TV around Christmastime so that it is something special to look forward to.  If you need a bit of a boost to feel the Christmas spirit and are looking for something new and different, this movie will be sure to fit the bill.

Content:

This movie contains a scene with partial nudity, but the actress is completely wrapped up in a towel so nothing is really shown.  There are some verbal arguments and disagreements, but nothing violent.  There is some drinking of alcohol and very mild swearing.  Recommended for viewers ages 5 and up.

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A Christmas Carol (1994) Movie Review

A Christmas Carol (1994)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Tony Ail, Nathan Aswell, Chera Bailey, Kathleen Barr, Lillian Carlson
Director: Toshiyuki Hiruma Takashi
Release Date: 1994
Language: English
Length: 49 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb80_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

A Christmas Carol, produced by Jetlag Productions in the year 1994 and released on DVD format by Goodtimes Entertainment in 2003, is based on Charles Dickens’s timeless Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol“.  This animated tale relays the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s experiences with three ghosts on Christmas Eve that transformed his life from a mean, miserly man to a man of generous spirit.

Review:

I am a huge fan of A Christmas Carol and make an effort to watch as many different versions of the story every Christmas season.  I found this one available to watch online on Hulu.com and gave it a go.  I confess that I was disappointed with this version.  I am accustomed to watching full-length movie versions of A Christmas Carol and this animated version is about half of the Three Ghosts in a Christmas Caroltime, but with almost all of the story.  Needless to say, the story is quite rushed and a lot of details and character development are left out.  Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, is introduced at the beginning of the story and then we don’t see him again until the end, when Scrooge attends Christmas dinner there.  Scrooge does not visit Fred’s part with the Ghost of Christmas Present.  Also, during the Ghost of Christmas Present segment, we are barely introduced to Tiny Tim and it does not really make sense when we are shown his grave at the end of the film.  The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Ebenezer breaking up with his long-time fiancé, Belle, but we do not meet her at Fezziwig’s party and we never even learn her name in this version.  The story is strung together with the same familiar quotes and scenes that you will enjoy in other versions of A Christmas Carol, but they are so abbreviated here that I did not find myself caring about Scrooge’s transformation at all.  There was no depth and no real emotion contained in this version.

I was a bit disappointed with the animation and vocal talents, as well.  The colors are flat and there are many dark scenes, as suits Victorian London, but there are no interesting details and shading to make it visually appealing.  Most characters and backgrounds are flat, solid colors and do not really seem alive.  I also did not enjoy the vocal Ebenezer Scroogestylings of this animated feature.  Ebenezer Scrooge’s voice is particularly grating.  There was just something about the way he talked that really bothered me.  Also, they wrote in a lot of whiney lines for Scrooge’s character and he sounds like a spoiled 2-year-old at times.  “I don’t want to go,” and “you can’t make me” actually feature into the dialogue, which I felt was going a bit too far.  The Ghost of Christmas Past has a deep, lovely voice, but he is this short little old guy in the cartoon and I didn’t think that the voice fit the character.  And don’t even get me started on the younger Ebenezer Scrooge!  I don’t know if they had the main vocal try to “sound younger,” but it was as high-pitched as a girl’s and did nothing to aid the scene between Scrooge and his younger sister.

There are three songs included, but they are more of a detraction than a help.  I enjoyed the first song more than the other, rather sickly sweet efforts, but it is because it was so strange that I liked it!  The singer reminded me of David Bowie in one of his earlier songs and, as this is sung during Marley’s appearances, it really didn’t fit the setting at all.  The other songs were so inconsequential as to be completely forgettable.  Unfortunately, the music did not do anything to add to the quality of this production.

I feel that the creators of this version were trying to introduce this familiar classic to a younger audience and so they purposefully kept it short and to the point, but I did not enjoy it as much.  This particular version is created with a Christmas Carol CharactersChristian background in mind, but I did not notice anything that they changed or added to make it more appealing to a Christian audience.  If you are looking for an animated version of A Christmas Carol for a younger audience, Mickey’s Christmas Carol gives a nice introduction in less than 30 minutes that is entertaining, well-animated and has lovely music.  If you have children that are a little older, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol has some very funny scenes and some excellent music and still comes in at under an hour.  Both of these versions are crowd pleasers for old and young alike and tell the entire story of Scrooge’s transformation in a much more appealing way.

Content:

This cartoon features ghosts in chains, graveyard scenes and a ghost that looks like a skeleton.  Recommended for ages 7 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Christmas

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004) Movie Review

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Bill Farmer, Shaun Fleming, Tress MacNeille
Director: Carole Holliday, Matthew O’Callaghan, Theresa Cullen
Series: sequel to Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas
Release Date: 9 November 2004
Language: English
Length: 68 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb85_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

This fun-filled holiday extravaganza features all of your favorite Disney characters in holiday cartoons created just for this collection!

“Belles on Ice” – When Minnie Mouse is introduced first on the ice-skating rink, Daisy Duck’s feelings are hurt.  Both Minnie and Daisy want to be the star of the ice-skating show, but their scene-stealing antics could end up ruining the show for everyone!

“Christmas: Impossible” – Huey, Dewey and Louie haven’t been very nice this year and they ended up on Santa’s naughty list.  Deciding it is impossible to do enough nice things to change Santa’s mind, they decide to break into Santa’s office in the North Pole and put their names on the nice list!

“Christmas Maximus” – Max is second-guessing his plan to bring his girlfriend home for Christmas.  He just knows that his dad, Goofy, will find new ways to embarrass him!

“Donald’s Gift” – Donald Duck is not feeling the Christmas spirit – especially when Daisy and the boys drag him off to the Donald Duck Trying to Get Hot Chocolatemall for Christmas shopping!  Everywhere he turns, someone is playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and it is driving Donald crazy!  All he wants to do is go home and enjoy some hot chocolate.  Can Donald find a way to show he has the Christmas spirit before it is too late?

“Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas” – Mickey Mouse is upset when Pluto accidentally ruins the decorations for his Christmas party.  While Mickey goes shopping to find new party gear, Pluto runs away and ends up a pet for Santa’s reindeer!  But as wonderful as Pluto’s new home is, he just misses Mickey – and Mickey is missing Pluto just as much!  Will these two find their way back together to enjoy a Merry Christmas?

Review:

This is a great Christmas special to watch with children of all ages.  Little children will marvel at the amazing death-defying tricks that Minnie and Daisy Minnie Mouse & Daisy Duck on Iceperform on ice in “Belles on Ice.”  Teenagers will empathize with Max as Goofy does nothing but embarrass him while he is visiting for the holidays.  Parents will appreciate Donald’s struggle to find the Christmas spirit amidst all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  The entire special is created in CGI graphics and, while this is not my favorite format, the cartoons here were well-suited to the brightly colored, bubbly animation.

“Christmas: Impossible” is the longest cartoon in this collection at 20-25 minutes with “Christmas Maximus” the shortest at 5-7 minutes. I found something to enjoy in all of the segments, but I did enjoy the story and spirit of “Christmas: Impossible” the most.  It is always fun to travel to Santa’s workshop and see how the elves make all of the toys and get ready for the Christmas holiday!  In this cartoon, Huey, Dewey and Louie are definitely not playing nice Huey Dewie and Louie in Santa's Workshopand almost ruin the holiday for everyone to selfishly try to get more presents for themselves!  “Christmas Maximus” also struck a chord with me.  I can definitely remember being mortified by some of the things that my parents said or did – though they did nothing as embarrassing as what Goofy does! – and could appreciate Max’s position.  I couldn’t help but smile at the crazy things that happened to Goofy and particularly enjoyed the popcorn-popping scene in the kitchen!  This cartoon is the most similar to the classic Disney cartoons in length and layout.  There is very little dialogue, but Max is singing “Make Me Look Good” the whole time and it was a great way to present this cartoon.  If you pay close attention, you can hear how the song changes to match the way Max’s attitude changes towards his father.

“Belles on Ice” features Minnie, Daisy and the crocodiles and hippos from Disney’s Fantasia.  It seemed a little over-the-top and rather unbelievable, but I could definitely empathize with the attitude of the two divas featured here.  It is really difficult to step back and let someone else enjoy the spotlight!  “Donald’s Gift” provides a valuable lesson for all of us.  Donald Duck is one of my favorite characters and he is at his best/worst in this cartoon!  I look forward to Pluto with Santa's ReindeerChristmastime all year long and start watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music in November so by the time Christmas is actually here, I am totally over it!  Granted, it is my own fault for starting so early, but I just can’t help myself!  This cartoon makes fun of this trend by playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” everywhere Donald goes – on the radio, on the phone, at the mall, etc.  It is important to remember that, while Donald may not be feeling the Christmas spirit, that does not give him – or us – the right to spoil the holiday mood for those around us, particularly our loved ones.  “Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas” has a similar message.  Pluto wrecked the decorations for Mickey’s party, but that doesn’t mean that Pluto ruined the holiday, despite what Mickey said to him.  Tensions often run high during the holidays and it is easy to overreact when something doesn’t go the way we planned, but it is important to remember how much we love our family and friends and forgive.  If Mickey had reacted differently, Pluto would not have run away and they would have been able to spend the holiday together rather than searching for each other.

There were some wonderful lessons to learn in Mickey’s Twice Upon a Disney Gang at ChristmastimeChristmas.  The best part about the lessons is that they are wrapped up in such entertaining trappings that children will not even know that they are learning!  This Christmas special is one that I look forward to seeing every year and I hope that it will become a holiday favorite in your house, too!

Content:

This movie is appropriate for viewers of all ages.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Disney, Halloween

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover Book Review

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

The Christmas Chronicles The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover

Author: Tim Slover
Publisher: Bantam (November 2010)
ISBN: 0553808109, EAN: 9780553808100
Page Count: 176 pages
Format: hardcover

Target Age Group: adults
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1

 

Synopsis:

In 1343, Klaus was orphaned and adopted by a guild of woodworkers and craftsmen.  Surrounded by tools and wood since a young age, Klaus became a master craftsman at the young age of 17, making a bitter enemy at the same time.  When the Black Death visited his small village shortly afterwards, Klaus was deeply grieved at the losses of others and sought a way to lift the spirits of those around him – particularly the children.  It began with 53 toys made for the children in his own village, which were blessed by the village priest and delivered on Christmas Eve.  And so the legend of Santa Claus begins…

Review:

Ever wondered who Santa Claus really is and how he came to be?  Well, look no further than this charming little Christmas tale that could easily become a classic in your home.  Not only does Tim Slover present a brief, but welcome, back story about Klaus’s mortal life, but he answers all of those questions that children ask around Christmastime.  Why does Santa Claus use reindeer to pull Santa Claus Delivering Gifts with Reindeerhis sleigh?  Because he grew up in the cold, snowy north and they were his wife’s favorite racing animal.  Why does Santa Claus deliver toys down the chimney?  Because Klaus’s mortal enemy, Rolf Eckhof, took half of the toys one year and burned them, which meant it wasn’t safe to leave the toys outside anymore. This also led to the popular belief that you better be good or you won’t get a Christmas toy as all of the parents of those toyless children used the experience as an opportunity to remember all of the things their children did wrong that year.  How does Santa deliver toys around the world in one night?  Through Chronolepsy or time stopping.  How does Santa understand all of the different languages?  By using the Lingua Franca Effect, which means Santa and his reindeer speak and understand whatever language is predominant in the region they are in.  The book also covers the concept of Tarrying (not aging and living a long life), why many believe Santa Claus is a Saint, how he makes toys, how he receives letters, how he travels, who the elves really are and so much more.  Think of a question about Santa Claus and it will probably be answered in this book!

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus begins and ends with a narrative by a person who claims to have seen Santa’s sleigh and to have had the privilege of reading The Green Book, which is a biography of Klaus.  I feel that these sections will be interesting to adults and older children, but they kind of Spirit of Christmasdrag it down a bit for little children.  I understand why Tim Slover, the author, used them here and I appreciate the challenge to spread the true spirit of Christmas in the season, but they were not my favorite parts of the book.  My favorite part was the story of Santa Claus itself.  This book is brief, succinct and there is not a lot of time and effort developing characters, describing locales or going into great depth on any particular point and I think that this was a great way to go.  I envision families around the US including this book as part of their holiday traditions.  This is a wonderful little tale to read aloud to children of all ages.  Santa’s story is only seven chapters long and, while some of the chapters are lengthy, I feel that this book could easily be shared with children over a week or two in December.  Hopefully it will spark a wonderful feeling for Christmas in readers of all ages and draw families closer together during the holiday season as they focus more on the spirit of giving than on receiving.

I have enjoyed reading this book for Christmas during these past two years.  It is He Sees You When You're Sleepinga quick, easy read that only takes an hour and, with a mug of hot chocolate close by and some Christmas carols playing, it always brings a smile to my face and gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling about the holidays.  Again, this is a simple story, told with simple words and, while there is a villain, there is not a lot of excitement or thrill in the book, but I have grown to love it.  If you are looking for a good family gift to purchase for Christmas or enjoying reading holiday books yourself, this is one for the keeper shelf!

Content:

This book has some scenes of mild peril.  Many people die from the Black Death, but there are no details provided and just a general feeling of grief and loss.  There is an attempted murder, but it fails.  There are some brief philosophical and religious questions addressed.  Appropriate for viewers of all ages, recommended for ages 6 and up or to be read aloud to anyone.

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A Magical Cartoon Christmas (2004) Movie Review

A Magical Cartoon Christmas (2004)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

A Magical Cartoon Christmas

Starring: Various
Director: Various
Release Date: 2004 (DVD Collection)
Language: English
Length: 75 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Join Jack Frost, little penguins, silly dogs and dancing cakes in this Christmas cartoon collection!  With a total of ten classic cartoons, including “Somewhere in Dreamland” and “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” these cartoons from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s will be sure to bring a nostalgic smile to your face and give you a chance to share your childhood entertainment with the next generation.

Review:

There are a total of ten cartoons in this collections including:

“Ginger Nutt’s Christmas Circus” (1949) – A sneaky parrot steals a circus ticket from a weasel and then heckles all of the circus performers.  Includes Santa Claus in the circus parade & a Peace on Earth sign at the end, otherwise a regular cartoon.

“Peeping Penguins” (1937) – Four curious little penguins climb down the chimney into a human house and explore.  Features “Curiosity Killed the Cat” song.  Takes place during winter and there is snow outside, but no mention of Christmas.  A cautionary tale about not getting into dangerous items around the house.

“A Waif’s Welcome” (1936) – When a poor little orphan boy is welcomed into the home of a family, their spoiled brat of a son does everything he can to get him in trouble.  This cartoon doesn’t feature any Christmas touches (aside from some sleigh bells jingling on the roof), but it is a good message for all little children to remember how lucky they are to having a loving family, food to eat and a roof over their heads.

“Christmas Comes But Once a Year” (1936) – It’s Christmastime again and all of the little orphans at the orphanage are excited to play with their toys.  Unfortunately, all of the toys break the first time they try to play with them!  Can a talented inventor save the day and create new toys?  This is a cute little Christmas cartoon that I can remember seeing when I was a little girl.  I love the toys that the inventor creates – I wish I had that kind of ingenuity!  This cartoon also reminds us that it really doesn’t take that much to make a young child happy and to remember to give around the holiday season to those who are less fortunate.

“Jack Frost” (1934) – When Jack Frost arrives to warn the animals about winter’s approach, one young grizzly bear cub believes that he doesn’t need to be afraid of winter.  He decides to run away from home, but he soon learns that even grizzly bears need to have a warm den for wintertime.  This cartoon features some very cute scenes showing a gnome-like Jack Frost preparing the forest for winter.  There are no specific Christmas references, but the little bear does lick some candy canes and the cartoon takes place in a snowy forest.  While we all feel like running away at times, this cartoon reminds us that being at home with our families is often the best solution.

“Hawaiian Birds” (1936) – When a group of flashy birds arrives from the big city, a local island girl leaves her hardworking boyfriend to follow them to their nightclub.  Unbeknownst to her, the girl’s faithful boyfriend follows her to try and persuade her to return home to their island paradise.  This cartoon features the instrumental version of “Jingle Bells” playing while it is snowing in the city.  Otherwise, it is a normal cartoon about being happy where you are at and not running away from those who love you.

“Hector’s Hectic Life” (1948) – Hector, a dog, is warned by his owner that if he makes one more mess, he is out on the street!  Determined to be good, Hector is doing all he can to stay out of trouble.  But when three little puppies show up on his doorstep, Hector will have his hands full trying to keep the house clean!  The puppies destroy a Christmas tree and make a mess of the Christmas presents, eventually ending up in the Christmas stockings.  I really enjoyed the creative ways that Hector cleans up the puppies’ messes – I wish cleaning in real life was that easy!

“Snow Foolin’” (1949) – Different animals show off their ice skating skills in funny and creative ways.  There is also a sing-a-long with a bouncing egg for the song “Jingle Bells.”  This cartoon doesn’t feature a plot, but it was one of my favorites in the collection.  It was just cute, fun and short.  I love the different animals ice skating and got a kick out of their antics.

“Little Audrey: Tarts and Flowers” (1950) – Little Audrey bakes a gingerbread man whom she follows to the magical land of Cakeland, where the gingerbread man is going to be married to the angel food cake.  But the devil’s food cake wants angel cake for his own and will do anything to keep her!  This is a cute little fantasy cartoon that features many cakes and sweets that children dream about.  Not a Christmas cartoon, but a sweet treat for little ones.

“Somewhere in Dreamland” (1936) – A poor boy and girl work hard to try to help out their single mother put food on the table, but they are always hungry.  On Christmas Eve, the children dream sweetly of a special place called Dreamland full of new clothes, toys and all the delicious food they can eat!  When they wake up on Christmas morning, they find that their hovel has been magically transformed into a Christmas dreamland thanks to a few local merchants.  This is probably the most well-known and beloved of the cartoons in this collection and there is something really moving about it.  Not only do we get to see the lovely dreamland that the children have created to escape their bleak reality, but we get to see some good, kind-hearted people reach out to help those in need during the holidays.

One of my main complaints still remains the fact that they are always trying to cram non-Christmas-themed cartoons into a Christmas cartoon collection.  Other than that, these cartoons did give me a sense of nostalgia.  I remembered some of these cartoons from TV when I was a little girl.  These cartoons are definitely simpler and more basic than the cartoons that children watch today.  I am not sure if little children will have the patience and interest in watching these older animated features.  These have not been cleaned up or brightened to appeal to a new generation of viewers.  The colors are quite muddy and dark.  Also, these animated cartoons are sorely in need of a clearer soundtrack.  The volume is quite low and you can hear the feedback from a poor quality soundtrack as you listen to the songs and speaking.  Still, it was fun to see these cartoons again and, while they cannot really compare to the Disney cartoons (which have been digitally remastered in most cases), they do possess a certain charm and are enjoyable.

Content:

These cartoons feature parents spanking their children, the threat of blows, poverty, and some rather scary looking villains.  Recommended for children ages 3 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Halloween

Magic Gift of the Snowman (1995) Movie Review

Magic Gift of the Snowman (1995)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Tony Ail, Nathan Aswell, Chera Bailey, Kathleen Barr, Garry Chalk
Director: Toshiyuki Hiruma Takashi
Release Date: 9 November 1995
Language: English
Length: 47 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

When Landon finds out that his younger sister, Emery Elizabeth, is so ill that she might not live to see another Christmas, he comes up with a plan to help her get better.  Landon encourages Emery Elizabeth to eat regularly, take her naps and her medicine and take better care of herself.  If she does, Landon will share the story of Snowden, a really cool snowman who lives in the magical kingdom far, far away.  Magic Gift of the Snowman, produced by Jetlag Productions in 1995 and released on DVD by Goodtimes Entertainment, is an original story from Jetlag Productions.

Review:

I stumbled across this animated tale on Hulu.com during the Christmas season and, while not a great movie, it is definitely cute and will appeal to younger viewers, especially to preschoolers.  The animation is simple, but bright and Magical Gift of the Snowmancolorful.  Emery Elizabeth and all of the girls in the movie were shown with pale pink lips that almost didn’t even look real so there was something off about the animation of the faces, but that is a minor detail.  Landon reminded me visually of Henry in The Littles, but he and all of the other children are animated in a very cute, borderline anime-fashion (no big eyes).  There are some original songs included, none of which I felt was good enough for me to remember what they were about when the movie was over, but I am sure that children will enjoy the music nonetheless.

The best part about the movie, however, is the sweet storyline.  It was so wonderful to see an animated special where siblings not only got along, but they love each other and encourage each other.  Landon loves his little sister very much.  Rather than be upset that she is getting a lot of care and attention due to her prolonged illness, Landon is determined to do all he can to help Emery Elizabeth get better.  He spends a chilly afternoon in the yard creating Snowden, Snowdena snowman that reminded me quite a bit of Frosty the Snowman, but in sunglasses and a trenchcoat.  Snowden’s slang may be dated now, but little kids will not know that and will get a kick out of the way Snowden talks.   Landon and Emery Elizabeth must help Snowden recover Princess Electra’s smile from an evil villain who is determined to make all of the children take candy, rainbows and their dreams and turn them into a bunch of slimy yuk.  Emery Elizabeth is critical to defeat the villain as she can use the power of her inner self to turn her wheelchair into any object with wheels.  I loved that the writers chose to make Emery Elizabeth, the handicapped one, the heroine of the story.  Instead of having her wheelchair be a weakness, Emery Elizabeth was able to turn this disability into a great strength that eventually saved all of the children!

This movie is definitely created with children in mind.  I felt like Landon or Emery Elizabeth on a Magnificent Steedanother young boy or girl would have imagined a story like this and chosen to share it with their siblings.  The magical kingdom where everything takes place only has children who live there.  They dance, play and sing all day, powered by Princess Electra’s magical smile.  The beds are shaped like cream puffs and ice cream cones.  Every toy and game imaginable is available for the children to play with and they have no cares or worries.  The only limit on what you can do in this magical kingdom is your own imagination.

While I think children will really enjoy this tale, I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would.  There is not a lot there for older children or for adults to want to sit through it with younger viewers.  Many view this DVD as a Christmas Emery Elizabeth & Landon to the Rescuemovie, but there is nothing really Christmasy about it.  Emery Elizabeth needs to live past the holiday to have any hope of recovering from her illness, but over half of the action takes place in a magical kingdom.  There is one scene at the end that shows Emery Elizabeth opening a Christmas present near the Christmas tree, but that is the only Christmas scene in the movie.  Still, if you are looking for a movie to share with your children around the winter holidays, this is a good cartoon to buy.  You can usually find it for $2 – $5 online or in stores so it is very affordable and worth the cost if you have little ones at home who will watch it a few times in a row.

Content:

This movie contains an evil villain who looks like a zombie with big bug eyes, but he is not too scary.  There is also a scene that contains a lot of fire that the children have to escape.  Recommended for ages 2 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Christmas

A Stake of Holly by Lillian Stewart Carl Book Review

A Stake of Holly

Book Review by Debbie Winkler



Author
: Lillian Stewart Carl
Publisher: Fictionwise.com (December 2004), originally published as part of Death By Dickens edited by Anne Perry
Page Count: 23 pages in Microsoft Lit format
Format: ebook, originally published in paperback

Target Age Group: adult
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars, a wonderful continuation of a Christmas classic!

Synopsis:

Ebenezer Scrooge lies on his deathbed, years after his miraculous Christmas transformation. By his side are his nephew, Fred, and his wife, as well as the entire Cratchitt family – including “Tiny” Tim Cratchitt, who is now a young man with prospects. As he lays dying, Scrooge can only hope that his efforts in the past year have shortened the length of the chain that he will bear in the next life and that he will not end up like his poor, dead partner Marley. And yet, that Christmas Eve night so long ago still haunts Scrooge. Did he really see the spirits of his dead partner as well as 3 ghosts? Scrooge knows that Marley visited him to try and pay penance for his decisions during his mortal lifetime, but what of the other 3 ghosts? What prompted them to visit Scrooge and where are they now? Scrooge’s dying wish is for Tim to seek answers to these questions and allow Scrooge to thank the ghosts for the great gift that they bestowed upon him.

Tim, who is no longer Tiny, doesn’t know where to begin such a daunting task. How can one hunt down spirits from those who passed long ago? Especially when no one knows their identities! Tim begins with the famous medium, Mrs. Minnow of Bedford Square. She gives him a few cryptic clues: a holiday pudding set ablaze, a sprig of holly and a gleam of gold. She also gives him the identity of one of the 3 ghosts, Arthur Fezziwig. Tim surmises that, if Fezziwig is one of the 3 ghosts, namely the Ghost of Christmas Present, that Scrooge must be acquainted with the other 2 ghosts when they were alive. With these slim clues to lead him, Tim starts hunting down the people closest to Scrooge in his younger years to answer his second father’s wish before it is too late…

Review:

I don’t typically take the time to review short stories, as it hardly seems worth the effort, but this story was so charming and so perfectly in keeping with the Christmas season that I couldn’t resist. I must confess that it is the only remotely Christmasy story that I have read this year. I make an effort to see as many different versions of the movie A Christmas Carol as possible, but I don’t reread the story every year as many others do. I am a big fan of Lillian Stewart Carl, however, so I plunked down my $1.00 for the short story and consider it money well spent. This was a wonderful extension of A Christmas Carol and gave us a glimpse into Charles Dickens’ beloved characters future. This story is a wonderful, subtle mystery with a pinch of romance thrown in. Thoroughly enjoyable and worth reading regardless of the time of year!

Content:

There are quite a few dead people in this short story and the way that many of them die is rather macabre. Though there are no gruesome details as far as the condition of the dead bodies or suffering, there is enough detail provided as to how the murderer carried out their brutal tasks that a vivid memory, such as mine, can conjure up some fairly graphic visions. Lillian Stewart Carl keeps the tone of the Victorian era, however, and manages to make this murder mystery a gentle, feel-good story. The romance elements are extremely subtle and include maidenly blushes and gazing upon beautiful women. Very clean and appropriate for ages 12 and up.

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Filed under Christmas Books, Holiday Books, Mystery Books, Novellas/Short Stories