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The Independent Culture
4 December: Frank Capra's seasonal chestnut-warmer, It's a Wonderful Life (right), has its detractors - notably Peter Weir, director of The Truman Show, who used it to comment on his hero's imprisonment in a world of small-town narrow-mindedness. Often dismissed as a patronising mulch of sentimental Americana, it actually deals with some intensely awkward issues. It tugs at the heart-strings, sure, but has a tough, melancholy message about social responsibility, plus a performance from James Stewart that contains a whole world of quiet tragedy.

11 December: Here he comes, bloodied but unbowed, Black & Decker rampant, just so the Scream generation can find out what it is they're supposed to be sniggering at. Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is exploitation film-making par excellence - vicious, racy, and almost avant-garde in its wild editing, lo-fi production values and breathless hand-held camera- work. And don't go looking for the irony; it's not there.

More conventional weapons are wielded in The Mask of Zorro - a Christmas swashbuckler in which old hand Anthony Hopkins shows Antonio Banderas how to handle a rapier.