ANDREW COLLINS: FILM OF THE DAY
X-Men: First Class ★★★★
9.00-11.35pm Film Four
The most recent instalment in the $3 billion Marvel mutant-superhero franchise, Days of Future Past, was far and away the most successful, taking more than twice as much worldwide as this, the fifth film and first prequel, from 2011. It’s an origins story, tracing – under the sure direction of Matthew Vaughn – the roots of various X-Men (and X-Women) including the group’s founder, Professor X (played with wry English suavity by Scot James McAvoy), and his future nemesis, Magneto (a lithe, teeth-gritting Michael Fassbender). Going back to Nazi-occupied Poland in 1944 for a striking opening sequence, the action moves to the early 60s for some effective, witty training sequences, and a climactic clash off the coast of Cuba (yes, they’ve audaciously co-opted the actual Missile Crisis). Nicholas Hoult and then-rising star Jennifer Lawrence give personality to the youthful cast, and Mad Men’s January Jones makes a big impact as a seductive, shape-shifting telepath.
The Help ★★★
Octavia Spencer took home an Oscar for her role in this 1960s-set Deep South drama, with Emma Stone as a writer who interviews black maids about life below stairs, and uncovers a lot of dirt from under the carpet. Viola Davis is right up there with Spencer, and there are good performances across the board, though behind the glossy period trappings and positive story arc, there’s the nagging sense of a shameful status quo that continued after the credits rolled.
The Brides of Dracula ★★★★
10.45pm-12.30am Horror Channel
A girls’ school is at the mercy of the dread Count (well, a descendent, or a disciple, anyway), in director Terence Fisher’s stylish Hammer follow-up to Dracula. Christopher Lee declined to repeat his performance as the bloodsucker – replacement David Peel is a more Prince Charming than Prince of Darkness – but Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing takes all the applause for his performance.
Noel Clarke wrote and stars in this teen drama set in a west London school. Inspired by Clarke’s upbringing around Notting Hill, it has a hard-hitting surface realism and some lovely interaction between the kids. But it may well set parents’ teeth on edge as it shoehorns a month’s worth of tabloid headlines into 24 hours of sex, drugs and violence.
White Christmas ★★★★
If you want to get in the seasonal mood, you can’t get more festive than this classic Hollywood musical in which Bing Crosby croons, Danny Kaye dances and the fake snow bathes the set. It’s a partial remake of Holiday Inn, the movie that introduced the song White Christmas, here trumpeted from the title reel onwards. It’s irresistible and genuinely touching.
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