To stave off possible boredom while at home, every week Marhaba delves into the wonderful world of popular culture to find the best new TV series, movies, books, and music.


Echoing the sentiments of many of us this year, Death to 2020 debuts on Netflix on 27 December. Written by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, the creators of Black Mirror, the Netflix special is a mockumentary with stars such as Samuel L Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, Hugh Grant and Joe Keery portraying fictional characters who discuss real events that have happened over this particularly long and unusual year (look out for Tracey Ullman as Queen Elizabeth II!). According to Grant, ‘I’m pretty repellent, actually! And you’ll like my wig.’ The COVID-19 pandemic has often been described as a real-life version of a Black Mirror episode, but even Brooker and Jones would have had trouble writing the script for this year’s events!


George Clooney’s first movie for Netflix is The Midnight Sky, airing from 23 December. The sci-fi movie – starring, produced and directed by Clooney, no less – is based on the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton and follows Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney) as a scientist who finds new habitable planets for humanity. In 2049, Earth suffers an unknown cataclysmic event, wiping out the population. On dialysis for terminal cancer and probably the last person left on Earth, Lofthouse somehow has to warn the crew aboard a space mission of the situation on Earth and to not return home – unfortunately this means trekking across the Arctic Circle in order to reach a powerful enough antenna, in the company of a young girl that has for some reason been left behind at one of the research facilities. Much of the visually stunning filming for the Arctic Circle storyline was shot in Iceland, evoking a real sense of isolation and despair about the dire conditions. Clooney reportedly lost more than 10 kg for his role, needing hospitalisation due to his rapid weight loss.


This Week’s Top Choices to Watch, Read and Listen toStaying with Iceland, why not embrace the country’s trending tradition this year: Jólabókaflóð. Meaning ‘Yule Book Flood’ and pronounced ‘yo-la-bok-a-flot’, the idea is to gift loved ones books to read on Christmas Eve. Start your own new tradition by gifting The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse, Barnes and Noble, and Waterstones’ choice for the 2020 Book of the Year, as well as a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestseller. The 2019 book is by British illustrator, artist, and author Charlie Mackesy, following the friendship between the four protagonists. The book is full of beautifully illustrated quotes, offering inspiration and hope in these uncertain times, and is suitable for readers of all ages. ‘Nothing beats kindness,’ said the Horse. ‘It sits quietly beyond all things.’ Something to reflect on as we move into the festive season and the new year.


Finally, a mere 26 years after its initial release, All I Want for Christmas Is You has topped the UK Singles Chart, Mariah Carey’s first UK number one in 20 years. Everyone knows the song, having featured on her first holiday album in 1994 and a certain Christmas movie. It has set all manner of chart records along the way, earning Carey the title of Queen of Christmas. The song now appears on her latest album, Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special, which has been released in conjunction with a special performance on Apple TV+. Carey is joined by megastar guests such as Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri, on a number of Christmas classics. Sing along with Mimi as she belts the classics, including Sleigh Ride, Oh Santa!, Silent Night, and, of course, the best-selling Christmas single by a female artist.

Author: Sarah Palmer

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