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2009 Christmas Movie Guide

As we enter the last weekend before Christmas you should have your shopping done, lights up, tree decorated and be ready to see your friends and family and kick back to watch some cheery Christmas movies over the next seven days (yes, only seven days to go). I’ve scoured the channels and DVD shelves and watched a ton of good (and bad) holly, jolly titles. I think I’ve found something for everyone. Whether you want a real classic or an anti-Christmas movie I’ve got you covered. I also have a list of films that are so bad you should avoid them this year.

Classics in High-Definition

The best known Christmas film of all time, Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, is a no-brainer. If you’ve avoided it on television all your life it’s definitely worth picking up on Blu-ray. The HD transfer (in both black and white and a new colourized version) is beautiful, and the 22-minute making-of is sure to put fans into an even more joyous spirit. The Ultimate Collector’s Edition of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is another worthwhile Blu-ray release. It ships in a collectible tin and includes movie-themed coasters, a miniature Wally World moose head mug, a Santa hat (with the Wally World logo), some fake snow, and a “I Survived a Griswold Family Christmas!” button. The film itself is just as hilarious as it is every year and probably will never look better than it does in high-def. Unfortunately the special features are lacking and we still don’t have a Griswold family commentary track. My all-time favourite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story, is available in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition tin on Blu-ray as well. If you love this movie as much as me you’ll want this set. For lovers of Alastair Sim’s 1951 version of A Christmas Carol it’s available on Blu-ray as well and looks and sounds very nice in HD.

Classics Not in High-Definition

A new edition of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas was released on DVD this year and includes some great features including a commentary track with Rosemary Clooney. The musical delivers some fine moments and songs and although it’s not worth watching every year it is good to revisit every once in a while. Warner Home Video also released the packaged TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Holiday earlier this month which includes the excellent film Christmas in Connecticut, the original You’ve Got Mail, which was called The Shop Around the Corner, the 1938 adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and the sweet It Happened on 5th Avenue. If you want something more sugary don’t forget about the 1947 gem Miracle on 34th Street (which is available on Blu-ray but I couldn’t find it).

The Cartoon Specials

All the specials that have aired each year since you were a child will be running non-stop between now and Christmas and most are available on DVD in special sets as well (some are even on Blu-ray). A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Alvin and the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Christmas, The Smurfs Christmas Special, and A Garfield Christmas Special are all repeat-worthy titles that never get old. Newer specials from The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants are also fun to watch. If you stumble across Beavis & Butt-Head Do Christmas or one of the many South Park Christmas specials enjoy them when the kids are tucked in bed.

Recent Favourites

Will Ferrell’s Elf is a newer favourite of mine. Yes, Ferrell can get annoying as the man-child lead character but after a few drinks he’ll have you snorting nog out of of your nose. Love Actually seems to be a guilty pleasure for a lot of people (myself included) and I never get tired of watching Macaulay Culkin slap his face in Home Alone. If it’s sex and swearing that gets you jolly than the over-the-top Bad Santa is a viewing must. The Ref, starring Denis Leary and Kevin Spacey, is a very underrated Christmas film that should be on your list of what to watch too. I also admit I enjoyed the recent Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon (although Vaughn’s Fred Claus can be found on the films to avoid list below). Not many TV shows do Christmas specials these days but It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia released one this year. It’s A Very Sunny Christmas is a riot and fans of the show will want to pick it up (it’s on Blu-ray too).

Kids Only

Dora, Elmo, Barney, Diego, Teletubbies, and the Wonder Pets all have various Christmas DVDs out. Of course there’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Mickey’s Magical Christmas, Winnie the Pooh: Season of Giving, as well as The Muppet Christmas Carol and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa all from Disney. The new Santa Buddies (which my kid can’t get enough of) and The Dog Who Saved Christmas both feature cute puppies and seem to interest the young ones. The Jim Carrey live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause are also hits with kids under ten.

Not That Jolly

Where you can have some fun with your Christmas viewing is the slew of anti-Christmas movies. The slasher flick Black Christmas is set during Christmas break at a sorority house and has a pretty high body count. Silent Night, Deadly Night and Christmas Evil take the guy-in-a-Santa-suit-goes-on-a-killing-spree angle and are both creepy as hell.  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a bizarre B-Movie from the ’60s that puts Santa on Mars fighting little green men (you can watch the full version of the film in its Mystery Science Theater 3000 rendition below). And of course Gremlins and Die Hard are both very Christmassy movies that are not technically Christmas movies.

Films to Avoid

This will get some complaints but I cannot stand Bill Murray’s Scrooged. It is the most overrated piece of crap to ever cash in on Christmas and is not funny in the slightest. Same goes for Ernest Saves Christmas, Jingle all the Way, Fred Claus, Christmas With the Kranks, Surviving Christmas, Prancer, Jack Frost, Deck the Halls, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and The Polar Express. All garbage. The original The Santa Clause is fun for kids (see above) but the sequels should be avoided. And although most of Trapped in Paradise was filmed in and around Toronto, the movie is unwatchable and could be the worst thing Nicolas Cage has ever done. 

Did I miss a film that you love (or hate)? Comment below or email brian.mckechnie@citynews.rogers.com.

Top image: A scene from A Christmas Story. Courtesy Warner Home Video.