It’s Christmas eve, and we’re getting in the festive spirit with a beautiful video homepage today – doesn’t it just make you feel all warm and fuzzy and ready for Christmas?
Speaking of which, what do you have planned to keep yourself amused over the holiday season? Visiting the in-laws, eating too much, catching up on some serious gaming? Just in case you’re short of ideas, we’ve asked two of our blogging friends – Phil from Blogomatic3000 and Sarah from Maison Cupcake – to share their thoughts on must-see festive films and tasty Christmas treats.
Blogomatic3000 is hailed as everything a geek could want and more – Phil, the owner and editor, turned his love of movies, tech, TV, comics and general geekery into a website back in 2009 and hasn’t looked back. Being the big kid that he is, this Christmas he’s hoping Santa brings him lots of LEGO and of course plenty of Blu-rays to add to his already ridiculously large collection.
Sarah has been writing Maison Cupcake, one the UK’s most popular baking blogs, since 2009. Inspired by American baking sites and French patisseries, she is completely self-taught. Her first book will be published in 2012, so not long to go till we can read it!
First up, Phil’s jolly (ho ho ho) film recommendations:
Well, well, look who’s back here on Bing… After blogging about my favourite Halloween movies this past October, the good folks here at Bing have invited me back to impart my geeky wisdom upon you for the holiday season and give you a rundown of just what movies I’ll be watching this Christmas. After all it wouldn’t be Christmas without the family sat round the TV watching a movie whilst the festive feast cooks in the oven (of course not everyone gets to watch the movie – someone has to cook).
For me Christmas movies are split into two categories: Christmas Mainstays and Christmas Madness. Mainstays are those films that you always watch during the festive season, those movies that are constantly shown on TV during the holiday. And then there’s what I call Christmas Madness – these are the movies that only the seasoned holiday movie veterans choose to watch at this time of year. Beware you have to be strong-willed (and strong-stomached in some cases) to sit through some of these, hence the madness tag!
Of all the mainstay movies at Christmas there is nothing more traditional than It’s a Wonderful Life, but everyone’s seen that already, so what about some more modern festive flicks? For me you can’t get more festive than A Muppet Christmas Carol, after all what’s not to love about the classic seasonal story told by a group of beloved puppets. Oh, and Michael Caine. I know I’ll be watching this again this year, as I do every year. But it’s not only the Muppets than can do Charles Dickens, oh no. Another Christmas mainstay in our house is yet another adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale. Of course I’m talking about Scrooged, the darker-than-white comedy about a cynical TV exec (played by Bill Murray) who is visited by the spirits of Christmas, including a particularly scary ghost of Christmas future…
If cynical and dark is your thing there’s plenty of Christmas movies that fit the bill: Surviving Christmas, The Ref, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (and its less than stellar sequel), and the darkest of them all, Bad Santa. But for many Christmas is all about fun, so your choice of movie should reflect that right? Well there’s plenty of fantastic Christmas comedies to take your pick from, including Elf, , The Santa Clause, Fred Claus and my personal favourite, Ernest Saves Christmas – trust me, if you haven’t seen Ernest Saves Christmas then you haven’t experienced the true magic of the holiday season… OK that may be an exaggeration, but it is one hell of a funny flick and definitely deserves to be on your Christmas viewing list.
Then there’s Home Alone. Made in 1990, the film has become one of the most iconic and well-loved Christmas movies, and with a fantastic kid versus the world plot it was guaranteed to be a hit… However, there’s another kids versus the world Christmas flick that I think needs brought to the attention of the mainstream, Grounded (aka Unaccompanied Minors). The film follows a group of kids stranded at the airport after all planes are grounded during a snow storm who, besides trying to escape the clutches of the over-bearing security guards, create themselves a makeshift Christmas all their own. Featuring a host of surprisingly familiar faces, including Rob Corddry, David Koechner, Rob Riggle and Wilmer Valderama from That 70s Show, the real surprise is the name of the man in the directors chair – Paul Feig, who went on to helm a little comedy that you may know, this years mega-hit Bridesmaids.
But my top pick for this Christmas, and a real festive film mainstay? That has to be the classic 80s movie Gremlins, and I shouldn’t really need to explain why!
So that’s my Christmas Mainstays, so what about the madness? Well, this is where it gets really grim. Thankfully to balance out all the saccharin sweetness of your typical Christmas movie there are plenty of fear-filled festive flicks to get your teeth into over the holiday season. Of course like the more mainstream holiday movies there are both good and bad festive films, so let me guide you in the ways of seasonal slayings…
Where to start? How about with a classic. The forefather (or sister in this case) of the slasher movie, Black Christmas is one of the earliest and best examples of Christmas horror, although it loses out to the Silent Night Deadly Night franchise in terms of sheer bloody fun – if you haven’t the first film in the series it is available on DVD here in the UK thanks to the fine folks at Arrow Video, although if I tell you the film features a kid witness the murder of his parents at the hands of a man in a Santa suit then turn round and slay a bunch of kids at a Catholic orphanage years later you might not want to watch it! A sequel followed three years later with the brother of the original killer now on the hook for his brothers crimes, eventually going on a killing spree of his own dressed as Santa. And the franchise doesn’t stop there, three more sequels followed.
But it’s not just the Americans who can make a decent Christmas horror… British actor Edmund Purdom parlayed his acting career in to a singular directing gig with Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas in 1984 – a film which saw London in a grip of terror as a serial killer bumped off anyone dressed as Santa. Talk about Bah Humbug! However, in all honesty, the less said about the film the better.
Out of all the festive fear flicks I’ve seen in my years as a film fan, the real standout (besides Gremlins, which seems to have stepped out of the horror boundary to become a bonafide Christmas classic) is the recently released Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. A Finnish fantasy horror, the film turns the myth of Santa Claus on its head and tells the story of a team of workers who uncover the grave of the “real” Santa Claus – a supernatural being who doesn’t reward good children, but REALLY punishes the naughty. Like the aforementioned Gremlins the film manages to balance horror with family-friendly atmosphere and can already be considered a modern Christmas classic.
So that’s it. My picks for your holiday season viewing. I may have missed a few of your favourites out but hopefully I’ve highlighted a few films you may not have seen or even considered watching this Christmas; and if you watch one film off my list then I did my job. I’ll bow out by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And I hope Santa pops a few good movies in your stocking…
Let us know what you think of Phil’s film suggestions, or if there any more you’d add to this list. And just in case a whole week of festive-viewing isn’t enough to keep you busy, Sarah from Maison Cupcake has kindly shared a fantastic recipe with us, that we urge you all to try out – a perfect accompaniment to an evening of Christmas films, and much more merry than popcorn!
Sarah talks Christmas Pudding Cake Pops!
We all love Christmas pudding in our house, and these Christmas Pudding Cake Pops are no exception! Made with fruit cake and dipped in Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate, they’re a bite size treat you can share with your friends throughout December.
How to make Christmas pudding cake pops
First take one bargain pre-made supermarket fruit cake (or left over pud from Christmas lunch!). I really don’t go in for making cakes that you’re soon going to mush up and mix with buttercream. This time of year is busy enough as it is! (Boozy brandy in the buttercream is positively encouraged if you are making these for grown ups).
Roll the cake and buttercream mix into balls and pop into the freezer for 20 minutes. No longer – unless you snigger want rock hard balls.
Meanwhile melt a bar of dark chocolate in the microwave in a mug. Today I used Green & Black’s Maya Gold which has a perfect spiciness to go with Christmas pudding flavours. That white stuff is a tablespoon of Trex or Cookeen (vegetable fat) that makes your dipping chocolate dip nice and smoothly. Grab some sticks. I like fat wooden ones like you used to get ice lollies on rather than airy fairy coffee stirrers pilfered from coffee shops.
And go dip! Push the pops into a block of florist’s oasis wrapped in film (or polystyrene) whilst the chocolate dries.
Meanwhile you can get going on the decoration. Take some white sugar paste. Today I’m using this new Silver Spoon white icing which is flavoured with Madagascan vanilla adding to the Christmassy feel. For the for the holly leaves and berries I am using Renshaw green and red icings which are super for modelling without the faff of having to add your own food colour to plain sugarpaste. Take a curvy flowery blossom cutter around 2 inches across; roll out a golf ball sized ball at once. These dinky non stick rollers and a non stick mat help stop your sugarpaste sticking to the table without needing to add extra icing sugar.
Flatten the shapes with your fingers and position on top of the cake pops. I dabbed some royal icing on the other side. You could use squeezy tube writing icing if you didn’t want to make this although I find home made icing much easier to pipe out.
Then we make holly leaves. Use a spear modelling tool to engrave a spine down the centre; or you could gently score a line with a small knife so long as you take care not to tear the leaf. Dab more royal icing (preferably same colour) to the underside of the one end of the leaves.
Dot them on the top of the cake pops then pipe more blobs of green icing to affix the red berries on top, so they start looking like this.
Edible red glitter to roll your berries in isn’t compulsory but it does make your pops sparkle! The most glittery one I’ve found is by Rainbow Dust. It’s like being at school again. And that’s it. Ta-dah!
You can see more images of these wonderful festive cake pops, and loads of other tasty recipes, over on Maison Cupcake.
We hope that’s got you in the mood for a bit of Christmas baking – don’t forget to let us know if you have a go, or perhaps send us a sample to ‘taste test’! And finally, a big jolly Merry Christmas to all of our friends, followers and fans, from everyone at Bing