Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You'd Better Watch Out: Volume 2

A few years back I did a post in December about my favorite unconventional Christmas films. It contained a number of alternatives to gold standards like It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. It's a pretty good list that covers most of the obvious choices (e.g. Die Hard) and a few obscure cult favorites (e.g. Better Off Dead). I thought it might be interesting to revisit the subject, drill a little deeper, and see what else might be appropriate for continuing that list. So here are 10 more films set during the holiday season which you might want to seek out as a break from the mainstream classics:

1 - 12 Monkeys: This apocalyptic sci-fi film is a reworking of the French classic La Jetee by former Python Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis travels into the past to stop a deadly virus from being unleashed on the world . . . at Christmas. Gilliam's wonderful visuals are in full effect here, and Brad Pitt turns in perhaps his best performance ever as an insane activist.

2 - Jack Frost (1998): This bizarre holiday film has Michael Keaton dying in an accident and being reincarnated as a snowman. Due to the inherent creepiness of the snowman effects, the movie ends up being more unsettling than heartwarming. Still it's got Michael Keaton and that alone warrants viewing.

3 - Jack Frost (1997): An intentionally creepy rendition of Jack Frost that has a serial killer mutated into snowman form by toxic chemicals. This one is pure cheese, so if that's your thing you can't go wrong here.

4 - Die Hard 2: Die Harder: I never will forget the day a friend of mine in high school told me they were making a sequel to Die Hard called Die Harder. I thought he was kidding, but in the summer of 1990 I found out he was telling the truth. Bruce Willis is back for another Christmas adventure, this time at an airport. Not as good as the first one, but features a great villain and an appearance by Franco "Django" Nero which is always welcome.

5 - Batman Returns: Okay two Bruce Willis and Michael Keaton movies in the unconventional countdown, that's just plain weird! Or maybe not, I can't decide. Either way the second Tim Burton Batman film, despite plenty of flaws, is still the best Batman movie (and Keaton the best big screen Batman). Batman has to deal not only with the rush of the holiday season, but also with a criminal alliance between Catwoman and The Penguin (who we learn is the son of Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens). Great stuff.

6 - Scrooged: You have to love Bill Murray, or not I can't decide. Either way this is a pretty cool dark comedy from the late 80's. The opening fake trailer for the equally fake movie The Night the Reindeer Died, starring Lee Majors, is worth the price of admission alone!

7 - The French Connection: Sure the classic car chase gets all the attention, but who can forget Gene Hackman chasing down a criminal in full Santa gear during the first few minutes. Nothing says holiday cheer quite like a William Friedkin film : )

8 - The Long Kiss Goodnight: If there's anything weirder than the fact that there are two Bruce Willis and Michael Keaton movies on the countdown, it's that there are two Renny Harlin films! Much like Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight is not the best movie in the world. It is however really nutso, and features a fun performance from Samuel L. Jackson. I remember it was released as a big holiday event type film and bombed hard (more or less sealing Harlin's fate for being an A-list director). It's worth seeing for the weird spectacle that it is, and certainly earns its stripes as an unconventional holiday film.

9 - The Proposition: Westerns aren't given the holiday treatment very often, much less Australian Westerns! Outback outlaw Guy Pearce races to prevent the Christmas day execution of his brother . . . by finding and killing his other brother. An all-star cast and great production values make this arguably the best film on the list!

10 - Trancers: B-movie legend Tim Thomerson plays Jack Deth, Trancer hunter, sent to the distant past of 1985 Los Angeles to track down the creator of the Trancers before he alters the course of the future. This is one of Charles Band's more loveable films (my personal favorite being the 3-D 80's movie Parasite), aided by the presence of Thomerson and a young Helen Hunt. It's been a while since I've seen Trancers (a ridiculous word that's inherently fun to say), but I remember there being a very memorable Santa attack sequence in the film. I also checked and apparently there have now been five Trancers films, including one where Deth goes back to medieval times. Good grief!

So there is round two of my unconventional Christmas film picks. So whether you spend it with Jimmy Stewart or Jack Deth, may all of you Superfans out there have a safe and happy holiday!

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