Best Films on TV: 20th to 26th May

The best* free-to-air films on television every day this week, as chosen the mad, bad, and dangerous to know site editor, James Diamond

*’best’ is a subjective term and James will deal with any criticism of these choices by sticking his fingers in his ears and humming Beethoven’s Ninth until you go away.

Beverly Hills Cop movie image Judge ReinholdMonday 20th May – The Jerk (ITV4, 12.10am)

Steve Martin’s film debut (he also co-wrote the script) is also arguably his funniest screen performance. Martin plays Navin R. Johnson, the adopted white son of African american sharecroppers who remains blissfully unaware of his genetic heritage until adulthood. Despite a rather crass-sounding premise, this film is both stupid and rather sweet-natured; similar in tone to its obvious descendant Dumb and Dumber.

In a rare move for this blog, I am also going to nominate the worst film on TV today, which is undoubtedly Silent Hill (Film4, 11.25pm). A film so bad it’s the closest I’ve come to walking out of a cinema, and manages to make Uwe Boll’s computer game adaptations look like Oscar winners.

Tuesday 21st May – The Last Samurai (5USA, 9pm)

I love Tom Cruise like our very own Owen Hughes loves Jean-Claude Van Damme (incidentally, JCVD’s Cyborg is on tonight, Sky 1, 9pm), and this is one of those films where he cannot be accused of playing cheeky chappy Tom Cruise. Instead he is a bearded Civil War veteren, recruited to train the Japanese Meiji government forces, hellbent on destroying the last remaining samurai who are resistant to the new western-influenced order. While it doesn’t offer anything particularly new, it looks wonderful and Cruise and Ken Watanabe’s central relationship drives the film.

Wednesday 22nd May – Hotel Rwanda (Channel 4, 1.45am)

You’ll need to stay up pretty late to watch a great film that you might not have seen before (the brilliant The Bourne Identity is getting its weekly outing, ITV2, 10pm). So get a pot of coffee on (or more sensibly, set your generic DVR to record) for this true life tale of a hotel manager who helped protect over a thousand refugees during a bloody war in Rwanada.

Thursday 23rd May – Beverly Hills Cop (Film4, 9pm)

Sometimes a film screams the decade it comes from through every pore of its body. Eddie Murphy at his acerbic and foul-mouthed best? Odd couble/buddy cop film with car chases and gin fights galore? Instantly recognisable all-synthesiser score? Judge Reinhold starring? Yep, Beverly Hills Cop IS the 1980s.

Friday 24th May – One Million Years BC (Film4, 5.15pm)

Early this month we lost the great Ray Harryhausen, the special effects genius who entertained and terrified millions of youngsters over the years with his stop-motion monsters. Although not quite in the same league as Jason and the Argonauts, this frankly odd tale of human lust and betrayal set against their age-old battles with dinosaurs. Hey, if all films were scientifically accurate then what would internet obsessives have to moan about?

Saturday 25th May – The Ladykillers (More 4, 1.15pm)

Saturday afternoon usually offers a classic to settle down and rediscover, and this weekend is no exception. Possibly the finest (and certainly the most famous) Ealing comedy, the Ladykillers stars Alec Guinness as the leader of a gang hiding out from the law, but constantly thwarted in their attempts by a seemingly benign and doddery old lady. The evening also gives us an opportunity to revisit Nic Roeg’s at times bonkers, and at other times brilliant and incisive, sci-fi classic The Man Who Fell To Earth (BBC2, 10.50pm)

Sunday 26th May – Festen (Film4, 11.20pm)

While you are unlikely to see as messy and amateur-looking a film all week, the first ever Dogme 95 film is an utterly captivating story of a family reunion, and the revelation of a dark secret that threatens to destroy lives. Directed by Thomas Vinterburg (who directed last year’s The Hunt), this is a triumph of substance over style. Brilliant performances and the lo-fi filming style pull in the viewer far more than any 3D ever could.

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