Here’s our guide to some of the top films on terrestrial TV this week.
Rango (2011) **** (Channel 4, 2.45pm)
A lonely chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) is stranded in the Mojave Desert, where he meets an iguana called Beans (Isla Fisher). She takes him to the town of Dirt, which is on the brink of collapse because the water supply is running dangerously low. Wandering into the saloon, the chameleon rechristens himself Rango and pretends to be a famous gunslinger. The townsfolk are thrilled to have found themselves a hero and Rango becomes town sheriff. Rango is a rootin’ tootin’ computer-animated adventure peppered with earthy one-liners that should have parents and teenagers chuckling, although it may be a little too dark and quirky for very young kids.
Miss Potter (2006) *** (BBC2, 6.30pm)
Apart from a brief foray into the childhood of the young Beatrix Potter (Lucy Boynton), during which time she nurtures a love of art and animals, biopic Miss Potter concentrates largely on the years 1901-1905. Rebelling against the conventions of her strict Victorian upbringing, Beatrix (Renee Zellweger) achieves her literary vision with the help of publisher Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor), who becomes her fiance, to the delight of his unconventional sister Millie (Emily Watson). Director Chris Noonan’s chocolate box movie is shot against the breathtaking backdrop of the Lake District properties which Beatrix bequeathed to the National Trust, and festooned with the author’s colourful drawings, which magically come to life before our eyes.
The Last King of Scotland (2006) **** (Film4, 11.00pm)
Based on the novel by Giles Foden, The Last King of Scotland experiences the rise of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (an Oscar-winning Forest Whitaker) through the eyes of fictitious doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who becomes the president’s personal physician. Nicholas is quickly seduced by his host’s wealth and power, and is even more taken with Kay (Kerry Washington), one of Amin’s young wives. They embark on an illicit affair and once Amin discovers the betrayal, Nicholas glimpses the brutal, unforgiving despot behind the polished media facade. The Last King of Scotland begins rather gently but soon gathers dramatic momentum, and the final 20 minutes are a tour de force of edge-of-the-seat suspense.
She’s Out of My League (2010) *** (BBC2, 11.30pm)
Kirk Kettner (Jay Baruchel) is cruelly dumped by his girlfriend Marnie (Lindsay Sloane). To rub salt into the wounds, his parents view Marnie like a surrogate daughter so she is always around the house. Somehow, Kirk ends up on a date with Molly (Alice Eve), a beautiful passenger who passes through his security gate at Pittsburgh airport. She seems keen, much to the bemusement of Kirk’s jealous buddies, Stainer (TJ Miller) and Jack (Mike Vogel). Molly’s sardonic friend Patty (Krysten Ritter) also feels that Kirk doesn’t meet the grade and tries to poison Molly’s ear. She’s Out Of My League is a predictable yet effervescent and hugely enjoyable romantic comedy that relies on our natural empathy for Baruchel’s nice guy as he wrestles with myriad insecurities.
The Best Man Holiday (2013) *** (Film4, 9.00pm) Premiere
Award-winning writer Harper (Taye Diggs) has never lived up to the promise of his first book. He turns his attentions to his heavily pregnant wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) and a forthcoming trip to the home of his estranged former best friend, Lance (Morris Chestnut), who is now a star with the New York Giants. The two men haven’t spoken since Lance discovered Harper slept with his sweetheart Mia (Monica Calhoun) in college. They have since married and raised a family, and Mia hopes the yuletide get-together will heal old wounds. Almost 15 years after his breakout hit The Best Man, writer-director Malcolm D Lee reunites the cast for this soapy comedy drama full of regrets and recriminations set in the run-up to a Christmas gathering that none of the characters will ever forget.
In Time (2011) *** (Channel 5, 11.05pm)
Director Andrew Niccol imagines an emotionally starved globe in which money has become obsolete and the currency is time. People are engineered to age until they reach 25 years old, then a timer, embedded in their arm, begins to tick down second by second to their demise. During a night out, Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) has a chance encounter with a suicidal rich man Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), who donates 100 years of his time to Will’s body clock. Granted access to the most exclusive parts of the city, Will learns the truth about how Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) and the men in power manipulate the populace for their own gain. Will vows to bring down the corrupt system forging an unlikely alliance with Philippe’s rebellious daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).
Black Narcissus (1947) ***** (Film4, 1.05pm)
Powell and Pressburger’s classic, visually stunning drama follows a group of nuns under the control of a newly promoted mother superior, Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), as they travel to the remote Himalayan community of Mopu to establish a new convent in a derelict palace once used as a harem. The intoxicating and exotic sights and smells test the moral resolve of Sisters Briony (Judith Furse), Honey (Jenny Laird), Philippa (Flora Robson) and Ruth (Kathleen Byron), who hanker for home. They also face suspicion from the locals, especially the General (Sabu), and when the General’s handsome envoy Mr Dean (David Farrar) arrives, the repressed emotions threaten to reach fever pitch.
Night Moves (2013) **** (Film4, 11.15pm) Premiere
Kelly Reichardt directs this taut thriller which follows a small group of environmental activists who decide to make a statement by turning to violence. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) hatch a hare-brained scheme to blow up a dam in the Oregon mountains. She uses her savings to purchase a ramshackle speedboat that he will pack with homemade fertiliser. An emotionally unstable former Marine called Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) agrees to help carry out their plan. Under the dead of night, the activists pilot the boat to the dam then scamper back to town so they have alibis when news of the explosion spreads. In the immediate aftermath, Josh and Dena wrestle with their guilt as they decide whether to ignore their moral compasses or suffer the dire consequences of their extreme actions.
The Ladykillers (1955) ***** (More4, 11.20am)
A criminal mastermind and his motley gang of accomplices rent rooms from an elderly woman in order to plan their latest heist. The landlady doesn’t suspect a thing - she thinks they are a string quintet - but the gang gradually appreciate that she still poses a threat to their scheming, and realise they are going to have to kill her. However, bumping her off proves a lot more difficult than they expected. The Ladykillers is an absolute classic that jostles with The Lavender Hill Mob and Kind Hearts and Coronets for the title of the greatest Ealing comedy. The cast, which includes Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and Katie Johnson, is absolutely first-rate, and the script and direction aren’t too shabby either. No wonder the Coen Brothers’ misconceived remake, starring Tom Hanks, failed to live up to it.
Fifty Dead Men Walking (2008) *** (BBC1, 11.45pm)
Set in 1980s and early 1990s Northern Ireland, Fifty Dead Men Walking is an incredible story of bravery and self-sacrifice, about one young man who risked his life to do what he thought was right during the height of the conflict. All Martin cares about is earning money to keep a roof above the head of his pregnant girlfriend, so when a British Special Branch handler approaches the father-to-be, offering him money to inform against the IRA, he reluctantly accepts, believing his identity as a mole will never be exposed. Jim Sturgess and Ben Kingsley head the impressive cast.
Immortals (2011) *** (Film4, 11.15pm)
Many centuries ago, the Gods waged war against the Titans and imprisoned these creatures within Mount Tartaros in a cage that can only be broken by a bolt from the mythical Epirus Bow. Megalomaniac King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his hordes declare war on the gods by ravaging the land in search of the bow. Ancient law prevents Zeus (Luke Evans), his daughter Athena (Isabel Lucas) and the other gods from intervening in mankind’s conflict, so they watch with mounting dread from their vantage point on Mount Olympus as Hyperion slaughters everyone who gets in his way. Strapping Theseus (Henry Cavill) witnesses his mother Aethra (Anne Day-Jones) falling to the swords of Hyperion’s hordes. Theseus seeks vengeance but many obstacles stand between him and his showdown with Hyperion, including the hulking Minotaur (Robert Maillet).
Mary Kom (2014) *** (Channel 4, 1.25am) Premiere
Priyanka Chopra takes the title role in this uplifting sports biopic of the eponymous Indian boxer, written by Saiwyn Qadras and directed by Omung Kumar. Born in Manipur, Mary (Chopra) shows a keen interest in sport as a child, but it is the success of boxer Dingko Singh, who wins a gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games, which inspires Mary to continue her journey of self-discovery inside the boxing ring. Training under Manipur state coach M Narjit Singh (Sunil Thapa), she begins her quest for glory, which coincides with falling in love with Onler (Darshan Kumar). They marry and raise twin sons while Mary achieves unparalleled success, becoming a five-time winner of the World Amateur Boxing championship and the only Indian woman boxer to qualify for the London 2012 Summer Olympics.
The China Syndrome (1979) **** (Film4, 11.00am)
Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and the great Jack Lemmon star in this 1979 classic which will leave your nails bitten to the quick. It centres on a nuclear power station which is discovered to have a disastrous operational flaw. The men-in-suits try to cover it up, but unknown to them, the incident is secretly filmed by a visiting TV news crew. It’s interesting to note the soundtrack - there isn’t one, adding a documentary feel to this all-too-real tale of technology and human error combining to create a white knuckle disaster. It’s also one of the best films from writer-director James Bridges, who made the John Travolta vehicles Urban Cowboy and Perfect.
Lawless (2012) *** (More4, 10.00pm)
A strong cast is the best reason to see this entertaining crime drama. In the mountains of Franklin County, local cops turn a blind eye to the illegal activities of Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) and his siblings Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf). The brothers run a successful bar and eke out a comfortable living by trading moonshine, made at secret distilleries maintained by Jack’s disabled pal, Cricket (Dane DeHaan). But the siblings’ business empire threatens to crumble to its foundations when sadistic Special Deputy Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) arrives from Chicago on a mission to shut down the distilleries at the behest of District Attorney Mason Wardell (Tim Tolin).