Alan Dee’s cinema preview - Arthur Christmas

THE clever crew at Aardman Animation are famous as the people who brought you Wallace and Gromit, but there’s nothing of the one-trick pony about these artful animators.

Their latest project, crafted with their customary attention to detail and telling a charming story to boot, is Arthur Christmas.

There are big names galore in the voice cast, including James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy, and centre stage is Mr McAvoy – obviously not deterred from this sort of gig by the less than stellar success of Gnomeo & Juliet – as Santa’s son.

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There’s been a bit of a Christmas cock-up and one little girl has been missed off dad’s massive list, so it’s up to Arthur and his granpa (Nighy) to save the day.

It’s firmly aimed at the family market and released in time to have a decent run before we are all sick to death of Christmas cheer, but if you don’t catch it on the big screen you can rely on this being a TV fixture at around this time of year in the future.

> Hunky Dominic West, fresh from portraying evil killer Fred West, features in The Awakening, a period piece set in the years after the First World War.

Contacting folk on the other side is all the rage but Dominic is on the side of those who seek to expose charlatans exploiting the bereaved – but could there really be something in spiritualism? Atmospheric ghostly goings on, but the chills come mainly in the taut telling rather than CGI stunts and cheap shocks.

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> There’s a stack of CGI slapped on to Immortals, though – and all in 3D to boot. A lone peasant takes on an evil king in a fantasy epic based on Greek mythology, and if you were worried there was any chance of it not being completely over the top be reassured by the presence of John Hurt and Mickey Rourke in the cast.

It’s good to look at as long as you switch your brain off.

> Johnny Depp serves up one of his arthouse efforts in The Rum Diary, the haphazard tale of a drunken journalist who falls for a rich man’s girl.

It sounds lowlife and it is – directing is Bruce Robinson, who created cult hit Withnail & I, and it’s based on a semi-autobiographical book by hard-living hack Hunter S. Thompson, a part already played by Depp in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Hope he hasn’t gone too Method on this one, or you would have to fear for his liver...