Dune to All the Old Knives: The seven best movies to watch on TV this week | Television & radio

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Choice of the week


Timothy Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune. Photo: Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy

After taking over a mighty sci-fi object in Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve boldly goes for Frank Herbert’s epic novel about galactic realms – and emerges triumphant again. Only part one of two, it gives him time to explain how Timothée Chalamet’s callous noble Paul – heir to House Atreides – ends up on the desert planet Arrakis (aka Dune) under threat from powerful forces that would destroy his family. Blending Game of Thrones machinations with tribal mysticism and medieval-tinged technology, this lavish saga has the narrative scope and visual grandeur we expect from the best space operas, combined with a pleasing lack of foreboding.
Friday April 15, 10:40am, 8pm, Sky Cinema Premiere

All old knives

Thandiwe Newton and Chris Pine in All the Old Knives.
Thandiwe Newton and Chris Pine in All the Old Knives. Photo: Stefania Rosini/Amazon Studios

Eight years after an Islamist plane hijacking turned into a bloodbath, CIA agent Henry (a frowning Chris Pine) from the Vienna station is asked to track down the mole in the agency that helped hasten the disaster. So far, so Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – but Henry’s prime suspect is his former lover Celia (Thandiwe Newton). Janus Metz’s beautifully acted spy mystery has lots of suspenseful flashbacks of spy stuff, but essentially it’s ambidextrous: the pair share dinner and their memories of the event, but both have motives that are obscure at best.
Available now, Amazon Prime Video

Great expectations

Valerie Hobson and John Mills in great expectations.
Valerie Hobson and John Mills in great expectations. Photo: The Rank Organization Film Productions Ltd/Sportsphoto/Allstar

You can rely on Charles Dickens for a great plot—and this film of his 1946 novel delivers—but it’s in David Lean’s rich evocation of the early 1800s that the adaptation really comes alive. From the mist-drenched swamps of Kent to the dusty, dilapidated estate of Miss Havisham and the bustle of London, Pip’s development from blacksmith boy to snobbish young man, courtesy of an anonymous benefactor, takes on depth and drama. John Mills is solid as Pip, but it’s the supporting cast that shines, most notably Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham and Francis L Sullivan as the attorney Jaggers.
Saturday 9 April, 2pm, BBC Two

the favorite

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in the Favorite.
Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in the Favorite. Photo: Film4/Allstar

The extinct Greek surrealist Yorgos Lanthimos leads a carriage and horses (and the odd duck) through the costume drama with this riotous tale set in Queen Anne’s 18th-century court. A love triangle develops when new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) plots to usurp her niece, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), as the confidante of the surly, dim-witted Anne (an Oscar-winning rendition of humor and surprising pathos of Olivia Colman). In a nod to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, it’s shot using only candles, fire, or natural light, adding a wow factor to the humor.
Saturday 9 April, 9.15 pm, Channel 4

wild animals

Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal in Wildlife.
Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal in Wildlife. Photo: AP

Actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut, co-written with Zoe Kazan, is a film of silent despair, tenderly borrowed from Richard Ford’s novel. In the wide, lonely spaces of 1960s Montana, 14-year-old Joe (an alert Ed Oxenbould) is swept up in his parents’ unresolved dramas. Proud, fickle Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a job fighting wildfires, and disgruntled Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) uses the freedom to explore what life has to offer – but will her family be part of it?
Monday 11 April, 11.40pm, BBC Two

Funny Cow

Maxine Peake in funny cow.
Maxine Peake in funny cow. Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

Seemingly a rags to riches story, this intense drama about a stand-up comedian reflecting on her early life is more of a psychological dissection of the lead character than a hymn to female empowerment. The great Maxine Peake doesn’t give a quarter of an hour as “Funny Cow”, raised amid poverty and violence, but with the determination to find an escape through the northern circuit of working men’s clubs. It’s a harsh world where the (invariably male) comics are rude and racist, and director Adrian Shergold and writer Tony Pitts (who also plays her boyfriend) fail to show her struggles.
Wednesday 13 April, 1:30 am, Channel 4

the godfather

Marlon Brando in The Godfather.
Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Photo: Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

It’s now 50 years old, but Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece remains a touchstone for any cinematic portrayal of the Italian mafia – and perhaps the crime genre as a whole. As Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone strives to maintain his empire as a feud between Mafia families turns into open warfare, two of his sons – dashing heir Sonny (James Caan) and the more reserved, thoughtful Michael (Al Pacino) – represent different roads to success. Directed with operatic flair and packed with great acting, it’s an offer you can’t refuse…
Friday April 15, 8pm, Sky Cinema Greats

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