Films of the week: For movies with punch, Rocky is a real contender

 

Monday

Rocky

11pm Channel 5

(John G Avildsen, 1976) Sylvester Stallone's Oscar-nominated script about a lowly palooka given a shot at the world title was reportedly written in three days, but created a movie and cultural icon. The plot is a cliché, but as a scruffily low-key character study and love story, it is absolutely charming. And while the climactic boxing match is unconvincing, the training montages are knock-out. *****

Saturday

Body of Lies

10.30pm ITV

(Ridley Scott, 2008) This film sets up a clash between Leonardo DiCaprio's grizzled CIA field agent on the ground in the Middle East, and his boss, Russell Crowe, making decisions from the safety of Washington. It has the taut plotting and insider air of a Le Carré thriller, the breathless action of a Bourne film, and if it makes a sacrifice of thematic complexity, it does at least have a point to make. ****

Sunday

This Is England

9pm Film4

(Shane Meadows, 2006) Thomas Turgoose gives a faultless performance as a 12-year-old lad who is adopted as a mascot by skinheads in early Thatcher's Britain. Thanks to its ebullient charm, Shane Meadows's seemingly parochial drama proved to have widespread appeal, and its characters live on. It's about growing up and friendships, but also has things to say about how the weak are preyed upon by extremists. ****

Tuesday

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

10.50pm Film4

(Peter Greenaway, 1989) As the title indicates, Peter Greenaway's pointed Thatcher-era parable about vulgar consumption and the acquisition of wealth takes British gangster film archetypes into a realm of formalist abstraction. Michael Gambon dominates the film as a boorish, bullying gangland boss; Mirren plays the long-suffering wife who exacts a grisly revenge. ****

Wednesday

The Truman Show

7pm Film4

(Peter Weir, 1998) Released the year before Big Brother hit television screens, this poised satire of television and small-town America details the extraordinary lengths to which a programme goes so that its audience can be round-the- clock voyeurs of a man's everyday existence. Jim Carrey toned down his schtick to very good effect as the show's unwitting star, and the film retains an uncanny air. ****

Thursday

Ordet

11am Film4

(Carl Dreyer, 1955) Based on a play by Kaj Munk, a Lutheran pastor martyred by the Nazis, Ordet is a contemplative drama about the ineffable. Its focus is on a farming family in Thirties Jutland: a devout father, one agnostic son and another who went mad from reading too much Kierkegaard and now thinks he's Jesus. The patient viewer is rewarded with a rare example of cinema's transcendental power. Cay Kristiansen stars. *****

Friday

I've Loved You So Long

11.50pm BBC2

(Philippe Claudel, 2008) Kristin Scott Thomas plays a withdrawn character who is staying with the family of her estranged younger sister. Later, we learn that she has only recently been released from prison. Later still, we learn of her crime. Made of small moments, glances and things left unsaid, the strength of this French character study is in how much it shows you, while saying so little. ****

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