Date Saturday December 20
Channel Sky Movies Premiere
You couldn’t wish for a more heart-warming start to Christmas, as this fabulous film gives the golden age of Disney a distinctive modern twist. The wonderful Amy Adams plays Princess Giselle who, while searching for her prince (James Marsden), departs her animated kingdom and finds herself in modern New York. Giselle’s wide-eyed wonder at the everyday things she encounters is infectious, and the humour that runs through the whole thing more than offsets the more sickly sweet moments. It’s funny, it’s charming and it stars Grey’s Anatomy’s Patrick Dempsey – what more could you want?
The French Lieutenant's Woman
Date Sunday December 21
It’s got all the elements of a great movie – an exceptional source novel by John Fowles, a screenplay by Harold Pinter, direction by Karel Reisz and performances by Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep – and this 1981 film certainly doesn’t disappoint. It tells two stories, one of the romance between a Victorian governess and an English gentleman and the other of the relationship between two actors portraying the couple, and was nominated for five Oscars. Streep and Irons are mesmerising in their dual roles, and the parallel stories give the core morality and romance an exhilarating intensity.
The Brothers Grimm
Date Monday December 22
Starring two of Hollywood’s greatest young talents, Matt Damon and the late Heath Ledger, British film-maker Terry Gilliam’s Fantasy movie puts a quirky slant on the lives of dark fable writers the Brothers Grimm. In Gilliam’s vision, they are travelling conmen who wander into the dark mystery of a haunted forest, and there are plenty of thrills and spills along the way. Damon and Ledger work well together, their sparring giving the story energy, and the Gothic visual style makes this an adult Christmas treat.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Date Christmas Eve
Although it was successfully remade in 1994, it’s the 1947 version of this delightful Christmas tale that should be one of your must-sees this season. Its Christmas Eve time slot couldn’t be more perfect, as this story of a department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) who claims he’s the real thing is seasonal sentimentality from start to finish. The outstanding performances from its iconic cast, which includes Maureen O’Hara as the disbelieving store executive and Natalie Wood as her more open-minded daughter, cuts through any melodrama and by the time it reaches its heart-warming conclusion you’ll have a yuletide glow that will last all the way to Boxing Day
The Wizard of Oz
Date Christmas Day
When the living room floor is covered in discarded wrapping paper and you’re full of Christmas pud, there’s nothing better than settling down with the family to watch an old favourite. And The Wizard of Oz is one of those everlasting movies that, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, always retain its magic; and there’s nothing better than introducing kids to its charms. Judy Garland was never better than as Kansas gal Dorothy, who finds herself whisked to the fantasy Technicolor land of Oz during a tornado, and the infectious songs and hugely loveable characters continue to make this an indulgent treat six decades after its release.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Date Christmas Day
By the third film in the hugely popular boy wizard franchise, Harry is no longer the wide-eyed young innocent but an adolescent struggling to cope with the trials of being a teen and the responsibilities of his monumental gift. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) puts a darker spin on proceedings, and the story – Harry and pals must deal with a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and the attentions of convicted murderer Sirius Blacks – has a decidedly adult edge. But, as ever, this is one for the kids and will certainly keep their attention while you do the washing up.
Date Saturday December 27
Steven Spielberg is a name that has become synonymous with family entertainment, and Jurassic Park is one of his best. It’s hard to believe that it was made 15 years ago, as the special effects still stand up, effectively bringing the dinosaur theme park at the centre of the story to roaring life. Richard Attenborough is solid as ever as the theme park owner whose decision to give a sneak preview to a few lucky people – including Sam Neill and Laura Dern – leads to a fight for survival as the dinos rage against their creator. Spielberg has got to the exhilarating heart of Michael Crichton’s page-turner, and the mix of CGI and model work remains absolutely jaw-dropping. The sequels are also being shown over the following two nights.
Date Sunday December 28
One of the great things about Christmas is that the schedulers dust off some of the cinematic classics – even if they sometimes allocate them anti-social times! This is definitely one to set the video for, as this 1936 classic it is the absolute best of the Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers films. Astaire is the gambler who travels to New York to raise the cash he needs to marry his fiancée, Rogers is the beautiful dancer who catches his eye. Their chemistry has never been stronger, their dancing never more impressive and their performances never better. If you’ve never seen Astaire/Rogers magic, it’s the perfect place to start…
Date Tuesday December 30
Brit actor Jamie Bell has come a long way since his pirouetting turn in Billy Elliot, and his performance as troubled teen Hallam – who heads for Edinburgh after the death of his mother – is at the heart of this quirky charmer. Sophie Myles lends solid support as the girl onto who Hallam transfers his obsessions and director David Mackenzie mines Peter Jinks’s wonderful novel to perfection. Sure, it may not be all that festive but it’s definitely a great British cracker.
Date New Years Day
Channel Sky Arts 1
After all the excesses of Christmas, why not start the New Year with a film that celebrates the very heart of human endeavour. This fantastic documentary follows eight American kids as they work to compete in the National Spelling Bee, highlighting their very different backgrounds and approaches to the big day. You simply can’t help but root for these kids as they fight to overcome peer pressure and the trials of adolescence to stay concentrated on their one shared goal – to be the best speller in the USA. It all adds up to a great start to a new movie year.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Date New Year’s Day
Channel BBC 3
The film that launched a hugely successful franchise is the big movie for New Year’s Day and even if, like millions of others, you’ve seen it before it’s well worth a second watch. Johnny Depp absolutely steals the show as the swaggering pirate Jack Sparrow, who is forced to team with Orlando Bloom’s swashbuckling Will Turner to save the life of governess’s daughter Elizabeth Turner (Keira Knightley). There’s action, there’s adventure and there’s plenty of laughs, so why not usher in 2009 with a Yo Ho Ho (and a bottle of rum)?
Date Thursday January 2
Gene Kelly is one of Hollywood’s greatest legends, and here he proves that he’s got talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. He directs Barbara Streisand who plays matchmaker Dolly Levi, who becomes determined to ensnare millionaire Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) for herself. Originally a hit on Broadway, Kelly’s expert direction and a fabulous central performance from Streisand make this a real treat for musical lovers. You’ll be humming the tunes for days.
by Nikki Baughan