Editors’ 2014 Christmas Media Picks

Movie Review:

muppet christmas carol“The Muppet Christmas Carol”
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” is a delightful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale in which a greedy old man named Scrooge is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. During these visits, Scrooge (spoiler alert – oh wait, the book has been out for over a hundred years!) has a change of heart and learns to embrace the spirit of Christmas.

The movie stays true to the novel on which it’s based, and the cast consists of both humans and Muppets. The role of Scrooge is portrayed by Michael Caine, and Kermit the Frog stars as his employee Bob Cratchit. Rizzo the Rat and Gonzo (posing as Charles Dickens) narrate the story, adding their own wacky commentary as the action unfolds around them.

The film perfectly balances the story’s serious overtone with the humor that is intrinsic of all Muppet films. It features several original songs, including the heartwarming “One More Sleep Till Christmas” sung by Kermit the Frog. If “The Muppet Christmas Carol” is not already on your list of Christmas movies to watch every year, it certainly should be.

TV Specials:

Dr. Who: “The Christmas Invasion”
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) was just an ordinary girl until a mysterious man took her by the hand and told her to run. Nine months later, they’re still running. Rose and the ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) have seen planets and galaxies, traveled back to World War II and even witnessed the end of the world.

Now, Rose faces the challenge of life with a new Doctor, the 10th regeneration of the man she had come to know through their many adventures. As she struggles with the change, a Christmas invasion might be just the thing to show that the man behind the unfamiliar face is the same Doctor she has come to trust.

After regenerating, the Doctor and Rose return to London, where they meet up with Rose’s mom, Jackie (Camille Coduri), and boyfriend, Mickey (Noel Clarke). Upon arrival, the Doctor bids Jackie and Mickey hello … and promptly collapses into a coma-like sleep. The three try to understand the man in the blue box — and wake him from his coma — as they battle with the Robot Santas and killer Christmas trees that have overtaken London.

Yep, just your average British Christmas celebration.

The Doctor is full of energy leftover from his regeneration, and the excess bursts serve as a tracking signal for the aliens invading earth. The Tylers and Mickey work to wake the comatose Doctor, knowing he is the only one who can save the world from the invaders, called the Sycorax, while assisting the British government in the fight. As they all fight to save humanity from the tyrannical aliens, they can only hope that their resident Time Lord won’t be too late.

The first episode of the second season, “The Christmas Invasion” is David Tennant’s debut in a role he dreamed of playing since he was a child. And, even though he sleeps through most of it, he gives viewers a thrilling glimpse of the 10th Doctor, who would later be voted the fan-favorite version of the famous Time Lord.

Viewers meet and discover the new Doctor with the Tylers and Mickey, learning about and accepting him alongside them. With gems such as the Doctor deciding on his iconic outfit or quoting “The Lion King” to a group of bloodthirsty aliens, “The Christmas Invasion” is an episode to remember. And, though it is just the beginning of the Tennant years, it is an exciting beginning, indeed.

Supernatural: “A Very Supernatural Christmas”
Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester are monster-hunting brothers. After their mother was killed when Sam was six months old and Dean was four years old, they and their father, John, have been living on the road and killing evil as they go.

Set in season three, “A Very Supernatural Christmas” follows the boys as they investigate a case involving evergreen stakes, peanut brittle and … evil Santa?

It’s Christmas Eve and little Stevie can’t wait until Santa comes to bring him presents. Though he doesn’t know it, his grandfather has decided to make it a Christmas to remember and dressed up as the big man himself to treat his grandson. After jingling a bell to alert Stevie to “Santa’s” arrival, Grandpa carefully places gifts under the tree. Thumps on the roof and soot falling from the chimney excite Stevie and confuse Grandpa. As he investigates, Grandpa is grabbed and dragged, kicking and screaming up the chimney, leaving only a bloody boot behind.

A year later, a similar disappearance brings Sam and Dean to Ypsilanti, Mich. They begin to investigate the possibilities, searching through lore on everything from evil chimney sweeps to, as Dean puts it, “Santa’s shady brother.” As the brothers learn of two more disappearances, the “evil Santa” theory seems less likely and they begin to suspect something – or someone – more powerful is involved.

“A Very Supernatural Christmas” is marvelous in its exploration of Christmas mythology, but the highlight is the glimpse it gives of Sam and Dean as children. Several flashbacks to a 12-year-old Dean (Ridge Canipe) and eight-year-old Sam (Colin Ford) reveal just how much the boys mean to each other and what a childhood in the Winchester family was like.

Whether by ruining Christmas wreaths forever or by creating a deeper appreciation for the warm and safe holiday celebrations most enjoy, “A Very Supernatural Christmas” will leave viewers seeing Christmas, and the Winchesters, in a new light.


“Peef the Christmas Bear”
Seniors and juniors may remember a Campus Christmas tradition from Dr. Brown’s tenure at Cedarville – listening to Dr. Brown read Christmas stories before racing off to the SSC for the fun, games, movie and midnight breakfast. While Dr. Brown always read a couple of books, students loved the classic story of the patchwork bear, Peef.

In “Peef the Christmas Bear,” Santa creates a teddy bear, made from fabric patches his elves chose. This bear is a very special bear – Santa gives him the ability to say his name, “Peef,” by adding a button to his stomach and “touching once right there.”

Peef becomes Santa’s best friend. He loves his time with Santa, and he never grows old because of the magic in the North Pole.

But Peef wants to be owned by a child. He wants to be loved by a kid to the point that while gazing off into the fireplace, he sees himself being hugged by a child. But he still can’t bring himself to ask Santa to give him away. Oh, the troubles for this small bear.

This book is chock-full of puns and plays on words. From Peef “peefing” his way through the book to the aurora bearealis that appears near the end, “Peef the Christmas Bear” is a joy to read and will definitely keep you laughing.


August_SleddinHill“Sleddin Hill” by August Burns Red
Metalcore and Christmas seem to go together as nicely as a claustrophobe in a coffin, but don’t tell that to August Burns Red. With their Christmas album, “Sleddin’ Hill,” they chose to forego the traditional sounds of Christmas. Instead, they bring a whole new sound to December, taking listeners on a fast-paced, head-banging sleigh ride. This album excels not only as a Christmas album, but as a metal album as well, with a technical yet diverse sound throughout that involves electric guitars as well as pianos and tubas.

There were no cookie cutters involved in the making of this album. August Burns Red experiments with a wide range of genres other than metalcore, including punk, jazz and bluegrass. Album highlights include, but are not limited to, renditions of “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bells” and “Carol of the Bells.” The title track is the softest song on the album, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable, with a bluegrass vibe complete with banjos and fiddles. The best song of the album, however, is the opener, “Flurries.” The song conjures up images of running through a field with snow blowing in your face from every direction without the chilling effects of the wind.

“Sleddin’ Hill” will appeal to metal fans and non-metal fans alike. It has the riffs and heavy breakdowns that metal fans are familiar with, but without the growling and screaming that turn away the casual listener. So if you’re tired of hearing Mariah Carey and Michael Buble on repeat, give “Sleddin’ Hill” a spin. You won’t regret it.

Relient K-Let It Snow“Let It Snow, Baby … Let It Reindeer” by Relient K

If you’re looking for a Christmas album that you can listen to while you lie on the couch wrapped in a wool blanket and drinking hot chocolate, Relient K has just the thing for you. “Let It Snow, Baby … Let It Reindeer” captures the joy of Christmas while also tackling the seriousness that surrounds the holiday.

Just by listening to this album, you can tell that Relient K had a lot of fun creating it. Their take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is especially fast-paced, as is “Angels We Have Heard on High.” You’d be hard-pressed to find more enjoyable versions of those two songs. And “Sleigh Ride” is a fun, jazz-sounding tune that will have you eager to go out into the snow, no matter the temperature.

Relient K also manages to slow it down on this record. “I Celebrate the Day,” is a song addressed to the newborn Christ: “the first time that you opened your eyes, did you realize that you would be my Savior?” On “Merry Christmas, Here’s to Many More,” they tell the story of a man who is all alone on Christmas Eve. “Boxing Day” perfectly encapsulates the emotions that most people feel on the day after Christmas, but it also hints at hope: “Oh, no more lights glistening, no more carols to sing, but Christmas, it makes way for spring.”

Spirit of Christmas_Smith“The Spirit of Christmas” by  Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith’s Christmas album released this September offers music to rest in amid this season’s typical hustle and bustle.

“The Spirit of Christmas” includes many of the traditional Christmas carols sung by worship-legend Michael W. Smith and friends. The album also includes a few instrumental tracks, such as the title track “The Spirit of Christmas Medley,” in which each instrument’s sound is not lost, but rather drives the song along in a most glorious way.

For those who like traditional carols and symphonies, this is the album you need to hear. For those who adore wonderful harmonies, light jazz or skillfully-composed instrumentals, this is still the album you need to hear.

Smith is joined by notable artists in the Christian and secular music world, such as Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Amy Grant and Vince Gill. This combination of friends with which Smith sings adds a unique flavor to the music. It’s smoother, includes great harmonies and has great musical contrast (particularly on the tracks adding female vocals to Smith’s) in each carol.

And though Smith is joined by an assortment of friends, his way with music is not lost. His legendary musical grace shines just the same in this album as in his previous albums.

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