Friday, December 5, 2014

Hit List: Top 5 Live-Action Non-Disney Holiday Films For The Whole Family!

1. Nativity!
I was looking through films with Martin Freeman and came across this adorable gem that now reigns as my all-time favorite Christmas movie.
Freeman is a primary schoolteacher roped into putting on the annual Christmas pageant. One problem: he hates Christmas for two reasons. First, his girlfriend broke up with him during that season to pursue a job opportunity in Hollywood, and second, his arch rival who teaches at an elite school is always looking for a chance to upstage him and be the best. 
But Mr. Maddens doesn't have a choice, and he's got one month to wrangle a whole host of rambunctious kids (and one man-child "classroom assistant") to put on the "best Christmas pageant ever."

Hilarity, high-jinks and a whole ream of fantastic songs ensue! I was absolutely smitten with the story and the heart, and the final performance is not one to be missed! Rating: Good for the whole family!

2. Joyeux Noel
 I only saw this film once, but I treasure it as a singularly wonderful Christmas film. 
Set during World War 1 and focusing on the lives of a few soldiers in the Scottish, French, and German armies who end up entrenched against one another on Christmas Eve, the story coalesces around the miraculous "Christmas Cease-Fire", when for one night and a day, cultures connected through their respect for the same holiday. The use of three languages—German, French, and English—instead of all being one language served to emphasize the distinction between the three nations in a very beautiful manner. I think Diane Kruger was the only actor I recognized—but I had forgotten that she was German before I watched this. That was exciting. In terms of historical accuracy, yes, I admit it might be theatricized... But as a method of really getting you into the season and a heart-felt war drama to boot, Joyeux Noel is flawless. Rating: Some war violence, possibly language (more than likely) and graphic visuals of the battlefield type--but largely safe for kids over the age of 13!

 3. While You Were Sleeping
This has been a Christmas tradition in my family since I was old enough to watch it. Bill Pullman and Sandra Bullock are fantastic in this holiday romantic comedy about a lonely L-train attendant who falls secretly in love with a commuter she sees every day—and ends up saving his life and spending the holiday with his family while he is in a coma! Full of delightful elderly relatives, miscommunications, annoying friends and siblings, this film will warm your heart like a cup of cocoa on a snowy day. Rating: PG for language. (Beware of uncensored grandmas/aunts cracking jokes and slighted exes passing insults! Also... one conversation discusses material inappropriate for young children; censor accordingly)

4. Poirot's Christmas
All right, I admit this is rather an unorthodox addition, being a feature-length "episode" instead of an actual film—but who doesn't love a good Christmas murder mystery? I, for one, am an avid fan of Christie... And specifically Hercule Poirot... And specifically David Suchet's portrayal. The portly, diminutive Belgian with the waxed mustaches never looked so good! So this is definitely a Christmas must! Rating: Safe enough for 10 and over... anybody younger would be bored, anyhow.

5. White Christmas
Singing, dancing, Irving Berlin, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney... What could be more festive? As the peaceful holidays descend on two former army men, they cross paths with two sisters in need and the four of them team up to help out a former general and boost the spirits of the soldiers as well. The story plays second fiddle to the singing and dancing, but this is definitely a holiday staple that never gets old! Rating: Safe for the whole family! Sing along to your heart's content!