Recommended Freeview films, 20/2/21 to 26/2/21

FILM OF THE WEEK

Valkyrie (2008) is an intelligent and exciting telling of one of history’s “if onlys”, with an excellent cast. Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the army officer who led the ambitious plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. In keeping with Hollywood practice, almost all the other Nazis are played by British actors, including Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh and Terence Stamp. Hitler is played by David Bamber, usually seen in light roles on television: he got the role because of his strange eyes. Action director Bryan Singer tells the story as a thriller, but sticks closely to the facts. Cruise did his homework, but he was controversial in Germany, where they are not keen on followers of authoritarian cults. Valkyrie is on Film4 on Wednesday (24/7) at 21:00. 

World Cinema

On Saturday (20/2) at 01:05, Channel 4 has We Are the Best! (2013). This went down like a can of freshly-opened surströmming when we showed it at CFS in 2014/15. Teenage girls! Swearing in Swedish! Terrible punk music! Altogether delightful.

On Monday (22/2) at 10:35, Sony Pictures has Sergey Bondarchuk’s epic Waterloo (1970), with a starring role for the late Christopher Plummer. He wasn’t all “Eidelweiss”. 

On Tuesday (23/2) at 01:25, Film4 has Amanda (2018), a French film about man whose sister is killed in a terrorist attack, who then finds himself looking after his seven-year-old niece. With Vincent Lacoste as David, and a cameo from wacky Greta Scacchi as his estranged English mother. Promising.

On Friday (26/2) at 00:05, Talking Pictures (love Talking Pictures) is giving another outing to The Passenger (1975), the semi-comprehensible Antonioni with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider, referred to only as The Girl. It was the Seventies.

Stephen’s Picks

Aside from Valkyrie, Stephen has dipped into the memory box this week. On Sunday (21/2) at 13:35, BBC2 has The Lady Vanishes (1938). Billed as “The Film That Made ALFRED HITCHCOCK the Master of Suspense”. Continental jeopardy, humour and steam trains. At 14.10, ITV has Jurassic Park (1993), from a never-better Spielberg. Dinosaurs run amok, although according to the old Daily Telegraph style book, only Malays can do that. At 15:40 BBC2 brings us more Hitchcock with Suspicion (1941). The brilliantly elusive Cary Grant is a charming man and possible murderer. On Friday (26/2) at 11:20, BBC2 has Empire of the Sun (1987), from J.G. Ballard’s autobiographical novel about growing up under the Japanese occupation of China. A coming-of-age film that won’t make you groan.

Modern films of interest

On Saturday (20/2) at 23:25, BBC1 has Stronger (2017), with Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, the real-life survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing.

On Sunday (21/2) at 18:05, Channel 4 has Wes Anderson’s thoroughly animated Isle of Dogs (2018). Stephen hated it and I wasn’t that keen, but maybe we’d both been traumatised by our furry friends as children. At 23:15  BBC2 has A Monster Calls (2017), a lovely 12A in which a boy confides in a tree when his mother has a terminal illness. Trees are full of wisdom.

On Monday (22/2) at 21:00, BBC4 has a documentary called Into the Storm: Surfing to Survive (2020). Jhonny Guerero, a boy from the Peruvian barrios, is befriended by the country’s top professional surfer and she helps him escape his grim circumstances. Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world. Also to be seen on Thursday (25/2) at 00:00. 

On Wednesday (24/2) at 23:20, Film4 has more Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World (2017).  

On Thursday (25/2) at 01:10, Channel 4 has Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), from the Frank Miller comic strip (graphic novel, if you insist). At 02:00, Film4 has Venus (2006), written by Hanif Kureishi and starring Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips and Jodie Whittaker. Two old actors and a troublesome teenage girl. Poignant, heart-warming, funny, sexy.

On Friday (26/2) at 21:00, Film4 has Upgrade (2018), a dystopian man-machine thriller. The chip in his head has turned to overload. At exactly the same time, Sony Movies has Fury (2014). Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and a tank squadron, battling their way across WWII Germany.

Oldies

On the finishing stretch now. On Saturday (20/2) at 13:45, Talking Pictures has Theirs Is the Glory (1946), an early documentary reenactment of the Battle of Arnhem. (Also on Friday at 15:20.) At 17:30, ITV4 has Bend of the River (1952), a Western with Jimmy Stewart and Rock Hudson. At 18:00, Talking Pictures has The Four Feathers (1939), a thoughtful war classic directed by Zoltan, the more interesting of the Korda brothers. (Also on Tuesday at 18:35).

On Sunday (21/2) at 14.35, Film4 has The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), with Sellers, of course, and… Christopher Plummer. (Also on Friday at 16:50.)

On Monday (22/2) at 13:00, BBC2 has Bringing Up Baby (1938), with Grant and Hepburn. Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.

On Tuesday (23/2) at 13:00, BBC2 has The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Cary’s Christmas film. Altogether more edgy than A Wonderful Life. At 21:00, Film4 has Shallow Grave (1994), Danny Boyle’s flatshare murder story. We’ve all been there.

Finally, on Wednesday (24/2) at 13:00, BBC2 has Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). Cary again, this time exasperated with Myrna Loy and suspicious of Melvyn Douglas. 

I’m going to stick my neck out and say all the BBC’s films will be available on iPlayer. If they’re not, email the Director General.

Streaming

We have thought about covering new films on the streaming channels but frankly we don’t have the time. IMDB is a good place to look for that stuff. I’m told The Dig is very good. Netflix has some excellent films, but it is a disaster for cinema.

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott

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