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Christmas Movies by Kaedrin

Bah Humbug my ass! It's Christmas time, so why not get into the mood with a few movies? Welcome to Kaedrin's semi-complete guide to Christmas Movies! Here you'll find all of the wonderful (and not so wonderful) Christmas movies I have seen and a pseudoreview of each. Brace yourself and enjoy.

Its a Wonderful Life (1946) ****
Frank Capra's masterpiece of Classical Hollywood Cinema stars James Stewart as the father who wished he had never been born, and through some Christmas magic (compliments of an endearing Angel), is able to see what would have happened if he had his wish granted. Great performances and direction all around. Don't miss it.
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) ****
Timeless Christmas story about a Macy's Santa Claus who insists he is the real Santa - which sends New York into a frenzy. Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his definitive portrayal of Santa, and Natalie Wood shines as the youngster who learns to believe. The film was remade in 1994, but with the exception of Richard Attenborough's performance as Kris Kringle, the update is a heartless attempt at the original's charm and didn't need to be made. Do yourself a favor and see the original.
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A Christmas Carol (1951) ****
Considered by many to be the definitive rendition of Charles Dickens' immortal tale of Scrooge and his harrowing encounter with the three ghosts of Christmas. This account of Scrooge's redemption is brilliantly acted out by the fantastic Alastair Sim. A perennial favorite in the Christmas experience (not to mention much imitated and spoofed!).
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Animated Classics:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: (1964) **** Delightful tale of a red-nosed misfit reindeer who overcomes rejection and saves Christmas one foggy year. The stop-motion animation is brilliant, as is the narration by Burl Ives. A Christmas classic!
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: (1966) **** Adapted from the children's book by Dr. Seuss, this is the story of the Scrooge-like Grinch who devises a plan to steal Christmas away from the cute little town at the bottom of his mountain home. It is more bizzarre and edgy than you might think, and it's an animated classic. A Christmas must watch! Later remade into an inferior live-action full-length feature film starring Jim Carrey and directed by Ron Howard. See the original - it's shorter, funnier, and more edgy.
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

A Charlie Brown Christmas: (1965) **** Based on the lovable Peanuts cartoon stip by Charles M. Schulz, this tells the story of how mopey Charlie Brown discovers the true meaning of Christmas. The jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi is a classic in itself, and perfectly scores this animated classic. Yet another perennial favorite!
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Frosty the Snowman: (1969) **** Yet another animated classic from the 1960s! This one tells the story of some kids who build a snowman ("What to call it? Harold? Oatmeal? Frosty!") that magically comes to life when they put an evil magician's hat on it. Fending off the evil magician and the warming weather proves challenging for the kids and fun to watch...
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Contemporary Classics:
A Christmas Story (1983) ****
From the same man who brought you Porky's comes this endearing masterpiece about a young boy and his agonizing desire to get a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. Enjoyable for the adult and child alike, the film uncannily captures the hilarity of everyday life as seen through the eyes of a kid. Darrin McGavin and Melinda Dillon are noteworthy as the kids sterio-typical parents. I might even venture to say that this is my favorite Christmas movie (but don't count on it).
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) ***1/2
The Griswold family is back, and this time they take on the holidays with their usual flare. Of course, nothing goes the way it should, making for some gutbustingly funny scenes. For instance, Clark's Christmas lights, the family sledding expedition, or the trials and tribulations of their Christmas tree. Randy Quade's lively performance as cousin Eddy is absolutely hilarious. As opposed to most of his recent work, Chevy Chase is actually funny as the "leader" of the Griswolds. A truly funny Christmas experience.
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) ***
This animated musical was produced by Tim Burton and it is definitely influenced by his vision. This is a stylish and poetic fantasy in which Jack Skellington and his fellow ghouls in Halloweentown bring their own special creepy flavor to Christmas. Imaginative and daring filmmaking at its best, the film boasts the state of the art in stop motion animation and a delightful score by Danny Elfman. Though dark and macabre, the film still bears a lighthearted tone, thanks especially to the score by Elfman.
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

Honorable Mention:
The Ref (1994) ***
Dennis Leary brings his sardonic wit to the screen in this darkly funny flick about a thief whose bungled Christmas Eve burglary puts him on the run. He kidnaps a bickering married couple (played excellently by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) and hides out in their not-so-sweet home. The thief is in for more than he bargains, as the couple is constantly feuding. The dialog is well written and performed in a wickedly funny style.
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

Scrooged (1988) ***
One of the better of the aformentioned imitations of A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray stars in this entertaining update of the Dickens' classic. Murray plays the Scrooge character, this time a heartless TV executive. Perhaps not as funny as it could have been, but the laughs are still plentiful and heart-warming.
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Elf (2003) ***
Will Ferrell carries this suprisingly sweet and innocent yet funny film as a wide-eyed elf that grew up in the North Pole and is seeking his human father's love in New York. It's naive and lacks any "edge," but that's not necessarily a bad thing. And it's got some great advice about Ray's Pizza.
Buy this Movie: [Theatrical]

White Christmas (1954) **1/2
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye make the most of a good Irving Berlin score in this musical holiday tale. I guess its good if you are into that sort of thing. I am not. Let us move on.
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Home Alone (1993) **1/2
Christopher Columbus not only discovered America, but he also directed this popular holiday flick about an 8 year old boy left behind when his family leaves for their European Christmas Vaction. The boy, played by Macaulay Culkin, is interrupted from his stay home alone by two bungling burglars. Most of the story centers on Kevin's defense ploys which enrage the two burglars, played well by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Nice little flick, but nothing special.
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The Santa Clause (1994) **
Despite its clever title, The Santa Clause is only adequately funny and ultimately lacking. Tim Allen plays a divorced dad who knocks Santa off the roof on Christmas Eve, thus obligating himself (because of the Santa Clause) to become the next Santa. There are funny moments and it is an enjoyable film, but it is ultimately lacking.
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Saturday Night Live Christmas: A great collection of Christmas parodies and skits. The "secret lost ending" of Its a Wonderful Life is hilarious. Lots of laughs here!
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Must Miss Movies:
Jingle All the Way (1996) *1/2
Arnold Schwartzenegger takes on Christmas... and loses. The movie is mildly funny at times, but its nasty humor is a little too nasty, with little to redeem it. Arnold plays a workaholic father who forgets to buy his son a Christmas present and sets out on the seemingly impossible task to find a popular action toy on Christmas Eve. It starts out funny, but it soon runs out of ideas and ends at a hollow pace.
Buy this Movie: [vhs] [dvd]

Trapped In Paradise (1994) *
This film has many funny premises that just aren't developed, which is a shame because this film has some good starpower. Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey have dragged Nicolas Cage into their post-SNL black hole. They play brothers who rob a bank in a small town on Christmas Eve. When they can't get out of the town and everyone there is so kind to them, they begin to question what they have done. Interesting enough premise, but it plays out like foul smelling tripe.
Buy this Movie: [vhs]

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