THE BEST FILMS ON TV
SATURDAY Effie Gray (2014) (BBC2, 9pm)
Victorian art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise) falls under the spell of 19-year-old Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) and they marry. A visit to his parents (David Suchet, Julie Walters) opens Effie’s eyes to the solitude she will have to bear for the rest of her life. Eventually, Ruskin spirits Effie to Scotland with artist John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge), who has been commissioned to paint his portrait. Physical attraction between Millais and Effie threatens to spark a full-blown affair but lowly wives do not divorce wealthy husbands... Based on the marital woes of Ruskin and his bride, Effie Gray has all the ingredients for a bosom-heaving period romance. Private Peaceful (2012) (BBC2, 11.25pm) Screenwriter Simon Reade adapts Michael Morpurgo’s beloved novel for the big screen. Tommo Peaceful (George MacKay) lives in the tranquil village of Iddesleigh with his mother Hazel (Maxine Peake) and brothers Charlie (Jack O’Connell) and Big Joe (Kyle Summercorn). Tommo develops a crush on spirited local girl Molly Monks (Alexandra Roach) but she seems to prefer the attention of Charlie and, when she falls pregnant with his brother’s child, Tommo deals with his broken heart by enlisting to fight in the First World War. Charlie follows and does his best to protect weakling Tommo but his sibling cannot forgive him for stealing Molly’s heart and, as the conflict rages on, the Peaceful lads fight for their lives behind enemy lines.
SUNDAY War Horse (2011) (BBC1, 2.05pm)
When his drunken farmer dad Ted (Peter Mullan) comes home with a foal called Joey, young Albert (Jeremy Irvine) promises to train the animal to work in the fields. However, he doesn’t predict that Europe will go to war - or that Ted will sell Joey to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston). Albert subsequently learns of tragedy on the battlefield and enlists in the Army to track down Joey and return the horse to the farm. Meanwhile, behind enemy lines, Joey is captured by the Germans and embarks on a momentous journey. Based on Michael Morpurgo’s book, War Horse is a sweeping drama that harnesses director Steven Spielberg’s virtuosity to make perfect Remembrance Day viewing.
Happy Feet Two (2011) (ITV2, 3.50pm)
Mumble the penguin (voiced by Elijah Wood) has raised a son called Erik (Ava Acres) with his wife Gloria (Pink). Like his father, Erik is struggling to find his rhythm in Emperor-Land and he searches for answers with friends Boadicea and Atticus in the company of wise-cracking Ramon (Robin Williams). Mumble chases after the little ones and returns home to discover a giant iceberg has slammed into their home, trapping all the Emperor penguins. Happy Feet Two trades heavily on the charm of the original film, and our affection for Mumble and his feathered friends helps to distract from some of the chasms in the script.
MONDAY The Three Musketeers (1973) (More4, 9.30am)
Three swashbuckling heroes (Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Frank Finlay) join forces with a headstrong country boy (Michael York) who is determined to become a Musketeer. Together they cross swords with evil Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston), who is attempting to take the throne. Director Richard Lester plays up the laughs while keeping faithful to the spirit of Alexander Dumas’s classic novel. This is an epic in every sense – big names (it also finds roles for Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway and Christopher Lee), furious action and a long running time – and, as a result, is worth staying with until the end.
TUESDAY Fair Game (2010) (Film4, 1.40am)
Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), whose CIA status is unknown to almost her entire circle of family and friends, is unexpectedly caught in the crossfire when her husband Joe (Sean Penn) writes a scathing opinion piece for The New York Times about the government’s claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. A subsequent article in The Washington Post exposes Valerie and she is shunned by her colleagues, who need to protect their own identities. Fair Game is a gripping snapshot of the build-up to the Iraq war and the subsequent fallout.
WEDNESDAY X-Men (2000) (Film4, 6.55pm)
A new subspecies of human, known as mutants, has emerged, blessed with strange and wondrous powers. Embittered mutant Magneto (Ian McKellen), a Nazi concentration camp survivor who fears a new age of persecution, declares war on the humans. Mankind’s only hope rests with telepath Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his band of champions: Cyclops (James Marsden), Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Dr Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and energy vampire Rogue (Anna Paquin). Although X-Men arguably shoehorns too many characters and backstories into a smidgen over 100 minutes, the expert action sequences and a charismatic turn from Jackman make it easy to see why this film sparked a long-running franchise.
THURSDAY The Bounty Hunter (2010) (5STAR, 11pm)
Cop-turned-bounty hunter Milo (Gerard Butler) is given the unenviable task of tracking down his journalist ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston) after she skips bail. However, she isn’t just any old fugitive from justice – she missed her court date because she’s chasing a story about a murder cover-up. And she’s also being chased by the criminals she’s been investigating. This is predictable even by romcom standards, but you have to give Aniston credit for throwing herself into her role. And if the banter between her and Butler never reaches the heights of the classic screwball comedies it’s clearly aiming for, it does at least deserve points for trying.
FRIDAY The Bourne Legacy (2012) (E4, 9pm)
Deep in the icy wilderness of Alaska, black ops agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is on a training mission when the Blackbriar and Treadstone operations are publicly exposed. Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who oversees secret operations for the CIA, decides to limit the damage by sanctioning the deaths of Aaron and other members of Operation Outcome. While other men are slain, Aaron survives multiple attempts on his life and heads back to civilisation, where he joins forces with geneticist Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) to expose dark forces in the CIA. The Bourne Legacy is the only chapter without Matt Damon as the gung-ho hero (he returned last year for Jason Bourne) and while this mission misses his physical and emotional intensity, Renner gives a solid performance.
Top: Dakota Fanning stars in Effie Gray. Above: Family fun in Happy Feet Two