TV, music, movies, and books we're into this week (Holiday edition!)

The house is decorated, fresh-baked cookies are cooling, and you're curled up in front of the fireplace. Or something like that. In any case, you're in the mood to kick back and relax. What better way than with some great tunes, a quality movie, or a real page turner? Here's what Team Windows Central is enjoying over the holiday break.

TV and movies

Here are some of the movies and TV shows Windows Central is enjoying this week.

Die Hard

Recommended by Richard Devine, reviews editor

Once a year it's time to get together with the family and watch the greatest Christmas movie ever: Die Hard. Don't say it isn't a Christmas movie because it is. It just is. Yippee Ki Yay!

See at Microsoft Store

Home Alone 1 & 2

Recommended by Rich Edmonds, staff reviewer

The best Christmas movies ever made. Period.

See at Microsoft Store

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Recommended by Daniel Rubino, executive editor

One of my favorite movies for the holiday season — spanning from Halloween to Christmas — is Tim Burton's epic The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). I'm not even into musicals per se, but The Nightmare Before Christmas just has some of the best songs and hilarious themes around.

The story is simple: Jack Skellington, aka the Pumpkin King, gets bored with Halloween and eyes taking over Christmas. His discovery of Christmas Town leads to one of the most iconic songs that I hum to this day. Besides Santa, there is also Oogie Boogie, Sally, a spirit dog named Zero, and more delightful characters like the literal two-faced politician the Mayor.

The story is macabre, but also sweet with outstanding stop-animation. It's hard to not smile at this gem.

See at Microsoft Store

The Night Before

Recommended by Al Sacco, managing editor

I have a stable of Christmas movies I watch every year. That list includes National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Elf, and Four Christmases, among a few others. A couple of years ago, I watched The Night Before, and though I liked it, it did not immediately make my list.

But that's changed.

This week I watched it again — I think it was the third time — and I loved it. It kind of took a while to resonate for some reason. But this is a seriously funny flick. The cast is great, especially Seth Rogan, who is kind of a polarizing actor. I think this is one of his funniest roles. The music is great. The jokes hold up to multiple viewings, and it's all sweet and Christmas-y … but not too sweet and Christmas-y.

If you haven't watched The Night Before, add it to your holiday to-do list. If you tend to appreciate Apatowian humor, you'll love this Christmas movie. I promise.

See at Microsoft Store

A Christmas Story

Recommended by Cale Hunt, staff writer

The leggy lamp, the grumpy Santa, the tongue stuck to the pole, the lost lug nuts, and the Red Ryder BB gun. A Christmas Story is full of memorable moments that just don't seem to get old despite the fact that I've probably seen this movie about 5,638 times.

I used to be able to find it on pretty much every channel during the holiday season, but since cutting cable, I'll be picking it up to own.

See at Microsoft Store


Here's some of the music the Windows Central team is listening to this week.

Feliz Navidad (A Wonderful Boney M. Christmas)

Feliz Navidad (A Wonderful Boney M. Christmas)

Recommended by Cale Hunt, staff writer

It's not quite the same album that my parents had when I was growing up, but the songs certainly sound the same. This "two-disk" collection contains 32 holiday songs sung by the inimitable Boney M.

All your favorites are here, and there are likely some new ones you haven't heard yet. Even if you aren't a huge fan of Christmas music, having that album cover in your collection can't hurt. Seriously, what is going on?


Here are the books we're reading this week!

Silent Night — Robert B. Parker

Silent Night — Robert B. Parker

Recommended by Al Sacco, managing editor

I love mysteries, and crime fiction, and detective novels in general. Robert B. Parker is an absolute master of all three genres — and he happens to set the majority of his novels in and around my home city of Boston.

Parker is most known for this smooth-talking tough guy protagonist private dick "Spenser" — his first name is never mentioned in any of the more than 30 books in which he stars. He's a workout addict and a foodie, a health nut and a heavy drinker, a softy but former semi-pro boxer. In other words, he's a walking talking dichotomy. And he constantly finds himself entwined in mysteries that brings him through all of Boston's quirky neighborhoods and beyond.

Silent Night isn't even close to Parker's best Spenser novel. But it is Christmas-themed. And it is his last — the writer passed away before the book was finished, and his agent, Helen Brann, eventually wrote the ending. If you're interested but haven't read any Spenser books don't start here. Go back to where it all began: The Godwulf Manuscript.

I've read more than 50 Parker novels, and this one really stuck in my memory because I knew it was the last I'd read of Spenser, at least Spenser as written by Parker. A number of different authors have since tried to pick up the torch and tried to write Spenser book. But they all suck compared to the real deal.

World of Warcraft Chronicles — Blizzard Entertainment

World of Warcraft Chronicles — Blizzard Entertainment

Recommended by Jez Corden, senior Xbox editor

Okay, so this isn't the most festive gift on this list, but I feel compelled to recommend it anyway, particularly if you're looking to buy a stocking filler for a fan of the game.

World of Warcraft is quite honestly the best MMO on the market, and arguably, one of the best games ever made, enjoying an install base of over ten million players fairly consistently for the last 13 years. RTS fans will know WoW was based on the previous strategy games, Warcraft 1 through 3, renowned not only for fun gameplay, but incredible stories and lore.

The new World of Warcraft Chronicles books attempt for the first time to wrangle the series' 20-years worth of lore into a single compendium, starting right from the beginning of the universe. The books cover tens of thousands of years worth of Warcraft history, including the rise and fall of civilizations, major events that have shaped the game as it is today, while highlighting the motivations of the game's greatest heroes and villains.

The Chronicles are easy to read and full of great artwork that fans will adore. They also solve some contradictions and plot holes that emerged by accident as a result of the multiverse's complexity. If you, or a loved one, is a fan of Warcraft, it's highly recommended reading.

A Christmas Carol — Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol — Charles Dickens

Recommended by Cale Hunt, staff writer

Despite Ebenezer Scrooge and his catchphrase "Bah, humbug!" being memed for the last 150+ years, A Christmas Carol is famous for a reason. This is some fine writing.

Even if you aren't prepared to sit down and read or listen to the entire thing over the holiday break, try picking it up and reading a few random pages here and there. It's a great story that reminds us what humanity looks like, and I think we could all use a little more of that this year.

Your favorites?

What have you been watching, reading, and listening to this week? We want to know, so drop a comment and share your recommendations.

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If none of these recommendations strike your fancy, check out a list of all of our past recommendations. We promise you'll find something you'll like.

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