Monday 23 March 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, March 23 - Sunday, March 29

TERRESTRIAL: I remember seeing Glory (Friday, 23:35, BBC2) at a cinema in Leeds way back in 1989 during my days as a feckless student with too much time on his hands. I was completely bowled over by Edward Zwick’s Civil War-set story of the Union army’s first all-black regiment and was delighted when it went on to hoover up gong after gong, including three Academy Awards. The odd thing is, I haven’t actually seen the film since and shall be fascinated to see how it stands up 26 years later. I suspect pretty well, as it’s an incredibly powerful tale (based on a true story) with fine performances all over the place, especially from Matthew Broderick – as the regiment’s white commander – and Denzel Washington, who deservedly scooped an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Also showing: A Serious Man (Tuesday, 23:35, BBC1) Cracking Coen brothers black comedy starring Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Stuhlbarg. The Devil’s Double (Wednesday, 23:15, BBC1) Dominic Cooper is the poor sod forced to pose as Uday Hussein in this graphic adaptation of a true story. The French Connection (Sunday, 01:20, Channel 4) William Friedkin’s crime classic featuring Gene Hackman in his most iconic role as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle.

CABLE & SATELLITE: Pitch-black secrets come spilling out when family and friends gather to celebrate the 60th birthday of a wealthy and respected patriarch in Thomas Vinterberg’s jaw-dropping Danish drama Festen (Saturday, 
00:50, Film4). Ulrich Thomsen (who you’ll recognise from The World is Not Enough and the US TV show Banshee) is mesmerising as Christian, the son left devastated by his sister’s suicide and the childhood terrors he reveals in an extraordinary birthday speech in his father’s “honour”. Don’t let the subtitles and deliberate low-fi feel put you off; Festen (or The Celebration as it was called in the States) is one of the finest films of the last 20 years.

Also showing: Guardians of the Galaxy (from Friday, 16:10 and 20:00, Sky Movies Premiere) Marvel’s best movie since Robert Downey Jr made his bow as Iron Man. This is Spinal Tap (Tuesday, 01:35, ITV4) Shit Sandwich, bizarre gardening accident, Smell the Glove etc. Primer (Thursday, 02:25, Film4) Time travel so mindboggling it’d even make Doc Brown’s head spin. Milk (Sunday, 23:00, BBC4) Sean Penn is superb in Gus van Sant’s biopic of gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk.

VOD: Paddington (Virgin, BT, Sky) might lack The Lego Movie’s mad invention and The Boxtrolls’ parade of grotesques, but it was still one of last year’s finest children’s movies. In fact, the Paul King-directed adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved series of books was so full of warmth and wit that even grumpy, cynical old gits like me were utterly charmed by it. Ben Whishaw (as the titular bear from "darkest Peru") and Sally Hawkins are the stand outs in a terrific cast while Nicole Kidman channels Cruella de Vil to good (bad) effect as the villain of the piece. With Paddington being a "non-EU migrant" and almost certainly over here to steal our jobs and women, it’s also refreshing the film makes a point of celebrating London’s inclusiveness and multiculturalism. A small but hugely welcome “up yours” to Nigel Farage and his gang of knuckle-dragging xenophobes.

Also showing: The Homesman (Virgin, BT, Sky) Tommy Lee Jones directs himself and Hilary Swank in a beautiful but bleak western; The Drop (Virgin, BT, Sky) Tom Hardy and the much-missed James Gandolfini star in a Dennis Lehane-scripted crime drama; Winter Sleep (Virgin, BT, Sky) Turkish epic that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  

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