Arthur Christmas

Christmas is a popular time of year for many reasons.  Some people like the winter season, some like the music, some like the deals on shopping, some like the food, some like the time with family, and Hollywood likes to give us Christmas movies.

Arthur Christmas is an animation about the Christmas family–GrandSanta, Santa Malcolm and his wife, wannabeSanta Steve, and Arthur.  What I liked about the movie is that the Christmases are a bit dysfunctional, like most families.  GrandSanta reminisces about life in his time, Santa doesn’t want to turn the reins over to Steve, who’s next in line, and Arthur doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.

This might sound like Arthur Christmas is making fun of Christmas, but it’s not.  Arthur loves Christmas so much that others think he’s obsessed, and no one really takes him seriously.  It turns out that he’s the one who believes in the real “spirit” of Christmas–making sure no one is forgotten.

Arthur Christmas is humorous and well-done, with a number of subtle jokes that I particularly enjoyed.  The people cast to do the voices were spot-on as well, especially Hugh Laurie as Steve and James McAvoy as Arthur.  Arthur Christmas is a thoroughly enjoyable movie that I think the whole family could enjoy.  I recommend that you check it out and celebrate the season!

I mentioned the BBC show “Blackadder” in one of my previous posts, but it deserves a review of its own.  The first season of “The Black Adder” or “Blackadder” was released in 1983, while the second season didn’t air until 1986.  It seems the writers took that time to solidify the characters, since the show takes on a new depth in the second season.

I managed to get my hands on a complete set of “Blackadder” (four seasons).  I wasn’t that impressed with season one, but I kept watching.  Rather glad I did, wot?

Like I said, in the second season, “Blackadder II,” the characters are solidified, and people like Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry become regular cast members.  In fact, Fry plays Lord Melchett, advisor to Queen Elizabeth–played as wonderfully insane by Miranda Richardson.

Rowan Atkinson is, of course, Edmund Blackadder, no matter what the era or season.  Blackadder always has his faithful idiot companion, Baldrick, played by Tony Robinson, no matter his own station in life.

The third season may be one of my favorites, if only because of Hugh Laurie as the incredibly stupid Prince Regent George.  I recommend that anyone who likes the show “House, MD” should watch “Blackadder III” so they can see Laurie’s talent as an actor.  Those used to his arrogant swagger as House may be surprised at his ability to play someone who is too stupid and pampered to dress himself properly.

For those who have ever seen any of Atkinson’s “Mr. Bean” movies or shows, they may be surprised by “Blackadder.”  “Mr. Bean” is mostly slapstick comedy, full of pratfalls, facial contortions, and stupidity.  Edmund Blackadder, on the other hand, is clever, sarcastic, witty, and ambitious.  It is Blackadder’s ambition, both to gain power and money, that often gets him in trouble.

“Blackadder” is full of British humor, which means there are many references to boys’ schools, as well as the typical bathroom humor.  However, there is a certain wittiness in the presentation and in the subject matter that makes it appealing.  And since each season takes place in a different era, one can learn a little bit about history, or at least how the English might view parts of history.

I’ve jolly well had loads of fun watching it!

I read a number of P.G. Wodehouse’s stories when I was younger.  Instead of being "the butler did it" stories, they are "the valet saved the day" stories.  The stories are about Bertie Wooster, a rich young man, and Jeeves, his valet.  Wooster spends most of his time in his men’s club or other such brainless pursuits.  Jeeves spends much of his time fixing the messes that Wooster makes.

In the early ’90s, there was even a British TV show called "Jeeves & Wooster."  It starred Hugh Laurie as Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves.  Brilliant casting, I must say.

Laurie is able to play the dumb, happy Wooster so well that viewers might think he really is stupid.  Fry, on the other hand, it spot-on as the imperturbable and intelligent Jeeves.  He can inject layers of meaning into his very proper responses to his master.

"Jeeves & Wooster" is a pleasant, amusing show, and gives viewers an interesting view of England between the wars.

Like House, only better!

It was time to take a break from doing physical work to do some mental, analytical work.  During DIY project breaks, I managed to watch a few more episodes of "Lie To Me."  After NCIS, it has become my new favorite show.

"Lie To Me" has some similarities to "House, MD": they are both driven by an often snarky, brutally honest, passionately secretive, brilliantly intelligent lead.  Dr. Gregory House on "House, MD," and Dr. Cal Lightman on "Lie To Me."

The interesting thing is that although both leads–Hugh Laurie as House and Tim Roth as Lightman–are British, Laurie plays an American while Roth plays an Englishman in America.  Both characters are well-educated, opinionated, and sometimes offensive.  However, for me the similarities end there.  I used to love "House."  I would look forward to each show, waiting for House to bully his way to a diagnosis.  About halfway through season two, I started losing interest.  The characters all seemed to stagnate, for some reason.  House was no longer amusing; he was merely abrasive and annoying.  I watched several more seasons, but disliked the show the more I watched it.

The same thing could happen to "Lie To Me," of course.  However, the show has stronger secondary characters, more like "NCIS" than "House."  And I think the show also has a more interesting premise.

Dr. Lightman is a "deception expert" who is hired by people trying to figure out if they are being lied to.  Part of why the show works so well is the use of actual footage of people lying (O.J, Clinton, Nixon, etc.) to compare with video of the person Lightman is investigating.  The show is made more interesting because Lightman often catches those who hired him lying.

I do think, however, that what really makes the show is Roth.  He is able to capture a man obssessed with truth and lies and yet portray him as a real person.  Lightman can mask his own feelings well, except when he is dealing with his daughter.  In many of those instances, his vulnerability shows through clearly, even when he tries to hide it.

"Lie To Me" is an excellent show; I highly recommend it!