Films of the week: Morris's seriously funny comedy of errors Four Lions hits home

 

Wednesday

Four Lions

9pm Film4

(Chris Morris, 2010) At once a very funny and very serious comedy, Chris Morris's film debut is about the idiotic misadventures of a hapless English jihadist terrorist cell. The script's surrealist invective and laugh-out-loud gags disguise the rigour and subtlety with which it probes the illogic of extremism. But perhaps most daringly, the film also has moments of real pathos. Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak and Riz Ahmed star. *****

Saturday

Distant Voices, Still Lives

12.55am BBC2

(Terence Davies, 1988) The best film by the unprolific and under- appreciated British film-maker Terence Davies is grim and yet poetic; an impressionistic autobiographical piece about working-class familylife in Forties, Fifties and Sixties Liverpool, starring Pete Postlethwaite as the family's violent patriarch. Davies uses the language of cinema in a way that is entirely his own. *****

Sunday

Superman

6.20pm Channel 5

(Richard Donner, 1978) "You'll believe a man can fly," promised the posters – and not just because of the landmark special effects. The film is built around a terrific performance by Christopher Reeve, not as the Man of Steel but as his fallible, incurably romantic and klutzy human alter-ego, Clark Kent. Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando also play their parts, and the whole story is told with skill. *****

Monday

A Mighty Heart

1.50am Film4

(Michael Winterbottom, 2007) Angelina Jolie stars as Mariane Pearl, the pregnant-at-the-time wife of the US journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and killed by members of al-Qa'ida in Karachi in 2002. Filmed in an immersive docu-drama style, A Mighty Heart seems urgent and contemporary. But it is also pure classical tragedy, with Jolie's keening difficult to bear, yet cathartic. ****

Tuesday

The Bad News Bears

7pm Film4

(Michael Ritchie, 1976) Walter Matthau, at his most crumpled, grouchy and hilarious best, plays the alcoholic coach of a 12-year-olds' baseball team which is unprepared for the success it has when spunky girl pitcher Tatum O'Neal joins them. A raucous family comedy (though it would probably be deemed unsuitable for children these days) it's also a satire of a certain strain of US competitiveness. ***

Thursday

The Day the Earth Stood Still

1.20pm Channel 4

(Robert Wise, 1951) In this classic, atomic-era sci-fi parable, the Earth is visited by Klaatu, the Christ-like emissary of a collective of alien civilisations who wish to warn mankind to curb its destructive tendencies. Bernard Herrmann's theremin score and much of the film's imagery have achieved an iconic status, untarnished by the unwise 2008 remake. Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal star. *****

Friday

Argo

1.45pm & 8pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Ben Affleck, 2012) Ben Affleck puts in a solid performance – as both lead actor and director – in this well-judged historical thriller and winner of the 2012 Oscar for Best Film. He plays real-life CIA "exfiltration" expert Tony Mendez, whose so-harebrained-it-might- just-work idea for rescuing six diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis calls for the involvement of Hollywood. ***

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