Recommended films on TV, 16/1/21 to 22/1/21


Who would have thought it possible that one day we would feel nostalgic for the presidency of Richard Nixon? All the President’s Men (1976) is about events leading up to the end of his regime, but also offers a different type of nostalgia: for an era of consensus about right and wrong, when journalists working in what is now called the mainstream media (MSM) could be heroes, and when a film about their derring-do could be a popular hit. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman star as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The film has a buddy movie trajectory, from mutual suspicion and hostility through to firm partnership, and it is directed with pace and style by Alan J. Pakula: observe the contrast between the shining white light of truth in the newspaper offices and the dingy car park where the reporters meet “Deep Throat”, their understandably paranoid informant. A real historical moment, not least in the story of American newspapers, which never quite got over their sense of self-importance. All the Presidents’ Men is on Monday (18/1) at 00:10 on BBC1 and then again on Thursday (21/1) on BBC4 at 21:00.

World Cinema

On Monday (18/1) at 00:55, Channel 4 has A Bigger Splash (2015). Directed by Luca Guadagnino, it stars Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson as a well-heeled and somewhat world-weary group enjoying an edgy holiday in an Italian villa. Sexual tension, intrigue and a dancing Fiennes. 

Stephen Ilott’s picks

On Sunday (17/1 ) at 21:00 on ITV4, Stephen has picked Airplane! (1980), which surely needs no introduction: “Don’t call me Shirley.” Also to be seen on Thursday (21/1) at 23.40. On Monday (18/1) at 14:25, Talking Pictures has It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), a thriller with Googie Withers as a woman reluctantly harbouring an escaped convict and Jack Warner, unusually, as a policeman. On Friday (22/1) at 21:00, Film4 has Wind River (2017), a gripping and beautifully shot thriller with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as two law officers sent to investigate a murder on an Indian reservation.

Other modern films of interest

On Saturday (16/1) at 21:00, Sky Arts has Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President (2020), about the world’s most famous peanut farmer and his music industry fans. Also to be seen on Sunday (17/1) at 23:00. At 23:00 on Saturday, the same channel has No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005), Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed biopic. 

On Sunday (17/1) at 00:20, BBC1 has Foxcatcher (2014), with Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, in the true story of two US wrestlers bankrolled by mega-rich chemical heir John Du Pont in their bid to succeed in the Seoul Olympics of 1988.

On Monday (18/1) at 18:55, Film4 has The Way Way Back (2013), a – wait for it – coming of age comedy-drama with Steve Carell (again) and  Toni Collette. 

On Tuesday (19/1) at 21:00,  BBC4 has ‘Til Kingdom Come: Trump, Faith and Money (2020), a documentary about the link between evangelical Christians in America and a powerful philanthropic organisation in Israel, with all its implications for geopolitics. 

On Wednesday (20/1) at 21:00, BBC4 has Victoria & Abdul ( 2017), with the Queen (once more portrayed by Judi Dench) striking up a devoted friendship with a young clerk arrived from India to take part in her Golden Jubilee.

On Thursday (21/1) at 01:45, Film4 has Kill Your Friends (2015), with Nicholas “About a Boy” Hoult as an A&R man driven to extreme lengths to get a hit in the Cool Britannia era. Notable for its soundtrack of Britpop hits. 


Five oldies of note on Saturday (16/1). At 01:50, Film4 has Army of Darkness: Director’s Cut (1992), a comedy-fantasy epic with Bruce Willis. At 13:15, BBC2 has The Nun’s Story (1959), with Audrey Hepburn training in a convent and then experiencing difficult times in the world outside. At 15:20, and again on Thursday (21/1) at 12:00, Paramount has Pork Chop Hill (1959), a Gregory Peck true story about a grim Korean War battle. At 18:30 on Saturday, Channel 4 has Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), the one with Sean Connery as Indy’s father. At 21:35, and again on Thursday (21/1) at 22:00, Talking Pictures has The Boston Strangler (1968), with Tony Curtis playing violently against type as Albert DeSalvo and Henry Fonda as the lawyer who coordinates the investigation into his crimes. Based on a true story, but not as closely as it might have been. 

On Sunday (17/1) at 02:05, BBC2 has A Hard Day’s Night (1964), the irresistible Richard Lester film in which The Moptops charmed the world. Also to be seen on Monday (18/1) on BBC4 at 22.00. At 14:00, Paramount has The Alamo (1960), starring, and directed by, John Wayne.

On Monday (18/1) at 11:00, Film4 has David Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999), a delightful tale about an old man who travels 400 miles across America on a lawnmower to see his estranged and unwell brother. At 12:40, Talking Pictures has Pool of London (1951), a crime drama made by Basil Dearden, notable for its setting in the 1950s London docks. 

On Tuesday (19/1) at 00:00, Talking Pictures is showing Hard Times (1975). Street-fighting and gambling in Depression-era New Orleans, with Charles Bronson and James Coburn. No Dickens.

On Wednesday (20/1) at 10:30, Talking Pictures has The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), an unusual noir in which three childhood friends become entangled in later life. At 22:00, ITV4 has Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), the one with Jeremy Irons as the villain.

On Thursday (21/1) at 10:30, Talking Pictures has Madeleine (1950), a David Lean crime drama based on a famous 19th century murder trial. At 11:00, Film4 has Cottage to Let (1941), a wartime comedy-drama about a spy trying to find out details of a secret new bomb-sight. George “Arthur Daley” Cole, in his first film role, plays a boy sleuth. 

On Friday (22/1) at 23:10, Film4 has Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), a bank heist drama with Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges. Directed by Michael Cimino, later to bring us The Deerhunter and, less successfully, Heaven’s Gate.

All the BBC’s films except A Hard Day’s Night will be available on iPlayer. 

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott