Plus a Sex and the City reboot (minus one), a slick historical drama starring Nicole Kidman, and the return of Australian soap Bump
Don’t Look Up
Film, US, 2021 – out 24 December
“This comet is what we call a planet killer,” says a scientist (Rob Morgan) in director Adam McKay’s new black comedy sci-fi – because nothing is funnier than the end of the world. Meryl Streep’s president Janie Orlean hears this dire prediction for the fate of the human race and informs astronomers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) of her ingenious plan: “Sit tight and assess.”
This indicates the kind of comedy likely to ensue: about bureaucracy in general and humans’ reluctance (or inability) to save themselves in particular. McKay’s directorial work includes The Big Short, another comedy about an on-the-surface very unfunny subject matter: the global financial crisis and the people who saw it coming.
Cobra Kai: Season 4
TV, US, 2021 – out 31 December
Time to go … back to the dojo! The first season of karate soap opera Cobra Kai cleverly flipped the script, turning the bad guy from the original The Karate Kid, Johnny (William Zabka), into an underdog protagonist, and the original hero, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) into villain-ish character.
But across the first three seasons things got a bit complicated, with the roles of goodies and baddies blurring – at least when it came to those two adult characters. The kids are more stereotypical, as is the true villain (John Kreese, played by Martin Kove), but it doesn’t matter because the show is so sharply written and addictively entertaining. The fourth season should make good holiday viewing.
The Hand of God
Film, Italy, 2021 – out 15 December
The flavour of Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino’s work (including films Il Divo and The Great Beauty, as well as the TV series The Young Pope) is ostentation and excess. His latest film marks a departure in the sense that it is his most personal project, set when he was a teenager, at a time when he tragically lost both of his parents, their deaths caused by a carbon monoxide leak.
Honourable mentions: The Power of the Dog (film, 1 December), Lost in Space season 3 (TV, 1 December), Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (TV, 3 December), The Unforgivable (film, 10 December), The Witcher season 2 (TV, 17 December), Stay Close (TV, December 31).
Eyes Wide Shut
Film, 1999, US/UK – out 14 December
When I went to the cinema and watched Stanley Kubrick’s final film with two friends back in 1999, we all had very different experiences – speaking to its divisive qualities. I loved it, one of my friends hated it, and the other one fell asleep.
A “once seen but never forgotten” experience, chilling and grand, the film explores sexual yearnings, paranoia, orgies, and other hallmarks of a well-functioning marriage. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman deliver fine performances as said couple: a doctor and stay-at-home mum respectively. They don’t appear to have embraced method acting, though, with Kidman claiming the pair apparently went go-kart racing in between filming.
Bump season 2
TV, 2021, Australia – out 26 December
The first season of Stan’s original series Bump was by no means exceptional – but it was sweet, well-calibrated and thoughtful, bringing to life the urban myth of a teenager who doesn’t know they’re pregnant until they start giving birth.
Co-produced by and starring Claudia Karvan, with Nathalie Morris delivering a fine performance in the lead role, both return in season two, which continues to explore the lives of Oly (Morris), her partner Santi (Carlos Sanson Jr) and Oly’s parents (Karvan and Angus Sampson).
Honourable mentions: Results (film, 2 December), Police Academy (film, 4 December), Before Sunrise (film, 6 December), Landscapers (TV, 8 December), Before Sunset (film, 6 December), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (film, 22 December), Inception (film, 25 December),, Gringo (film, 29 December), The Disaster Artist (film, 30 December).
Amazon Prime Video
Being the Ricardos
Film, US, 2021 – out 21 December
Every film and TV show involving playwright-cum-screenwriter-cum-director Aaron Sorkin is an event: a very wordy, very eloquent event, full of slick patter and snappy retorts – the kind of dialogue we wish we could come up with in real life. His latest film is set over one week during the making of the iconic sitcom I Love Lucy, with Nicole Kidman playing star Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as co-star Desi Arnaz.
Sorkin has experience adapting true stories, even if he turns them into irresistible confection rather than realistic drama. Exhibit A: his very entertaining recent courtroom drama The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Film, US, 2009 – out 9 December
Over the years I have not hidden my affection for Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s highly distinctive disaster movie, about a nutty young inventor (voiced by Bill Hader) who accidentally summons extreme weather in the form of giant bits of food that rain from the sky. I have so far snuck my favourite quote from the film (“you can’t run away from your own feet”) into not one but two Guardian reviews – a fact I pondered for some time before divulging, realising that I have now tipped off my editors.
Anyway: watch this delightful, funny and visually inventive film for yourself, if you haven’t already. And if you have, watch it again.
Honourable mentions: Alex Rider season 2 (TV, 3 December), Harlem (TV, 3 December), The Protege (film, 3 December), Encounter (film, 10 December), I, Tonya (film, 21 December), Gringo (film, 29 December).
Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas
TV, UK, 2021 – out 24 December
Following on from my Meatballs-related comment above, I have also never hidden my affection for that lovable scamp Shaun the Sheep, and the frankly ingenious artists over at Aardman Animations responsible for Shaun and other iconic stop-motion classics such as Wallace and Gromit.
The Flight Before Christmas is a half-hour special; I would have preferred another feature length production to add to the exceptional Shaun the Sheep movie and its also great sheepquel – but some Shaun is better than no Shaun. If ewe haven’t seen either of those films (or the TV show they originated from), ewe really should; they’re woolly woolly good.
Honourable mentions: Brian Johnson’s A Life on the Road (TV, 1 December), Re-Frame (TV, 3 December), Would I Lie to You? at Christmas (TV, 9 December), Us (TV, 11 December), Sammy J: Full Credit to Christmas (TV, 16 December), The Yearly with Charlie Pickering (TV, 22 December).
SBS on Demand
Film, South Korea, 2019 – out 19 December
The hugely successful Oscar-winning film from great South Korean director Bong Joon-ho is both funny weird and funny ha-ha, with compelling class commentary under the bonnet. The poor Kim family – led by father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) – hatch a plan to insert themselves into the home and daily lives of the affluent Park family, who live in a sleek modern abode that is also now a very famous movie set, built from scratch.
Strange and sometimes outlandish events ensue, demonstrating the director’s strength in multiple genres and his capacity to surprise. Bong memorably described Parasite as “a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains”.
Honourable mentions: Perfect Life season 1 and 2 (TV, 3 December), Echos (TV, 9 December), My Brilliant Career (film, 9 December), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film, 10 December), The Sketch Artist (TV, 16 December), What We Do in the Shadows (film, 20 December), SF8 (TV, 23 December), Framed (TV, 26 December), The Silver Brumby (film, 28 December).
And Just Like That
TV, US, 2021 – out 9 December
The Sex and the City gang have occupied an important place in popular culture across six seasons and two spin-off movies, belonging to a franchise that provides a space for women to speak candidly about their sex lives. Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda (though not Samantha) return to screens as 50-something women who are still buddies, still charming and cheeky, and who of course still live in New York City, which is not just a setting in the show but a character itself.
Godzilla vs Kong
Film, US, 2021 – out 23 December
It was never going to win an Academy Award for best screenplay – though it was, for a brief period, mooted as the film that saved cinema.
More than just delivering what it says on the tin – an epic punch-on between a gargantuan lizard and a giant ape – director Adam Wingard also creates a great sense of scale, achieved through conceptually simplistic but visually effective means: contrasting small things (a young girl) with very large things (the aforementioned ape). He uses other tricks in the book, such as heavy rain and bright lights, to create an eye-watering – and at times eye-gouging – look that screams “CINEMATIC”.
Honourable mentions: Book Club (film, 11 December), Peter Rabbit (film, 24 December), Grease (film, 24 December), Love Me (TV, 26 December).
The Book of Boba Fett
TV, US, 2021 – out 29 December
Once upon a time (in a galaxy far, far away), Star Wars movies were rare events, and the only Star Wars TV shows were silly TV specials. Those days are long gone, friends, with Disney milking the brand for all it’s worth and pumping out a dizzying array of productions – including this adventure series themed around the famous bounty hunter.
We’ve already had two seasons of The Mandalorian, another space western following a bounty hunter. How about the Big Mouse do something truly boldand dedicate an entire TV series to Jar Jar Binks? The working title can be “The Book of Binks: mesa called Jar Jar!”
The Last Duel
Film, UK/US, 2021 – out 8 December
Described by New York Times’ Manohla Dargis as “what may be the big screen’s first medieval feminist revenge saga”, The Last Duel would have been an epic box office success, rather than a bomb, were it not for stupid millennials and their love of smartphones. At least that’s the logic of its director, Sir Ridley Scott, who is presumably not tickled pink that the film is landing on Disney+ after a short and limited theatrical season.
Set during the Hundred Years’ War, the story involves the wife (Jodie Comer) of a knight (Matt Damon) who refuses to stay silent about the identity of a man who viciously assaulted her. The film is of course best watched on your smartphone.
Honourable mentions: The Simpsons season 33 (TV, out now), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (film, 3 December), Welcome to Earth (TV, 8 December), Glass (film, 17 December), Fight Club (film, 24 December), Gone Girl (film, 24 December), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (film, 24 December), The Rescue (film, 31 December).
TV, US, 2021 – out 11 December
Our pets have experienced an emotional rollercoaster ride in recent times, inundated with human company during lockdowns, then cruelly separated from their beloved upon the recommencement of old routines. It stands to reason they should gather in group therapy, given reassurance such as “it’s important to remember that just because you had a bad day, doesn’t mean you’re a bad dog”.
That is a line from HouseBroken, spoken to a poodle (voiced by Lisa Kudrow) who’s been having a hard time since the sudden death of her best friend. The show is an adult animated sitcom that, given it covers mental illness, will inevitably draw comparisons to one of the best TV shows so far this century: BoJack Horseman. A tough yardstick.
Honourable mentions: Violet (film, 2 December), The Last Bus (film, 2 December), Paradise Lost (TV, 3 December), South Park movie (film, 17 December), 1883 (TV, 20 December).