Part three of my Christmas preview starts with a very large health warning. At this time of year, it can be all too easy just to slump in front of the box and watch whatever happens to be on at the time. If you fall into that trap, take care: the following films should be treated with extreme caution. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
A general alert if you stray in the direction of ITV3. Beware of any film containing On The Buses in the title. At least two have sneaked into this channel’s holiday schedule and are to be avoided at all costs. Trite, tasteless, and should have be done under the Trade Descriptions Act for calling themselves comedies, they are also perfect examples of why turning a half hour TV series (regardless of quality) into a full length feature film is seldom a good idea.
The Wicker Man 9.00 pm, Boxing Day, 5*. A re-make of the 70s cult film. Why?? The original left me cold and I never understood why it had such a following. Now comes something even worse – a version with Nicholas Cage. Don’t get me started – and don’t go there …….
Titanic 5.20 pm, Boxing Day, More4. Why on earth this was showered with Oscars beats me! The sinking ship is impressive, but that’s your lot: the plot is so feeble, it should have gone down with it. Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet do their best, but it’s a waste of their time – and yours. If you want to see a good film about the Titanic disaster, try A Night To Remember, a black and white British film from the late 50s which tells the story in semi-documentary style. There’s no inane plots to contend with and the final fate of the passengers is left to your imagination, making it much more powerful and moving. Sadly, it’s not on TV over Christmas, but LoveFilm has it to rent.
Jaws – The Revenge 8.10 pm, Thursday, 29 December, ITV4. Even Michael Caine admits this wasn’t his finest hour – a perfect example of a film franchise that simply didn’t know when to stop. The shark is laughable, and so is the film. End of.
The Holiday 10.15 pm, Friday, 30 December, ITV1. Pass me a brown paper bag! Somehow Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black and Cameron Diaz agreed to sign up for this saccharine slice of contrived, unconvincing festive romantic twaddle. You may have the idea that I’m not impressed. You’d be right.
The In-Between Days
Thankfully, however, there are still some films worth watching between the two big holiday celebrations and, indeed, they’re far too good to be mentioned in the same breath as leftovers.
Sweeny Todd 9.00 pm, Wednesday, 28 December, Film4. Tim Burton’s version of the horror stage show, complete with a singing Johnny Depp (sounding remarkably like the late Anthony Newley!) taking revenge on his enemies by giving them the ultimate close shave and Helena Bonham Carter baking them to perfection. Bloody, but hugely enjoyable and handsomely staged. In case you’re wondering, it is a musical: when the film was released, the publicity materials rather played this down, which resulted in a lot of refund requests. I didn’t think Depp’s singing was that bad!
The Man Who Would Be King 1.25 pm, Wednesday, 28 December, ITV1. Sean Connery and Michael Caine have a ball playing two tricksters in this British Empire-set adventure yarn, based on a story by Rudyard Kipling.
The Railway Children 10.55 am, Thursday, 29 December, ITV1. A classic children’s tale made into a classic children’s film by actor-turned-director Lionel Jeffries. A middle class mum and her three children retreat to the country when their father is arrested for a mysterious crime. A box of tissues is compulsory for this, especially for the end. I defy you not to blub!!
The Little Shop of Horrors 5.15 pm, Thursday, 29 December, ITV3. Another stage show adaptation so, if you like your comedy black, sit back and enjoy the film version of the popular story of Audrey the voracious plant. Gardener’s World it ain’t!
Shrek 8.00 pm, Thursday, 29 December, BBC3. And if you prefer your heroes green and grumpy with a slightly dodgy Scottish accent, you’ll love this – although, for me, the real scene stealer is Eddie Murphy’s Donkey, a classic Disney character. This is huge fun that all the family will enjoy.
The French Connection 11.20 pm, Thursday, 29 December, Film4. The first of a double bill starring the great Gene Hackman, this won him his first Oscar for his performance as cop ‘Popeye’ Doyle. Hard-hitting in its day, it still packs a punch and moves along at a rate of knots. A top cop thriller.
The Conversation 1.35 am, Thursday, 29 December, Film4. Gene Hackman again, but it’s a shame to tuck Francis Ford Coppola’s paranoid thriller away in the schedules to this extent. An eavesdropping Hackman thinks he’s stumbled across a murder plot. Set that box!
Films are so often a matter of personal taste and it could well be that none of my picks have whetted your appetite. So the fourth and final part of my preview will look at some recent films now available on DVD that you could either rent – or put on your last-minute Christmas list!