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 five of the best freeview movies for the coming week.
Star Trek (2009)
Channel 4, Saturday 11th, 21:00 & Wednesday 15th, 18:35
The venerable franchise was reborn with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto leading an exciting young cast as Kirk and Spock, in a story that takes place in an alternate timeline to the original incarnation. Early parts of the film cover their respective journeys to the USS Enterprise, where they must ultimately pit themselves against a renegade Romulan, menacingly played by Eric Bana. Just as he later did with Star Wars, J.J. Abrams masterfully blends a respect for the original saga with all the thrills, action and spectacular visual effects of a modern Hollywood blockbuster. The result is a film that appeals to a broader audience than the source material and yet still has something for long-time fans. If you’ve sworn never to watch Star Trek due to its inherent geekiness, this may be the film that changes your opinion!
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
ITV4, Sunday 12th, 22:05 and Wednesday 15th, 00:05
Chevy Chase stars as the well-intentioned but hapless Clark Griswold, who loads his family into a brand-new station wagon for a trip across the USA to the Walley World amusement park. Along the way they get into a series of mishaps that get more ridiculous the closer they get to their destination. Many comedies from this era have aged badly due to insensitive jokes that are now considered prejudiced, but this film still works thanks to the innocent, slapstick humour and remains relevant to anyone that has ever been on a family road trip they’d prefer to forget.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Film4, Sunday 12th & Thursday 16th, 21:00
Making his big screen debut as a leading man, Taron Egerton stars as a directionless youth plucked from a life of petty crime to follow in his father’s footsteps as a member of an elite spy organisation. Once his training is complete, he joins with fellow spies to foil a sinister plot conceived by a deranged Tech billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson). “James Bond with Chavs” seemed like a terrible idea in principle, but this turned out to be one of the surprise hits of 2015 thanks to a great blend of comedy, over the top action and Egerton’s engaging performance.
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
Film4, Wednesday 15th, 21:00
The third and (so far) final instalment in the Planet of the Apes origin series sees the future of the human race under threat again as the virus that wiped many of them out in the earlier films has mutated into something even more worrying. Meanwhile the apes led by Caesar are threatened by a maniacal Colonel whose troops are hellbent on wiping out the simian population, and confrontation is inevitable. As with the previous films the CG effects are so astounding that the idea that these are computer-generated apes won’t even cross your mind, while a smart, if sometimes predictable story brings this saga to a satisfying end. For me, it’s not quite as enjoyable as its predecessors, but as our recent boxset review said, overall this has been the best franchise reboot in cinema history.
The African Queen (1951)
Sony Movies Classic, Friday 17th, 17:05
John Huston’s classic film takes place at the dawn of the First World War as the sister of a British missionary in an African village is stranded when her brother dies following a German invasion. Joining up with the roguish captain of a creaking old steam boat, the two embark on a perilous journey down a seemingly impenetrable river to try and sabotage an enemy battleship. It may be almost 70 years old but The African Queen has lost none of its appeal, with humour and action in equal measure. There are fantastic performances from Humphrey Bogart and especially Katharine Hepburn, whose role as a feisty and resourceful female character would have been particularly notable back then. A few overlong scenes affect the pacing, but the finale is wonderful and caps off one of the greatest odd couple action adventure films of all time.