Have Yourself a British Little Christmas: Fun Holiday Traditions From Across the Pond

It’s Christmas this weekend – and though we have our own very American activities that are considered essential to properly celebrating this holiday (tacky lights tours, anyone? Just me?), we might do well to consider adopting a few of traditions that are popular in Great Britain at this time of year. (I vote for adding in Christmas telly and Boxing Day off for my part, but feel free to disagree with me in the comments.)

Click through for some tidbits on what makes Christmas in the UK special – feel free to chime in if you think something vital has been left off of the list, or if you know a place in America where someone might easily be able to get a bulk order of Christmas crackers for next year. Or both!

The Friday News Roundup: End of the Year Madness Edition

Happy Holiday Weekend Friday, Telly Visions readers! Hope everyone is gearing up for a great few days with family and friends and safe travels if you’re headed anywhere for the holidays today.

There’s a lot of fun stuff in the roundup today, and a little something for everyone probably – featuring Downton Abbey, Great Expectations, Sherlock, The Borrowers, Doctor Who, Julian Fellowes’ new Titantic miniseries, and a bunch more, so click through and start reading.

Telly Visions Goes to the Movies: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

It seems strangely fitting that Cold War spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opened in the States – or at least expanded beyond two cities - the same weekend people started screening Mission Impossible 4 for the first time. Not because the two films are in any way alike, but because of the strong contrast they present to one another. (Full disclosure: I’ve not seen MI 4 yet, but I’m guessing that it’s not probably not moving the needle too far from its three predecessors in terms of tone.)

Tinker Tailor sits firmly on the side of the classic espionage thriller, the kind which does not rely on impressive stunts, nifty gadets or breathtaking explosions to carry the story. Popular mainstream spy films, like the MI franchise and others of its ilk (Looking at you Bond, Bourne) often appear far more interested in the trappings of spycraft than the people who perform it, or the often boring particulars of how they do their jobs. (I imagine it’s a lot more talking than car chases for those folks, most days.) Conversely, Tinker Tailor, as a film, feels a bit like watching a stage play – a good two thirds of it is comprised of various combinations of men sitting in variety of dimly lit rooms and talking, but it’s just as riveting as if things were exploding throughout. It does require you to really pay attention to the many twists, turns, and seemingly throwaway moments that turn out to be anything but.

The film is based on John le Carre’s 1974 novel of the same name, which was also turned into a very popular six-hour BBC miniseries starring Alec Guinness. (Personal aside: I’ve just gotten a coyp of this and can’t want to watch it.) The film’s premise is deceptively simple: it’s the height of the Cold War and there’s a Soviet mole/double agent operating at the highest levels of British intelligence. Gary Oldman plays master spy George Smiley, whose job is it to sort through the Who’s Who of British character actors that comprise the rest of the cast and determine which of them is passing secrets to the Russians.

So what can you expect if you see it? This is not a movie for everyone, first of all. It’s very intricate and a little bit on the slow side, and it actively requires that you, as a viewer, pay (a lot of) attention, because if you don’t you’ll definitely miss something. There’s a great deal of talking - there has to be, if they’re going to condense a 400+ page novel into a two hour movie – and less in the way of action than a typical MI-style spy film. But it’s a densely plotted mystery with many layers that peel back like an onion, and an extremely well done character piece. I loved it, but there will certainly be those that call it boring rather than intriguing. (I also think those people are wrong, but I can see why the argument is being made.)

If you’re curious about the specifics, click through for my take on the film’s highlights and occasionally problematic areas. If you’ve seen this – what did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

In Case You Missed It: The Hobbit Trailer!

It’s likely that most of you saw this particular bit of awesomeness yesterday, but for those who somehow haven’t – the trailer for the first installment of Peter Jackson’s long-awaited adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was released this week, and features a star-studded cast full of great British performers.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens December 14, 2012, and stars Sherlock’s Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, alongside several members of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy cast including Sir Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, and Elijah Wood. They’ll be joined by a ton of new faces – most of them British – such as Stephen Fry, MI-5/Robin Hood’s Richard Armitage, Being Human’s Aidan Turner, Jekyll's James Nesbitt, Sylvester McCoy, Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch (eventually), Luke Evans, and more.

Click through to watch the trailer for yourself - it's really quite glorious, especially if you're a fan, and I've loved Tolkien since I was a kid. The Hobbit trailer is running in theaters before The Adventures of Tintin, so if you’re heading to the cinema this holiday weekend, you can see it on the big screen.

Two New Clips From the BBC’s Great Expectations

The BBC has released two new clips for their new Christmas production of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. This adaptation stars Gillian Anderson, Ray Winstone, David Suchet, Vanessa Kirby and Douglas Booth. (You can see the promo for this special here if you haven’t yet.)

Anderson is the youngest woman to ever play the mad Miss Havisham and it certainly seems as though she’ll be marking her mark on the role in other ways as well. She is really quite creepy and disturbing. (Though somehow she manages to look exceptionally beautiful all done up in the white makeup.)

Click through and take a look for yourself. Great Expectations will be coming to a TV near you in Spring 2012 as part of Masterpiece Classic. We'll keep youp posted on an airdate as that develops.

Watch Four New Trailers for Sherlock Series 2!

Although we viewers here in the US will have to wait for May for new episodes of Sherlock to air on Masterpiece Mystery, the BBC has kindly given us a little something to help tide us over with the release of the first trailer for the new episodes. Well, not exactly, they've released four of them. To quote Sherlock himself, oh, it’s Christmas, basically.

UK fans get their first look at the new series January 1st on BBC One, and Sherlock will return to the States on May 6, with three feature length episodes titled A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall.

Click through to watch all four new spots. Though they’re brief, they contain snippets from all three new installments. Rush Relents Rock, indeed. Or Secret Horns Lurk. Or Reckless Nor Hurt. Whichever anagram you prefer (and that will make sense in a second, promise), these are amazingly good!

Spoilers: Big Changes in the Works for Doctor Who Series 7

Steven Moffat has dropped several informational bombshells about the next series of Doctor Who during various promotional interviews and activities focused on the upcoming Christmas special. Obviously spoilers abound in this post – huge, honking spoilers – for the upcoming season of Who, so if you don’t want to know anything then absolutely please don’t click through the cut! (It's likely that some - probably a lot - of you have seen some of these already given that one's been plastered on just about every news outlet possible for the past couple of days, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.)

The Friday News Roundup: The It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like the Holidays Edition

Happy Friday, Telly Visions readers! Welcome to this week's edition of the News Roundup! Click through for news about Doctor Who, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Being Human, interesting celebrity tidbits and more!

As an FYI, a few of this week's links have spoilers for certain plot or casting elements of upcoming series. These are clearly marked so that those of you who don't want to know anything about what might be about to happen on your favorite shows can easily avoid clicking on them, but do keep an eye out if that's something you're concerned about. For those of you who want to know everything immediately, have at it.

Another New Clip from the Absolutely Fabulous Christmas Special!

A new clip has been released for the Absolutely Fabulous Christmas special – and this time we get our first looks at the returns of Joanna Lumley's Patsy and Julia Sawalha's Saffy.

Click through for a look at Patsy and Eddie explaining something called the Kardashian syndrome to pop culture-challeged Saffy. It’s hilarious, and sadly just too short. But it’s really nice to see that Lumley and Jennifer Saunders still sparkle together.

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