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!
The Green Mile (1999)
Film4, Saturday 23rd, 21:00 & Friday 29th, 23:10
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.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Sony Movies, Saturday 23rd, 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.
Alpha Dog (2006)
Sony Movies Action, Sunday 24th, 00:20 (Saturday night)
The names may have been changed but this crime thriller is based on the true story of the kidnapping of teenager Nicholas Markowitz in Los Angeles in 2000. In this version of events, Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) owes money to privileged but unhinged drug dealer Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) who orders his gang mates to take Mazursky’s younger brother hostage until the debt is paid. The story focuses on the interactions between captor and captives and features an impressive cast of soon-to-be-major stars along with supporting roles from the likes of Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone. If you can handle the vile language, shocking violence and despicable characters, there’s actually a well-made and ultimately heartbreaking film here with fine performances from the young cast, particularly Anton Yelchin as the kidnapped brother and most surprisingly Justin Timberlake as the man charged with looking after him.
Jurassic Park (1993)
ITV, Sunday 24th, 17:45
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 25 years on 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.
5Star, Sunday 24th, 23:05
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.
Apollo 13 (1995)
ITV4, Monday 25th, 15:45 & Wednesday 27th, 20:00
Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon star as the crew of the third NASA mission to land on the moon, which runs into problems after an oxygen tank explosion. Over 200,000 miles from home with power diminishing, the crew work along with mission control to safely navigate their craft back to Earth. This amazing true story is naturally packed with drama, but director Ron Howard’s meticulous attention to detail and the cast’s willingness to accurately recreate the mission help make the film one of the most watchable docu-dramas of all time. As a result this is not just a thrilling film but an incredible tribute to everybody involved in averting a disaster that would have affected space exploration for years.
Super 8 (2011)
Film4, Monday 25th, 18:45
Between directing two Star Trek films, J.J. Abrams helmed this very different Sci-Fi film, set in small-town America in the late 70’s. A group of schoolkids are making their own movie when they witness a devastating train crash, and when they review the video footage later, they find that the train was carrying a visitor from another world, which is now loose in their neighbourhood. The film is co-produced by Steven Spielberg and there’s no denying that it has many similarities to the legendary director’s work, but it also has many of Abrams’ visual and storytelling trademarks, not to mention plenty of thrills. Acting from the young cast is mostly excellent, with a notable debut from Elle Fanning, and while it’s not the most headline-grabbing film from the directors’ back catalogue, it is still an enjoyable ride.
Horror, Monday 25th, 21:00
Having seen his Firefly TV series prematurely and undeservedly cancelled after barely a dozen episodes, Joss Whedon brought the crew of the titular spaceship to the big screen for one last ride. The rag-tag bunch of interstellar misfits led by Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is once again up to their necks in trouble as they rampage across space pursued by – and ultimately baiting – the mysterious Operative, menacingly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Fans of the TV show will find plenty to enjoy here, and will have a far better chance of understanding the characters than the uninitiated, but whether you’ve seen the short-lived series or not, this unique Sci-Fi/Western hybrid offers plenty of thrills and laughs. It’s not quite as good as the TV series, but still offers a worthy end to the story.
ITV4, Monday 25h, 21:00
Steven Spielberg pretty much invented the summer event movie with this sea-bound thriller. The event in question is of course a man-eating Great White shark terrorising the residents of a summer vacation resort, leading local sheriff Roy Scheider to team up with marine biologist Richard Dreyfuss and wily sea dog Robert Shaw to take on the beast. The shark itself may look a bit cheap these days, but with jump scares aplenty, an action-packed final showdown and John Williams’ masterful score, the film still has the ability to jangle your nerves, which is an amazing achievement after over forty years.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
5Star, Monday 25th, 23:00
Following the success of Wayne’s World, Mike Myers took on dual roles in this spy spoof. He plays Austin Powers, a suave Secret Agent, and his arch-nemesis Dr. Evil. When the latter escapes to a secret base in 1967 and cryogenically freezes himself, Austin must do the same, and is woken 30 years later to a world where most of his old skills are no longer relevant. Much of the film’s comedy comes from this ‘man out of his time’ scenario, and it is obviously inspired by the James Bond films, but Myers’ antics as both characters, along with great supporting roles from Liz Hurley and Seth Green, make for an entertaining film. The balance of slapstick and clever wordplay is just about right, unlike the two sequels that followed where Myers insisted on performing more outlandish characters.
Film4, Tuesday 26th, 23:20
When two young girls go missing and the police investigation makes little progress, the father of one of the girls takes matters into his own hands, focussing on a young man who he feels is the prime suspect. Meanwhile the lead detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) continues to try and unravel the mystery whilst also keeping an eye on the girls’ families. Director Dennis Villeneuve’s thriller definitely goes on too long and some of the twists are a little obvious if you’ve seen lots of films like this, but this is still a gripping and disturbing film with an intense performance from Hugh Jackman as the father who will go to any length to try and find his daughter.
Stranger than Fiction (2006)
Sony Movies, Thursday 28th, 16:45
Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, a mild-mannered and solitary auditor who awakens one day to find his life being narrated by a mysterious disembodied voice. He eventually discovers that he is the protagonist in the latest novel of a struggling writer and is destined to be killed off. With his demise seemingly inevitable, he decides to make the most of his remaining life, finding romance and new friends along the way. The quirky premise could’ve made for a typical outlandish Ferrell offering, but instead his performance is refreshingly subdued, resulting in a gentle comedy-drama that gives you plenty to think about and features some excellent supporting talent, most notably Emma Thompson as the author that holds Harold’s life in her hands.
Sony Movies, Thursday 28th, 21:00 & Sony Movies Action, Friday 29th, 21:00
Everyone’s favourite Hawaiian hunk Jason Momoa takes the leading role in this thriller, starring as a humble Canadian logger who heads to his remote cabin to spend some quality time with his ailing father. Their peace is soon shattered though by a gang of drug dealers who had earlier stashed a large amount of cocaine at the cabin, and it’s up to father and son to fend off their uninvited guests until the cops arrive. There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but if you can accept the frequently ridiculous decisions that all the characters make, this is an enjoyably daft action film with some great locations and an engaging lead performance by Momoa.