Love-all in Lon­don

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MY roy­al­ist friends were dis­ap­pointed that dur­ing the end­less di­a­mond ju­bilee cel­e­bra­tions, fol­lowed by the Queen’s Birthday hol­i­day week­end, there wasn’t one film on ca­ble about mat­ters royal and im­pe­rial. No Cate Blanchett as El­iz­a­beth I, or He­len Mir­ren as El­iz­a­beth II, or even Emily Blunt as the young Queen Vic­to­ria. They could have put on Royal Wed­ding, the Fred As­taire mu­si­cal set in Lon­don dur­ing the present Queen’s nup­tials, a ne­glected treasure and not to be con­fused with Bells are Ring­ing (Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, TCM), Vin­cente Min­nelli’s adap­ta­tion of the Broad­way show about a tele­phone op­er­a­tor (Judy Hol­l­i­day) who falls for a caller.

Sadly, it was Hol­l­i­day’s last film, but she gets a cou­ple of good tunes.

Bet­ter tim­ing with the ten­nis. With the tour­na­ment com­ing up later this month, I rec­om­mend Wim­ble­don (Mon­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Drama), a thor­oughly well-bred, im­pec­ca­bly good-na­tured Bri­tish ro­man­tic com­edy, set in an ide­alised tourist Lon­don and played out on cen­tre court. And there’s a bonus for Bri­tish ten­nis fans. The bat­tling local hero — a kind of Andy Mur­ray char­ac­ter called Peter Colt — ac­tu­ally com­petes in a Wim­ble­don fi­nal, and I won’t spoil any­one’s plea­sure by re­veal­ing whether he wins.

Peter, played by a lean and moody Paul Bet­tany, is ranked 119 in the world and has never won a ti­tle. But just when he’s ready to an­nounce his re­tire­ment he hits a win­ning streak, in­spired by a bur­geon­ing ro­mance with lovely Amer­i­can star Lizzie Brad­bury (Kirsten Dunst), who is com­pet­ing for the women’s ti­tle. Lizzie spends her days un­der the pro­tec­tive gaze of her fa­ther and coach (Sam Neill), who doesn’t ap­prove of Peter.

Direc­tor Richard Lon­craine shows him­self well aware of the erotic pos­si­bil­i­ties of the game. All that sigh­ing and grunt­ing is sug­ges­tive enough. In an ideal ten­nis ro­mance, per­haps Peter and Lizzie would be teamed in a mixed-dou­bles fi­nal. The ral­lies, of course, are un­be­liev­able.

Side­ways (Satur­day, 2pm, Show­time Drama) is Alexander Payne’s tragi­comic ex­plo­ration of guilt and friend­ship amid the vine­yards of south­ern Cal­i­for­nia, a film of such warm and se­duc­tive ap­peal that it seems to have been put together in a haze of al­co­holic eupho­ria. A pair of losers — Miles (Paul Gia­matti), aban­doned hus­band, am­a­teur wine buff and unsuccessful nov­el­ist, and Jack (Thomas Haden Church), former soap be­fore Jack gets mar­ried. It’s a film of gen­tle wit and sub­tlety, with touches of With­nail & I and The Trip, and it has a cou­ple of de­light­ful comic set-pieces to round things off.

This col­umn has never sub­scribed to the the­ory that re­makes of good films are al­ways worse than the orig­i­nals, but here are two re­makes that un­der­mine my con­fi­dence. I had high hopes for the Coen broth­ers’ The Ladykillers (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Movie Greats), but those who re­mem­ber the 1955 Eal­ing com­edy with Alec Guin­ness are bound to find this a dis­ap­point­ment. It’s the same story: a gang of crim­i­nals, dis­guised as mu­si­cians, rent rooms in an old lady’s home to plan a rob­bery, only to dis­cover that the in­no­cent-seem­ing land­lady is smarter than she looks. The Coens bring to it their usual el­e­gant and sar­donic style, hav­ing set the ac­tion in Mis­sis­sippi and padded it with long stretches of gospel mu­sic, but it’s not one of their best. And if you treasure John Franken­heimer’s The Manchurian Can­di­date as the great­est po­lit­i­cal con­spir­acy thriller Hol­ly­wood has pro­duced, avoid Jonathan Demme’s lack­lus­tre ver­sion with Liev Schreiber (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion).

The great re­make this week is Show Boat (Fri­day, 10.20pm, TCM), MGM’s lus­trous mu­si­cal with Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Ava Gard­ner, which is even bet­ter than the 1936 black-and-white film directed by James Whale. You won’t hear Paul Robe­son singing Ol’ Man River (though Wil­liam Warfield makes a good fist of it) and you won’t hear Gard­ner’s voice in some of those great Jerome Kern-Os­car Ham­mer­stein songs.

As Julie, the much-wronged mu­latto who helps save her friend’s mar­riage to a river­boat gam­bler, Gard­ner did her own singing but was dubbed later by An­nette War­ren af­ter pre­view au­di­ences re­acted coolly to her vo­cal­is­ing. Still, you can’t help lovin’ that film.

Satur­day, 2pm, Show­time Drama

Mon­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Drama

Sun­day, 8.30pm, Movie Greats

Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bet­tany in Richard Lon­craine’s Wim­ble­don

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