In a break from the normal routine, Mat Corne brings you a day-by-day guide to some of the best movies showing on UK free-to-air TV over the Christmas period – festive films not included!
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Film4, Monday 19th, 18:45
Ben Stiller takes a step away from goofball comedy towards a more dramatic role in this film, where he plays a mild-mannered daydreamer that works in the photography department of Life magazine. When the negative of the picture to be used for the final printed copy of the magazine goes astray, he must track down the nomadic photographer that took the shot. His journey takes him way out of his comfort zone, seeing and doing things beyond his own vivid dreams. Whilst predictable and rife with product placement, it’s an enjoyable feel good movie with some spectacular, mostly Icelandic scenery, and a decent performance from Stiller in one of his most likeable roles.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
ITV2, Tuesday 20th, 21:00
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in this action-packed comedy that revealed the sinister underbelly of life in a small country village. They lead a cast filled to the brim with British comedy talent, not to mention some more traditionally serious stars doing their own comic turns, in a wonderfully ridiculous homage to American action movies and British sensibilities. Violence and gore comfortably sit alongside slapstick comedy and witty banter, culminating in a blood-drenched and bullet-riddled finale that is as good as any Hollywood blockbuster.
Brewster’s Millions (1985)
More4, Wednesday 21st, 10:00
The best offering on a slow day of movies, this comedy is probably not as funny as you’d expect a film starring Richard Pryor and John Candy to be, but the premise is certainly original. Pryor plays Monty Brewster, who is given the chance to claim a deceased uncle’s $300 million fortune if he can spend $30 million in 30 days and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end. As you’d imagine, there are plenty of outlandish methods employed, most significantly running for mayor of New York, and while the jokes don’t always hit the mark, the journey is fun and this is simply one of those films that is always on around Christmas.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
ITV, Thursday 22nd, 22:40
The team responsible for TV show Spaced made their big screen debut with this delightful Brit-rom-zom-com. Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, who along with best mate Ed must deal with the challenges of keeping his girlfriend happy, trying to get on with his stepfather and surviving a Zombie apocalypse. As all good Brits would, he heads to the safest location he can think of – the Pub! With quintessentially British humour, plenty of pop culture nods and dozens of memorable scenes, Shaun of the Dead is an absolute joy, and helped propel Pegg, co-star Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright to deserved international success.
Film4, Friday 23rd, 21:00
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as retired soldier John Matrix in this unashamedly cheesy action thriller, where he is forced back into action when his daughter is kidnapped by an old rival. Matrix makes his way to his adversary’s island lair to rescue her, finding a variety of inventive ways to kill the mercenaries sent to stop him, with each death usually accompanied by one of Arnie’s now-famous one-liners. Nobody would ever say this is his finest film, but there’s no denying it’s just as much fun now as it was over 30 years ago, and a perfect film to watch if you want to let off some steam!
The Transporter (2002)
Film4, Saturday 24th, 23:10
After appearing in the first two Guy Ritchie Brit-crime capers and a few critically-panned US movies, Jason Statham began to make his way toward Hollywood action hero status with his leading role in this French thriller. Statham plays a professional courier that will transport any item, no questions asked, with his own strict rules that include never looking at the cargo. When his latest package turns out to be a kidnapped beautiful woman, he breaks his own rules and gets involved in stopping a gang of human traffickers. With some thrilling driving sequences and equally enjoyable fight scenes, not to mention a touch of humour, this remains the best offering of the series and a great showcase of Statham’s talents.
Film4, Sunday 25th, 21:00
Following two Iron Man films and The Incredible Hulk, Thor was the next superhero to be adopted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Chris Hemsworth plays the god of thunder with an engaging level of pomposity, in a story that sees him banished to Earth and relieved of his trusty hammer after reigniting a war in his own realm. There’s plenty of humour to be had from this ‘fish out of water’ scenario and the action soon heats up as he takes on his conniving brother Loki, superbly played by Tom Hiddlestone. A cast of high calibre acting talent, including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Natalie Portman, contributes to an enjoyable romp that feeds nicely into the first Avengers movie.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
ITV, Monday 26th, 16:10
For fans of the books I’m sure the first two Harry Potter films were more than adequate, but as films they were not great. For me, things started to get better with this third episode in the series. The students of Hogwarts were growing up and the story took a darker turn, with a supposedly dangerous dark wizard on the loose and the presence of he who should not be named ever more threatening. With whomping willows, werewolves and a fabulous time-travelling finale, Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favourite of the saga, all of which is being shown on ITV over the Christmas period.
The Terminator (1984)
Spike, Tuesday 27th, 21:00
If you listened to our Best Action Hero podcast, you’ll know that this is one of the MovieMuse team’s favourite films, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most iconic role. He of course plays a menacing cyborg sent back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor, the woman that will give birth to that man that saves humanity from the machines in a post-apocalyptic future. Given his perceived lack of acting skill, the role of a robot would seem ideal, but Arnie’s performance captures the nuances you’d expect from the character perfectly. Add to that a number of superb action sequences, lots of tension and a terrifying conclusion, and it’s no surprise that James Cameron’s masterpiece is regarded as one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of all time.
Casino Royale (2006)
ITV2, Wednesday 28th December, 21:00
As always there are plenty of James Bond films, old and new, to choose from over the festive period, but Daniel Craig’s first outing as 007 gets the nod. His portrayal of the iconic spy is far more realistic than his predecessors, and while the cars and gadgets are still present, the story takes place in a far more plausible world, and it feels like Bond is a fallible character for the first time. With a tense storyline based on the very first 007 novel, an enigmatic villain portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, and one of the most emotional endings of any Bond film, Casino Royale is a worthy reboot of the legendary series.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
BBC1, Thursday 29th, 13:55
The man with the hat is back in his third adventure, having appeared in his first two on BBC1 on the previous two days. This time he’s on the trail of a religious artefact that could provide immortality, and there’s no surprise that the Nazis are also seeking it. There’s no denying that the film is thematically similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the addition of Sean Connery as Indy’s father adds a new dynamic to the adventure, with much of the film’s humour stemming from their relationship. There’s also plenty of action, including a thrilling showdown between Indy and a tank in the Arabian desert. Over the years this has become my favourite film in the franchise and seemed to be a fitting end to the Indy saga, until the 2008 release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (also showing on BBC1) sullied it somewhat.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
BBC1, Friday 30th, 16:10
Disney finally created a CG-animated film to rival Pixar’s work with this story of a video game baddie that just wants to do something good for a change. When Ralph leaves his own game and interjects himself in others however, he starts to do more harm than good and jeopardise the future of the arcade games that form his world. As a gaming fan, this was always going to appeal to me and the world in which Ralph exists, along with many recognised characters from real games, is cleverly and wonderfully realised. The third act of the story is a little too schmaltzy, and typically Disney, but overall the film is fantastic fun for young and old, gamer or not.