December is always a big month for Sky Cinema and there’s plenty of fancy pants advertising to get people in the Christmas mood as it loads up on anticipated premieres. And Cats.
Update 04-Dec-2020: X Company S3/Final added (05th Dec) - Euphoria trailer added (07th Dec) - Micky Flanagan: Peeping Behind The Curtain added (18th Dec) - Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse (confirmed 24th Dec) - Magnum PI (confirmed 27th Dec) - Modern Family S1-11 added (28th Dec)
Update 09-Dec-2020: Roald & Beatrix: The Tale of the Curious Mouse trailer added (24th Dec)
Update 14-Dec-2020: Jack and the Beanstalk After Ever After added (23rd Dec)
Given the time of year, it’s hardly surprising that Sky / NowTV has given a whole movie collection over to Christmas, in fact it’s already up and running with plenty of perennial faves, with more well-loved seasonal offerings on the way throughout the month too.
Away from Christmas movies, Sky will be giving film fans a chance to see some of the higher profile movies that they missed in theatres due to the pandemic or perhaps weren’t aware had come to PVOD (Premium Video On Demand).
So, from the start of the year, we get the likes of Robert Downey Jr’s post MCU gig, Dolittle along with well received takes on Emma and Little Women, both from female directors. Kids get a treat with Sonic the Hedgehog and Trolls World Tour turning up, while Clemency looks sure to be a tough watch as it tackles difficult topics.
The long awaited final series of Tin Star sees Tim Roth’s Jack Worth return to Liverpool to face up to his past, but perhaps the most eagerly anticipated new TV show coming to Sky is Ridley Scott’s Raised By Wolves which US viewers were treated to on HBO Max back in September - it comes to Sky Atlantic on 5th Dec.
And, yes Cats is coming on Boxing Day, but before we fall into the trap of giving it a rigorous kicking just because everyone else has, we’ll watch it with clear eyes and open hearts prior to making up our minds… and then give it a kicking. It hardly seems fair but then we are dog folks here at AVForums!
Here’s a closer look at the pick of movies and shows hitting Sky and Now TV subscribers’ screens in December.
Premieres (Requires Sky Cinema subscription or Now TV Sky Cinema Pass)
Dolittle (2020, Family, Comedy, Fantasy. Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jessie Buckley, Voices: Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland)
Following the death of his wife seven years earlier, Dr. John Dolittle leads a hermit-like existence behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company. However, when he reluctantly travels in search of a mythical island in pursuit of a cure for the gravely ill queen, his adventures start to reinvigorate his old self.
Hugh Lofting created the character of Dr. Dolittle during his time in WWI where it was born out of the alternating boredom and horror of trench life, and since then, it has become a veritable wellspring for Hollywood having been brought to the screen in both 1967 and 1998.
This version comes from Stephen Gaghan, the director of Syriana and principal photography took place in Cumbria and Wales with Downey Jr’s ‘Welsh ‘accent spawning from research he’d done on Welsh ‘Neo-Druid’ doctor William Price.
Undergoing weeks of reshoots and weighed down by poor reviews, Dolittle is estimated to have lost Universal £100M which, given the impending cinema shut down throughout 2020, was definitely not the way the studio would have wanted to kick off the year.
Emma (2020, Comedy, Drama, Romance. Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Nighy, Johnny Flynn, Dir. Autumn de Wilde)
In Regency era England, Emma is a well meaning but selfish young woman who sees herself as Queen Bee, interfering in the love lives of her friends and associates in the belief that she knows best. As far as her own life goes, Emma must muddle through misguided matches and romantic missteps to find the love that has been there all along.
Jane Austen’s comedy of manners about finding your equal and earning your happy ending is a satire of social class and the pain of growing up and has been addressed in filmed versions ranging from Gwyneth Paltrow’s faithful 1996 rendition to the alternative valley-girl take, Clueless.
Critical Thinking (2020, True Life, Drama. John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dir. John Leguizama)
In 1998, five latinx and black teenagers from the toughest underserved ghetto in Miami fight their way into the National Chess Championship under the guidance of their unconventional but inspirational teacher.
In between fixing John Wick’s car and slothing it as Sid, John Leguizamo directed this from a script by Dito Montiel. As with so many movies this year, its premiere (at South by Southwest) was cancelled due to the pandemic.
A Christmas Feast (aka Feast of the Seven Fishes, 2019, Romance, Comedy. Skyler Gisondo, Madison Iseman, Josh Helman)
Set, in a rust belt town on the banks of the Monongahela River during the early days of the MTV phenomenon, A Christmas Feast is a slice of life story that follows a large, fiercely Catholic Italian family on Christmas Eve as they prepare for the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes, where they can reminisce about the past, and seek love in the future. This year though, young son Tony is about to bring an affluent, Ivy League, Protestant girl to his family’s raucous tradition.
A Christmas Feast also stars the ultimate 27 percenter, Joe ‘Joey Pants’ Pantoliano.
Love Sarah (2020, Comedy, Drama, Romance. Rupert Penry-Jones, Celia Imrie, Bill Paterson, Shelley Conn)
A young woman wishes to fulfill her mother's dream of opening her own bakery in Notting Hill, London. To do this, she enlists the help of an old friend and her grandma.
Features former Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown as the titular Sarah whose passing sets the whole undertaking in motion.
Little Women (2020, Drama, Romance. Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Dir. Greta Gerwig)
In 1868, Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the story of her beloved sisters. As siblings, the four young women were each determined to live life on their own terms.
Adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s evergreen source novel by director Greta Gerwig, this is the seventh cinematic version and, with its modern sensibilities carefully woven throughout to update the tale for today’s audiences, it had high hopes for some Oscar lovin’ at the 92nd awards. However, it only came away with one for Costume Design, which does seem a rather awkward pat on the head by the Academy.
Audiences loved it though and its Box Office pull of $216M against a budget of $40M is testament to Greta Gerwig’s helming and the star power of the cast.
Sonic The Hedgehog (2020, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy. James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Voice: Ben Schwartz)
After discovering Sonic, a small, blue, lightning fast hedgehog from another planet, a small-town police officer must help him find his lost portal rings and defeat the evil genius Dr Robotnik, who is tracking Sonic down with plans to perform experiments on him.
Movie development for this long standing SEGA video game franchise had been ongoing in one form or another since 1990s but production only really got serious after Paramount acquired the property in 2017.
Despite the furor over the first pass digital recreation of a supersonic blue hedgehog which doesn’t actually exist (and which raised interesting questions about how much say the audience gets in the creative process) Sonic the Hedgehog went on to win over audiences and critics enough to warrant a sequel planned for 2022.
Misbehaviour (2020, True Life, Comedy, Drama. Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Dir, Philippa Lowthorpe)
In 1970, the Miss World competition was the most watched TV show in the world and the 100 million live audience witnessed first the storming of the stage by members of the newly formed Women’s Liberation Movement claiming beauty pageants objectify women and secondly, the surprise win of Miss Grenada, the the first black woman to be crowned Miss World. In just hours, a global audience had seen the patriarchy driven from the stage and the Western ideal of beauty turned on its head.
Misbehaviour was the final film from Pathé UK to be released under the 20th Century Fox name.
Moonmins and the Winter Wonderland (2017, Animation, Adventure, Family. Voices: Stellan Skarsgård, Alicia Vikander, Bill Skarsgård)
The winter seems extraordinary in Moomin Valley, so Moomintroll decides to stay awake instead of having his typical winter slumber in order to find out what the world looks like while his whole family sleeps. He discovers snow and frost, and learns that strange creatures wander amidst the snowdrifts in the midwinter darkness. Most excitingly, there are hints that indicate an eccentric guest is soon to arrive. This new guest is called Christmas, and an astounded Moomintroll learns to experience the true meaning of this wonderful holiday.
Clemency (2020, Drama. Alfre Woodard, Richard Schiff, Aldis Hodge, Dir. Chinonye Chukwu)
Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute inmate Anthony Woods, who continues to protest his innocence, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, and which put untold pressure on her and her family, but which ultimately connect her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.
Director Chukwu was inspired to write the film after a widely protested execution in 2011. Her six years of research included running a film programme for inmates in Ohio and advocating for retrials in unsafe cases.
Clemency had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2019, where it won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize there, making Chukwu the first black woman to win the award.
Like a Boss (2020, Comedy. Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek)
Best friends Mia and Mel have very different approaches and ideals but manage to run a beauty company together, which they have built from the ground up. Unfortunately, they’re in over their heads financially, and the prospect of a big buyout offer from a notorious titan of the cosmetics industry Claire Luna (Salma Hayek) proves too tempting to pass up, putting Mel and Mia’s lifelong friendship in jeopardy. When they realise what they’re about to lose, they have to agree to take back control of their beloved company.
Trolls World Tour (2020, Animated, Musical, Comedy. Voices: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, Sam Rockwell)
Trolls Poppy and Branch discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Unfortunately, their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder as Barb, the Queen of the Hard Rock Trolls, tries to take over all the Troll kingdoms and turn them to headbanging.
It’s up to Queen Poppy and her friends to set out to visit all the other lands to unify the Trolls in harmony against Queen Barb.
Trolls World Tour became the opening skirmish in an ongoing and rapidly changing confrontation about the future of movie distribution when it was deployed in US theatres and on PVOD on the same day. The success of this approach for Universal made for grand proclamations by the studio which were met by several lines in the sand from the main cinema chains, before clearer heads prevailed. However, as the entire entertainment industry gets to grips with the devastating effect of the pandemic on its operating models, it’s clear that some lasting changes will have to be made with regard to future distribution.
Cats (2019, Drama, Musical, Fantasy. Francesca Hayward, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Dir. Tom Hooper)
Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical (itself based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) sees a Victoria, a young white cat, abandoned in the streets of London where she has to rely on a troupe of street cats to show her the ropes. It becomes clear that they are all hyped up about the upcoming Jellicle Ball, an annual ceremony where cats compete for the chance to be granted a new life.
After Sonic, this is December’s second film whose early trailers revealed a look at the movie’s protagonists and drew forth shrieks of ‘kill it with fire’ from intertwebbies (or anyone with a functioning visual cortex really).
A slew of CGI errors in the finished product including Dame Judi’s hand where a paw should have been, and a humorously teased cut of the movie where certain feline orifices are still present have transformed this from an A-list starring passion project to a proud contender for worst film of all time alongside Showgirls and Birdemic… though not as well regarded.
Is it deserved? Well now’s your chance to soothe your Boxing Day hangover with kittens and singing and see for yourself.
Downhill (2020, Comedy, Drama. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Zach Woods)
Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other after husband Pete attempts to get to safety while ignoring his loved ones.
A remake of 2014 movie Force Majeure, this English language version was co-directed by Greendale Community College’s own Dean Pelton (and Academy Award winner) Jim Rash who also co-wrote the script with Jesse Armstrong, creator of Channel 4’s Peep Show and HBO’s Succession.
Christmas (Ongoing from 6th November)
If you haven’t started your Chrimbo movie binge marathon, this is the perfect place to start. Highlights include:
Bad Santa (2003)
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011)
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Trading Places (1983)
Die Hard (1988)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Last Christmas (2019)
Love Actually (2003)
The Holiday (2006)
The Polar Express (2004)
Harry Potter (19th December - 3rd January)
Harry Potter (The Complete Collection 2001 - 2011) - the movies return for another Sky Collection stint (did they ever go away?)
5 Star Movies (31st December - 06th January)
This collection only contains movies that have scored 90% or above on Rotten Tomatoes, so, although some of them might not be classics just yet (Alita!?), at least you know they’re heading in the right direction.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Forrest Gump (1994)
The Lion King (1994)
Little Monsters (2019)
Corpus Christi (2019)
Blood Diamond (2006)
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
(Requires Sky TV subscription, Now TV Entertainment Pass)
Raised By Wolves (2020, S1) Sky Atlantic
Two androids - Mother and Father - are tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet, Kepler-22b, after Earth was destroyed in a great war. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.
Many UK viewers felt aggrieved that the Ridley Scott exec produced sci-fi series only appeared on HBO Max Stateside when it aired in September. Now, however, Sky customers will get to see all episodes available on demand which includes the Ridley Scott directed first two parts.
X Company (S3 / Final) Sky History 2 - Added 04-Dec-2020
Inspired by remarkable true stories, this Canadian WW2 drama follows the stories of five highly skilled young recruits torn from their ordinary lives to train as agents at Camp X, an ultra-secret facility specialising in espionage and covert operations.
Euphoria (Season Special) Sky Atlantic
This seasonal special entitled “Trouble Don’t Always Last” picks up right after the climactic ending of season 1 and deals with the associated aftermath as Rue celebrates the holiday season.
Trailer added 04-Dec-2020
Tin Star: Liverpool (2020, S3 / Final) Sky Atlantic
An ex undercover UK cop turned police chief of a small town in the Canadian Rockies does what he must to defend his family from those in power, whether it's the oilmen, the preachers or the gangsters.
The shocking and darkly comic third and final season of Tin Star tells the story of Jack, Angela and Anna returning to Liverpool, after their trials in the Canadian Rockies, to where their story began twenty years ago. They will face their deadliest enemies in a battle with the past to win freedom in the present but they will be forced to face up to the devastating and inescapable truth about who they really are.
And you know you’re in trouble when Roth gives you that look!
Outmatched (2020, S1) FOX UK
A blue collar, working-class couple raise their genius kids in Atlantic City.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (2020, Documentary)
The first-ever feature documentary on the Bee Gees, authorised by Barry Gibb and the families of the late twins Robin & Maurice Gibb.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, directed by acclaimed producer Frank (‘Seabiscuit’, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’) Marshall chronicles the decades-long success of brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, otherwise known as the Bee Gees.
The iconic trio, who found early fame in the Sixties, went on to write over 1,000 songs, many for other well known performers, as well as number one hits for themselves. The film follows the Bee Gee’s rise, as they experienced the highs of fame and fortune, negotiated the vagaries of the ever-shifting music business and handled the complexities of working so intimately alongside family.
Micky Flanagan: Peeping Behind the Curtain Sky One - Added 04-Dec-2020
Feature length documentary which takes an honest and intimate look at Micky’s rise from stand up in East End pubs to performing to more people than Beyoncé and Take That in his ‘An Another Fing’ show, the sell-out 02 stadium run that became the world’s biggest comedy tour.
Featuring early raw material, this film reveals the man behind the laughter and invites the audience to experience the world of a master comic at work.
Moonbase 8 (S1), Sky Comedy
58 years after JFK gave his famous Moon Speech, Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker and John C. Reilly are embarking on their own mission playing three astronauts trying to qualify for their first lunar trip. Set in the isolated desert of Winslow, Arizona at NASA’s Moon Base Simulator, MOONBASE 8 the subpar trio encounter obstacles along the way including loneliness, self-doubt and their own incompetence.
Jack and the Beanstalk After Ever After Sky One - added 14-Dec-2020
What if, after chasing Jack down the beanstalk and falling to Earth, the giant wasn’t dead but merely stunned, and what if he woke up and had lost his memory?
After last year’s Cinderella story, David Walliams takes another well known fairy tale and looks beyond the accepted ‘…and they all lived happily ever after’, because we all know that life’s just not like that.
David Walliams stars as the giant and Sheridan Smith is the Woman With No Name, the self proclaimed greatest giant killer in the land.
Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse Sky One - moved 04-Dec-2020
This feature length, heart-warming Christmas film, inspired by the true story of when a six-year-old Roald Dahl meets his idol, Beatrix Potter, just as she is experiencing doubts about the future of her writing as her eyesight is beginning to fail.
This heartwarming comedy drama tells the story of their real-life meeting and how it inspired a grown-up Dahl to write magical children’s books of his own.
Dawn French leads a cast of familiar faces including Jessica Hynes, Rob Brydon, Alison Steadman and Bill Bailey, while John Hannah narrates.
Updated 09-Dec-2020: Trailer added
Magnum PI (S3), Sky One - Added 04-Dec-2020
An ex-Navy SEAL returns from Afghanistan and uses his military skills to become a private investigator in Hawaii.
Jay Hernandez and Perdita Weeks star in this reboot of the classic 80s crime series which saw Tom Selleck abandon the mantle of ‘first Indiana Jones’ to become forever associated with Hawaiian shirts and two doberman pinschers named Zeus and Apollo.
Modern Family (S1-11 Boxsets)
The award winning and hugely popular US family sitcom presented in the ‘mockumentary’ style came to an end earlier in the year after 11 seasons. The entire binge worthy series is now available.
NCIS: Los Angeles (S12), Sky One
So that’s it for December 2020. Has Sky seen out the year with a bang or were you hoping for something more? As new content is added, we’ll update the listing, so be sure to check back so you don’t miss out. In the meantime, why not leave a comment and let us know what you’re looking forward to, what you’ve enjoyed and maybe what was disappointing.