Five movies to watch over Christmas 2014
Christmas is the perfect time of year to indulge in rich food, expensive drink and quality entertainment. It’s a chance to discover great movies you may have previously overlooked and to rediscover great movies you already know and love. While traditional Christmas favourites such as Scrooge, The Muppet Christmas Carol and White Christmas are all being screened over the festive period, there are also less conventional viewing choices available. Here are five of the best:
The Tree of Life
Stay up late or set your DVR to record Terrence Malick’s elegiac exploration of human life on Earth, from the birth of the universe to the edges of the afterlife. On one level, it’s a non-linear portrait of a man (Sean Penn) reflecting on his difficult childhood growing up in 1950s Texas. On another, it’s a visual tone poem about love, death and nostalgia. It’s certainly not to all tastes but fans of Malick, and of art-house cinema in general, are well advised to tune in.
The Tree of Life is on Channel 4 on Tuesday 23rd December 2014 at 1.55am.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer mastermind Joss Whedon turns his hand to large-scale comic book action with this hugely enjoyable superhero team-up movie. Whereas some Marvel films play like elaborate set-ups for their own sequels, hampered by perfunctory plots full of laborious backstory, Avengers Assemble keeps exposition to a minimum and focuses on providing two-and-a-half hours of whizz-bang popcorn entertainment. Featuring a host of comic book icons including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Avengers Assemble is goofy fun for the whole family.
Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is on BBC1 on Friday 26th December 2014 at 8.30pm.
How to Train Your Dragon
The best animated films (Beauty and the Beast, The Iron Giant, Wall-E) work equally well for both children and adults, and How to Train Your Dragon is no exception, boasting an amusingly offbeat screenplay that satirises traditional ideas of masculinity, bravery and warfare. Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois’ movie tells the story of weedy Viking Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his relationship with an injured dragon named Toothless, a creature he has been raised to fear and despise. This is one of the best animated films of the last ten years, combining incredible CGI with strong voice acting and a script full of humour and pathos. A real treat.
How to Train Your Dragon is on BBC1 on Saturday 27th December 2014 at 3.10pm.
While the excellent performances from its stellar cast are arguably more convincing than its rose-tinted critique of 1960s race relations, Tate Taylor’s enjoyably old-fashioned drama The Help is a moving account of a group of African-American housemaids’ fight for equality. Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel, the film is warm-hearted and unexpectedly funny, managing to avoid the usual pitfalls of other movies set in the civil rights era by being as interested in entertaining the audience as it is in covering worthy subject matter. Viola Davis should have won the Best Actress Oscar for her extraordinary work as housemaid Aibileen Clark, and Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone deliver equally fine performances.
The Help is on BBC2 on 31st December 2014 at 8.30pm.
A Star Trek parody starring Tim Allen may not sound promising, but Dean Parisot’s witty and inventive sci-fi comedy manages to be both hilariously funny and dramatically engaging. The film follows a group of washed-up actors who are mistaken for the characters they used to play in a 1960s TV show and abducted by aliens into a deadly galactic war. More intelligent but no less thrilling than your average summer blockbuster, Galaxy Quest is a cult classic for a reason.
Galaxy Quest is on BBC2 on 1st January 2015 at 2.50pm.
If you have access to Sky Movies Premiere, you should also seek out imaginative adventure-comedy The Lego Movie at 2.30pm on Christmas Eve and Darren Aronofsky’s visionary epic Noah at 2.30pm on Christmas Day, which is one of the most underrated films of 2014.