It turns out I’m not really a fan of Christmas movies. In October, I watched a bunch of horror movies, but I like horror movies so that was easy. November became Noirvember, and I caught up on a bunch of film noir I’d not seen before but always meant to (plus a few I had never heard of). December is supposed to be Christmas movies but unlike horror and noir films, I’m not really drawn to holiday films. Maybe that’s because most of them are dreadful. Maybe it's because they aren’t as easy to find on streaming services. Or maybe I’m just a grinch.
This week, I watched exactly one Christmas movie. (Plus a Doctor Who Christmas special which counts for something, right?) But mostly every time I sat down to find a Christmas movie, I instead found something else. So here's a little bit of Christmas and a several something elses.
It’s a Wonderful Life
If you are only going to watch one Christmas move, then I guess this is the one to watch. Believe it or not, but I’ve only seen this Frank Capra classic - which seemingly runs a hundred times a season on television - once before. And that was with a friend of mine who was baking cookies during it and I spent most of the movie entertaining her two-year-old boy.
It is the height of Capra-corn and Jimmy Stewart at his most ah-shucks Jimmy Stewartness. The writing gets really sappy, and Mr. Potter is a cartoon villain. But the cinematography is gorgeous, Capra’s direction is snappy, and that ending still made me cry though I’ve seen it a million times in highlight reels.
Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time
I am an unabashed fan of Peter Capaldi’s time as the Doctor. I thought he brought a much-needed darkness and alien-ness to the character. I’ve actually only seen a couple of the new episodes with Jodi Whittaker as I don’t have cable (the mother has dutifully been recording them for me, but we have yet to make the time to go over and watch them all). Capaldi’s last episode was a Christmas Special and I thought it would be appropriate to watch it again before trying to binge the new stuff.
His send-off (as well as show runner Steven Moffatt’s) is pretty light on plot, but big on laughs and sentiment. Not wanting to regenerate, he flies off to Antarctica where he meets himself during his first incarnation (David Bradley filling in the long-deceased William Hartnell who likewise doesn’t want to regenerate. It's full of some lovely comedic bits where Bradley’s very 1960s sounding Doctor sounds off against the more modern sensibilities of Capaldi, and it's all a very nice goodbye to him and nicely sets up the new Doctor and showrunners.
When FilmStruck died, I immediately connected by to Britbox so we could enjoy some more classic Doctor Who stories. One of the other joys of that service is that it's full of all sorts of British crime dramas and as an avid fan of British crime dramas, I happily flip through it and turn on one pretty much randomly and hope for the best. Usually, I am not disappointed.
Bancroft follows a well-respected, yet ultimately corrupt Detective Superintendent as she tries to bring down a drug gang while one of her Sergeants investigates one of her old cases which may uncover secrets she’d rather have left in the dark. It is soapy and over the top, but also quite a bit of fun. Sarah Parish and Faye Marsay are quite good in the lead roles.
Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock
The local college station perpetually runs through all the Tom Baker stories every Friday night. Why they don’t do any of the other Doctors, I don’t know, but I love me some Tom Baker and so we usually make an evening of it. Tonight, my daughter was in the local Christmas parade bringing us home after the live TV start time so we fired up Britbox and watched this Tom Baker story.
I’d seen it before, and didn’t remember it as anything special but boy, was my memory wrong. Horror of Fang Rock is now in the running for one of my favorite Tom Baker stories which puts it in the running for my favorite Doctor Who story ever.
The Doctor and Leela land on Fang Rock, a small, rocky island off the coast of England on which there sits a lone lighthouse. Noticing that the light is out, they investigate only to find one man dead and the two others frightened to death. It seems the lighthouse is being attacked by a Routon - a green blob thing - and it's up to our heroes to save the Earth.
It's a lovely bit of gothic storytelling, which makes great use of the isolated setting. A recurring foghorn makes for some terrifically atmospheric sound design, and the lighting is pure Hammer horror. Baker and Louise Jameson as Leela handled themselves quite well as does the rest of the cast.
Grant Morrison wrote this epic Batman story wherein the Black Glove uses the Joker, amongst other things, to drive Batman insane. It's a massive story containing multiple flashbacks and calls to other comics (there were several crossover comics that told stories surrounding the main one), all of which is interesting but that also makes it difficult to completely understand. I definitely need to reread it to fully get what all happened. But mostly, it;s a cool story delving into the psyche of just who Batman is and where exactly Bruce Wane fits. The art by Tony Daniel is quite striking as well.
The first trailer for the next Avengers movie finally dropped. It's an excellent trailer giving us a taste of what’s happened to everyone after the last movie while teasing a whole lot more adventure to come. I won’t spoil it. Just watch it.