Freeview films from 11/12/21

World Cinema

Saturday (11/12)          21:30    BBC4                   Stieg Larssons Millenium Episode 5 (2010). Better known as The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Part 1. Swedish with English subtitles.

                                          23:00    BBC4              Stieg Larssons Millenium Episode 6 (2010). And this is the final part of the trilogy. Swedish with English subtitles.

Sunday (12/12)             00:55   Film4                   The Raid 2 (2013). Ferociously fast and brutal undercover cop thriller made in Indonesia by Welshman Gareth Evans, who started his career as a student at the University of Glamorgan, with a film in Japanese about the execution of a Samurai, using some Japanese fellow-students.

Tuesday (14/12)           22:55   Great Movies     Arctic ( 2018). Mads Mikkelsen (above), an obscure object of desire for the ladies who pick the films for Cheltenham Film Society, has to trek alone across the Arctic after a plane crash. Made in Iceland by Joe Penna, a Brazilian who started his career making shorts to load up to YouTube. Kids, it can be done. The ‘goofs’ section of IMDB notes that Mads couldn’t have hiked across the snow without snowshoes, skis and goggles. He would have died very quickly. Goofs, or artistic licence? In English and Danish, presumably with subs where necessary.

Friday (17/12)               23:40   Film4                   The Beast (2019). Warring detectives in Korea. Directed by Jung-Ho Lee and based on 36: Quai des Orfèvres, a French thriller by Olivier Marchal. That one is in French. This is Korean with English subtitles.

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (11/12)         00:10   BBC1            Kick-Ass (2009). Enjoyably silly Matthew Vaughn movie about a high school comic fan who decides to become a superhero with no powers, training or reason to do so. Vaughn supposedly raised the money at a dinner party and made it independently after being rejected by the studios. Those are the kind of dinner parties we should all get invited to. Written by British comic-book veteran Mark Millar and Jane Goldman, wife of television micro-talent Jonathan Woss, and starring all sorts of bankable people, like Nic Cage, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Mark Strong.

Sunday (12/12)            15:45   Film4           It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (also Tuesday 13:05). Also on at the Cineworlds on Monday (20/12). Savage indictment of the brutality of American mid-century banking, although frankly that was a picnic compared with what we have now. Nobody sacked 500 people by Zoom in 1946. Oh no, sorry, I’m confused. It’s actually a delightful Christmas romcom (love the ice-skating sequence) with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, both splendid, which looks wonderful if you ever get to see it on a big screen. And you can, at Cineworld. I hope they’re not using the colourised version. In fluent Frank Capra, without subtitles.

Monday (13/12)           01:00   Film4           Mr Turner (2014). Another lovely Mike Leigh film. Rotten Tomatoes, I note, says that it is ‘a superior Hollywood biopic’. No it isn’t. Timothy Spall in the title role. It’s about class.

                                     16:50   Film4           Shenandoah (1965). More from James Stewart, this time as a Southern farmer at the time of the American Civil War, who won’t let his sons fight for a cause he doesn’t believe in. Then one gets captured by some Union men and Jimmy has to rescue him. Directed by the unsung Andrew V. McLaglen, recycling a lot of footage for reasons of economy. At school we sang the song, which supposedly originated among Canadian or American fur traders exploring the Missouri River. Percy Grainger collected a version from a man called Charles Rosner on wax cylinder in London in 1906. You can hear it here. Eat your heart out, Ed Sheeran.

Wednesday (15/12)    14.15    BBC2           The Gay Divorcee (1934). Scholars differ about when the word ‘gay’ started being used about homosexual inclinations and activities before, for a while, becoming the near-exclusive property of that particular sub-culture. Certainly in 1934, it would not have been widely used in that sense. This is a frothy musical based around traditional English divorce law. Mimi (Ginger Rogers) wants a divorce and has to hire a fake co-respondent to be caught with her in a hotel in Brighton so she can pretend she has committed adultery, without actually doing it. Instead she meets a visiting American dancer (Fred Astaire) and mistakes him for the pretend lover. Much vertical intimacy ensues.

Thursday (16/12)         21:00    BBC4          The Color Purple (1985). Steven Spielberg’s screen version of Alice Walker’s powerful novel about a black woman’s long and arduous journey to emancipation in the early C20th. Whoopi Goldberg plays Celie and Oprah Winfrey plays Sofia. Danny Glover plays ‘Mister’ Johnson, Celie’s husband. Apart from the subject, which was a departure for Spielberg, the film was notable for not winning any of the eleven Oscars for which it was nominated. Out of Africa won Best Picture. Decent film, but still.

                                      23:25    BBC2          Empire of the Sun  (1987). Another Spielberg adaptation, this time of J G Ballard’s novel, which draws on his childhood experience of WW2 and the invasion of the Shanghai International Settlement by the Japanese. Christian Bale (remember him?) plays Jim, who is separated from his parents and winds up in an internment camp, where his resourcefulness is tested to the full. The supporting cast includes John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, Leslie Phillips and Ben Stiller.

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (11/12)     18:35   BBC2                 Far from the Madding Crowd (2015). I was not initially enthusiastic about this remake of the Schlesinger/Christie/Bates/Stamp/Finch 1967 classic, but it did make me fall in love with Carey Mulligan, who plays Bathsheba Everdene, a headstrong Thomas Hardy girl who has to choose between three men. A man always has to be in love with at least one movie star, don’t you think? Carey suggested Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak, not a natural choice for a Wessex farmer, after seeing him in the extraordinary Rust and Bone. Good call. I know a girl called Bathsheba. Crazy name, sensible girl.

                                  21:00   5 Star                 The Last Samurai (2003)  (also Friday 21:00). Ed Zwick, who graduated from television’s thirtysomething, a very important show when I was in that demographic, made this unusual epic, about a drunken American mercenary who ends up training the Japanese emperor’s guards. Starring, in no particular order, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly and a little fella called Tom Cruise, who is not, according to someone who knows him, the monster he is made out to be. Indeed, it is said that he is on the BBC’s AA list – meaning ‘Always Available’ – for chatshows, and you don’t get that particular accolade unless you are personable, witty and reasonably amenable.

                                  23:00   Sky Arts             Lead Belly: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll (2020) (also Friday 22:50). At one time, it was fashionable to describe minor pop stars as ‘groundbreaking’. I opposed this, insisting that the only really groundbreaking music artist I knew of was Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly, who had served thirty years, on and off, in US prisons when he was discovered by the folk musicologist Alan Lomax. Famous for ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Cottonfields’ and, of course, ‘Goodnight, Irene’, the song puzzlingly beloved of all Bristol Rovers fans. We are promised a definitive biography, with archive footage and some clips from Hollywood movies. ‘No Lead Belly, no Beatles,’ said George Harrison, but I hope there are not too many dull showbiz people telling us how much he influenced them.

Sunday (12/12)       15:10   Channel 4         The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017). Sparky British biopic about Charles Dickens and the writing of A Christmas Carol, which rather proved a golden goose. With Dan Stevens as the writer, Miles Jupp as Thackeray (portrayed as his deadly rival, although actually that happened later). The reviews say the late Christopher Plummer plays Scrooge, but IMDB doesn’t credit him.

                                   22:55   Channel 4         The Shape of Water (2017) Guillermo del Toro’s retro alien romance fantasy, which won four Oscars, including for Best Picture and Best Director. Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa, a cleaner, mute due to injuries sustained as a child, who falls in love with a captive humanoid amphibian (played by Doug Jones, unrecognisable) and tries to rescue him. She is assisted by co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and impeded by the captor Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon). As the setting is the 60s, the Americans and Russians are naturally squabbling over who can gain the most from the creature militarily. Why do humans treat aliens so badly? Visually stunning, emotionally rich.

 Monday (13/12)      00:45   BBC1                 Oranges and Sunshine (2010) Jim Loach directed version of Margaret Humphreys’s book Empty Cradles, about her experience in the 1980s as a social worker uncovering the forced relocation of deprived children to Australia and Canada. The scheme began in 1869 and involved up to 100,000 children, but didn’t finish properly until the 1970s. For this you really need Emily Watson and she plays Margaret, in her heroic efforts to reunite children (now adults) with their parents back in Britain. Couldn’t happen today of course. Could it?

Tuesday (14/12)      21:00   Great Movies   Moon (2009). Duncan Jones’s first film as director, about Sam Rockwell as an astronaut nearing the end of a three year stint on the Moon, who appears to be alone and then appears not to be when, after his rover crashes, he encounters another version of himself. So he’s either going a bit mad or this is a clone. Then more versions appear. Some sci-fi films make your head hurt, don’t they?

Friday (17/12)         21:00    BBC4                 Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie (2017) Documentary directed by Ian Denyer celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1977 dance movie which propelled John Travolta to fame. Travolta himself and Barry Gibb contribute and Strictly’s Bruno Tonioli explains the dance steps.

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