A CHRISTMAS STAR

1.5 out of 10

UK/Ireland co-production

Release Date: 13th November 2015

Director: Richard Elson (MI High (TV))

Cast: Erin Galway-Kendrick, Rob James-Collier, Bronagh Waugh, Brian Clements, James Stockdale, Roma Tomelty, John Moan and Suranne Jones with Kylie Minogue, Dermot O’Leary, Julian Fellowes with Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan

Writer: Maire Campbell

Trailer: A CHRISTMAS STORY

A-Christmas-Star-2015-movie-posterThis is the type of soppy, insincere, overly sweet, puke inducing movie that will make you want to throw puppies off bridges and kick old people in their sleep. It’s so drippy and over the top it will make you hate Christmas. It’s such an unappealing mash of cold Christmas left-overs as I’ve ever seen. There’s no magic, no miracles and nothing to recommend here. Bah humbug be damned, this is a rush-job written to cater for idiots, f*ck Christmas.

Martyr-like Noelle (ERIN GALWAY-KENDRICK), is born in a stable one Christmas Eve but her Mammy’s no virgin. Her Dad is an ass though. They live in a small town in Northern Ireland that is supported solely by the sales of the chintzy-est looking snow globes ever. Her father is the lead snow glass blower (BRIAN CLEMENTS – THE FALL) who gives these pieces of bad taste to all his mates for Xmas. One day, an evil property developer played Rob James-Collier (DOWNTON ABBEY) shows up in town to settle an old grudge by buying the factory for it’s land. He wants to build a Christmas themed wonderland. Noelle can make miracles work by closing her eyes and forcing people to stop fighting and make friends, but it take more than looking constipated to put an end to these horrible plans. None of her friends except for the wee disabled lad Spud Bob (yea really) (JAMES STOCKDALE), a Tiny Tim type wheeled in to maximise the vomit quotient, believe she’s a magician. Despite her pals lack of support she gets to the bottom of the dodgy deal through some badly acted, scripted and plotted espionage and restores order to the town. It’s unspeakably bad and was probably filmed in two hours.

Pierce Brosnan (THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY) phones in a cameo, as the Mr Big. He’s supposedly sat in a high-rise office in Chicago (according to a scene-setter) but it looks like he’s in the back room of a run down pub down the road in Letterkenny. Elsewhere we have Liam Neeson (THE GREY) putting in the sorriest cameo I’ve ever seen. At first, you think he’s gotten out of appearing in the film altogether as he plays a disembodied local Radio DJ. He does eventually show up in a scene all to himself, looking brow-beaten, half-pissed up and garmed in a dodgy Christmas sweater, poor sod. I’m surprised he never went Brian Mills on the makers. You can imagine him writing in his Xmas cards to the writer and director “I’m coming for you next!”

The kids in it are the wrong side of wooden and they play very annoying characters in an annoying way. Pity poor James Stockdale whose Spud-Bob is lucky enough not to have been written out of the film at some point in a tragic accident, where he had sacrificed himself for the heroine. He does get to sob his eyes out though in a scene of manipulative heart string yanking. Most of the adults, turn in embarrassed performances – Pierce Brosnan being the exception as I think it’s actually his ambition to go into Panto or inherit the film career of Roger Moore. He’s going the right way. Suranne Jones (CORONATION STREET) is wheeled in as a comedy drama teacher to no avail. But she’s got nothing on the parade of stars who play themselves, miraculously phoning in bumper orders of snow globes for their celebrity mates so avoid Julian Fellowes (DOWNTON ABBEY), Dermot O’Leary (BIG BROTHER) and Kylie Minogue (MOULIN ROUGE) if you’re expecting pressies from any/all of them.

This could be the worst Christmas movie you’ll ever watch because it comes with a side dose of insincere Irish twinkly eyed blarney, so fake you’ll want to duff your Mum up. Avoid like last year’s Turkey. Stinky.

1.5 out of 10 – This will one will make you cancel Christmas. And the next one.

Second review by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II below

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Rob James-Collier: Downton Abbey (TV), Spike Island, Wayland’s Song, Mercenaries, Coronation St (TV)
  • Bronagh Waugh: The Fall (TV), Hollyoaks (TV)
  • Richard Clements: The Fall (TV)
  • Suranne Jones: Doctor Foster (TV), Scott & Bailey (TV), A Touch of Cloth (TV), The Crimson Field (TV), Coronation Street (TV)
  • Kylie Minogue: San Andreas, Holy Motors, The Magic Roundabout (voice), Moulin Rouge!, Sample People, Bio-Dome, Street Fighter, The Delinquents, Neighbours (TV)
  • Dermot O’Leary: The X Factor (TV), Big Brother (TV)
  • Julian Fellowes: Downton Abbey (TV) (writer), From Time To Time (dir), Seperate Lives (dir), Monarch of the Glen (TV), James Bond – Tomorrow Never Dies, Jane Eyre (1996), Shadowlands, Damage
  • Liam Neeson: A Monster Calls, Ted 2, Entourage, Run All Night, Taken 3, A Walk Amongst The Tombstones, A Million Ways To Die In The West, The Lego Movie (voice), Non-Stop, The Nut Job (voice), Anchorman 2, Third Person, Taken 2, The Dark Knight Rises, Wrath of the Titans, Battleship, The Grey, Unknown, The Next Three Days, The A-Team, Clash of the Titans (2010), Chloe, The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian (voice), Taken, Seraphim Falls, The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe (voice), Breakfast On Pluto, Batman Begins, Kingdom of Heaven, Kinsey, Love Actually, Gangs of New York, K19, Gun Shy, The Haunting (1999), Star Wars – The Phantom Menace, Les Miserables (1998), Michael Collins, Before and After, Rob Roy (1995), Nell, Schindler’s List, Leap of Faith, Ruby Cairo, Husbands and Wives, Shining Through, Under Suspicion, The Big Man, Darkman, Next of Kin, High Spirits,  The Dead Pool, Suspect, A Prayer For The Dying, The Mission (1986), Lamb, The Innocent (1985), The Bounty, Krull, Excalibur, Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Pierce Brosnan: Survivor (2015), No Escape (2015), Some Kind of Wonderful, The November Man, The Love Punch, A Long Way Down, Love Is All You Need, The World’s End, Remember Me, The Ghost, Percy Jackson, Mamma Mia!, Married Life, Seraphim Falls, The Matador, After The Sunset, Laws Of Attraction, James Bond – Die Another Day, Evelyn, The Tailor Of Panama, James Bond – The World Is Not Enough, Grey Owl, The Match, Thomas Crown Affair (1999), James Bond – Tomorrow Never Dies, The Nephew, Dante’s Peak, Mars Attacks, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Mrs Doubtfire, The Lawnmower Man, The Deceivers, The Fourth Protocol, Remington Steele (TV), Nomads, The Long Good Friday
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One thought on “A CHRISTMAS STAR

  1. Review by Matt ‘The Holly & The Ivy’ Usher

    Lovers of good Christmas films and wannabe remakes of LOCAL HERO should give this one a miss. There is little here of festive cheer, and much that will make you despair. In this charmless, laboured, hackneyed non-weepy, Richard Clements plays Joe who has some sort of responsible job at a factory though it’s unclear whether he’s the owner, foreman, designer, union boss, or carpenter. He’s married to Maria (Bronagh Waugh). Mark those names, for they are suffused with subtle symbolism. Maria gives birth on Christmas morning in a stable to a daughter they imaginatively name Noelle. No-one seems to give much thought to the strange parallels between this birth and the one a couple of thousand years ago, as if only the audience are meant to have noticed it.

    The factory Joe runs is rubbish, having only one product: a quite incredibly ugly snow globe. Somehow the factory has survived the global financial crises of 2007/08/09/10/11/12/13/14 but now it really is on its last legs. But a buyer arrives in the form of Pat McKerrod (hmmm, that surname seems familiar somehow) (played by Rob James-Collier). Unfortunately he has a secret plan which he accidentally reveals at every opportunity: he wants to close the factory! Have the snow globes made in China! And turn the village into a Christmas theme park! Such an evil dastard must clearly be stopped, particularly as he’s acting out of spite over something that happened years earlier which is never explained properly. But… to be honest, the location the film-makers use isn’t the most shiningly beautiful in the Emerald Isle, and the locals would probably prefer the income of a Christmas theme park, and the snow globes look like they’re made in China anyway. Nevertheless, McKerrod is the villain and must be stopped. But only the kids realise this.

    Thankfully Noelle has the power to work miracles. She simply closes her eyes and a golden halo encircles her and anyone who happens to be having a row at the time. And then – hey presto – everyone is friends again! Unfortunately this trick doesn’t work on the bad guy so they have to go through some plot convolutions too uninteresting to mention. It all comes to a head, as all great children’s films must, at a parliamentary planning application session. No, honestly.

    And then some celebrities save the day. They’re a mixed bunch, and I suppose children might recognise some of them. Their function seems to be to propagate the Christmas message: Christmas is a time for self-promotion. Are the children in the audience meant to be impressed by Julian Fellowes playing himself? (And why did Lord Fellowes deign to appear anyway – isn’t he busy in the House of Lords voting to make people poorer?) And throughout there’s a gentle but gruff narration instantly recognisable as Liam Neeson. And yet this is meant to be a bit of a surprise (I think) judging from his appearance on screen at the end. He looks so uncomfortable he clearly knows it’s a bad idea (and this from someone who appeared in THE A TEAM voluntarily).

    The main children in the cast are agreeable enough, and the adult actors do their best but the script is horribly undercooked. One of the characters is a mayor who makes awful jokes – the problem being that all the supposedly funny jokes are terrible too. But Clements makes a reasonable fist of someone in a bit of a marginal pickle (except he’s not in a marginal pickle – his livelihood is threatened and his daughter’s at the age where she’s about to begin a decade detesting him). James-Collier puts in the sort of performance that bad guys in minor Disney films of the 60s used to give (I’m not sure if that’s a compliment) and Bronagh Waugh must’ve been bad as the film has no interest at all in her. Suranne Jones is the best of the name actors but she’s on screen for about one hundred seconds before realising that there’s nothing to be done and disappearing into the ether. As for Pierce Brosnan – he can’t have spent all that James Bond money can he?

    At 77 minutes the film still feels too long, but it also feels like a great deal has been cut. I shudder to think how bad those bits must be. What we do see is badly plotted, improbable and shot with about as much energy as a deflated balloon. Bizarrely, it isn’t even particularly manipulative, despite the best actor in the cast being a disabled child playing a character with wisdom beyond his years. It looks like it was filmed on a drab day in March. For the most part the actors are in fairly naturalistic mode, whereas it might have been more lively if they had veered toward pantomime or melodrama. The overall impression is of a film that they just couldn’t be bothered to make. You can almost see them in the planning meetings with a Christmas Things To Include Checklist. A checklist which didn’t include genuine warmth, wit, charm, magic and fantasy.

    But hang on, aren’t I being just a little bit harsh? After all it’s only a kids’ Christmas film to be watched whilst adults are busy cooking turkeys and wrapping presents. No I’m not being harsh, what could be more important than a good children’s Christmas film? They only get a dozen or so Christmases (if that) and film-makers shouldn’t be under-serving their audience – children aren’t idiots and they deserve better than half-hearted stories like this drivel (the same is true for the rest of us when trying to find good Christmas films to let us be kids again but that’s not so important). This is the sort of ridiculous stuff they put on those Christmas film channels that start broadcasting in September. Just when it can’t get any worse it turns into an advert for a particularly bland pop single. It’s enough to make you wish King Herod had succeeded in the first place.

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