Christmas presents: Videos - Eternally yours, Ralph Fiennes in your front room

Preserved on your TV screen forever, longer lasting than a pair of socks and certainly sweeter come January,

James Rampton reviews the best videos to give this Christmas.

Film

A perfect gift for the true romantic this Christmas has to be Anthony Minghella's beautifully-crafted, multi-Oscar-winning interpretation of The English Patient. Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott Thomas announce themselves as major-league players with wonderfully-judged performances as a pair of doomed lovers during the Second World War. A classic with enduring appeal.

If extra-terrestrial fantasy is more your cup of tea the Star Wars Trilogy is the genuine article. Rightly credited with spawning a whole generation of special-effects blockbusters, George Lucas's archetypal, three-part myth about the battle between good - Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) - and evil - Darth Vader (David Prowse) - has stood the test of time since its first release in 1977.

Evita is another big Hollywood picture likely to prove popular this Christmas, especially with Antonio Banderas as the young Che Guevara. Madonna stuns the critics and proves she can act as the eponymous heroine in Alan Parker's visually-arresting version of the hit musical.

Tom Cruise also surprised a lot of critics with his outstanding performance as a sports agent who is forced to reevaluate his life in Jerry Maguire. In Cameron Crowe's engaging drama, Cuba Gooding Jr deservedly scooped a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Jerry's sole client.

Another of the Hollywood bigshots, Mel Gibson, also delivers a riveting display in Ransom as Tom Mullen, a millionaire who turns the tables on a kidnapper who has abducted his son. Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13) keeps the tension crackling right to the end of this gripping thriller.

On a lighter note, how about netting Fever Pitch? Nick Hornby's lively adaptation of his own best-seller scores as a love story rather than a football film as it charts the never-smooth affair between two very different teachers - Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell.

He may be gorgeous in the white coat as Dr Ross in ER, but George Clooney is even more yummy in rubber-wear as the star of Batman and Robin. In Joel Schumacher's effects-laden actioner, Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silverstone back him up as Robin and Batgirl respectively, but, as so often with this cycle, the real stars are the baddies - Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze and Uma Thuman as Poison Ivy.

Sport

Fly-on-the-wall documentary is all the rage on television, but nobody in Airport or Driving School has ever been quite as candid as those featured in Living with the Lions. This engrossing dressing-room view of the British and Irish Lions' victorious rugby union tour of South Africa in the summer offers more swearing than a troopers' barracks.

When We Were Kings is comparably enthralling. Leon Gast's film gets up close and personal with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman as they prepare for their 1974 world heavyweight title fight in Zaire - widely known as "the rumble in the jungle." The sheer magnetism of Ali still shines through after all these years.

The trend for well-known presenters to present "funny bits" on lucrative videos trading on their TV celebrity continues. Nick Hancock crops up on Football Hell and They Think It's All Over - Full Throttle, while Jeremy Clarkson fronts Apocalypse Clarkson.

You're advised to keep the volume down on Murray Walker's Magic Moments.

Comedy

As the TV schedules testify, comedy has become as traditional at Christmas as embarrassing yourself in front of your boss at the office party. Although well in his 50s, Billy Connolly remains the uncrowned king of comedy, able to ramble off on tangents for two hours and still hold an audience gripped. His Two Night Stand reminds us why.

The only threat to Connolly's crown at present appears to come from Eddie Izzard, whose Glorious is a fast-turnaround video of the live show he is still touring. He is at his best when homing in on the minutiae of life that perplex us all. Like why is it that we can never turn the shower- tap to exactly the right temperature?

Some twenty years after they first met and started performing together at Manchester University, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson continue to take enormous pleasure in hitting each other and falling over a lot. You can see just how they do it the childishly pleasurable Bottom 3: Hooligan's Island.

Children

Adults just as much as children will enjoy plonking themselves down in front of Danny De Vito's highly successful reading of Roald Dahl's Matilda, about a girl with special powers, which stars De Vito and Pam Ferris. The book was voted Dahl's most popular ever - which is saying something.

Disney's timeless 1949 animated version of Cinderella has similarly universal appeal. The whole family can boo and hiss at the wicked stepmother. Meanwhile, if you don't warm to Cinderella's cohorts, the delightful mice, you have no heart.

You should find Winnie the Pooh's Most Grand Adventure equally winning. Billed as the first new Pooh film for 20 years, this animated escapade sees the daft bear and his pals getting into all manner of scrapes as they search for Christopher Robin.

More animal fun is to be found in the live-action film of 101 Dalmatians. Stephen Herek's well-made film features Jeff Daniels, Hugh Laurie and Glenn Close as a suitably dastardly Cruella De Ville.

The cutesy creature in Dragonheart is a dragon called Draco, voiced with typical good humour by Sean Connery. Rob Cohen's likable film sees knight Dennis Quaid ranged against a scheming king (David Thewlis), but the stars of the show are the special-effects team who bring Draco marvellously to life.

The popularity of all these videos might pale into insignificance, however, beside the extraordinary Teletubby phenomenon. Critics have sniffed at the rudimentary language employed by our four heroes in Here Come the Teletubbies and Dance with the Teletubbies.

But pre-school children still seem transfixed by the antics of these primary-coloured furries. If this isn't the top-selling video this Christmas, I'll eat my replica Tinky-Winky.

Information supplied by WH Smith and Virgin.

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss