Seasonal viewings: 5 not-quite Christmas movies

With the holidays nearly upon us, you might already be full of festive cheer.

Then again, you may have a positively diabetic reaction to all the sugary sweetness that Christmas can bring – especially in the entertainment of the season.

Yes, this is the time of year about togetherness and family and the spirit of giving and blah, blah, blah – but you don’t want to be beaten over the head with such sentiments as you try to get into the mood.

Tonight (December 22nd) is the longest night of the year.  Why not fill it with a few Christmas-y movies that don’t cause sugar comas when consumed?

Here are five prime choices for your holiday entertainment:

5) Batman Returns – Tim Burton takes a second stab at the saga of the Dark Knight with the Batman (Michael Keaton) taking on the Penguin (Danny DeVito), Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and an unscrupulous businessman (Christopher Walken) during the holidays, heading off a conspiracy to take over Gotham City during a municipal election.

Darker than 1989’s Batman and definitely better that Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, if Keaton & Pfeiffer don’t wow you, Danny Elfman’s darkly-inspired score will.

Drinking game: Take a swig when anything explodes.  Two swigs if the explosion is caused by an armed penguin.

4) Die Hard – New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) comes to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to reconcile with his wife and see his kids, but ends up the only free man in a 40-storey tower captured by terrorists. Now, it’s up to McClane to fight the bad guys, save the day and get his girl, all in his bare feet.

For audiences, this is the film that cemented Bruce Willis as an action star, and made Alan Rickman a man that ladies in North American could never forget.

Drinking game: Take a shot every time Willis cracks wise.

3) Eyes Wide Shut – Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) gets a little bothered by the fact that his wife (Nicole Kidman) has considered sleeping with other men and tries to feel better with a night on the town followed by a super-secret mass orgy in a mansion.

Yes, really.

Confusing as hell to viewers back when it was released in 1999, Eyes Wide Shut starts off with a trip to a Christmas party and uses the holidays as a back drop for a twisted tale of moral turpitude.

Drinking game: Enjoy a sip of alcohol-infused nog every time Tom Cruise tries too hard to like kissing women.

2) Gremlins – This Steven Spielberg-produced black comedy tells the tale of young man named Billy (Zach Galligan) whose inventor father (Hoyt Axton) gets him an exotic pet called a Mogwai for Christmas.  Calling the new creature Gizmo, Billy has to obey three simple rules in caring for the pet: Don’t let it eat after midnight, don’t ever get it wet, and don’t let it see bright light.

Of course, the first two rules get broken and the town of Kingdom Falls becomes infested with evil Mogwai, better known as Gremlins.  It’s up to Billy, his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) and Gizmo to save the day.

Drinking game: Down an ounce of alcohol when a Gremlin destroys something.  Two if the Gremlin makes you laugh.

1) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians – Okay, this one is a bit Christmasy, but that’s overridden by the fact this movie is among the worst films ever made – so bad, in fact, that it becomes perfect for a holiday-themed house party.

This sci-fi flick from 1964 features a group of Martians with poorly-painted faces realizing they’ve raised their children in too strict a fashion.  To fix the problem, they decide to abduct Santa Claus from Earth so that they can introduce the idea of “fun” into their society.

However, when the Martians arrive on Earth, they get confused by all the fake Santas running around, so they kidnap two kids to draw the real Santa out.  By the time they get back to Mars, one of their number is trying to kill Santa and the kids in order to protect the sanctity of Martian society.

Trust me, it’s even worse than it sounds.

Drinking game: Just drink as much as you can before you even turn the movie on.  That, or watch it with the guys from Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the only way to actually enjoy this flick sober.

What’s the best non-Christmas-y Christmas film you’ve ever seen?

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