Christmas Day: Films of the day

OUR arts editor Andrew Clarke gives you his picks for the best of the films showing on TV on Christmas Day...

Christmas Day:

- The Muppet Christmas Carol; Channel 4, 8.50am

A Christmas staple which you never tire of watching. Michael Caine delivers one of the best performances of his career – it easily matches Education Rita, The Quiet American or The Man Who Would Be King – as he refuses to be upstaged by Kermit the Frog, the Great Gonzo or Miss Piggy.

It’s the best of the Muppet movies by far, simply because, it is by and large a straight re-telling of the Dickens classic.

The Muppets lend a certain surrealism to the proceedings and you just have to relax and enjoy this lovely adaptation which could genuinely capture the true spirit of Christmas.

- The Man Who Would Be King; BBC2, 12.55pm

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Sean Connery and Michael Caine team up to deliver a pair of rousing performances in this John Huston adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling tale.

Originally planned as a vehicle for Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, it tells the tale of two 19th century British soldiers serving in India and they set out to discover the mystical kingdom of Kafiristan.

Hailed as gods, they let power go to their heads. However greed and human frailty proves to be their undoing.

It’s a rollicking boys own adventure which has both Caine and Connery on sparkling form. In fact they are so watchable, you can’t imagine Gable and Bogart in their roles.

- Shrek the Third; BBC One, 3.10pm

Hollywood’s most loveable Scottish ogre has finally got himself married off, but he’s about to get a whole lot more than he bargained for.

His new father-in-law is taken ill, and people are looking to Shrek (voiced once again by Mike Myers) as the heir of the land of Far, Far Away.

He’s reluctant to give up his swamp though, and sets about getting the help of Donkey and Puss in Boots to install the rebellious Artie as the new king.

All the while, Prince Charming joins forces with the fairytale villains in plotting to become king.

Although this threequel is not a patch on the original, there’s still plenty to enjoy. The animation is superb and the voice cast have a ball wringing out every last laugh.

Rupert Everett as Prince Charming, John Cleese and Julie Andrews as the King and Queen join the regulars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas lending their voices to these iconic characters.

- Singing In The Rain; BBC2, 11.15am

Almost the last gasp of the traditional Hollywood musical (My Fair Lady has that honour), this has to be Gene Kelly’s finest hour as he pays tribute to Hollywood’s silent era.

Debbie Reynolds makes a wonderfully fresh-faced leading lady but the person who comes closest to stealing the film from under Kelly’s nose is rubber-limbed co-star Donald O’Conner.

Had he been born 35 years earlier he would have been a serious competitor to both Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.

The songs and the dance routines are all classics and Cyd Charrise’s ‘come hither’ extended leg in the Gotta Dance fantasy number must rank as one of the best entrances in cinema history.

- Madagascar; BBC1, 12.25pm

The hugely popular animated tale of Zoo animals returning to their home-lands or at least running wild in New York City.

Ben Stiller and Chris Rock lead the voice cast along with David Schwimmer and while the stylised animation isn’t up to the heights of Toy Story or Shrek, it certainly doesn’t lack the necessary pace or inventive sight-gags.

It colourful, it’s funny but there is something missing for adult audiences as the film does tend to lose focus in the second half of the movie.

- The Grinch; ITV1, 3.10pm

It’s a fabulous not-so traditional take on the usual sickly sweet offerings we get spoon-fed in the run-up to Christmas.

The magical land of Whoville exists inside a snowflake, home to a bunch of mutated beings, the Who’s. The Who’s love Christmas but it threatens to be ruined by The Grinch, a nasty creature who cannot stand the festive period and plots to steal Christmas from the Who’s.

Based on the book by Dr Seuss, Jim Carrey, as per usual, is incredible as the Grinch.

Visually, the film is hugely inventive and adults and children alike will enjoy this film, with its dazzling sets and costumes and the excellent supporting cast.

However, those with very young children (the under sixes) might think that the darker elements of the film, and the portrayal of The Grinch itself, may be a bit much.

- The Remains of the Day; Channel 5, 4.25pm

It is the late 1930s, war clouds are looming over Europe and some of Britain’s most influential politicians and aristocrats descend on Darlington Hall to decide where their best interests lay.

But, it is below stairs where the real drama is taking place as head butler Anthony Hopkins is wrestling with his feelings for housekeeper Emma Thompson.

Told in flashbacks, this merchant/Ivory film paints a really affecting portrait of relationships in a class divided Britain in the run-up and immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

Christopher Reeve gives a beautifully measured performance as the owner of Darlington hall and a pre-Four Weddings Hugh Grant is tremendous as his concerned nephew.

- Stranger than Fiction; Five, 6.55pm

Inland revenue agent Harold Crick leads a boring, monotonous life, but is surprised to hear voices in his head that appear to be narrating his life. Harold recognises the voice as an esteemed writer he once watched on TV.

When the narration reveal he’s going to die, Harold must somehow re-write the story that is his life.

True Will Ferrell fans know his capabilities, and so to some this may not be his best film to date. However, that’s not to take away from the fact that this is a poignant, charming little number that certainly won’t have done his career any harm.

The supporting cast which features Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal, is a good enough reason to tune in.

- Edward Scissorhands; Channel 4, 7pm

Tim Burton’s masterpiece and his first collaboration Johnny Depp. It’s a modern day fairytale about an Avon lady who visits a run-down castle to discover a half-completed boy, with scissors-for-hands, living alone.

She takes him in and he becomes an instant celebrity in the neighbourhood. However, suburbia is not a place for the unwary and when her daughter’s (Winona Ryder) boyfriend takes a dislike to him, who used to be good friends become dangerous enemies.

A parable for our times, it manages to be both dark and delightful.

- Die Hard; Film4, 9pm

Bruce Willis’ breakthrough movie after his success in the TV comic-detective show Moonlighting.

He stars as resourceful cop John McClane who leaps into action, clad only in a dirty vest, when his wife and her fellow office workers are held hostage by the villainous Alan Rickman during the Christmas party.

Part action-film, part comedy, part disaster movie, part thriller, director John McTiernan crosses a host of genres to come up with something new and exciting and in so doing gave birth to a very lucrative franchise.

It stands the test of time very well.