Going out: Cinema
Avatar: The Way of Water
The first of four planned sequels to James Cameron’s aquatic epic. Presumably if this one doesn’t perform, we won’t see the rest, so if you’re keen for more Avataring, make sure you buy a ticket. Kate Winslet joins original stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver.
The Bishop’s Wife – 75th Anniversary
Given it stars Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven, they barely need an excuse to rerelease this charming film, but its 75th anniversary provides as good a hook as any. Alongside It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s probably one of the best loved films involving the intervention of an angel, although here the angel (played by Grant) is more suave than celestial.
In Dreams Are Monsters season
BFI Southbank, and nationwide
From programmers Anna Bogutskaya, Kelli Weston and Michael Blyth, the BFI’s splendidly creepy In Dreams Are Monsters horror season runs until the end of December with events around the country, and at the BFI Southbank, where films include Black Sunday, Cat People and Society.
Chapeltown Picture House, Manchester, Sunday
Part of In Dreams Are Monsters, this screening of Hideo Nakata’s classic 1998 horror will be preceded by a special live gaming event with a playable selection of J-horror-inspired video games available on the big screen. Catherine Bray
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Going out: Gigs
Bush Hall, London, 18 Decemberday
Since winning the 2015 Mercury music prize for his debut, At Least for Now, genre-agnostic troubadour Clementine has released two more albums, including October’s elegant and orchestral And I Have Been, and starred in the Oscar-winning Dune. Expect this intimate show to be just as bewitching and otherworldly. MC
Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester, 17 December
With her music once described by Tom Waits as “like going swimming in a lake at night”, American US singer-songwriter (and former nanny to Waits’ children) alt-folker Hoop cuts an interesting figure in the world of alt-folk. This final date on her winding, Europe-wide tour is the perfect opportunity for some pre-Christmas eccentricity. Michael Cragg
Wigmore Hall, London, 20 December
John Butt and the Dunedin Consort close their seasonal programme with Heinrich Schütz’s retelling of the Christmas story. One of the musical masterpieces of the early German baroque, Die Weihnachtshistorie is prefaced by works by Monteverdi, Alessandro Grandi and Schütz’s teacher, Giovanni Gabrieli, as well by his pupil David Pohle. Andrew Clements
Wigmore Hall, London, 18 December
Virtuoso American pianist-composer Jason Moran can merge a century’s worth of African American and European-classical innovations with such drive that gospel, pop, soul, funk, free jazz and formal composition can sound as if they were meant for each other – even at unaccompanied piano performances such as this. John Fordham
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Going out: Art
Horror in the Modernist Block
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, to 1 May
JG Ballard’s High Rise is the purest expression of the unease with modern architecture this exhibition explores but there are plenty of other building horrors, from Candyman appearing in a slick apartment to Attack the Block. The architectural uncanny is explored by Firenze Lai, Shezad Dawood, Ola Hassanain, Richard Hughes and more.
Sadie Coles HQ, London, to 12 January
This artist is thought of as a wild performer and film-maker whose works recreate a Dionysian 1960s revolutionary vibe. Here, though, Chetwynd exhibits glass sculptures made with artisans at Sunderland’s National Glass Centre, first shown in Durham Cathedral’s Galilee Chapel, and telling the stories of the Northumberland saints Cuthbert and Bede.
Sophie von Hellermann and Anne Ryan
Turner Contemporary, Margate, to 16 April
Margate-based painter Von Hellermann is a joyous creator of generous mural-scaled daubs that flow and float in creamy delight. She is therefore a natural to make big paintings to hang in the sea-facing space here. Ryan adds a crowded array of cavorting cutouts, but Von Hellermann steals the show.
Gagosian Davies Street, London, to 14 January
What could be more Christmassy than bright neon lights to fill the darkness with joy? Except it’s unlikely that Gordon’s gothic imagination, which famously led him to slow down Hitchcock’s Psycho and celebrate the music of Vertigo, is just trying to cheer up shoppers. He has worked with neon crafters, a dying breed. Jonathan Jones
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Going out: Stage
Bristol Old Vic, to 7 January
The team behind this action-packed Nutcracker have a track record of crowd-pleasers, which makes this a safe bet for a fun family day out. Expect magic, dance, music and adventure in this story of a Christmas Eve unlike any other. Kate Wyver
The Noise Next Door’s Comedy Lock In
Portsmouth Guildhall, 21 December
The Brighton improv troupe bring their expertly executed improv to Pompey, roping in a secret standup star (previous guests have included Katherine Ryan) to help weave some very random audience suggestions into a rollicking, joke-rammed show. Rachel Aroesti
Dance Studio, University of Sheffield, 22 & 23 December
A Wizard of Oz spin-off from Yorkshire-based Joss Arnott Dance. The
family show for ages seven-plus tells the tale of the Tin Man on a quest not
only for his heart, but also oil for his squeaky joints. Music is by composer Anna Appleby. Lyndsey Winship
Standing at the Sky’s Edge
Crucible theatre, Sheffield, to 21 January; National Theatre: Olivier, London, 9 February to 25 March
With book by Chris Bush and music and lyrics by Richard Hawley, this wistful musical won multiple awards when it debuted in 2019. This is another chance to cCatch it in its home town before it heads to the National in the new year. KW
Staying in: Streaming
I Hate Suzie Too
20 December, Sky Atlantic & Now
If the first series of Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble’s drama about the agony of modern celebrity resembled a manic fever dream, the second feels like a full-blown nightmare. Watch aghast as washed-up Suzie navigates a traumatic divorce while competing on wacky TV show Dance Crazee.
Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama
21 December, Channel 4 & All4
Today’s news used to be tomorrow’s chip paper; now it’s tomorrow’s star-studded true-crime drama. This two-parter relives the summer’s Wagatha Christie trial via court transcripts and a great cast: Chanel Cresswell is Coleen, Natalia Tena is Rebekah and the venerable Michael Sheen plays barrister David Sherborne.
A Ghost Story for Christmas: Count Magnus
23 December, BBC Two & iPlayer
In 2013, Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss took over the old BBC tradition of adapting spooky tales by the author MR James for the festive season. He continues with this Sweden-set yarn, starring Jason Watkins as a travelogue writer investigating the life of a landowner with an extremely dark past.
22 December, ITVX
Fighting over the family business is how many a great TV drama begins, which bodes well for this transatlantic series about a cosmetics tycoon (Holby City’s Hugh Quarshie) whose nearest and dearest – including children from two different marriages – start viciously scrapping over his beauty empire after he has a stroke. RA
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Staying in: Games
Out now, Nintendo Switch, PC
You’re a retired soldier trying to find peace in a hand-drawn Ghibli-esque island. Also, you’re a red panda . A peaceful life sim with cute looks.
The Witcher 3: Complete Edition
Out now, Xbox Series X/S, PS5
Newly updated for next-gen consoles, this superb, grimy fantasy game remains the closest that video games have come to Game of Thrones. Keza MacDonald
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Staying in: Albums
Nakhane – Leading Lines
South African singer, songwriter, actor and novelist Nakhane Mahlakahlaka has said this new four-track EP acts as a bridge between 2019’s album You Will Not Die and what’s to come. Featuring Perfume Genius and Nile Rodgers, it’s a sweaty, heady ode to disco decadence and house music’s political overtones.
Circa Survive – Two Dreams
Collecting the US post-hardcore band’s last two EPs – 2021’s A Dream About Love and February’s A Dream About Death – seventh album Two Dreams also marks the start of Circa Survive’s hiatus. It’s a typically multilayered swansong, with bubbling electronics coalescing with shards of guitar to unsettling effect.
Razorlight – Razorwhat? The Best of Razorlight
Landfill indie’s most divisive band – now regrouped in their original 2004 lineup – return with this greatest hits collection, plus a warts-and-all documentary, Fall to Pieces. You may not remember all of their eight (!) UK Top 20 singles, but Golden Touch and In the Morning remain above average.
Sam Fender – Live from Finsbury Park
Sam Fender, AKA North Shields’ answer to Springsteen became one of the stars of the summer following a career-defining Glastonbury performance and a plethora of huge headline shows. This live album memorialises July’s north London park gig, with the rousing Seventeen Going Under destined for future anthem status. MC
Staying in: Brain food
The Unofficial Science of Home Alone
19 December, Sky Max
Comics including James Acaster and Guz Khan enlist the help of stunt performers to find out whether the burglars in Home Alone would really have survived those brutal traps.
Scene 2 Seen
Deadline produces this series on the showrunners and film-makers disrupting onscreen storytelling. Host Valerie Complex provides engaging questions for the likes of adult film-maker Bree Mills and director Nyla Innuksuk, who documents her indigenous Canadian communities.
Four musical notes form the premise of this surprisingly moving documentary. Ostensibly trying to identify the composer of the Disney Channel theme, the film morphs into a meditation on the strange legacies of art. Ammar Kalia