List of top movies on UK TV during Christmas 2020

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Film reviews and listings

After three days nearly ruining my eyes squinting at the Radio Times, annihilating a Sharpie pen and typing on a laptop, here is a list of Jason Day’s top movies screening on TV over Christmas and New Year 2020 in the UK.

Tuesday 29 December films

Anna and the King (1999)

star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching

Handsome and impeccably acted update of the classic tale of Victorian, British teacher Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster) and her time at the court of Siam and non-sexual relationship with its King (Chow Yun Fat). Channel 4, 11:40am.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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Classic WWII tale about the hardships endured by the British soldiers – prisoners of the Japanese – who were forced to construct a bridge spanning a river. Oscar winning Alec Guinness leads them. Director David Lean got his first feel of making epic movies here and would helm only mighty productions after this. Channel 5, 12:10pm, also New Year’s Eve, Sky 5* Movies, 6am.

Wonder Woman (2017)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Films based on comics are not my favourite type, not by a long shot, but this sharp, amusing and action-packed update of the famous 70’s TV version is a diamond in a world of CGI plastic. Gal Gadot is quite the find in the title role and hunky Chris Pine as her love interest is the perfect male support for her strapping Amazonian princess fighting WWI baddies. The sequel is available to see now in those cinemas that are open or by streaming online. ITV, 7:30pm.

For more, read the full review.

True Romance (1993)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Writer Quentin Tarantino took a directorial backseat for this dark, satirical crime caper, with Tony Scott wielding the clapperboard. A ridiculously young Christian (a top star at this point) plays the lonely geek who teams up with hooker Patricia Arquette to sell the cocaine they steal from her pimp. An outrageously violent, bloody and tense chase ensues. This features some incredible dialogue from Tarantino, as evidenced in the extraordinary scene between Slater’s Dad (Dennis Hopper) and mob enforcer (Christopher Walken). Superb acting from an amazing cast. Sony Movies, 9pm.

For those up for the drive-thru, it’ll also be screening at the Nightflix at various locations including Milton Keynes.

Wednesday 30 December films

Gone With the Wind (1939)

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Ravishing, lush, timeless, epic, dresses, Vivien Leigh…need I say more?

Read the full review if you want to know why it is a enduring, gorgeous classic. TCM Movies, 6:40am.

Shirley Valentine (1989)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

“Aren’t men full of shit?” says Pauline Collins’ middle-aged, put-upon housewife after hightailing it to Greece and being fulsomely flattered by Tom Conti’s none too convincing waiter. Collins, reprising her solo stage role and grabbing an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, is a delight as the outwardly mousy missus who plucks up the courage to discover the opinionated, feisty teenager a lifetime of drudgery has all but destroyed. Channel 5, 1:35pm.

North by Northwest (1959)

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Lavish, romantic spy epic from Alfred Hitchcock, with his quintessential leading man, smooth, handsome, sarcastic Cary grant in their final collaboration. He’s the ‘ad man’ mistaken for being a government agent who must go on the run and uncover the real bad guys, led by the charmingly slimy James Mason. Eva Marie Saint is the assertive, menthol-cool blonde who seduces Grant and the memorable set pieces include a finale on Mount Rushmore. BBC2, 2:50pm.

Finding Nemo (2003)

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A delight for all the family, this Pixar animation sees a clown fish (voiced by Albert Brooks) sets off from the safety of his reef home to rescue his son who has been netted by a scuba diver. Splendid voice work, gorgeous visual and a great story with some inventive moments (little Nemo takes a big breath whilst underwater before jumping out of a fish tank) make this a classic. Sky Disney, 10pm.

The Exorcist (1973)

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During its initial release, this controversial horror was condemned by the church with priests beseeching cinema patrons queueing around the block to go home and not see it. Strange, as this blockbuster is actually all about the positive force of religious faith, as priest Max von Sydow (superb) attempts to cast out the devil that has possessed sweet, little Linda Blair. Actress Mercedes McCambridge voices that demon (‘Pazuzu’) and puffed away on countless fags to make her voice as hypnotically evil as possible.

Scenes such as 13 year old Blair masturbating with a crucifix (actually, a much older stand-in), her subseuqent head-spinning, vomit-spewing, impersonation of a spider and the deaths of several cast and crew members stunned and shocked audiences worldwide and have passed into cinematic legend. It’s eternally, uncomfortably compulsive viewing. Sky Sci-Fi/Horror, 11:10pm.

New Year’s Eve

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Director Bill Condon’s (Gods and Monsters, 1998) live-action remake of Disney’s immortal, 1991 animated hit manages to whack on an extra 45 minutes of action, song and dance, with no discernable increase in quality. It feels a bit padded out at times, but is a gorgeous thing to behold and proves – if you need it – that Emma Watson, as the spirited Belle romanced by an ugly beast, really can act. BBC1, 2:20pm.

For more, read the full review.

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

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A fittingly appropriate date to screen this classic seventies disaster drama. It’s NYE and a creaking ocean liner limping across the Med on its final voyage is struck by a huge tsunami wave, tipping it upside down and trapping passengers and crew who are whooping it up in the dining room.

It used to be said in the Radio Times that this film, always screened on UK TV over Christmas (but not so much in modern years) was a bit of joke, scoffed at by snooty critics when first released. But the producers had the last laugh when it earned huge sums of money across the world and knocked The Godfather off the box office top spot. It’s of far superior quality than those critics thought and, in the performances of Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and particularly Stella Stevens, is quite excellent. ITV4, 3:20pm.

For more, read the full review.

Halloween (1978)

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If we are talking about correct dates to screen movies, Christmas is a few weeks late for this one, but John Carpenter’s seminal and hugely influential horror is always worth rewatching. Jamie Lee Curtis, as the innocent babysitter stalked by a mute, mask-wearing serial killer, rocketed to international stardom that even her illustrious parents (Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis) never achieved. She has continues with the film series to this day, evolving the character to be much less sympathetic, far more interesting and almost as unhinged as the killer. Film4, 1:25am.

For more, see the full review.

New Year’s Day films

Charade (1963)

Star rating tbc!

There was a fabulous gag in the otherwise not always that funny Big Impression in which Alastair MacGowan and Ronnie Ancona spoofed Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in this romantic comedy thriller. The send up involved Grant and Hepburn’s characters running a burger van on a British A-road. Ancona, with neck-tendon’s at full stretch as she mimicked Hepburn’s strained vowels, said: “But Care-ee, we’ve RUN out of BURR-gerr BUNS!”

I’ve only seen trailers and clips of the movie, so will update about what I think of it. ITV3, 11:50am.

Ben-Hur (1959)

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This thunderous spectacle manages to out-epic the colossal 1926 version of this tale of a Jewish Prince who becomes a slave after a perceived slight against the Roman Empire. A strange destiny awaits him.

Charlton Heston won the Best Actor for playing Judah Ben-Hur and the movie went on to win an incredible 10 others and international box offices rang deafeningly loud. ITV4, 11:55am.

For more, read the full review.

Whiplash (2014)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

CineSocial UK wasn’t always ‘just a reviews blog’ but started out as a monthly film club in Olney, Buckinghamshire the aim of which was to bring movies that were relatively difficult to see in mainstream cinemas to the village.

Sadly the club closed after only two screenings, but it was great while it lasted! Whiplash was the second screening chosen and is a brilliant tour de force of machismo and potty-mouthed fuming as aspirant and talented drummer Miles Teller engages in a battle of wills with beastly tutor J.K. Simmons. The older man is a vile joy and Simmons scooped a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts. Sky Christmas, 6pm.

For more, see the full review.

Mr Holmes (2015)

star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching

Intriguing, if not completely satisfying, reboot of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes (Sir Ian McKellan) is in his 90’s and living a peaceful life of retirement, tending to bees in his garden and being looked after by housekeeper Laura Linney and her precocious son Milo Parker. Dementia has set in and he is plagued by patchy memories of a troubling case from the past.

McKellan is, as you would expect, superb and enjoyably reteams with his Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon, even if the final film dodders about like a nonagenarian. BBC2, 6:20pm.

For more, see the full review.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Kenneth Branagh’s at times clunkily staged version of (arguably) Agatha Christie’s most famous book tries too hard to differentiate itself from the superb 1974, resulting in a noticeable drop in quality. Still, he manages to maintain the tension admirably and the star cast is to die for…most of the time. Michelle Pfeiffer leads the best of them (Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Josh Gadd etc.); the same can’t be said for some of the others (Willem Dafoe and, surprisingly Dame Judi Dench). Film4, 9pm.

For more, see the full review.

From the beginning…

Sunday 20 December films

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

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Classic Ealing comedy with a reptilian Denis Price on career-best form as an impoverished man posing as a long-lost relative of a family. An arch manipulator, he romances one (Valerie Hobson) whilst bumping off the others to get closer to their fortune. Hobson (Estella in David Lean’s immortal Great Expectations, 1946) would later marry politician John Profumo, he of the 1960’s scandal partly blamed for toppling Harold MacMillan’s government. Talking Pictures TV, 1:15pm.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Steven Spielberg directs Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks in this slick, free-wheeling and hugely enjoyable chase drama.

Hanks is the FBI agent determined to catch DiCaprio’s charming, disarming confidence trickster. A young Amy Adams pops up in support as a smitten nurse. BBC2, 5:50pm.

Uncle Buck (1989)

star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching

The late, great John Candy takes the title role of a slobbish commitment-phobe approaching middle age who is suddenly given responsibility: to look after his young nieces and nephew when his estranged brother and sister-in-law have to leave town. From director John Hughes, it’s of the same ilk as many of his movies, especially Home Alone (1990) which also starred this film’s Macaulay Culkin. ITV2, 7pm; also Christmas Eve, ITV 2, 5:50pm.

Looper (2012)

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In the future, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, they send them back in time to a desolate spot where a hitman waits to kill them. One day, that assassin turns out to be Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) , who finds out that his future self (Bruce Willis) has been sent back for him to kill, leading to an original set of dilemmas.

Looper stands head shoulders above other such action-thrillers and assertively holds its own ground. Syfy, 9pm; also Tuesday 22 December 9pm.

For more, read the full review here.

Love, Actually (2003)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Although not a five star classic, this is one of my favourite Christmas movies. A portmantau effort in which most of British Equity are cast, the main action centres around young, single Prime Minister Hugh Grant’s romance with newbie tea-girl Martine McCutcheon.

The best laughs come from Bill Nighy’s aged rocker attempting a cheesy, seasonal comeback, shepherded by his long-suffering manager Gregor Fisher. It’s an unabashed, sentimental delight. Sky Christmas, 10:20pm; also Tuesday 22 December, same channel 5:40pm & Tuesday 29 December, 8pm.

For more, read the full review here.

Monday 21 December films

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

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Adjusted for inflation this mighty – and slightly flabby – adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s Nobel Prize winning book is one of the top-grossing movies at all time (as of 2019, it has earned $1.12 billion).

Omar Sharif plays the title role, the doctor/poet who is swept along in the Russian Revolution; wife Geraldine Chaplin and mistress Julie Christie (as the eponymous Lara) accompany him at various intervals. BBC2, 1:10pm.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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The writers and producer of this legendary musical must have been on some serious drugs to come up with this whacked-out blockbuster.

Judy Garland replaced an unavailable Shirley Temple as Kansas-lass Dorothy, whipped up by a tornado and plopped in the magical, weird and deadly land of Oz, securing her place in Hollywood immortality. Sky Musicals, 6pm; also Mon 28 December, Sky Musicals at 8pm; Tuesday 29 December, Sky Musicals 2:15pm, New Year’s Eve, Sky 5* Movies, 9:45pm.

The Polar Express (2004)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Like a cup of the finest hot chocolate this brilliantly entertaining, fast-paced, digital-capture animated children’s festive adventure gives you a lovely warm, contented feel.

Tom Hanks is the conductor of the titular, magical train that whisks children to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus at his ‘Elfopolis’ home. Timeless stuff; I loved this movie when I first saw it and always tune in for another viewing at Christmas. Sky Christmas, 6:05pm; also, Wednesday 23 December, Sky 1, 6pm.

For more, see the review here.

The Revenant (2015)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

DiCaprio again and it’s this second classic of his, as far removed from the pretty, sunlit locales Spielberg filmed as possible, that makes me think how bloody good an actor he is and how much value you get from watching his ouevre.

He finally won his Oscar playing a grizzled frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s, digging deep to survive after natives attack his crew and a bear mauls him. Survivalist porn to some degree, this still has real epic sweep to it with grand set pieces and stomach-knotting moments. BBC2, 10:35pm.

For more, see the full review here.

JoJo Rabbit (2019)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Clever satire of the Nazi regime. A young member of the Hitler Youth postulates the ‘great’ man as his imaginary friend and counsellor. His world is turned upside down when he discovers a Jewish girl hiding in the space between the walls of his house and she makes him question his political allegiance.

Great performances, a spiky script and some genuinely hilarious and moving moments make this one to watch. Sky Hits, 11pm; also Christmas Eve, Sky Comedy, 9pm.

For more, see the full review here.

Tuesday 22 December films

Matilda (1996)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Delightful – if slightly too Americanized – movie version of the classic, dark Roald Dahl book, directed by Danny DeVito.

Mara Wilson plays the title role, a telekinetic child prodigy neglected by her parents (DeVito and wonderfully brash Rhea Pearlman) and loved by her adoring teacher (Embeth Davidtz). Stealing the show, however, is Pam Ferris as the hulking headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Channel 5, 1:35pm.

Bridesmaids (2011)

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“I’m poor!” is one of my all-time favourite catchphrases, spoken here by Kristen Wiig, high on pills and booze and begging to be allowed in first-class on a plane.

In this ‘girls on top’ gross-out comedy, she and pal Maya Rudolph fall out as the increasingly lavish plans for the latter’s wedding are used by posh pal Rose Byrne to best Wiig’s more economical ideas. Brilliant and very, very funny throughout. ITV2, 9pm.

The Favourite (2018)

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Who cares if this acidic, absurdist comedy about England’s Queen Anne from writer/director Yorgas (The Lobster, 2015) Lanthimos isn’t entirely historically accurate? It’s so fabulously tart and vicious, as Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone jostle for the Queen’s attention and favour with increasing ferocity, you can easily forget that and enjoy the sumptuous entertainment.

Olivia Colman is superb as the unwell monarch and won the 2019 Oscar for Best Actress. Sky Comedy, 10pm.

For more, read the full review.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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Yes, a third DiCaprio movie you should see. Or see again if you have already witnessed what must be the filthiest, most foul-mouthed (the word fuck alone is spoken more than 500 times), debauched and druggy film committed to screen.

He plays another real-life character, Jordan Belfort, a shady Wall Street wizard with a serious penchant for narcotics and wild, office-based parties, interspersed with serious money-making before eventually falling foul of the Feds.

Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie provide splendid support as Belfort’s business partner and put-upon, trophy wife. ITV 4, 10pm. Also, New Year’s Eve, Sky Thriller, 11:25pm.

Wednesday 23 December films

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Director Stanley Kubrick’s seminal, lyrical science ‘faction’ epic charts humanity’s journey from the prehistoric days of ape-men painfully putting two and two together about the power in their hands and then onto the space age, with space stations dancing in the cosmos to a Strauss waltz…and beyond.

Music and mind-blowing visuals are perfectly combined in this lengthy, operatic piece that signalled Kubrick’s transformation from a merely clever, studio director to a genius maestro whose legendary perfectionism and lengthy gaps between productions frustrated some and beguiled others. Sky Sci-Fi/Horror, 6am; also Monday 28 December, Sky Sci-Fi/Horror at 3:40am.

The Lord of the Rings: trilogy

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The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King are being shown back-to-back on Sky Hits today, starting at 5pm. A trio of terrific Tolkein triumphs!

Sir Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson and Eliah Wood star in all three. Also, Sky Hits on Christmas Eve, from 6:50am.

Die Hard (1988)

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“Welcome to the party, pal!”

Easy to forget that this sweaty and unashamedly masculine action flick is very much a Christmas movie. And if you don’t agree – take yourself away and SORT YOURSELF OUT!

Bruce Willis’ off-duty New York cop visits his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) in L.A. with a view to getting her back. But he ends up taking on international terrorist Alan Rickman and his crew when the baddies storm her high-rise office tower.

Thrilling action and pyrotechnic effects, salty performances from a great cast and some great one-liners for Willis (a top TV star at this point with the classic comedy Moonlighting) make this a 5/5 classic. Sky Christmas, 8pm; also same time and channel on New Year’s Eve.

For more, read the full review here.

Phantom Thread (2017)

Star rating tbc!

I missed this drama when it first hit cinemas so will be tuning in to see it on the box. Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated for his sixth Best Actor Oscar, starring as an English fashion designer who befriends a young waitress (Vicky Krieps). Lesley Manville plays his disapproving, business partner sister. BBC 2, 10pm.

Christmas Eve

Moana (2016)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

A strong contender for the most eye-pleasing animated feature, this Disney piece follows independent minded Polynesian girl Moana (Auli’i Cravalho). She breaks her father’s commandment and sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) who can help her return a jewel that will save her people. Johnson (‘The Rock’) proves to be a fine singer, adding an extra feather to his cinematic bow. BBC1, 12:35pm.

For more, read the full review.

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)

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Rollicking, frollicking, trolloping musical epic in which Jane Greer marries Howard Keel, the eldest boy in a family of seven lads. She has to tame the rough-hewn fellas in order to get them married off and out from under her feet. Splendid entertainment. Channel 5, 5:55pm.

Psycho (1960)

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Director Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie commands repeat viewings, but is not his best effort (that, of course, is Vertigo, 1958 – see Christmas Day selection).

This was the penultimate of the great man’s run of astonishingly successful, critically acclaimed hits in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He gambled his own cash and reputation on producing this pulpy, gripping horror about a creepy momma’s boy (Anthony Perkins) who accidentally meets a gorgeous blonde (Janet Leigh) on the lam with loot stolen from her boss. Stylish and ingenious by turns, you can catch it on Sky Thriller at 6pm.

Gremlins (1984)

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One movie scene I always find funny, no matter how many times I see it, is when the titular monsters in this hilarious horror comedy take over an Irish bar and get royally pissed.

This is a very funny, whip-smart piece from Joe Dante and its charm and appeal ensure it has not aged a day. Sky Sci-Fi/Horror 9pm and Sky 1, 9:45pm. Also Monday 28 December, Sky Christmas 6pm.

For more, read the full review.

Yesterday (2019)

Image 3stars Good worth watching

I might not give this a big star rating but this whimsical, musical drama about an alternate reality where only one person knows The Beatles existed, is a rewarding and sometimes funny view.

Himesh Patel is that man, a struggling musician who wows the world when he starts playing The Fab Four’s back catalogue, wooing Lily James in the process. Sky Musicals, 10pm; also Wednesday 30 December, Sky Musicals 6pm.

For more, read the full review.

Christmas Day

Some Like It Hot (1959)

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“Nobody’s perfect!” is the simplest and greatest way to conclude a movie. It’s spoken by veteran comedian Joe E. Brown when Jack Lemmon’s musician-on-the-run-in-drag finally reveals, to end their ‘courtship’, he is a man.

Director Billy Wilder’s awesome gender-swap comedy is one of Lemmon’s finest two and a bit hours and is certainly co-star Tony Curtis’, who impression of Cary Grant is to die for. Marilyn Monroe shimmers as the singer Curtis romances. This is a diamond of a movie you will absolutely love. Showing on BBC2, 1:15pm.

The Towering Inferno (1974)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

The pièce de résistance, the di tutti epic of the seventies disaster drama is this classic offering from ‘The Master of Disaster’, producer Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, 1972). The world’s tallest building catches fire thanks to electrician Richard Chamberlain’s dodgy wiring, leaving a gaggle of stars stuck on the top floor.

Paul Newman and Steve McQueen head the cast, a pairing that caused multiple headaches for the writers and production, marketing and legal teams. Showing on TCM Movies, 2:15pm.

See the full review for more.

Spartacus (1960)

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Producer/star Kirk Douglas ruffled a few feathers in Hollywood when he removed the esteemed Anthony Mann from the director’s chair and replaced him with the (then) relatively unknown Stanley Kubrick as a reward for the work he did on their previous picture Paths of Glory (1957).

No doubt Mann would have turned out a great epic anyway about a failed slave rebellion against the might of Imperial Rome. But Kubrick adds much emotional depth and shading, resulting in a powerful and moving production. Stand-out scenes include Douglas and Woody Strode’s gladiators eyeing each other nervously, knowing they will fight soon and one of them will die.

The starry cast includes Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis a ‘tingling’ Peter Ustinov and, in one of his final screen performances, that great screen-hogger Charles Laughton. ITV4, 2:55pm.

Vertigo (1958)

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A romantic, swirling, mind-fuck maelstrom of a movie. James Stewart sees a ghost in Kim Novak who resembles a beautiful woman he failed to save from committing suicide years before. As he starts to make her over as the double of that woman, is Novak all she seems?

Hitch seduces you with the romance and psychological questions about the ambiguity and aggression of love, attachment and memory in what is his finest piece and, according to respected film journal Sight & Sound, the greatest movie ever made. Showing on Sky Thriller, 4:30pm.

For more, see the full review.

La La Land (2016)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Not quite the 5/5 star “triumph” people were screaming from the rooftops back in ’16 (for me, it didn’t flow very well between the music and the drama moments and I didn’t think the songs were all ‘that’), but this is still an undeniably gorgeous, blissful piece to watch and, yes, listen to.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the star-crossed lovers, artists struggling to make it in modern-day Hollywood. Los Angeles, rather than being depicted as it usually is as a fetid, vapid place that chews up desperate wannabes, is instead of vibrant idyll of people who inspire and give hope, wonder and romance. Literally, a City of Angels. Showing on BBC2 at 10:10pm.

For more, read the full review.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Ralph Fiennes is the charming elderphile concierge who runs the titular hotel, coming unstuck when his sometime mistress Tilda Swinton is murdered. A starry-cast roll out before us as the investigation continues, in this frothy and fun comedy-drama that looks as pretty and sugary as a lavish wedding cake.

Wes Anderson directs Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe and many, many more. Film4, 11:15pm.

For more, read the full review.

Boxing Day

The Theory of Everything (2015)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Eddie Redmayne nabbed a Best Actor Oscar for his incredible, physically demanding portrayal of physics genius Prof. Stephen Hawking, in the years immediately after his motor neurone disease diagnosis. Equally impressive is Felicity Jones, Oscar nominated as his first wife Jane. Sony Movies, 4:10pm.

Read the full review for more.

Hobson’s Choice (1953)

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Charles Laughton stars as the curmudgeonly cobbler who ends up in competition with spirited elder daughter Brenda da Banzie and her mild-mannered, talented shoemaker husband John Mills. Laughton is in fine fettle matched by those two excellent players. A Young Prunella Scales plays Laughton’s younger daughter. Talking Pictures TV, 6pm.

Hidden Figures (2016)

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This engrossing, brilliantly cast and revealing real-life drama about the hitherto unknown black women who supported, née propelled, the race to the moon in the 1960’s was one of the best movies of 2016, in my humble opinion. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janae Monae are three of them. Channel 4, 6:40pm.

Read the full review for more.

Carry On Screaming (1966)

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

“Frying tonight!” Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a good, ole Carry On…and this is one the best of the long-running, ‘innuendo-bingo’ series. In his only Carry On Harry H. Corbett (TV’s Steptoe and Son) plays a detective investigating strange goings on at a home owned by weird doctor Kenneth Williams and his sexy sister Fenella Fielding. Some great gags and game playing make this huge fun. ITV3, 7:30pm.

Sunday 27 December films

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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Lyrical, sincerely-sweet, modern-day Frankenstein fairytale with Johnny Depp in his first role for Tim Burton, the director whose movies would go on to shape his career. He plays the titular creation, whose ‘father’ (Vincent Price, in his last movie) dies before he can finish him, leaving poor Edward with scissors for hands. He’s discovered by a well-meaning Avon saleswoman (Dianne Wiest) and inadvertently causes havoc when she moves him in to her neat suburban town. Winona Ryder co-stars. Channel 4, 2:10pm.

Joker (2019)

star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching

This grim, unrelentingly violent movie left me feeling deeply concerned about what passes for entertainment as well as being left with a nasty aftertaste. Whether this is one for you is between you and yourself but there is no denying the brilliance of Oscar winning Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, a troubled young man desperate for recognition as a top comedian but whose definition of humour is wildly different to everyone else’s. Sky Hits, 9pm; also Wednesday 30 December, Sky Thriller 9pm.

For more, see the full review.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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One of only three movies to win all five of the top Oscars, this gripping, witty and intellectual horror movie is still impressive after nearly 30 years. Jodie Foster won her second Academy Award as the rookie FBI agent who must interview deranged serial killer Anthony Hopkins (scooping a Best Actor Oscar) to gain psychological insight that will help her catch another killer. ITV, 10:40pm.

For more, read the full review.

The Drop (2014)

star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching

This crime drama almost passed unnoticed during its theatrical run, but is quietly impressive. Barman Tom Hardy works at boss James Gandolfini’s bar, which is a ‘drop’ place where the proceeds of criminal activity are stored away from the eyes of the police. But Gandolfini has his own plans for a fortune that is dropped one night. Gandolfini, in one of his final performances before his untimely death, is a revelation and less showy Hardy isn’t far behind him. Film4, 1:55am.

For more, read the full review.

Monday 28 December films

Inside Out (2015)

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My choice for the finest, the most intelligent and enjoyable animated movie ever. Young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moves to San Francisco. Her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school. A stunner on every level. BBC1, 1:20pm.

For more, read the full review.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Image of 5 stars for an excellent film genius a classic movie

Impossibly pretty adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot book. From the opulently designed train, Geoffrey Unsworth’s soft-focus photography, Richard Rodney-Bennett’s delightful score and actress Jacqueline Bissett, everything is pleasing to the eye. Even Poirot’s (Oscar nominated Albert Finney) is neatly waxed in place. Sidney Lumet directs with impeccable élan and confidence and the solution to Richard Widmark’s murder is a cracker. BBC2, 2:10pm (for the recent remake, see the New Year’s Day selection).

For more, read the full review.

Allied (2016)

star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching

The sparks struck on-screen between stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in this WWII espionage thriller allegedly spilled over to real-life as well. Although not ‘top-drawer war’ this is still a classy and entertaining affair handled with the customary professionalism by box office champ director Robert Zemeckis. Film4, 9pm.

For more, read the full review.

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