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Byline: by Roz Laws

FINDING NEMO

BBC1, Christmas Day

IT was released back in 2003, but this Oscar winning animation is finally reaching terrestrial TV screens - and it's the perfect Christmas film. There's no snow or Santas in sight, but it's all about the importance of family.

The film sweeps us away from cold and grey Britain to the colourful tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef, where a clownfish called Marlin lives with his only son, Nemo. He's over-protective but can't stop Nemo being captured and thrust into a dentist's fish tank in Sydney.

Marlin faces an epic journey to rescue his son, meeting characters like forgetful Dory, pelican Nigel and fish-friendly shark Bruce.

Thanks to a sparkling script and amazingly detailed animation, this is great family festive fare.

MEET THE FOCKERS

BBC1, Friday 28

GAYLORD Focker (Ben Stiller) just about survived his fiancee's family in Meet The Parents, and now his future in-laws, ex-CIA Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner, get to meet his own parents in Miami.

They couldn't be more different from the Fockers, hippy Dustin Hoffman and sex therapist Barbra Streisand. And there's plenty of tension as we wonder whether the wedding will go ahead.

Not as funny as Meet The Parents, but this passes the time amusingly enough.

SHREK 2

BBC1, Christmas Day

IT'S not often that sequels are as good as the originals, but this hits the mark, thanks to a fantastic new character - sword-fighting Puss-In-Boots, played by Antonio Banderas. Look out for his wide-eyed trick to get everyone on side!

Shrek (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) return from their honeymoon to the swamp, but trouble starts when Fiona's parents invite the couple to the Kingdom of Far Far Away. Especially as King John Cleese had made a deal with Fairy Godmother Jennifer Saunders that her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) would marry Fiona. Clever and entertaining.

THE POLAR EXPRESS

ITV1, Christmas Day

THE best way to see this film is in 3D at Birmingham IMAX, but if you can't get to the cinema, it's a pleasant way of passing a Christmas afternoon.

Tom Hanks provides most of the voices for the motion-capture animated characters. He's a boy who is doubting the existence of Father Christmas, and the conductor on the Polar Express train which magically arrives to whisk him to the North Pole.

Santa's elves are frankly creepy, but the journey is exciting.

MOTORCYCLE DIARIES

Channel 4, Christmas Day

THIS fascinating film about the early life of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara features the epic journey he undertook around South America on a Birmingham-built 1939 Norton 600 motorbike.

Beautifully filmed and full of haunting images, this movie follows charming medical student Che (Gael Barcia Bernal) across the Argentinian pampas, the Chilean desert and into the Andes of Peru - including the impressive Machu Pichu - before ending up at a leper colony on the banks of the Amazon.

An uplifting, often funny feast for the eyes and heart.

MEET ME IN ST LOUIS

Five, Boxing Day

IT'S a classic festive film, with the wonderful song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, poignantly crooned by Judy Garland. Also listen out for The Boy Next Door and The Trolley Song.

This fun, charming movie is set in the year before the 1904 St Louis World's Fair, when the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love as they prepare for a reluctant move to New York.

PAN'S LABYRINTH

Film Four, Sunday 23

THE UK premiere of Guillermo del Toro's award-winning fantasy thriller is strange but wonderful.

It's set in Spain in 1944, among a troop of Franco's soldiers sent to rout out rebels and led by a sadist with his new wife and her daughter, 11-year-old Ofelia (the excellent Ivana Baquero).

She is drawn into Pan's Labyrinth, a magical world of mythical beings where a faun sets her three tasks to be crowned as a princess. Original, dark, scary and exciting.

CASINO ROYALE

Sky Movies Premiere, Sunday 23 to Friday 28

GET ready to be shaken and stirred this Christmas with the TV premiere of the most exciting James Bond film for years.

Daniel Craig proves to be a blond, believable, ballsy, brilliant Bond.

This is back-to-basics stuff, without silly stunts, gimmicks and over-complex plots. There are gripping action sequences around the world, beautiful women (though Eva Green is far more than just eye candy), a witty script and Craig's finely-honed body, which looks equally gorgeous in a dinner jacket and swimming trunks to match his piercing blue eyes.

It's also a better-acted Bond film than usual, with Craig showing us a tough but also sensitive and emotional side to 007.

HOT FUZZ

Sky Movies Premiere, Saturday 29 to New Year's Day

THE writing partnership of Simon Pegg - who also stars - and Edgar Wright - who also directs - worked brilliantly on Shaun Of The Dead and improves with this movie. It's even funnier, with more clever action and a truly stellar cast.

Pegg stars as Nicholas Angel, Britain's best police officer. His spectacular arrest record is making everyone else look bad, so his bosses Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy promote him to Sergeant and send him to the Cotswold village of Sandford.

Teamed up with PC Nick Frost, he's told crime is almost non-existent, until he uncovers a series of murders.

The fab cast includes Jim Broadbent, Bill Bailey, Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, David Threlfall, Anne Reid and Stephen Merchant.

HAPPY FEET

Sky Movies Premiere, Sunday 23 to Friday 28

A JOYFUL, funny, thrilling and visuallystunning delight, featuring a cute cast of animated penguins.

Mumble (Elijah Wood) is a tone deaf Emperor penguin who does, however, come out of the egg taping his feet. And that makes him an outcast in a South Pole community where everyone else can sing.

He's forced to leave behind his family and sweetheart Britanny Murphy and hook up with party-loving penguins led by Ramon (Robin Williams).

There's a hard-toswallow happy ending, but you've got to smile at an adorable chick tap-dancing to Stevie Wonder, or penguins moving in formation to Boogie Wonderland.

THE HOLIDAY

Sky Movies Premiere, Sunday 23 to Friday 28

THIS feelgood, gorgeous-looking film is full of Christmas spirit.

Kate Winslet is British journalist Iris, who temporarily swaps houses with movie mogul Amanda (Cameron Diaz) just before the festive season. Iris really lucks out when she leaves freezing Britain for sunny LA, but Amanda gets to stay in a chocolate-box country cottage and jump into bed with Iris's brother, Jude Law.

Meanwhile Iris is getting to know miscast composer Jack Black.

It's all very unrealistic and contrived, but there are enough laugh-out-loud lines and sweet moments to make it watchable. And look out for a surprising star cameo.

HOODWINKED

Sky Movies Premiere Sunday 23 to New Year's Day

FORGET what you think you know about Little Red Riding Hood. In this fun animated film, Red (Anne Hathaway) is a sassy girl who knows kung fu, Granny (Glenn Close) is a whizz at snowboarding and extreme sports, and the Wolf (Patrick Warburton) is an investigative reporter.

They are some of the movie's great characters, alongside a singing goat, a hyperactive squirrel and a snitch sheep who reveals "the word in the herd".

Best of all is the snappy dialogue and sharp script in a film that's great family entertainment.

CAPTION(S):

CRACKERS: Hot Fuzz, The Holiday, Motorcycle Diaries, Polar Express, Casino Royale, Pan's Labyrinth and Finding Nemo
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 23, 2007
Words:1241
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