Belfast to Samaritan: the seven best films to watch on TV this week | Television & radio

selection of the week


Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical drama is a loving throwback to his childhood, though set during the Troubles. It’s 1969 and tensions in Northern Ireland are beginning to affect the carefree life of nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill). His father, a Protestant builder (Jamie Dornan) who has to go to England to find work, wants the family to get out of increasingly unpredictable north Belfast, but Buddy’s mother (an extraordinary Caitríona Balfe) finds it difficult to break ties to give up family and place. Branagh portrays these events from the innocent Buddy’s point of view, so the ramifications of the riots seem more national than political, but the emotional impact is still strong.
Friday, September 2, 10:00 a.m., 8:00 p.m., Sky Cinema Premiere


Sam Cleary and Sylvester Stallone in Samaritans.
Silent superhero… Sam Cleary and Sylvester Stallone in Samaritan. Photo: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Much like Gotham, Granite City is a crime-ridden, poverty-stricken disaster area that cries out for a superhero. For 13-year-old Sam (Javon “Wanna” Walton), that man is Samaritan. The fact that he died in an explosion years ago with his evil brother Nemesis is just a detail. Could his lonely neighbor Joe (Sylvester Stallone) be secretly his idol? Julius Avery’s film uses its action sparingly – more Luke Cage than Dark Knight – but it’s always fun to see Sly flexing his muscles and grunting his lines, and Pilou Asbæk keeps his crime boss Cyrus at a naturalistic level of evil.
Available now, Prime Video

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days of heaven

American Pastoral...Richard Gere and Brooke Adams in Days of Heaven.
American Pastoral…Richard Gere and Brooke Adams in Days of Heaven. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Allstar

Before a 20-year hiatus from filmmaking, Terrence Malick created his masterpiece, a ravishingly scripted tale of a tangled romance set in rural Texas in 1916. Richard Gere’s worker Bill discovers that the ailing landowner (Sam Shepard) has fallen in love with his sweetheart Abby, who Posing as his sister, he sees a chance for a better life in furthering their union – but soon regrets his plan. Malick’s hallmarks are all here – elliptical drama, elegiac voiceover, sensitivity to the seasons and nature – in a landscape glowing in the light of “Magic Hour”.
Saturday, August 27, 9:55 p.m., Sky Cinema Greats

rear window

James Stewart in the rear window.
Nosy Neighbor…James Stewart in Rear Window. Photo: Paramount/Allstar

Photographer LB (James Stewart) is stuck in his Manhattan apartment with a broken leg, and only visits from his girlfriend Lisa (a beaming Grace Kelly) and nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) ease the boredom. To pass the time, he begins spying on his neighbors across the yard and begins to suspect that an apartment owner has killed his wife. Alfred Hitchcock’s most voyeuristic film (and there are many of them) deftly makes us complicit in LB’s covert watching – albeit as it becomes more dangerous – but always with the escape clause of the Thriller conspiracy to assuage our guilt.
Sunday 28 August, 9pm, Sky Arts

wake up

David Kelly and Ian Bannen in Waking Ned.
Opportunity knocks…David Kelly and Ian Bannen in Waking Ned. Photo Credit: 20 Century Fox/Allstar

There’s a distinct taste of Ealing – especially Whiskey Galore! – to Kirk Jones’ affable comedy. Ian Bannen and David Kelly play two old friends in a small Irish village who discover that the local beneficiary of a nearly £7million lottery win, champion Ned, has died in shock at his luck. However, the duo only needs someone posing as Ned, and then all residents can partake in the cash bonanza. A film of gentle humour, fleet-footed eccentricity and peppy performances by the upbeat Bannen and Kelly.
Monday, Aug. 29 at 7:10 p.m. AMC

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The Queen

Much loved... Helen Mirren in the Queen.
Much loved… Helen Mirren in the Queen.
Photo: Granada Film Productions/Allstar

Just in time for the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, a screening of Peter Morgan’s 2006 prequel to The Crown will follow the events of 1997 from the perspective of the royal family. The unprecedented, bizarre outpouring of national grief following Di’s fatal car accident leaves Elizabeth II (a flawless Helen Mirren) stunned, and her lack of public response causes disquiet. However, their new prime minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), sees a critical moment for the monarchy. A fascinating snapshot of a moment in British history when tradition faced and was lost to the modern world.
Tuesday 30 August, 8pm, ITV

free fire

Bullets all around... Brie Larson in Free Fire.
Bullets all around… Brie Larson in Free Fire. Photo: Film4/Allstar

This cartoonishly entertaining crime thriller from Ben Wheatley revels in its focused absurdity – and has a keen eye for a ’70s mustache. An illegal firearms purchase by Irish terrorists from a South African-American arms dealer duo in a dockside warehouse inadvertently turns into a firefight, but it’s one with more missed shots than an A-Team episode. Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson and Sharlto Copley are among the wounded who trudge through the disused building in a frenetically choreographed ballet of confusion, outrage and dark humor. SW
Friday, September 2, 1:15 a.m., Channel 4

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