Friday, December 3, 2010

Popcorn - Unconventional Christmas Films

New feature time! I miss writing about film, so I thought it would be fun to occasionally post mini-film reviews (in a similar vein to Snack Size). These ones are a tad longer (I must learn to rein in my desire to elaborate on everything) and are all suggestions for some holiday viewing, especially for those who may not be as, well, full of Christmas cheer like myself. Hope you enjoy!

Bad Santa (2003)
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac

It’s a dark comedy about Willie Stokes, an alcoholic thief (who has surely earned the top spot on the Naughty List), who poses as a department store Santa as part of a scheme to rob the store’s earnings on Christmas Eve. Willie ‘befriends’ a lonely kid and gets a small dose of Christmas spirit. I remember seeing this at the cinema and the audience was in hysterics. I spent most of the movie wanting to cry for poor Thurman Merman (the kid) as the perfect example of a child falling through the cracks (also any films with bullying make me cry). On the flipside, Billy Bob Thornton is oddly charming as Willie, and if you like your comedies lewd, crude and very rude, this is the Christmas film for you.
PS. I also feel the need to warn any Gilmore Girls fans – if you watch this, you may never feel the same way about Lorelai Gilmore again!

Trivia: Bad Santa marks the last on-screen appearance of John Ritter.

Gremlins (1984)
Directed by Joe Dante
Starring: Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates

One of my favourite childhood movies! Billy receives an unusual pet from his father for Christmas – a mogwai (a cute ball of fluff named Gizmo), who comes with his own set of strict instructions (no bright lights, don’t get them wet and the most important of all – no food after midnight!). Of course, all these rules are broken in a fairly quick succession, resulting in Billy’s small town of Kingston Falls is overrun with gremlins, who are intent on causing mayhem amongst the Christmas Eve festivities. Whilst Gremlins is a great film, it is also the film that hugely impacted on my own understanding of Christmas as a child – I don’t want to spoil it, but Phoebe Cates’ “childhood Christmas trauma” story kind of scarred me for life.
Trivia: The set of Kingston Falls was also used for Back to the Future (1985) - on the Universal backlot.

Die Hard (1988)
Directed by John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman

Ok, so Die Hard definitely isn’t your conventional Christmas film – but it is set on Christmas Eve, at a company Christmas party (that counts right?). The festivities are disrupted the arrival of a terrorist group (lead by the delicious Alan Rickman, in what I believe is his first feature film role!) Never fear, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is here, to try and save the building, kill the terrorists and reunite with his estranged wife – all in time for Christmas morning (and maybe some eggnog under the tree after the credits roll – yes? Too optimistic?). For an action movie, Die Hard has quite a very well-developed plot and doesn’t rely solely on a big budget of effects. Perfect for people who don’t want any schmaltzy crap or festive warm-fuzzies, seriously go watch Die Hard - yippee kai yay.
Trivia: Bruce Willis was the sixth choice for the character of John McClane (Seriously? Can you even imagine anyone else in the role now?)

More viewing suggestions:
Santa with Muscles (1996)
Black Christmas (either the 1974 version or the 2006 remake)
Jack Frost (1996 - another chrorror film = Christmas + horror)
Also in the Chrorror genre - Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) and Santa Claws (1996)


Adele said...

I can't believe I am about to write this but I have not seem one of these movies. I have however seen Die Hard 3 three freaking times :)

Girl Friday said...

Hahaha, Adele that is hilarious! Alas, I haven't yet seen Die Hard 3, but I have watched the first one a handful of times (surprisingly it's my mum's favourite film...). Though seriously, I still can't look at Lauren Graham on Parenthood anymore without thinking of her perfomance in Bad Santa.

Nic @ Irresistible Reads said...

I love Gremlins. When I was a kid I thought it was so scary not it just a lot fun to watch :)

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