This week’s choices of the best free-to-air films on UK TV are brought to you by James Diamond, in the three spare minutes in his day that he found down the back of the sofa.
Duncan Jones’s (he of the loins of David Bowie) follow-up to the critically acclaimed Moon was never quite going to live up to the hype and expectation. That doesn’t mean that this slice of sci-fi headfuckery isn’t still a great little film in its own right. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the agent sent to find out who planted a bomb on a train by reliving the last eight minutes of the journey over and over. Hard to believe this isn’t based on a Philip K. Dick short story.
Tuesday 9th July – Alfie (Film4, 11.10pm)
Michael Caine at his sixties peak. Part charming geezer, part utter bastard, this is a much darker film than the lightweight Jude Law remake. Alfie’s constant breaking of the fourth wall was pretty revolutionary at the time, and it spawned one of The Divine Comedy’s greatest singles. Say no more.
Wednesday 10th July – The African Queen (Film4, 11am)
Another one of my standard ‘I haven’t watched this yet, but you should’ recommendations. An Oscar-winning performance from Humphrey Bogart as an alcoholic riverboat captain who is persuaded by Katherine Hepburn’s straitlaced missionary to attack an enemy warship.
Thursday 11th July – Training Day (ITV4, 10pm)
Famously the film that ended racism in Hollywood by virtue of its Oscar-winning central performance from Denzel Washington, Training Day actually holds up really well after the hype-backlash-sensible reassessment cycle. It probably helps that I’m quite the fan of Ethan Hawke.
Friday 12th July – The Game (ITV4, 9pm)
As usual, there are a load of great films on tonight, and probably one or two that are better than my pick. But you will have seen those, whereas David Fincher’s The Game is one of those underrated gems that too few people have laid eyes on. Michael Douglas plays a successful but lonely banker, who is given a curious birthday present from his estranged brother (Sean Penn). He is soon drawn into a confusing ‘real life game experience’ where nothing is as it seems.
Saturday 13th July – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (ITV1, 2.25pm)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is on, but even my wife has seen that, and she hates that kind of thing. Instead I suggest you watch what must have surely been a massive influence on the resurrected Doctor Who series featuring as it does, wibbly wobbly time travel antics that don’t really make much sense, and a host of real life historical characters playing to their stereotypes. The San Dimas Mall montage is one of my favourite scenes from any film growing up.
Sunday 12th July – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (ITV2, 4.10pm)
Although you may have shunned Episode IV yesterday, there’s simply no excuse to miss one of the finest blockbusters ever made. High on action (from the opening scenes on Hoth to the escape from Cloud City), dramatic revelations (that line), and a genuine cliffhanger that left you wanting more. We might give George Lucas hell these days, but we’ll always have ‘Empire’.