Stay-at-Home Seven: December 20 to 27

A bumper Christmas edition of streaming recommendations

by Amber Wilkinson

The Muppets
The Muppets
As it's the holiday season, we're serving up a bumper edition of the Stay-At-Home Seven this week, best served with the selection box or tipple of your choice. If you're looking for specifically seasonal inspiration, check out our Streaming Spoltights on seasonal scares and Santa. We'd also like to take this opportunity to wish our readers a restful holiday, whatever you're watching.

The Muppets, BBC1, 10.25am, Monday, December 21 and then on iPlayer for six days

Get into the holiday mood a few days early with this feelgood cracker, which in addition to starring the adorable furry Henson mob also stars the less furry but just as adorable Amy Adams and Jason Segel (who also helped write it) as Gary and Mary. The Muppets' theatre comes under threat and the gang have to get back together again in order to save it. The usual mayhem ensues while the story involving Gary's younger brother and "very manly Muppet" Walter hits all right emotional notes. If you're in the mood for more Muppets, then you can also catch Muppets Most Wanted the following day at 10am on BBC1. Read our full review.

An Education, BBC iPlayer, until mid-January

Carey Mulligan had been working on British TV for a while when she starred in Lone Scherfig's adaptation of Lynne Barber's memoir about being swept off her feet by a suave older man as a teenager - but this catapulted Mulligan from the snow of Sundance to the big time and an Oscar nomination, although she lost out to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side. She's perfectly cast as 16-year-old Jenny, groomed for Oxford by her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour), and soon falling for the charms of David (Peter Sarsgaard), whose charm offensive also works wonders on her parents. Though Mulligan is magnificent, Sarsgaard also pitches this just right, floating perfectly in the grey area between debonair and dodgy. Read our full review.

Snow White And The Huntsman, Channel 4, 12.05am, Sunday, December 27

Jennie Kermode writes: With a star-studded cast and a lot of money to spend on pretty CGI, Rupert Sanders' action-packed feature debut strives to make the biggest splash it can. It isn't always successful - the dwarves headed up by Bob Hoskins and Nick Frost are horribly out of place and some of the imagery is painfully twee - but there's a rollicking good adventure story at the heart of it, as Kristen Stewart's resourceful Snow White teams us with the woodsman (Chris Hemsworth) dispatched to kill her. He's still mourning his dead wife so  they both have a reason to seek revenge on Charlize Theron's deliciously evil queen. The fight scenes are in earnest, there are some nicely designed sets and the costumes are spectacular. There are empowering messages here for girls - just be aware that some scenes may be scary for younger children, especially in the earlier part of the film. Read our full review.

Cinderella, BBC2, 2.50pm, Boxing Day

If you're looking for a more familiar retelling of a Christmas tale, then Kenneth Branagh's live-action remake of Disney's rags-to-riches tale is hard to beat. He sticks to the tried-and-tested formula of the resourceful Cinders (Lily James) coming up against her obnoxious stepmother (Cate Blanchett, sneeringly fabulous) and idiotic stepsisters Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Granger). As you might expect from Disney, the craftsmanship is spot on, from Sandy Powell's opulent costume design to the pumpkin coach transformation scenes. Branagh proves there's plenty of life in the traditional tale yet. Read our full review.

Carol, Film4, 1.25am, Wednesday, December 22

Cate Blanchett is demonstrating her range earlier in the week, too, in Phyllis Nagy's superior retelling of Patricia Highsmith's lesbian love story, set against the backdrop of Christmas and New Year. Her well-to-do, married housewife Carol Aird finds herself embarking on a tentative relationship with much younger store clerk and aspiring photographer Therese Bellivet (Rooney Mara). The whole affair has an added air of potential danger given Carol's rickety marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler), which means her relationship could doom her fight for custody of her daughter. Todd Haynes' direction is as carefully poised as his central character, bringing real heat to the emotional scenes, while Therese slowly blossoms in ways that feel natural and well-earned. Read our feature interviews on Carol, here and here, plus our full review.

Coco, BBC1, 3.15pm, Christmas Day

If ever a film had a perfect message for this very peculiar and particular holiday season, it is probably this Pixar film, which emphasises the importance and closeness of family even if they can't be with you all the time, wearing its themes concerning death and grief with an admirable lightness of touch. There's plenty of fun overlying this, of course, as this Dia de los Muertos inspired animation about a young boy, who, banned from playing the  music he loves by his family, who finds himself on an unexpected trip to the Land of the Dead - and a race against time to return. Packed with the sort of humour and heart we've all come to expect from Pixar - along with more energy than you can shake your maracas at - there won't be a dry eye in the house when the film reaches its climax.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Film4, 11.15pm, Christmas Day

There's no mistaking the quirky style of Wes Anderson for anyone else, and his shaggy dog story set largely within the magnificent hotel of the title in the inter-war years is a masterclass in it. Details pile upon details as the denizens of The Grand Budapest emerge - with a cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and Adrien Brody among others - as lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) is taken under the wing of suave concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), who sits at the heart of the narrative. Comedy pumps through the film's veins but caper and thriller elements also jostle delightfully for attention as no element is left knowingly unembellished. Read our full review.

Penguins of Madagascar, BBC1, 10.15am, Boxing Day

They may have started out as bit-part players, but everyone knows the Cheezy Dibble-loving penguins were the stars of the original film. Here they get their own adventure, taking on the evil Dr Octavius Brine (John Malkovitch having even more fun than you would expect on vocals), who has a plan to turn the penguins into mutants. Along for the ride is super-spy style wolf North Wind (Benedict Cumberbatch, laying the Bond lines on thick) as the action starts at a pace and doesn't let up in its Looney Tunes style quickfire humour. Read our full review.

Dunkirk, BBC1, 9.05pm, Boxing Day

Christopher Nolan's consideration of the World War II battle and rescue is visceral and immediate, plunging us into the experience of the soldiers on the frontline. The story is told through a trio of perspectives - the land tale of soldiers stuck on the ground (including Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard), the sea-based story of the small boats sent to rescue them (Mark Rylance and Barry Keoghan on point) and an air-based narrative about a pair of fighter pilots (Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden) - which gradually coalesce to reveal the big picture. Gripping from the off, Nolan captures the horrors of war not just in the heat of battle but in its weary, fearful silences as the lives of the servicemen hang in the balance. If you aren't shaken by the visuals then the sound design and Hans Zimmer's hefty score will certainly do the trick. Read our full review.

The Sound Of Music, BBC1, 3.45pm, Sunday, December 27

Some films are so associated with school holidays that you can almost set your watch by them - but there's plenty of reasons why this Robert Wise musical has remained a perennial favourite. Chief among them is surely Julie Andrews, who has you rooting for her problematic novice nun within minutes. Then there's the appeal of the Von Trapp family, where Maria (Andrews) is sent to work, with seven kids of different ages, there's someone for every younger member of the household to relate to, while mums and dads can enjoy the will-they, won't-they romance between Maria and the widowed Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer, who famously disliked the end result). That, coupled with an excellent set of sing-a-long tunes from Rodgers and Hammerstein and some nicely worked choreography, make this a sentimentality steeped guilty pleasure. Read our full review.

We're ending this week's edition with a short Christmas chiller from cinematographer Simon Dennis, who has since gone on to shoot the likes of The Girl With All The Gifts. Iota, which won a clutch of awards on release in 2005, is a creepy little Christmas tale that packs a punch.

Iota (award winning short film) from Simon Dennis BSC on Vimeo.

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