Stay-At-Home Seven: December 28 to January 4

Films to catch on television and streaming services over New Year

by Amber Wilkinson

As we see out the old year and welcome in the new, here's our Stay-At-Home Seven pick of films to catch on television and streaming services this week. If you need more inspiration, many of last week's films are still available to stream, plus check out our Streaming Spotlight on games in the movies.

Stardust, 4.40pm, Channel 4, New Year's Day

If you're looking for a family-friendly film that all ages can enjoy, this Neil Gaiman adaptation is a perfect choice. Charlie Cox stars as a young man who pledges to go on a quest into the neighbouring magical realm for a falling star in a bid to the heart of local lass Victoria (Sienna Miller). The star, it turns out, is not a lump of rock but a young girl (Claire Danes) who is being hunted by the evil Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) for her heart. Although there's a lot going on, including a fight for succession of the kingdom, it's never hard to follow and there's any number of excellent actors popping up as the tale zips along - including Robert De Niro, Mark Strong and Ricky Gervais among others. Humour, meanwhile, is deftly employed while retaining the general epic fantasy spirit. If you liked the Princess Bride, then this is for you. Read our full review.

Guardians Of The Galaxy, 10.55pm, BBC1, New Year's Day

When it comes to some of the Marvel Comic films, it's easy to feel all at sea if you don't arrive armed with a love and knowledge of the source material and all the movie entries to date. That's most certainly not the case with James Gunn's space adventure, which refuses to take itself - or anything else for that matter - too seriously. Chris Pratt stars as Peter Quill, orb stealer and bounty hunter target, who finds himself in an oddball alliance with a gun-toting raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a less than conversational but intelligent tree called Groot (Vin Diesel), assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and vengeance-seeking Drax (Dave Bautista). Sharing a similar, though more family-orientated irreverence to comic book heroes as Deadpool, Gunn and his co-writer Nicole Perlman still retain plenty of action adventure, helped enormously by the classy cast, who are clearly enjoying themselves immensely. Oh, and did I mention the Awesome Mix tape? Read our full review.

Amazing Grace, 8.30pm, BBC2, Saturday, January 2

She was known as the Queen of Soul and I defy her performance here not to lift yours, whatever you do or don't believe in terms of faith. The story behind this is amazing in itself. Filmed all the way back in 1972, Sydney Pollack (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?) turned his hand to concert directing, something he wasn't used to and he was given the job over the more experienced James Signorelli, who was originally in the frame. Presumably due to inexperience, Pollack didn't use clapperboards - which help synchronise the sound with the picture, so he ended up with some 2,000 bits of film and no idea how they married to the music and that wasn't fixed until a technical team tackled it in 2008. Then they couldn't find the contract with Franklin for the release and, when they ultimately did, she challenged it. Finally, after her death, her niece Sabrina Owens approved it and here we are. And what a place to be! The fact there were so many cameras has become a virtue in hindsight as there's a real sense of energy about the whole enterprise, Franklin's powerful performance somehow magnified more by the fact she's so quiet in between times. It's truly intimate because of the church setting and the fact that the crowd act not like music fans but in the way of a gospel congregation, jumping up to join in or euphorically clapping along. You feel both the warmth of her room and the heat of her spirit - cinema at its most joyful. Read our full review.

The Fits, 12.05am, BBC2, Sunday, January 2

Tucked away in the small hours, this US indie gem is well worth staying up for. Anna Rose Holmer's lean and engaging debut is a poised character study of Toni (exceptional newcomer Royalty Hightower, who has done less than you might expect since) an adolescent who is exploring what she wants from her own identity. She finds herself torn between the boxing world she has become immersed in via her brother and the very sort of different camaraderie that is offered by the all-girls drill team - a type of group dance that is popular in the US. Holmer explores the way that people adopt an identity or an attitude according to their chosen tribe, showing how Toni's different 'look' keeps her on the fringes while, as the film progresses, exploring the psychological pressures at play as first one girl and then more begin to experience to "the fits" of the title. Beautifully choreographed with the help of movement consultant Celia Rowlson-Hawll so that all the action has a fluid quality, the emphasis is on the physicality of what is happening, reinforced by a strong clapping beat in the score from Dani Bensi and Saunder Juriaans as Toni decides to what degree she wants to fit in. Read our interviews with the composers and director, plus our full review.

The Witch, 11.50pm, Film 4, January 2

Superstition, fable and religion come together to form a chillingly atmospheric mix in Robert Eggers' feature debut, a historic horror which, in testimony to its beautiful crafting, premiered at Sundance not in the traditional Midnight section but the US competition. The setting is 17th Century America, where Yorkshireman William (Ralph Ineson), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their family have been banished from their settlement. Puritanical in their beliefs, their new home is marked by extreme isolation on the fringes of a forest, a place where eldest daughter Tomasin (Anna Taylor-Joy, making her breakout film debut) finds it tough to look after her younger siblings. When, one day, her baby brother disappears in the middle of a game, the family begins to unhinge, as the fears of the parents are passed to the children and disturbing psychosexual tensions also emerge. Eggers draws fully on the iconography of the period, along with painters like Caravaggio and Goya, to craft a bone-chilling study of fractured family and faith that also offers up a canny little origin story about "a witch in the woods". Read our full review.

I Walked With A Zombie, BBC iPlayer

Superstition and possible supernatural forces also come to the fore in Jacques Tourneur's haunting horror film, made the year after Cat People, reprising his partnership with producer Val Lewton. It charts the experiences of young Canadian nurse Betty (Frances Dee) as she heads to the Caribbean to look after a plantation owner's wife (Christine Gordon), only to fall for him (Tom Conway) at the same time as becoming convinced that a voodoo curse is at work. Featuring a resourceful heroine, who knows her own mind and crisp chiaroscuro from J Roy Hunt that emphasises light and dark to an exceptional degree, a moody melancholy permeates the action from start to finish. Read our full review.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark,  5.30pm, Channel 4, January 3

One of those films that we come to think of as 'old friends' as it crops up most Bank Holidays somewhere, Steven Spielberg's action adventure still feels so fresh that it's hard to believe it will turn 30 next year. Featuring Harrison Ford at the height of his fame as the whip-toting, wisecracking archaeologist, this is a boy's own tale that whistles along from that much mimicked opening sequence involving treasure and a rolling stone to the surprisingly dark ending. Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas and Philip Kaufman carefully fold will-they/wont-they romance into the fist-fight and explosive-driven melee (with Karen Allen giving an enjoyably sparky performance as Jones' ex Marion), along with an enjoyable dollop of humour. Fast-paced and engaging from the off, this is one of cinema's rewatchable treasures. Read our full review.

For our short this week, we're taking a walk on the wild side of a city at night with Spanish animation Rueda Cabeza (literally translated as wheel head) from Borja Santomé, which makes a virtue of a single water colour - black.

RUEDA CABEZA from Borja Santomé Rodríguez on Vimeo.

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