From Clint Eastwood to Michael Caine: the best TV films

Max (Jason Bateman) and his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams) are board-game fiends who host regular game nights for their friends, including married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), and dim-witted pal Ryan (Billy Magnussen). Max’s flashy older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) offers to host the next game night, which will involve a mock kidnapping. As promised, two masked men snatch Brooks after an expertly staged fight. Except the kidnapping is real and Max, Annie and the gang are now in a race against time to rescue Brooks from gun-toting thugs. Game Night deals us a winning hand full of likeable characters, uproarious set-pieces and snappy dialogue, while the winning chemistry of Bateman and McAdams papers over any cracks in the plot.

Sunday

Going In Style, BBC One, 10.30pm

Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) are lifelong friends, who are mellowing in retirement. During a meeting between Joe and his unsympathetic bank manager (Josh Pais), three masked men with guns walk into the branch and confidently steal $1.6 million. Soon after, the buddies’ old employer announces it is freezing company pensions. Joe is apoplectic and decides to rob the Williamsburg Savings Bank, which is managing the liquidation of the pension fund. Going In Style is a warm-hearted remake of the 1979 comedy starring George Burns, Art Burney and Lee Strasberg. The Academy Award-winning trio of Freeman, Caine and Arkin gel beautifully in the new version, trading quips courtesy of scriptwriter Theodore Melfi, who was Oscar nominated for the splendid Hidden Figures.

Monday

Film of the week

The Little Stranger, Monday, Film 4, 9pm

There have been so many adaptations of Sarah Waters novels they could form a mini-genre in their own right. Affinity, Tipping The Velvet and The Night Watch have all been made into TV series, as has Fingersmith, which was also transposed to 1930s Korea by Oldboy director Park Chan-wook for a coolly erotic big screen adaptation. Cinema is also the preferred vehicle for this 2016 take on Waters’ 2009 novel The Little Stranger, by Irish director Lenny Abrahamson.

Befitting his status as a film-maker to watch – he was Oscar-nominated for Room in 2016 – Abrahamson assembles a starry, actorly cast headed by Charlotte Rampling and Ruth Wilson as the imperious Mrs Ayres and her dutiful, no-nonsense, Labrador-toting daughter Caroline. Together with housemaid Betty (Liv Hill) and Caroline’s disfigured, war hero brother Roderick (Will Poulter), they are the sole occupants of Hundreds Hall, the Ayres family pile in Warwickshire. The year is 1947, the end of the age of deference is looming, the once grand aristocratic houses are crumbling (see Brideshead Revisited for more on that) and into the Ayres’s lives comes new GP Dr Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson). He’s a local boy, as it turns out: his mother once worked at Hundreds Hall, and on a visit there for a country fair in 1919 he had an encounter with ramifications for what follows.

And what does follow? As in the novel, you’re never quite sure. Themes of guilt, repressed memories and a sort of simmering class anger bubble away beneath, while on the surface a story plays out which appears to have some kind of haunting at its heart. Roderick, a former airman who was badly burned in the war, somehow sets his bedroom on fire. A visiting girl is savaged by Caroline’s normally chilled pooch. And Mrs Ayres becomes convinced the spirit of her daughter Suki is stalking the dilapidated old house. Suki died before Roderick and Caroline were born – but Faraday remembers her from his ill-starred visit to Hundreds as a boy. The stage is set, as they say.

Everyone looks miserable and so does post-war England, shot by Abrahamson in a weary half-light and with a palette that runs from nasty brown to dull grey and back again. Quiet, intense and enigmatic, The Little Stranger is a match for its source material, and in some places betters it.

Tuesday

The Mother, BBC Four, 9pm

May (Anne Reid) and her ailing husband Toots (Peter Vaughn) decide to visit their grown-up children in London. Son Bobby (Steven Mackintosh) is more or less indifferent, but singleton daughter Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) is a bit more interested. The anguish deepens as Toots dies, and May is drawn into a passionate relationship with Paula’s married boyfriend Darren (a pre-Bond Daniel Craig). Written by Hanif Kureishi (The Buddha of Suburbia, Intimacy), The Mother is a poignant and deeply moving portrait of grief, sexual desire and miscommunications between the generations. Not for the easily upset or offended.

Wednesday

Dance With A Stranger, Talking Pictures TV, 9.05pm

Miranda Richardson made an incredible film debut in director Mike Newell’s atmospheric 1985 drama about Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Ruth (Richardson) is managing a club in 1950s London, when she falls for David (Rupert Everett), a would-be racing driver from a wealthy family. They begin a passionate affair, but their romance seems doomed as he’s hard-drinking, has little money of his own, and it’s unlikely his family will accept her. However, their relationship continues, even as Ruth is set up in a flat by another admirer (Ian Holm). When it seems like David has found someone else, Ruth is plunged into murderous despair.

Thursday

The Conjuring, BBC Four, 9pm

James Wan’s film opens in sunshine with the arrival of Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) at a rundown farmhouse in Harrisville with their five daughters. The family dog Sadie refuses to enter the property and that first night, the clocks all stop at precisely 3.07am. Later, the Perrons experience increasingly violent episodes, which terrify Carolyn and her brood. In desperation, they turn to paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), who immediately sense a malevolent force. For the Vatican to authorise an exorcism though, Ed and Lorraine must gather incontrovertible evidence of this powerful demonic entity – and so they begin their terrifying research into the dark history of the farmhouse.

Friday

Dirty Harry, Channel 5, 10pm

In Don Siegel’s 1971 neo-noir a deranged killer calling himself Scorpio claims he’ll begin attacking innocent people unless the city of San Francisco pays him a vast amount of money. When he starts carrying out his threat, Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), a cop with a reputation for toughness, determination and a dislike for his superiors, is called in to deal with the situation. He crosses paths with Scorpio on a number of occasions, and gets into hot water for breaking the rules in an effort to bring the villain to justice. Dirty Harry remains one of the most brilliantly constructed cop thrillers ever made – no wonder it spawned not only several sequels, but several copycat movies. Some of those lines are unforgettable too. Feeling lucky, punk?

And one to stream …

The Mad Women’s Ball, Amazon Prime

If you’ve given up on Amazon’s flashy new sci-fi drama Chaos Walking (understandable: it’s an absolute car crash of a film) then try this thoughtful, if melodramatic, period piece from French actor-turned-director Mélanie Laurent, itself based on Victoria Mas’s best-selling novel of the same name.

Opening on the day of Victor Hugo’s funeral in Paris in May 1885 – an estimated two million people followed the coffin from the Arc de Triomphe to the Pantheon – it tells the story of high-born young woman Eugénie Cléry (Lou de Laâge), whose life would otherwise be a round of upper-class tea parties and a ‘good’ marriage to a wealthy husband were it not for the fact she can communicate with the spirits of dead people. These days such a talent would win you a Netflix series and a book deal. In 19th century France it leads to the asylum: Paris’s notorious Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, to be exact.

Hospital here is a relative term, though. Treatments include being locked in a bath of ice water for hours on end, forced into isolation cells or, the fate of Eugénie’s friend Louise (Lomane de Dietrich), hypnotised in front of a room full of men and asked to touch yourself. This scene is based on a famous painting by Andre Brouillet, A Clinical Lesson At Salpêtrière, which shows real-life neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (played here by Grégoire Bonnet) hypnotising real-life ‘hysteria’ patient Louise Augustine Gleizes.

Imprisoned in her own way at Salpêtrière is Geneviève (Laurent herself), who runs the place. Still mourning the death of her sister, Blandine, she is shocked when Eugénie claims to be able to communicate with her sibling. Geneviève’s father, who has raised her to believe in science and the rational, won’t tolerate any mention of it, but Geneviève and Eugénie come to an accord – one which plays out at the annual Salpêtrière costume party, the so-called Mad Women’s Ball.

There are some troubling scenes in which the women are inflicted to degradation and mis-treatment, though that’s sort of the point of the film. What elevates it are the sumptuous interiors, the strong performances and a haunting soundtrack from Israeli composer Asaf Avidan.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992