Christmas movies

Christmas 2015

Life has been busy lately. In this holiday season Amber and I have been in the full grip of responsibility and life. There has been fortune, trouble, luck, and misfortune but all fits into the regular hustle and bustle of reality. We have an excellent movie on deck in Reservoir Dogs but I have been waiting for the right time to jump into that one. Nevertheless I was prompted with the most obvious of questions the other day. When “top five Christmas movies?” came through my text device this was my reply:

Life of Brian
Die Hard
A Christmas Story
Christmas Vacation
Home Alone

With special mention to Love Actually and The Ref. I also suggested Scrooged and Bad Santa as in consideration. Christmas is by no means my favorite holiday and with two daughters and a wife it has done nothing but raped my wallet as the years progress. Yeah, I’ve been raped by Christmas, I said it. This holiday has lost all meaning in today’s society and stands as nothing more than an excuse for all of us to go out and waste our hard earned money on many things that will undoubtedly end up lost in the darkness of closet corners everywhere. In saying so I am simply suggesting that this is not a holiday I necessarily associate beloved movies with. However it is the center point of so many movies and such a rating category is necessary. I dropped these titles off the top of my head with little consideration but now I will explain why they made that list.

Life of Brian

In my younger days, in a strange gap between relationship responsibility I used to frequent a local bar. At this particular establishment they has a tradition every Thanksgiving. They stayed open and served Thanksgiving food while playing this film, as well as Christmas Vacation on all the TVs. One year I found myself at my favorite bar on Thanksgiving evening and was quite taken with the tradition. I had seen this movie before but hadn’t considered it a Christmas movie. Nevertheless it made perfect sense qualifying, it starts on the inaugural birthday of Baby Jesus. This one is a classic and easily one of my favorite comedies of all time. Check out our review with the link above for more on the film.

Die Hard

As I mention regularly; I grew up in an action junkie household and family. This is the father of all action films and it take place at Christmas! It counts, and it easily stands above most others by both precedent and quality. This movie both set the bar and created countless others that tried to emulate it with moderate success. The tradition lives on even until today with seemingly every effort made by Liam Neeson. For more on this one follow-up with our link above.

A Christmas Story

Who doesn’t love this film about Ralphie and his experiences on what was once such a magical holiday? For me it reminds me of what Christmas used to be and what I hope it still is for my own children. We don’t own this one, because we don’t need to. It’s a seasonal movie I love but I’m good with it once a year for 24 hours on TV. Having it on in the background on this day is part of the tradition. I sincerely hope that it always airs for the entire day for the rest of my life. I have always been a big fan of that broadcasting. I don’t remember when it started but for as long as I can remember it has been going on.

Christmas Vacation

I’ll be honest, this one was actually swapped out for Bad Santa in the original response. I do not love this movie as I have simply seen it too many times and don’t find it endearing as much as most. For me, it’s the movie too many people LOVE. I like the movie and think it captures Christmas exceptionally well but it’s just not that far up on the list for me. I love Chevy Chase in this, Beverly D’Angelo is special to me for so many reasons, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great, the kids are Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis, and the list goes on and on with special mention of Doris Roberts, she is so great. If I’m being totally honest it’s Uncle Eddie that brings it down for me. I have never been able to stomach Randy Quaid and this movie is the specific reason. His part is funny but the guy just rubs me the wrong way.

Home Alone

This one, the perennial film of my generation is really my favorite. With the adorable eight year old Macaulay Culkin this classic John Hughes film reminds me of home. This one is mine, my movie for the holiday for my generation. As I am prone to say, we never got enough of Joe Pesci and need to treasure everything we can. Even when his is desperately trying to mask his affluence for profanity. This is a great and hilarious movie that I love, for more of our thoughts on it click the link above.

Special mention Love Actually

I really hate to admit it but I do love this film. It’s funny and seasonal in exceptional ways. Even worse to admit, it always makes me cry. It’s one of the movies that reminds me I’m human and it brings out emotions I keep locked away in efforts to be a beacon of masculinity in a house full of females. It’s a wonderful and heart-felt movie I can’t deny despite my best efforts.

Special mention The Ref

This was actually intended to be our holiday based review for this Christmas but time did not allow. This is a really funny movie that we eventually intend to review in full. Maybe it will turn up next Christmas.

In consideration Bad Santa

This movie doesn’t have that warm and fuzzy Christmas feel but it’s all Christmas that’s for sure. I now cherish the movie most because of Bernie Mac. I thought he was a really funny comedian and we lost him too soon. This movie is a bit too crude and vile but it’s hard to deny how funny it is. Billy Bob Thorton uses the fuck word like great painters use a brush. He says it in a way that comes close but doesn’t quite match the capabilities of the greatest, Joe Pesci.

In consideration Scrooged

This is a really fun movie but it doesn’t make the list because it came to me too late. I don’t know how I managed to miss this movie over the years but saw it for the first time a couple of years ago. I love Bill Murray but I didn’t love this movie. I liked it just enough to keep it in mind when I suddenly threw together some titles though and if you are watching a Christmas movie you really can’t go wrong checking this one out.

This post was actually supposed to be up yesterday but the day got away from me. We had a truly wonderful Christmas this year that I think we will all remember fondly. I especially because in the mist of all the action this short list of Christmas reviews popped out of me along the way and I think it came out quite nicely. I have closed the door on the holiday the minute the clock struck 12 last night but for any of you who have lingering Christmas spirit any of these movies would great to check out while you ride that wave into the break. Merry Christmas 2015 and check us out next year when we will hopefully be able to publish a review for The Ref and with hope are far enough along in the collection to cover Scrooged as well.

 

 

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Love Actually

Year: 2003
Directed By: Richard Curtis
Written By: Richard Curtis

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s Christmas time and we have the happy coincidence to start the month with a Christmas themed film.  We aren’t going to do a themed month for the holiday like we did in October but this just happened to be our next film and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  This is a movie I have no qualms about admitting to how much I like.  It’s a chick flick if I have ever seen one and it took Amber quite a while to twist my arm into seeing it.  Once she did I was thoroughly surprised with how much I enjoyed the film and it’s provides me with a rare opportunity to recommend a film I normally wouldn’t.  This movie may fit every possible requirement to qualify as a chick flick but the movie is both funny and heartfelt.  It’s a touching film that even the most stone hearted man might find himself both laughing and crying over.

There could be plenty to cover in this film but I’m inclined to keep it simple on this one.  While I did like the film, it is what it is and I am not going to over analyze a chick flick.  I specifically like Bill Nighy in this movie.  He is a really funny actor that I have liked in many movies but in this one he is just over the top funny.  “Kids, don’t buy drugs….become a rock star and they give them to you for free!” I love the guy that randomly buys a plane ticket to America to marvel the women here with his British accent.  The fact that it works so well for him is hilarious because it is probably true.  While exaggerated in this movie there is still plenty of truth to the idea that American women will fall all over any English guy just because of his voice.  I love the stand-in actors played by Martin Freeman and Joanna Page. The way they keep having small talk while simulating sex scenes is hilarious.  It’s really funny that this guy is building up the courage to ask a woman out while he is going through the motions of sex with her.  The casual way he responds to the director’s suggestion that he massage her breasts is so funny.  It’s a bit sappy, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to really liking the Colin Firth story line too.  That part of the story is in full blown chick flick mode but it’s clever and touching all the same. I normally wouldn’t admit to it but the story line got me on a deep down lovey dovey level that doesn’t surface very often.

There is one part of this film that I absolutely hate and it’s the Andrew Lincoln/Keira Knightley/Chiwetel Ejiofor story. The film starts with Knightley and Ejiofor getting married and Andrew Lincoln is Ejiofor’s best man and best friend.  Lincoln is secretly in love with Knightley though and the story culminates at the end with Lincoln secretly professing the love he knows he can never act on for Knightley to her. I think that Ejiofor would be justified in beating his best friend into the dirt after that scene and always regret that it doesn’t happen when I watch the film. What kind of man has feelings like that for his best friend’s wife and then has the nerve to tell her such after she is already married? It’s bad enough that he simply feels that way but it’s the kind of feeling you take to your grave.  His little moment in the end when he lets her read his feelings while his best friend sits unknowingly upstairs is shameful.  It’s cool to look back at this movie now that Andrew Lincoln has reached stardom as Rick Grimes on The Walking Deadbut it’s disappointing to see him play such a douche bag.  Yeah you can look at this movie and say things like “he didn’t actually do anything wrong” or “he never acted on his feelings” but he did.  His actions would only lead to an inevitable affair later down the road one way or another.  They could pick up this story line for a sequel and call it “Divorce Actually.”

There are plenty of other great story lines and performances in this movie as well.  I typically despise Hugh Grant but must admit he delivered a good performance in this movie as the British Prime Minister.  I also specifically like the casting of Billy Bob Thorton as the American President.  He seems to be a bit of a combination President merging qualities from both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  A blasphemous thing to do politically from an American point of view but they can get away with it in a film set in Britain.  I have always been a big fan of Alan Rickman but his role in this movie isn’t the best.  It’s not because of his performance just because of how the role was written.  I feel bad for this guy really because any of us can fall victim to what he went through.  He doesn’t go out looking to start an affair but when a really attractive woman relentlessly pursues him he is powerless to stop it.  He is in the wrong to pursue at all, clearly, but like the previously mentioned American President he was just couldn’t stop himself in the face of a woman throwing herself at him.

Now that I have already mentioned doing this review briefly it didn’t take long for my thoughts to quickly add up.  The last thing I want to mention is the role of Liam Neeson.  A very nice story that he performs well in.  I have joked many times since seeing this movie that my wife is in love with Liam Neeson because of how she reacted to the part.  I’ll set the record straight now. Amber isn’t really in love with Liam Neeson, but this is the movie that started the joke I use to annoy her so.  I like Neeson but don’t understand why he has lowered himself to some of the silly type of film roles he takes now.  I’m specifically talking about Taken and its sequel.  I have heard so many people talk about how good those movies were and I want to look at all of them and ask “why???” Liam Neeson isn’t Jack Bauer or John Rambo and that’s all aside from the point that I think the time for movies like Taken was in the 90s.  Liam Neeson can do better. We see that he is capable of more in this movie specifically, and I literally think he is doing himself a disservice with his action roles.

This is a good movie and a perfect one to see during this holiday season.  There is no shortage of good Christmas films out there and this one belongs in the rotation of such.  When it comes to a chick flick, a guy could sit through a lot worse because not only does this movie not suck but it is quite funny.  So, gentlemen, if you want to please your spouses this holiday season with a film geared more toward her taste than yours then check this film out.  I know it is probably a really appetizing idea to see Christmas Vacation for the 100th time because it never gets old but this one will make her really happy and you will probably find yourself laughing much more than you would have expected.  This movie is without doubt worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I never wanted to watch this movie, let alone love it as much as I do. This is one of my absolute favorites. I really love how it takes different love stories all going on in the same area and ties the people together. The ultimate message of the story is that “love actually is all around us.”

loveactuallyLet’s montage another poster you guys! They managed to fit 10 different people on this poster. And on top of that they gift wrapped the poster. Ugh I hate it. I think it would have been prettier and more effective if it didn’t look like such a cheesy holiday movie poster. The home screen for the DVD is beautiful. It shows a sliced up heart moving in pieces. It is really a strong graphic. I think it would have suited here too. And these people have all already made such a name for themselves that their faces aren’t even needed. I think they could have listed them and it would have been just as effective as their faces.

I am sorry to have to say I hate this poster when I love the movie so much. It’s unfortunate, but true. The typography of the title is okay, not amazing, so at least it has that.

NEXT MOVIE: Machete (2010)

Home Alone

Year: 1990
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Written By: John Hughes

When we reached this movie in the collection months ago we tried to watch and review it but it just didn’t feel right.  It can be difficult to get into a Christmas movie as Halloween season approaches so we decided to postpone this review.  The season has arrived now and with Christmas just days away the time to review this movie has finally come.  This movie has everything needed to set the tone for the holiday.  Family frustration, lights, snow, Christmas songs, and a smoking Santa are all on board here.  What gives this one an edge over others is that it also has bandits, and the most bad ass kid of all time.

I was six years old when this movie came out and at my age Kevin McCallister was practically a God.  He did something that all kids around my age dreamed of but in reality would never be able to handle.  I specifically remember my mother telling me one time that could never do this after pointing out a major mess Kevin had made and then telling me I would never have cleaned it up as he appears to have done later in the film.  To that I now say “Ha! Yeah, that’s the thing I couldn’t have handled….” Kevin McCallister was a kid with the where with all to not only survive on his own and keep his house clean, but he also thwarted criminals. They may have been two of the dumbest criminals in the world but that just made the movie more fun. The criminals may have been stupid, but Kevin had some master planning skills when it came to setting booby traps.  Something else I think all kids at my age strived for in the early 90s.  The Goonies had seen to that.

When this movie came out it was an instant hit and went on to gross over $285 million. It topped Ghostbusters as the highest grossing comedy of all time. I don’t know that this movie was better than Ghostbusters but it is a pretty awesome movie in a completely different way.  John Hughes was a great filmmaker and had a knack for making movies that made their mark on society.  What I think is interesting in this movie is how you can see John Hughes in it.  The scene where Kevin is looking at himself in the mirror and talking is so similar to the one we saw in Ferris Bueller when Ferris is getting ready. Specifically the combing of his hair while giving a monologue to himself, and singing with the comb as a microphone. It was really unfortunate to lose Hughes back in 2009, but he left us plenty to remember him for and this movie is high up on that list.

I love the cast for this movie.  Macaulay Culkin was incredible in the role of Kevin McCallister.  He had a lot on his shoulders as the center of the film and the kid handled it with what looked like all the potential in the world.  America fell in love with him in this role but things never really panned out for him.  I am aware he has an unfortunate story to his career but I do not know enough to write about it.  I do remember once hearing that My Girl was what destroyed his career.  In that movie he played a part in which he died and I remember hearing somewhere that dying in that movie turned the audience off of him.  I don’t know if that is true or not but I think it sucks that things worked out for him the way they did. I saw a couple of his efforts to come back years ago in the movie Saved and the show Kings but those didn’t get him anywhere.  No matter what happens though he will always be remembered for this film and the role he played.  He is the biggest reason for how successful this movie was really.  I honestly couldn’t imagine any other kid playing this part and having the same kind of charisma and comedy that Macaulay Culkin had.

He wasn’t alone in being great in this movie.  I think Catherine O’Hara was terrific as the mother.  She has graced so many movies I loved and given the influence this movie had on me I always tend to think of her as a mother.  That same influence made me always think fondly of John Heard as a father too but the only other thing I have seen him in was The Sopranos and his role in the show killed that image. I think Joe Pesci is awesome and respect the fact that he can star in a family comedy like this.  That man has played some of the most savage characters ever and he drops the F-bomb like nobody else, except maybe Billy Bob Thorton. Pesci was great in this movie but Daniel Stern should not go unmentioned.  He is the goofier of the two idiot criminals and he was very funny in the role.  Speaking of people who shouldn’t go unmentioned, John Candy had a role in this film.  John Candy was a great actor and a very funny personality.  He died when I was a teenager and every time I see him now I wish he had lived longer and given us more movies.

This is not my favorite Christmas movie but nevertheless it is one of the best.  I think it is right up there with A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and Die Hard. All of those movies are really old now and that says something about the Christmas movies they make these days.  If you are looking for a movie to get you into the spirit of the holidays I strongly suggest this one, or any of the others I just mentioned.  It takes a special movie to get you in the spirit for this holiday and this one does that in spades.  This was a movie that set the tone for the decade to follow and it will be remembered for all time. You don’t need me to tell you this movie is worth your time because you undoubtedly already know.  I hear that the younger generation is confused by the movie because today we are all so connected through technology that it would never happen and that is a shame.  I hope today’s youth can still find something to appreciate about this movie because it is awesome and deserves to be appreciated.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I have always loved this movie. This is the first film I remember watching when I was a little girl and I remember laughing the hardest that I had ever laughed at the time. This is a classic Christmas movie and very close to my heart, along with almost every other person my age.

homealoneI actually really like this poster. It has the window in the back, with the robbers peeking through, and then Kevin is front and center in his signature hands-to-the-face scream pose. They even created a very recognizable logo for this movie. That doesn’t always happen, but I do like when it happens and it works.

Bad Santa

Year: 2003
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff
Written By: Glenn Ficarra

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve said before that sometimes vulgarity can be a necessity for adults, in this case I think this movie will fill that need for an eternity if need be.  This movie goes a little over the top for 87 of its 91 minutes but you should know that going in, it lives up to its name.  I was in college when this movie came out and thought it was hilarious, as a father I feel a little different about it.  I still enjoy it now, but I feel bad about it.  This movie is dirtier than it needs to be and while it might be funny that doesn’t make it right.

I remember when this movie came out Billy Bob Thorton was considered really popular, this was either during or shortly after his relationship with Angelina Jolie.  It was a really weird union if I remember correctly, needless to say it received a lot of press.  Bernie Mac is here in top form.  He was an incredibly funny man who made all the movies he appeared in better.  He died much too young, I was very upset by the sudden loss.  Bernie Mac’s sudden death, along with the fact that John Ritter died during filming have led people to declare this movie cursed. Regardless of any curse or misfortune, the untimely loss of both of these men was unfortunate. Tony Cox is very funny in this movie as well, he is a talented actor.

This movie seemed funnier to me in college than it does to me now but I think it is validated by the fact that the Coen brothers were involved in the movie as Executive Producers. If you want to indulge in awful things and enjoy something dirty then check this movie out.  If it is Christmas time then start playing this movie when you want your parents to leave, but at some point during the season do turn it on after the kids have gone to sleep and you are sick of all the fake holiday spirit.  It’s sad, but in many ways Billy Bob Thorton’s Santa Claus is the true face of today’s Christmas.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Who doesn’t love this movie? WHO? I think this movie is a breath of fresh Christmas air. It is light and funny and finally gives us a Christmas movie that isn’t all filled with feelings. Well, okay maybe it does give you a little bit of feelings, but they aren’t the usual tidings of joy. I think this movie is perfect. They picked a perfect actor for the leading role and I think he epitomizes every Santa Claus in every mall of America. And also I would like to give a shout out and kudos to the lates John Ritter and Bernie Mac. Both were awesome and both were lost in untimely manners. This film is one that I MUST watch every Christmas. It is crude, it is wrong and it is perfect.

NEXT MOVIE: Balls of Fury (2007)