For those who just want to know, "Should I see this or not?" without all the fluff and intellectualism (or at least minimal amounts), I present to you these bite-sized movie reviews. If you're in an abnormally large hurry, skip to the last few words of each section, as each is noted with "See it" or "Pass." However, these aren't your typical holiday movies. They may only be loosely related to the season in one way or another, but how bored would you be reading about It's A Wonderful Life and Scrooged for the millionth time? On with the show!
I don't remember this movie being marketed as a holiday flick, but it's set on Christmas Eve, and Rachel Nichols' (whose cleavage should have earned a co-starring credit) character is trying to get out of her rush-rush New York high-rise job in time to have dinner with her family in Jersey. The building's security guard in the lot below has other plans, though, and what starts out as the realization of a creepy crush quickly turns gruesome and vicious. Over the course of the night, it's cat and mouse as she keeps escaping his clutches, but is unable to leave the building since the guard has all exits locked down. There's a bit of excessive gore in a couple parts and it does get ridiculous in a few places, but my girlfriend found the first stretch of it and the general premise to be pretty unnerving (in a good way). Hopefully Wes Bentley will break the typecast of being the "eerie guy," but it's good to see him on the screen again regardless. See it.
I finally took the plunge on this classic, and despite it running a little long (2.5 hours), it turns epic war movies on their ear, throwing in the kind of clever humor normally reserved for movies like Animal House, Airplane, and Stripes. In the week following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Californians start getting worried that the next attack might happen on their native soil. Preparations are made, and the combination of a bumbling cast and silliness of some of the preventative measures taken — as well as Tim Matheson relentlessly trying to score with Nancy Allen — really make it feel like the offspring of a war movie and a frat-house tribute. It was nominated for a few Oscars, which is rare for a comedy. It was entertaining overall, but would probably go over even better when viewed with a group. But you're asking, "How is this a holiday movie?" It's set in December, duh. See it.
Taut thriller about smuggler's swapping bags with unsuspecting fellow train passengers in a very spooky part of Russia where the KGB still rules by underhanded and uncouth methods. The cluster of Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, and Kate Mara intrigued me as well. It wasn't quite as straightforward as the plot outline on the case made it out to be, and one of the characters gets herself in more trouble than she needed to by repeatedly lying, but seeing how things finally unfold was fairly satisfying. Not everything turns out perfectly for everyone, there are twists here and there, but overall, if you're up for a suspenseful mystery set in a snowy Siberian setting, see it.
Early on in the classic that birthed an action franchise, McClane is riding to the party in a limo, and the driver, Argyle, cues up "Christmas in Hollis," a rap tune from Run D.M.C. McClane asks, "Don't you have any Christmas music?" to which Argyle replies, "Man, this is Christmas Music." Unlikely as it seems, it is, and it's a great metaphor for this movie. Set during the very hostile takeover of the Nakatomi Building in Los Angeles during their annual Christmas party, it's up to one man to undo all the evil that befalls the 30 or so hostages that night. Seriously, if you needed to read that synopsis, get out of my sight and go rent this fine feature post-haste for your holiday fix of guns, guts, explosions, and even a boob or two. See it.
Granted, the bulk of the movie has nothing to do with the holidays, but it does kick off with the lead character stuck working frantically and making a last-minute delivery run for FedEx on Christmas Eve. While the rest of us are at home cozying up by the fire, he made a fateful flight from which he almost didn't return. If that's a spoiler, what have you been doing the last eight years? Sure, it's a little long, but no scene is wasted, and despite it getting a little melodramatic and "Hollywoody" as the tale wraps up, it's still a good watch, and will make you appreciate those who keep you company every day a little bit more. See it.
The Thing (1982)
This excellent John Carpenter retelling of the '50s classic metamorphosing-monster flick has nothing to do with the holidays, but it is set in Antarctica, where it's perpetually snowy, though if Al Gore is correct, it may not be that way for long. The endless white setting and respectable creature effects (excellent for the time, and hold up fairly well even today) as well as the perilous distrust between the characters makes for a taut adventure that may see no one returning home safely from. What better excuse do you need to snuggle up on the couch with someone? Carpenter at his best, this is one of my all-time faves. See it.
That's it for this special Holiday Edition. Check back for more nuggets soon. Cheers.