Andrew Collins’s festive film feast

Radio Times's film editor reviews the Christmas season's must-see movies

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For Downton devotees
Before busying himself with the Crawley family on TV, Julian Fellowes wrote The Young Victoria (Thu 22 Dec BBC2), an elegant, star-studded slice of history. Emily Blunt plays the independently minded princess, who is schooled for the throne and wooed by Rupert Friend’s Prince Albert. If you’re partial to a period piece, Dorian Gray (Thu 29 Dec C4) gives Oscar Wilde’s novel a Gothically sexed up going-over, and stars the not-unhandsome Ben Barnes.
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Charles Dickens triple bill Fri 30 Dec BBC2

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For animal lovers
I’m not sure this is what the author of The Night Before Christmas meant when he wrote, “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” but the twin British obsessions of cooking and animals are combined in Pixar’s pixilated feast Ratatouille (Christmas Day BBC1). In it, a gifted rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) “trains” a pot-washer in the culinary arts to impress an influential Parisian critic (voiced by Peter O’Toole). It’s inventive and mouth-watering.
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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Boxing Day BBC1

For the karaoke crowd
Since its first incarnation as a kooky, 1960s-set comedy, John Waters’s Hairspray enjoyed a second life as a Broadway musical, which was then adapted back into a film (Christmas Eve C4). John Travolta stars in latex-assisted drag as the stay-at-home Baltimore mom of an overweight high schooler (Nikki Blonsky), who dreams of dancing on a pop TV show. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s Grammy-winning numbers are guaranteed to get you tapping your toes.
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Happy Feet Christmas Day ITV1

For crime connoisseurs
In a year dominated by The Killing, Luther and a new DCI Barnaby, it’s time to hand the cops-and-robbers baton back to the silver screen and arguably its greatest saga. More a portrait of a family than a police procedural, The Godfather (Boxing Day C4), and its two sequels (Thu 29 Dec and Fri 30 Dec C4), created living, breathing Italian-American criminal royalty with their own abdication crisis, when Marlon Brando’s Don must cede power to white sheep Al Pacino. Put that Death in Paradise box set on hold.
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Bourne trilogy Christmas Eve-Fri 30 Dec ITV2


For the easily distracted…

Kids today… they love monsters, and they love aliens. It’s almost as if DreamWorks Animation worked this out when they conceived Monsters vs Aliens (Christmas Day BBC1). With a voice cast as hip as Seth Rogen, the American Office’s Rainn Wilson, Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland, it pits a gang of top-secret mutants against an extraterrestrial invasion. Its satirical humour will amuse parents while kids sit glued to its action-packed slapstick, embodied by Rogen’s gelatinous blob B.O.B.
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G-Force Christmas Eve BBC1

…and those with time to kill
BBC4’s Epic Christmas season tells us how it’s done with documentary How to Make an Epic (in which, I confess, I make an appearance), but top among its wares is the mighty El Cid. Centring on the 11th-century unification of Spain, it ticks all the boxes, with its widescreen vistas, international cast (Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren) and a running time that touches three hours. Splendid! Incidentally, Adam Sandler gets to play a gladiator, among other things, in the family movie Bedtime Stories (Bank Holiday Tuesday BBC1), which is “epic” in a Night at the Museum kind of way.
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Lawrence of Arabia Christmas Day 5*

Finally, some Ho Ho Ho

There are guilty laughs to be had in Tropic Thunder (Bank Holiday Tuesday BBC1), featuring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and a virtually unrecognisable Robert Downey Jr as actors left to fend for themselves in the jungle. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but you will hope that I’m a Celebrity… was more like this.
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Step Brothers Mon 19 Dec C5

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This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 7 December 2011.