Boxing Day: Films of the day

ARTS Editor Andrew Clarke continues his guide to the best festive films with a look at Boxing Day...

Boxing Day

- Who Framed Roger Rabbit; BBC1, 9.45am

Historic blend of live action and cartoon featuring Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd as the drunken gumshoe and the menacing special police chief.

The film starts off as a Merrie Melodies style cartoon before revealing that cartoons are made by animated performers living in their own area of Hollywood.

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The film is played like an old film noir and features guest appearances by all the cartoon greats from Betty Boop to Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.

The eponymous cartoon hero, fears his wife Jessica is having an affair and engages Bob Hoskins private eye to get the evidence but as Jessica memorable tells Hoskins: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” Great stuff.

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- The Railway Children; ITV1, 12.15pm

A seasonal staple, this film marked Lionel Jefferies debut behind the camera and he came up with a film that simply refuses to age.

It’s a touching tale of a family torn from their privileged world when their father is falsely arrested on spying charges and they have to go and live in the country.

They live close to a railway line and make friends with the station master, memorably played by Bernard Cribbens.

We all remember the landslide and the ripping of the petticoats to stop the train. Jenny Agutter and Sally Thomsett will forever remain at that age, even though they were considerably older than they looked and have your hankies ready for the reunion scene on the station platform.

- SpyKids; BBC1, 11.25am

Director Robert Rodriguez has tremendous fun with the conventions of the spy thriller in this glorious movie which has Antonio Banderas and Carla Guigino as two secret agents forced out of retirement when children TV presenter Alan Cumming has designs on taking over the world.

However, they make the mistake of under-estimating him and it is left to their children to rescue them and to save the day. Hugely entertaining, it plays with the conventions of James Bond style movies without ever subverting them It rockets along, has plenty of action but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Watch out for George Clooney wearing the worst disguise in the history of cinema.

- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; ITV1, 4.10pm

Tim Burton’s film is a much more faithful adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic than the 1971 Gene Wilder version. Johnny Depp channels the essence of Michael Jackson in his wonderfully bizarre portrayal of chocolate maker Willy Wonka.

Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee from Burton’s stock company pop up as expected alonside such reliable faces as James Fox.

But is Freddie Highmore as the poor but good Charlie Bucket that gives the film its heart. Burton’s idiosyncratic design makes the film hugely enjoyable to look at and Dahl’s black humour suits Burton’s storytelling style to a tee.

- Crocodile Dundee; Channel 4, 5.10pm

A 1980s classic telling the tale of a laid-back crocodile hunter who has lived his whole life in the Australian outback finds himself on a journey of self-discovery when a sophisticated reporter from New York invites him to come and experience life in the Big Apple.

He finds himself the ultimate fish out of water, even as love begins to blossom between the mismatched pair.

The 1980s peaked right here and Paul Hogan went from being an Australian TV funnyman to a Hollywood A-lister overnight at the age of 45.

Bizarre but true: the “quotes” around “Crocodile” in the title were added for the American release to ensure people didn’t think that Dundee was a crocodile. This fact makes Paul Hogan (who also co-wrote the film) laugh whenever he thinks about it.

- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor; ITV1, 6.20pm

The third instalment in the Mummy series and by far the least impressive. Rick O’Connell’s quiet middle-aged and scholarly life is disrupted when his son unearths the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin - a shape-shifting entity cursed by a witch centuries ago.

It’s up to the adventurers to save the world one more time.

With Jet Li playing a rare baddy role this blockbuster was always going to be visually impressive and not short of action sequences.

But while the spirit of adventure remains there is precious little story or characterisation and as a result the audience feels strangely disconnected with what is happening on screen.

- No Country For Old Men; Film 4, 9pm

This was the film that catapulted the Coen Brothers out of the arthouse cinema and onto the main stream screens.

It won Oscars galore and resembles a modern day western with texas ranger Tommy Lee Jones investigating a mysterious drug-related killing/gangland war in the desert while supposed drifter Javier Bardem seeks revenge for his bad haircut by going around committing random killings of his own.

Tommy Lee has to decide whether these killings are related or whether he has two separate investigations on his hands. Brilliantly acted and superbly plotted and photographed.

- Slumdog Millionaire; More 4, 9.05pm

Premiere screening for this big Oscar winner from Danny Boyle. Shot virtually entirely on the streets of Mumbai, this is the inspirational tale of a young lad who seeks to change his fortune and marry the girl he loves by winning the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

It won eight Oscars and features a pair of beautiful performances from Dev Patei and Freida Pinto. Dev plays the slumdog Jamai who is one answer away from a fortune when the authorities get suspicious and take him in for questioning.

It is then we see that each of his answers relate to an aspect of his past life.

- Love Actually; ITV1, 10.15pm

An all-star Christmas spectacular from writer-director Richard Curtis. Episodic in nature, the film is ultimately upbeat and fills its audience with the Christmas spirit.

It takes a look at love in all its various forms and contrary to some of its critics is not as syrupy as it is often portrayed.

The episodes featuring Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman and Laura Linney are almost desperately sad. Other all-star members of the cast include Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon.

As you would expect the writing is smart and the laughs flow thick and fast.

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