Monday 12 January 2015

TV movie picks (UK): Monday, January 12 - Sunday, January 18

Instead of having a life, why not watch all the great films on telly this week? Here's a few of them...

TERRESTRIAL: Has there ever been a more convincing movie psychopath than Andy Robinson's Scorpio in Dirty Harry (Wednesday, ITV4, 23:20)? He's absolutely, spectacularly, gloriously deranged, and apparently received death threats after the movie was released. The scene in which he forces the terrified kids on the bus to sing "Row, row, row your boat" hasn't lost any of its power to shock 43 years on. Go on, take a look...

Magnum Force, Clint Eastwood's second outing as San Francisco police inspector Harry Callahan, follows on Friday (ITV4, 21:00). A pre-Hutch David Soul stars in that one as a rogue cop. My favourite scene is where Clint invites him round for a cup of herbal tea and a spot of couscous so they can both explore their feelings. It seems to me Sacha Baron Cohen has spent the last few years resting on his laurels - a misfiring comedy here (The Dictator), voice work on a kids' movie there (Madagascar 3). But Borat: Cultural Learnings of America Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Friday, Channel 4, 00.30) showcases the former Ali G at the absolute top of his game, as the titular character travels to the States in a bid to make Pamela Anderson his wife. Filthy and fearless, it's probably the funniest Hollywood comedy of the last decade (like that would be difficult). Great success!

CABLE & SATELLITE: There's a late-night samurai double bill on Film 4 on Friday. First up at 23:10 is blood-drenched revenge flick Shogun Assassin. It's a funny old Frankenstein of a film, being two episodes of the original Japanese Baby Cart series spliced together and dubbed into English. Don't let that put you off though, it's great fun. Even better is Akira Kurosawa's classic Yojimbo (00:55) starring the great Toshiro Mifune as a crafty ronin manipulating two rival gangsters to protect a small town. I used to know someone who'd never seen the film and thought it was called "Yo Jimbo", as in "Yo Jimbo, what time you off to the shops?". Hmm, maybe you had to be there...

The Grand Budapest Hotel won a Golden Globe last night for best musical or comedy and you can still catch it on Sky Premiere this week (Monday-Thursday, 20:00). If you've already seen it or Wes Anderson wackiness isn't your thing, set the PVR for Harmony Korine's hallucinatory and extraordinary Spring Breakers (Wednesday, Sky Select, 02:50), or the moving and life-affirming The Sessions (tonight, Sky Drama, 23:50). Helen Hunt should have won the Oscar in 2012 for her portrayal of a sex therapist treating a journalist left bed ridden by childhood polio.

VOD: New to View On Demand (Virgin Movies, BT TV, Sky Store etc) this week is Leviathan, a Russian film so bleak it makes Les Miserables look like an episode of Russ Abbot's Madhouse (one of the good ones where he does Cooperman). I thought the first hour was great before its unrelenting oppressiveness became too much even for me. I should make an attempt to see it again because it's on a lot of critics' top 10 lists for 2014 but, frankly, life's too short and I'm in a happy place right now. Rather more jolly is Lucy in which drug-mule Scarlett Johansson accidentally ingests a substance which enables her to harness 100 per cent of her brain's potential... and kill lots of people. I'm guessing that if Scarlett could really turn up her brain function to 11 she wouldn't have done those buttock-clenching TV ads for Dolce & Gabbana, with Matthew McConaughey.

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