Including Up! and Enchanted

by Diana Balham / 25 December, 2010


Up! (Sky Movies, Sky 020, 4.55pm). This should leave you feeling ... up. Better than the Hannibal Lecter trilogy tomorrow on Sky Movies Greats. Christmas ham and a nice chianti? Ew. Anyway, Pixar keeps on upping (sorry) the ante with this animation gem that breaks so many rules but gets away with it. Up! stars humans instead of animals or androids. Its main character is an old man. The cute kid isn't a Wasp and he isn't smarter than the adults. There's a long, wordless and incredibly moving sequence at the beginning that doesn't bore the kids or jar with the action-adventure of the last half. Up! comes with a terrific pedigree: directed by Pete Docter, who helmed Monsters, Inc, wrote Toy Story and co-wrote WALL-E. You might say it's about an old man who has lost hope and takes off to Venezuela in his balloon-powered house with a Boy Scout stowaway, but that's just the start. A sophisticated and satisfying film of many parts and lovely to watch. (2009) 9

The Polar Express (TV2, 5.25pm). It's Christmas Eve and a Santa Claus denier finds himself on a fast train to the North Pole. Special-effects wiz Robert Zemeckis directs an immaculate showcase for his performance-capture technique and the result is a warm, fuzzy, if over-cheesy festive story the kids will love. (2004) 7

Enchanted (TV2, 7.00pm). Things magical being the theme for the Christmas movie roster, this musical-family-comedy fits right in. It sounds ghastly on paper: a beautiful princess is banished to New York after falling in love with the son of a horrid queen and is rescued by a nice young lawyer who knows the streets a bit better than these two fairytale characters. But this Disney production sends its saccharine self up from start to finish, with Amy Adams doing sterling work as Giselle. Her Happy Working Song number where she enlists the help of Manhattan's cheeriest vermin to clean up is quickly becoming a classic. Any song that rhymes "spoil it" and "toilet" gets my vote. (2007) 7

The Brothers Grimm (TV1, 8.30pm). An American and an Aussie walk into a haunted forest. Sounds like the beginning of a joke but, in this case, it would have been told at breakneck speed and nobody would have understood it. "[Terry] Gilliam has a history of blaming studios when his films go wrong. But he has no one to blame but himself for this poisoned apple," said one un-enchanted reviewer. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger play the eponymous brothers and folklore collectors who travel from village to village pretending to rid the inhabitants of evil creatures. Not based on fact, I think. (2005) 5

Idlewild (C4, 9.40pm). As OutKast, André "3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton are the styliest hip-hoppers around. In Benjamin's video for Hey Ya! in 2003, he played eight different green-clad versions of himself and won a Grammy. It's pretty cool but, best of all, he and Big Boi are able to laugh at themselves - something the hip-hop fraternity isn't well known for. So there were great hopes for Idlewild, a musical set in the American South during Prohibition, which was written and directed by Bryan Barber, the creator of OutKast's best music videos. Problem is, the greatness stops at the soundtrack. Without the plot and dialogue, this would make a fantastic two-hour music vid. As a full-length feature it's a bit of a mess - but even a mess by these original thinkers has its attractions. (2006) 5


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (TV2, 7.00pm). Or the magical story of how three little British kids got on the Hogwarts Express and became very, very rich ... The HP source, so to speak. Released in the US as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - because Americans don't know what a philosopher is? (2001) 7

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (TV3, 7.00pm). Scrat the ratty-squirrel thingy steals the show with his fruitless quest for the elusive acorn. Not quite as fresh or funny as the original and the main characters are a bit preachy, but it's the second-best film about a sloth, a mammoth and a sabre-tooth tiger I've seen in an age. Global warming for kiddies. (2006) 6

Second-Hand Wedding (Prime, 7.30pm). A likeable Kiwi comedy-drama about a garage sale-mad mum and her soon-to-be-married daughter, who fears her wedding will be turned into a jumble sale. Geraldine Brophy keeps the engine running as matriarch Jill and her little sidekick is a yellow Mini - yes! The debut feature for Paul Murphy, son of Geoff Goodbye Pork Pie Murphy. (2008) 6

House of 1000 Corpses (C4, 8.30pm). Not a horror parody. Not a horror comedy. A horror, and a horrid one, at that. But how seriously can you take a movie about the exploits of a family of murderous Texan psychos when it's directed by Rob Zombie and stars someone called Sheri Moon Zombie? Vile and unpleasant but also kinda confused: this one contains circus freaks and homicidal rednecks. (2002) 3

The Last Emperor (Maori, 8.30pm). Talk about decline and fall! Barely a virtual tomato was lobbed at the screen by critics or audience when this mighty epic about the life of Pu Yi, the last of China's emperors, was released. Bernardo Bertolucci takes nearly three hours to tell the tale - from royal tot and a quick go on the Dragon Throne to abdication at age seven and his eventual escape into the world outside the Forbidden City. The epic won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. With John Lone as the ultimately ordinary man who gardened his way to inner peace. (1987). 8

Meet the Spartans (TV3, 8.50pm). Whoa! Here's the barrel. And the bottom of it. And something to scrape it with. When the kindest thing a reviewer can say is "everybody should be ashamed", you know that a piss-take about the Spartans' battle with Xerxes and his Persian army was a very, very bad idea. Clearly, the networks don't think anyone is going to be sitting watching television this festive season. (2008) 1

Beowulf (TV2, 10.05pm). Another Robert Zemeckis performance-capture vehicle but the North Pole and human warmth are replaced by pre-Christian Denmark and limbs being hacked off every which way. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) is the latest in a line of warriors trying to kill Grendel the monstrous troll - but he hasn't reckoned on the troll's mummy - played with large-lipped menace by Angelina Jolie. Goes along at a (skull) cracking pace. (2007) 6


Drillbit Taylor (TV3, 7.30pm). Oh, Owen Wilson. I love you and your funny nose. What were you thinking when you signed up for this dreary sermon about bullied teens? And Judd Apatow? This is so unlike you. (2008) 4


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