Monthly Archives: December 2009

Enjoy festive season with that Christmas classic – Die Hard

We might have been indoctrinated to believe that White Christmas, A Christmas Carol and The Wizard of Oz are the perfect movies to watch as the 25th approaches, but I’d like to give a shout out to five other festive films which often get ignored at this time of year.

First up is 1989’s Die Hard, perhaps my favourite action filck. There are no carol singers and little mistletoe in evidence and the only real concession to Christmas is a dead terrorist dressed as Santa and end credits sung to the tune of Let it Snow by Bing Crosby, but it’s still a classic. Die Hard 2 was also set at Christmas but has little of the charm of the original.

Next is The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), a film which no doubt had Dickens spinning in his grave as Gonzo and Rizzo narrated the well-worn tale to a new generation. Surprisingly affecting throughout – Michael Caine was an inspired choice to play Ebenezer Scrooge – there’s also space for talking vegetables, skating penguins and Stadler and Waldorf as ghosts. What’s not to like?

Macaulay Culkin’s career may have vanished faster than a snowman in a heatwave in the year’s following it’s release, but I have a soft spot for the original Home Alone (1990) film. Culkin stars as Kevin, a boy left behind by his parents at Christmas and forced to protect his home from burglars. It might not the best festive movie ever made but it’s still good fun, Joe Pesci on good form as one of the crooks.

From comedy to horror (albeit one with a strong vein of humour running through it) with Gremlins (1984), Joe Dante’s hugely enjoyable adventure centring on Billy’s (Zach Gilligan) attempt to look after a Mogwai while events conspire to cause the “birth” of dozens of nasty Gremlins in small town USA. Despite some dated effects, this stands up as a great film and deserves a spot on every Christmas viewing schedule.

Finally, I’ll return to Charles Dickens for 1988’s Scrooged, Bill Murray’s gloriously OTT performance as a TV exec tasked with staging a live version of A Christmas Carol. Murray’s trademark sarcasm is present and correct and while we all know there’s bound to be a happy Hollywood ending, getting there is a lot of fun.

Have I missed anything obvious?

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A shortlist of short films

Writing in today’s Evening News, I mentioned that like to see our cinemas bring back short films before the main features, harking back to a time when an evening’s entertainment comprised a series of short films strung together from newsreels, cartoons and documentaries.

Would losing five minutes of adverts to give up-and-coming filmmakers a chance to shine in front of the latest Hollywood blockbuster really be such a bad thing? After all, that’s how Ridley Scott, Shane Meadows and other directors got noticed.

Until that happens here are a few short films I’ve seen over the last year or so that you might find interesting – the first three started out life as shorts but were expanded into full movies after being spotted by eager executives.

First up is director Neill Blomkamp’s Alive in Joberg, the 2005 film which inspired this year’s sci-fi blockbuster District 9:

Next up is Shane Acker’s 9, another short film which ended up becoming a feature film, also called 9 and starring Elijah Woods:

My final sci-fi themed short is called Panic Attack and has a similar vibe to it as Joberg/District 9. Director Fede Alvarez took this to Hollywood and was immediately signed-up to make it into a multi-million dollar action film:

Finally, here’s Shane Meadows’ The Stairwell, a short film made entirely on a mobile phone for zero budget, proving it doesn’t take much to make something interesting:

Feel free to add your own links to your favourite short films in the comments section below.