Films of the week: Nostalgic nod to Spielberg takes us back to spool

 

Tuesday

Super 8

1.35pm & 9pm Sky Movies Sci-Fi/horror

(JJ Abrams, 2011) Super 8 is a family-friendly monster movie that's unashamedly nostalgic for the cinema of its own producer, Steven Spielberg, and has the same irresistible mix of action and dewy-eyed sentimentality. It's about a gang of friends who, in between BMXing, building Airfix models and feeling the pangs of first love, investigate some strange goings on in their small Ohio steel town. Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning star. ****

Saturday

Contagion

11.45am & 8pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Steven Soderbergh, 2011) "Disaster movie" seems too small a phrase for a film in which 8 per cent of the world's population might be killed by a virus. But with its all-star cast, multiple story strands and the urgently contemporary vibe, a disaster movie is just what Contagion is. Unlike the classics of the Seventies, however, there isn't any grand-scale spectacle to enjoy – just clammily convincing detail. Kate Winslet stars. ***

Sunday

The Big Picture

10pm BBC4

(Eric Lartigau, 2010) After a violent confrontation with the man whom he suspects of being his wife's lover, a Parisian lawyer (Romain Duris) abandons his life and begins again as a photographer in Montenegro. An understated but intriguing existential identity thriller, a little in the manner of The Talented Mr Ripley, this had a better title in French: L'homme qui voulait vivre sa vie. ***

Monday

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

12.30am TCM

(Mike Nichols, 1966) James Mason and Bette Davis may have been the original choices, but the casting of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor added an extra frisson to this screen version of Edward Albee's then-controversial, still compulsively revealing play about a warring couple on a New England college campus. Shot in close-up and unforgiving black-and-white by Haskell Wexler. ****

Wednesday

Bombay Beach

11.50pm Film4

(Alma Har'el, 2011) Briefly a thriving holiday destination, Bombay Beach is now a derelict, ramshackle place – practically a ghost town – on the edge of a lake in the Californian desert. This beautifully shot hybrid documentary is at once a lament for the American dream and a weirdly moving, frequently surprising tribute to the loose community of impoverished outsiders who still call the area home. ****

Thursday

The Untouchables

9pm Film4

(Brian De Palma, 1987) There is historical basis to it, but the script for this drama pitting incorruptible lawman Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) against Al Capone (Robert De Niro) comes from Ness's autobiography by way of David Mamet, and there was the early-Sixties television show to take account of too. The result is pure, archetypal gangster cinema; very slick and stylishly orchestrated. ****

Friday

Midnight in Paris

10am & 9.45pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Woody Allen, 2011) Owen Wilson plays a Hollywood screenwriter who slips, Purple Rose of Cairo-style, into the Twenties Paris of Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds. Being able to exude sincerity without seeming to take roles more seriously than they deserve, he is exactly the right man to star in this whimsical comic fantasy, which has become the highest-grossing of Woody Allen's career. ***

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