Recommended films on TV, 2/1/2021 to 8/1/2021


A question to ponder during the first week of Tier 4. Why is Mike Leigh so underrated? Is it because so many of his films are funny? Another Year (2010) will make you laugh, but it is also sad and even profound. It tells of a comfortable, happy middle-aged couple, a geologist and a counsellor, who provide the island of sanity around which their turbulent friends and family swirl. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen are wonderful as Tom and Gerri, whose saintliness stays just the right side of smug, while Lesley Manville, as their desperate, drink-dependent friend Mary, is heartbreaking. Cleverly shot and scripted (by Leigh, of course) to span a single year, it is one of his best. That is saying something, given the body of work he has put together over the last 50 years. Another Year is on Film 4 on Monday (4/1) at 23:45.

World Cinema

On Monday (4/1) at 01.05,  Film4 has Embrace of the Serpent (2015), the dreamlike rainforest saga that we showed in 2017-18. And that’s about all there is in World Cinema this week. 

Stephen Ilott’s picks

On Saturday (2/1) at 21:30, Talking Pictures has Hud (1963), the revisionist Western with Paul Newman as its titular anti-hero. It can also be seen on Tuesday (5/1) at  22:00. On Monday (4/1) at 00:05, BBC1 has Escape From Alcatraz (1979), with Clint Eastwood struggling to get off the prison island: directed by regular Eastwood collaborator Don Siegel and based on real events. On Wednesday (6/1) at 18:45, ITV4 brings us Goldfinger (1964), the first Bond blockbuster, with Connery, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, and a range of enviable hardware, including the rocket-firing Aston Martin so many of us coveted in the playground. Fun fact: Ian Fleming named Goldfinger after the architect of the Trellick Towers, the uncompromising modernist block you see on the left as you go into Paddington Station. On Friday (8/1) at 10:50, Sony Action has Double Indemnity (1944), the classic noir directed by Billy Wilder, who co-wrote with Raymond Chandler, a story in itself.

Other modern films of interest

On Saturday (2/1) at 20:30, BBC2 brings us Aretha Franklin in Amazing Grace (2018), a breathtaking concert film shot in 1972 and subsequently buried in a studio vault before being reconstructed. At the same time on the same day, Channel 4 has Cast Away (2000), starring Tom Hanks and a basketball. It can also be also on 4seven on Tuesday (5/1) at 21.00.

On Sunday (3/1) at 16:15, ITV2 has Minions (2015), and at 17:35, ITV has Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (1981), from the increasingly controversial J.K. Rowling. At 22:00, BBC4 has something a little different. In Max Richter’s Sleep, the German film composer’s music provides the basis for a meditative documentary on something we all need, especially in challenging times. It can also be seen on Friday (8/1) at 00:35. 

On Tuesday (5/1) at 02:20, Film4 has Little Men (2016), in which two young boys suffer the emotional consequences of some upmarket New York property transactions.With Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle as the troublesome adults.

 Altogether less materialistic is I Am Greta (2020), which is on BBC1 on Wednesday (6/1) at 22:45. It is, of course, a documentary about young Ms Thunberg, the tireless climate activist. At 23:15 the same day, Film4 has Trespass Against Us (2016), about an infamous crime family living in Gloucestershire. Ahem.

On Thursday (7/1) at 21:50, BBC4 brings us Nothing Like a Dame (2018), a documentary based on conversations between four theatrical giants: Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith. 

On Friday (8/1) at 21:00, BBC2 has The Wife (2017), with a rather good Glenn Close as the frustrated wife of a narcissistic writer, played by Jonathan Pryce. Is there any other kind? At 23:30, BBC1 has Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005). Lots of banging and crashing  and not much to do with H.G. Wells.


Let us turn to this week’s Oldies. On  Saturday (2/1) at 12:55, Channel 5 has A Bridge Too Far (1977), studded with stars – too many – and penned by William Goldman, the man who wrote the book on screenwriting (or one of the books). At 16:00, ITV4 has Cheyenne Autumn (1964), the last John Ford Western, apparently intended as a kind of apology for the way he had portrayed Native Americans in his earlier films. 

Six notable films on Sunday (3/1). At 00:25, BBC1 has Internal Affairs (1990), a stylish thriller with Richard Gere and Andy Garcia. At 12:35, BBC2 brings us How the West Was Won (1962), the epic Western, with a  huge Hollywood cast and three directors. At 12:45, ITV2 has DreamWorks’s Antz (1998), a rather more amusing insect movie than Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, which came out at around the same time. Starring the voice and facial features of Woody Allen. At 14:10, Talking Pictures has Last Holiday (1950), a dark social satire from J.B. Priestley, starring Alec Guinness. That can also be seen at 19:15 on Thursday (7/1). At 16:40, ITV4 has nostalgic adventure-romance with Robert Zemeckis’s Romancing the Stone (1984). At 17:30, Channel 4 has much the same with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), often seen as the blueprint for Zemeckis’s movie. At 21:00, Sony Movies has Get Shorty (1995), from Elmore Leonard’s novel and starring John Travolta. Finally for Sunday, at 22.00 Talking Pictures has Dulcima (1971), a rural romance-drama from an H.E Bates story, with Carol White and John Mills. Shot in Minchinhampton and Tetbury, where rain was a problem. Nothing new there, then. Also to be seen on Thursday (7/1) at 22:00.

 On Thursday (7/1), three films of interest. At 18:45, Film4 has WarGames (1983), in which a schoolboy nearly unleashes World War III with the help of a pre-PC computer and an acoustic coupler modem. Those were the days. At 20:00, BBC4 brings us Tea with Mussolini (1998), a semi-autobiographical feature by Franco Zeffirelli, written by John Mortimer and featuring three of the four theatrical Dames mentioned above, plus Cher. At 21:00, ITV4 has Thunderball (1965). This is the one where a Vulcan bomber lands on the sea. Yeah, right. 

On Friday (8/1) at 11:00, Film4 has Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), with Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson and a host of historical inaccuracies. Collectors of film trivia might like to note that, unlike the 2017 Saoirse Ronan version, this one has a comma in its title. 

All of the BBC’s films will be available on iPlayer shortly after broadcast.

Enjoy your week’s viewing. 

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott