Archive for Christmas

My Favorite Holiday Films (Updated)

Posted in list with tags , , , , , , , on 11/12/2014 by Kevin Entrekin

A few years back I wrote an article listing my five favorite Christmas films, and in review it was a combination of bad writing and lame choises. I included Home Alone and It’s A Wonderful Life in that list. And if I’m honest, as enjoyable as those films are, I will survive each year without viewing either of them. Because I don’t really enjoy most films with a heavy focus on the holidays, more the ones that just happen to take place during the season. So here is my updated, true, five six or seven favorite X-Mas films. And maybe they’ll be aides in your survival of the holidays as well.

  •  Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

kkbb

If I could choose only one film to consider essential personal viewing during the holidays, I’d choose Shane Black’s genre-blending Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. What more could you want? Murder. Mystery. An inept Robert Downey Jr. Val Kilmer as a gay private eye. And femmes Michelle Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon round out an even more expansively talented cast in a modern, comical noir. Black’s name has more provenance since last year with his sophomore directing effort, a little indie flick called Iron Man 3. And he wrote another film on this list, but more on that later. But this film, clever and underratedly brilliant, is still one of my favorite films.

  • Die Hard (1988)

dh

I have only ever seen two Die Hard films. The original McClane classic and then the terrible A Good Day to Die Hard. And I’m fine with that. The original has a plethora of fun and mayhem to satisfy each repeat viewing. You get a primed and smart-ass Bruce Willis facing off against wicked Alan Rickman set in Nakatomi Towers. There is an unmistakable 80’s aesthetic without straying too far into a cliche or becoming formulaic. Think of it like this: A crappy Christmas party you were invited to, but exciting and fun. Well, that’s the plot. You get the comparison though, right?

  • Trading Places (1983)

jlc4Time to buffer that action with some comedy, and what better way to do that than with this classic John Landis 80’s Pauper-adaptation. It has many great actors at the height of their careers. Eddie Murphy is hilarious yet sincere as a poor black man given a job as a stock trader. Dan Aykroyd is equally entertaining as snooty stock trader turned poor white man. And Jamie Lee Curtis, whom (no secret) I very much adore, is charming as a smart prostitute with a heart of gold. Trading Places has that special Landis charm and whit that combined with this cast makes for an heart-warming comedic romp.

  • Lethal Weapon (1987)

lethal-weapon-2I love the Lethal Weapon films. They’re a guilty pleasure that I don’t really feel guilty about. It’s odd to me, that modern action films shy away from such a brilliant formula as these films. Yeah, you get to switch off and just watch, but not like now where people have to wipe away dribble from their lips at the end of a Michael Bay film. Did LW get a little ridiculous? Better believe it. I mean, a guy gets killed by a flying surfboard in the sequel. But there was some intelligence to these films, something to keep you lucid and connected. Before Gibson went nutty and Glover was actually too old for anything, they were one of the best buddy cop duos around. Well, they still are. And that Shane Black guy mentioned earlier? Yeah, he wrote it.

  •  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

ChristmasVacation07

A December nary passes the Entrekin household before watching Clark Griswald’s decent into middle-class holiday hell. To this day, this comedic observation of those quirky people we call family is still relevant. Considering that this film comes from the Lampoon’s, a studio that pumps out about fifteen films a year and the last one that was of any relevance was… Christmas Vacation, that’s quite impressive.  Most everyone has a Eddie in the family, albeit a good bit more racist. Most everyone has heavily medicated grandparents that just stare at the tele and have the age-old conversation of how “the good ole days are gone”. And most everyone has strung out parents just trying to hold everything barely together.

  • Batman Returns (1992)

batmanbatman1I mean… Keaton as Bats. Pfieffer as (the quintessential) Catwoman. DeVito as Penguin. Gloomy neo-gothic Gotham. Can’t go wrong. I’d even go ahead and throw in the original Batman film as a warm up to Returns as well. It also has a winter drabness and why not have a mini-marathon of the Tim Burton masterpieces? It’s also a nice reminder of simpler times, pre-Marvel and Zach Snyder CGI projectile spewing.

Yeah, the holidays can be hell sometimes. The haze of Christmas lights and seasonal scents and corporate greed sends some into a sedated existence. And then there are the Christmas social media defenders. You know, the ones who get really worked up and hateful when underprivileged people point out inequality in America. The type you mostly wonder why you added them to your Facebook in the first place.  The ones who like to share a “IT’S MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS” photo everyday. Screw those grinches. Anyways, this time of year can get pretty heavy for a lot of people. So spike that egg nog just a bit more, kick back with these films, and drift away from Grandpa Ulysses’ snoring.

Advertisements

I Saw A Film Today… Arthur Christmas

Posted in Film Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15/12/2011 by Kevin Entrekin

Arthur Christmas initially didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I had not heard much about it and that either means I was being a wee lazy or that it was so poorly advertised that it would come and go without much notice. But it stuck around at the theater and most of the people who came out of praising it, child and adult alike. So like some screen gems I’ve seen this year, I went in expecting little and coming out impressed. Although I really could of used less Bieber in it.

******

Christmas Eve is a big night in the Claus household for Santa (Jim Broadbent). Well, it used to be. Now with the modernization of the Christmas present delivery system by his son Steve (Hugh Laurie), Santa goes along more symbolically than anything else. Santa’s other son Arthur (James McAvoy) is a clumsy bloke and is assigned to letter responding duties. And after a successful night of delivering gifts to all the good children in the world, it is time for everyone to settle down for a night of rest.

That is until it comes to the attention of Arthur and Steve that one present didn’t get delivered- a pink bike to a little girl named Gwen in England. Steve and Santa chalk this up to a mistake that can’t be fixed. But this is unacceptable to Arthur, who immediately begins looking for alternative methods to get the gift to Gwen.

When all seems lost to Arthur, Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) comes up with a wild idea: to hitch up the old reindeer to his old sled and deliver it themselves. Accompanied by an elf named Bryony (Ashley Jensen) and not much else, the three set of a an adventure around the world. But will they get the gift to Gwen before the Christmas sun shines in her bedroom window?

Arthur Christmas is a surprising modern Christmas film in that it is really good. Most films in the holiday genre in the last couple of years strictly try to aim for the nostalgia value or trying to recreate It’s A Wonderful Life to an extent. This film doesn’t mess with that and just makes it it’s own.

There are a few complaints I have about it. One obviously being the “3-D” technology. I just don’t get why studios continue to think people enjoy this gimmick. I’ve never really met anyone who said at the end of their film “boy, the 3-D really made that movie.” Another thing this film could of used less of is the plague known as Justin Bieber. Really, Bieber and Christmas are not two things that go together.

As far as voice acting goes, you can’t get much better. You get a wide and fantastic selection of British actors, ranging from Dr. House himself to the always magical Bill Nighy. James McAvoy seems to have found a happy place in voice acting and is just great as Arthur. And the amazing Ms. Ashley Jensen should not be overlooked.

Arthur Chirstmas was a pleasant surprise this holiday season. When the only other major Christmas film released this year has been another Harold & Kumar mess, this looks like gold. But then again this film is golden anyways. It’s wonderful for adults and children alike. If you’ve ever wondered how Santa get all his presents delivered, then you’ll know after watching this.

Vedict: SEE IT! (IN 2-D)

*Rated PG for some mild rude humor.

Comments? Opinions? Leave them below.