Every week Mat Corne scours the TV Guide for the best movies showing on UK free-to-air TV. So for those of you that refuse to pay for Sky Movies, Amazon Prime or Netflix, here are some of the best freeview movies for the coming week.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
ITV4, Saturday 20th, 13:25
Roger Moore may not have been everyone’s favourite, but you can’t argue that this is one of the quintessential films in the series. Everything you could want from a James Bond film can be found here, with exotic locations, beautiful women, an evil mastermind in a utopian lair, a classic henchman in the terrifying Jaws, and of course one of the most iconic cars in the submersible Lotus Turbo Esprit. The plot is as predictable as ever, but the acting is less hammy than usual for this era, there’s great chemistry between Moore and Barbara Bach, and some pulsating action sequences. All of which make it Moore’s greatest outing as 007 and my personal favourite of all the films in the franchise.
Men in Black (1997)
Film4, Saturday 20th, 19:10
Following the success of Independence Day, Will Smith cemented his A-List status with another film about man’s relationship with alien visitors. This time around the majority of aliens are happily accepted on Earth and live in peace and anonymity, until an unpleasant bug-like visitor causes havoc. Smith plays a cop that joins forces with Tommy Lee Jones in the government agency tasked with keeping the extra-terrestrials in line. The film is little more than a rehash of Ghostbusters, with aliens replacing spooks, but there are enough interesting characters, gadgets, action sequences and gags to keep your attention, while the two lead actors work very well together.
The Thing (1982)
Horror, Sunday 21st, 21:00
The crew of an isolated Antarctic research station get more than they bargained for when they take in an escaped sled dog that has been overtaken by a particularly unpleasant alien being. Soon the residents of the station are being killed off and imitated by the creature and it’s down to helicopter pilot Kurt Russell to work out which of his colleagues are still human. It will always be best remembered for Rob Bottin’s stomach-churning special effects, but beyond that John Carpenter’s film is a clever, claustrophobic thriller that still has you wondering who is human or not even after repeated viewings. Critically panned on release, the film has since become a cult classic and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of its era.
Jurassic Park (1993)
ITV2, Sunday 21st, 19:20
One of many Steven Spielberg-helmed blockbusters, this one is based on Michael Crichton’s story about a theme park populated with genetically-recreated dinosaurs that run amok after an unexpected power cut. The story is enjoyable enough with a number of dramatic scenes, and actors such as Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum do an admirable job, but the real stars of the movie are the park’s residents. From the initial childlike wonder of seeing Brontosauruses and Triceratops, to the terror of the T-Rex attack, to the suspense of the Velociraptor hunt, the special effects are incredibly convincing. More than 20 years on and they still compare favourably with modern CGI effects, which is the best praise you can give to the ground-breaking work done by Phil Tippett and ILM.
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
5Star, Monday 22nd, 21:00
It may not be as festive as the first two films, but don’t let that stop you seeing Bruce Willis return for his third outing as John McClane, teaming up with Samuel L. Jackson to take on another group of bad guys in New York. Bringing back the original film’s director John McTiernan and ignoring the events of the second film was a masterstroke, as this is almost as good as the original, albeit in a different way. The series of challenges that face the heroes at the beginning of the movie are cleverly designed and thrillingly executed, and while the story gets a little more generic towards the latter half of the film, the relationship between the main characters and a mix of action and humour make this one of the greatest sequels of the 90s.
The Social Network (2010)
Paramount Network, Monday 22nd, 21:00
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard computing student who comes up with the idea of a social networking website for his fellow students. The rest, as they say, is history which is still being made. What was in reality a fairly boring story is spiced up by some over-dramatised incidents, compelling performances from all the main stars and David Fincher’s typically subversive direction. As an insight into the creators of something that has become part of everyday life for much of the world’s population, this is a truly fascinating film. It may paint a completely accurate picture of the people involved, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?
The Green Mile (1999)
Film4, Monday 22nd, 21:00
Stock up on the tissues and brace yourself for Frank Darabont’s epic adaptation of Stephen King’s serial novel. Tom Hanks stars as a Death Row prison guard whose life is unexpectedly changed by a giant but gentle inmate, who displays some out of the ordinary powers. Hanks is good as usual, but is completely upstaged on this occasion by the performance of the late Michael Clarke Duncan, in what was undoubtedly his most memorable role. It’s hard watching at times, and doesn’t reach the heights of Darabont’s earlier prison based King adaptation The Shawshank Redemption, but there’s still plenty to admire here if you can cope with the long running time.
Sony Movies, Tuesday 23rd, 21:00
Following the success of The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan reunited with Bruce Willis for one of the director’s most intriguing films. Willis stars as a seemingly ordinary security guard who becomes the sole, uninjured survivor of a devastating train accident. His superhuman escape from certain death attracts the interest of Samuel L. Jackson’s frail art dealer, and the two strike up an odd relationship that leads to increasingly more dangerous situations. The film is a fascinating entry into the superhero genre that dispels with fancy costumes and powers, instead looking at heroes and villains in a ‘real world’ way and featuring superb performances from Willis and Jackson. With both characters recently revived on the big screen in Glass, it’s definitely worth taking another look at their origins in what is arguably Shyamalan’s finest hour.
The Last Stand (2013)
Film4, Thursday 25th, 21:00
If you’re looking for a film to just sit back and enjoy without having to think about it, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to full-time acting might be just the ticket. He plays an ageing sheriff in a small town on the US-Mexico border, which just happens to be the destination for an escaped cartel leader hoping to escape back to his home country. With the FBI struggling to keep up with the fugitive in his supercharged sports car, Arnie must try and stop him and his gang with just a small police force and some willing volunteers. All of which is just an excuse for car chases, explosions and lots of gunfire. With a decent supporting cast and plenty of jokes about the leading man’s advancing years, this is an undemanding but thoroughly enjoyable action film.
Stand by Me (1986)
Sony Movies, Friday 26th, 21:00
On a hot summer weekend in the late 1950s, four boys from the sleepy town of Castle Rock set out to find the body of a boy that has recently been reported missing. On their journey they get into a variety of dangerous situations, share their problems and begin their journey to adulthood. This coming of age film is based on the Stephen King novella The Body, and in terms of adaptations the writer’s work it is second only to The Shawshank Redemption, which came from the same anthology. It works as both a comedy and drama thanks to some brilliant performances from a young cast that would all go on to be major stars, and a carefree spirit that will remind you of simpler days spent in the outdoors with friends.