In the words of Dean Martin, “baby it’s cold outside”. So why try and battle the sub-zero temperatures when you could be relaxing in the sweet central-heated embrace of your local cinema?
For cinephiles, December is, of course, a time to reflect on the films we’ve loved and loathed over the last year. But, before the arguments begin, there’s still a whole month of movies to indulge in. So without further ado, here’s our list of the top films you need to make sure you see over the festive period. Merry Christmas to all, and we’ll see you in the New Year!
December’s Top Pick
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Dir. Peter Jackson) – Released Dec. 12th
Even if you’re one of those who cynically consider the trilogy of Hobbit films to be more of a commercial than a creative exercise, it’s hard to not be swept up in the furore of returning to Middle Earth for one final fight. Peter Jackson brought the last chapter of the Rings trilogy to a close with the triumphant Battle for Minas Tirith, and here he looks determined to top it by turning a short skirmish sequence from Tolkin’s prose into an epic farewell that pits the races of Men, Dwarves, Elves, Eagles and Orcs against each other.
Before that though, there’s just the tiny matter of Smaug to contend with. The dastardly dragon was last seen heading towards Lake-town, with the intention of turning it in to a festering wreck of fire. However, Luke Evans’ Bard looks set to stand tall as the town’s last line of defence, armed with both an arrow and his courage.
At under 2-and-a-half hours, this is going to be Jackson’s shortest excursion into the realms of Middle Earth, but it may also be his best. It is here that the ambitious director will bring his series full circle, completing a generation-defining saga that he began over a decade ago. Its existence may be more of a commercial than creative endeavour, but that doesn’t make its impending release any less exciting.
Christmas With The Family
Christmas is the perfect time to take the whole family to the cinema, and this year there is a sack full of cinematic treats waiting to be unwrapped. Jim Broadbent is the one donning the red suit and bushy beard as jolly old St. Nicholas in Get Santa (Dec. 5th). Once more a father and son (here played by Rafe Spall and Kit Conner) must team up in order to save Christmas after Santa Claus is arrested and finds himself locked up for the holidays.
Released from their supporting roles and thrust into the centre of the stage, those pesky penguins are up to no good in Penguins of Madagascar (Dec. 5th), which sees the titular quartet joining forces with an organization of undercover animals to thwart the deadly plans of the evil Dr. Octavius Brine.
And if that doesn’t meet your quota of crazy childish antics, then Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (Dec. 19th) has got you covered. Once more Ben Stiller’s Larry is trying to make sure the magic bringing his museum to life every night doesn’t dwindle, with the help of his favourite friends that include Teddy Roosevelt (played by Robin Williams in one of his final acting roles).
For some musical magic with the folks, head to the cinema on Boxing Day for Will Gluck’s remake of Annie (Dec. 26th). With a feel-good story and a number of catchy tunes, it’s likely to be the perfect cure to those post-Christmas blues. Although, if there’s one musical you should all be implored to see this December, then surely it’s the BFI re-release of Guys and Dolls (Dec. 19th). Brimming with barnstorming beats, gorgeous theatrical sets and one of Marlon Brando’s most delightful performances, it’ll have you dancing in the aisles throughout and leaving with a great festive grin glued to your face.
Coming-of-age tales are always a great way to warm your heart and, if Bill Murray is to be believed (and let’s face it, why shouldn’t he be), St. Vincent (Dec. 5th) is a film that’ll keep the fire burning inside you until the new year. Murray plays the eponymous Vincent, a drunk and misanthropic war veteran who becomes the unlikely friend and mentor to a young boy whose parents have just divorced.
After something with more of a British feel? Then say hello to Hello Carter (Dec. 5th). This directorial debut from experienced unit director Anthony Wilcox excited a lot of people when it was shown at the London Film Festival in 2013. It tells of the trials and tribulations of the eponymous Carter, who is homeless, single, unemployed, and desperate to win back the heart of his ex-girlfriend. Shot on location in London with a talented British cast, this is certainly one Carter you’ll want to try and get hold of.
If you’re searching for something a bit more juvenile however, then Dumb & Dumber To (Dec. 19th) will no doubt tickle your funny bone. They may be 20 years older, but Harry and Lloyd are no more mature, setting off on a chaotic road trip to find Harry’s long lost daughter.
We all love a good action film at Christmas don’t we? After all, there’s no better time to watch Die Hard than on Christmas Eve. But, if you fancy a trip to the multiplex, Jude Law will be waiting for you in Black Sea (Dec. 5th). Here Law plays a submarine captain who heads to the bottom of the Black Sea in search of a Nazi submarine that’s rumoured to be full of gold. Let’s hope none of his crew gets greedy.
For all you martial arts fans, Father Christmas has been particularly good to you this year by bringing you The Grandmaster (Dec. 5th), which tells the story of martial arts master Ip Man, the fighter who trained Bruce Lee.
There’s nothing like a great biblical epic to help you digest the endless piles of Turkey sandwiches, which is why you should head to the cinema on Boxing Day to revel in Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dec. 26th). Here Scott returns to the swords-and-sandals genre he reignited with Gladiator all those years ago to tell the story of Moses; expect deadly plagues, red seas, and parted waves.
Technology is thrust into the spotlight in Jason Reitman’s Men, Women, and Children (Dec. 5th). Here the Juno director explores the impact our reliance on smart phones and other such devices has had on our friendships, our love lives, and our self-image.
A popular piece from this year’s festival circuit, Electricity (Dec. 12th) takes us on a journey through the eyes of a young woman with epilepsy, who is desperately searching for her missing brother.
Finally for this year, one of the big films currently generating Oscar buzz is the latest film from Angelina Jolie, the director. Starring British acting prodigy Jack O’Connell and written by the Coen Brothers, Unbroken (Dec. 26th) tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was captured and tortured by the Japanese during World War 2. With next year marking 60 years since the War ended, there’s no better time to start thinking back and remembering the stories of all the brave souls, like Zamperini, who fought in that conflict.