Here it is, folks: a cinematic advent calendar of sorts for this holiday season. Our local repertory houses — the Sie FilmCenter and the Alamo Drafthouse, along with a handful of other movie houses — are about to go all H.A.M. for you and your Christmas spirit. We've gathered it all together here in a handy A-Z list that includes everything from traditional classics to more freewheeling interpretations of the season. Of special note: You can see all of the Sie's holiday screenings for a one-time price of $50, and if you bring a canned good to any of those screenings, you'll get a voucher for a free movie on your next visit. Merry Christmas viewing to all, and to all a good night!
A Christmas Story
Sie FilmCenter - December 23 - denverfilm.org
Alamo Drafthouse - with Chinese dinner party December 15, without December 23 - drafthouse.com
This is Bob Clark’s eternal holiday classic about Ralphie, who is just trying to survive the holidays and maybe waking up to a Red Ryder carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle! “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” The Sie is showing it three times on December 23, while Alamo has a special screening with a heavy Chinese Food Feast to accentuate the film’s classic dinner scene.
A Christmas Tale
Alamo Drafthouse - December 9 - drafthouse.com
Arnaud Desplechin’s winning holiday story balances a thin line between festive folly and morbid melancholy as living tree angel Catherine Deneuve gets the family together to find out which relative is a perfect match to give her a bone marrow transplant. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll call your mom.
A Very Murray Christmas
Sie FilmCenter - December 4 - denverfilm.org
Fans of stylized cinematic ennui have been thirsting for a reunion of the directing/acting team of Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray since 2003. That’s when their hit, Lost in Translation, sent film-goers into a frenzy of appreciation for the charismatic actor and the fledgling filmmaker. So it’s a giant gift from the gods that the duo has come together for A Very Murray Christmas, which debuts on Netflix this week and will also hit the big screen for free at the Sie FilmCenter. The film features Murray, as himself, and about to host a live Christmas special when a disastrous blizzard moves in, leaving him scrambling for guests not trapped under snow. There are appearances by Miley Cyrus, George Clooney, Chris Rock, Amy Poehler, Jenny Lewis, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph, Michael Cera and Rashida Jones, among others.
Alamo Drafthouse - December 13 - drafthouse.com
One of the greatest, unsung holiday treats — perhaps because of its dark, crusty edge — is this Tim Burton sequel that imagines what happens when the holiday season comes to Gotham City and brings with it some new villains, including Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as the sexy/scary/perfect Catwoman. It might be time for a new holiday tradition for you and yours.
Alamo Drafthouse - Quote-Along version December 5, 21, 22 - drafthouse.com
Clark Griswold and his put-upon family reunite for Christmas with the entire clan and, of course, being a Vacation film, things do not go as planned. The Alamo has their Quote-Along machine working, which means you’ll get interactive props and can yell out your favorite lines with the rest of the audience.
Sie FilmCenter - Films On Tap version screening with Die Hard 2 December 18 - denverfilm.org
Alamo Drafthouse - December 6 - drafthouse.com
Esquire Theater - December 11, 12 - landmarktheaters.com
This thrilling Christman-in-Los Angeles action masterpiece tells the tale of loose-cannon cop John McClane, who is trying to diffuse a hostage situation inside a skyscraper. The Sie’s screening is part of their Films On Tap series, which turns movies into a drinking games. See the double bill of Die Hard and Die Hard 2, which made use of the soon-to-be-vacated Stapleton Airport back in the day.
Sie FilmCenter - December 5 - denverfilm.org
When Tim Burton introduced us to Edward Scissorhands 25 years ago, the character was perhaps the most passionately personal one to ever emerge from the confines of the filmmaker’s wild imagination. Embodied by heartthrob actor Johnny Depp (and spiritually based on Burton), Edward was created by an inventor (played by the late Vincent Price) who died of a heart attack. As a result, Edward wanders into ’80s suburbia, where his kooky, pale appearance, topped off with hands made of giant shears, freaks out the neighbors and disgusts/attracts the attention of the popular and beautiful daughter (Winona Ryder) of his new surrogate family and even create some Christmas cheer with the ‘hood.The film lives in the heart of many a self-proclaimed “weirdo.” Ernie Quiroz, programming manager for the Denver Film Society, has his own reasons for celebrating its anniversary this week at the Sie FilmCenter: “I was sixteen when that film came out, which is just about the perfect age to first see [it], because I think that’s when you start to realize there are two kinds of people in the world: what I call the ‘normals,’ and then people like Edward and people like myself — the people who didn’t fit in. What’s great about the film is that it doesn’t just say that it’s okay to be different, it says it’s better to be different.”
Sie FilmCenter - December 19 - denverfilm.org
Alamo Drafthouse - Quote-Along version December 4, 5, 21, 22 - drafthouse.com
There is a hard debate among cineastes over whether Will Ferrell’s greatest role was as Frank in Old School or as Buddy in Elf. The proof may be in the figgy pudding with this modern holiday classic about an overexcited and tall elf who goes looking for his father in the big city, far away from the North Pole. The Alamo has a special quote-along version with props and all the happy yelling you can stand.
The Funtastic World of Santa-sploitation
Alamo Drafthouse - December 4 - drafthouse.com
Santa has been used as a tool not just for good in this world but for evil — and those reindeer games have played out in dozens of weirdo films over the years. The American Genre Film Archive has compiled the best clips of Santa gone wild and even thrown in a stunning 2K restoration of the rare looney film The Magic Christmas Tree!
Alamo Drafthouse - December 5 - drafthouse.com
Another dark classic for Christmas is Joe Dante’s awesome ‘80s fable of a young man who’s gifted an adorable young creature called a Mogwai that comes with some terrible rules that might lead to some not so adorable demonspawn as consequence. If you’ve never seen this chestnut do it immediately, but don't get it wet or feed it after midnight.
Sie FilmCenter - with Pizza Party December 22 - denverfilm.org
Alamo Drafthouse - with Pizza Party December 7 - drafthouse.com
Fathom Events - December 9 - fathomevents.com
Kevin McCallister is the hero of many a kid who’s been left behind, taking on scary burglars and ordering all of the cheese pizza and Pepsi he or she can stand. Both the Sie and Alamo screenings will feature pizza just for you, so come hungry you filthy animals.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas
Sie FilmCenter - December 12 - denverfilm.org
Bring the whole family to this free screening of two television classics, and then visit with Santa Claus afterwards in the Sie lobby. It’ll be a HO-HO-HO good time!
It’s A Wonderful Life
Sie FilmCenter - December 13 - denverfilm.org
Alamo Drafthouse - December 6, 24 - drafthouse.com
Frank Capra’s dark yet saccharine film tells the tale of a man (Jimmy Stewart) lost in the world and ready to end it all when a tough-loving angel shows him what awfulness would befall his loved ones if he died. A tough lesson to swallow but one that truly seems to encapsulate the reason for the season.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Alamo Drafthouse - December 8 - drafthouse.com
Another great unconventional modern Christmas tale is Shane Black’s (Lethal Weapon) action comedy about an insufferable actor (Robert Downey, Jr.) who gets paired with a detective (Val Kilmer) during the holidays and during a pretty intense murder investigation. Razor sharp wit, thrills and twists abound but, since its L.A., no snow.
Opens December 4 at a theater near you - fandango.com for theaters and showtimes
Trick ‘r Treat director Michael Dougherty finally returns with his second horror/comedy feature this time set around a stressed family (led by Adam Scott and Toni Collette) who get visited by the original dark symbol of the Christmas holiday who has his own “naughty and nice” list. So you better watch out, I‘m telling you why. Read our festive interview with director Michael Dougherty here.
Landmark's Esquire Theater - December 4, 5 - landmarktheaters.com
More than just a hit holiday film, Love Actually also works as a perfect litmus test to see just how much holiday spirit your loved ones can take and also just how serious you or your significant other actually are about the relationship. Lost love (and some cheating and stalker-ish tendencies) abound but no matter how into or not into the film you are we can all agree that when that sweet little girl turns up her school talent show with a rendition of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You", your heart will melt like butter, even if your "treacle" meter is going off the charts.
Miracle On 34th Street
Fathom Events- December 20, 23 - fathomevents.com
This is many a child’s favorite story of a young girl whose belief that a department store Santa is truly the man himself. That belief lands her and Santa in court to prove the validity of ol’ Saint Nick. A more winning performance from a young Natalie Wood has yet to be captured on film.
The Night Before
Now Playing at a theater near you - fandango.com for theaters and showtimes
Joseph Gordon Levitt, Seth Rogan, and Anthony Mackie are three best friends whose years-long Christmas Eve tradition comes to an end with a drug laced, balls-to-the-wall, epic adventure that shows that finding the good will toward your fellow man can still be a raunchy R-rated affair. Don’t bring Grandma unless she’s down with the homies.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Sie FilmCenter - December 17 - denverfilm.org
Henry Selick and Tim Burton’s madhouse, stop-motion musical collaboration has become the gold standard classic for viewers who love Halloween just as much as Christmas. When Santa is kidnapped by Halloweentown’s nastiest villain it’s up to the reserved Jack Skellington and his mischievous pals to save the day...both of them!
The Nutcracker presented by Bolshoi Ballet
Sie FilmCenter - December 20 - denverfilm.org
Don’t miss your one chance to see the world famous Bolshoi Ballet dance their way into your hearts. Sugar plums and other inanimate objects come to life here for your your holiday bedazzlement. Recorded live and presented on a slight delay, you can see the holiday magic from a world away without even having to pack a bag, or deal with pesky customs agents.
Sie FilmCenter - December 12 - denverfilm.org
To truly enjoy the light of Christmas you must embrace the dark origin of what actually is a very eerie holiday, and this 2010 Finnish treat introduces us to a special ops force that has captured something big and terrifying: the original Santa Claus.
Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny: presented by Rifftrax
Fathom Events- December 3, 15 - fathomevents.com
The braintrust behind the sadly missed Mystery Science Theater 3000 have their live Rifftrax moniker working overtime these days, still skewering questionable movies with live comedy over the film. For the holiday, they’re working their magic on the this curious monstrosity that features Santa in Florida, some weird shenanigans and, of course, an ice cream bunny. Hoppy Holidays?
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Alamo Drafthouse - December 7 - drafthouse.com
Speaking of monstrosities, this slice of Santa-sploitation will answer the dreams of any young person who ever got a hold of a Santa doll and decided to make him play with their assortment of action figures. No need to delve into the plot, the film’s title says it all.
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Sie FilmCenter - December 21 - denverfilm.org
Alamo Drafthouse - Quote-Along version December 14 - drafthouse.com
No holiday would be complete without enjoying some form of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol to remind us to keep our attitudes toasty. Richard Donner’s 1988 adaptation gives us the Ebenezer we didn’t know we deserved: Bill Murray. As the caustic TV exec is visited by the ghosts of the Christmas season we also get to watch an actor in his true element, chewing all of the scenery and all of his fellow cast too. The Alamo has this quote-along version for added fun.
Star Wars Holiday Special
Sie FilmCenter - December 11 - denverfilm.org
It was once said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." and if the current furor over the new Star Wars trilogy along with its already oversaturated marketing isn’t kept in check, children, then we are only a short ways away from a new version of this 1978 holiday cash-in that it was quickly buried, never to be spoken of again. But pop culture is a cruel beast and now it resurfaces in bootleg form to remind us all, “Enjoy the things you have but don't get too freaking crazy about it, okay?”