Some old, some new; all great for getting into the holiday mood

So you’re sick of the inescapable reruns of Home Alone on Channel 5; fret not, the world of holiday-appropriate entertainment is wide and wonderful, and enough to get you feeling festive quicker than listening to Mariah Carey on loop in shopping malls downtown. Here are six we recommend.

 

Anna and the Apocalypse


Zombies, singing and hormonal teenagers come together in this epic holiday musical. Think Shaun of the Dead meets High School Musical or Glee, where protagonist Anna and her friends must fight and sing their way in a woodenly choreographed fashion through hordes of the undead to save their loved ones. If you’re going in expecting a high-concept plot with Shyamalanian twists and award-winning character development, you must have been seriously misled. What the British zom-com (zombie comedy) can promise is a thoroughly enjoyable, easy-to-watch one-and-a-half hours in the cinema that will have you humming the catchy original soundtrack when you leave. Our full review here.

Now showing at Shaw Theatres
 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina


If you haven’t had the chance to dive into this remake of a beloved TV classic, the Christmas break is the perfect opportunity to do so. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (or CAOS, as the newly minted stars of the Netflix Original like to hashtag on Instagram) is produced by the same team behind Riverdale, and in fact makes reference to it as a sister show; but bears none of the same awful, overly campy gravity of the former. Instead, what it does offer is a Harry Potter-type magic (not just because of you know, the magic) altered to fit the more sinister world of CAOS’s Greendale; something about the melodramatic camera angles and slow zooms build suspense in the same delicious way. If you aren’t already aware, this Sabrina is nothing like Melissa Joan Hart’s goofy sweetheart. Gutsy lead actress Kiernan Shipka has to grapple with the tough decision of choosing between her mortal life and her witch one, but the latter is—for the lack of a better word— downright satanic. Expect to see lots of devil imagery (the show was even recently sued by a Satanic Temple over supposed copyright infringement); but CAOS is more a liberal, fictitious exploration of demon myths and the Salem witch trials than horror. One disappointing spoiler though: Salem the cat doesn’t talk.

Above all, we appreciate the commitment to details like lingo (“Praise Satan!”) that contribute to the careful construction of the CAOS universe—and, surprisingly, a well-developed plot executed over the 10 episodes. Even more commendable is that many of the characters achieve some form of growth and development by the end of the series, something you might not have expected from a show related to Riverdale. You’ll find yourself blowing through the series pretty quickly; and bonus—a new holiday special titled A Midwinter’s Tale just dropped.

Now showing on Netflix
 

F.R.I.E.N.D.S.: The One with the Holiday Armadillo


Really, could there be anything more iconic than the Holiday Armadillo? Whether or not you’ve already binged all 10 seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. now that it’s available on Netflix, you simply must acquaint yourself with this episode (Season 7, Episode 10) for the sake of pop cultural enlightenment. David Shwimmer’s Ross Gellar wants to introduce his son Ben (a young Cole Sprouse, waddup) to his Jewish heritage and the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, but can’t find a Christmas costume to rent at such late notice. Enter what will quickly become a 21st Century icon Ross invents: Santa’s Tex-Mex friend, a festive, armoured mammal spreading knowledge of the Festival of Lights. Along the way, Ross battles Santa Claus distractions, Phoebe tries to get Rachel to move back in with her, and Chandler fails at the art of restaurant tipping; but these are all just side plots. The Holiday Armadillo is a classic creature, and a Christmas gift to us all that deserves rehashing every December.

Now showing on Netflix
 

Mary Poppins Returns


A shame that this highly anticipated sequel only lands on our islands on Christmas Day, but like Poppins herself, good things are worth waiting for. Two decades after the events of the 1964 film, Jane and Michael Banks are all grown up and dealing with adult problems that can’t be fixed with a spoonful of sugar. So who then but Mary Poppins, now played by the effervescent Emily Blunt, to come sailing down from the clouds to save the day? Rounded out by a star-studded cast including Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda (who plays a former apprentice of Bert The Matchman from the original film), Dick Van Dyke, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep, the 2018 musical fantasy film dives back into the delightful whimsy of the Mary Poppins universe—with dazzling updated musical numbers and a nostalgic, worthy tribute to the first film. 2D animation even makes a welcome comeback as Poppins takes the new Banks children into drawings like before. Will Emily Blunt be able to fill the enormous shoes left behind by her predecessor Julie Andrews? Critics worldwide seem to think so, and going by her versatility from Devil Wears Prada to recent horror hit A Quiet Place, we’ve got full confidence too.

Opens Dec 25 in cinemas islandwide
 

The Holiday


The irony isn’t lost on us; but yes, it is now 12 years since The Holiday was first released. The Nancy Meyers romantic comedy has easily become one of the most well-loved Christmas films in the canon, and for good reason—it’s unlikely, cute, and unbearably mushy. Two women on opposite ends of the Atlantic Ocean fall simultaneously out of love, days before Christmas. Cameron Diaz is a high-flying Hollywood movie magnate (whose job has affected her so much she hilariously has visions of her life as 5-second movie trailers), while Kate Winslet plays a weepy British wedding columnist for The Daily Telegraph in London. Through the miracle of a home-exchange website (AirBnB could never), the two women decide to escape their heartbreak and stay at each other’s homes for two weeks over the Christmas holiday. As most rom coms go, shenanigans unfold and they meet new men who will teach them the true meaning of love. There are genuinely touching moments, embellished with just the right amount of cringe to have it qualify as a holiday film—plus Christmassy vibes all round, though for that you have Hans Zimmer’s score to thank. And young, rugged Jude Law! What’s not to love? If rediscovering love is isn’t on the table for you this Christmas, let Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet do it for you.

Now showing on Netflix
 

The Princess Switch


Vanessa Hudgens returns to bubblegum acting in this new made-for-Netflix Christmas romantic comedy. Essentially another modern-day revival of A Tale of Two Cities, the plot sees dual Vanessas playing a baker from Chicago and a soon-to-be princess of the fictional Montenaro who decide to switch places. As both begin to settle into the other’s lives, love and responsibilities invariably complicate things. Switching lives seems to a popular theme for Christmas, but The Princess Switch manages to keep things tasteful and charming till the expected fairy tale ending. It’s good, homey escapist fun; perfect for a cosy night in with friends or family. You knew there would be at least one cheesy Christmas movie coming, so might as well fulfil your quota and make it this.

Now showing on Netflix