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Michael's Christmas Movies

Friday, 19 December 2008

Walk the Line, 2005 (Dec 24, RTÉ One, 8.50pm)
Dr. Who - The Next Doctor (BBC One Christmas Day 6pm)
Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (BBC One Christmas Day 8:30pm)
Breakfast on Pluto, 2005 (Dec 25, RTÉ One, 9.30pm)
Kings, 2007 (Dec 26, TG4, 9.30pm)

Walk the Line
(JAMES MANGOLD, 2005) 120m ****

Mangold's look at the early life of Johnny Cash, from his bleak Arkansas childhood to his triumphal Folsom Prison concert in 1968, is a powerful portrait of a troubled genius. Joaquin Phoenix perfectly captures the rebel nature of the Man in Black while also impressing on the vocal front. Equally impressive is Reese Witherspoon's take on June Carter (again with the aid of her own vocals). Little wonder that she scooped an Oscar that year (Phoenix lost out to Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote).

Dr. Who - The Next Doctor BBC ONE Christmas Day 6pm
It's Christmas Eve in 1851 and Cyberman stalk the snow of Victorian London. When the Doctor arrives and starts to investigate a spate of mysterious deaths, he's surprised to meet another Doctor and soon the two must combine forces to defeat the ruthless Miss Hatigan played by Dervla Kirwan.

Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death BBc One Christmas Day 8:30pm
Oh bliss! Nick Park returns to the small screen, after The Curse of the Were Rabbit with a spanking new adventure for the beloved Plasticine pair. In this half hour classic, which doffs its hat to Hitchcock and ham acting, W&G have opened a new bakery only to discover that there is a 'cereal killer' on the loose

Breakfast on Pluto
(NEIL JORDAN, 2005) 135m ****

Following their successful collaboration on The Butcher Boy (1997), Neil Jordan and Patrick McCabe re-team to telling effect for this quirky and emotional tale. Cillian Murphy is superb as Patrick Braden, the small town boy who yearns to find the mother (Eva Birthistle) who abandoned him at the local priest (Liam Neeson)'s doorstep. At the same time, young Patrick is keen to explore his true identity as soft-spoken transvestite, Kitten, much to the chagrin of his 'family', neighbours and schoolteacher (played with gusto by McCabe himself).
The search for his phantom mother (his only clue is that she looks like Mitzi Gaynor) takes Kitten into the underbelly of society and a series of fateful encounters with an array of colourful characters. These include showband singer Gavin Friday, end-of-pier magician Stephen Rea, eccentric Womble (!) Brendan Gleeson, sleazy spiv Bryan Ferry and IRA activist Laurence Kinlan.
Despite the impressive performances of all of the above, the movie is held together by Murphy's remarkable turn. It's not enough that he has the cheekbones and slim hips to portray Kitten so convincingly. Murphy has to abandon himself completely to a character who is at times naïve, at times gleefully uninhabited, at times flirtatious and (at all times) motivated by the need to be loved. Well paced by the director and beautifully shot by Declan Quinn, Breakfast On Pluto is suffused with sequences that are pure Jordan and others that are pure McCabe.
It's early days in the Oscar stakes, and are there are many strong contenders in the field, but don't be surprised to see Corkman Cillian in the running for the big prize.

(TOM COLLINS, 2007) 88m ****

The first bi-lingual film to be produced in Ireland is a powerful drama that gives a voice to our disappeared: those Irishmen who travelled to London in the1970s and eventually disappeared through the cracks in the system. Based on Jimmy Murphy's play, Kings of the Kilburn High Road, the film looks at a group of Connemara men reunited for the funeral of one of their original group (echoes of Last Orders abound). One of them, Joe (Colm Meaney), has made a huge success of his business but is plagued by doubts and insecurities. The rest - played superbly by Donal O'Kelly, Barry Barnes, Brendan Conroy, Seán Ó Tarpaigh and Donncha Crowley - have pretty much had to scrape by, but they're too proud and too disillusioned to return home. Beautifully shot by PJ Collins, Kings is a triumph for director Tom Collins (Bogwoman).