Ahh, the Christmas Movie. A chance for the stars to ham it up with bad jumpers and bad scripts and shamelessly milk the audience's festive coffers (we’re looking at you, Vince Vaughn). Should you be planning the now traditional Boxing Day activity of stuffing yourself with leftovers and waddling to a movie theatre there will indeed be such, erm, turkeys on offer. Happily, there will also be a feast of slightly more interesting alternatives, many with a London-y twist. Here’s our pick.
Victor Frankenstein — London set
Director: Paul McGuigan
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox
Daniel Radcliffe is clearly a man of Gothic sensibility. Having grown up part-wizard, his sophomore years involved haunted houses inhabited by a Woman in Black and sprouting demonic Horns from his forehead. Now he goes full-winged-collar as Igor, protégé to ultimate mad scientist Frankenstein and his monster. Hopefully this’ll get it out of his system, before he brings his Fields Of The Nephilim tribute act to a pub near you.
In The Heart Of The Sea — London set, London talent
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Ben Whishaw, Cillian Murphy, Charlotte Riley
Best trot to the iMax for this one. The film of the drama of the book, In The Heart Of The Sea is essentially the real life story behind Moby Dick. Director Ron Howard teams up again with Chris Hemsworth after working together on Rush (Hemsworth clearly isn’t a man to suffer from motion sickness) so expect this to be an all-action fest with big, shiny, CGI knobs on. The RADA trained, uber-talented and currently ubiquitous Ben Whishaw provides support, as does the setting of our fair capital.
Sunset Song — London Film Festival Gala
Director: Terence Davis
Stars: Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie
The phrase ‘model turned actress’ normally incites snorts of derision and copious eye-rolling. But the massively talented Agyness Deyn will have you eating humble-snort-pie. Since exiting the catwalk she’s starred in the wonderful, low budget Electricity set in King’s Cross (seek it out on DVD, you won’t regret it) and has now earned a British Independent Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer nomination for her role as a Scottish farmer’s daughter in the theatrical and bleakly atmospheric Sunset Song. A London Film Festival Gala back in October, it now goes on general release.
To Be Frank: Sinatra At 100 — London talent
Director: Simon Napier-Bell
Stars: Tony Oppedisano, Tim Rice, Alice Cooper, Louis Walsh, Paul Gambaccini, Frank Warren
Already breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of enforced family incarceration over Christmas? Book a light in the middle of the tunnel with an outing to see this documentary on Ol’ Blue Eyes. Sure to please everyone from drunken uncles to hipster cousins, even if they’re not into the, err, swing, they’ll be gagging for the chance to sit in the dark and not talk at each other for 90 minutes.
Grandma — London Film Festival
Director: Paul Weitz
Stars: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer
Don’t let the title put you off. Forget knitting, comfy slippers and St Winifred’s School Choir, think Cockney Nan on a road trip. Lily Tomlin plays a foul mouthed, acerbic granny trying to raise the money for her pregnant granddaughter to have an abortion. Yes, you read that right. Smart, witty and with the intelligence to treat its thorny subject with the delicacy and thoughtfulness it deserves, this was a hit at the recent London Film Festival.
Hector — London set
Director: Jake Gavin
Release date: 11 December 2015
Stars: Peter Mullan, Keith Allen, Natalie Gavin, Sharon Rooney, Sarah Solemani, Steven Tompkinson, Gina McKee
Peter Mullan’s second movie outing this month (buses, etc) has him, true to form, playing a grumpy outsider. Hector lives rough and is making his regular, annual pilgrimage from Scotland down to a Christmas hostel for the homeless in London, for a few days of respite and shelter. So far, so typically Mullan-grim. But Hector marries its serious nature with some unexpectedly sweet and positive moments, showing the kindness of strangers and camaraderie between Hector and his old muckers. A thoughtful Christmas movie with a difference.
Star Wars The Force Awakens — London talent
Director: JJ Abrams
Release date: 17 December 2015
Stars: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley
With more hype and merchandising than you can shake a vvvvmming neon tube at, Star Wars Episode VII crashes into cinemas mid-December. And still we know little about it, the press mostly reduced to breathy articles on spoilers and/or avoiding spoilers. Never mind all that. We’re more concerned that director JJ Abrams’s previous project was the last Star Trek. Hopefully he didn’t just forget his glasses and accidentally push through the wrong studio door, for Harrison in skin tight mustard Lycra would not be a good look...
Sparks and Embers — London set
Director: Gavin Boyter
Release date: 18 December 2015
Stars: Kris Marshall, Annelise Hesme
Richard Linklater’s classic talky, walky, Before Sunset trilogy has inspired no end of imitators. Latest to join the throng is Sparks and Embers. Kris Marshall and Annelise Hesme chat and amble (chamble??) along London’s South Bank at Christmas time, playing a couple on the verge of breaking up. Will she or won’t she get on her train and leave him forever? OMG, we can’t stand the suspense. Actually, we probably can.
Director: Jason Moore
Release date: 18 December 2015
Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph
2015 has seen a strong feminist upsurge against the Hollywood machine, what with J-Law stoking the debate on female salaries and Meryl Streep delivering a rabble rousing speech at the Women In Hollywood Awards. It’s also witnessed a slew of female comic talent deliver blockbuster hit after blockbuster hit, from Trainwreck to Spy to Pitch Perfect 2. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler look to round the year off in style with Sisters, playing adult siblings throwing one last wild party at their parents' house. Be afraid.
The Peanuts Movie
Director: Steve Martino
Release date: 21 December 2015
Stars: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Mariel Sheets, Alexander Garfin, Hadley Miller
Landing just in time for the main Christmas period, everyone’s favourite slightly maudlin comic strip character takes his pre-teen existential angst to the big screen. Sticking to the same sweetly wistful tone as the original, this is aimed as much at adults indulging in childhood nostalgia as it is at their offspring. PLUS Snoopy dons goggles and takes to the air after his nemesis, The Red Baron. Cartoon dogs flying planes — it doesn’t get better.
By Ruth Sloss