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What to stream: Christmas edition

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Dec. 23 2013 4:16 p.m. MST

Bing Crosby, Vera-Ellen, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye star in "White Christmas."

Paramount Home Entertainment

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Christmas is here, and what better way to bring the family together than to put on a holiday-themed movie?

Rather conveniently, each of the big-three streaming services has posted a list of Christmas titles offered on their respective sites. These include plenty of seasonal favorites like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on Netflix Instant, “Scrooged” on Amazon Prime Instant and, among the three subscription services, not one but several versions of the Yule log fireplace.

If you’re looking for something new to watch, though, here’s a quick list of outside-the-box Christmas movies as well as a few other December recommendations.

Christmas movies

“White Christmas” — Fun fact: Irving Berlin’s classic song of the same name was listed as the best-selling single of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007. While everybody still sings “White Christmas,” though, the 1954 movie — about a song-and-dance team trying to help a friend on Christmas Eve — isn’t quite as well known as it used to be. A good, old-fashioned holiday story, it stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt), but the real standout is Berlin’s music.

Rating: G

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Black Adder’s A Christmas Carol” – From the Muppets to Mickey Mouse to Mr. Magoo, there’s no shortage of variations on Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story. For a slightly different twist, try this one featuring Rowan Atkinson as Ebenezer Blackadder, the kindest man in Victorian England (despite a long family history of wretches and villains) who, after a visit from the Spirit of Christmas, becomes persuaded to give meanness a try. Other famous British actors like Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie co-star.

Rating: TV-PG

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” Frequently called one of the worst films ever made, this 1964 B-movie is to Christmas what “Plan 9 from Outer Space” is to Halloween. If that comparison alone doesn’t immediately make you want to put it at the top of your streaming queue, then it’s a safe bet that it might not be your cup of tea.

Rating: Not rated

Available on: Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime Instant, Hulu Plus

“Becoming Santa” – A 2011 documentary about a man’s journey to become a volunteer St. Nick for a season. Along with a physical transformation, the process ends up becoming one of discovery as he learns what Santa means in today’s world. A fantastic choice that gets at the true spirit of Christmas without pandering.

Rating: Not rated

Available on: Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus

“The Hudsucker Proxy” It isn’t about Christmas per se, but the Coen Bros.’ 1994 comedy starring Tim Robbins channels the classic Frank Capra holiday vibe in its story about a dimwitted mailroom worker who is made president of his company as part of a stock scam. It’s a lot more Christmasy than that might make it sound. Particularly recommended for fans of other Coen Bros. comedies like “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Raising Arizona.”

Rating: PG

Available on: Amazon Prime Instant

Other picks

“The Sword in the Stone” Still arguably the best version of the King Arthur story ever put on film, this 1963 animated feature is the latest of the Disney classics to make its way to Netflix Instant, joining other recent additions like “Robin Hood.”

Rating: G

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Blackfish”Since its premier at Sundance back in January, this well-researched documentary about why orcas are particularly unsuited to being put on display at marine animal parks has made waves, showing on CNN and sparking an intense back-and-forth between the filmmakers and SeaWorld, which is portrayed in the documentary in a less-than-favorable light. Suffice it to say, “Blackfish” is one of the best films of the year and a must-watch for documentary fans.

Rating: PG-13

Available on: Netflix Instant

“The Endless Summer” – This documentary could either be the best or worst movie to watch if the cold winter months are starting to wear on you. Filmed in 1966, it follows a couple of surfers traveling around the world in search of the best surf spots. Dated in all the best ways, it’s a nice dose of escapism, taking viewers on a journey to beautiful, exotic locations — some of which no longer really exist — in a very different time. Recommended for real surfers and channel surfers alike.

Rating: Not rated

Available on: Netflix Instant

“The 47 Ronin Parts 1 and 2” — Often described as the national legend of Japan, the 18th-century tale known as the revenge of the 47 Ronin is landing in theaters this Christmas in a brand new, CGI-heavy version starring Keanu Reeves as a half-Japanese swordsman battling demons, dragons and ogres. For those interested in a more faithful adaptation, though, check out this two-part version directed by the great Kenji Mizoguchi from 1941.

Rating: Not rated

Available on: Hulu Plus

“Becket” – One of eight roles for which the late Peter O’Toole received Oscar nominations — without ever winning — in a career that spanned six decades. O’Toole plays King Henry II opposite Richard Burton’s Thomas Becket, the king’s former drinking buddy-turned-enemy/Christian martyr. A great historical film, and one of O’Toole’s most memorable performances.

Rating: PG-13

Available on: Netflix Instant

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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