Christmas Film: Merry 80s Christmas and Grimm Up North

Polly Checkland Harding

Two festive film seasons kick off this month – don’t miss 1980s classics, the best of Tim Burton and a flashback double bill.

Winter is the time to hibernate – it’s all about having an eye on warm, indoorsy events, or a cozy winter pub at the end of a bracing walk. So you’ve got to be sure that something will be worth venturing outside (which is why we’ve put all the best things happenings in December into a handy Advent Calendar, hint hint). It’s also why Christmas film is so appealing. Thankfully, there are some excellent opportunities for staying hot like popcorn over the coming month – here’s our pick of the best festive film.

First up is a screening of Elf at Central Library – and, as an added extra, a workshop for making “magic lenses” beforehand (6 Dec, 11.30am). This promises to be a novel way to watch a film that’s fast becoming a Christmas staple. Cornerhouse, meanwhile, has launched its Merry ’80s Christmas season. The Neverending Story left a lasting impression on my childhood memory – a muddled one featuring strange creatures and flying through the night sky. Time for an update or, for anyone new to the land of Fantasia, a treat (6 Dec, 4pm). Next, it’s a bump back to reality with Planes, Trains and Automobiles (7 & 16 Dec, 6.10pm). This Steve Martin caper sees a stressed marketing executive attempt to get home for Thanksgiving, comically thwarted and hopelessly accompanied by John Candy (of Cool Runnings fame), who plays a highly irritating salesman.

Not-strictly-festive ’80s cinematic classics & final knockings from Grimm Up North

Ghostbusters is back, too – another chance for either happy nostalgia or the first shot at a classic (11 Dec, 6.30pm; 15 Dec, 8.30pm). To fully understand why “yippee-ki-yay” is still a thing people say, rock up to the screening of Die Hard (12 & 22 Dec, 8pm) or, for some bizarre Bowie and wonderful filmic use of an Escher-style staircase, put Labyrinth in the diary (13 Dec, 1.10pm; 18 Dec, 8.30pm). Then there’s Willow: in between making Star Wars, George Lucas directed this fantasy battle between good and evil, starring a young Warwick Davis and a particularly expressive baby (14 Dec, 3.40pm).

To round off the season is Big Trouble in Little China, in which a tough-talking truck driver gets sucked into a supernatural underworld that features a 2,000 year-old magician, cracking one-liners and Kim Cattrall (20 Dec, 8.40pm). Bonkers at its best. And, although it’s not from the ’80s, we couldn’t miss out Cornerhouse’s screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life, the festive favourite where a man is shown what the world would be like if he’d never lived (13-23 Dec). Sob.

Finally, there’s Grimm Up North’s more traditionally Christmassy screenings. The Nightmare Before Christmas is back, kicking off a Tim Burton season at the Odeon Printworks (11 Dec, 7pm). This Halloween/Christmas smash is beautifully animated – more than just costume fodder. Last but not least, there’s another retro double bill at Gorilla featuring National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Jingle All the Way! (14 Dec, 3pm). So, pop your mitts on and grimace into the frost – it might be cold outside but we’re looking forward to a cinematic Christmas.

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