We talk about new holiday movies, plus old ones that are newly reissued. Alonso Duralde, film critic for The Wrap and author of “Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas,” gives us recommends.
“Klaus” - new on Netflix
This animated feature follows Jason Schwartzman as “the worst student postman, and he thinks he can get away with it because his father is postmaster general,” says Duralde.
The postman then gets sent to a distant village, where he must deliver 6000 letters in a year. But the town is divided in a feud, so no one sends mail, but the postman gets kids to write letters to Klaus, who lives in the woods and owns an amazing collection of toys.
“The Santa Claus origin story is a tough one to pull off. You can get into some very weird gray areas about theology, or you can explain it so much that the magic is gone. And this movie strikes a really good balance with that, I think,” says Duralde.
He also loves the look of “Klaus,” which is from the creator of the “Despicable Me” franchise, Sergio Pablos.
Duralde notes that he’s not as enamored with the comedy, but once the Klaus storyline kicks in, the film is charming. “I could see this as being one that kids really get into, and they become part of the annual family playlist.”
“Feast of the Seven Fishes” - new in theaters
This feature follows a big Italian family on Christmas Eve 1983, as they prepare seven fish dishes. Tony brings a rich Ivy Leaguer, Beth, to his family’s feast.
“It's mostly sort of about the sprawling Christmas celebration. ... I think anybody whose parents or grandparents were immigrants to this country will recognize things in this movie. … I was really charmed by this film because the writing is sharp and it's smart, and there are funny jokes and funny one liners. But I think the biggest laugh just kind of comes from these character-based moments ... just the sort of family dynamic in the way people are bumping into each other and trying to get this meal made, and getting in each other's way in the house, and trying to get ready for Christmas and all that stuff,” says Duralde.
Duralde also explains that writer/director Robert Tinnell originally wrote this as a graphic novel/cookbook and then turned it into a movie.
“The Holly and The Ivy” - old but new to Blu-ray
This 1952 film is about a British minister who reunites with his family members, who all have their problems, at Christmas.
“I love a dysfunctional family Christmas movie because everybody is stuck together. It was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, and they're all making each other miserable. But maybe they're also going to finally have the argument that's been on the boil for years, and now it’s finally going to just pop the lid off the pot,” says Duralde.
“It’s quite lovely. And for a lot of people, this movie's gonna be a discovery,” he adds.
“The Bells of St. Mary’s” - old but new to Blu-ray
This 1945 film is about Father O’Malley, who moves to a new parish that’s struggling. He and the nun in charge manage to keep the school open thanks to a gift of a new building.
“This is a great companion piece to ‘It's a Wonderful Life’ in a lot of ways,” Duralde notes.
-- Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir