OTB’s Pick of TV Christmas Films (22-28 Dec)
Having spent the last half hour flicking through the Christmas 2012 Radio Times so you don’t have to, OTB is saddened to reveal that It’s a Wonderful Life will not be on free-to-air television for yet another Christmas, which just isn’t right. It’s a Wonderful Life is the archetypal Christmas film; heartwarming, endearing and timeless. There are loads of other films on TV instead and we’ll recommend which ones to watch and avoid here. Think of this Xmas movie diary as a gift from us to you and remember to bookmark the page so you won’t piss off relatives by perpetually scrolling through your TV’s EPG during the EastEnders Christmas special.
SATURDAY 22 DECEMBER
Pick of the day: Assuming we’ve reached the 22nd without perishing as a result of the Mayan apocalypse, we’ll kick off Xmas film proceedings with James Cameron’s not-remotely-festive Terminator 2: Judgment Day (10:45pm, ITV1), the special effects-laden sequel to his 1984 classic. Arnie reprises his most iconic role, this time as a besunglassed hero-on-a-motorbike, to save the world from the shape-shifting T-1000 model.
Alternative viewing: Rare Exports from the Land of the Original Santa Claus (1:00am, C4) Finnish fantasy horror about a group of people who unearth Santa’s tomb.
Avoid: Four Christmases (9:00pm, C4) Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon feature in this dreadful yuletide romcom about an unmarried couple who have to split their Christmas Day between all four of their divorced parents.
SUNDAY 23 DECEMBER (It’s Festivus!)
Pick of the day: In Bruges (11:00pm, C4) Violent, foul-mouthed and philosophical, this gangster movie is not typical Xmas fluff. Both intelligent and original, the film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as a pair of professional killers laying low in Belgium awaiting orders from their boss (Ralph Fiennes). Unexpectedly affecting and profound, In Bruges is not to be missed.
Alternative viewing: Exec-produced by the Coen brothers, Bad Santa (9:00pm, Five) stars Billy Bob Thornton as a child-hating, misanthropic alcoholic with an insatiable appetite for anal sex.
Avoid: The Preacher’s Wife (12:30pm, BBC2) The Radio Times synopsis simply reads “Denzel Washington is an angel” which tells you all you need to know.
MONDAY 24 DECEMBER (CHRISTMAS EVE)
Picks of the day: There’s almost too many good films to mention today, so rather than picking one or two worthy of your time we’ll detail the five-star offerings. Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas kicks things off (9:10am, BBC2) and is immediately followed by live action-cartoon crossover Who Framed Roger Rabbit (10:20am, BBC2). If those don’t float your boat, The Muppet Christmas Carol is on the other side (11:00am, C4), with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (2:50pm, C4) in the afternoon. ITV chip in with The Grinch (4:45pm, ITV1) while the jewel in the BBC1 crown is Disney dog-love classic Lady and the Tramp (5:05pm, BBC1).
Alternative viewing: If all the family-friendly frivolity makes you feel a little nauseous Attack the Block (9:00pm, Film4), the debut film by Joe Cornish from Adam and Joe fame, is on in the evening. Alien invaders land on an inner-city council estate in London’s own projects in this cross between The Goonies and Kidulthood.
Avoid: A Christmas Carol (6:45pm, BBC1) I had the dual misfortune of seeing this at the cinema and in 3D. Even a strong voiceover cast (Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Bob Hoskins) can’t save Robert Zemeckis’ well-trodden, unimaginative take on Dickens’ tale. A Christmas Turkey.
TUESDAY 25 DECEMBER (CHRISTMAS DAY)
Picks of the day: Oddly, there are less stand-out films on offer on Christmas Day than Christmas Eve. ITV are the big winners, broadcasting a host of Disney classics so knackered mums and dads don’t have to bother parenting their overexcited kids. Aladdin (9:25am, ITV1) starts proceedings, with Toy Story (1:25pm, ITV1) and the network premiere of Tangled (3:10pm, ITV1). Best of the bunch is Jurassic Park (6:35pm, ITV2), which airs as older relatives emerge from their post-dinner kip and fug of farts to roast some chestnuts.
Alternative viewing: Nothing says ‘alternative viewing’ quite like Korean revenge-tragedy Oldboy (11:20pm, Film4), which features an octopus and lots of violence. Hot on its heels is Bronson (1:40am, Film4), another ultraviolent film starring pre-Bane Tom Hardy. If you fancy something a bit lighter and, well, funnier, Airplane! gets a run-out on Channel 4 (1:05am, C4).
Avoid: Another Vince Vaughn romcom vehicle, this time it’s Couples Retreat (10:45pm, ITV1). A slimline Vaughn in Swingers seems like a lifetime ago.
WEDNESDAY 26 DECEMBER (BOXING DAY)
Pick of the day: Toy Story 2 (5:15pm, ITV1) is beloved by children and adults alike and even better than its predecessor. Buzz Lightyear rounds up Andy’s toys to save Woody the cowboy from the clutches of a sleazy toy collector. The film is a treatise on growing up and abandonment, particularly the interlude that focuses on Jessie’s backstory. A wonderful film.
Alternative viewing: Remarkably, Rebecca (10:30pm, BBC2) is the only Alfred Hitchcock film to win a best picture Oscar. This adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s book was Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film, an idiosyncratically mysterious thriller filled with tension and suspense, as one would expect from the master.
THURSDAY 27 DECEMBER
Pick of the day: The Birds (11:00pm, ITV3) Hitchcock’s classic thriller showcases his suspense mastery once again as a wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Californian town where vicious birds begin to attack residents. Said birds are some of the most terrifying villains in film history.
Alternative viewing: The second of Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s three novels, The Girl Who Played With Fire (12:10am, C4), again sees the brilliant Naomi Rapace (seen earlier this year in Ridley Scott’s misfiring Prometheus) play Swedish anti-hero Lizbeth Salander in this Swedish-language film. Did we mention it’s Swedish?
Avoid: The Holiday (10:45pm, ITV1) Generic romcom bollocks.
FRIDAY 28 DECEMBER
Pick of the day: Gremlins (10:15pm, ITV1) is one of the best Christmas films, perfect Christmas Eve viewing. Broadcasting gods have deigned this comedy horror be shown after the event, but it’s still better than anything else on today.
Alternative viewing: Ratatouille (7:20pm, BBC3) saw Pixar take to Paris for a film about Remy, a rat sous chef who has the capacity to communicate with human chefs. Don’t watch if you’re feeling peckish.
Avoid: The Perfect Man (7:35am, ITV1). Three reasons not to watch: it’s a romcom; it stars Hilary Duff; and it’s squarely aimed at 8-year-old girls.