Isn’t Christmas just great? Lots of food, lots of drinks and lots of presents – everything is coming up roses. Christmas movies however, that’s another story…
There are undoubtedly some Christmas movie greats, classics even. But really, how many times can anyone watch Love Actually and still enjoy it?
All available to stream during the holidays, we bring you the Alternative Christmas Watch List – a look at the all the best new films and boxset binges available to watch at home this festive period, without a single reference to Christmas.
Did someone say scrooge?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2
James Gunn gets the band back together for more swaggering superhero fun, and this time everything is turned up to 11. Our ragtag intergalactic heroes – Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooer) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) – are on the run from a grudge-holding race known as the Sovereign when Quill’s long-lost, god-like dad Ego (Kurt Russell) enters the picture. There’s also time for Gamora to reignite her rivalry with cyborg sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), while space pirate (Yondu Michael Rooker) has a munity on his hands.
The super-awesome Lego Movie gets an even more super-awesome spin-off as the Caped Crusader (voiced to sardonic perfection by Arrested Development’s Will Arnett) swings into action to save Gotham City from The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and an army of mega-villains pulled form every film franchise under the sun. This time though, Batman won’t be going it alone. There’s a feisty new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) in town, and she’s had enough of Batman and his massive ego running around unsupervised. There’s also another spanner in the works as big Bats accidentally agrees to take custody of an impossibly chipper character (Michael Cera) desperate to be his sidekick. But what the heck kind of superhero name is Robin?
Beauty And The Beast
PS: We may have told a little fib, as we must confess there is a very brief Christmas moment in this film but it’s just too good that we couldn’t not include it. Definitely not a Christmas movie though!!
Directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), this lavish, live-action retelling of the classic Disney animation certainly doesn’t skimp on spectacle. It’s a full-on, bells (get it?) and whistles musical, and all the beloved set-pieces are present and correct. Particularly effective are the central Be Our Guest dinner sequence and the raucous tavern singalong with the narcissistic Gaston (a spot-on Luke Evans) and his adoring sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad). Emma Watson’s Belle and Dan Stevens’ Beast are also backed up by a big-name voice cast that includes Ewan McGregor as Lumière, Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts and Sir Ian McKellen as curmudgeonly mantel clock Cogsworth.
Academy Award Nominee Best Picture, Fences tells the story of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), a 1950s Pittsburgh sanitation worker. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black athletes. Bitter over his missed opportunity, Troy creates further tension in his family when he squashes his son’s (Jovan Adepo) chance to meet a college football recruiter.
Astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds) aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.
Box Set Binges
The Walking Dead Season 7
The all-conquering post-apocalyptic drama returned in autumn for its eighth season and if you missed it the first time around this Christmas is the perfect chance to catch up with the life and times of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the residents of Alexandria, the Kingdom and the Hilltop as they prepare for an all-out war with the brutal Saviours and their maniacal, baseball-bat-wielding leader, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
The Wire Seasons 1-5
David Simon’s Emmy Award winning drama stars Dominic West as detective Jimmy McNulty, who along with his fellow investigators attempts to infiltrate a West Baltimore drug ring headed by the elusive Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and his lieutenant, Stringer bell (Idris Elba).
Big Little Lies Season 1
With a cast including Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley, this is a show with plenty of stars. With a number of high-profile, ruthless women vying for power, tensions are already high in Monterrey, Mexico. Throw in a complex murder investigation and some very complex relationships and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Twin Peaks: The Return
Twenty- five years ago, a quaint north-western town was turned upside down when the body of homecoming queen Laura Palmer was found, launching an unforgettable murder investigation.
All these films and TV shows are available to stream this Christmas through NOW TV.
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‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.