‘Tis the season to be spreading holiday cheer. Hollywood does its part every year by cranking out a host of holiday-themes movies. In this week’s Roundtable, we look at some of our favorites.
Joining us this week is Nate Boss, one of our site’s Blu-ray reviewers. We’ll let him start things off.
- ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ – No, this isn’t the best iteration of the Charles Dickens classic, not by a long shot. But it may be the best version to introduce children to the story with. And let’s be honest, Christmas isn’t for adults. This animated short runs about a third of the length of any other version of ‘A Christmas Carol’, and kitbashes the numerous Disney icons into their logical corresponding roles. The first Disney film to contain Mickey in about 30 years, it’s short enough to stay fast and interesting, rather than drawn out and gaudy like a few other Dickens adaptations. It adds a cuteness factor that to this day has yet to be matched. Disney perfectly utilizes the Scrooge McDuck character (and I truly want to forget the awful that was ‘Ducktales’….wooooo-ooooo) in what may be his defining moment. The movie also nails the “casting” for the horribly annoying Jiminy Cricket as the moral compass/conscience of Disney. With three times as much heart of the Jim Carrey version in less than a third of the time, this oft-passed-over Disney gem is perhaps the only instance where a retelling of a story solely to utilize a stable of characters is actually entertaining, not just pandering.
- ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘ – I’m going completely traditional here. We watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ every year at least once. I think I could recite it from memory – so many great quotes. It has a fantastic cast of characters and heartwarming storylines. It just makes me feel all warm inside, though I do understand that it’s a bit too much feel-good for some people. If you’ve never seen the stick figure version of the bridge scene, catch it here.
- ‘Die Hard‘ – It’s fine watching normal Christmas movies, but after a while they all start to mush together. Most are a play on ‘A Christmas Carol’ with varying degrees of silliness. “Someone loses their/doesn’t have any faith in Christmas, but then it’s restored/discovered!” Boring. Plus, irrelevant to me, since I’m less about Jesus and Santa and more about spending time with my family. That’s what Christmas is to me, and that’s why it just doesn’t get any better than ‘Die Hard’. Sure, there are explosions and shootouts, but that’s not what the movie is about. It’s about a regular Joe trying to reunite with his wife on Christmas Eve, and that’s as good as it gets.
- ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang‘ – One day I’ll write a book, or at least a collection of critical essays, about the work of writer Shane Black. The book (or collection of essays, I haven’t decided yet) will be called “Cops & Christmas.” Because if there are two things that Shane Black loves, they’re cops and Christmas. Several of his screenplays, including ‘Lethal Weapon‘ and guilty pleasure ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight‘, take place around Christmas, and almost every one of his scripts involves a character who’s either a cop or a private detective (even ‘The Monster Squad‘). But my favorite Shane Black cops n’ Christmas joint is his lone directorial effort, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’. In it, a pre-comeback Robert Downey Jr., along with a pre-puffiness Val Kilmer, uncover a hopelessly complex conspiracy. The time of year, it just so happens, is Christmas. So there are lots of girls in skimpy Santa outfits and a great opening sequence with RDJ robbing a toy store. Like the best, most affective Christmas movies, it puts you into the holiday spirit without you even noticing. Also, it’s one of the most underrated movies of the new millennium. Check it out, you ho ho ho.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- ‘Jack Frost‘ – The instant I finished reading the topic for this week’s Roundtable, the first movie that sprang to mind was ‘Jack Frost’. No, not the Michael Keaton “You da man!” / “No, I da snowman!” kiddie flick that everyone would just as soon forget. I mean the schlocky horror-comedy about a bloodthirsty mutant snowman. When a prison transport truck crashes into a tanker full of experimental genetic acid, a serial killer’s DNA is fused with the snow around him, and he sets off on the sleepy little town of Snowmonton to continue his reign of terror. Jack can smother victims to death in his snow white tummy, he can melt himself into water to duck into locked cars and rooms, he can fling razor-sharp icicles to skewer the townsfolk, and…yeah, he’s pretty much indestructable. ‘Jack Frost’ is most fondly remembered for a then-unknown Shannon Elizabeth being assaulted in a bathtub by a snowman who’s figured out something else to do with his carrot nose. The climax swirls around an arsenal of blow dryers and poisoned oatmeal. It probably goes without saying that every last second of ‘Jack Frost’ is ridiculous, and it’s a movie I’ve tried to force on anyone who’ll listen for more than ten years now.
- ‘A Christmas Story‘ – This is the perfect holiday movie, as far as I’m concerned. Its mixture of sweet-natured nostalgia with a hint of cynicism hits all the right notes for me, and for a lot of other people too, apparently. There’s a reason TBS runs it in a 24 hour marathon every Christmas. Although it was a box office bomb when it was first released in 1983, the film has grown in stature and claimed its place as a bona fide classic. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” Enough said.
- ‘Miracle on 34th Street‘ – My absolute favorite holiday movie is ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ – the original 1947 classic version in black and white. It’s a Christmas movie for even the most cynical of holiday scrooges, and proves beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that Santa Claus is alive and well and living at an old folks home on Long Island. It’s charming, funny, and sentimental without becoming sappy. Unlike other Christmas classics like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘A Christmas Story’, it was a hit right out of the gate, picking up three Oscars including one for Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. A very young Natalie Wood shows why she was one of the most sought-after child actors of her time. She’s adorable without being cloying, and smart without being precocious. Maureen O’Hara is fantastic as Doris, a surprisingly modern heroine for 1947. She has great chemistry with John Payne’s Fred. I can’t say enough good things about this movie. What are you waiting for? Grab a cup of cocoa and fire up the Blu-ray.
Now tell us your favorites.