Films of the week: You think it's bad now, but listen to this…


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The Independent Culture

Christmas Eve

It's a Wonderful Life

11.25am & 7pm Sky Movies Classics

(Frank Capra, 1946) Frank Capra's humanist Christmas tale, in which Jimmy Stewart realises that it's great to be alive after all, has become not just a seasonal favourite but a bona fide American classic. It's a heart-warming, but surprisingly complex and textured film, and one could fall for its reassuring message and small-town charms afresh at this time of every year. Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore also star. *****


White Christmas

12.55pm & 11.30pm Sky Movies Classics

(Michael Curtiz, 1954) Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney join Bing Crosby for a run-through of various old Irving Berlin songs in this partial remake of Crosby and Fred Astaire's 1942 Holiday Inn. For all that it was made from well-worn material, it is brisk and cheerful, the choreography was by an uncredited Bob Fosse, and the result was the biggest hit in the careers of pretty much everyone involved. ***


Bad Santa

9pm Channel 5

(Terry Zwigoff, 2003) Don't mistake this wittily subversive, anti-Christmas comedy for the usual holiday fare – it's a rude and grubby little crime caper about an alcoholic, sex-crazed career criminal and his short cohort, who pose as Santa and his little helper in order to rip off a department store. Billy Bob Thornton is on good form as the foul-mouthed misanthrope. Tony Cox, Brett Kelly and Lauren Graham also star. ***

Christmas Day


5.55pm More4

(Michael Curtiz, 1942) Of all the gin joints, Ingrid Bergman's glamorous resistance fighter walks into the one in Casablanca owned by her non-partisan and bitter ex. Humphrey Bogart (above, with Bergman) (who'd previously only played gangsters and the PI Sam Spade) made for a terrifically cynical romantic lead; the supporting cast is superb, the plot well-oiled and the dialogue has several of the best-known lines in all movie history. *****

Boxing Day

Dr No

7am & 4pm Sky Movies Classics

(Terence Young, 1962) There are wall-to-wall Bond films on Sky Movies Classics today. The low-budget and yet exotic spy thriller that launched the franchise is one of the best. Sean Connery's casually violent, not entirely suave Bond heads to Jamaica to investigate the killings of other double-0 agents, sees Ursula Andress emerge from the sea, and infiltrates a Fu Manchu-ish villain's lair. *****



1.25am Film4

(Lukas Moodysson, 2000) Together is a touching period comedy about the successes and failures of an idealistic experiment in communal living in Seventies Stockholm, as seen through the eyes of the newest arrival's two children. It is deft and generous enough to accommodate the adults' left-wing politics and the children's weary pragmatism; it also makes good use of Abba. Michael Nyqvist stars. *****



2.05pm BBC2

(Alfred Hitchcock, 1946) One of Alfred Hitchcock's very best: an ingenious, perverse, masterfully crafted romantic thriller in which Cary Grant recruits alcoholic Ingrid Bergman to seduce the leader of a German spy ring in Rio (Claude Rains), but then falls in love with her himself. It has things and cast members in common with Casablanca, then, but it is a more complex and rewarding story. *****