Recommended films on TV


It is always difficult for a director to sustain interest in a film when the ending is well-known. That was particularly the case with Apollo 13 (1995), Ron Howard’s movie about the moon mission that went disastrously wrong. For viewers of the appropriate age, there can hardly any who have forgotten the event. 

In short, an oxygen tank exploded on the way to the moon, forcing the crew and NASA to improvise a way to get back alive. The episode was explored in a book by mission commander Jim Lovell (played here by Tom Hanks), which provided the source material for the film. The other two crewmen are played by Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton. 

Since its release, the movie has been assailed by space geeks claiming to spot factual errors. Nonetheless, it remains an exciting piece of filmmaking, moving seamlessly from the earth-based politics of a mission no one much cared about to the high drama of events onboard the craft. It took the near-death of a crew to make space flight news again. The three main cast members are excellent and there is good support from Gary Sinise, as another astronaut who was not allowed to go because he had measles, and Kathleen Quinlan, as Lovell’s wife Marilyn. The film is shown on ITV on Sunday (6/12) at 14:55. 

World Cinema

On Sunday (6/12) at 13:05, Film4 has Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017), the first animated feature by Studio Ponoc, formed by Yoshiaki Nishimura, a former Studio Ghibli producer. What makes this film unusual is that it is set in the UK and based on a British children’s book: The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart. The same day at 22:10, and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC4 has The Workshop (2017), a French thriller about a group of young people at a writing workshop. One writes a first-person mass murder mystery that disturbs everyone present. 

On Monday (7/12) at 02:10, Film4 has Scribe (2017), a murky, over-complicated French thriller about a man (the excellent François Cluzet) employed to transcribe surveillance phone calls. 

On Thursday (10/12) at 13:05, Sony Action brings us Boot Hill (1969), a spaghetti Western about a corrupt town boss challenged by an unusual alliance of gunmen and circus performers (it says here).

Stephen Ilott’s picks

On Saturday (5/12) at 21:00 on Film4, Stephen has chosen Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), John Hughes’s likeable farce, with Steve Martin and John Candy. It can also be seen on Thursday (10/12) at 23:00. On Thursday (10/12) at 15:15 on BBC2, and subsequently on iPlayer, there is The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), an Ealing classic with Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James and Alfie Bass as a gang of inept bank robbers. On the same day at 20:00, and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC4 has Brooklyn (2015), a romance about an Irish girl in the 1950s and her experiences in New York. With an excellent central performance by Saoirse Ronan. 

Other notable modern films

Lots of things to watch on Saturday (5/12). At 14: 35, Film4 has Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), an American stop-motion animation with an all-star cast. It did not do well at the box office, despite the technical skill involved. At 21:00, Sony Movies has The Missing (2003), a Ron Howard Western starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett. At 22:00, BBC2 brings us Dirty God (2019), a British film about a young woman scarred in an acid attack. A debut performance by Vicky Knight, whose scars are apparently real, caused by a fire at home when she was eight years old. At 23:40, BBC2 has Louis Theroux:  My Scientology Movie (2015), a feature-length version of the television reporter’s somewhat frustrating investigation into the secretive cult. Both these films will be available on iPlayer. 

On Sunday (6/12) at 00:15, BBC1 has Keeping Rosy (2014), a contemporary thriller with the versatile Maxine Peake. At 21:00, BBC1 has Alex Wheatle (2020), the latest in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series about black British life. A young man brought up in mainly white care homes finds his identity during the Brixton riots. At 22:00, BBC2 has One Man and His Shoes (2020), a documentary about the phenomenal rise of Air Jordan trainers. All these films will be available on iPlayer. 

On Monday (7/12) at 22:00, and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC4 has Red Penguins: Murder, Money and Ice Hockey (2019), a documentary about a bizarre Russian/US joint venture aimed at creating a successful ice hockey franchise in the lawless post-Soviet world. At 23:15, Film4 has Lean on Pete (2017), a likeable feature about a lonely boy and a superannuated race horse. Recommended. 

On Tuesday (8/12) at 01:15, Sky Arts brings us Martha: A Picture Story (2019), an award-winning documentary about a photographer who was one of the first to take graffiti seriously. At 01:40, Film4 has 45 Years (2015), with two fine turns from veterans Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, as a couple whose long marriage is rocked by a sudden revelation. At 23:25, Film4 brings us Legend (2015), not the Ridley Scott fantasy but a gritty biopic of the Kray Brothers. 

On Wednesday (9/12) at 18.40, Sony Movies has Marie Antoinette (2006), a somewhat sexed-up account of the life of Louis XVI’s unfortunate queen, directed and written by Sofia Coppola, with Kirsten Dunst in the title role. 

On Thursday (10/12) at 23:30, and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC2 has The Beguiled (2017), another Sofia Coppola film, this time about the arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls’ school during the American Civil War. With Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell. 

On Friday (11/12) at 23:05, Film4 has Starred Up (2013), a somewhat grim prison drama with the excellent Jack O’Connell as a violent teenager who goes to jail and meets his father there.


Turning to the Oldies, on Sunday (6/12) at 18:50, Sony Action has The Man Who Never Was (1956), telling the true story of the British attempt  to subvert the German war effort by dropping a body with fake papers into the sea off Spain where a Nazi spy would be alerted to it. On the same day at 22:00, Talking Pictures has Flame in the Streets (1961), a racial tension and inter-racial romance story set in London. 

On Monday (7/12) at 15:00, and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC2 has The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954), with unforgettable performances by Alastair Sim and Joyce Grenfell. 

On Tuesday (8/12) at 22:30, Channel 5 has The Green Mile (1999), from a Stephen King novel and starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. 

On Wednesday (9/12) at 18:35, Talking Pictures has The Rebel (1961), Tony Hancock’s satire on modern art. Written by sitcom greats Galton & Simpson with the lad himself. Disappointingly received, but Lucien Freud said it was the best film ever made about modern art. 

On Thursday (10/12) at 00:10, Talking Pictures has Remember My Name (1978), a thriller with Geraldine Chaplin and Anthony Perkins. At 11:00 that day, Film4 has The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), a Cecil B. DeMille circus epic with James Stewart and Charlton Heston. 

Stephen Ilott and John Morrish