A daily bulletin of news & opinion

25 December 2011

Our selection of must-watch films include two all-time classics, new DVD releases and the latest epic with Christian Bale.


—The Muppet Christmas Carol, Director: Nick Willing

There’s no Christmas without Charles Dickens’ tale and it doesn’t get any better than Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy sharing Christmas dinner with Michael Caine, aka Ebenezer Scrooge. A good film for all the Christmas grumps to be reminded what the ghosts of the past, present and future have to teach us at this time of the year. It’s a Christmas classic of the highest order. With Muppets.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is available on DVD


—Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, Director: Nagisa Ôshima’s

Nagisa Ôshima’s film based on Laurens van der Post’s harrowing account of prisoners of war in Second World War Japan takes on a surreal air with the inclusion of cast member David Bowie. The normally zany “man who fell to earth” manages a sobering performance, and the film’s classic, haunting synth-led soundtrack adds to the odd tone. Recently re-released on enhanced Blu-ray, it’s never been a better time to indulge in one of war cinema’s more beautiful and strange efforts.

Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is now out on DVD and Blu-ray


—Kill List, Director: Ben Wheatley

Proving that there’s nothing more frightful than boredom, British director Ben Wheatley’s second feature tells the story of a retired ex-soldier turned contract killer, pulled into the horrors of one last job. The film has been thrown around the critics who can’t decide if it’s kitchen sink drama turned popcorn gore-fest or a traditional horror film made all the more creepy by involving the mundanity of retirement blues. One thing is obvious. It’s the scariest film you’ll see this year.

Kill List is now out on DVD and Blu-ray


—The Flowers of War, Director: Zhang Yimou

The Japanese attack on the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937 has been remembered in history for its ferociousness and brutality. Director Zhang Yimou has created a fictional tale that stars Christian Bale as an American sheltering in a cathedral amid the chaos. The Flowers of War is a sentimental, perhaps simplistic take on the horrors of a notoriously bloody event, but with unshowy performances that help carry the story with respect.

The Flowers of War is now showing at selected cinemas across the US


—It’s a Wonderful Life, Director: Frank Capra

More than half a century after George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) wished he had never been born, his story of a Christmas miracles lives on. In this classic tale of festive desperation, Bailey tries to kill himself and is visited by his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows him the hole that would be left on his leaving of earth. It was nominated for, but didn’t win, five Oscars. Wonderful or not, that’s life. But it will always be our all-time Christmas must-watch.

It’s a Wonderful Life is available on DVD


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