Tuesday, December 10, 2013

White Christmas All Over Again

Yes, it snowed again this morning. It wasn't a case of deja vu, though. It was a little warmer this morning than it was on Sunday, and most of the streets had already been plowed and salted. The snow was coming down fast and thick, but the sky wasn't as dark, either.

I spent the morning working on Christmas cards while watching White Christmas. I figured that was appropriate, given the current weather. Two popular performers (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) and a girl singing act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) find themselves in a rundown Vermont inn for the holidays. Vermont has been experiencing a freak heat wave, and it's killing the business of the men's former Army commander, General Wavery (Dean Jagger). The guys fall back on the old "put on a show" trope and call their revue to drum up business. When the General feels depressed after being turned down for active duty, Crosby goes on TV to try to get their old Army unit together to buoy his spirits, even as mixed messages threaten his relationship with Clooney.

The musical numbers are the big thing here. The plot is really cute, especially in the first half during the emphasis on the show and the relationships between the guys and the girls. Things fall apart a bit towards the middle, thanks to some rather silly romantic comedy contrivances. The numbers, on the other hand, are still fun, from the girls' hilarious "Sisters" (the men lip-sync an even funnier version a few minutes later) to the Oscar-nominated ballad "Count Your Blessings." The best number, however, is in the first five minutes of the move. Bing sings the title song accompanied by nothing but a tinkling music box and bombs falling in the instance. It's a touching, lovely moment. Otherwise, this is snazzy fluff that's recommended for fans of Berlin, big 40s and 50s Technicolor musicals, or the four leads.

I vacuumed the fake needles and Mylar shreds from the tree and garlands towards the end of White Christmas, then ran two winter-themed animated specials while working on crocheting. Frosty Returns isn't a follow-up to the Rankin-Bass Frosty the Snowman.  In this original tale from 1992, a little girl named Holly and her very scientific friend Charles encounter the title snowman just as a nasty factory owner is touting his new formula that could completely eliminate snow...and Frosty's reason for existing. The trio do what they can to prove that snow does have its uses, and even a shy little girl can stand up for what she believes in.

Holly's not the only one have snow problems. In the Backyardigans' earlier holiday special "The Secret of Snow," Uniqua is also dying for the frozen precipitation to start. She travels to the factory of the Ice Lady (Tasha) and her bored assistant (Austin) to find out what the "secret of snow" is. Tasha has no patience for her questions and sends Uniqua first to the desert, then to the jungle. Uniqua comes back with Cowboy Pablo and Tyrone of the Jungle, who also want to see this thing called snow. They finally learn that there is no "secret of snow," but that friendship is even more important.

Work was surprisingly quiet after yesterday's mess. It was steady all night, with no major problems besides some grumpy people. While many local schools were closed today, the joke was on them. The roads had almost entirely been cleared. The snow was letting up by the time Rose drove me to work and was gone  when she picked me up at 6. In fact, the sun came out towards the end of the afternoon. It wasn't even that cold, and certainly not as cold as Sunday or it's supposed to be for the next few days.

When I got in, I made roasted Tilapia and Brussels sprouts and applesauce for dinner, then crocheted while watching Jack the Giant Slayer. In this re-imagining of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a daydreaming farmhand who finds himself in the adventure of a lifetime when the beans he got from a fleeing monk grow into an enormous beanstalk, and a giant at the top kidnaps the Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). He and several of the King's men, along with his head of the guards (Ewan MacGregor) and Isabelle's smarmy fiancee Roderick (Stanley Tucci) must rescue her from the giants...and then the entire kingdom when the giants invade their world.

I just didn't get into this one. The special effects were fairly impressive, and I liked how Isabelle's father the king wasn't set up to be a bad guy because he chose the wrong fiancee for her. MacGregor and Tucci were also stand-outs as the noble knight who understands fairy tales better than most and the obnoxious suitor who isn't what he seems. What brings this one down are the dull leads, who lack chemistry and sparkle (and Isabelle, despite saying she wants more responsibility, is constantly being rescued), and the very derivative story. This isn't anything you haven't seen before in anything from Dragonslayer to Lord of the Rings. Only recommended for fans of elaborate special effects adventures, MacGregor, or fantasy nuts.

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