The Family Stone (PG)
As a tribute to touchy-feely family values. only Cameron Crowe's recent Elizabethtown could top this for sheer falseness and vacuity. Try not to squirm as the various Stone siblings' Christmas homecoming becomes a kind of liberal fantasist's parade of pieties - deafness, gayness, racial togetherness and that old standby terminal illness are all embraced at the family hearth. The drama, if it can so be called, pivots on oldest son Dermot Mulroney introducing the family (headed by Diane Keaton) to his uptight New York girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) and then promptly falling for her younger and funnier sister (Claire Danes). I get the feeling that the writer-director Thomas Bezucha hoped this might be a modern take on that evergreen heartwarmer Meet Me in St Louis, but there's no way you'll have yourself a merry little Christmas watching this tripe.
Family entertainment stalks the land, and no parent is safe. This mawkish stuff just about takes the dog biscuit for clunkiness, reprising the tale of a brave collie that escapes its new master (Peter O'Toole, a boorish dotard) in Scotland to trek back to the Yorkshire mining village where his erstwhile young owner (Jonathan Mason) still pines for him. The journey takes the hound through picturesque scenery, scrapes with dimwitted dog-catchers and a string of two-minute cameos - by Edward Fox, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Robert Hardy, Kelly Macdonald - all supposedly lasting 100 minutes, though it felt more like 100 years. Will ye go, Lassie, go? Please?
Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël) (12A)
This is loosely based on the extraordinary stories from Christmas Eve 1914, when soldiers from either side climbed out of the trenches and shared a heartbreakingly brief truce from hostilities. The writer-director Christian Carion focuses on a handful of individuals whose generous spirit (and common sense) made this yuletide ceasefire possible. There's also a glimpse of the impromptu football match, which the Germans no doubt won on penalties. The pathos is crudely handled in places, but as a tribute to music's power to bind and console, it plays very movingly.
Screaming Masterpiece (15)
Ari Alexander's documentary encompasses the Icelandic musical scene from druidical chants and ancient poems about Odin to unregenerate punk rock and ethereal folk-pop. Björk you know; Bang Gang, Quarashi and Slow Blow are possibly for the connoisseurs. A decent overview, though it didn't make me an instant convert.Reuse content