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Christmas for the nice
The Santa Chronicles
Who’d have thought Kurt Russell – who famously played the one-eyed action hero in Escape From New York (1981) – would make a great Santa Claus? His gruff, roguish persona is just what’s needed to rescue Father Christmas from being a fat, jovial cliché. In Netflix’s new TV movie The Christmas Chronicles, Santa Claus is a something of a sweet smartass with a shaggy mane. He’s seen and done it all, and knows life can be tough. But he still retains his joy and optimism, and still believes in the magic of Christmas. He is, in a nutshell, a Santa for these politically cynical times. Despite the fact that two naughty children have accidentally derailed his global delivery schedule, he’s finding a way to rescue Christmas – as any good action hero would.
Mary Poppins Returns
It took 54 years for Disney’s beloved classic Mary Poppins to get a sequel – but the wait is worth it. The magical nanny (now played by Emily Blunt) has floated back down from the sky to save from financial ruin Michael and Jane (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer), the two children she previously took care of who are now grown up. Michael is a widow with children and his wife’s death has cast a pall. While she was ill, Michael borrowed money for her treatments. But the family now faces eviction if he fails to pay it back. Enter Mary with her talking umbrella and carpet bag – bringing back cheer, songs and a host of dancing penguins. This being the age of CGI, the magic she conjures looks even more magical than it did in 1964. It is, to use Mary’s own words, “perfect in every way”.
Socks – A Christmas Album by JD McPherson
The Christmas album everyone’s talking about this year is Socks by JD McPherson. “JD who? And what kind of title is Socks?” you ask. Yes, we were scratching our heads too. But after we downloaded the album from iTunes, we immediately understood the buzz. JD McPherson is a retro-rock revivalist who makes old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll music that feels deliberately stuck in the 1950s. His antiquated sensibilities turn out to be just right for penning and composing all-new vintage-sounding Christmas songs. They’re warm, sweet and hummable. They’re nice and just a tad naughty. They celebrate all that’s joyous and good without ever getting schmaltzy. If Christmas movie favourite It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) was a rock album, this would be it. Available on iTunes.
Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories
Noel Streatfeild was a prolific writer (1895 – 1986) who wrote for newspapers, magazines, radio and other media. She is best known for her children’s book Ballet Shoes published in 1936. It is so popular, in fact, that Meg Ryan’s bookseller character recommended it to a customer in You’ve Got Mail. After Streatfeild’s death, her nephew and an editor found dozens of unpublished short stories penned between 1940 and 1970. The Christmas-themed ones have been compiled and newly published by Virago. And boy, are they great for kids. Like most of her writing, Christmas Stories is best read aloud before family members, or else wrapped and placed under the tree for the young ones.