Christmas movies. We all have our favorites, and we all have the ones we loathe, because they remind us of our childhoods, or our families, or Christmas itself, or some combination thereof. 'Tis the season, however, and holiday fare is inescapable, whether you're channel surfing or hitting the multiplexes. This week kicks off the holiday-movie season with a variety of classics all over town.
First up is Die Hard, one the best of the Christmas action movies, the film that cemented Bruce Willis as a box-office star, playing a New York detective shooting Eurotrash bad guys led by Alan Rickman in an L.A. skyscraper on Christmas Eve. You have two shots at it this week—at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma and 7 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 8, at Reading Cinemas Town Square in North Clairemont. The former is free and is at a bar; the latter costs $5, but it's in a real movie theater.
Macaulay Culkin was made ridiculously famous by Home Alone, the 1990 film that found him beating up bad guys Joe Pesci and Daniel stern after his parents accidentally leave him behind as they embark on a Christmas vacation. Again, you have two opportunities. You can catch it at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp or at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at The Range restaurant in Hillcrest (reservations are suggested, and there's a $20 food-and-booze minimum, but if you participate in the uglysweater contest afterward, you could win a $50 gift certificate).
Santa's Cool Holiday Film Festival is a collection of old films that screens Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Ken Cinema. The highlight is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and there's also a slew of stuff from as far back as the 1930s. It starts at midnight, so you're pretty much expected to arrive with a nice buzz.
Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without It's a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra's, um, wonderful 1946 movie, which stars James Stewart as George Bailey, who essentially spends his life occupying Bedford Falls. Lionel Barrymore is particularly great as 1-percenter Mr. Potter. Catch it on the big screen at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
Lastly, there's A Christmas Story. This year, you won't have to wait till Christmas Eve, because it's screening poolside at The Pearl Hotel. Shoot your eye out with cocktails at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl: Three Mumbai women fall in love with the same conman.
Machine Gun Preacher: Gerard Butler plays Sam Childers, a real-life former drug dealer who, after finding religion, led armed incursions into dangerous parts of Sudan to rescue conscripted child soldiers. The movie, which played San Diego previously, re-opens at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
New Year's Eve: Famous people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro and Ashton Kutcher get drunk and make out at midnight.
Shame: Michael Fassbender bares body and soul as a sex addict in Steve McQueen's NC-17 drama. It's graphic, emotionally and sexually, but it's also extremely well-made.
The Sitter: Jonah Hill is the college kid suckered into taking care of children who live next door to him.
The Women on the 6th Floor: A pair of Spanish maids make mischief in the house of a conservative couple in Paris in the 1960s.
One Time Only
The 39 Steps: Classic Hitchcock from 1935 about a man (Robert Donat) on the run after being wrongly accused of murdering a spy. Screens at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Moo! Holiday Celebration: The Italian American Academy teams up with the San Diego Italian Film Festival for a morning of Italian cartoons at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Though its full title is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, this holiday was actually directed by Henry Selick. Screens at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Warren Miller's… Like There's No Tomorrow: Miller's latest winter-sports extravaganza screens at 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
The Future: Miranda July's second film is even weirder than her first (Me and You and Everyone We Know). She and Hamish Linklater play a slacker couple whose impending adoption of an injured cat dramatically impacts their lives. Throw in stopping time, a talking moon and a talking cat and you've got serious art-house fare. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Good Husband: The San Diego Asian Film Festival wraps up its year with this Japanese film about a married photographer who's become more interested in the models he's shooting than the shots he's getting. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at UltraStar Mission Valley.
Rent: Actor Anthony Rapp, who appeared in the original Broadway production and the film adaptation, will be on hand at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at the Birch North Park Theatre. Presented by FilmOut.
Alaska: Sarah Palin does not appear in this IMAX film, which runs Fridays through December at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Le Havre: This new one from Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is about a Frenchman who goes to bat for a young African refugee in the seaside town of—well, Le Havre.
London Boulevard: The directorial debut from William Monohan, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Departed, stars Colin Farrell as an ex-con who gets a chance to go straight when he takes a job looking after reclusive movie star Keira Knightley.
Mystery of the Nile: It ain't just a river in Egypt. It's also an IMAX film running Fridays through December at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Young Goethe in Love: The title pretty much says it all. Question is, did the Faust author make a Faustian deal?
Arthur Christmas: A 3-D animated flick about Santa's youngest son, who uses Santa's high-tech operation to complete a crucial mission on Christmas night.
Hugo: Hell hath apparently frozen over—Martin Scorsese has made a 3-D PG family film.
The Muppets: Jason Segal reboots the franchise. It's time to play the music and light the lights one more time.
My Week with Marilyn: Eddie Redmayne is Colin Clark, an assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who has to manage his boss' relationship with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during a production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
The Descendants: Alexander Payne's first film since Sideways is more straightforward than his previous work, but just as rewarding. George Clooney's terrific as Matt King, a father trying to reconnect with his daughters after his wife's injured in an accident.
Happy Feet Two: Penguins are so 2006.
Santa vs. The Snowman: Family-oriented steel-cage match plays the IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1: You know how Bella and Edward spent the last three movies not getting it on? Well, now they do.
Immortals: Zeus chooses Thesus (played by Henry Cavill, the next Superman) to take on Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) in a film by Tarsem Singh, who made The Cell.
J. Edgar: Leonardo DiCaprio is the longtime head of the FBI in Clint Eastwood's biopic. DiCaprio's pretty good, but the film treats Hoover with kid gloves.
Jack and Jill: As if one Adam Sandler weren't enough, here he plays a nice guy and the nice guy's annoying twin sister.
Like Crazy: Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are a couple drawn to each other for years, even though her visa situation keeps her in England, while he lives in L.A.
Melancholia: There's an enormous amount of symbolism in Lars von Trier's new one, which stars Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg facing a failed wedding and, literally, the end of the world.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas: About as funny as a holiday stoner 3-D movie can be, although the buzz wears off over time. Still, Neil Patrick Harris is absolutely filthy, going further than he did in the first two films.
Tower Heist: When Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck learn they've lost everything in Alan Alda's ponzi scheme, they recruit Eddie Murphy to help them rob him.
In Time: Justin Timberlake stars in this sci-fi actioner as a guy with too much time on his hands in a world where people no longer age.
Puss in Boots: Not too hard to imagine what the knock-off porn title will be of this Shrek spin-off.
Margin Call: Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and a slew of high-profile talents play the 1-percenters on the eve of the financial meltdown. Ends Dec. 8 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Paranormal Activity 3: The guys who made Catfish helmed the latest iteration of the popular found-footage horror show.
The Skin I Live In: Antonio Banderas stars in Pedro Almodovar's drama as a plastic surgeon desperate to create a synthetic skin for his wife, who was badly burned years ago. Thing is, he needs a human subject, and he'd rather try it out on someone else before he tries it out on her.
The Way: Emilio Estevez directed his dad, Martin Sheen, in this film about a father who heads to Europe to try to recover the body of his estranged son.
The Ides of March: George Clooney, who's always worn his politics on his sleeve, directs and stars in his latest film, about the death of idealism in a young political consultant played by Ryan Gosling. It's well-made, but not as important as it thinks it is.
Under the Sea: Go underwater and see some of the planet's most gorgeous ecosystems, before it's too late, since we're gradually destroying pretty much everything. Screening at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
50/50: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Adam, a 28-year-old who learns he has cancer. Seth Rogen is his best friend, so it's got the R-rated raunch-comedy thing going on, but JGL's performance is so good you won't care.
Moneyball: Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's who shook up baseball by reinventing the way players are valued. Sounds like dry stuff, but the last time someone adapted a Michael Lewis sports-business book for the big screen was The Blind Side, which earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar.
Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's most charming film in years stars Owen Wilson as a Jazz Age-infatuated screenwriter and aspiring novelist who ends up hanging with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Boto be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.