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HOT BUTTERED POPCORN - 31 DAYS OF HOLIDAY MOVIES

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HOT BUTTERED POPCORN -  31 DAYS OF HOLIDAY MOVIES

By Howard T. Brody

We’re at that time of the year again when the holiday spirit begins to fill the air, and all we want to do is relax, spend some time with our loved ones, have a good, hearty meal and watch some of our favorite holiday flicks on the tube.

In the old days, you’d have to wait for broadcast stations and cable networks to play your favorites. Sometimes you’d catch them and sometimes you didn’t. But now, with the ability to order DVDs overnight and use video on demand services as NetFlix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, YouTube Red, HBO Go, Vimeo, Daily Motion and countless others (not to mention the fact that just about every cable TV provider offers a similar service) you can pretty much watch any holiday offering you want at any time you choose.

So, for your viewing pleasure, we have compiled a list of a little more than 30 films that you can watch between Thanksgiving and Christmas to put you in the holiday spirit. Be forewarned; your favorite might not have made our list as we couldn’t possibly list every holiday movie.

Here’s how to read the listings: Name of the Film (year it was released) time of film in minutes. The audience score, which is the percentage of filmgoers who have rated this movie 3.5 stars or higher on the Rotten Tomatoes Web site. All films are live-action scripted movies unless noted otherwise, e.g., Animation or Documentary. D: Director. W: Writer(s). St: Studio. S: Stars. The 411: What you need to know about the movie. [MPAA Rating]

So, without any further adieu and hoping you have your hot buttered popcorn ready, here’s our must-see movie list.

A Christmas Story (1983) 93m. 88%. D: Bob Clark. W: Leigh Brown, Bob Clark, and Jean Shepherd. St: MGM. S: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, and Melinda Dillon. The 411: You can take shoot your eye out with a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Never put your tongue on a metal pole when it’s freezing outside. It’s okay to eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve. [PG]

Addams Family Values (1993) 94m. 62%. D: Barry Sonnenfeld. W: Paul Rudnick. St: Paramount. S: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci, Carol Kane, Jimmy Workman, and Carel Struycken. The 411: There’s a new baby on the way and a serial killer loose. Wednesday is cast as Pocahontas for a Thanksgiving play. They’re still creepy, and they’re still kooky, and they’re still not as good as their TV original counterparts, but they’re darn close. [PG-13]

Avalon (1990) 126m. 77%. D/W: Barry Levinson. St: Sony Pictures. S: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Elizabeth Perkins, Joan Plowright and Aidan Quinn. The 411: It’s okay to be a Russian Jewish immigrant living in Baltimore. Jews have family fights at Thanksgiving dinners just like non-Jews do. It won’t kill your father if you choose not to follow in his career footsteps. [PG]

Babes in Toyland (aka March of the Wooden Soldiers) (1934) 77m. 79%. D: Gus Meins and Charles Rogers. W: Frank Butler and Nick Grinde. St: MGM. S: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Charlotte Henry, Felix Knight, Henry Kleinbach, Florence Roberts and Virginia Karns. The 411: A rich old man will forgive debt in order to hook up with a hot young woman. Pignapping will get you cast off to Bogeyland. There’s a big difference between 600 toy soldiers at one-foot tall and 100 toy soldiers at six-feet tall. [NR]

Bad Santa (2003) 91m. 75%. D: Terry Zwigoff. W: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, and Terry Zwigoff. St: Miramax. S: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly, Lauren Tom, John Ritter and Bernie Mac. The 411: A proper background check could reveal that your temporary Santa and his elf helper are professional thieves. Mall Santas can be sex-addicted alcoholics. All can be forgiven if you confess your bad deeds in a letter. [R]

Broadway Danny Rose (1984) 86m. 84%. D/W: Woody Allen. St: Orion Pictures. S: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, and Nick Apollo Forte. The 411: It’s okay for several comedians to tell a story in the form of flashbacks. Love triangles that involve the mob are somewhat complicated. Theatrical agents that represent unorthodox, unsuccessful entertainers and acts will host Thanksgiving dinner parties for those same clients. [PG]

Die Hard (1988) 114m. 94%. D: John McTiernan. W: Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza. St: 20th Century Fox. S: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov, Bonnie Bedelia and Reginald VelJohnson. The 411: Don’t screw with a New York City detective while he’s vacationing in Los Angeles. Is it possible to really know what a TV dinner feels like? Never take off your shoes at a Christmas party. [R] Bingeworthy: With four sequels to choose from – Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) – pick one or all of them to truly have a John McClane holiday. “Yippee Ki Yay, motherfucker!”

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) 105m. 55%. D: Ron Howard. W: Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. St: Universal. S: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin and Molly Shannon. The 411: It’s okay to be different. Don’t try to deceive others, especially those who care for you. No matter how hard you try, you cannot destroy the true meaning of Christmas. [PG]

Elf (2003) 107m. 78%. D: Jon Favreau. W: David Berenbaum and Jon Favreau. St: New Line Cinema. S: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Edward Asner, Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel. The 411: You don’t have to be small in stature to have the heart and spirit of an elf. Santa is real, and every day should feel like Christmas. Don’t chew gum that is left on a New York City subway entrance. [PG]

Free Birds (2013) 91m. 44%. Animation. D: Jimmy Hayward. W: John J. Strauss, Jimmy Hayward, and Scott Mosier. St: Reel FX Creative Studios / Relativity Media. S: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler. The 411: Turkeys do not like Thanksgiving. You don’t necessarily have to commit a crime in order to be pardoned by the President of the United States. You don’t have to be human to operate a time machine. [PG]

Grumpy Old Men (1993) 103m. 74%. D: Donald Petrie. W: Mark Steven Johnson. St: Warner Brothers S: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Darryl Hannah and Kevin Pollak. The 411: Old guys can get old hot chicks. No matter how many air fresheners you hang from a rearview mirror, you cannot get rid of the smell of a dead fish. They’re still an odd couple, and they still have on-screen chemistry. [PG-13]

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) 103m. 90%. D/W: Woody Allen. St: Orion Pictures. S: Woody Allen, Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Barbara Hershey, Lloyd Nolan, Maureen O’Sullivan, Daniel Stern, Max von Sydow and Dianne Wiest. The 411: It’s okay to use family Thanksgiving get-togethers as a setting to start and end relationships. Not having children may harm a marriage but having children won’t necessarily save a marriage. Allen knows how to weave three stories into one brilliantly. [PG-13]

Home Alone (1990) 103m. 79%. D: Chris Columbus. W: John Hughes. St: 20th Century Fox. S: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard and Catherine O’Hara. The 411: You can go on vacation to Paris and leave your youngest son home without any repercussions of being charged with child neglect. Aftershave stings even when you don’t shave. An 8-year-old boy is smarter than two would-be burglars.  [PG]

Home for the Holidays (1995) 103m. 72%. D: Jodie Foster. W: W.D. Richter and Chris Radant. St: Paramount Pictures. S: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Dylan McDermott, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Claire Danes, Cynthia Stevenson and Charles Durning. The 411: Losing your job right before Thanksgiving sucks. No matter how old you are, your parents will treat you like a child. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reveal your personal problems and quirks to the rest of the family. [PG-13]

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) 135m. 95%. D: Frank Capra. W: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling and Frank Capra. St: RKO Pictures. S: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers. The 411: Someone is always listening, especially on Christmas Eve. Guardian angels aren’t supposed to drink. Bert and Ernie aren’t Muppets. Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. [PG]

Jingle All the Way (1997) 88m. 38%. D: Brian Levant. W: Randy Kornfield. St: 20th Century Fox. S: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Jake Lloyd, Curtis Armstrong, Robert Conrad and Jim Belushi. The 411: A Turbo-Man action figure is the most important toy ever. Dads will do anything for their kids. All are easily forgiven when people ultimately get what they need and not necessarily what they want. [PG]

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) 96m. 87%. D/W: George Seaton. St: 20th Century Fox. S: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. The 411: When children no longer believe, a department store Santa Claus can restore their faith. Putting Kris Kringle on trial could be political suicide. Only the real Santa could get two bitter business rivals to reconcile their ongoing feud. [NR]

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) 97m. 86%. D: Jeremiah Chechik. W: John Hughes. St: Warner Brothers. S: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph and Diane Ladd. The 411: Always check a Christmas tree for squirrels before you start decorating. A free year’s membership in the Jelly of the Month Club is not an appropriate Christmas bonus. It’s okay to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as part of a Thanksgiving blessing for the turkey. [PG-13]

Pieces of April (2003) 80m. 73%. D/W: Peter Hedges. St: United Artists. S: Katie Holmes, Derek Luke, Sean Hayes, Alison Pill, Oliver Platt and Patricia Clarkson. The 411: Always wear a new suit to make a good first impression. You can’t go wrong with Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Having Thanksgiving dinner together is important, especially for dysfunctional families. [PG-13]

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987) 92m. 87%. D/W: John Hughes. St: Paramount Pictures. S: Steve Martin and John Candy. The 411: Try to get home for Thanksgiving dinner with the family no matter what it takes. Those aren’t pillows! Not everyone has a family to spend Thanksgiving with. [R]

Rocky (1976) 119m. 69%. D: John G. Avildsen. W: Sylvester Stallone.  St: United Artists. S: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers and Burgess Meredith. The 411: When an opportunity presents itself seize the moment. When Thanksgiving dinner is ruined, it’s okay to go ice skating. Sometimes going the distance is good enough because being a failure is a frame of mind. [PG]

Scrooged (1988) 100m. 70%. D: Richard Donner. W: Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue. St: Paramount Pictures. S: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Michael J. Pollard and Alfre Woodard. The 411: Never forget where you came from. There are more important things to life than conducting business. Beware of spirits who drive taxicabs. [PG-13] Bingeworthy: Since this is based on A Christmas Carol, pick a version (or two) and watch them together. You can be an adult and watch the 1938 version with Reginald Owen, the 1951 adaptation with Alastair Sim, or you can act like a kid and go with 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol, 120m, 85% [G]. Any will do.

Stalag 17 (1953) 120m. 93%. D: Billy Wilder. W: Billy Wilder and Edwin Blum. St: Paramount Pictures. S: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Peter Graves, Sig Ruman, Neville Brand and Richard Erdman. The 411: Finance companies will send you past due notices even if you’re a Prisoner of War. It pays to run a racket in order to keep the enemy in check. When you’re having dinner in Berlin, it’s lunchtime in Cleveland. [NR]

The Blind Side (2009) 129m. 85%. D/W: John Lee Hancock. St: Warner Brothers. S: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon and Kathy Bates. The 411: It’s okay to open your home as well as your heart. For some, adoption can be a lifeline. Sometimes a Thanksgiving family dinner can be a life-changing event. [PG-13]

The Last Waltz (1978) 117m. 94%. Documentary. D: Martin Scorsese. St: MGM.S: The Band and more than a dozen iconic music legends including Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and Van Morrison. The 411: The Band’s farewell concert which took place at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving 1976. [PG]

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) 76m. 91%. Animation. D: Tim Burton and Henry Selick. W: Tim Burton, Caroline Thompson, and Michael McDowell.  St: Touchstone Pictures. S: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page and Ed Ivory. The 411: Monsters, ghosts, ghouls, and zombies deserve to celebrate Christmas too. Even a “Pumpkin King” can grow tired of the same routine year after year. Halloween Town is a nice place to visit – for Halloween – but you wouldn’t want to live there. [PG]

The Santa Clause (1994) 97m. 65%. D: John Pasquin. W: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, and Karey Kirkpatrick. St: Walt Disney Pictures. S: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd, Larry Brandenburg and David Krumholtz. The 411: Always clarify the terms of a contract before agreeing to it. Snow globes can be magical. If you believe in Santa, you might finally get that Oscar Mayer Weenie Whistle you wanted. [PG]

White Christmas (1954) 120m. 88%. D: Michael Curtiz. W: Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank. St: Paramount Pictures. S: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The 411: Military men stick together, even after a war. All it takes is a couple of phone calls and knowing the right people to pull off a national television broadcast from Vermont. There’s nothing quite like a white Christmas. [G]

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) 98m. 86%. D: Mel Stuart. W: David Seltzer and Roald Dahl. St: Paramount Pictures. S: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Peter Ostrum. The 411: Finding a winning ticket doesn’t make you a winner. The Candy Man can ‘cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good. In the end being honest is what makes you a real winner. [G]

You’ve Got Mail (1998) 119m. 73%. D: Nora Ephron. W: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron, and Miklós László. St: Warner Brothers. S: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The 411: Mega bookstores are evil while independent bookstores are good. If you go shopping in a specialty food store on Thanksgiving be sure to bring cash. It’s okay to fall in love with a business rival through email. [PG]

Bingeworthy

Because several movies on our list are part of franchises and therefore have sequels, with the exception of the Die Hard film franchise and a couple of the Rocky movies which take place around the holidays, none of the other films are really “binge-worthy” whether we’re talking about the several Home Alone sequels, Grumpier Old Men (1995) or even last year’s Bad Santa 2. So, if you really want to watch The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), and we recommend you don’t, go ahead and punish yourself.

In the meantime, we’ve compiled a short list of movies you should watch together.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) 25m, 74%, [NR] and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 25m, 86%, [NR]. If you want to feel like a kid again while keeping your adult perspective, these are the two to watch together as Charles Schultz knew how to write for both kids and adults. While Bill Melendez and Phil Roman directed Christmas together, Melendez went solo with Thanksgiving.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) 53m, 83%, [NR], Frosty the Snowman (1969) 25m, 72%, [NR] and Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town (1970) 53m, 81%, [NR] are a trio of Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation TV specials that feature an amazing array of top actors and voice actors of the day: Burl Ives, Billie Mae Richards, Stan Francis and Paul Kligman (Rudolph); Jimmy Durante, Billy De Wolfe, Jackie Vernon, Paul Frees and June Foray (Frosty); and Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Joan Gardner, Paul Frees and Robie Lester (Santa).

If you’ve been bad all year and want to punish yourself, here are a couple of really terrible holiday movies that should come with a can of cranberry sauce because they are real turkeys!

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) 81m. 27%. D: Nicholas Webster. W: Paul Jacobson and Glenville Mareth. St: Embassy Pictures. S: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck and Bill McCutcheon. The 411: It’s okay for Martians to be familiar with Yiddish terms. It is not okay for Martian children to watch Earth television. A young Pia Zadora makes her acting debut. [PG]

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) 108m. 66%. D: Jeannot Szwarc. W: David Newman and Leslie Newman. St: TriStar Pictures. S: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Judy Cornwell and Burgess Meredith. The 411: After Ilya Salkind helped bring Superman to the silver screen in 1978 with the tagline “You’ll believe a man can fly,” he thought he could make people believe a sleigh could fly with this abomination. Great idea. Great cast. Horrible execution. [PG]

And if you’ve been really bad . . .

Would a list in STRIPLV be complete without any adult content? Here are a few holiday-themed adult videos you may want to check out. And hopefully after watching these that is still butter on the popcorn.

How the Grinch Gaped Christmas (2014) 96m. D/W: Joanna Angel. St: Burning Angel Entertainment. S: Joanna Angel, Amber Ivy, Krissie Dee and others. The 411: According to the promotional info on this spoof, ‘Tis the season to gape. Whoville in this video is Whoreville, and apparently, every whore in Whoreville loved Christmas except the Grinch (a female), who lived just north of Whoreville and who supposedly hadn’t been laid in quite some time. [X]

The Nightmare Before XXXMas (2015) D/W: Joanna Angel. St: Burning Angel Entertainment. S: Small Hands and Joanna Angel.  The 411: Sally is a horny ragdoll. Jack has a “Christmas Package.” They fuck, and that’s about it. Despite the expense at special effects, it’s pretty bad parody porn at its best – or would that be at its worst? [X]

This Isn’t Christmas Vacation: The XXX Parody (2010) 127m. D: Sammy Slater. St: Devil’s Films. S: Carolyn Reese, Emma Heart, Tweety Valentine, Melanie Rios, Sonny Hicks, Alec Knight, Marco Rivera, Anthony Rosano. The 411: The gang’s all here – Clark and Elen Dickwald, Audrey and Rusty, even cousin Eddy and his wife. [X]

Tits a Wonderful Life (1994) 86m. D: Mitch Spinelli. W: Bosley DeLongprez. St: Cal Vista Video. S: Lisa Ann, Lynn LeMay, Jordan Lee, Nikki Sinn, Vince Vouyer, Alex Sanders and others. The Plot and more: A naked guardian angel assists a hopeless gangster by showing him how life would have turned out if he was never born. The movie taglines were “George Bailey eat your heart out” and “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets...” [X]

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