Recommended films on TV


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) is the most recent film by the prolific Irish-British playwright, screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh.

Like his earlier hit, In Bruges, the film is a strong mix of violent crime and dark comedy. It is set in a small town in the South, where a woman called Mildred Hayes (played by the excellent Frances McDormand) is grieving over the rape and murder of her daughter and frustrated by the failure of the local police department, led by Chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), to find a culprit. So she puts up the three billboards of the title, demanding action.

The film brought a Best Actress Oscar for McDormand and achieved considerable critical acclaim, particularly on this side of the Atlantic. In the States, the reception was more muted, in part because McDonagh’s depiction of rural Southern life was thought to be caricatured. Nonetheless, it is a bravura piece of film-making, though not for the easily shocked. Based in part on a real case, the film has made the use of billboards a popular technique in the fight against injustice. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is on Channel 4 on Saturday (18/7) at 21:15.

In World Cinema, Channel 4 has the Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s Jackie (2016), his first English-language film and his only biopic. Partly based on a series of long magazine interviews given by the wife of President Kennedy in the months after his assassination, it covers the period from immediately before the couple’s fateful trip to Dallas to the funeral. That’s on Saturday (18/7) at 23:30.

The Others (2001), on 5 Star on Sunday (19/7) at 21:00, is a Spanish-made English-language ghost story starring Nicole Kidman as a woman with two young children who suffer from extreme photosensitivity. The film was written, directed and scored by the versatile Alejandro Amenábar. Kidman won Best Actress at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs.

On Tuesday (21/7) at 01:05, Film4 has Heal the Living (2016), a French film about a teenager in a coma, a woman with a degenerative heart condition and the team of doctors who must perform a transplant. At 23:40 the same day, the same channel is showing I Am Not a Witch (2017), the disturbing Zambian film which we showed in 2018/19.

Another film showed by CFS, in 2017/18, is the extraordinary Italian fantasy Tale of Tales. That’s on Channel 4 on Thursday (23/7) at 01:55. Also on Thursday (23/7), at 21:00, Film4 is showing Sweet Country (2017), an excellent Australian film about tensions between white settlers and the aboriginal population.

Then on Friday (24/7) at 23:20, BBC2 is showing For a Few Dollars More (1965), Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western, presumably selected as a tribute to the late Ennion Morricone.

Leaving World Cinema aside, ITV2 has Blade Runner 2049 (2017) on Saturday (21/7) at 21:00, the belated sequel to the 1982 original. On Sunday (19/7) at 00:55, Film4 has Bone Tomahawk (2015), a weird and gruesome Western about a group of cannibal monsters living in some caves. At 21:00 the same day on the same channel there is Hell or High Water (2016), a rather good action drama set in rural West Texas. Then on Tuesday (21/7) at 18:55, Film4 is serving up Eddie the Eagle (2016), a likeable comedy biopic of Cheltenham’s own Olympian, Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards, played by Taron Egerton. Local interest alone should make that one worth a look.

Turning to the Oldies, at 16:45 on Saturday (18/7), 5 Star is showing The Addams Family (1991), with its perfect casting of Anjelica Huston as Morticia, Raul Julia as Gomez and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester.

On Sunday (19/7) at 12:00, 5 Select is showing The Angry Silence (1960), starring Richard Attenborough as a man sent to Coventry by his workmates. At 16:25, Channel 5 has Stand By Me (1986), the popular Stephen King adaptation, and at 22:05 Talking Pictures has Girl With Green Eyes (1964), from the Edna O’Brien novel, with Rita Tushingham in the title role.

This Property is Condemned (1966), a Depression-set romantic drama starring Natalie Wood and Robert Redford, is on Talking Pictures at 00:05 on Monday (20/7). The same day at 16:35 (and also on Friday at 13:25), Film4 gives us the patriotic evergreen The Dam Busters (1955).

On Tuesday (21/7) at 15:00, Sony Action shows John Huston’s The African Queen (1951), starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Then at 16:35, Talking Pictures gives us Odd Man Out (1947), Carol Reed’s Belfast-set film noir starring James Mason and Robert Newton.

On Wednesday (22/7) at 07:30, Sony Action has The Fugitive (1947), directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as a priest escaping persecution. At 14:40 the same day, Film4 has Our Man in Havana (1959), Carol Reed’s Graham Greene adaptation with Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara. At 21:00, the Horror Channel serves up Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Francis Ford Coppola’s take on the story, with Gary Oldman in the title role. Then at 23:45, ITV4 has the wonderful Fargo (1996), our second Frances McDormand film of the week, directed by the Coen Brothers.

Talking Pictures has two notable pictures on Thursday (23/7). At 00:05 it is showing A Touch of Love (1969), based on Margaret Drabble’s morality tale The Millstone, and then at 02:10 we have The Hitch-Hiker (1953), a noir thriller by the pioneering female director Ida Lupino.

Michael Powell’s directing career was nearly brought to an end by Peeping Tom (1960), in which a homicidal cameraman films his female victims as he kills them. These days it is often considered a classic. Make up your own mind. It is on Talking Pictures on Friday (24/7)  at 22:00. The same night, at 22:50, BBC1 is showing The Shining (1980), Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece. “Here’s Johnny!”

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott