Films of the week: A film without peer in the realm of British comedy

 

Saturday

Kind Hearts and Coronets

1.15pm BBC2

(Robert Hamer, 1949) In Ealing studio's only period comedy – a delicious, Hitchcockian serial-killer romp and a deft class satire – a poor and distant relative of the aristocratic D'Ascoyne family plots to murder all eight of the heirs ahead of him in line to the dukedom. Alec Guinness famously plays each of the D'Ascoynes, but Dennis Price is equally impressive and sly in the lead role. *****

Sunday

Big Fish

3.15pm Film4

(Tim Burton, 2003) Albert Finney plays a larger-than-life character and teller of tall tales, now confined to a hospital bed; Billy Crudup plays his estranged son; Ewan McGregor plays him as a younger man, enjoying picaresque adventures with witches and giants. A serio-comic drama about fathers and sons and the power of the imagination, Big Fish is Tim Burton's most grown-up film. ****

Monday

Let's Get Lost: Chet Baker

10pm Sky Arts 2

(Bruce Weber, 1988) This loose-limbed, downbeat documentary portrait of Chet Baker, the velvet-toned pretty boy of Fifties West Coast cool jazz, was completed shortly after he fell to his death from a hotel window in Amsterdam in 1988. A bittersweet but salutary warning against heroin use, it intercuts vintage archival performances with footage of him as a ravaged, mumbling, soul-sick 57-year-old. *****

Tuesday

Return

12mdn't Sky Movies Premiere

(Liza Johnson, 2011) An understated but involving indie drama about a blue-collar mother of two who has returned to Idaho after a tour of duty with the National Guard in Iraq. "A lot of people had it a lot worse than me," she insists, and yet ordinary domestic life is still somehow awkward and difficult to get on with. Linda Cardellini plays the woman; Michael Shannon plays her husband. ***

Wednesday

Source Code

9pm Film4

(Duncan Jones, 2011) In this high-quality action thriller amalgamating Quantum Leap, the Philip K Dick novel Ubik, and Groundhog Day, some experimental technology allows Jake Gyllenhaal's character to repeatedly relive the final minutes in the life of a passenger on a train on which a bomb has been planted. It gets confusing, but the film's emotional notes still sound clear and true. ****

Thursday

The Damned United

9pm BBC4

(Tom Hooper, 2009) David Peace's novel about Brian Clough's 44-day tenure as manager of the 1974 Leeds United team is an interior drama about obsession and despair. Peter Morgan's adaptation is more comic, re-establishing Clough's reputation as the finest wit English football ever produced. Michael Sheen expertly mimics Clough's mannerisms, and the film is similarly adept in its recreation of a bygone Britain. ***

Friday

Shadow Dancer

10am & 10pm Sky Movies Premiere

(James Marsh, 2012) Set in Nineties Belfast and wrapped in an oppressive blanket of authentic period drabness, this slow-burning thriller in which an IRA informant (Andrea Riseborough) and her MI5 handler (Clive Owen) play a complex fugue of mistrust and moral murkiness, is about how fully, after generations of sectarian enmity, the violence is entwined with these people's ordinary domestic lives. ****

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