Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (25 February – 3 March 2023)

Selections by Henry Falconer and Pat Harrington.

Saturday 25 February 2023

A Hard Day’s Night (1964 film) 3.05pm BBC2

“A Hard Day’s Night” is a musical comedy film released in 1964, directed by Richard Lester, starring the iconic British rock band, The Beatles. The film is a classic representation of the band’s early career and is considered a landmark in the history of cinema and popular music.

The movie follows a day in the life of The Beatles, as they prepare for a live television performance. The plot revolves around the band members’ various misadventures and encounters with fans, reporters, and their own staff. Alongside the comedic plot, the film features many of the band’s most famous songs, including the titular “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “I Should Have Known Better.”

The performances in the film are impressive, with The Beatles showcasing their musical talent and effortless charisma. The chemistry between the band members is palpable, and their natural comedic timing adds an extra layer of entertainment to the film.

The direction of Richard Lester is excellent, as he captures the spirit of the band’s music and the energy of the Swinging Sixties. The film is shot in black and white, which adds to its nostalgic charm and provides a fitting backdrop for the band’s electric performances.

Overall, “A Hard Day’s Night” is a timeless classic that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the 1960s. It is a must-watch for fans of The Beatles and anyone who enjoys great music, comedy, and film. The film’s influence on pop culture cannot be overstated, and it remains a benchmark for musical films to this day.

Sunday 26 February 2023

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951 film) 7pm Talking Pictures

“The Lavender Hill Mob” is a British crime comedy film released in 1951, directed by Charles Crichton and starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway. The movie is a witty and entertaining caper, filled with clever plot twists, memorable characters, and plenty of laughs.

The story follows the bumbling but lovable bank clerk, Henry Holland (played by Guinness), who dreams of pulling off the perfect heist. With the help of his equally inept friend, Alfred Pendlebury (Holloway), Henry hatches a plan to steal a shipment of gold bullion from the Bank of England by melting it down and turning it into small Eiffel Tower statues.

The film’s strength lies in its excellent script, which is full of sharp dialogue and clever one-liners. The comedy is delivered with impeccable timing by Guinness and Holloway, who make a fantastic on-screen duo. The supporting cast is equally impressive, with excellent performances from Sid James, Marjorie Fielding, and John Gregson.

The direction by Charles Crichton is also top-notch, as he keeps the film moving at a brisk pace while never sacrificing the humor or the suspense. The film’s climax is particularly thrilling, with a chase scene through the streets of London that is both hilarious and edge-of-your-seat exciting.

“The Lavender Hill Mob” is a classic British comedy that has stood the test of time. It is a charming and clever film that will leave audiences smiling and wanting more. The film’s blend of humor, suspense, and memorable characters make it a must-watch for fans of classic cinema and crime capers alike.

The Secret World of Incels: UNTOLD 10pm Channel 4

Filmmaker Ben Zand investigates the dark world of incels. He uncovers shockingly violent content being shared online and meets a British man who has never had a conversation with a woman in real life.

Monday 27 February 2023

Maydays: David Edgar 2.15pm BBC Radio 4

David Edgar’s 1983 play, which spans continents and decades, delves into the journey of young activists who shifted from far-left to die-hard right after growing up in the 1960s. In 2018, Edgar revised the text, and now he has transformed the compelling narrative into a sweeping three-part audio version.

Bronson; Fit to Be Free? (continued on Tuesday at the same time} 9pm C4

Charles Bronson, the UK’s most infamous prisoner, is set to make his case for release at a rare public parole board hearing after serving 48 years in prison. This unique two-part series delves into the perspectives of Bronson’s victims, his inner circle, and members of the criminal justice system, questioning whether or not he is suitable for release.

After the initial broadcast on Monday 27th February, both parts of the series will be available to stream or download for free on All 4.

Sicario (2015 film) 9pm Great! movies

“Sicario” is a 2015 American crime thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio del Toro. The film follows a young FBI agent, Kate Macer (Blunt), who is recruited by a government task force to aid in the war on drugs along the U.S.-Mexico border. The film is a tense, gripping, and thought-provoking exploration of the moral complexities of the drug war.

The film’s strength lies in its excellent script, which provides a nuanced look at the complex and often violent world of the drug cartels. The story is told through the eyes of Kate, who is an outsider in this world and struggles to understand the methods used by her government task force. The film raises important questions about the efficacy of the war on drugs, as well as the morality of using extreme measures to combat it.

The performances in the film are outstanding, particularly from Blunt, who delivers a powerful and nuanced portrayal of a woman caught up in a dangerous and corrupt world. Brolin and del Toro are also excellent, portraying the morally ambiguous government operatives who recruit Kate for their mission.

The direction by Denis Villeneuve is top-notch, as he creates a palpable sense of tension and unease throughout the film. The cinematography is stunning, with wide shots of the desert landscape and tightly framed shots of the characters, creating a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia.

“Sicario” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that explores the moral complexities of the drug war. The film’s excellent performances, direction, and script make it a must-watch for fans of crime thrillers and those interested in the social and political issues surrounding the war on drugs. It is a film that will leave a lasting impression on viewers and spark important conversations about the morality of government intervention in the drug trade.

Bent Coppers 10pm BBC4

Philip Glenister, best known for his role as Gene Hunt in “Life on Mars,” narrates this gripping series set in the 1970s, an era of high-speed car chases and thrilling police pursuits. But beneath the excitement lies a much darker story of corruption and injustice, as a network of corrupt officers wreak havoc on innocent lives.

The series features shocking recordings from a 1969 investigation, in which a Metropolitan police detective can be heard casually telling a south London criminal that if he committed a crime, the police would expect a cut of the profits. Even more disturbing are the accounts of those who were “fitted up” for crimes they didn’t commit, in ways that even Gene Hunt would find hard to believe.

Tuesday 28 February 2023

Storyville: Sex On Screen 10pm BBC4

This Storyville documentary delves into the process of creating sex scenes in Hollywood, shedding light on the toll it takes on those involved in filming them and the impact such images have on women and girls in the real world.

Featuring candid interviews with actors and creators, including Jane Fonda, Rosanna Arquette, Joey Soloway, Angela Robinson, Karyn Kusama, Rose McGowan, Alexandra Billings, Emily Meade, and David Simon, the film explores the nuanced and often fraught nature of filming sex scenes. Through their personal experiences and insights, the documentary examines the emotional, physical, and psychological impact of these scenes on those who participate in them.

Furthermore, the film highlights the voices of women who have bravely spoken out against abusive behavior on set, and the consequences they faced for doing so. By exposing the harsh realities of the industry, the documentary seeks to shed light on the need for greater accountability and respect for the safety and wellbeing of all individuals involved in the film-making process.

Finally, the documentary does not shy away from the critical analysis of the impact that such images have on women and girls in the real world. It examines how these images contribute to harmful and unrealistic beauty standards, perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes, and normalize toxic and abusive behaviors. Through its honest and illuminating exploration of the subject, this documentary is a vital contribution to the ongoing conversation around the intersection of art, representation, and gender equality in the entertainment industry.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Django (one of ten) 9pm Sky Atlantic

“Django” is a 10-part series inspired by the Spaghetti Western of the 1960s, directed by Francesca Comencini and produced by the team behind “Gomorrah” and “ZeroZeroZero.” The story is set in Texas in the late 1800s and follows a cowboy named Django in search of his daughter. The series uses the Western genre to explore themes of feminism, family sagas, and psychology. The cast includes Matthias Schoenaerts as Django, Nicholas Pinnock as John Ellis, Lisa Vicari as Sarah, and Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Thurman. The series will have 10 episodes and will be released weekly on Sky Atlantic

Entebbe (2018 film) 11.15pm

“Entebbe” is a 2018 action thriller directed by José Padilha, starring Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, and Eddie Marsan. The film is based on the true events of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane and the subsequent rescue mission by Israeli forces. While the film has moments of tension and suspense, it ultimately falls short in delivering a compelling narrative.

The film’s biggest problem is its disjointed structure, with frequent flashbacks and non-linear storytelling that detracts from the tension of the main plot. The characters are also poorly developed, with little insight into their motivations or backgrounds. This makes it difficult for the audience to empathize with or root for any of the characters.

The performances in the film are serviceable, with Pike and Brühl doing their best with the limited material they are given. However, their characters feel one-dimensional and lack any real depth or complexity. The same can be said for the supporting cast, who are given little to do beyond serving as plot devices.

The direction by Padilha is competent, with some well-choreographed action scenes and tense moments. However, the film lacks the visceral impact and urgency that one would expect from a thriller based on a real-life hostage situation. The pacing is also uneven, with the film dragging in places and rushing through important plot points in others.

“Entebbe” is a disappointing film that fails to deliver a compelling narrative or well-developed characters. While there are moments of tension and suspense, they are few and far between, and the film never manages to fully engage the audience. Despite the best efforts of the talented cast, “Entebbe” is ultimately forgettable and not worth the time or effort to watch.

Thursday 2 March 2023

Stalin: Inside the Terror 8.30am 1.45pm, 6.20pm (three showings) PBS America

“Stalin: Inside the Terror” is a gripping and insightful documentary that explores the dark and bloody reign of Joseph Stalin, one of the most brutal dictators in history. The documentary, which was produced by PBS, provides a fascinating look at Stalin’s rise to power, his ruthless tactics, and the devastating impact of his policies on the Soviet Union and the world.

The film is well-researched and provides a wealth of information about Stalin’s life and the events that shaped his ideology. The documentary features interviews with historians and experts on Soviet history, as well as archival footage and photographs that bring the era to life.

One of the most powerful aspects of the film is its focus on the human toll of Stalin’s reign. Through interviews with survivors and family members of victims, the documentary brings to light the stories of those who suffered under Stalin’s purges, show trials, and forced labor camps. These personal accounts add a poignant and emotional layer to the historical narrative, making the film both informative and deeply affecting.

Howards End (1992 film) 3.55pm Film 4

Howards End is a beautifully crafted period drama directed by James Ivory, based on the novel by E.M. Forster. The film tells the story of two families from different social classes in Edwardian England, and how their lives become intertwined through a series of unexpected events.

The cinematography is stunning, capturing the lush English countryside and grand estates with precision and elegance. The attention to detail in the set design and costumes also adds to the film’s authenticity, transporting the viewer back in time to the early 1900s.

The performances from the cast are exceptional, with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins leading a talented ensemble. Thompson shines as Margaret Schlegel, a compassionate and intelligent woman who defies the expectations of her class, while Hopkins delivers a nuanced portrayal of Henry Wilcox, a wealthy businessman struggling with his conscience.

The themes explored in Howards End are timeless and universal, including class, gender, and the pursuit of love and happiness. The film’s exploration of the complex relationships between its characters is both moving and thought-provoking, leaving the viewer with much to ponder long after the credits roll.

Howards End is a stunning film that stands the test of time, with masterful direction, exquisite visuals, and powerful performances. It is a must-see for fans of period dramas, and anyone looking for a compelling and moving story about the human condition.

Friday 3 March 2023

Stalin’s Executioners: The Katyn Massacre 9.15pm PBS

Stalin’s Executioners: The Katyn Massacre is a powerful and haunting documentary that sheds light on one of the most horrific events of World War II – the mass murder of over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret police in the Katyn forest in 1940.

The documentary presents a wealth of information and footage, including rare archival materials and interviews with historians, survivors, and family members of the victims. Through these various perspectives, the film reveals the staggering scale of the atrocity, the Soviet government’s efforts to cover up the crime, and the lasting impact it had on the families of the victims.

The film is expertly crafted, with a combination of narration, interviews, and historical footage that creates a vivid and emotionally charged portrayal of the massacre. The use of personal accounts and family stories adds a human element that makes the events all the more tragic and resonant.

Stalin’s Executioners: The Katyn Massacre is an important and deeply affecting film that sheds light on a lesser-known but no less significant aspect of World War II history. It is a reminder of the devastating impact of war and totalitarian regimes, and a tribute to the resilience and courage of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable horror.


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