The Movie Guru: A variety of Christmas cheer in delightful new holiday movies
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (Disney+)
If you like the movie version of the “Guardians of the Galaxy,” you’re going to love their Christmas special.
The 45-minute program is an adorable, ridiculous, warm-hearted love letter to the Guardians, Christmas, and the power of family. It’ll be confusing if you haven’t seen both the previous movies, and you might not be prepared for some of the silliness. If you have, though, this is a delight not to be missed.
The special starts sometime after the Guardians last appeared in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” with the group having recently bought the floating space city of Knowhere. Though telling you more would deprive you of some of the special’s fun, I will say not to worry about unexpected plot revelations. Both the Knowhere purchase and another, bigger surprise are unique to the special. You didn’t miss hearing about them somewhere else.
With the special itself, there are so many little details that you might want to watch it twice to make sure you don’t miss anything. There’s even a fun little bit at the end of the credits, one last present from the strangest, most adorable found family in all the MCU.
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Christmas With You (Netflix)
Sometimes the familiar is exactly what you need during the holidays.
The best of Netflix’s current crop of new Hallmark-style movies is “Christmas With You,” starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Aimee Garcia.
It’s a sweet romance with a strong family element and some nice Hispanic cultural representation. There are no surprises here, but if you’re in the right mood it’s as warm and comforting as a Christmas cookie.
In the movie, Garcia is a singer and dancer who’s being pushed to write a new hit single for Christmas. Unable to find inspiration, she surprises one of her fans whose dad just happens to do a little amateur songwriting himself. When the family convinces her to stay for Christmas, she might just find this is the harmony she’s been looking for.
The movie is structured around Hispanic culture, with a quinceañera serving as one of the main events in the movie. The cast is nearly all Hispanic as well, with performances that are surprisingly satisfying across the board. All in all, it’s a sweet, comfortingly familiar holiday treat.
Violent Night (in theaters)
If you genuinely love the spirit of Christmas, but also really like creative holiday-themed violence, then you’ve got to see “Violent Night.”
The movie is a delightful, absurd, and somehow really sweet mashup of a heartwarming Christmas movie and a really bloody action flick. The key to its charm is the wholehearted embrace of both halves of its really strange personality. It’s dedicated to figuring out how many ways you can use Christmas paraphernalia to kill people, but it’s just as intense in its belief in magic and the true spirit of Christmas.
Oh, and David Harbour is the literal, actual Santa.
Is it foul-mouthed? Absolutely. Is there a lot of gore? Most definitely. But there’s also several genuinely heartwarming moments, including a couple of really good redemption arcs, and even a good message about what matters most. What more could you ask for in a Christmas movie?
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.