FILMS OF THE WEEK
SATURDAY The Book Thief (2013) (Channel 4, 6.30pm)
As tensions escalate across Germany prior to the Second World War, little Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nelisse) bids a tearful farewell to her Communist mother (Heike Makatsch) and is delivered into the care of foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson). With encouragement from Hans, Liesel learns to read and she develops a voracious appetite for books. One night, a Jewish refugee called Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer) arrives at the Hubermanns’ home and Liesel becomes complicit in Max’s concealment. Based on the international bestseller of the same name by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief is a beautifully crafted story of courage and determination that compels us to care about the spunky heroine as she risks her life to protect the people she loves.
Department Q: The Absent One (2014) (BBC Four, 9pm)
Proving that Nordic noir works on the big screen as well as the small, this Danish crime drama is part of a trilogy following Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Assad (Fares Fares), two detectives in Copenhagen’s cold case division. This time around they reopen the investigation into the murder of twins in the 1990s after the victims’ father commits suicide. Morck is initially reluctant to get involved as the case was solved – a local junkie confessed to the killings and was subsequently convicted. However, when the detective discovers that the murderer was represented by a suspiciously high-priced lawyer and served only three years for the double homicide, he begins to agree that something is amiss, and uncovers evidence suggesting a link between the deaths and an exclusive boarding school.
SUNDAY The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) (ITV2, 6.55pm)
The Desolation Of Smaug picks up where An Unexpected Journey concluded, with plucky hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), wise wizard Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) and the company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) running for their lives. As the adventurers head towards the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the lost gold from dragon Smaug, they encounter a shape-shifter called Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) When the orcs storm Mirkwood, elves led by King Thranduil (Lee Pace) repel the invaders, allowing Bilbo and the dwarves to venture onwards, crossing a vast lake that separates them from the mountain with the help of Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). Meanwhile, Gandalf discovers the identity of the necromancer in Dol Guldur.
MONDAY Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) (BBC One, 8.30pm)
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted from Earth as a child and raised by alien mercenaries. Consequently, he becomes a thief for hire and steals a mystical orb sought by sadistic warlord Ronan (Lee Pace) and his army. When Peter learns the orb has the power to destroy the universe, he puts selfish desires to one side and aligns himself with a motley crew of renegades – green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) – to repel Ronan. From its visually stunning opening set to the funky strains of Come and Get Your Love, James Gunn’s film is a blast, and Pratt brings swagger and dry wit to his emotionally wounded hero.
TUESDAY Airplane! (1980) (Film4, 7.20pm)
The classic disaster movie spoof sees an airliner running into trouble when most of the flight crew are struck down by food poisoning. It’s up to a traumatised ex-Navy pilot (Robert Hays) to overcome his fear of flying and guide the plane to safety – with a little help from his stewardess ex-girlfriend (Julie Hagerty) and the eccentric ground control personnel. In the unlikely event that any of the jokes in this film fail to land, don’t panic – there will be another two along in a second. The movie positively groans with great sight gags, quotable lines and moments of inspired silliness. Much of the credit goes to writers and directors Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker, but the wonderfully deadpan cast also deserve their share of the praise.
WEDNESDAY Lincoln (2012) (More4, 9pm)
January 1865. Two months have passed since the re-election of Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis): the American Civil War rages on for a fourth year and the president’s thoughts turn to the highly contentious slavery bill. Secretary of State William H Seward (David Strathairn) counsels against the motion, but Lincoln is adamant the Bill must be passed before the end of the war. Meanwhile the president contends with the mood swings of his emotionally fragile wife (Sally Field). Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln artfully tears a page from history to immortalise the efforts of the 16th president of the United States to abolish slavery during a period of deep division. Oscar winner Day-Lewis leads the terrific ensemble cast in style, internalising his statesman’s maelstrom of emotions.
THURSDAY 21 Jump Street (2012) (5*, 10pm)
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum earn top grades with this inspired remake of a 1980s TV series about baby-faced cops going undercover in a high school. Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) enrol at police academy and work together to ensure they complete the final exam. Life as cops turns out to be quite dull and their first bust ends in embarrassment. So they are sent in disgrace to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who orders the pair to pose as students at the local school where drugs are rife. In a reversal of their own school days, Morton becomes a popular member of the student body thanks to his brains and sensitivity while lumbering hunk Greg is viewed as an idiot by everyone except his teacher Ms Griggs (Ellie Kemper), who would love to give him some one-on-one tuition.
FRIDAY Dinner for Schmucks (2010) (BBC One, 11.50pm)
Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) is an ambitious analyst at Fender Financial, who is desperate to ascend to the dizzy heights of the executive offices on the seventh floor. He sees his chance when his boss Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) invites him to a monthly top-secret dinner where everyone brings along a very special companion that the other guests can ridicule. By chance, Tim runs into Internal Revenue Service employee and amateur taxidermist Barry Speck (Steve Carell), and feels certain that he has found the biggest idiot of them all. Jay Roach’s English language remake of the 1999 French comedy Le Diner De Cons is buoyed by Carell’s winning performance and a scene-stealing turn from Jemaine Clement as a pretentious artist.
Top: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as undercover policemen at a high school in 21 Jump Street. Above: Chris Pratt leads a renegade gang in Guardians of the Galaxy