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After the unexpected success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion, New Line studio executives probably thought that the biblical story of the birth of Jesus would be a sure sell at the box office at Christmas. Unfortunately, their predictions were quite wrong and this movie never really took off at all. Whale Rider star Keisha Castle Hughes stars as the Virgin Mary chosen by God to bear his Son to the world. This retelling of the nativity story was less than inspirational owing to director Catherine Hardwicke’s leaden direction (yes, she’s behind Twilight too). Good for a historical revisit of the origins of Christmas but don’t expect anything too rousing here.

Naughty: It’s a biblical story so forget anything naughty



What an ensemble cast- including Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson and Sarah Jessica Parker- and not forgetting of course Craig T Nelson as head of the family Stone. Every family has its own dynamics and this is the story of a clash of family culture when the eldest member of the Stone children brings his uptight businesswoman girlfriend home for the holidays. Surprisingly sensitive and tender, writer-director Thomas Bezucha’s sophomore effort after his critically lauded Big Eden was a refreshing blend of comedy and drama for the adults. Anchored by terrific performances all around, this was one movie that truly made you feel how important it is to treasure your family members.

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One of the most expensive Christmas movies ever made (with a reported budget of US$150 million), The Polar Express is memorable for a few reasons. It was the first movie to use Imagemotion technology to digitally record the actors’ physical performances before animating them, resulting in criticisms that the characters had soulless eyes. And yes, because of its technology, Tom Hanks was able to play five (yes, five!) roles in the movie. Nonetheless, director Robert Zemeckis and his Castaway screenwriter William Broyles Jr have crafted a timeless heart-warming movie about a doubting boy who learns the power of belief when he visits the North Pole and meets Santa himself. The animation still takes some getting used to; but the story packs a powerful inspirational message. Alan Silvestri’s score for the film is also exceptional.

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This actually is one Christmas movie for the ages- you can re-watch it every Christmas and still fall in love with it all over again. Writer-director Richard Curtis’ story of eight very different couples in London dealing with their love lives over the Christmas holiday season is funny, sweet, warm and romantic. It is a grand celebration of the greatest gift of the season- love.

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ELF (2003)

Before Jon Favreau made a movie about a certain Iron Man, he scored an unexpected Christmas hit with Will Ferrell as Buddy the human-sized elf at Santa’s workshop. Once a baby at an orphanage, Buddy unexpectedly ended up in Santa’s toy bag and was subsequently raised as an elf in the North Pole. Realising that his size makes him somewhat different from his fellow elves, he returns to New York City to find his true father. There is great fun to be had here with its many fish out of the water jokes, both with Buddy at the North Pole and Buddy back in metropolitan New York City. But it also has many surprisingly tender moments, such as Buddy’s duet of "Baby It’s Cold Outside" with Zooey Deschanel’s character, Jovie. And if you’re not a fan of Will Ferrell, rest easy- he very rarely goes over the top in Elf.

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BAD SANTA (2003)

This should almost be called the anti-Christmas movie. Bad-boy Billy Bob Thornton plays a conman who together with his elf-sized partner go around robbing department stores on Christmas Eve. But one Christmas they meet a precocious oversized eight-year old boy and eventually learn to recognize the egotistical nature of their ways. Director Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World) has made a very adult comedy for the Christmas season so this is definitely not something to watch with the whole family. But if you’re looking for some dark humour with a perfectly nuanced touch of sweetness, this is the perfect panacea to the treacly schmaltzy movies of the season.

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Dr Seuss’ classic tale tells of the Grinch that hates Christmas and plans to steal it from the people of Whoville for (whom) Christmas is a large annual celebration. But beneath the gaudy lights and wasteful materialism, Christmas holds little meaning for Whoville. Little Cindy Lou Who decides to change that when she bravely ventures to the home of the Grinch and invites him to join the town’s celebrations.
The Grinch is a perfect match for Jim Carrey’s brand of physical comedy under the sure direction of critically and commercially successful director Ron Howard. While some fans of the book have criticized this adaptation for its not so faithful rendition of the story, it still is great fun for the whole family packed with a powerful social commentary on the commercialism of modern day Christmas. Yes, it’s a movie about the true meaning of Christmas but done with much sincerity and warmth.

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Though there is much gloom and uncertainty looming around these days, we hope that Christmas will still be a joyous occasion for you and your whole family. To one and all, from all of us here at MX, "although it’s been said many times many ways, merry Christmas to you!"

If You Missed Part One Of The List ...

By Gabriel Chong
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