Stay-At-Home Seven: August 3 to 9

Our weekly round-up of films to catch on TV and streaming services

by Amber Wilkinson

Poltergeist
Poltergeist

As August arrives with a bit of sunshine, staying inside might seem like a chore - but if you are doing, there's plenty of great things to catch on the telly and streaming services. For more inspiration, check out our latest streaming spotlight on summer holidays on film.

Megamind, Film4, Thursday, August 6, 4.30pm

Everyone knows that supervillains have more fun - but there's more to Tom McGrath's animation than hi-jinks. There's a complexity here that goes beyond the similarly themed Despicable Me, as the blue baddie (Will Ferrell) discovers it's tricky to be an evildoer if there's no superhero trying to stop you. Beyond a surprising amount of depth, there's some solid slapstick gags on offer and the action has plenty of verve but it's the excellent voice cast - also featuring Jonah Hill and Tina Fey - and strong storytelling that really make it a winner. Read our full review.

Poltergeist, BBC iPlayer, until September

Directed by Tobe Hooper - but with the strong influence of Steven Spielberg, who was the film's producer - this film with its all-howling, all-glowing special effects has stood the test of time, not least because it is so firmly constructed around a family unit. Suburbia is subverted here, as clown dolls spring to life and that American household staple, the television set, takes on otherworldly properties. At its heart it also holds one of the greatest fears of all parents - the abduction of a young child (Heather O'Rourke), who finds herself spirited away with vengeful spirits. By the end, the effects might become a little on the overblown side, but by that point you'll care so much about the family that you'll root for them to the last. Read our full review.

Dangerous Liaisons, BBC iPlayer, until September

The sexual scheming of the 18th century French aristocracy is brought to vivid life in Stephen Frears' costume drama, adapted by the consistently good Christopher Hampton and propelled by star power. John Malkovich and Glenn Close spark off each other as a rake and a marquis embarked in psychosexual gamesmanship over the bedding of a virginal youngster (Uma Thurman), which spirals into a greater challenge - the deflowering of the virtuous and God-fearing Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer). Although Malkovich flirts with overplaying his character, Close skewers every line with precision and Pfeiffer's performance also fits the brittle Madame like a silk glove. Read our full review.

Puzzle, Netflix

Kelly Macdonald shines in this low-key but highly effective character study of suburban mum Agnes who discovers a passion for jigsaws opens doors to a passion for herself. Marc Turtletaub is best known as a producer - with his back catalogue including The Farewell and A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood - but he steps behind the camera with ease, having faith in his actors to deliver and though there is a device of a jigsaw competition providing a framework for the film, it never gets in the way of the characters. The film - an English remake of Argentinian Natalia Smirnoff's film of the same name, adapted by Oren Moverman - keeps its faith with the characters, showing how it's possible for Agnes' life to change without her personality having to undergo a complete transformation. Read our interviews with Turtletaub here and here, Macdonald and score composer Dustin O'Halloran, plus read our full review.

The Kingmaker, Amazon, BFI Player

Lauren Greenfield's documentary deftly combines a profile of the former first lady of the Philippines with voices putting the other side of the story of the effect she and her husband had on their country and population. Greenfield has a real eye for capturing wealth and its abuses, previously making the excellent Generation Wealth and The Queen of Versailles. The latter is particularly recalled in the opulent home where Imelda is interviewed, complete with a Monet and Michaelangelo which mysteriously disappear when the state comes looking for them.  "I miss the clout," Imelda says near the start and, by the end, we can see just what lengths she is prepared to go to in order to get that clout back via the rise of current president Rodrigo Duterte. On one level, this is very revealing about Imelda's egocentricity and high opinion of herself - she clearly views herself as a sort of mother figure of the nation. At the same time Greenfield catalogues what happened to the country during the Marcos rule - including the bizarre displacement of people in favour of imported giraffes and zebras - and explains how Imelda and her family have managed to return. Greenfield not only offers commentary on the Marcos family itself but also on power and corruption in politics more generally that has resonance even for us in terms of spin and fake news. As Imelda worryingly puts it, "Perception is real. The truth is not." Read our full review.

The King Of Thieves, Channel 5, Wednesday, August 5th

James Marsh's film about the ageing masterminds behind the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, written by Joe Penhall, proves there's life in the old dogs yet - as Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay and Ray Winstone sink their teeth into the roles. There's a familiar feel to this crime caper, that sometimes recalls the Ealing era,  but even though the thieves are ageing, Penhall ensures they don't feel soft in the middle. Michael Gambon is also memorable in a small but precision cooled comic turn as a fence for the goods. Read our full review.

Bachelorette, My5.tv, until August 18

There's a bitchily enjoyable quality to Lesley Headland's feature debut that has gone on to be further realised TV shows Russian Doll and Heathers. Although its stage origins show through a little in the characterisations, this tale of a group of childhood friends who gather for a pal's wedding has enough one-liners to distract the attention. The edgy comedy of discomfort may be one of the reasons this wasn't a hit on its US release, but that's what marks it out from a lot of the bride-to-be fare out there. For once Rebel Wilson gets to play it straight, while Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzie Kaplan shine as an ice queen and her cohorts.  Those put in mind of Bridesmaids should note that Headland got there first with her play, which played off-Broadway in 2010. Read our full review.

Finally for our short this week, we're stepping back in time to the days before Simon Hynd became a well-established TV director - with series including Bob Servant, Two Doors Down and There She Goes all gracing his CV. Way back in 2004, he made Scots comedy gem Tumshie McFadgen's Bid For Ultimate Bliss about one man's hapless but hilarious hunt for happiness.

Tumshie McFadgen's Bid for Ultimate Bliss from Plum Films on Vimeo.

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