CHRISTMAS TV: A look ahead at the week’s best films
A look ahead at the week’s best films on both terrestrial and digital channels.
G-Force (BBC One, 3.05pm)
What’s It About? A team of secret agent guinea pigs, equipped with hi-tech gadgets, are sent on a perilous mission to stop an evil billionaire from taking over the world.
Their attempts to keep this dangerous foe at bay are somewhat hampered when they end up on sale in a pet shop.
Now armed with nothing but their wits, this elite group of rodents must break free from their confines before they can save the day.
Is It Any Good? Even if you accept the concept of guinea pig super spies, the plot is a bit on the flimsy side.
Luckily, the set pieces and special effects are impressive, the live action stars are game, and the whole thing is guaranteed to keep even the most over-excited kids entertained.
Anything Else? The idea for the film originally came from the director’s five-year-old son.
Starring: Bill Nighy, Sam Rockwell, Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, Will Arnett, Jon Favreau, Zach Galifianakis
Star Rating: *** (2009)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (BBC One, 5.50pm)
What’s It About? If you don’t know the tale behind this film, you haven’t had a proper childhood!
But for the uninitiated; members of the Pevensie family are evacuated out to the country but couldn’t possibly have predicted the adventures they’re about to encounter.
During a game of hide and seek, Lucy discovers that a wardrobe can transport her to the snow-covered land of Narnia.
Full of weird and wonderful creatures, the children soon learn they are being watched by the evil White Witch and discover that they must join with Aslan the mighty lion to defeat her...
Is It Any Good? It’s magical to say the least. Based on the much-loved CS Lewis novel, director Andrew Adamson has envisaged Narnia perfectly.
The acting (from a fine cast) is second to none, and the special effects certainly set a new standard for Hollywood.
Anything Else? Anna Popplewell, who plays Susan, is afraid of mice, and so her scenes involving the furry creatures had to be filmed using her double.
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson
Star Rating: **** (2005)
Hairspray (Channel 4, 7.15pm)
What’s It About? The endearingly daft plot of this musical concerns Tracy, an overweight teenager living in 1960s Baltimore, who longs to appear on a teen dance show.
However, when she finally gets her wish, it looks like her stint on the series may be short-lived as a jealous rival is determined to put a stop to Tracy’s rising popularity - and her campaign to end racial segregation.
Is It Any Good? As if John Waters’ cult 1988 film Hairspray wasn’t camp enough to start with, someone had the bright idea of turning it into a Broadway musical.
The stage version was so successful it was also turned into this enjoyable movie, which is a delight from start to finish and will surely make a star of relative newcomer Nikki Blonsky, who plays Tracy.
Anything Else? John Travolta’s transformation from movie heart-throb to 1960s mom took four hours to complete.
The original film’s star, Ricki Lake, and director Waters make cameo appearances.
Starring: : John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Nikki Blonsky, James Marsden, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, Allison Janney
Star Rating: **** (2009)
Monsters vs Aliens (BBC One, 3.10pm)
What’s It About? Weather girl Susan Murphy is about to be married when she is hit by a meteorite that has the effect of turning her into a giant.
She’s immediately captured by the military, who hold her in a facility with other mutants.
But when aliens invade, her mission becomes clear: by order of the President, Susan and her new friends must destroy the aliens and save the world from destruction.
Is It Any Good? It’s an animated gem. The colourful characters will keep the kids entertained, while the grown-ups can enjoy the witty dialogue and the nods to the B-movies of the 1950s.
An impressive voice cast, that includes Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland, just adds to the fun.
Anything Else? Some viewers thought the president had been animated to look like Stephen Colbert, who provided his voice, but in fact the character had been designed long before the actor was cast.
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd
Star Rating: **** (2009)
Happy Feet (ITV1, 3.10pm)
What’s It About? In a world where penguins must sing catchy pop classics in order to find their true love, comes Mumble, a terrible singer with a pair of uncontrollable feet that just can’t stop dancing.
When the peculiar penguin is exiled from the colony, he begins an adventure that leads him to discover the cost of human interference on his people’s food supply.
Is It Any Good? If your kids have recently watched Frozen Planet, then they may point out some of scientific inaccuracies in this film’s depiction of penguin life.
Otherwise, they’ll be hooked on a cute, funny adventure with a lively soundtrack - and as you might expect from a film that features the voices of West End and Broadway veteran Hugh Jackman and Moulin Rouge’s Nicole Kidman, a lot of the starry cast did their own singing.
Anything Else? Prince initially refused to allow the song Kiss to be used in the film, but changed his mind after seeing some of the complete footage. In fact, he was so impressed, he even penned an original tune to play over the credits.
Starring: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brittany Murphy, Hugo Weaving, Carlos Alazraqui,
Star Rating: **** (2006)
Ratatouille (BBC One, 4.50pm)
What’s It About? While the rest of his family are happy to eat rubbish (literally), Remy the rat has a more sensitive palate.
His love of fine food makes him an outcast among the rodents, but he does find a more suitable home in the kitchen of a Paris restaurant.
Remy comes to the aid of a struggling kitchen assistant, turning him into one of the top chefs in the city.
But can their efforts win over fearsome food critic Anton Ego - and what will happen when the restaurant’s clients find out who’s really doing the cooking?
Is It Any Good? Pixar’s extraordinary hit-rate continued with this enchanting tale.
Very young children may find it a little slow-going, especially if they don’t particularly care about restaurant reviews, but older kids and adults will be so touched by Remy’s story, they’ll forget to be repulsed at the idea of a rat cooking their dinner.
Anything Else? Disney and Pixar were worried cinemagoers wouldn’t be able to pronounce the film’s title, so made sure it was also spelled phonetically on the posters.
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Peter O’Toole, Janeane Garofalo, Brian Dennehy, Brad Garrett, Will Arnett
Star Rating: **** (2007)
Beverly Hills Chihuahua (BBC One, 11.10am)
What’s It About? Fun family comedy following the adventures of Chloe, a pampered pooch who spends most of her days running around an LA mansion in designer bootees.
She’s about to discover a very different side to life though when she gets separated from her owner, and is left stranded in Mexico. Not only does Chloe have a dognapper on her trail, she also has to contend with a ferocious Doberman who has his eye on her diamond collar.
A Chihuahua doesn’t sound like much of a match for such a big dog - but luckily, she does find at least one canine ally.
Is It Any Good? If you’re under 10, you’re very likely to be charmed by this rather silly movie. At least it should keep the kids occupied if the novelty of their Christmas gifts has already worn off.
Anything Else? A direct-to-video sequel was released earlier this year.
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Piper Perabo, Jamie Lee Curtis, Andy Garcia, Edward James Olmos, George Lopez, Luis Guzman, Cheech Marin
Star Rating: *** (2008)
Hotel for Dogs (BBC One, 11am)
What’s It About? The adventures of orphaned siblings Andi and Bruce, who’ve been passed from home to home but find enjoyment in secretly caring for their beloved dogs.
Their latest foster home doesn’t allow pets - but that won’t be a problem for them after they find the perfect hiding place in an abandoned hotel. But they soon find that they’re having to transform the building into luxury canine accommodation for every stray in town.
Is It Any Good? They say you should never work with children or animals but it’s a good job nobody told Emma Roberts and Jake T Austin because this makes for one of Disney’s most likable films. Granted, it doesn’t have the adult humour or emotions of, say, Marley and Me or the adorable characters of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, but it does make for enjoyable viewing.
Anything Else? Believe it or not, the screenplay was based on a novel. It was originally published in 1971.
Starring: Emma Roberts, Jake T Austin, Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow, Johnny Simmons
Star Rating: *** (2009)
The Man Who Would Be King (BBC Two, 1.25pm)
What’s It About? Daniel and Peachy are two ex-British Army soldiers who decide to set out to become rulers in the little-known country of Kafiristan.
No white man has been there since Alexander, and initially, their appearance is met with hostility - until a random act results in Daniel being regarded as a god.
All goes well for a while - until Daniel’s mortality is revealed...
Is It Any Good? It’s one of the best films of the week, thanks in no small part to the chemistry between its stars, real-life good friends Sean Connery and Michael Caine. John Huston directs this adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling tale with skill too. Added bonuses are the costumes by Edith Head and a rousing score by Maurice Jarre.
Anything Else? Michael Caine’s wife, Shakira, has a small role as the village beauty. It’s her final film appearance to date.
Starring: Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Shakira Caine, Christopher Plummer, Saeed Jaffrey
Star Rating: **** (1975)
Confessions of a Shopaholic (BBC Two, 6.20pm)
What’s It About? Rebecca Bloomwood is an aspiring fashion journalist who accepts a position writing for a financial magazine. As she sets the publishing world alight with her unique brand of consumer advice, Rebecca is forced to confront her own purchasing habits and begins to question whether rampant spending sprees are the way to true happiness.
Is It Any Good? For many Home and Away fans, Isla Fisher will always be Shannon Reed. However, after her memorable turn as a deranged daughter in the blockbuster Wedding Crashers, Hollywood casting agents suddenly sat up and took notice. In this, she is perfectly cast as the eponymous shopaholic, while the solid supporting cast of Hugh Dancy, Krysten Rutter, John Lithgow and Joan Cusack give her a run for her money.
Anything Else? The role of Rebecca was reportedly offered to Reese Witherspoon originally, who turned it down because the character was too similar to Elle Woods of Legally Blonde.
Starring: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, Joan Cusack
Star Rating: **** (2009)
Dorian Gray (Channel 4, 9pm)
What’s It About? The corruptive power of celebrity casts a long, dark shadow over Victorian London in Oliver Parker’s take on Oscar Wilde’s gothic horror. A narcissist intent on preserving his beauty makes a deal with the devil - and finds his soul corrupting with the same alacrity as the portrait of himself he hides away.
Is It Any Good? The set and costume designs are impressive, much more so than Ben Barnes - whose portrayal of the beautiful titular lead is more wooden than the frame of his infamous portrait. His lifelessness is thrown into greater relief by Colin Firth’s eye-catching performance as his corrupter.
Anything Else? This is the second film starring Rachel Hurd-Wood (Sybil Vane) that involves an eternally youthful male lead. The first was Peter Pan.
Starring: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Rachel Hurd-Wood
Star Rating: *** (2008)
National Treasure (BBC One, 3.30pm)
What’s It About? Ben Gates is the intrepid archaeologist whose family has been trying to find the Knights Templar Treasure ever since it was hidden by America’s founding fathers. Gates must not only beat the cryptic clues that stand between him and the fortune, but the ruthless enemy who wants the riches for himself. To stop him, our hero decides to steal the Declaration of Independence - the key piece of the puzzle - but his reckless action only serves to attract the attention of the FBI, who are now hot on his tail.
Is It Any Good? It’s one of the best family action-adventures in ages and a worthy successor to Indiana Jones. Is that praise enough?
Anything Else? Keep an eye out for a home-grown in-joke. On the yellow piece of paper in which Sean Bean’s character is working out the clues, look at the top of the page. There are two crossed swords with a circle between them. This drawing is the logo for Bean’s hometown football club, Sheffield United, known also as The Blades.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sean Bean, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel.
Star Rating: **** (2004)