It's a Wonderful Life is a classic, yes, and Miracle on 34th Street a favorite with everyone from kids to grandparents. But seriously, don't the plucky youngsters and all that good cheer get a little ... tiring? Here we look at some antidotes to that third rerun of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
This black comedy stars Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis as Lloyd and Caroline, a rich and miserable couple, and Denis Leary as the bumbling robber who kidnaps Caroline and forces her to take him home. Sure, there's a little heartwarming chocolate frosting drizzled over the finale, but most of the movie is all recriminations, backbiting, and increasingly ridiculous cover-ups as annoying neighbors and really annoying family members drop by. Leary's in full rant mode, and Spacey and Davis nail the venomous bickering. This one's a lost gem. It should be on everyone's holiday list.
When parent protests forced TriStar to pull it after just two weeks, the king of Christmas slasher flicks was guaranteed its place in cult history. Years after little Billy Chapman sees his parents murdered by a man in a Santa suit, he's working in a toy store when the hired Santa breaks his ankle. The boss forces Billy to put on the big red suit, sparking a murderous rampage. He impales a naked girl on a set of antlers, kills another with a toy bow and arrow, and gives a bloody box-cutter to a little girl as a present. What's to complain about? Stupid parents. Silent Night spawned a whopping four sequels, and a remake is in the works.
Fine, this stop-motion tale of the monsters and ghouls of Halloweentown trying to take over Christmas is, at root, an old-fashioned, sweet story. But how many Christmas movies do you know that feature vampires, mummies, and bobbing for heads? Besides, the visual style is a nice contrast to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Year Without a Santa Claus, which -- while undeniably both classics -- will be playing pretty much nonstop from now until the New Year.
Billy Bob Thornton plays a booze-swilling crook who gets a job as a department store Santa every year so he can rob the safe on Christmas Eve. Accompanied by a foul-mouthed dwarf (he plays the elf, of course), this is ninety minutes of drunkenness, pants wetting, and general bad behavior -- a good time to be had by all. Just be sure the kids are in bed, or they'll be talking about this one in therapy in 20 years.
This send-up of a classic TV special has all the requirements: a roaring fire, cable knit sweaters, and plenty of crooning. But instead of Andy Williams or the Osmonds, Stephen Colbert trots out Elvis Costello, Jon Stewart singing about Hannukah, Toby Keith, Norm from Cheers as Santa (he gets into a knife fight), and Willie Nelson singing "Little Dealer Boy," a song about pot. It might not be quite as strange as that duet between David Bowie and Bing Crosby. But it's pretty strange.
Long considered one of the worst movies ever made, this 1964 exercise in weirdness concerns a Martian plot to kidnap Santa Claus after the children of Mars, who apparently only get Earth channels, see Santa Claus on TV. It was ripped apart once by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew, and recently again by MST3K spin-off Cinematic Titanic. But why not watch it yourself and supply your own jokes? They practically write themselves.