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.
Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19 and the need for many people to isolate or socially distance themselves, instead of just the usual five films we’ll be recommending as many Freeview movies as we can each week until the situation improves. Stay safe everyone and we hope you watch and enjoy some of our choices during this difficult time!
5Star, Saturday 28th, 23:05 and Wednesday 1st, 23:25
After almost a decade of disappointing films, seasoned horror director Wes Craven returned to form with a new twist on the slasher movie. The story is predictable – teenagers are being murdered by a masked assailant in a variety of gruesome ways – but this was a thoroughly modern take on a well-worn formula with a killer that is far from the mindless psychos of the 80s. Packed with pop culture references and self-satire, Scream is a clever film that is funny when it wants to be but doesn’t hold back on the gore at all, and its opening sequence is still one of the most terrifying and effective in movie history. Ultimately Craven did for horror films what Tarantino did for crime thrillers with a brilliant reinvention of a genre few cared about at the time.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Sony Movies, Sunday 29th, 14:40
Bill Murray is in some of the finest form of his career as a grumpy TV weatherman, reluctantly sent to a small town to cover its annual ‘Groundhog Day’ festival. Upon waking the next morning, he finds himself doomed to repeat that same day over and over again, with consequences ranging from the absurd to the tragic, until he finally finds the key to escaping the time loop is changing his outlook on life and finding love with his producer, played by Andie MacDowell. Only moderately successful at the time, the film has since gained the status of a comedy classic thanks to Murray’s fabulous performance, and even the usually unbearable MacDowell plays her part well. It’s a great film, but afterwards you’ll never want to listen to Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe” ever again!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
ITV, Sunday 29th, 15:50
Ten years after the end of the hugely disappointing prequel trilogy, the Star Wars franchise came back with a bang under the stewardship of Disney and director J.J. Abrams. Episode VII takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi and sees a new group of heroes team up with old favourites like Han Solo and Chewbacca to track down the missing Luke Skywalker, whilst facing the threat of unstable Jedi Kylo Ren and The First Order. Critics would complain that the story is little more than a reboot of A New Hope, but the film features so many fantastic moments, emotional twists and lovable characters new and old that any lack of originality can be forgiven. So whether you’re a jaded 40-something or a youngster taking your first steps into the Star Wars world, just sit back and enjoy this exhilarating return to that amazing galaxy far, far away.
Independence Day (1996)
E4, Sunday 29th, 18:10
One of the biggest event movies of the 90s, Independence Day combines the classic alien invasion story with a disaster movie, as gigantic UFOs stage a synchronised attack on Earth’s major cities, wiping out the majority of communication and leadership. Following the attack, America launches a counter-offensive with the help of cocky jet pilot Will Smith and tech-genius Jeff Goldblum. It’s all very silly, mostly rehashes the plot of War of the Worlds and features plenty of American sabre-rattling, but the characters are engaging and the effects and action sequences were superb in their day. The sequel was a bit of a dud but this is worth watching if only for the spectacular destruction of some of the world’s most famous buildings!
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Sony Movies, Sunday 29th & Thursday 2nd, 21:00
Now amazingly over 25 years old, Quentin Tarantino’s tale of gangsters, hitmen, boxers and small-time criminals in 90s Los Angeles is still his finest work. Building on the foundations laid down by Reservoir Dogs, the film is characterised by witty dialogue, pop culture references and occasionally shocking violence. The cast is amazing, mixing big names with rising stars and catapulting has-beens and never-wasses into the spotlight, while the director’s ingenious non-linear storytelling and interweaving of subplots inspired countless imitations in the following years and still influences filmmaking to this day. Pulp Fiction was critically lauded and if you haven’t watched it recently then it’s time to re-acquaint yourself with the coolest of movie masterpieces.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Paramount Network, Sunday 29th, 22:35
George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play criminal brothers on the run, who take a vacationing family hostage to help them get across the border. What begins as a fairly straightforward crime thriller takes an unexpected and spectacular twist when they reach their destination in Mexico, but for anyone that hasn’t seen the film, I won’t give that twist away. Suffice to say that Robert Rodriguez’s film is one of the most innovative movies of its era, and the performance of Clooney is coolness personified. It also has a great soundtrack, and there are excellent supporting roles from Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Salma Hayek in this blood-drenched masterpiece.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Channel 4, Sunday 29th, 23:00
Taking place a decade after the events of the first film, the second part of the POTA reboot trilogy sees the remnants of humanity trying to rebuild after being almost wiped out by the Simian Flu that also bestowed increased intelligence to a tribe of apes. That tribe, led by Caesar, has been living and growing peacefully in the forests near San Francisco until a group of humans cross paths with them. A fragile truce is established between the two races, but factions on both sides soon bring them to an inevitable battle with one another. More action-packed than its predecessor, but still featuring more thoughtful moments, the film features some great sequences, decent acting from the human characters and more superlative motion capture performances from Andy Serkis and friends. Another impressive offering in a series that nobody expected to be as good as it was.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Channel 4, Monday 30th, 01:25 (Sunday night)
Just as Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey did before him, Ben Stiller takes a step away from goofball comedy towards a more dramatic role in this film, which he also directed. He plays the titular character, a mild-mannered daydreamer that works in the photography department of Life magazine. When the negative of the picture to be used for the final printed copy of the magazine goes astray, Walter must track down the nomadic photographer that took the shot. His journey takes him way out of his comfort zone, seeing and doing things beyond his own vivid dreams. Whilst predictable and rife with product placement, it’s an enjoyable feel good movie with some spectacular, mostly Icelandic scenery, and a decent performance from Stiller in one of his most likeable roles.
First Blood (1982)
ITV4, Tuesday 31st, 21:00
While the character of John Rambo ultimately became something of a caricature, there’s no denying the impact of his first movie appearance. Far from being a glorious, unstoppable American hero, Stallone’s character is a PTSD-suffering Vietnam veteran struggling to re-adapt to life after the war. When he’s unfairly treated by some overzealous small-town cops, he reacts in the only way he knows how, and what follows is a thrilling cat and mouse chase through the wilderness, featuring some spectacular action sequences and inventive use of the environment. The message about treating war veterans more sympathetically gets a little lost amongst the violence and Rambo’s ramblings towards the end, but that doesn’t stop it being a great film that was only damaged by the lacklustre sequels that followed.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Film4, Wednesday 1st, 21:00
When Average Joe’s Gym faces takeover by their bigger, more corporate neighbour Globo-Gym, its small but loyal group of members team up with the gym’s owner to try and raise $50,000 to save the business. After a couple of failed fundraising attempts, they enter an International Dodgeball tournament despite having no prior experience of the sport, with a team from Globo-Gym amongst their rivals. The plot is that of any number of sports movies that champion the underdog, but this movie is as much about slapstick comedy and sight gags as it is sporting action. The humour is pitched just about right though, only occasionally crossing the line into gross-out territory, while Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and a talented group of supporting actors play their parts well. There are moments that are sheer lunacy, but overall it’s a fun film that never outstays its welcome.
5Star, Friday 3rd, 21:00
Almost a decade after Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character returns in a supporting role as part of a new story. The star of the show is Michael B. Jordan, playing the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who has slowly been developing his boxing skills and approaches his father’s old rival for help in training him. Once the word gets out that Creed’s son is a contender, it’s only a matter of time before he competes in his first title match. The story is similar to the original Rocky in many ways, but director Ryan Coogler puts a modern spin on it and adds his own style to the in-ring action. Stallone plays the aging Rocky with a surprising subtlety that earned him a Golden Globe, and the film is an excellent start to what we now know is a new franchise that keeps the emotional spirit of the original films intact.