Duke Box #15: Our Guide to the Best Films on TV
There's a healthy mix of big names, quieter titles, hard-hitting documentaries and lots of fantastic performances. For Pick of the Week, it's hard to look past the magnificent 12 Years a Slave, one of the finest films of the past decade and part of a Steve McQueen (director, not actor) double-bill on Film4 on Monday. I'm still confused as to how Chiwetel Ejiofor didn't scoop all of the awards for his performance, to be honest! However, as a huge fan of Jean Arthur on screen, a supremely talented actress whose films aren't shown nearly enough, I'd like to also give a shout out to The Devil and Miss Jones.
(A reminder that this list isn’t exhaustive and that some films will be repeated at different times – these are just some titles that I've selected for various reason, hopefully at the best times. Some films may also change if channels decide to alter their listings.)
Spectre (2015) – ITV, 8.30pm
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) – Talking Pictures TV, 9.05pm
Hard Times (1975) – Talking Pictures TV, 11.20pm
McFarland, USA (2015) – BBC1, 11.30pm
Love is Strange (2014) – Film 4, 2.10am
Another chance to see: The Sting (ITV4, 1.55pm), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (Sony Action, 2.35pm), Back to the Future (Film 4, 4.40pm), You’ve Got Mail (5Star, 4.15pm), Die Hard II (Sony Movies, 9pm), True Romance (Sony Movies, 11.25pm), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Sony Classic, 12.50am)
Today’s picks are all for the evening, beginning with a bit of Bond in Sam Mendes’ Spectre. It’s not the finest Daniel Craig outing, but it does feature a couple of great set-pieces and looks to be pretty key for upcoming release No Time To Die. Just after 9, Cher, Sandy Dennis and Karen Black star in Robert Altman’s Come Back to the 5 & Dime…, the story of a group of James Dean devotees who meet up on the 20th anniversary of his death to reconnect. Later on, there’s Walter Hill’s Hard Times – not a surprising Dickens adaptation, but the bruising adventures of an illegal prize-fighter in Depression Era New Orleans. McFarland, USA is a good old-fashioned inspirational sports film starring Kevin Costner (a genre all of its own) about a former football coach who turns his attention to building a cross-country team to help the under-privileged kids of his new school. Finally, and one I hope makes its way to All 4, is Love is Strange, a touching drama starring Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as a couple whose long-lasting love is tested when circumstances force them into separate homes.
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) – Sony Classic, 3.50pm
Big Eyes (2014) – Film 4, 5.05pm
Night of the Demon – Talking Pictures TV, 11.55pm
Another chance to see: Sudden Fear (5 Select, 10am), The Sting (ITV4, 11.25am), Back to the Future II (Film 4, 2.55pm), Shrek (ITV2, 5pm), Das Boot (Sony Action, 6.05pm), Cover Girl (Sony Classic, 6.45pm), Atomic Blonde (Film 4, 9pm), 3:10 to Yuma (Sony Movies, 10.50pm), Desperado (Sony Action, 11.10pm), God’s Own Country (C4, 11.10pm)
Richard Burton stars as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days, a retelling of the monarch’s controversial desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes sees Amy Adams play American artist Margaret Keane, whose distinct artistic style was initially credited to her husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz). The day ends with an absolute belter: Night of the Demon, a classic slice of British gothic that sees an American psychologist travel to England to investigate a strange satanic cult. The film even inspired Kate Bush: “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”
Run for Cover (1955) – Film4, 2.50pm
The Enemy Below (1957) – Film4, 4.40pm
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) – Sony Classic, 5.50pm
Romancing the Stone (1984) – Film4, 6.40pm
12 Years a Slave (2013) – Film4, 9pm
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) – Sony Movies, 9pm
Shame (2011) – Film4, 11.40pm
Another chance to see: Sink the Bismarck! (Film4, 12.50pm), Das Boot (Sony Action, 5.20pm), Torn Curtain (Sony Classic, 9pm)
It’s a Film 4 sort of day this coming Monday, with an intriguing prospect as a first recommendation: Run for Cover, a Western starring James Cagney and directed by Nicholas Ray. There are more noir stars foraying into other genres, as Robert Mitchum’s destroyer captain gets involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse with his German U-Boat counterpart in WWII sea-drama The Enemy Below, directed by Dick Powell. Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito have a ball in adventure romp Romancing the Stone, about a romance novelist who finds herself on a wild trip to save her kidnapped sister. There’s a stunning Steve McQueen (director, not actor) double bill in the evening, beginning with Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave, the powerful, unflinching and brilliant adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s diaries. Its packed cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor giving the performance of a lifetime, Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar-winning turn and a villainous Michael Fassbender. Fassbender also stars in Shame, McQueen’s stylish and intense drama about a man’s spiralling sex addiction and its devastating repercussions on his life. Elsewhere, there’s a tea-time screening of Ernest Hemingway adaptation For Whom the Bell Tolls, starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman in a tale of an American helping fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War, as well as entertaining threequel Die Hard with a Vengeance, with Bruce Willis’ returning John McClane forming a fun double act with Samuel L. Jackson’s reluctant shopowner.
The Mob – Talking Pictures TV, 12.15am
Another chance to see: King Rat (Sony Action, 4.25pm), The Big Sky (Sony Classic, 4.30pm), Breaker Morant (Sony Classic, 6.50pm), Back to the Future II (Film4, 6.50pm), Cover Girl (Sony Classic, 9pm), Desperado (Sony Action, 9pm), Creed (5Star, 9pm), Girls Trip (Film4, 9pm), Come Back to the 5 & Dime (Talking Pictures TV, 10pm)
There are more suggestions for things to catch-up on than new listings to check out today, but, if you’re in the mood for some film noir, you can check out The Mob. It’s a quintessential set-up of the genre: a suspended police detective is placed undercover to investigate the mysterious death of a waterfront mob boss. Broderick Crawford (All the King’s Men) stars.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) – Film4, 3.35pm
Reunion at Fairborough (1985) – Sony Classic, 9pm
Storyville: Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge (2020) – BBC4, 10pm
Black Mother (2018) – Film4, 1.30am
Another chance to see: Pimpernel Smith (Film4, 11am), Build My Gallows High (Sony Classic, 11.20am), The Locket (Sony Classic, 1.10pm), Angel Face (Sony Classic, 3pm)
An epic collaboration between Japanese and American filmmakers, Tora! Tora! Tora! is an insightful recreation of the events leading up to and including Pearl Harbour. Featuring some hard-hitting action scenes, it’s been the blueprint for films about the attack since. Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum team up for their fourth collaboration in Reunion at Fairborough, a genteel romance about a WWII vet who travels to England and meets up with an old flame. Finally, two very different documentaries. BBC’s Storyville series shows Welcome to Chechnya, the hard-hitting story of the LGBTQ+ activists risking their lives as they fight for their rights amidst anti-gay purges. Then Kalik Allah’s photographic documentary Black Mother depicts different people living in Jamaica, filming their faces for a few seconds as if visual portraits.
The Victors (1963) – Sony Action, 4.10pm
Winchester ’73 (1950) – Film4, 5.05pm
Cash on Demand (1961) – Sony Classic, 7.20pm
The Fugitive (1993) – ITV4, 9pm
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – Sony Classic, 9pm
Touching the Void (2003) – C4, 10pm
High Rise (2015) – Film4, 11.15pm
Storyville: Scandalous! The Tabloid that Changed America – BBC2, 11.30pm
Green Room (2015) - Film4, 1.35am
Another chance to see: Angel Face (Sony Action, 11.20am), They Live By Night (Sony Classic, 1.10pm), Heaven Knows, Mr Allison (Film4, 2.55pm), Layer Cake (Sony Movies, 9pm), The Locket (Sony Classic, 11.10pm), Breaker Morant (Sony Classic, 12.55am)
A grand cast – including Albert Finney, Jeanne Moreau, Eli Wallach, Romy Schneider and more – star in Carl Foreman’s exploration of the futility of war in The Victors, whilst James Stewart plays a man hunting fugitive and a rifle that keeps passing hands in Western Winchester ’73. There’s more than a touch of the Dickens to British neo-noir thriller Cash on Demand, a Hammer Horror production starring Peter Cushing about a charming, ruthless man who tries to rob a bank by holding its manager’s family hostage. There are more thrills to check out at 9pm, with Harrison Ford’s wrongly accused Dr Kimble on the run from Tommy Lee Jones’ persistent martial in The Fugitive and Walter Matthau’s New York lieutenant in a battle of wits against a group of subway hijackers led by Robert Shaw in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. There are a couple of documentaries in the shape of BAFTA-winner Touching the Void, a remarkable mountaineering story, and Scandalous! The Tabloid that Changed America, a jaw-dropping look at the long-lasting effect of the National Enquirer. Elsewhere there’s a double bill of 2015 highlights on Film 4: Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss and more star in High Rise, Ben Wheatley’s stylish adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s sinister dystopian, whilst Patrick Stewart’s menacing neo-Nazi club-owner sets his gang on a punk band in Jeremy Saulnier’s crunching horror-thriller Green Room.
My Favourite Brunette (1947) – Sony Classic, 10.15am
The Shooting (1967) – Paramount, 2.10pm
The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) – Talking Pictures TV, 2.50pm
Borg vs McEnroe (2017) – BBC2, 11.20pm
Limitless (2011) – 5Star, 11.45pm
The Survivalist – Film 4, 1.05am
Another chance to see: The Enemy Below (Film4, 3pm), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Sony Classic, 4.10pm), Waterloo (Sony Classic, 6.20pm), From Here to Eternity (Sony Classic, 9pm), 3:10 to Yuma (BBC1, 10.45pm), The Swimmer (Sony Classic, 11.20pm), A Most Violent Year (Sony Movies, 1.10am)
Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour star in film-noir parody My Favourite Brunette on Friday morning, a film that also sees genre stalwart Peter Lorre pastiche his many recognisable roles, as well as a few other film noir cameos. Jack Nicholson stars as a mysterious gunslinger tracking a mysterious woman and her companions in Western The Shooting, whilst Charles Coburn stars in The Devil and Miss Jones, a comedy with bite that sees a tycoon go undercover in one of his department stores to infiltrate a potential union, only to find himself learning more about his employees – including Jean Arthur’s Mary Jones. Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf take on one of sport’s most infamous rivalries in tennis biographical drama Borg vs McEnroe, whilst Robert DeNiro offers Bradley Cooper a drug to help him fully utilise his brain – and all the inevitable consequences of that – in sci-fi-action-thriller Limitless. Finally, in the early hours there’s The Survivalist, a brutal, atmospheric, BAFTA-nominated post-apocalypse drama about a trio of people who find themselves living together whilst navigating their suspicions and survival instinct. It’s a tough watch but unique.