KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The holiday season is upon us, a time to enjoy some yuletide movie classics. But as an alternative to the usual fare like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, we thought we'd offer some other options you might enjoy. First, here are Russ' picks.
RUSS' alternate Christmas picks:
1) THE NATIVITY STORY (2006) (PG)
New Line Cinema
Many critics dismissed the 2006 movie "The Nativity Story." Directed by Catherine Hardwick of "Twilight" fame, this tale of the birth of Christ fell through the cracks, but I found it to be a very moving and inspiring version. Oscar Isaac plays Joseph and Keisha Castle-Hughes portrays Mary in this well-produced depiction of their treacherous travels.
RUSS: 4 Popcorn Bags
2) A MIDNIGHT CLEAR (1992) (R)
A Christmas movie set amidst the fighting in WWII, "A Midnight Clear," is a well made, sharply written 1992 drama for adults and older kids. Ethan Hawke is among a group of American GIs who attempt a temporary Christmas truce with some German soldiers. It's a tragic tale with a haunting quality that stays with you.
RUSS: 4 Popcorn Bags
Now, here are Shawn's picks:
1) TROLLS (2016) (PG)
"Trolls" is an instant classic and surprisingly represents the spirit of Christmas better than most movies intentionally designed to give props to the holiday. It's fun, playful and its message of being happy and inclusive is what the holidays are all about. Bonus is the kids will love this movie that features joyful pop recreations and burst of color that would make a bag of Skittles envious.
SHAWN: 4 Popcorn Bags
2) LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) (PG-13)
At the time of its release who knew that "Love Actually" would become a holiday classic? Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic. Fun on every watch and always moving.
SHAWN: 5 Popcorn Bags
NEW MOVIES OPENING THIS WEEK:
1) MAN DOWN (R)
Earnest performances and good intentions don’t always lead to good movies. “Man Down” is a case in point. Shia LaBeouf gives a solid turn as a U.S. Marine who, upon his return home from serving in Afghanistan, discovers that his wife and child have fallen into the hands of some chaotic force. Is this a mystery, a sci-fi story or an apocalyptic drama? The answer isn’t clear until the movie’s final moments. Sadly, this well-meaning film never gets a grip on its subject and comes off as forced and pretentious instead of heartfelt and impassioned.
RUSS: 2 Popcorn Bags
2) THE EAGLE HUNTRESS (G)
Sony Pictures Classics
If there is a bird lover in your family, you may want to consider taking them to see “The Eagle Huntress.” This beautifully photographed documentary tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who lives in the mountainous region of Kazakhstan. Her dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps, capturing and training a wild eagle for hunting. She meets steep resistance from the other hunters in their very patriarchal society. The film unfolds at a very leisurely pace, so it’s not for young children. But for those with an interest in all things aviary or in search of a film about female empowerment, “The Eagle Huntress” delivers.
RUSS: 3 Popcorn Bags
Also opening this week: Sonia Braga stars in “Aquarius,” the story of a sixty something woman, the last tenant of an apartment complex, who wages war with the developer who wants her out. “The Love Witch” is an unrated horror drama that pays homage to genre films of the 60s. “Keep Watching” is a horror thriller about a home invasion televised around the country. “Believe” is a faith-based drama about a financially strapped small town struggling to fund their Christmas pageant. Screenland Theaters are featuring the annual Arts and Crafts Festival, showcasing a number of films and brews. Information is available at screenland.com.
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