Films of the Week: George Clooney finds his perfect life cut down to size

 

Sunday

Up in the Air

9pm BBC2

(Jason Reitman, 2009) George Clooney (below, with Anna Kendrick) stars as a corporate "downsizer", paid to do the unpleasant business of firing people, whose neatly ordered life unravels once he learns his own job is at risk. A comedy about the depersonalisation of modern life, and thus also the importance of making human connections, Up in the Air lightens its satirical and cynical mood with just the right amount of romanticism. ****

Saturday

Australia

6.50pm Channel 4

(Baz Luhrmann, 2008) It's set in a real time and place – Australia's northern territory before the outbreak of war, and then during the post-Pearl Harbor Japanese invasion – but Baz Luhrmann's kitsch, mock-epic romantic adventure story is an impressive work of pure filmic artifice; the country's landscapes made to look as vivid and pretty as a painted studio backdrop. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star.  ****

Monday

Coco Before Chanel

6.50pm Film4

(Anne Fontaine, 2009) Focusing on the period in Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's life before she was famous, and eschewing the triumphalist narrative favoured by most rags-to-riches biopics, this film also stops just short of reclaiming the elegant Chanel (Audrey Tautou, above) as a feminist figure. It instead shows us the compromises which this most uncompromising of women was forced to make in patriarchal Belle Epoque France. ***

Tuesday

The French Connection

1.30pm & 12 midnight Sky Movies Modern Greats

(William Friedkin, 1971) William Friedkin brought a near neo-realist sensibility and aesthetic to bear in the making of this gritty policier, so that Gene Hackman's (above) hardman cop "Popeye" Doyle, and the streets of Seventies New York that he swaggers down, still feel tough, raw and real. Meanwhile, the famous car chase set the standard against which others measure themselves to this day. ****

Wednesday

Frankenstein

8.30pm Sky Movies Classics

(James Whale, 1931) Boris Karloff (above), with the help of the make-up artist Jack Pierce, defined forever the way that Frankenstein's monster looks and acts in the popular imagination, and made him a more sympathetic and tragic beast than he is in Mary Shelley's novel. The film is the greatest of Universal's Thirties and Forties horrors: a haunting, melancholy work of gothic beauty. *****

Thursday

Total Recall

10pm ITV2

(Paul Verhoeven, 1990) The biggest-budget action film of its day, this sci-fi mind-bender adapted from a Philip K Dick story stars Arnie Schwarzenegger (above, with Sharon Stone) as an interplanetary superspy who thinks he's a construction worker. Or is it the other way round? Violent, somewhat ludicrous and now badly dated, it is still terrific fun. See it before the remake with Colin Farrell is released in August. ****

Friday

We Need to Talk about Kevin

10.15pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Lynne Ramsay, 2011) Tilda Swinton stars as Eva, a woman whose life has been shattered by an act of violence committed by her son Kevin – a malevolent teenager with whom she's had a fractious relationship his whole life. Lynne Ramsay's expressionistic, uncomfortably up-close adaptation of the Lionel Shriver novel is haunted by Eva's fear that she didn't give birth to a monster, but created one. ****

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