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No monkey business, this

A Trifecta of the Week’s Best Films on the Box
Published: 
Saturday, January 24, 2015
BC on TV
The original Planet of the Apes still holds up.

The New Year resolution of cable and DirecTV to show excellent films has lasted all of January, far longer than most personal New Year resolutions do. Today’s Also Rans include a great, hugely tense thriller (*Prisoners, 2 pm Fox1), a Danny Boyle that very nearly outdoes Danny Boyle (Trance, 10.25 am FoxMvs), Cormac McCarthy’s flawed but still good first screenplay (The Counsellor, 2.35 pm FoxAct), one of the great LA movies that would have been picked if it hadn’t already been this year (*Falling Down, 12.10 noon MaxP), the regrouped Led Zeppelin rocking out with Bonzo’s son for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun (Celebration Day, noon DTV) and a bone-chilling documentary (The Act of Killing, 6.55 pm HBOS). The week offers a superb animated Johnny Depp spoof of the spaghetti Western (Rango, 8 pm tomorrow FoxFam), the follow-up to In Bruges, a contender for best debut feature screenplay (Seven Psychopaths, 3.30 pm tomorrow HBOP) and a for-cinephiles-only tense drama about the high personal cost of addiction (My Zinc Bed, 9.55 pm Tuesday HBOS).

Today’s best film:

Planet of the Apes (Franklin J Schaffner/ 1968/ USA/ Sci-fi-Adventure-Drama/ 112 mins/ G), 7.05 pm Fox Classics BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. Watch this if you liked Aliens, 2001: A Space Odyssey or Aguirre: The Wrath of God. The monkey-suit sequels and the dreadful Tim Burton/Marky Mark 2001 remake obscure one of Hollywood’s best-ever films. It offers stunning cinematography, an unassailable script, superb costuming and even a great performance from Charlton Heston as the leader of the US spaceship crew landing on a planet where the roles of apes and humans are reversed; the last frame is a contender for “Best of All Time”. Few things nearly half-a-century old stand up so well to close scrutiny.

Today and rest of the week:

We’re the Millers (Rawson Marshall Thurber/ 2013/ USA/ Comedy/ 110 mins/ R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity), 4.30 pm today HBOE. Watch this if you liked There’s Something About Mary, Hall Pass or This is 40. In the 2012 year-end DVD roundup, BC on TV rated We’re the Millers the fourth best comedy of 2013 but, many months and several repeat viewings later, it would move up to at least second, with only This is 40 capable of being declared better – and even that would be unsure. Beautifully written (even the guffaw-inducing jokes are actually layered subtly), jam-packed with internal organ-losing laughs, masterfully directed and featuring immaculate performances from all four lead actors – and all the supporting actors, too – this is comedy at, or near, its best. As a lagniappe, Jennifer Aniston plays the part of a stripper. Keep watching to the very end of the credits for the extended version of one of the funniest scenes.

Bigger Stronger Faster—The Side Effects of Being American (Chris Bell/ 2008/ USA/ Documentary / 105 mins/ PG-13 for thematic material involving drugs, language, some sexual content and violent images), 3.55 pm Tuesday Sundance. Watch this if you liked Super Size Me, Maxed Out or Sicko. Chris Bell’s poignant, starkly honest and rigorously balanced examination of the American obsession with steroids is documentary filmmaking at its best. Compelling, touching to the point of heartbreak and immaculately scripted and directed, it throws in the best documentary soundtrack BC on TV has ever heard (with apologies to The Last Waltz and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party); well worth leaving work early for.

*Starred films have been chosen in the last three months. Scheduled Internet times often vary on the day, particularly around month-end. 

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