Hidden Holiday Gems
by Cale Johnson
Everyone loves a good Christmas movie around the holidays, but most of us have seen Miracle on 34th Street so many times it’ll drive you crazy. Here are a few alternates that aren’t overplayed during the holiday rotation.
Love Actually (Romantic Comedy)
Alright, I know most guys usually dump this type of movie is into the “chick flick” category or immediately label it DO NOT WATCH. That is a mistake on their part. This feel-good film breaks the normal preconceptions about romantic comedies and shines independently as not only a great movie, but also a great holiday flick.
Set almost entirely in modern London, Love Actually tracks the interconnected lives of many strangers and the budding romances and losses they develop in the weeks preceding Christmas. With a strong British cast including Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Kiera Knightley, Emma Thompson and more, the film also contains surprising cameos by many other celebrities. Funny, charming, heartfelt and ultimately satisfying, Love Actually is not only a film which will get you bonus points with your lady friend. And guys–it’s also a film you will actually love.
Bad Santa (Dark Comedy)
Packed with crude humor, debased behavior and enough bad deeds to land you on Santa’s naughty list for years to come, Bad Santa is a guilty pleasure comedy. Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart or those easily offended.
Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie Stokes, a depressed, alcoholic mess of a thief whose idea of Christmas tradition involves masquerading as a department store Santa Claus with his ‘elf’ accomplice in their yearly scheme of robbing unsuspecting malls on Christmas Day. After a chance meeting with a lonely dimwitted boy and local bartending beauty, Willie begins to have second thoughts on the destructive, self-loathing nature of his life and the toll it inflicts on those around him. Bad Santa is definitely not a feel-good holiday film; however, it will have you rolling with laughter if you can overlook its derisive nature. Bad Santa focuses on the immoral actions of an alcoholic, when most opt for movies packed with family entertainment and holiday cheer.
A traveling salesman purchases a strange creature known as a Mogwai as a pet for his son Billy’s Christmas present, and he’s given three important instructions for its care: 1. Don’t let your Mogwai become exposed to bright lights; 2. Don’t ever let it get wet; and, most importantly, 3. NEVER feed your Mogwai after midnight.
Billy quickly breaks these rules, however, spawning several demented monsters known as Gremlins. Unleashed, they terrorize the small town on Christmas Eve. Produced by Steven Spielberg, Gremlins is a classic monster movie which spawned several other spin-offs, sequels and even a TV show. It was also one of the driving forces behind the creation of the PG-13 movie rating due to its controversial PG status at the time. If you are looking for an off-the-wall look at the Christmas movie formula gone awry, look no further than Gremlins.
Die Hard (Action)
Die Hard not a Christmas movie you say? I beg to differ. Once you wade through all of the explosions, the gunfights, the blood and all of the bad %#@&ing language, there’s a story of John McClane, a man determined to get home for Christmas–regardless of the body count he has to stack up to get there.
After flying to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and children, New York cop McClane (Bruce Willis) becomes unwittingly engulfed in a terrorist plot during his wife’s company Christmas party. The sole escapee, he is thrust into the involuntary role of hero. McClane begrudgingly begins a night-long feud, doing whatever he can to disrupt the terrorist’s plans and get his wife back. Countered by one of the best villains in film history, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), Die Hard is everything an action-lover could want in a Christmas movie (down to the soundtrack’s inclusion of Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC). So put up your stockings, decorate your tree and yell “Yippee Kay Aye”, enCORE readers: It’s Christmas!
Everyone has heard of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starring Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas. There have been countless books, cartoons and films that have brought the story to life, but one of my favorite and lesser-known adaptations of this classic tale stars Bill Murray.
Murray plays Frank Cross, a cold-hearted TV producer whose latest assignment is to produce a live telecast of A Christmas Carol. As he prepares for the show, his life begins to mirror the story he is producing. He’s visited throughout the evening by three ghosts from Christmases past, present and future. A funny and slightly darker take on Dickens’ story, Scrooged is a great film that refreshes the common tale.
Other Suggestions: A Nightmare Before Christmas and Ernest Saves Christmas