THE WEEK’S BEST FILMS
SATURDAY Murder on the Orient Express (2017) (Sky Cinema Premiere, 2pm and 8pm) Three Summers (2017) (BBC2, 10pm)
The little grey cells of moustachioed sleuth Hercule Poirot are rigorously tested in Kenneth Branagh’s handsome re-imagining of the snowbound murder mystery. Poirot (Branagh) finds himself on the Orient Express in a cabin next to gangster Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), who offers to pay the Belgian to ensure his safety. The detective declines, but then a murderer strikes. Suspects include Ratchett’s secretary Hector MacQueen, governess Mary Debenham, Princess Natalia Dragomiroff and her maid Hildegarde Schmidt.
Ben Elton writes and directs this likeable comedy which is set in his adopted homeland of Australia and takes place over three years at an annual folk festival. The main plot follows theremin player Roland (Robert Sheehan) and pub band fiddler Keevy (Rebecca Breeds), who find themselves falling in love despite their different approaches to life and music. However, the film also explores what it means to be a modern Australian as it addresses attitudes towards indigenous people and immigration. It’s a lot to tackle in just minutes, but Elton manages it with an impressive lightness of touch.
SUNDAY The Forgiven (2017) (Sky Cinema Premiere, 2.10pm and 10pm)
Based on Michael Ashton’s play, which had the more attention-grabbing title of The Archbishop and the Antichrist, director Roland Joffe’s thriller stars Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is appointed chairman of South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of the people he has to interview is convicted (fictional) murderer Piet Blomfeld (Eric Bana). The killer initially shows no regret for his crimes or any inclination to offer information on other murders he might have witnessed but, after he is attacked in prison, he rethinks his stance. It’s heavy-handed and never escapes its stagebound origins, but Whitaker and Bana are both terrific.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) (Channel 4, 10pm)
Ten winters have passed since simian flu ravaged the globe. One-time military man Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) leads survivors of the ALZ-113 virus in San Francisco. He dispatches a team led by family man Malcolm to access the O’Shaughnessy Dam, which provides the city with electricity. In the forest that envelops the dam, the scouting party encounters apes led by Caesar, including his ambitious second-in-command Koba. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes conjures two hours of animal magic. Serkis’ exemplary work as Caesar, the super-intelligent chimpanzee who spearheads the ape uprising, is the film’s emotional heartbeat. Kebbell is also compelling as Caesar’s war-mongering rival, who believes the key to his species’ survival is the extermination of humans.
MONDAY Crimson Peak (2015) (Film4, 10.45pm)
Director Guillermo del Toro’s film is an opulent gothic romance set in 19th-century New York and
TUESDAY The Enemy Below (1957) (Film4, 4.40pm) WEDNESDAY
Tootsie (1982) (Film4, 6.45pm)
Dustin Hoffman gives one of his finest performances in this terrific comedy. He stars as Michael Dorsey, a gifted actor who is so devoted to his craft that no one
wants to hire him because he’s impossible to work with. After losing out at an audition for a cheesy soap opera, Michael takes drastic action and returns to the casting call in a skirt and wig as Dorothy Michaels. “She” wins over the show’s bosses and lands a juicy part but keeping up the charade proves difficult when Michael finds himself falling for his female co-star. Jessica Lange won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, but the entire cast is a delight.
THURSDAY Mechanic: Resurrection (2016) (Film4, 9pm)
Jason Statham flexes his muscles and chisels his jaw in Dennis Gansel’s sequel to the 2011 action thriller The Mechanic. Continuing straight after the first film, Resurrection follows hitman Arthur Bishop (Statham) in the aftermath of a failed attempt on his life by his duplicitous partner Steve McKenna. Since the rest of the world believes he is dead, Arthur retires from the killing game and plans to settle down with Gina (Jessica Alba). Unfortunately, an old adversary discovers Arthur’s whereabouts and pressures him back into action by kidnapping Gina. In order to save the woman he loves, Arthur must travel around the globe and carry out three suicidal missions to assassinate underworld figures.
FRIDAY The Hunger Games (2012) (Film4, 6.15pm)
In a post-apocalyptic future, North America lies in ruins. In its place stands the autocratic nation of Panem, comprising the wealthy Capitol and 12 surrounding, poorer districts controlled by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Every year, one boy and one girl are selected by lottery from each district to take part in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen (the steely Jennifer Lawrence) replaces her younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields) as the female representative from District 12, competing alongside baker’s son Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Their alcohol-sodden mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) prepares the youngsters for competition against the other teenagers in a brutal and bloody test of strength and endurance in this gripping drama.