Go out: Bio scope
In a way, the concept of Santa Claus is already a home-invasion thriller, in which a man breaks into your house and leaves presents based on an assessment of your moral purity obtained by watching you in unsolicited ways . But in this action comedy, he’s the good guy who defends a family against a no-good gang of robbers. David Harbor stars as not-so-holy Nick.
Tori and Lokita
The Belgian duo, the Dardenne brothers, are one of cinema’s most respected directors, creating stark portraits of mainly working-class people under pressure, and their latest is no different. Full of heart and humanity, this is the often gloomy story of Tori (Pablo Schils) and Lokita (Joely Mbundu), a couple of young people from Africa who struggle to live with any semblance of dignity in Europe.
Fanny and Alexander
Ingmar Bergman’s impeccable, classic story of an extended family in the early 20th century turns 40 this year and is being reissued by the BFI for the occasion. One caveat: you’ll need to set aside some time, as even the shortened version runs to 188 minutes.
Starring John Waters, David Lowery and Rodney Ascher, this is a documentary with a singular focus, looking at how 1939 family masterpiece The Wizard of Oz influenced the work of filmmaker David Lynch. Catherine Bray
Go out: Performances
December 4th on December 12; tour starts London
R&B experimentalist Kehlani’s third album, April’s atmospheric Blue Water Road, found them going all out on love, a switch from 2020’s more toxic It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Displaying various shades of complex emotions has become a Kehlani trait, with their performances swinging between the sweet and the sour. Michael Cragg
December 4 to December 20; tour starts Cardiff
As part of their late 20th anniversary celebrations, ’00s boy band Blue are embarking on an extensive arena tour (supported by denim-clad leg wagglers, B*Witched). While recent sixth album Heart & Soul added a handful of singles to their repertoire, the set list is likely to lean heavily on their bank of R&B-pop bangers and ballads. MC
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Duke
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 3 December
One of Europe’s great jazz big bands, led by saxophonist Tommy Smith, performs some of jazz composing legend Duke Ellington’s most famous works, including Rocking in Rhythm, Black and Tan Fantasy and 1959’s The Queen’s Suite. John Fordham
Colosseum, London, December 8
ENO’s one-off concert performance of Britten’s opera, depicting the final years of Elizabeth I, was originally planned as a belated platinum jubilee celebration, and is now becoming a tribute to the late queen. Christine Rice takes the role of Elizabeth, with Robert Murray as the Earl of Essex; Martin Brabbins conducts. Andrew Clements
Go out: Increase
Duke of York’s, London, until 11 December
Last chance to catch Juliet Stevenson’s stunning performance in The Doctor. Arthur Schnitzler’s play about a doctor with a dilemma was adapted with typical flair by theatrical prodigy Robert Icke.
Bettie! A kind of musical
Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, until 14 January
Brand new musical about Betty Boothroyd, the first female speaker of the House of Commons. Created by and starring Maxine Peake and Seiriol Davies and directed by Peake’s long-term collaborator Sarah Frankcom. Miriam Gillinson
Made Up Games Live!
Bloomsbury Theatre, WC1, 5, 7 and 8 December
Over the past eight years, Elis James and John Robins have established themselves as one of the most enduring comedy partnerships on British radio. Now they’re translating this long-running segment – in which a fiercely competitive Robins takes on the flawed James in a game invented by the listeners – to the stage for what should be a hell of a fun live show. Rachel Aroesti
Cracked Nuts: Camper as Christmas
Old Wool, Farsley, nr Leeds, December 3 and 4; Cold Bath Brewery, Harrogate, December 7; tour until December 20
A cabaret performance of Christmas stalwart The Nutcracker, from Leeds-based LGBTQ+ group Glitterbomb Dancers. For all the promised glamour, sass, jokes and pop songs, this show has solid dance credentials, co-directed by sharp choreographer Joseph Mercier, dance artist Imogen Reeve and Matthew Robinson of the National Dance Company of Wales. Lyndsey Winship
Go out: Art
Baltic, Gateshead, on April 30
Artists from the Northeast, including activist Emily Hesse, who died in early November, explore their connections to place. They explore not only the visible topography of the region, but its invisible poetry. Along with Hesse, participants include Jo Coupe (work pictured, above). Uma Breakdown, Laura Harrington, Mani Kambo, Sabina Sallis, Foundation Press and more.
Bloomberg New Contemporaries
South London Gallery of December 9 to March 12
This exhibition of young artists is a window into where we are headed. A generation that grew up with climate and other crises might be forgiven for jaundiced perspectives. Yet the variety of approaches is as irrepressible as ever, from surrealist photography by Mehmil Nadeem to Rudy Loewe’s Anansi banner.
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, to January 8
Money: as the recent Joe Lycett furore proved, it’s a gas to vandalize—or even pretend. This exhibition looks at how hard cash has been deliberately damaged and gleefully transformed by protestors and artists since the 18th century. Money became a political symbol in the American and French Revolutions. Defaced currency has also appeared in recent protests by Black Lives Matter activists.
British art fair
The Box, Plymouth, on January 8
Ghostly paintings of imaginary rainforests by Michael Armitage are the best things in this survey of current British art. Other highlights include Joanna Piotrowska’s shadowy black and white photography and Tai Shani’s Scooby Doo-ish sculptures. It’s a very uneven grab bag of the new that’s often fun, though rarely deep. Jonathan Jones
Accommodation in: Current
I am Ruth
December 8, 9pm, Channel 4 & All4
Each episode of this incredibly poignant anthology series sees creator Dominic Savage work closely with his female lead to form an intimate, nuanced portrait of a woman on the brink. This issue stars Kate Winslet as a mother whose child (Winslet’s real-life daughter, Mia Threapleton) buckles under the weight of social media’s insidious demands.
Rosie Molloy gives it all up
7 December, 10pm, Sky Comedy & Now
Sheridan Smith reunites with Two Pints of Lager creator Susan Nickson for a comedy about a hard-living Mancunian accountant sick of her many addictions (snacks, booze, Xanax, chocolate). But when she lets go of all her vices at once, the one-time chaos magnet is left to wonder who exactly she is without them.
A spy among friends
ITV’s new streaming service is hitting the ground running with a batch of original content, including a feature-length Plebs final, period adaptation The Confessions of Frannie Langton and this very promising spy drama, starring Guy Pearce as infamous double agent Kim Philby and Damian Lewis as the MI6 colleague who thought he knew him.
My dead body
December 5, 10pm, Channel 4 & All4
Before she died of a rare cancer in 2020, Toni Crews made the unprecedented decision to allow her body to be displayed in public, a gift intended to help the medical establishment better understand how the disease spreads. This extraordinary film documents the dissection of the 30-year-old, as well as the celebration of the person she was through interviews and home video footage. RA
Accommodation in: Games
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Out now, PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Nintendo Switch
Send some of Marvel’s lesser-known characters into turn-based strategy battles, while managing their friendships and love lives from the battlefield.
The Callisto Protocol
Out now, PlayStation, Xbox, PC
From some of the creators behind the sci-fi horror masterpiece Dead Space comes this dark space station thriller – like Alien but with more blood.
Out December 6, PC
This legendary nerdy fantasy game has you trying to manage a group of dwarves – but you never know what the game’s simulations will throw at you, from deadly weather to rebellion. Keza MacDonald
Accommodation in: Albums
Olly Murs – Marry me
The pop star returned to his day job with TikTok polish on his first album in four years. A move to a new label hasn’t exactly changed his bubbly pop sound, however, with the album’s lead single, Die of a Broken Heart, bolting an earworm chorus to a song that features the Police and Bruno Mars was borrowed.
White Lung – Premonition
Five years in the making, and delayed by life-changing events including the pandemic and first-time frontwoman Mish Barber-Way becoming a mother, this fifth album from the Canadian punk trio will also be their last. It’s a playful sign: caustic single, Date Night, reimagines God as a “bad boy who’s drunk.”
Metro Boomin – Heroes and Villains
One of hip-hop and R&B’s most sought-after producers—recent clients include The Weeknd, Drake, and Nicki Minaj—Leland Wayne follows up 2020’s 21 Savage collaborative album, Savage Mode II, with this typically cinematic second solo project. Guests include Travis Scott.
Half Alive – Conditions of a Punk
Half Alive’s seven-track Give Me Your Shoulders, Pt 1, which was released in February, was supposed to be followed by a second part to complete the album. Instead, the Californian alt-pop trio scrapped that idea in favor of this second full-length record, which fuses playful electronic flourishes with big pop sensibilities. MC
Accommodation in: Brain food
If books could kill
Airport books may seem designed only to be skimmed and tossed on the plane home. This entertaining series from Michael Hobbes aims to debunk that theory, tracing how pulpy bestsellers have often fueled dangerous ideas.
Mental Floss’ weekly episodes play along the lines of educational video essay channels like Big Think, breathing fresh life into topics as diverse as the unusual history of the California roll and the mystery of baby pigeons.
Spike Milligan: The Unseen Archive
December 7, 9pm, Sky Arts
Home movies, unpublished plays and even the backs of envelopes form the source material for this fascinating film about the comic Spike Milligan. The recordings and documents offer an unguarded glimpse into an often troubled mind. Ammar Kalia