A Fistful Of Dollars
Like Father, Like Son, Film4, 1.30am, Tuesday, November 17
Keita (Keita Ninomiya) is a bright six-year-old whose workaholic dad Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) likes control and order. He's not a bad man but he likes things to stay in place. So when the hospital where Keita was born calls to say they need to set up a meeting, he tells his wife Midori (Machiko Ono - who more or less bends to his every whim - "I hope it's nothing messy." Sadly for him, it's something very messy indeed - the news that his son is not really his son at all but rather a child belonging to provincial shopkeepers Yukari and Yudai (Yoko Maki and Lily Franky), who, also unaware of the switch, have been raising Ryusei (Hwang Sho-gen) as their own. The horror of this - a situation that genuinely happened to quite a lot of Japanese families in the Sixties - is explored as the couples grapple with whether they should swap back or not. As always, Kore-eda gets properly down with the kids, capturing their spirit, from the way in which they play with a life-or-death intensity, to the 'secret' lives they have that their parents often miss. He also knows how to control the pace of his films, so that his plot points have time to breathe; after he drops the bombshell of the child swap, he lets the intensity of the shock sink in with a silent scene of a car driving, a benign moment encouraging you to think about what you've just learned. Be warned, this film is emotionally intense, so invest in a box of Mansize before sitting down to it. Read what Kore-eda told us about the film and our full review.
I Wish, Film4, Film4, 12.45am, Wednesday, November 18
I don't usually include two films from the same director in this column, but, hey, I'm the one in control of the keyboard, so humour me. This is another cracker from Hirokazu Kore-eda - arguably, even better than Like Father, Like Son, especially if you are looking for something heart-warming and wholesome as the nights draw in. This time, we're off and running with a couple of brothers who are about to embark on adventure - and when I say running, I really mean that, as Kore-eda travels at the pace of children, capturing their seemingly boundless energy. Koichi (Koki Maeda) and his little brother Ryu (Koki's real-life brother Ohshiro) find themselves separated from one another after their parents (Nene Ohtsuka and Joe Adagiri) split up - one in a small town, the other in the city. After they hear a story about miracles being possible if you see the high-speed bullet trains pass one another, they hatch a plot to reunite the family. Filled with the optimism and imagination of childhood, Kore-eda's film nevertheless avoids easy sentiment in favour of revealing life for both children and adults with all its contradictions and complications. Hopefully, you'll still have some tissues left over after watching Like Father, Like Son, because you're going to need them. Read our full review.
White Christmas, Film4, 4.30pm, Saturday, November 21
Is it too soon to get into the Christmas spirit? Film4 doesn't seem to think so as it's screening this classic early. The song, of course, had been around the block before, with Bing Crosby first airing it in Holiday Inn 12 years before - but they say the old ones are the best. Here Crosby is matched in the effortless charm stakes by Danny Kaye. They play a pair of demobbed soldiers who have hit the entertainment trail and fall for a couple of women (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) along the way. The feel-good formula sees them trying to help a struggling Vermont lodge, which just happens to be run by their former commander (Dean Jagger). The plot ticks the boxes you'd expect but you're really here for the performances, the music and the sparkle of romance that remains evergreen despite the passing of the years. Read our full review.
Ronnie's: Ronnie Scott And His World Famous Jazz Club, BBC4, 12.25am, Saturday, November 22 and on iPlayer for 11 months
This comprehensive documentary - which is also showing Stateside at DOC NYC - takes a dive into the world of one of the world's most famous jazz clubs. You can feel the love of the music in every frame of Oliver Murray's film, which charts the origins of the club from its humble beginnings to the worldwide fame it achieved. Murray gives jazz fans what they want, which is plenty of classic music, from the likes of Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald, while also offering a profile of Ronnie Scott and his motivations. Although he gets title billing, and his, ultimately tragic, personal story lies at the film's heart, Murray doesn't skimp on outlining the crucial role his business partner Pete King also played in the club's rise as he considers the way the men changed the face of British jazz music and the legacy they have left behind today. Read our full review.
A Fistful Of Dollars, 9pm, Channel 5, Friday, November 20
Some films are worth revisiting no matter how many times you've seen them before - and Sergio Leone's first part of his Dollars Trilogy certainly goes the distance. He might have borrowed the plot from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, but the Italian director had no problem putting his own stylish stamp on it, with his soon-to-be trademark meaty facial close-ups and impressive set-pieces. The script is pared back in favour of action - with Clint Eastwood reportedly fighting for ever fewer lines - as Eastwood's Man With No Name goes about the business of dispatching two feuding families. All this, plus, of course, that iconic score from Ennio Morricone, that you're probably whistling to yourself even as you read this. Read our full review
Queen Of Versailles, BBC iPlayer
The baroque excesses of the one per cent are exposed in Lauren Greenfield's documentary that steps inside the home of "Timeshare King" David Siegel and his wife Jackie while they are at the top of their game of excess, and has a ringside seat when their world is threatened with collapse by the 2008 mortgage crisis. While in some ways the collapsing of the Siegels' wealth may seem like divine judgement for their excessive lifestyle - and you may view the word 'ornamentation' in a whole new light after watching this - Greenfield has painted such a human portrait that Jackie, in particular, remains sympathetic, even when she is adding to her own tragedy. The director also spares more than a thought for others in the Siegels' orbit, showing how the ripples of crises spread out across society. Read our full review.
Blade, 5Star, 9pm, Tuesday, November 17
Vampires have rarely got in on the action as much as Wesley Snipes does as a half-human, half-bloodsucker in this martial arts-driven comic book adaptation from David S Goyer and directed by Stephen Norrington. Blade (Snipes), under the mentorship of Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) has made it his life's work to take on the vampires and the Big Bad in question here is Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff). If you're watching Blade it's probably not for the plot and Goyer laces in just enough knowing humour to stop things becoming too portentous,while Norrington wisely uses the film to showcase Snipes' martial arts ability, from the pounding techno nightclub opening that gets the blood pumping in multiple ways to its suitably showy showdown. Read our full review.
We're wrapping this week's column with short film Darwin Serink's beautifully constructed The Avocado. His first feature Thief Of Sleep - about a gay man who flees persecution in Iran to family in Scotland only to face an uncertain future due to his asylum claim, is currently in pre-production and stars Australian up and comer Mojean Aria.