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Knight at the Movies: Holiday movie offerings
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2016-11-23

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Like it or not, it's beginning to look like Christmas and if holiday movies are your thing ( and longtime readers of this column know that they are mine ), there's a nice assortment of holiday-themed movies—new and old on the big and small screen—to crank up your Yuletide spirit.

Highlights of area screenings, some holiday fare on the small screen and a few impending home releases are as follows:

In theaters

New seasonal films:

Almost Christmas—A dysfunctional family gathers for its first Thanksgiving since losing the matriarch. Danny Glover is the grieving widower, and Gabrielle Union, Kimberly Elise, Romany Malco and Jessie T. Usher are his bickering adult kids. Think a combination of George Tillman Jr.'s Soul Food and Jodie Foster's Home for the Holidays. It's currently in theaters.

Bad Santa 2—Thirteen years after Billy Bob Thornton became the poster child for every holiday hater as Willie—the profane con man renowned as the nastiest department store Santa ever—he's back to wreak more havoc and spew more venom. His pint-size sidekick, Marcus ( Tony Cox ), is also back, with the two teaming to rip off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. The source of Willie's toxic outlook on life is explained in the personage of Kathy Bates as his horrendously awful mother. Between this and multiple seasons on American Horror Story, the Oscar-winning Bates is apparently vying for a new goal to portray more poisonous characters than any other actor in history. Nov. 23

Office Christmas Party—Noxious holiday comedies have become the norm rather than the exception ( including Four Christmases, Christmas with the Kranks, Surviving Christmas, Fred Claus, Deck the Halls, Jack Frost, etc. ) and this promises to be one more. Jennifer Aniston plays a rotten lady Scrooge who wants to close the branch of her hard-partying brother ( T.J. Miller ); he and his fellow employees scramble to avert the closure by throwing the largest office Christmas party on record. Jason Bateman, Courtney B. Vance, out actor Kate McKinnon and Olivia Munn co-star. Dec. 9

Vintage holiday film screenings:

Home Alone—This is the 1990 cartoon-like comedy penned by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus about 12-year-old Kevin ( Macaulay Culkin ), who is enjoying Christmas in his family's North Shore mansion after inadvertently being left behind over the holidays—that is, until two inept burglars ( Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern ) target the home. ArcLight, 1500 N. Clybourn Ave., will screen the film Tuesday, Dec. 6; https://www.arclightcinemas.com/movie/arclight-presentshome-alone?lid=1010.

It's a Wonderful Life in concert—Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ( CSO ) will play Dimitri Tiomkin's newly restored complete score as the Frank Capra 1946 classic screens in a special event at the Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., on Friday, Dec. 9. http://cso.org/ticketsandevents/production-details-2016-17/cso-specials/its-a-wonderful-life/

It's a Wonderful Life/White Christmas—The Music Box Theatre's 33rd annual holiday extravaganza returns. Pick either the Frank Capra 1946 black-and-white fantasy classic, the campier Michael Curtiz's 1954 Technicolor musical extravaganza or both. There's a holiday carol sing-a-long with Dennis Scott on the organ before every screening. Dec. 10-Dec. 24 https://musicboxtheatre.com/events/the-33rd-annual-music-box-christmas-double-feature-sing-a-long

Die Hard/Gremlins—Christmas anarchy thanks to this double batch, again at what is apparently holiday movie central, the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport Ave. In 1988's Die Hard, Bruce Willis singlehandedly takes down a group of terrorists ( led by the late Alan Rickman in his breakthrough role ) during his wife's Christmas Eve office party. A batch of cuddly little fur balls morph into monstrous little poltergeists in smalltown America one memorable Christmas Eve in Joe Dante's 1984 movie Gremlins. Both screen Monday, Dec. 12 and 19. https://musicboxtheatre.com/events/alternative-christmas-double-feature-mistletoe-mayhem

Elf/Love Actually—The Music Box Theatre has even more holiday fare with this delightful double batch consisting of, respectively, Jon Favreau's 2003 charming comedy and Richard Curtis' 2003 British-set heartwarmer. Both screen Tuesday, Dec. 13 and 20. https://musicboxtheatre.com/events/alternative-christmas-double-feature-jolly-holidays

A Christmas Story—The heartwarming, genuinely funny bonafide 1983 classic from director Bob Clark about little Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. It's adapted from the stories of Jean Shepherd. ArcLight is presenting a screening on Wed., Dec. 14. https://www.arclightcinemas.com/movie/arclight-presentsa-christmas-story?lid=1010

Streaming, DVD/Blu-Ray

Scrooge & Marley—Yup, this is how much I love Christmas movies. In 2012, I co-wrote, directed and helped produce this modern-day, gay version of the Dickens' classic. A multitude of gay community favorites—David Pevsner, Bruce Vilanch, Megan Cavanagh, Rusty Schwimmer, David Moretti, Ronnie Kroell, Scott Duff, Amy Matheny, Fawz Mirza and many others—joined together to make this queer take on Christmas.

And it's narrated by Judith Light and has one of the most beautiful, inspiring ballads you've ever hear—sung by none other than Jason Gould. Its executive-produced by Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim and available to stream, on DVD or Blu-ray. ScroogeAndMarleyMovie.com

Make the Yuletide Gay—Writer-director Rob Williams' charming 2009 holiday comedy is about a young gay man coming out to his family over the holidays—after his boyfriend shows up to force the issue. The movie's sweet and daffy. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002XJXDTQ/ref=pd_cbs_318_1

Shared Rooms—Rob Williams returns to a holiday theme with this 2016 festival favorite, the story of three gay couples finding love and lust at the holidays. https://www.facebook.com/sharedrooms/

Christmas with Love from Mrs. Claus—Is it possible a TV commercial could more beautifully capture the spirit of the holidays in three minutes than many movies can in 90? This exquisitely made mini-epic from England's Marks & Spencer department stores stars acclaimed stage actor Janet McTeer as Santa's power behind the throne, Mrs. Claus, and is directed by Tom Hooper ( Les Miserables, The King's Speech ). Don't be surprised if this gets fleshed out into a full-length feature by holiday 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjKS270ha4A

A quartet of queer movies

The Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., is programming a quartet of queer movies throughout December—none of which are holiday-themed—but all of which are worth checking out for LGBT film fans. The films are:

Being 17, the latest from French out writer-director Andre Techine, opening Dec. 2 for a week, http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/being17;

Spa Night, the charming, sexy, coming-out story of a young Korean man finding his nightly sexual bliss in the local while dealing with his conservative parents by day, playing Dec. 3 only www.siskelfilmcenter.org/spanight, a trans drama;

Don't Call Me Son, opening Dec. 9 for a week, www.siskelfilmcenter.org/dontcallmeson; and

The Handmaiden, Park Chan-Wook's lesbian-tinged erotic thriller and one of 2016's best films, opening Dec. 16 for a week.


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