A selection of movies that are set during the Christmas period, but are not essentially Christmas films: Some obvious, hopefully some not so obvious:
Die Hard & Die Hard 2
Surely the first movies that spring to mind that fit this category. Both movies are superb and I am always particularly impressed how the second film can make you believe that McLain is just in the wrong place at the wrong time AGAIN. Both films are still watchable time after time and Willis carries the film superbly.
Ideal Christmas present: Totes: the socks that have a grip on the sole; perfect for getting over jetlag, but still being able to run across broken glass (perhaps).
Before Mel Gibson started making us think he really was barking mad, he played Martin Riggs, who was actually barking mad. From his initial introduction leaping from a roof handcuffed to a suicide jumper through to his sheer will power run through the streets to catch up with the bad guys’ car, Riggs was the ultimate cop who doesn’t play by the rules. His partnership with Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a zenith for all buddy cop action movies. Unfortunately, it has been devalued by some sub-standard sequels in a franchise that went on several movies too long, but the original, as is often the case, is the best.
Ideal Christmas present: A 3 Stooges DVD box set.
Santa salivates profusely; his skin has a yellow hue and his lips are blue. His eyes are rolled back into his head and he attacks with menace and the strength of ten men. This is not the Lidl Santa’s Grotto. This is Trancers. Perhaps not such an obvious choice, this cult movie features Jack Death (Tim Thomerson) travelling back from the future to help capture Whistler; a man who can hypnotise people into becoming zombie-fied killers. It also features a young Helen Hunt as the love interest. Definitely worth watching, but stay away from the dreadful sequels.
Ideal Christmas present: a watch to wear on your other wrist; so you don’t accidentally slow time down every time you want to check the date.
Joe Dante’s dark comedy/horror has possibly the most iconic 1980’s characters: Gizmo and the Gremlins themselves. A nod to the 1950’s monster movies and with plenty of black humour (who can forget the reason Phoebe Cates’ character hates Christmas) Gremlins is a classic that swept the nation; kids squealing “bright light” and, let’s face it, who didn’t want a Mogwai?
Ideal Christmas present: An alarm clock; you need to know when it is midnight.
Putting the seminal Brett Easton Ellis novel onto the big screen took some balls and the film only scratches the surface of the book’s humour and brutal violence. Christian Bale excels as Bateman and must have put his name in the frame for the role that made him one of the hottest properties in Hollywood. I suppose the big question is: is this film set at Christmas or does Bateman imagine it’s Christmas?
Ideal Christmas present: A Huey Lewis and the News tape, some tarpaulin and a chainsaw.
The first, and best, Rambo film; Blink and you’ll miss it that this is set around the Christmas period. It deals with John Rambo’s isolation following his return from Vietnam and his persecution at the hands of a small town Sheriff’s department. Who can forget the first reveal of the extent of Rambo’s scars; his leap from the cliff, his self-stitching and the knife that cuts through a piece of paper like it’s not even there? First Blood carries much more weight of emotion than any other Rambo film and it must not be forgotten that Rambo does not kill anyone in this film, although he goes on to kill just about anything in subsequent films. It really is a superb film, filled with iconic moments and great quotes.
Ideal Christmas present: If you can’t get one of those knives, a good supply of body bags.
Jaws: The Revenge
Ever fancied spending Christmas in the Bahamas, with sandy beaches, tropical temperatures, blue seas and a great white shark? Okay, this movie stinks. But it is set during the Christmas period and it’s worth mentioning just for the Michael Caine quote about the film: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Ideal Christmas present: a bigger boat.
Trading Places; Black Christmas; The French Connection; 1941
A “New Year” list will be featured in time for New Year, so any suggestions are welcome!