Choice of the week
After tackling a powerful sci-fi property in Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve boldly opts for Frank Herbert’s epic novel of galactic empires – and emerges triumphant again. This is just the first part of two, giving him time to explain how Timothée Chalamet’s naive nobleman Paul – heir to House Atreides – finds himself on the desert planet Arrakis (AKA Dune) under threat from forces powers that would destroy his family. Mixing the machinations of Game of Thrones with tribal mysticism and medieval-tinged technology, this sumptuous saga has the narrative scope and visual grandeur we’ve come to expect from the best space operas, knitted together with a pleasing lack of wonder.
Friday, April 15, 10:40 a.m., 8 p.m., Sky Cinema Premiere
All the old knives
Eight years after an Islamist plane hijacking turned into a bloodbath, Vienna Station CIA agent Henry (a frowning Chris Pine) is asked to unearth the agency mole who helped to precipitate the disaster. So far, so Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – but Henry’s prime suspect is his former lover Celia (Thandiwe Newton). Janus Metz’s well-acted spy mystery has plenty of tense spy flashbacks, but at its core, it’s a double: The pair share dinner and their memories of the event, but the two have motives that are obscure at best.
Available now, Amazon Prime Video
You can count on Charles Dickens for a stunning plot – and this 1946 film of his novel delivers – but it’s in the rich evocation of early 19th century David Lean that the adaptation really comes to life. From the mist-soaked marshes of Kent to the dusty, ramshackle estate of Miss Havisham and the bustle of London, Pip’s progression from blacksmith’s boy to snobby young man, thanks to an anonymous benefactor, takes on depth and drama. John Mills is solid as Pip, but it’s the supporting actors who shine, especially Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham and Francis L Sullivan as the barrister Jaggers.
Saturday April 9, 2 p.m., BBC Two
Deadpan Greek surrealist Yorgos Lanthimos leads a carriage and horses (and the odd duck) through costume drama with this riotous tale set in Queen Anne’s court in the 18th century. A love triangle develops when new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) plots to usurp her cousin, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), as a confidante to the petulant, dimwitted Anne (an Oscar-winning performance of humor and startling pathos from Olivia Colman). In a nod to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, it’s shot using only candles, fires or natural light, adding a wow factor to the spirit.
Saturday April 9, 9:15 p.m., Canal 4
Actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut, co-written with Zoe Kazan, is a film of quiet desperation, tenderly taken from Richard Ford’s novel. In the vast, lonely spaces of 1960s Montana, 14-year-old Joe (a watchful Ed Oxenbould) is drawn into the unresolved dramas of his parents. The prideful and fickle Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a job fighting wildfires, and the dissatisfied Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) uses the freedom to explore what life has to offer – but will that include- he his family?
Monday April 11, 11:40 p.m., BBC Two
Ostensibly a tale of rags to riches, this intense drama about a stand-up comedienne reflecting on her youth is more a psychological dissection of its title character than a hymn to female empowerment. The great Maxine Peake gives no quarter as ‘Funny Cow’, raised amidst poverty and violence but determined to find an escape through the working class circuit of the North. It’s a harsh world where the (invariably male) comics are crude and racist, and director Adrian Shergold and writer Tony Pitts (who also plays her boyfriend) make no effort to show his struggle.
Wednesday April 13, 1:30 a.m., Channel 4
It’s now 50 years old, but Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece remains a touchstone for any cinematic portrayal of the Italian Mafia – and arguably the detective genre as a whole. As Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone struggles to maintain his empire as a feud between mob families turns into open war, two of his sons – brash heir Sonny (James Caan) and the more reserved and thoughtful Michael (Al Pacino) – represent different paths to success. Made with operatic flair and filled with excellent actors, it’s an offer you can’t refuse…
Friday April 15, 8 p.m., Sky Cinema Greats