Five things to watch this weekend – 26-28 April

Thieves and rogues meet the troubled and the wise for three days of memorable viewing on the big and small screen.

Peter Hill

The Looming Tower (2018)

Where’s it on? BBC2, Friday, 9:30pm

There are enemies foreign and domestic in this 10-part thriller, and you already know the ending. But in laying out events leading up to 9/11 this series has plentiful suspense. It comes from the fatal consequences of the macho squabbles of the FBI (personified by a swaggering Jeff Daniels) and CIA (his nemesis, Peter Sarsgaard), preventing any chance of Al-Qaeda’s early detection. A great cast includes Tahar Rahim (star of A Prophet), Jennifer Ehle, Bill Camp and Michael Stuhlbarg, while co-creator Alex Gibney gives this high-budget series a documentary weightiness to vaccinate against the cruder conspiracy theories still touted online. 

Maborosi (1995)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

The five-finger discounters of Shoplifters sealed the reputation of Hirokazu Kore-eda, palming the Palme d’Or and renewing interest in his back catalogue. Maborosi marked a distinct moment for the filmmaker, as he shifted away from documentaries into fiction to plot the life of a woman (Makiko Esumi) who believes she jinxes others with death. Plot is secondary to the director’s skill in sketching an emotional landscape rich in detail and colour. His ability to communicate complex feelings not in clumsy exposition but with laconic visual signals is rarely matched, and has been honed in his work since this 1995 must-see.

The League of Gentlemen (1960)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures, Saturday, 4:55pm

How ironic that a caper movie should be the victim of theft, but that’s what happened when Mark Gatiss and friends took their name from this sublime British effort, labelled by one critic as “a war film set in peacetime”. Jack Hawkins is the bitter ex-soldier who assembles more former warriors for a robbery. Bryan Forbes’ script has knaves, perverts and some stylish in-jokes as the gang are dissuaded from targeting the National Provincial Bank, who in reality helped fund the production. Fans of Slade Prison may spot that one character name, Bunny Warren, pops up in Clement and La Frenais’ masterful sitcom, Porridge.

Matinee (1993)

Where’s it on? Horror Channel, Sunday, 6:30pm

American patrons of the 1958 chiller Macabre received a cinema ticket and a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London, in case they died of fright. These gimmicks were the mark of filmmaker William Castle, whose mischievous spirit is all over this love letter to schlock. John Goodman is the director looking to sell his new atomic monster flick to Florida, if only people were not distracted by the Cuban missile crisis and its promise of Armageddon. The joy is in the telling, made memorable by the skills of Gremlins’ ringmaster Joe Dante.

Trumbo (2015)

Where’s it on?  iPlayer

From bouquets to blacklists and back again, Dalton Trumbo’s life always deserved its own film. As Hollywood’s top screenwriter, he prospered. As a communist during McCarthyism, he was jailed. Bryan Cranston plays him with depth, showing his courage, and quotability: “Friends? What friends? Who the hell has the luxury of friends? I’ve got allies and enemies. There’s no room for anything else.” Helen Mirren plays the vinegary columnist Hedda Hopper, while John Goodman and Michael Stuhlbarg get their second mentions on this page. For added piquancy on the theme of excommunication, the cast also includes Louis C.K.

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