Elf. Home Alone. Die Hard. The Holiday. Love Actually. The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Elf Alone. Holiday Hard. Die Hard in the Elf Holiday Home Actually. Love Elfishly. Love Muppetly. The Muppets Actually Die on Holiday. Carol Hard. Carol Hard 2: Carol Harder. Carol Hard 3: Carol Thatcher.
Spend too much time perusing the endlessly circling carousel of seasonal staples in the cinema listings and you can come away feeling like you’re in the throes of an indigestion-induced Boxing Day festive fug.
Thankfully, respite is at hand in the form of three entirely un-Christmassy new releases – from Adam Driver navigating the apocalypse 1980s-style to a blissfully quiet encounter in the Colorado mountains…
Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig star in this 80s-set black comedy-drama from director Noah Baumbach (who previously put Driver and Scarlett Johannson through the wringer as warring spouses in 2019’s excellent Marriage Story).
Based on the classic 1985 novel by Don DeLillo, the story sees college professor Jack Gladney (Driver), his fourth wife Babette (Gerwig) and their four children have their comfortable suburban life upended by an “airborne toxic event” – a poisonous chemical cloud that forces them to leave their home, lending an apocalyptic edge to their unfolding family dramas.
DeLillo’s novel has long been seen as one of those famously ‘unfilmable’ works, so it’s perhaps not surprising that reviews have been mixed, with several critics feeling that Baumbach’s ambitious adaptation is ultimately less than the sum of its impressive parts.
The Silent Twins
This acclaimed true-life drama starring Black Panther’s Letitia Wright follows a pair of twin sisters whose intense connection allowed them to escape into a shared inner world.
Wright and Tamara Lawrence play June and Jennifer Gibbons, two Black siblings in small-town Pembrokeshire whose richly imaginative interior life is at odds with the sense of alienation they feel in the outside world.
Left behind by the educational and care systems, their increasingly extreme behaviour leads to them being incarcerated in Broadmoor in a film which the Guardian called ‘an engrossing, well-acted story – disturbing but also tender and sad’.
A Love Song
Here’s a film that sounds like just the tonic for anyone who’s tried to navigate the hectic melee of a pre-Christmas Coney Street on a Saturday afternoon – a quiet and reflective tale of two lone travellers coming together in the vast Colorado wilderness.
Veteran US character actors Dale Dickey (My Name Is Earl) and Wes Studi (Dances with Wolves) play two widowed friends who meet after a long time apart to spend a night camping by a lake in the mountains.
It’s a scenario which will inevitably put viewers in mind of last year’s Oscar-winner Nomadland, and impressive reviews suggest that director Max Walker-Silverman’s debut feature is worthy of the comparison.
It’s quite a busy week for new releases, with studios perhaps eager to give their films a moment in the spotlight before they’re eclipsed by the arrival of the big blue behemoth that is Avatar: The Way of Water next week.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and starring Will Smith, acclaimed true-life drama Emancipation follows Peter (Smith) as he makes a daring bid for escape from slavery in swamp-infested Louisiana in the 1860s – it’s showing daily at Everyman and also on Apple TV+ from Fri 9th.
Also new at Everyman is Hong Kong comedy Table For Six (showing daily), which sees fraternal tensions come to the boil when three middle-aged brothers and the women in their lives gather for a family reunion meal.
Over at Cineworld, Eva Green leads fashion-themed chiller Nocebo (showing daily) – the latest film from the writer-director duo behind 2019’s eerie sci-fi thriller Vivarium, it sees Green’s troubled designer hire a Filipina housekeeper whose folk healing remedies seem to be the answer to her problems, until her new employee’s inevitable ulterior motives begin to reveal themselves.
On Weds 14th Cineworld also have a screening of new drama Rimini, which follows a washed-up Austrian pop star living in the titular out-of-season Italian beach town whose life is given a sudden jolt by the reappearance of his adult daughter, demanding the child support money he never gave her.
As the end of the year fast approaches, there’s a chance to see a couple of cinematic highlights you might have missed, with Cineworld screening kaleidoscopic David Bowie doc Moonage Daydream in full IMAX glory on Sun 11th, and City Screen showing the highly rated Norwegian comedy-drama The Worst Person in the World on Tues 13th.
Both are well worth your time if you missed them first time round – as is the mesmerising father-daughter drama Aftersun, which continues daily at Cineworld this week.
Belgian immigrant drama Tori and Lokita, the latest film from veteran social realist directors the Dardennes, continues at City Screen throughout the week, and you can also catch it at Vue on Weds 14th.
Finally, you can raise a glass to Rick and Ilsa as Casablanca celebrates its 80th anniversary at Everyman on Sun 11th and Weds 14th.
Pick of the week: The Muppet Christmas Carol Live in Concert
It’s not easy being green – and especially not when you work for the most famous miser in all of fiction, as this perennial Christmas favourite proves.
Starring Kermit the Frog as poor old Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine as his misanthropic employer, this tremendously fun take on the Dickens classic celebrates its 30th anniversary with this special screening accompanied by a full bells-and-whistles live orchestra.
As this oral history of the film’s production attests, the reason it’s become a festive fixture for so many is that it’s played (relatively) straight, none more so than by Caine himself.
So play the music, light the lights – and no Statler-and-Waldorf-style heckling at the back, please…
Other festive treats
Spark Cinema Club offers a double whammy of Will Ferrell’s singing and Hugh Grant’s dad dancing this week, with screenings of Elf on Sun 11th (adult tickets sold out but some free under-18s tickets still available) and Love Actually on Thurs 15th (tickets £5.98) – both can be booked from Spark’s Eventbrite page.
Those are, of course, not your only chances to see those particular films this week – Elf also screens at Cineworld (daily), Everyman (Fri 9th, Sat 10th, Mon 12th and Tues 13th) and Vue (Sat 10th, Sun 11th), while Everyman also have screenings of Love Actually on Sun 11th and Thurs 15th.
There’s more premium noughties Christmas cheese in the form of The Holiday at Vue on Fri 9th.
Your annual source of DIY home security tips continues courtesy of Home Alone at Everyman (Sun 11th, Tues 13th, Thurs 15th) and Vue (Sat 10th, Sun 11th); and those careless McCallisters have only gone and done it again in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, showing at Vue on Sat 10th, Sun 11th and Thurs 15th.
Meanwhile, the good people of the Nakatomi Corporation are in safe hands as Die Hard screens at Everyman (Fri 9th) and Vue (Sat 10th, Tues 13th).
Will Ferrell’s new contender for the Christmas crown Spirited continues its run at Everyman (Fri 9th, Sat 10th, Mon 12th, Weds 14th), plus there are singalong screenings at Vue on Sat 10th and Sun 11th (are we really there already with this one?).
More elegant Christmas choreography is available with encore screenings of The Royal Ballet’s new production of The Nutcracker at City Screen (Mon 12th) and Everyman (Weds 14th).
Bailey Brothers Building & Loan is open for business at City Screen this week, with screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life on Fri 9th and Mon 12th – and they’re also giving festive TV staple The Wizard of Oz a couple of big screen outings on Tues 13th and Weds 14th.
Elsewhere in City Screen’s schedule, it’s good to see them digging a little beyond the more obvious seasonal fare with Ingmar Bergman’s tale of two siblings Fanny and Alexander on Sun 11th, and Todd Haynes’ modern classic Carol on Weds 14th.
If 2022 was the cinematic year of the multiverse, let’s be grateful we don’t live in the reality in which Tom Cruise was cast as Edward Scissorhands (City Screen, Mon 12th) – slightly incredibly, this could have happened at one point, but director Tim Burton wasn’t too keen on the perma-grinning star’s request for a happier ending.
You can catch Burton’s other dark festive fairytale The Nightmare Before Christmas at Vue on Sat 10th, Sun 11th and Weds 14th, while altogether more wholesome animated fare is on offer at Everyman in the form of The Polar Express on Sat 10th.
Wrap up warm for your budget family-friendly selections this week: City Screen head back to Arendelle with Frozen (Sat 10th, tickets £3.00), while Vue send Tim Allen round the houses in The Santa Clause (Sat 10th/Sun 11th, £2.49) and Kermit and co. pop up again at Cineworld in The Muppet Christmas Carol (Sat 10th/Sun 11th, £2.50).
And finally, if you feared your chance to see the 2022 CBeebies Panto was behind you, oh no it isn’t! You can catch Dick Whittington and His Cat at Cineworld, City Screen and Vue on Sat 10th and Sun 11th.