Holiday Watchlist 2021: Twelve New & Buzzworthy Festive Features | MOJOZINE

Season’s Greetings! It’s been too long a while since anyone’s enjoyed the pre-Covid festivities of a holly jolly Christmas but it’s officially that time of year again and Santa Claus is finally allowed back in the house! …Or is he? From decked-out malls and reduced-capacity holiday parties to booster shots and vax passes, this season is filled with holiday-themed winter fun again! …Sort of.

So what are the new and buzz-worthy movie and TV titles of the 2021 holiday season? Do we perhaps have some future Christmas classics on our hands? From holiday horrors, festive family adventures, seasonal adult animation and Queermas LGBTQ+ content, these are my most-recommended holiday movies, series and specials to help get you through the 2021 holidays:

• Release Date: November 24, 2021
• Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Winslow Fegley
• Director: Michael Dowse
• Warner Bros. Studios
• Now Streaming on HBO Max / Crave Canada
• Genre: Comedy / Coming Of Age Story
• IMDB: 6.7/10 – RT Audience Score: 80%

Synopsis: “In 1980s Chicago, a 10-year-old sets out on a quest to get the Christmas gift of his generation: the latest and greatest video-game system.”

Review: I’m going out on a Christmas tree limb here, but 8-Bit Christmas is very honestly one of the most enjoyable holiday movies I’ve seen in years! Not since The Christmas Chronicles or The Grinch have I had this much fun watching a modern Christmas movie, 8-Bit Christmas is a wildly accurate and nostalgic ’80s-inspired story featuring everything you want in a holiday film, from the dynamic young talent to the festive setting and wacky winter adventures (the entire mall scene takes place in Woodbine Centre just outside Toronto), this film is an inspiring coming-of-age story full of laughs and heart, where the true meaning of Christmas – love and family – take precedent. Neil Patrick Harris narrates and stars but it’s the younger cast that truly brings this generational tale of friendship, family and Nintendo-mania to life. MOJO RATED: 9/10

8-Bit Christmas Trailer

• Release Date: November 24, 2021
• Starring: Henry Lawfull, Toby Jones, Sally Hawkins, Kristen Wiig, Maggie Smith
• Director: Gil Kenan
• Netflix Original / Rated TV-PG
• Now Streaming on Netflix
• Genre: Family / Adventure / Fantasy
• IMDB: 6.8/10 – RT Audience Score: 60%

Synopsis: “An ordinary young boy called Nikolas sets out on an extraordinary adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm. Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny in this magical, comic and endearing story that proves nothing is impossible.”

Review: Oh, the magic of Christmas… This festive fairytale adventure is decked out with Christmas imagery, decor, settings and costumes, with the lore of the holiday season as its focal point. Set in the UK, this English tale starts off with Maggie Smith’s character telling her adorable modern-day grandchildren a bedtime story about the untold tale of how Christmas really came about – on the backs of a human boy named Nikolas, his adorable talking pet mouse, a magical reindeer named Blitzen, and their scenically beautiful yet dangerous quest “under the moon, passed the sleeping giants, and up the pointy mountain” to Elfhelm. Because, in order to see magic, you have to believe in it. MOJO RATED: 6.5/10

A Boy Called Christmas Trailer

• Release Date: November 19, 2021
• Starring: Bruce Campbell, Devon Sawa, Michael Jai White
• Director: Casey Tebo
• Screen Media Films / Rated 14A
• Now Streaming on PVOD
• Genre: Comedy / Horror
• IMDB: 4.6/10 – RT Audience Score: 65%

Synopsis: “On Thanksgiving night, a group of disgruntled toy store employees begrudgingly arrive for work to open the store at midnight for the busiest shopping day of the year. Meanwhile, an alien parasite crashes to Earth in a meteor, leaving the employees to soon find themselves battling against hordes of holiday shoppers who have been turned into monstrous creatures hellbent on a murderous Black Friday rampage.”

Review: Have you ever seen a film that encapsulates the hysteria of American Thanksgiving through Christmas? I can’t think of any but Black Friday… These two major holidays have somewhat merged into one long month of dinner parties and shopping sprees in the United States, and the mayhem has indefinitely spilled over into Canada (and the world) as well, with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales growing increasingly popular every single year. But Black Friday (the film) isn’t really about shopping or sales or crowds at all. It’s more about the ugliness that shows itself in people during the frantic holiday season and turning that strong desire to save money into a full-length feature about alien zombies, family, and the efficiency of teamwork. Devon Sawa stars and produces fresh off the debut season of Chucky and the popular killer doll even makes a cameo! If you’re into campy horror/sci-fi and knockabout comedy, this movie will absolutely leave a mark! MOJO RATED: 6/10

Black Friday Trailer

• Release Date: December 18, 2021
• Starring: Anna Camp, Adam Pally, Pete Burris
• Director: Greg Nicotero
• Shudder Original / Not Rated
• Now Streaming on Amazon Prime
• Genre: Horror / Comedy
• IMDB: 6.6/10 – RT Score: N/A

Synopsis: “In the holiday-themed ‘Shapeshifters Anonymous,’ fearing he is a murderer, an anxious man searches for answers for his ‘unique condition’ from an unusual support group. Starring Anna Camp and Adam Pally, this special is written and directed by Creepshow showrunner Greg Nicotero, based on a short story by J.A. Konrath (Last Call).”

Review: If you’ve been watching Shudder’s anthology reboot series Creepshow, then you already have an idea of what you’re in for with Creepshow: Holiday Special. Think Tales From The Crypt meets an Elvira Christmas special! The opening credits are always a highlight, this time boasting a holiday horrors twist and playing out like a graphic novel – flipping animated pages before bringing specific panels to life in the campiest of ways. Creepshow: Holiday Special is quite forwardly boisterous and bonkers, and though it might cater to a niche group of genre fans, it’s a perfect break from the usual cheesy romantic comedies that plague streaming services this month. MOJO RATED: 6/10

Creepshow: Holiday Special Trailer

HAWKEYE (Season 1)
• Release Date: Every Wednesday (November 24 – December 22, 2021)
• Starring: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Florence Pugh, Vera Farmiga
• Director: Bert & Bertie, Rhys Thomas
• Marvel Studios / TV-14
• Now Streaming on Disney+
• Genre: Super-Hero / Action / Comedy
• IMDB 8.1/10 – RT Score 92%

Synopsis: “Disney+ and Marvel Studios invite you on an unexpected holiday getaway, unwrapping Hawkeye, a new series set in post-blip New York City. Former Avenger Clint Barton has a seemingly simple mission: get back to his family for Christmas. Possible? Maybe with the help of Kate Bishop, a 22-year-old archer with dreams of becoming a Super Hero. The two are forced to work together when a presence from Barton’s past threatens to derail far more than the festive spirit.”

Review: If you were to make a Home Alone: Lost In New York, Die Hard and The Avengers sandwich, you’d get Hawkeye – the latest six-part MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) television event on Disney Plus! Wedged in between the theatrical releases of Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home, Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye is an exciting, funny and action-packed MCU adventure leading up to Christmas. Will Clint Barker aka Hawkeye make it home for the holidays? Better yet, will he and Kate Bishop make it out of this NYC escapade alive?! With tons of MCU Easter eggs, developments, cameos (and trick arrows), this series joins the superhero leagues of Batman Returns, Iron Man 3 and Shazaam! as suggested holiday comic adaptations to rewatch every December. MOJO RATED 9/10

Hawkeye Trailer

• Release Date: November 5, 2021
Starring: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, Darren Barnet
• Director: Hernan Jimenez
• Netflix Original / Rated TV-14
• Now streaming on Netflix
• Genre: Romantic Comedy
• IMDB: 62% – RT Audience Score: 93%

Synopsis: “An LA girl, unlucky in love, falls for an East Coast guy on a dating app and decides to surprise him for the holidays, only to discover that she’s been catfished. This lighthearted romantic comedy chronicles her attempt to reel in love.”

Review: Love Hard is a catfish Christmas comedy unlike any you’d come to expect this time of year. This Netflix original film serves up witty one-liners, situational irony and holiday settings, with Nina Dobrev playing Natalie, a hopeless romantic in LA who writes about her failed dating life à la Carrie Bradshaw from Sex And The City – and just like that – Natalie meets the man of her dreams on a dating app! Too good to be true? Maybe. But the chase for love during the holidays fits right into the magic of the season, and while romantic holiday comedies have become somewhat of a trope (if not oversaturated), Love Hard boasts a talented cast, a funny and original script, a soundtrack you’re probably going to sing-a-long to (extra points for the “less rapey” rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”), and a valuable lesson about love – “it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be honest.” MOJO RATED: 7/10

Love Hard Trailer

SANTA INC. (Season 1)
• Release Date: December 2, 2021
• Starring: Seth Rogan, Sarah Silverman
• Director: Harry Chaskin
• Warner Bros. Studios / Rated: 18+ (USA) / TV14 (Canada)
• Now streaming on HBO Max / Crave Canada
• Genre: Romantic Adult Comedy
• IMDB: 1.2/10 – RT Audience Score: 4%

Synopsis: “Out with the old, in with the elf – it’s time for the North Pole boys’ club to get a little more inclusive.”

Review: Produced in the vein of stop-action holiday classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Santa Inc. uses the popular holiday aesthetic to tell an untamed, eight-part Christmas story you’ll either love or hate. After Seth Rogan’s Santa extends an invitation to the South Pole, Sarah Silverman’s Candy the Elf attempts to “bro out” with the Board, but is instead thwarted by the arrival of Craig Robinson’s Junior, the leader of the all-male reindeer A-Team, who will do anything to sleigh his way to the top of Santa’s list! I personally found this series to be hilariously inappropriate in its meticulous parodying. And despite its 4% Rotten Tomatoes audience score, there are some valuable lessons, heartfelt messaging and a theme of equality underneath the crude (but also insightful) humour, which manages to capture a few sparkles in that good ol’ holiday magic we seek. I mean, if you’re going to shake things up in the North Pole (to the point Santa and his boys’ club are frequenting a strip club of the same name), you might as well make it an “Adults Only” affair! MOJO RATED: 6.5/10

Santa Inc. (Red Band) Trailer

• Release Date: December 2, 2021
• Starring: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Kathy Najimi, Jennifer Coolidge
• Director: Michael Mayer
• Netflix Original Movie / Rated TV-PG
• Now streaming on Netflix
• Genre: Romantic Comedy / LGBTQ+
• IMDB: 6.2/10 / RT Audience Score: 75%

Synopsis: “Desperate to avoid his family’s judgment about his perpetual single status, Peter (Michael Urie) convinces his best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to join him for the holidays and pretend that they’re now in a relationship. But when Peter’s mother (Kathy Najimy) sets him up on a blind date with her handsome trainer James (Luke Macfarlane)— the plan goes awry.”

Review: Here we have that gay Netflix holiday romantic comedy everyone keeps asking if you’ve seen, and if you haven’t, it’s worth checking out – if only to watch the hilarious supporting characters played by Kathy Najimi, Jennifer Coolidge, and (yes, she’s from Schitt’s Creek) Jennifer Robinson. All three of these women deliver every single one of their lines with finesse, elevating the comedic value of their characters and the overall film altogether. They’re out here stealing every scene! The main characters on the other hand (played by Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers and Luke Macfarlane), offer a gay love triangle storyline filled with feels, and while parts of Single All The Way‘s script will be considered cheesy or underrepresenting the community, it’s the performances of the three iconic supporting actresses that jingle this film all the way to my most-recommended list. MOJO RATING: 7/10

Single All The Way Trailer

• Release Date: November 5, 2021
• Starring: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Jack Farthing
• Director: Pablo Larrain
• NEON / Rated PG
• Now Playing in theatres / Streaming on PVOD
• Genre: Drama / Biopic
• IMDB 6.9/10 – RT Audience Score 54%

Synopsis: “During her Christmas holidays with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, Diana Spencer, struggling with mental health problems, decides to end her decade-long marriage to Prince Charles.”

Review: In the era of #MeToo & #TimesUp, a movie like Spencer offers a very realistic and oftentimes depressing look into the mental abuse and depression Princess Diana struggled with during her marriage to Prince Charles. This raw, visually stunning and oftentimes shocking film takes place over Christmas but serves a purpose far beyond recreating Diana’s lavish holiday fashions or the Royal Family’s ritzy lifestyle. Instead, Spencer plays like a sorrowful record – beautifully composed and full of metaphorical emotion. It’s not the uplifting holiday film we’re used to, but it’s impressively filmed and acted, creating a sombre and impressive depiction of what struggling with mental health looks like within the walls of a seemingly perfect home, especially during Christmas. Kristen Stewart is truly wonderful as Diana and said to be a frontrunner in the upcoming 2022 “Best Leading Actress” award season (along with Lady Gaga for House of Gucci and Jennifer Hudson for Respect). MOJO RATED: 8/10

Spencer Trailer

• Release Date: December 16, 2021
• Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch
• Director:
• Sony Pictures / Marvel Studios / Rated PG
• Now Playing only in theatres
• Genre: Super-Hero / Action / Comedy / Drama
• IMDB: 9.2/10 – RT Audience Score: 99%

Synopsis: With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming was the first-ever movie review I wrote for The Buzz, an LGBTQ+ media magazine I worked for in Toronto. It was June 2017, which feels like forever ago in a post-Covid world, but I vividly remember the excitement vibrating through the packed theatre. I went alone and sat in the reserved media seats, paying close attention to every detail to not miss a single web-sling. But what transpired in that theatre – the awe and glee of it all – reminds me a lot of the audience’s reaction in that very same theatre watching No Way Home, four years later. Only this time, Sony and Marvel teamed up to serve hungry viewers their meatiest dish since December 2018’s Academy Award-winning Into The Spiderverse (and I found No Way Home to be just as enjoyable)! It’s impossible to talk about any plot points without spoiling everything, but when you do see No Way Home (and I highly suggest that you do), get ready for an emotional, well-acted CGI adventure 19-years-in-the-making! With more twists, turns and surprises than any other MCU movie before it. Granted, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame were game-changers, but in many ways, especially now that we’re moving into the second year of Phase 4, so is No Way Home. So why do I consider the new Spidey movie to be a Holiday film? Well, not only did this film premiere right before the holidays, it wraps up during Christmas time with a festively decorated scene that will leave your spidey senses tingling. Also, be sure to stay to the very end for two end-credits scenes! MOJO RATED 10/10

Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer

• Release Date: December 2, 2021
• Starring: RuPaul, Krysta Rodriguez, Andy Ridings
• Director: Don Scardino
• MTV / VH1 / World Of Wonder / Rated TV-14
• Now streaming on World of Wonder / Crave Canada
• Genre: Comedy / LGBTQ+
• IMDB 5.8/10 – RT Audience Score 80%

Synopsis: “A workaholic big-city fashion journalist is sent to a Christmas obsessed town to dig up a story.”

Review: Sweet baby Jesus, this is the messiest, most over-the-top Christmas extravaganza since RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular! And I mean that in a good way. If you’re one of the millions of people who tune into an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race every week, chances are you’ve either already seen or been waiting to watch The Bitch Who Stole Christmas. If you’re neither of those people but still feeling festively frisky, join RuPaul with Michelle Visage, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Peppermint, Ginger Minj, Jan, James Manfield, Morgan McMichaels and a gaggle of other recognizable “gaymous” celebrities on this truly outrageous adventure to save Christmas in the town of Tuckahoe! Fun drinking game to play while watching – take a shot every time you notice RuPaul’s in front of a green screen)! MOJO RATED: 6/10

The Bitch Who Stole Christmas

• Release Date: July 30, 2021
• Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton
• Director: David Lowrey
• A24 Films / Rated 14A
• Streaming on PVOD
• Genre: Adventure / Fantasy / Horror
• IMDB: 6.6/10 – RT Audience Score: 50%

Synopsis: “King Arthur’s headstrong nephew embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight, a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself before his family and court.”

Review: This heavily critiqued fantasy centers around 14th-century King Arthur’s nephew, Gawain (Dev Patel), and his whimsical but dark Christmas quest. Reviews for this one have been all over the place so this is a movie I’m suggesting you watch and judge for yourself. Similar to other polarizing 2021 films like Mortal Kombat or Eternals, many will love it, others not so much, but while The Green Knight could be considered unconventionally festive, it’s also been hailed by GQ as “your latest under-the-radar Christmas movie,” with similar sentiments from Slash Film and iHorror. And just like Spencer (though vastly different in style and genre), themes of reflection and loneliness are fearlessly explored through symbolic filmmaking, revealing the bitter truth behind the mysticality of Christmas: it isn’t always so cheerful. MOJO RATED: 8/10

The Green Knight Trailer