Death Of Stalin
The Death of Stalin, 110.45pm, BBC2, Sunday, October 17
Armando Iannucci turns his gimlet eye away from modern British politics and puts us in the thick of it as the politburo descends into farce after the death of its title. Like a Grand National of Russian political roulette, everyone is jockeying for position, including the sharp-witted Kruschev (Steve Buscemi), chief of police Beria (Simon Russell Beale) alongside Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), who is not the sharpest tool in the box, and Molotov (Michael Palin), who has really had enough of all this. The cast, which also includes Jason Isaacs and Paul Whitehouse, runs as wide and deep as the humour is cutting and pointed. Read our full review.
12 Years A Slave, 11.25pm, Film4, Tuesday, October 12
It seems incredible to think that, in 2014, Steve McQueen's film became the first produced and directed by a black filmmaker - and written by an African American (John Ridley, adapting from Solom Northrop's memoir) - to win the Best Picture Oscar, although McQueen lost out in the Best Director stakes to Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. It's apt, then, that the film reminds us that the issues surrounding slavery and the powerful and the powerless aren't just something from the history books but still, unfortunately, fiercely a part of our times. Based on the true story of violinist and family man Northrop (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who was born a free man but who was kidnapped and transported to Louisiana - where slavery still raged. McQueen shows not just the physical abuse but also the psychological violence that stems from white privilege and the difficulties of breaking free from something so culturally ingrained. There's a rawness and subtlety to the action and performances - both from Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o as a housemaid who unfortunately catches the eye of brutal slave owner Epps (Michael Fassbender) - that brings home the horror and makes sure it takes up residence in your head. Read our full review.
Blindspotting, 10.45pm, Film4, Wednesday 13 October
There's an infectious rhythm and energy to this drama, written by Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs and directed by Carlos López Estrada. The writers also take centre stage as friends Collin and Miles, with the former worried that his white, loose-cannon mate might attract exactly the wrong sort of attention as he tries to serve out the last bit of his probation. Adding to the tension, he has seen a cop doing something he shouldn't outside the hours of his curfew, which leaves him in a moral tough spot. With a script that embraces spoken word poetry and themes including racism, class and gentrification, there's a lot going on here but its emotional core is strong and compelling as the tension gradually becomes almost unbearable. Read our full review.
The Beach Bum, 11.25pm, Film4, Friday, October 15
Jennie Kermode writes: Harmony Korine's playful and indulgent but sharp-eyed comedy drama features Matthew McConaughey as literary one hit wonder Moondog, one of those guys who wanders from party to party basically doing whatever he likes, charming people out of whatever he wants and never taking responsibility for anything. Though this looks on the surface like just another stoner comedy, Korine is smarter than that, showing us the cost of Moondog's behaviour (generally borne by others) and revealing the psychopath beneath the lighthearted banter and the silly clothes. Viewers who find themselves drawn into the dream of living a carefree life in the sun will feel all too acutely the emptiness this leaves behind. Read our full review.
The Adventures Of Tintin, Film4, 4.45pm, Sunday
Few directors capture the spirit of family adventure more than Steven Spielberg and he brings his customary storytelling verve to Hergé's classic, which sees him venture into 3D motion capture and come out unscathed. The boy reporter (Jamie Bell) finds himself on a treasure hunt with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), trying to reach the prize before the evil Sakharine (Daniel Craig). Spielberg turns it into a spirited affair with a sharp and funny script (written by Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish) that has plenty to offer both kids and older fans of the comic strip hero. Read our full review.
No Sudden Move, Now TV and Sky Cinema
If you like a crime caper that just keeps twisting then Steven Soderbergh's latest will go down a treat. It follows two low-rent criminals (Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro) as they find the 'babysitting' job that looked like easy money could be the death of them. When Cheadle's Curtis decides he wants a piece of the pie, he finds he is merely a cog in a much bigger wheel that involves a surprising sort of kingpin (Matt Damon). Although Ed Solomon's script springs so many subplots it occasionally threatens to slip its moorings, this is nonetheless a much more intelligent that average crime that has an anti-capitalist punch that is rooted in reality. Read our full review.
Twelve Monkeys, BBC iPlayer
There's about a month left on iPlayer to catch Terry Gilliam's Kafkaesque tale of a man sent back through time in a bid to prevent a deadly pandemic, which finds a fresh resonance in our current Covid world. A lover of twisty conundrums and twisting plots - it might give you your own eerie feeling of deja vu when Bruce Willis's character utters the words, "All I see are dead people" four years before he would make Sixth Sense. Willis plays James Cole, a man on a mission from the future to stop terrorists in the past, and who finds himself mixed up with a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) and a crazy animal rights activist (Brad Pitt, enjoyably unhinged). The look is everything you'd hope from Gilliam, dovetailing his dystopian future world - where plastic is the name of the sartorial game - with a grungy 90s Baltimore and the plot, while taking a while to find its stride, is a satisfyingly ambiguous puzzle box. Read our full review.
Our short selection this week is bang up to date. Pile Of Salt screened last week at the Ca Foscari Short Film Festival in Italy and you can watch it online below. For more about the film, check out writer/director Mark Camardon's website.