Wednesday, 19 December 2012

What's on the box?

Shortly after I launched this blog, one of my readers suggested that it might be useful to comment on the attractions of the forthcoming Christmas week film delights and I have managed to attempt this each year since. However, as I have written previously it becomes harder each year to recommend films that you may not know, especially since virtually all the recent so-called blockbusters that the Freeview channels select to premiere will have been available to you at the cinema, on satellite, on DVD purchase or rental, or on the now frequently available 'anytime' streaming. 

This being the case, satellite premieres apart, there are only two movies being shown over the holiday period which I for one have not already seen, bar sappy Christmas-themed television movies or dubious kiddie offerings like "Dr. Dolittle - Million dollar Mutts"!!! The two films in question are Andrea Arnold's 2011 take on "Wuthering Heights" with a black Heathcliff and Film Four's showing of the Studio Ghibli release "Arietty",  a Japanese version of "The Borrowers" (not unfortunately directed by the incomparable Hayao Miyazaki, but still worth seeing). I shall watch both of these, but I know which I will probably enjoy the more, especially since there is the choice between the English-language version of "Arietty" or the subtitled original version. No prizes for guessing my choice.

While I shall avoid all of the other Freeview premieres, I can recommend the brilliant "Up" on New Year's Day, animations "Shrek Forever After" and "Tangled", Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland", "Moon" ("Solaris"-lite), "Secretariat" (not well-rated by the Radio Times, but a very winning film about a very winning horse), and Jim Carrey's 2009 version of "A Christmas Carol" (although Alastair Sim he ain't!). In the 'meh' category fall "Julie and Julia", "Space Chimps", and Russell Crowe's weird take on "Robin Hood". To steer clear of, try not to be tempted by either "Four Christmases" or the dire "Couples Retreat". There is also the first terrestrial showing of "Lady and the Tramp" on Christmas Eve, well-worth a second or tenth look, if you don't own your own family copy.

Channel Four are premiering the films in the Stieg Larssen 'Dragon Tattoo' trilogy, but if you are someone who doesn't 'hate' subtitled films, you have probably seen these previously. They are also showing all three 'Lord of the Rings' movies, but re-watching any of these six films broken up by ads is not really my idea of a Christmas 'treat'.

So now that I've trashed the big guns, is there anything else? Matter of fact there is. BBC4 have a new documentary on "Screen Goddesses" screening on Saturday and are following up with three biographies, although only the Clara Bow one is new to television, Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor being repeats. They are surrounding this with a very skimpy supporting season of only three films: "The Prince and the Showgirl", "Cleopatra", and "One Touch of Venus" on Christmas Day; I shall probably take the opportunity to watch this rarely-screened Ava Gardner starrer from 1948 once more. The channel is also showing a second new documentary titled "Fifties British War Films: Days of Glory" which is probably worth seeing, although again the three supporting feature films are an equally sparing collection.

I shall also be watching BBC2's new drama "The Girl" on the 26th with Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren, not a film but certainly of interest to any film buff and an appetizer to the forthcoming feature film with Anthony Hopkins as Hitch. They also have scheduled a reasonable selection of  Hitchcock classics, all worth seeing or re-viewing. The pick of that channel's programming however is a mini Charles Laughton season starting on the 22nd and tucked away in the late night schedules. Laughton remains one of my personal screen heroes and one of the most consummate actors ever. The season includes "Arch of Triumph" (judging by its time slot showing in the restored version), "They Knew What the Wanted" (a particular treat for me since my own copy is flawed), "The Tuttles of Tahiti", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", "This Land is Mine" (be sure to set this 1943 gem if you do not know it), and heaven help us "Abbott and Costello meet Captain Kidd" (hardly a worthy inclusion).

Also scattered throughout the schedules at unsociable hours are gems from Ray Harryhausen, including "Jason and the Argonauts", "Clash of the Titans", "7th Voyage of Sinbad", and "Destination Moon". His stop-motion brilliance is always worth a look and I am only surprised that neither BBC2 nor Channel Four had the foresight to screen the new well-received documentary on Harryhausen.

I shall be away or otherwise engaged for most of the next fortnight, but I'll see you all again in the new year. Meanwhile with best wishes for the holidays and for a peaceful and happy 2013, I remain your cinematic friend Pretty Pink Patty. Bye for now...

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