Top films to watch on TV this weekend

Gremlins (1984) (Channel 5, 4.40pm)

Joe Dante’s riotous comedy horror concerns Billy (Zach Galligan), who receives an unusual pet for Christmas in the form of a loveable Mogwai. However, the cute critter comes with a list of care instructions, which Billy fails to follow. To his horror, he finds his pet rapidly reproduces and creates a brood of murderous mutant monsters, which proceed to turn his hometown into a living hell. The film boasts great characters, hilarious animatronic puppets by Chris Walas and a wonderfully dark sensibility, which is most notably on display in the scene where Phoebe Cates’ character explains why she doesn’t like Christmas.

Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022) (Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm)

In 1976, supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) has reached the criminally prodigious age of 11-and-three-quarters. While the boy’s goggle-eyed yellow hench-creatures continue haphazard construction of an underground lair, Gru laments the death of his idol, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), leader of a diabolical dream team christened the Vicious 6. The surviving members interview for a replacement, but cruelly dismiss Gru because of his age. In retaliation for the snub, the resourceful tyke steals an ancient amulet from the Vicious 6 that can harness the power of the 12 creatures of the Chinese zodiac. Minions: The Rise of Gru is an outlandish computer-animated caper which delivers the breathless entertainment and escapism we have come to expect with casual ease.

High Society (1956) (BBC2, 10.55pm)

A playboy jazz musician (Bing Crosby) tries to win back his socialite ex-wife (Grace Kelly) on the eve of her wedding to another man. To make the situation even more complicated, a cynical reporter (Frank Sinatra) and photographer (Celeste Holm) are attending the ceremony in search of a scoop. This musical is based on the play The Philadelphia Story and the subsequent 1940 film version, and some movie buffs may decide they prefer the less tuneful original – after all, the starring trio of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and an Oscar-winning James Stewart is pretty hard to beat. But this film does boast some terrific songs from Cole Porter, including True Love and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, not to mention a chance to hear Crosby and Sinatra duetting on Well, Did You Evah?

World War Z (2013) (Channel 4, 11.15pm)

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a retired United Nations investigator who devotes his time to his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and daughters Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove). During a drive through Philadelphia, the Lanes witness the spread of a disease, which transforms people into merciless predators with a single bite. Gerry’s old boss at the UN, Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), guarantees Karin, Constance and Rachel safe passage on an aircraft carrier if Gerry agrees to travel behind enemy lines to discover the source of the outbreak. World War Z is a post-apocalyptic zombie action horror which boasts a cracking opening 60 minutes. The final act, which was rewritten and reshot, feels out of kilter with the rest of the film but does at least stem the hordes of computer-generated undead.


Pete’s Dragon (2016) (BBC1, 3.00pm)

A little boy called Pete (Levi Alexander) is orphaned in a road accident and left to fend for himself in the forest that buffers the community of Millhaven – only to be rescued by a green dragon, which the boy names Elliott. For six years, Pete (now played by Oakes Fegley) and Elliott grow up side-by-side until a logging operation disturbs the peace. Forest ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) discovers Pete living wild and spirits him back to civilisation. The orphan bonds with her daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) and father (Robert Redford), but he yearns to return to Elliott in the woods. Pete’s Dragon is a charming fantasy adventure, which reworks the lacklustre 1977 Disney musical of the same title as a sweet story of devotion between an orphaned boy and his mythical protector.

Emily the Criminal (2022) (Sky Cinema Premiere, 8.00pm)

Aubrey Plaza gives a terrific lead performance in this taut thriller, which also marks writer-director John Patton Ford as a talent to watch. Emily has just graduated from college with a mountain of student debt and a minor criminal record that means she fails the background check for most of the jobs she applies for. It seems she’s running out of options until she’s drawn into the world of credit card fraud. Handsome and charismatic middleman named Youcef (Theo Rossi) supplies her with stolen cards that she then uses to buy goods that can be resold on the black market. As Emily gets used to the money, and grows closer to Youcef, just how far is she prepared to go?

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) (Channel 5, 9.00pm)

Animal behaviour specialist Dr Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and his paleobotanist wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) lost their son Andrew in the devastation of Godzilla’s rampage through San Francisco. The couple are now estranged and Emma has custody of their spunky daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), who supports her mother’s work for “secret monster-hunting” consortium Monarch in the Yunnan rainforest in China. Former British Army colonel turned eco-terrorist Colonel Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) storms the outpost. He takes Emma and Madison hostage, forcing the mother to rouse a giant beast christened Mothra with her sonar wave Orca device. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a spectacular sequel, which wreaks destruction on a grand scale even if it only builds one or two truly compelling human relationships.

Children of Men (2006) (BBC2, 10.00pm)

In 2027, the world has been ravaged by terrorism, disaster and mass infertility, and Britain is under the rule of a totalitarian government which has closed the borders. It’s no wonder former activist Theo (Clive Owen) can no longer be bothered to protest, but he’s spurred back into action when his estranged wife (Julianne Moore) approaches him to help her with a very important mission – guarding Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the first woman to become pregnant in nearly 20 years. No one could call it cheery, but this gripping, downbeat thriller paints an all-to-believable picture of a post-apocalyptic society. Director Alfonso Cuaron piles on the atmosphere, and the cast, which also includes Michael Caine, Pam Ferris and Chiwetel Ejiofor, is outstanding.


La Haine (1995) (Film4, 11.10pm)

Originally released in 1995, provocative black-and-white thriller La Haine confirmed writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz as an audacious film-making talent when he won the coveted Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s lost none of its impact, and the hip hop soundtracks still sounds achingly cool as it mirrors the trials and tribulations of disenchanted young people in Paris in the aftermath of a riot sparked by a police brutality. Unfolding over the course of one day, La Haine is glimpsed from the perspectives of three men: a young Arab called Said (Said Taghmaoui), Jewish brawler Vinz (Vincent Cassel) and black boxer Hubert (Hubert Kounde). Their fortunes become entwined on the streets of the banlieue where tensions are high and police are primed to respond to further disturbances.

Herself (2020) (BBC2, 11.15pm)

Galvanised by an emotionally raw lead performance from Clare Dunne, Herself is an empowering drama about one woman’s defiant battle against a flawed system as she seeks refuge for her two young children from an abusive husband. The script, co-written by Dunne and Malcolm Campbell, pulls no punches, with disturbing flashbacks to the violent spouse’s vice-like grip on his family.Director Phyllida Lloyd leaves us in a state of perpetual fear for the lead character and her girls, especially when she reminisces about happier times with her husband. In those moments when darkness threatens to suffocate the characters, Herself finds flickering beacons of joy in the gloom that can shepherd the terrified wife to hard-fought independence, and salvation.


Stardust (2007) (Film4, 6.30pm)

Hapless shop assistant Tristan resolves to bring back a fallen star for the girl of his dreams (who agrees to marry him if he completes the task). His journey leads him into a magical, parallel world, where Tristan captures a beautiful woman and embarks on the journey to his own land. However, their progress is halted by an evil witch – among others. Despite a relatively low budget, this is a charming slice of fantasy fun, with Charlie Cox and a pre-Homeland Claire Danes as the leads, and Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro and Mark Strong lending support. That star-studded cast would be enough to attract almost any film fan, but Stardust has just as much substance as style and the witty script cracks along at a great pace.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) (Film4, 11.10pm)

Tearaway Gary Unwin (Taron Egerton), who is known to friends as Eggsy, lets off steam by joyriding with friends and ends up in a police cell. Dapper secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) secures Eggsy’s release because he believes the young man has untapped potential as a crime-fighter. Hart enrols his protege in a gruelling training programme for an elite secret service, where Eggsy shines brighter than the supposed creme de la creme. So, when technological wizard Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) threatens mankind, Eggsy puts his training to the test. Directed at full pelt by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an outrageous and hugely entertaining James Bond-esque caper.


The Man in the White Suit (1951) (Film4, 2.45pm)

Alec Guinness starred in some of the Ealing Studios’ finest comedies, including The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets and this sharp satire. Guinness plays Sidney Stratton, a chemist who invents a new textile that repels dirt and never wears out, and then uses it to make the titular white suit. Unfortunately, Britain’s mill owners and trade unionists quickly realise that he could put them out of business, as no one will need to replace their old clothes, and try to suppress his discovery. Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker and Michael Gough are among the impressive supporting cast.

Jack Reacher (2012) (Film4, 9.00pm)

Emotionally unstable sniper James Barr (Joseph Sikora) is arrested for the murder of five innocent people outside PNC Park in Pennsylvania. Before Barr slips into a coma, he writes down three words – Get Jack Reacher. Soon after, former military officer Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) makes contact with lead detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) and District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) to help put Barr behind bars. Rodin’s daughter, defence attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), isn’t convinced her client is guilty so she hires Jack to check the forensics. Based on the book One Shot by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is a robust thriller punctuated by smartly orchestrated action sequences, none more chilling than opening scenes of the sniper taking aim at innocent bystanders on a riverbank.

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Apollo 13 (1995) (ITV4, 9.00pm)

Nearly 30 years after it first had viewers on the edge of their seats, Ron Howard’s compelling drama based on the 1970 Moon shot is still a stunning piece of work. Tom Hanks plays astronaut Jim Lovell, who is faced with a nightmare when the mission suffers an on-board explosion. He and his crewmates, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, are left stranded in space with a dwindling oxygen supply while flight controllers and engineers in Houston try to find a way to bring the crew safely back to Earth. Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise also star, while Kathleen Quinlan gives a powerhouse turn as Jim’s wife, Barbara Lovell. It won two BAFTAs (Best Achievement in Special Effects and Best Production Design) and a couple of Oscars (Best Sound and Best Film Editing).

Mulholland Drive (2001) (Film4, 11.20pm)

It’s been called a psychological thriller but, like most of his films, director David Lynch’s drama is hard to characterise. Laura Elena Harring stars as a woman who loses her memory following a car crash and ends up in the apartment of Betty (Naomi Watts), who has come to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Betty decides to help the mystery woman, who adopts the name Rita in honour of a poster of Rita Hayworth, to uncover her real identity, but nothing is quite as it seems. Mulholland Drive is the sort of film that divides viewers – some will think it’s an atmospheric masterpiece, others may find it frustrating – but there’s no doubting the power of Watts’ performance.


Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (BBC1, 10.30pm)

Following the success of Marvel’s first Avengers movie, director Joss Whedon returned to the helm for this enjoyable, if slightly less impressive, sequel. In the breathless action sequence which opens the film, the Avengers storm a Hydra stronghold to reclaim Loki’s magical staff, the Chitauri Scepter. During the melee, emotionally scarred siblings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who have been subjected to secret Hydra experiments, are unleashed. Wanda infects the mind of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), convincing the billionaire that he will bring about the deaths of the entire team. Tormented by his nightmarish vision, Stark secretly plans to harness the power of the Chitauri Scepter, but instead he unwittingly unleashes the villainous Ultron (voiced by James Spader).

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) (Channel 4, 11.05pm)

Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is the five-time Emmy Award-winning anchorman on the top-rated KVWN Channel 4 news in San Diego in the 70s. Every night, the city dutifully tunes in to see Ron distil the headlines of the day in his usual easy-going manner. Tempers flare and egos are severely bruised when station manager Ed Harken (Fred Willard) hires ambitious journalist Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) as Ron’s co-presenter. Ron’s adoring news team – sports reporter Champ Kind (David Koechner), dim-witted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) – resent Veronica’s challenge to the macho status quo and they plot to halt her meteoric rise. It’s funny on the first viewing, but like This Is Spinal Tap, this highly quotable comedy somehow gets better the more you watch it. Top films to watch on TV this weekend

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