Go beyond Dickens with these offbeat holiday DVDs


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OK, so there's only so many times you can watch "It's a Wonderful Life," and by now you can probably quote every line of "A Christmas Story."

What you need are some different Christmas DVD viewing selections to keep you going through the holiday week.

Here are 10 offbeat selections, far afield of the classic "Grinch"/"Rudolph"/"Charlie Brown" traditions. Some of them are family friendly, while others definitely will spike your eggnog.

"Batman Returns" (1992). It's a bleak winter in Tim Burton's second installment of the superhero franchise, but the Caped Crusader's heroics guarantee a holiday safe from the Penguin's evil schemes. As Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) says in the movie's final line, "Merry Christmas, Alfred. Good will toward men ... and women."

"Blackadder's Christmas Carol" (1988). Rowan Atkinson's time-hopping character makes a stop in Dickensian London, in a hilarious upending of "A Christmas Carol," in which the kindly Ebenezer Blackadder learns the lesson that being bad has its advantages. The supporting cast includes Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent and Miriam Margolyes.

"Die Hard" (1988). Nothing livens up an office Christmas party like a terrorist group's hostage crisis -- or cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) crashing the party to save his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia).

"Gremlins" (1984). Joe Dante's monster comedy, in which cute furry creatures turn into mean little beasties, is a funny/scary object lesson in the dangers of buying a pet for Christmas.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001). Nearly any Harry Potter movie will do, because J.K. Rowling really nails the joy Harry experiences every holiday at Hogwarts -- with presents from his friends and the Weasley family (plus the Invisibility Cloak) filling the void left by those awful Dursleys. But the smile on Daniel Radcliffe's face in the first film is the perfect distillation of Christmas joy.

"Love Actually" (2003). Already a cult classic of sorts, director Richard Curtis' romantic roundelay captures a grab-bag of stories -- from the cute prime minister (Hugh Grant) to the heartbreak of a couple (Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman) on the brink of divorce -- set over one Christmas. And check out the cast, which includes Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Martin Freeman, a pre-"Mad Men" January Jones and a pre-"Walking Dead" Andrew Lincoln.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean" (1992). Rowan Atkinson's other famous character, the mostly wordless simpleton Mr. Bean, deconstructs several Christmas icons -- the department store Nativity scene, the Salvation Army band and the Christmas turkey -- in this uproarious holiday special. (Richard Curtis, who directed "Love Actually" and co-wrote "Blackadder's Christmas Carol," had a hand in this, too.)

"Mystery Science Theatre 3000: Santa Claus" (1993). Mike and the 'Bots tear apart a 1959 Mexican holiday movie -- in which Kris Kringle battles the Devil for the soul of a little girl named Lupita -- in a laugh-filled installment of the late great movie-parody series.

"Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" (2010). A polar archaeological dig unearths the real Santa Claus -- drawing the wrath of some really mean elves -- in this R-rated horror thriller from Finland.

"Trading Places" (1983). Santa Claus never looked scruffier than when Dan Aykroyd's disgraced stockbroker character, Louis Winthrop III, seeks revenge on tycoon siblings (Don Ameche, Ralph Bellamy) who ruined his life on a whim. On the bright side, Louis gets to make it with Jamie Lee Curtis. Merry Christmas, indeed.

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