Stay-at-Home Seven: April 18 to 24

Films to catch on telly this week

by Amber Wilkinson

Official Secrets
Official Secrets Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
Official Secrets, 10pm, BBC2, Monday, April 18

Keira Knightley gives a compellingly stripped back and unfussy performance at the heart of Gavin Hood's drama, which tells the true story of British Intelligence whistleblower Katharine Gun. Hood keeps things tight on Gun as she faces tough moral choices after receiving an email that is looking to weight a UN vote towards war. Gun's choice to speak out carries real personal risk, not least because her husband Yasar (Adam Bakri) was an asylum seeker at the time. The film keeps up a smart pace as it digs into the aftermath of Gun's actions, showing a woman determined to do the right thing no matter what the cost.

Hot Fuzz, 1.35am, ITV2, Tuesday, April 19

A much more light-hearted view of the law is presented by Edgar Wright's equally pacy comedy, which continued the impressive form he showed with his debut zombie spoof Shaun Of The Dead but he solidly replicates the joy with this warmly made parody of an American buddy cop movie that, like Shaun, finds much of its humour in eccentric Britishness. The film reunites Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as a hot-shot city cop sent to the countryside and his small town sidekick who find themselves on the trail of a killer. Pegg and Frost spark off one another perfectly as Wright manages to inject just the right level of silliness while maintaining the action adrenaline.

Thunder Road, Midnight, Film4, Tuesday into Wednesday, April 19/20

This debut feature from Jim Cummings also draws on satire of the everyday but careers a much more acidic kick than Wright's. The writer/director also stars as Jim Arnaud, a police officer who is dancing on the knife edge of a nervous breakdown. Stitched through with black tragicomedy, Jim is trying to hold it together at work while also navigating a poisonous custody row over his daughter. Beginning with a funeral scene quite unlike anything you'll have seen before - and based on the short you can watch at the end of this week's film selection - Cummings generates a constant sense of unease at the same time as still retaining some sympathy for his flawed central character.

Snowpiercer, 9pm, Great Movies (Channel 34), Tuesday, April 19

Given news stories about the cost of living crisis and the widening gap between the rich and poor, Bong Joon Ho's chilly tale of a dystopian future feels closer than we might like. Set upon the confines of a train, the front carriages carry the world's elite in the lap of luxury, while all the way back at its hellish rear end are people whose lives are considerably less fortunate. As a metaphor for society's haves and have-nots, the film is familiar if on (and about) the money but it is elevated by visually arresting action sequences that make excellent use of the train's cramped spaces and high concept class system as Chris Evans' Curtis Everett leads the revolutionary charge towards the front. Read our interviews with the director and the late, great John Hurt, who also co-stars as Everett's mentor.

Seabiscuit, 1.30pm, Great Movies (Channel 34), Sunday, April 24

The true story of the little horse that became a racing superstar during the American Depression is given a comfortingly old-fashioned and glowing retelling in this film from Gary Ross. It focuses on a trio of men, self-made millionaire and horse owner Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), Red Pollard (Toby Maguire), who finds himself working as jockey as a result of the economic crash and out-of-work cowboy Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), who finds himself training the fleet-footed champ. There's a tried and tested race track formula here and Ross sticks to the rails but the heartwarming truth of the story is so winning it's hard not to get hooked.

The Blues Brothers, 9pm, Thursday, April 21

Who can resist this sort of crazy mix of comedy, music and action? Come for Cab Calloway's mooching and Aretha Franklin's Think(ing) and stick around as the glasses break around Rawhide and no less than 103 cars bite the dust. If by chance you haven't seen Blues Brothers before, you're likely to be squealing with delight about every 10 minutes as familiar faces pop up - Cab! Ray Charles! Aretha! John Candy! Twiggy! Not to mention Steven Spielberg as a county court clerk. The film famously went off-schedule and over budget, not least because of John Belushi's drug use, with Aykroyd on the record as saying they "had a budget for cocaine". Still, none of that trouble comes across on screen, just the extreme amount of fun that seems to be being had. There's a brief mention of Miss Piggy and there is something of the maverick spirit of The Muppets running through this (Frank Oz even has a cameo as a corrections officer near the start of the film) - from James Brown's preacher near the start to Aretha railing on her man in a diner through to cartwheels in the palace ballroom. Sunglasses and a full tank of gas required.

The Lion King, BBC iPlayer until mid-May

If you've caught The Northman at the cinema this week, how about an altogether different riff on the themes of Hamlet? Of course, a kid grappling with the death of a parent in the face of a wicked relative is also a good old fairy tale stapel and - in this case it's young cub Simba's scheming Uncle Scar (played with silky sinister vocals by Jeremy Irons) whose the wrongdoer. If the plot is Shakespeare meets Grimm, the elements are beefed up with classic Disney traditions, including a couple of comedic sidekicks - meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and warthog Pumba (Ernie Sabella) - and some excellent songs from Elton John and Tim Rice. The film achieves a sweet balance of humour, scares and emotional heft that makes it the perfect comfort watch with a dash of African sunshine.

And, so back to Jim Cummings' darkly comic short Thunder Road, later expanded into the feature you can catch this week.

Thunder Road from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

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