In a break from the normal routine, Mat brings you a day-by-day guide to some of the best movies showing on UK free-to-air TV over the Christmas period. This year in addition to a daily pick we’re listing all the other movies showing each day that we think are worth watching, and you can click on many of those movie names to access a short review from our MovieViews database.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Making his big screen debut as a leading man, Taron Egerton stars as a directionless youth plucked from a life of petty crime to follow in his father’s footsteps as a member of an elite spy organisation. Once his training is complete, he joins with fellow spies to foil a sinister plot conceived by a deranged Tech billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson). “James Bond with Chavs” seemed like a terrible idea in principle, but this turned out to be one of the surprise hits of 2015 thanks to a great blend of comedy, over the top action and Egerton’s engaging performance.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
After cameoing in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man makes his first headline appearance in the MCU as Peter Parker returns to New York and high school, finding it hard to return to being a more low-key hero after his recent exploits. It’s not long before he’s called into action though, as he crosses paths with a group of thieves using hardware enhanced with alien technology, led by the mysterious Vulture. Tom Holland proves a worthy successor to Tobey Maguire as Spidey in a film that is equal parts action thriller and high school comedy. As with most Marvel offerings, the action is fairly forgettable but the characters are what makes it watchable.
Midnight Run (1988)
Robert De Niro stars as a bounty hunter in this action-comedy, tasked with tracking down an accountant (Charles Grodin) who has embezzled millions of dollars of a mob boss’s money. Needless to say, the mobster’s henchmen are also on his trail, along with a rival bounty hunter and FBI agents that want him to testify against his former employer. It’s hardly the most original plot, but what sets this movie apart is the chemistry between the two main characters, who grow to respect one another during their ordeal together.
Krampus (2015) – Channel 5, 03:00 (Tuesday night)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Channel 4, 14:35
For many people, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a viewing of Frank Capra’s classic starring James Stewart as George Bailey, a smart and well-meaning man who falls victim to a series of misfortunes that take his life on a far different path to what he intended. Culminating on Christmas Eve with the loss of money from his business which threatens his family’s future, he is considering taking his own life when a Guardian Angel intervenes and gives George the chance to see what life would’ve been like if he’d never been born. Putting aside the sometimes stiff acting of the era and the drawn out first half, this is a clever, funny and heart-warming tale that deserves its classic status, though its connection to Christmas is purely circumstantial and has very little bearing on the plot.
Stranger than Fiction (2006) – Sony Movies, 18:45
Chicken Run (2000)
Aardman Animations first full-length film, Chicken Run took the charm and overt Britishness of the company’s short films and combined them with a thrilling action-adventure story to create the most successful stop-motion animated film of all time. A cast including some of Britain’s finest actors teamed up with Mel Gibson as a group of chickens that plan to escape from their farm before they end up in their owner’s new pie-making machine. Drawing heavily on classic films, most notably The Great Escape but with nods to the likes of Star Wars and The Shawshank Redemption, the film is an enjoyable breath of fresh air in the world of CGI, and an amazing technical achievement.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Sony Movies, 16:10
Eddie Redmayne takes on the demanding role of Stephen Hawking in this biopic, showing his early life at Oxford University, his romance with future wife Jane and the devastating diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 21. Given just two years to live at the time, the remainder of the story is a demonstration of his defiance of that prognosis as he became one of the most noted scientists of the 20th Century. As with all films of this type there are some liberties taken with the truth in the interests of drama, but overall it is an amazing, uplifting story with a superb performance by Redmayne, who fully deserved the numerous accolades he received.
The Karate Kid (1984) – Channel 5, 12:00
Eddie the Eagle (2016)
Channel 4, 18:00
From a young age, Michael “Eddie” Edwards dreamed of being an Olympian. After trying a variety of sports and failing to qualify for the British Olympic skiing team, his dream seemed to be over, until he came up with the idea of becoming Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper for over 60 years. Taron Egerton stars as Eddie, who achieves his goal with the help of a disgraced former ski jumping champion, played by Hugh Jackman. We all know the story, which is a classic British tale of celebrating underachievement, but this biopic turns it into a funny, heart-warming feelgood movie that shows that sometimes it’s good enough just to take part.
Inside Out (2015)
It wouldn’t be Christmas without at least one Pixar film, and while there are many to choose from over the festive period, the pick of the bunch is one of their best. When 11 year old Riley is taken from her happy Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotional state is affected by her new environment and the challenges it brings them. The twist is that in this film, her emotions are literal characters inside her head, working together using a control panel which determines how their person behaves in real life. While there are moments that are too blatantly trying to tug on the heart-strings, this is Pixar’s most intelligent and thought-provoking movie to date, packed with creativity and humour, and arguably a better film for adults than it is for kids.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
When uptight executive Neal Page’s flight home for Thanksgiving is cancelled due to bad weather, he reluctantly teams up with annoying salesman Del Griffith for a three day road trip to Chicago. Along the way they experience a number of hilarious mishaps as Neal’s initial hatred of his companion eventually softens into a grudging respect. John Hughes finally moved away from teen comedy with this film, which is regarded as one of his finest thanks to the brilliant comedic performances from Steve Martin and John Candy. It’s not quite a Christmas movie but the snowy environment and eventual happy ending still make it an excellent choice for the festive season.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Julian Dennison stars as a juvenile delinquent sent to live on a remote farm who later runs away into the New Zealand bush, to be followed by his crabby foster dad (Sam Neill). When the two disappear for weeks, the authorities assume the boy has been abducted and a country-wide manhunt ensues. Meanwhile the boy and his new father figure continue their adventure, getting into a variety of scrapes and meeting some unusual characters. Outrageously funny, irreverent but also touching, with fantastic scenery and a great soundtrack, it is an absolute joy to watch the constantly-evolving relationship between the two main characters in this wonderful film that is one of director Taika Waititi’s best.
The Fugitive (1993) – ITV4, 21:00
Highlander (1986) – BBC1, 23:30
New Year’s Eve
Jurassic Park (1993)
One of many Steven Spielberg-helmed blockbusters, this one is based on Michael Crichton’s story about a theme park populated with genetically-recreated dinosaurs that run amok after an unexpected power cut. Actors such as Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum do an admirable job in their respective roles, but the real stars of the movie are the park’s residents. From the initial childlike wonder of seeing Brontosauruses and Triceratops, to the terror of the T-Rex attack, to the suspense of the Velociraptor hunt, the special effects are incredibly convincing. More than 25 years on they still compare favourably with modern CGI effects, which is the best praise you can give to the ground-breaking work done by Phil Tippett and ILM.
New Year’s Day
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
One of the more unusual offerings from the Marvel stable, the Guardians consist of a cocky half-human, half-alien pilot, a green woman, a musclebound warrior, a gun-toting raccoon and a tree-like being whose communication is limited to “I Am Groot.” Between them they must save a powerful artefact from falling into the hands of a vicious alien. With just as much humour as action, this was one of the big surprises of 2014 and features an engaging lead performance from Chris Pratt, while the unlikely duo of Rocket and Groot provide many of the laughs.