Christmas on TV: the best movies to watch
A round-up of the best films on TV between now and the New Year
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Christmas Day, 9.25pm, RTE Two
So many movies on the telly this Christmas, and that’s before we even get into the premium movie channels. The coming week is chock-full of seasonal classics, superhero franchises, Disney stories, Dickens tales, and lots of Bonds, Bournes and Bagginses, but which ones to watch? Here’s a shortlist of decent movies to home in on and still have time to eat/sleep/go to the toilet.
The Princess Bride (3.35pm, TV3)
William Goldman’s novel is a delight, and his movie adaptation, directed by Rob Reiner hits the magic spot. Robin Wright is Princess Buttercup, and Cary Elwes is the lowly farmboy who must rescue his true love from the slimy grip of Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). It’s funny, family friendly and has some great cameos from Billy Crystal, Mel Smith and Peter Cook.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (5.50pm, Channel 4)
If you watch just one Dickens-inspired movie this season, make it the Muppets’ madcap take on the Scrooge story. Kermit plays the put-upon Bob Cratchit, and Michael Caine is magnificently malevolent as the moneygrubbing old humbug.
The Lego Movie (6.15pm, RTE One)
Chris Pratt is Emmet, a workaday Lego builder who is tasked with a mission to retrieve the piece de resistance and defeat the evil President Business, who is planning to freeze the entire Lego world with his deadly Kragle. You may be drowning in Lego this Christmas – might as well dive in.
The Lady In the Van (9pm, BBC Two)
While the kids are in bed waiting for Santa to arrrive, the grown-ups can settle back and watch the charming, quirky true story of a homeless woman who took up residence in her van outside the Camden home of playwright Alan Bennett. Maggie Smith is excellent as the irascible but lovable old dear.
Despicable Me 2 (4.50pm, RTE One)
This 2013 sequel was even better than the 2010 original, and saw the Minions becoming firmly embedded in popular culture. Steve Carrell voices Gru, who has now turned from villain to doting dad (fatherhood will do that to you), but soon gets caught up in nefarious goings-on.
Frozen (6.35pm, RTE One)
The boys had the Lego Movie on Christmas Eve; now it’s the turn of the girls to settle down and watch the hugely successful Disney movie from 2013 which features two Disney princesses and one massive hit tune, Let It Go.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (9.25pm, RTE Two)
Starring Chris Evans as the superhero named after his country, this is the second in the blockbuster series, and the ninth film in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also features Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury.
ST STEPHEN’S DAY
Calvary (9.15pm, RTE One)
Brendan Gleeson is in fine form in this drama directed by John Michael McDonagh, about a parish priest in a small village who takes a shocking confession: the unidentified parishioner plans to kill him within a week. Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen and Dylan Moran co-star.
Rush (9.35pm, RTE Two)
Forget Thor – Chris Hemsworth is in heroic form as Formula One racing driver James Hunt, in Ron Howard’s biopic focusing on Hunt’s intense rivalry with fellow Formula One driver Nicky Lauda in the 1970s.
Pitch Perfect (11.10pm, Channel 4)
A musical with a difference – Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick star in this comedy about a group of social misfits in college who form an all-girl a capella group, The Barden Bellas. Second only to School of Rock in the collegiate musical comedy stakes.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 27TH
The Heroes of Telemark (1.05pm, BBC Two)
With Kirk Douglas having just turned 100, here’s a chance to celebrate ol’ dimple-chin with this war movie from 1965 co-starring Richard Harris, about Resistance fighters on a mission to stop the Nazis developing a nuclear weapon.
Mr Peabody and Sherman (3.50pm, BBC One)
Mr Peabody is a super-intelligent dog and Sherman is a seven-year-old boy who accompanies the canine boffin on his time-travelling adventures, learning about history first-hand, but also encountering some perilous temporal paradoxes. A blast of facts and fun.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (12.40am, Channel 4)
We’re more familiar with the 2011 version starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, but here’s the original 2009 Swedish film of the Stieg Larsson novel, starring Noomi Rapace as hacker Lisbeth Salander, who helps a journalist investigate the disappearance of a young girl 40 years previously.
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 28TH
Muppets Most Wanted (3.35pm, BBC One)
On the Muppets’ world tour, Kermit is kidnapped and replaced by his double - a criminal mastermind named Constantine who plans to steal the Crown Jewels. Ricky Gervais stars as smarmy showbiz agent Dominic Badguy.
Emma (7.30pm, UTV Ireland)
Before she started flogging pricey lifestyle accessories on her website Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow used to be a pretty decent actress, and here she tackles the title role in a Jane Austen adaptation from 1998. Co-starring Jeremy Northam, Alan Cumming, Toni Colette and Ewan McGregor.
The Butcher Boy (11.20pm, TV3)
Neil Jordan’s film version of Pat McCabe’s novel captures all the madness and mayhem of the novel, in which smalltown boy Francie Brady retreats into a world of comics and westerns to escape his grim reality.
THURSDAY DECEMBER 29TH
The Quiet American (9pm, UTV Ireland)
Michael Caine is a British journalist covering the French war in Vietnam in the 1950s, in this 2002 adaptation of the Graham Greene novel. Brendan Fraser is the American aid worker who befriends him. Intrigue and atmosphere aplenty.
Taxi Driver (12.30am, RTE Two)
Robert De Niro in his most iconic role as disturbed cabbie Travis Bickle, who shaves his head into a mohawk and sets himself up as a vigilante. Jodie Foster is the child prostitute who Travis tries to save.
The Full Monty (12.15am, RTE One)
After losing their jobs, a motley bunch of steelworkers decide to retrain as male strippers. Robert Carlyle is the man set with the task of whipping this titillating troupe into shape.
FRIDAY DECEMBER 30TH
The Sting (1.40pm, RTE One)
Having hit the cinematic jackpot with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul Newman and Robert Redford teamed up again, this time as a couple of conmen who set up an elaborate sting on a mobster. Spawned a big pop hit with Marvin Hamlisch’s version of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer.
Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie (9.30pm, RTE One)
Brendan O’Carroll’s mouthy matriarch has a Christmas and New Year’s special, but here’s the 2014 movie in which Agnes and her fellow street traders fight to save Moore Street from developers. The late, great Frank Kelly has a cameo.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (9.30pm, RTE Two)
Gary Oldman is great as MI6 agent George Smiley, in this 2011 adaptation of the John Le Carre novel. Smiley is called out of retirement to uncover a mole in the department. It gets complicated.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Jackie Brown (11pm, UTV Ireland)
Pam Grier plays the titular air hostess who is caught smuggling drugs and money into the US, and has to play a smart game to stay out of jail in Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch. Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Samuel L Jackson also star.
The Producers (12.15am, RTE One)
Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane try gamely to recreate the magic of the original musical comedy starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. At least they had plenty of practice doing it on Broadway. The pair play washed-up producers looking to stage a flop and cheat the IRS.
NEW YEAR’S DAY
ET The Extraterrestrial (1.05pm, RTE One)
Stephen Spielberg’s magical adventure about a lonely boy who befriends a lost alien hiding in his backyard, and tries to help him contact his spaceship while concealing him from grown-ups and sinister government agents.
Kelly’s Heroes (2.10pm, RTE Two)
Long before Inglourious Basterds, Clint Eastwood headed up this second World War caper about a band of military misfits on a rogue mission to steal Nazi treasure. Co-stars Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland.
The Cider House Rules (11.05pm, UTV Ireland)
One of the few adaptations of a John Irving novel which actually works, this 1999 drama stars Michael Caine as a doctor who runs an orphanage in Maine and performs abortions on the side. Tobey Maguire is an orphan who becomes the doctor’s reluctant assistant.