Duke Box #44: Our Guide to the Best Films on TV

Hi everyone,  

Poetic visuals, profound storytelling, spectacular action set-pieces, compelling leading characters, dynamic duos, genre classics, sharp satire and 'dad jokes' - there's a wealth of wonderful films and performances to lose yourself in this week. gain, I've refreshed some older recommendations for you to enjoy if you missed out first time round to accompany the first time picks, with Alan J. Pakula's thrilling and enthralling All the President's Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal, a must-see.  

(Please note that this list isn't exhaustive – these are just some titles that I've selected as ones to try out or revisit, hopefully at the best times. Some films may also change if channels decide to alter their listings.) 

Find last week's here: Duke Box 43 

Saturday 16

The Wild One (1953) – Sony Classic, 11.55am
The Nun’s Story (1959) – BBC2, 1.15pm
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) – Sony Action, 2pm
Pork Chop Hill (1959) – Paramount, 3.20pm (repeated later in the week)
Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989) – C4, 6.30pm
The Thin Red Line (1998) – Paramount, 9pm
As Good as it Gets (1997) – 5Star, 9pm
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) – E4, 9pm (repeated later in the week)
The Boston Strangler (1968) – Talking Pictures TV, 9.35pm (repeated later in the week)
99 Homes (2014) – BBC2, 10.20pm
The French Connection (1971) – Sony Action, 10.40pm (repeated later in the week)
Escape from New York (1981) – Film4, 11.05pm
True Lies (1994) – C4, 11.20pm
Foxcatcher (2014) – BBC1, 12.20am
A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – BBC2, 2.05am (on at a kinder time later in the week)

Another chance to see: Turbo (ITV2, 3.10pm), Angel Face (Sony Classic, 3.15pm), The Towering Inferno (ITV4, 4pm), Shrek (ITV2, 5pm), Dead Reckoning (Sony Classic, 5.05pm), In the Heat of the Night (Sony Classic, 9pm), Mrs Brown (BBC4, 9pm), The Big Heat (Sony Classic, 11.25pm) 

It’s a day for some of the biggest names in Hollywood today, from career making solo performances like Marlon Brando in outlaw biker gang drama The Wild One, to the staggering ensemble at the centre of Terrence Malick’s poetic and philosophical WWII film The Thin Red Line. Audrey Hepburn contemplates the sacrifices required of her during personal and historical crises in the luminous, thoughtful The Nun’s Story, while Robert Redford is a reckless and rudderless barnstorming WWI veteran looking to capture some aviation thrills in The Great Waldo Pepper. Gregory Peck faces a daunting, hopeless battle in Korean War set drama Pork Chop Hill, directed by All Quiet on the Western Front’s Lewis Milestone, before more adventures with Harrison Ford’s whip-cracking archaeologist hero, accompanied here by his dad (Sean Connery), in Steven Spielberg’s wonderful Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade – which also features River Phoenix in a great intro scene. Jack Nicholson picked up his third Oscar for his role as an obsessive compulsive, rude romantic-fiction writer who finds his life turned upside down by an Oscar-winning Helen Hunt in comedy-drama As Good As It Gets, Tom Cruise reprises his role as spy extraordinaire Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (the fourth instalment of the stylish, stunt-heavy franchise) and Tony Curtis is the serial killer hunted by Henry Fonda in true-crime inspired The Boston Strangler. While Andrew Garfield’s single dad is reluctantly accepting employment from the man (Michael Shannon) who evicted him and his family in powerful drama 99 Homes, Gene Hackman’s hard-edged cop is determined to bring down a heroin ring, no matter the cost, in William Friedkin’s uncompromising, dynamic The French Connection, Kurt Russell dons an eyepatch as criminal-on-a-rescue-mission Snake Plisskin in John Carpenter’s cult dystopia Escape from New York and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a top secret agent finding it difficult to keep his dangerous day job from his neglected wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) in True Lies,  James Cameron’s blast of an action-comedy (co-starring a sleazy turn from the late, great Bill Paxton). There’s a dark story inspired by real events at the centre of drama Foxcatcher, which sees Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star as Olympian winning brothers Mark and Dave Schulz recruited by multimillionaire Jon du Pont (Steve Carrell) for coaching, only to have to contend with his destructive behaviour. It’s a strikingly shot, chilling film from director Bennett Miller (Moneyball), with excellent performances from the three leads and Vanessa Redgrave in support. In a curious twist too, last year saw Ruffalo star in Todd Haynes’ true legal thriller Dark Waters as an environmental lawyer taking on the DuPont company – well worth a watch if you have Amazon Prime.


Sunday 17

Rise of the Guardians (2012) – C4, 2.15pm
Airplane! (1980) – ITV4, 9pm
George A. Romeros Land of the Dead (2005) – The Horror Channel, 9pm
Mississippi Grind (2015) – BBC2, 10.30pm
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016) – C5, 11.00pm
Sweet Sixteen (2002) – Film4, 11.45pm
All the President’s Men
(1976) – BBC1, 12.05am (on at a kinder time later in the week)
A Bigger Splash (2015) – C4, 12.55am 

Another chance to see: Lord of the Flies (5Select, 12.05pm), The Man Who Would Be King (Film4, 3.15pm), Shrek 2 (ITV2, 5.05pm), Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (Sky Arts, 3am)

There’s early afternoon family with animation Rise of the Guardians, starring the vocal talents of Hugh Jackman and Jude Law, which sees some familiar figures – Jack Frost, Tooth Fairy, Santa – unite to protect children’s imaginations from evil. The evening meanwhile has all kinds of delights to choose from, including the Zucker brothers’ laugh-a-minute, quotable comedy Airplane! coming in to land at the same time as George A. Romero’s sharply satirical, political and gory zombie sequel Land of the Dead. Indie Mississippi Grind, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Captain Marvel) features a fantastic Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds as two strangers looking to gamble away their problems together on a road trip, Bridget Jones’s Baby sees Renee Zellweger return alongside Colin Firth (alas, no Hugh Grant) for more romantic turmoil in an Emma Thompson-penned script, and a young Martin Compston (Line of Duty) as a teenager with a troubled home life looking to fix a money situation for him and his soon-to-be-released-from-prion mum in Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen. All the President’s Men appears at a better time later in the week, so I’ll leave it for now, but if you’re looking for a midnight/early-hours-of-the-morning treat, there’s sunny, psychological drama A Deeper Splash. Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), it sees a global superstar musician (Tilda Swinton), her boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts), her former lover and music promoter (a scene-stealing Ralph Fiennes) and his recently discovered daughter (Dakota Johnson) converge in an isolated Italian villa, with fragile egos and broken relationships slowly coming to the surface.  


Monday 18

The Straight Story (1999) – Film4, 11am
Frankenstein (1931) – The Horror Channel, 1.10pm
Georgy Girl (1966) – Sony Classic, 2.20pm (repeated later in the week)
It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) – Talking Pictures TV, 2.25pm
The Ladykillers (1955) – Film4, 3.10pm
Bridge to Terabithia (2007) – Sony Movies, 4.35pm
The Way Way Back (2013) – Film4, 6.55pm
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) – ITV4, 9pm (repeated later in the week)
A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – BBC4, 10pm
Benjamin (2018) – Film4, 11.05pm
Fargo (1996) – ITV4, 11.45pm
Hard Times (1975) – Talking Pictures TV, 12am
Sing Street (2016) – Film4, 12.50am

Another chance to see: Destry Rides Again (Film4, 1.15pm), Paddington (Film4, 5pm), Blade Runner 2049 (Sony Movies, 11.10pm)

Spend the morning following one man’s long journey across the country on his lawnmower to see his sick brother in David Lynch’s beautifully shot, tenderly told The Straight Story, before revelling in Boris Karloff’s iconic performance as the Monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein. Lynn Redgrave gets caught up in Swinging ‘60s London in Georgy Girl, which might be a nice precursor to the evening’s screening of A Hard Day’s Night, which sees the Fab Four at the height of Beatlemania and up to all sorts of mischief as they prepare for a live show in Richard Lester’s comedy. Two very different Ealing offerings appear in the afternoon, with crime drama It Always Rains on Sunday’s story of a working class housewife whose escaped convict former lover demands help from her, and black comedy The Ladykillersi, which sees Alec Guinness and his merry band of eccentric criminals having to contend with a nosy landlady. Two adolescent friends create beautiful fantasy worlds to have adventures in, in the imaginative, gorgeous and tear-jerking Bridge to Terabithia, while a misfit teenager finds a job and a father figure in a water park one summer in coming of age comedy drama The Way Way Back, starring Steve Carrell, Sam Rockwell and Toni Collette. James Cameron’s fantastic action sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day sees Arnie return (well, he did say he’d be back) as the futuristic cyborg – albeit with a bit of a twist this time out. The effects, including Robert Patrick’s sinister, shapeshifting T-1000, are still spectacular, while Linda Hamilton’s terrific Sarah Connor levels UP and cements her place as action hero elite. Colin Morgan stars as a rising filmmaker facing romantic turmoil in Simon Amstell’s sweet and sharp, semi-autobiographical comedy Benjamin, an Irish teen in 1980s Dublin starts a band to impress a girl in the charming, feel-good musical Sing Street from the director Once, and in between there’s bruising drama Hard Times about a drifter-turned-prize-fighter in Depression Era New Orleans, courtesy of filmmaker Walter Hill. And, of course, there’s a stellar Frances McDormand in her first Oscar-winning role as Detective Marge Gunderson in the Coen Brothers’ charmingly off-beat, darkly comic Fargo. Does it deserve the acclaim? You betcha!  


Tuesday 19

Get Low (2009) – Sony Movies, 6.55pm
Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) – Sony Classic, 9pm
Spy (2015) – Film4, 9pm

Another chance to see: The Colditz Story (Film4, 3pm), Super 8 (Film4, 6.35pm), Mystic Pizza (5Star, 11pm)

Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Space in the early evening’s Get Low, a sweet, subtle, partly true southern tale of a feared Tennessee hermit who hires a fast-talking mortician to help him throw his own funeral while he’s still alive…and reveal a few secrets. Then at 9pm there’s a choice between the multi-BAFTA winning Sunday Bloody Sunday and action-packed hoot Spy. The former is a striking and delicate look at a doctor (Peter Finch) and a divorcee (Glenda Jackson) who are each aware and accepting of each other’s separate relationships with the same man. The latter, meanwhile, sees Melissa McCarthy’s desk-bound CIA worker thrust front and centre of an international undercover operation, relishing the chance to indulge in spoofing spy films while kicking ass and paying homage. It’s got a great cast – Jason Statham is clearly having the time of his life.


Wednesday 20

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) – Talking Pictures TV, 10.30am
His Girl Friday (1940) – Film4, 4.50pm
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) – ITV4, 10pm
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Film4, 11.20pm
Robin & Marian (1976) – C4, 2.10am

Another chance to see: Dead Reckoning (Sony Classic, 4.50pm), The African Queen (Sony Classic, 9pm) Reds (Talking Pictures TV, 9.05pm), The Thin Red Line (Paramount, 11.45pm)

There are silver screen stars doing what they do best during the Wednesday, with Barbara Stanwyck on fine form as a woman with, what else, a secret in classic film noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, co-starring Kirk Douglas and Van Heflin, and Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell sparring and crackling as a divorced newspaper editor and reporter covering a murder case in screwball romantic comedy His Girl Friday. Bruce Willis reprises his role as unlucky New York cop John McClane in the excellent sequel Die Hard with a Vengeance, forging a fantastic double-act with Samuel L. Jackson as he tries to take down Jeremy Irons’ terrorist, while Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning smash-hit Slumdog Millionaire catapulted Dev Patel into the Hollywood stratosphere, thanks to his wonderful, charming performance as an impoverished Mumbai teenager accused of cheating on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. The late, great Irrfan Khan is also on top form as the show’s host. Finally, Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn star as an older Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the bittersweet Robin & Marian. Enjoying playing unexpected iterations of the characters, the duo are joined by Robert Shaw as the Sherriff of Nottingham and Richard Harris as Richard the Lionheart.


Thursday 21

Cottage to Let (1941) – Film4, 11am
The End of the Affair (1955) – Sony Classic, 2.55pm
Our Man in Havana (1959) – Sony Classic, 9pm
All the President’s Men (1976) – BBC4 9pm
The Equalizer (2014) – Film4, 9pm
Daybreakers (2009) – Film4, 11.40pm

Another chance to see: Pork Chop Hill (Paramount, 12pm), Ministry of Fear (Film4, 12.50pm), To Hell & Back (Film4, 2.35pm), The Professionals (Film4, 4.45pm), Bridge to Terabithia (Sony Movies, 7.05pm), Blade Runner 2049 (Sony Movies, 9pm), Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (E4, 9pm), The Boston Strangler (Talking Pictures TV, 10pm), The Woman in Black (5Star, 12.05am)

A day full of secrets, lies and, erm, vampires – but I’ll get to them shortly.

Leslie Banks and Alistair Sim star in Cottage to Let, a British comedy-thriller about new tenants, Allied spies and Nazi Agents interested in an inventor landowner’s new bomb, while the war and spy games leave their mark in the day’s two Graham Greene adaptations too. The End of the Affair boasts a wonderful cast including Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson and Peter Cushing in its story of the complex love affair and tests of faith of a man and married woman during WWII, before Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara head to Cuba for espionage and tall tales in Carol Reed’s satirical Our Man in Havana. There’s political scandal and cover-ups in true story All the President’s Men, which sees Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford step into the shoes of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, The Washington Post reporters who investigated the Watergate scandal, uncovering a national scandal that brought down a presidency. Denzel Washington reunites with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for the pulpy, old-fashioned but slick B-movie actioner The Equaliser, followed on Film4 by vampire-dystopia Daybreakers – an imperfect but intriguing sci-fi/action/horror hybrid where vampires now make up most of the population but are running out of blood… The cast also boasts Ethan Hunt, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill, which is one excellent trio.


Friday 22

On Dangerous Ground (1951) – Sony Classic, 11am
The Scarlet & the Black (1983) – Sony Action, 5.50pm
The Graduate (1967) – Sony Classic, 9pm
The Guest (2014) – Sony Movies, 9pm
Wind River (2017) – Film4, 9pm
Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (1974) – Film4, 11.10pm
Interview with the Vampire (1994) – BBC1, 11.30pm
Timbuktu (2014) – BBC2, 1.50am

Another chance to see: Georgy Girl (Sony Classic, 5.15pm), As Good As It Gets (5Star, 9pm), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (ITV4, 9pm), The French Connection (Sony Action, 11.05pm), Sunday Bloody Sunday (Sony Classic, 11.15pm)

A violent city cop is sent to help a local sheriff solve a small-town murder and finds himself falling for a woman embroiled in the case in Nicholas Ray’s film noir On Dangerous Ground. The fantastic Ida Lupino not only stars, but apparently stepped in to co-direct too. Gregory Peck, John Gielgud and Christopher Plummer star in The Scarlet & the Black, the true story of the Vatican’s and an Irish Catholic’s priest’s efforts to shelter escaped POWS, Allied forces, Jewish people and refugees escaping the Nazis in Rome. A trio of strikingly shot films hit the mark at 9pm: Dustin Hoffman’s college student is torn between his girlfriend (Katharine Ross) and her mother (Anne Bancroft) in Mike Nichol’s iconic The Graduate; a series of mysterious deaths follow the arrival of Dan Stevens’ secretive soldier at a family’s home in thriller The Guest, and Elizabeth Olson and Jeremy Renner set out to solve a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wind River from Taylor Sheridan (writer of Hell and High Water). Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges combine as a legendary thief and a reckless drifter looking to carry out a bank robbery in Michael Cimino’s buddy-road-action film Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, while Brad Pitt recalls his undead life with Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas and Kirsten Dunst in Neil Jordan’s sumptuously designed Interview with the Vampire.  Finally, on BBC2 but also sure to be available on iPlayer as well, there’s the acclaimed Timbuktu, a startling, beautiful and powerful film about a Malian farming family whose peaceful lives are disrupted by the arrival of fundamentalists following a tragic accident. There’s a strong message behind the film, but it’s imaginatively and often wryly told, painting in all shades of human emotion and experiences of life.