Fill Your Holiday Spirits With These Shows And Movies

By December 23, 2016
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Christmas is finally here! The presents are opened, the eggnog is empty and the cookies are gone.

So now what do you do? You enjoy a weekend full of great television shows and movies you might have missed over the past year. And in case you hadn’t heard, there’s a lot of television shows out there right now.

There’s plenty here to keep you entertained right up to that minute you have to punch the clock again. But at least you’ll have something to share at the watercooler!

Let’s start with the traditional …

TELEVISION

1. Westworld, HBO
When we think of Westworld, it’s hard not to think back to Yul Brynner riding that horse in his cowboy outfit, and then pulling off his face to show that he’s a robot.

If you think that’s scary, then you might not even be ready for HBO’s version of the film – which is, in fact, a full television series instead.

This creation comes from the mind of Jonathan Nolan and wife Lisa Joy. Jonathan is indeed the brother of Batman trilogy director Christopher Nolan, and if you loved Memento back in 2000, you have to thank Jonah because it was all based on his short story.

Now he brings the kind of “what makes us real?” intrigue that Battlestar Galactica only scratched the surface of a decade ago. With thrilling twists and turns that will make you angry once you find out we won’t get a second season until 2018.

Oh, and just so you know, Amazon Prime members can kick off a free preview months for HBO as part of their membership, and stream the entire first season!

2. Doctor Who Christmas Special, BBC America
For the past decade, Doctor Who has entertained us on Christmas Day with a special, and this year is no exception.

Airing on the same day in both the United Kingdom and the United States (and Canada), Peter Capaldi returns for the first time since, well, the last Christmas special. I guess even The Doctor needs a break once in a while.

But he’ll spend his Christmas in the U.S. where he’ll meet with a Superman-like superhero (but who isn’t Superman because, you know, laws and such).

Has The Doctor met his equal? Find out on Sunday!

3. The Magicians, Syfy
We live in a world where magic isn’t real … or do we?

It’s kind of hard to believe that there could be huge magical societies that exist, a la Harry Potter, or that we can do things that are completely unexplained.

But a group of youngsters find out that not only is magic real – but it’s dangerous, too. Like well beyond Voldemort dangerous (can we say his name yet?)

Syfy is about to premiere the second season in just a few weeks, so why not take this weekend to get caught up, so you can start watching the show live when it returns Jan. 25.

4. This Is Us, NBC
If you have anyone in your family who is actually a human being, I’m sure you heard someone talking about the new drama series on NBC that is causing a run on Kleenex at Walmart.

This Is Us showcases a family in ways we’ve never seen them before – not just in the present, but the past. And it’s filled with fun twists and heart-wrenching moments that will make you stop and wonder why this isn’t you.

And it’s all based on the premise of a group of people who happen to share the same birthday. Like literally.

The show has since gone well beyond that concept, and just 10 episodes in, we can’t get enough.

You can binge this show on Hulu, but if you want to have something to watch after Christmas, USA says it will marathon all 10 episodes that have aired so far on Jan. 7.

Just keep the Kleenex handy.

STREAMING

1. The OA, Netflix
This is a series that literally came out of nowhere. I mean, one day we were all just enjoying our lives, the next day, Netflix is telling us it’s debuting a new series on Friday. And now we gotta get caught up.

It’s from Brit Marling, a documentarian-turned-television producer and actress who is, well, she’s amazing. You need to go watch this show right now.

We don’t want to spoil too much because discovering the world of The OA is half the fun! But I will tell you that Brit plays a young woman named Prairie Johnson who suddenly turns up after been missing for seven years. While she now wants to be called “The OA,” there is one other peculiar thing about her – she’s no longer blind.

And that’s just the beginning. Head to Netflix now to see what it’s all about. And while you’re there …

2. Stranger Things, Netflix
What can I tell you about this 1980s-set series that you haven’t heard already? If nothing more, let me join in the chorus of voices to say that if you haven’t seen this yet, now is the time to do it.

Crazy things are happening in this small Indiana town, and just like those great Steven Spielberg movies of the 1980s – it’s all up to a bunch of pre-teen kids to figure it all out. It’s like The Goonies meets everything we love about mystery and horror.

And don’t forget to say hello to Barb!

3. Black Mirror, Netflix
Since you’re already logged into Netflix anyway, let me tell you about this amazing British anthology series that is now produced by the streaming company called Black Mirror.

Some like to call this science-fiction, but it’s actually more speculative-fiction. It’s like Twilight Zone, but told in a way that would relate better to audiences of the 21st century, complete with a new cast and story for every single episode.

It was created by Charlie Brooker, who is actually a satirist in England. People already loved to read his words, but making the jump from biting commentary to television isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Yet, Charlie did it, and not only was it a hit in his native England, but when Netflix picked up the early episodes, audiences in the United States just couldn’t get enough.

Help ensure there will be plenty more Black Mirror to come by binging this weekend. Again and again and again.

4. Orphan Black, BBC America
I was so excited to see Tatiana Maslany finally win an Emmy for her work, but sad to know that the upcoming season for Orphan Black will be its last.

Tatiana plays Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of one of her clones after finding out someone is out to get not only her, but all of her clones.

The show doesn’t get a lot of media attention, which probably explains why Tatiana took so long to get the Emmy recognition she deserved. But this is a show that you know must be watched in order for your life to have meaning.

Think about It’s a Wonderful Life, and how destiny made you read these words, and want you to go and binge on Orphan Black right now. So that a clone can get its, well, wings? I don’t know, that sounded better in my head.

You can stream the first three seasons as an Amazon Prime member, and the fourth season is available for purchase to stream.

MOVIES

1. Rogue One, Disney/Lucasfilm
You heard of this movie, right? It’s from this franchise you may or may not have heard of called “Star Wars” where persecuted people under an evil empire rebel and blow up some giant superstation thanks to a design flaw in that superstation.

Well, here’s how we found out about that design flaw, and it’s the perfect film for Star Wars fans and non-Star Wars fans alike. And even better? It has Darth Vader.

Sure, it’s no The Force Awakens, but that was so last year. I’m betting your local theater is saving you a seat for Rogue One right now.

2. Fences, Paramount Pictures
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis bring this 1983 August Wilson play to life on the screen, and it’s extraordinary.

Denzel, who also directed this film, plays Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball player who settles down in Pittsburgh as a waste collector in the 1950s.

August had wanted to turn his play into a movie for a long time, and even wrote a screenplay – but Hollywood resisted because he wanted an African-American director at the helm. Why Hollywood couldn’t accommodate such a simple request is beyond me, but sadly August never got to see his work on the big screen – he died in 2005.

The film already has had a great limited run in theaters, but goes wide release this weekend. And it’s one that I’m sure will have people talking Oscars, because it’s good. Really good.

3. Jackie, Fox Searchlight Pictures
We’ve seen Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but now we can see her as a true American queen – Jackie Kennedy.

Here, Natalie plays the famous First Lady in those pivotal and emotional days following the 1963 assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.

What I find even more fascinating about this film is that it’s directed by Pablo Larrain, someone who not only doesn’t typically take on biopics like this, but really isn’t that familiar with the JFK assassination (he’s a 40-year-old guy from Chile, after all). So his approach to this is fresh and unique – especially since it’s quite evident how much he connected with what happened with Jackie afterward, something that is sometimes overlooked.

4. Moana, Disney
While I was disappointed that Dwayne Johnson doesn’t actually sing in this (wouldn’t that be fun to listen to?) I immediately fell in love with the music from Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda.

This won’t be Disney’s biggest movie of the year, or even its biggest animated movie. But it’s a great story, with a Polynesian setting we don’t get enough of.

I also loved that they looked to bring in a Hawaiian native to voice Moana, rising actress and singer Auli’i Cravalho – and she is extraordinary.

You’ll be singing these songs all through Christmas. I know I can’t stop …

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  • Mad Hominid

    Loved the article, and now I have a great reason to re-watch Orphan Black! Thanks and Happy Holidays! 🙂