TV films of the week: from Christopher Nolan to Tim Burton via Cornwall and Casablanca | #childabductors

With his head-scratchingly complex new film Tenet burning up the box office, here’s a chance to see the compelling thriller which set director Christopher Nolan on the road to cinematic stardom. Guy Pearce plays former insurance investigator Leonard Shelby, who suffers from a rare, untreatable form of memory loss which prevents him remembering what happened 15 minutes ago far less what happened the previous day or week. The condition has plagued Leonard since he was knocked unconscious after discovering a masked assailant brutally assaulting his wife (Jorja Fox). Ever since, Leonard has spent every waking minute in the pursuit of vengeance. For him, the past is a vast blank canvas and the time has come to fill in the missing details. A fiendishly clever and ambitious thriller, Leonard’s story is told in alternating parallel time-frames. Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano provide solid support.

Sunday

Casablanca, BBC Two, 4.20pm

Even as the Second World War rages, Rick (Humphrey Bogart), the American owner of a popular nightclub in the Moroccan city of Casablanca, prides himself on not becoming involved in politics. However his cynicism (or is it just common sense?) is put to the test when old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) walks into the bar and requires his assistance to spirit Czech resistance leader husband (Paul Henreid) out of Casablanca and away to safety. There’s a reason this is routinely hailed as one of the greatest films of all time: it really does have it all, including a gripping storyline, a moving romance, an endlessly quotable script (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world …” etc.) and some great songs. The chemistry between Bogart and Bergman sizzles, but let’s also hear it for the incredible supporting cast, particularly Claude Rains as the cheerfully corrupt Captain Renault and the ever-watchable Peter Lorre.

Monday

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Film 4, 9pm

When Jake’s grandfather, Abe, dies under mysterious circumstances, the youngster remembers the bizarre stories Abe told of his childhood during the Second World War, which he spent at a home on a small Welsh island run by a Miss Peregrine. Jake’s father subsequently takes him to the island but when he enters the apparently ruined house, which was bombed in 1943, he discovers that Miss Peregrine saved the children using a time loop, which maintains everything as it was 24 hours before the house was destroyed. Tim Burton’s gloriously dark fantasy adventure is based on Ransom Riggs’s bestselling novel and features a great cast headed by Eva Green and including Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett and Allison Janney.

Tuesday

All The Money in the World, Film 4, 9pm

On July 10, 1973, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is strolling through balmy night-time Rome trading pleasantries with prostitutes when he is snatched off the street by balaclava-clad men. The abductors demand a $17 million ransom by telephone from the boy’s mother, Abigail (Michelle Williams). Oil tycoon J Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer, no relation to his young co-star) refuses to plunder a single cent from his billion-dollar empire, coldly arguing that if he paid a ransom for one grandchild he would set a costly precedent. Instead, he hires former CIA agent and security consultant Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg) to rescue the boy. Based on John Pearson’s book Painfully Rich, All The Money In The World is a propulsive thriller which refutes theories that the young Getty colluded in his own kidnapping. Ridley Scott’s film sustains dramatic tension with aplomb as David Scarpa’s script ricochets between the gang holding the boy hostage and the dysfunctional Getty family (also the subject of recent mini-series Trust, which starred Donald Sutherland as Getty senior).

Wednesday

Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Channel 5, 11.05pm

It’s not just eccentric Time Lords who can zip from era to era in a souped-up phone box – slacker teens can do it, too. This cult and utterly preposterous 1989 comedy about two high school students who travel through time to research a history project stars Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as the titular Bill and Ted and is always a pleasure. Eminently quotable (“Party on, dudes”) and totally meme-tastic it’s no surprise that it spawned video games, a TV series, comics and even a theme park. There was a 1991 sequel, Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey (airing tomorrow night) and, 29 years on, a third film, Bill And Ted Face The Music, which was released last month and which sees both Reeves and Winter reprising their roles.

Thursday

Bait, Film 4, 11.20pm

Shot on a hand-cranked Bolex camera using 16 mm black and white film which he developed himself using instant coffee and Vitamin C powder, Mark Jenkin’s BAFTA-winning 2019 film plays out against the backdrop of the Brexit negotiations – courtesy of background radio news bulletins – and follows Cornish fisherman Martin Ward (Edward Rowe) across one summer as he tries to eke out a living in a community swamped with second home owners. One of these families, the Leighs, now occupies the harbourside cottage he and his brother Steven (Giles King) grew up in and it’s their arrival with a car-load of champagne and other delicacies – plus two spoilt teenage children, Katie (Georgia Ellery) and Hugo (Jowan Jacobs) – that sets in train a series of events which result in tragedy.

Martin used to fish with elder brother Steven in their father’s boat but since Steven diversified into coastal trips for stag parties he has taken to pegging out nets on the beach instead, in the company of Steven’s son Neil (Isaac Woodvine). Martin can sell four sea-bass for £30 to the owner of the local pub, of which Neil earns £10. That’s just enough for a night out with Katie, with whom he’s having an on-off summer fling, though as often as not she ends up around a fire on the beach in the company of Hugo and his friends, all of them monied seasonal incomers. Hugo likes to take to the harbour in his wetsuit and try to spear fish. One day he cuts open Martin’s single lobster creel and the Leighs eat the contents. For them it’s a delicious accompaniment to their chilled white wine but for Martin it’s a significant loss of income. Meanwhile local girl Wenna (Chloe Endean) opens a second front in the battle when she’s sacked from her job in the pub for abusing Hugo and his friends and then nuts his father, Tim (Simon Shepherd).

Opening with a shot of Martin striding angrily down the street, a scene intercut with flash-forwards in which we see an arrest, an injury and a fight, Jenkin’s film alternates between gritty realism and – thanks to the Heath Robinson means of production – hazy experimentalism. There are detailed close-ups (of flowers, ropes, crab claws), the screen occasionally bleaches out to white, and with the dialogue and the sound having been added afterwards (the camera mechanism is so noisy it made recording speech impossible) you feel at times as if you’re watching an old silent movie. And if you have ever holidayed in Cornwall (or Norfolk, or the East Neuk, or anywhere that has an uneasy balance between locals and tourists) you’ll certainly cringe at some of the scenes: such as when Katie and Hugo’s mother Sandra (Mary Woodvine) greets the hipster couple she’s letting the cottage’s old net loft to, or when that same hipster couple complain that’s it’s too early for Steven to have his boat engines on. “It’s eight o’clock,” says Martin. “You gonna to change the tides for him?”.

Friday

Galaxy Quest, 5 STAR, 9pm

Washed-up actors of cancelled sci-fi show Galaxy Quest are still in demand at conventions and store-openings where they regularly appear dressed in costume and in character. But some of their biggest fans are a group of aliens who believe their show to be a historical document and consequently model their culture on it. When the creatures are targeted by the evil General Sarris, they turn to the actors for protection, hoping they’ll have a plan. This clever, funny film affectionately pokes fun at shows like Star Trek and their obsessive followings with a top-flight cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Tim Allen.

And one to stream …

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, Netflix

Charlie Kaufman is one of those Marmite-y writer-directors whose films you love or loathe depending on your tolerance for the obtuse, the bizarre, the wonky and the defiantly post-modern. He’s celebrated for writing Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, for which he won an Oscar, and for Being John Malkovich, to which anyone under 25 will say: ‘Who’s John Malkovich?’. His directorial credits, meanwhile, began with 2008’s Synecdoche, New York and continued with 2015 stop-motion curio Anomalisa.

Five years on he’s back, this time with a psychological thriller of sorts starring Irish actress Jessie Buckley as a young woman (we’re never clear about her real name) who’s meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time at their rural American farmhouse. The meeting and the very weird dinner which follows – David Thewlis and Toni Collette are at their batty best playing the parents – take place in the middle of snowstorm. The boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons), has an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything the pair talk about on the drive, and Buckley’s character’s area of expertise is every-changing. One moment she’s a college student studying rabies, then she’s a poet, then a painter. We hear her inner voice – “I’m thinking of ending things” is her opening thought – but there’s a suspicion that Jake can hear it too. Meanwhile the action is intercut with scenes from the life of an elderly high school janitor, whose experiences Jake seems to have lived out. Oh, and there’s dancing. What does it all mean? Who knows, but it’s worth sticking with.


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