Evidently, we moviegoers were naughty this year. Why else would Santa leave a nasty lump of cinematic coal such as "Four Christmases" in our collective stocking? Maybe it was punishment for not seeing "The Visitor."
Thankfully, there are a handful of yuletide alternatives currently in movie theaters. And none of them feature Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as a pair of smarmy, Christmas-hating yuppies.
True, this mysterious Will Smith vehicle - new in theaters this week - isn't technically a Christmas movie. Starring the "Men in Black" star as a troubled aerospace tycoon who moonlights as an IRS agent so he can visit terminally ill or otherwise ailing regular folk, it's more like a lachrymose hybrid of "21 Grams" and "Pay It Forward." Still, Christmaslike themes are prevalent throughout (let's just say Smith takes the concept of "giving" to unthinkable extremes).
"POLAR EXPRESS: AN IMAX 3-D EXPERIENCE"
Greeted by lukewarm critical response when first released in 2004, this Robert Zemeckis-directed dream-fable has since carved a lucrative niche as a year-in, year-out seasonal attraction. Like some of the best Christmas movies, it's slightly trippy. Combine the recurring likeness of Tom Hanks with the surreal motion-capture animation and you have an immersive journey that somehow slips unnoticed into the cinnamon-scented depths of your Christmastime consciousness.
>> "Polar Express: An IMAX 3-D Experience" is playing at the Tempe IMAX at Arizona Mills, 5000 Arizona Mills Circle. Click here for screening information.
"CHRISTMAS ON MARS"
From the endearingly warped mind of space-rock pioneer Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips) comes this seasonal sci-fi treat about a group of stranded Martian colonists who discover the true meaning of Christmas while staging an out-of-this-Earth nativity play. Coyne serves as writer, director and lead Martian on this micro-budget production, which is playing this weekend only (alongside the slasher classic "Black Christmas") courtesy of cult cinema diva Andrea Beasley-Brown (aka the Midnite Movie Mamacita).