Stay-at-Home Seven: February 5 to 11

Films to stream or catch on TV this week

by Amber Wilkinson

King Richard
King Richard Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival
King Richard, Netflix, from Tuesday

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green and first time feature writer Zach Baylin offer a twist on more traditional biopics by viewing the story of Venus and Serena Williams through the prism of their family. To the fore is Will Smith as the family's patriarch, who was a man with the ultimate plan - that his girls would go down in tennis history. Driven harder than a cross-court volley to help his daughters to succeed, we see the relentless way he set about getting Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) into the places kids like them seldom reached, coming up against the white establishment along the way. He may be a pushy parent but he has a winning way with it. In addition to the family focus, which sees Aunjanue Ellis on fine form in support as mum Brandi, Marcus Green lets the tension mount on court as Venus faces her toughest match yet.

Winter's Bone, ITVX now

Set in the Ozark Mountains, this is the film that gave Jennifer Lawrence her big break when it showed at Sundance Film Festival. She is reminiscent of a young Jodie Foster in the role of Ree, who is looking after her younger siblings and her depressed mum after her father goes on the run. Ree becomes determined to find him in what is an increasingly tense search through the community. Beyond Lawrence, the film also features strong support from the likes of John Hawkes, who received an Oscar nomination for his menacing turn as Teardrop, Ree's uncle.

Hunger, 1.55am, Film4, Thursday, Feb 8

Steve McQueen’s intense debut feature recounts the last days of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands’ in Northern Ireland's Maze prison, but also broadens out to examine the atmosphere and events that existed within the infamous H-Blocks of the Long Nesh prison in the early Eighties. Featuring a towering performance from Michael Fassbender in the central role, as he moves from zealot to a shadow of the man he was as he succumbs to hunger, the script by Enda Walsh finds time to consider the fabric of Sands' incarceration as well as the man himself. Shot with an eye for brutal beauty by Sean Bobbit, the immaculate craftsmanship serves rather than overshadows the complex portrait of both the time period and Sands himself. As McQueen put it at the time: "For me it was never about left and right it was always about you and me, in a sense of who we are as human beings." Catch McQueen's shame, also starring Fassbender, immediately before this at 11.50pm on the same channel.

Starship Troopers, 11.05pm, ITV4, February 8

Jennie Kermode writes: Unfairly dismissed for the first two decades of its existence, Paul Verhoeven's slick satire, (very) loosely based on Robert A Heinlein's Farmer In The Sky, was perhaps just a bit too good at its job for most people to realise what it was doing. It's presented as a propaganda piece by the fascist Earth authorities sending younger and younger kids to a frontline with a life expectancy of four and a half minutes as they pursue a ruthless war of conquest against an interspecies alliance of assorted giant bugs. Patriotic human heroes try to navigate all the usual challenges of adolescence while caught up in a campaign they have no hope of understanding, and as in his earlier film Robocop, Verhoeven uses adverts, trailers and other sly asides to show us the bigger picture. Do you want to know more?

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, 1.25pm, Film4, Friday, February 9

Jennie Kermode writes: The Fifties and Sixties saw a slew of great adventure movies involving travelling to secret or forgotten worlds, several of which featured dinosaurs, but Henry Levin’s take on this Jules Verne classic is one of the best. Following James Mason’s ambitious professor as he explores a hidden subterranean realm, it features one of the best human-dinosaur battles of the era, as the professor’s party stumbles into the territory of hungry dimetrodons. These may be played by dolled-up lizards but they still deliver some scares, and they probably provide the closest thing to natural dinosaur movement that you’ll see onscreen. The use of forced perspective and clever model work really bring the conflict to life, and there’s much more to enjoy besides, with a volcanic finale and a Bernard Herrmann score.

Photograph, 1.35am, BBC2, Sunday, February 11

Romance blooms across the class divide thanks to a camera in Ritesh Batra's slow-burn drama. The camera in question belongs to Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a street photographer struggling to make ends meet in Mumbai. One day he takes a snap of rich young woman Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), using it to concoct a story of romance for the gran pressuring him to wed. It's a clever set-up that sees him end up convincing Miloni to play along for the day – after which things get complicated. Batra carefully constructs his film around a strong sense of longing – from the simple pleasures of kulfi to the prospect of a fresh start. Warm hearted and generous to its characters, his film builds to a moving climax. Read our interview with Batra.

Zootropolis, 2.50pm, BBC1, Sunday, February 11

Bunny Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is the epitome of bright-eyed and bushy tailed when she heads from the carrot farm to the big city to join the police force. Where she might once have been labelled 'prey', she is now benefiting from an equalities push, even if it does seem a lot like lip service from the lion mayor (JK Simmons) – an interesting thread that runs through the whole film. But trouble is brewing in Zootropolis, including an otter-gone-rogue, and Judy is soon on the chase, with her career at stake, and only a rogue fox (Jason Bateman, at his finest) on hand to help. There's plenty to enjoy here, from the intricately crafted city itself to the fun nods to Chinatown and The Godfather but, most importantly, the action hinges on a strong story about self-belief and the importance of friendship. The bunny is brilliant... but, truth be told, it's the sloths who really steal the show.

This week's short selection is The Barber Of Little Rock, hop on over to The New Yorker to view it.

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