Film of the Week

Isle Of Dogs, Sunday, Channel 4, 6.05pm

Wes Anderson is one of the quirkiest and most consistently inventive directors working today. Films such as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou are cult items, while his 2014 crowd-pleaser The Grand Budapest Hotel brought deserved wins at the Oscars and the Golden Globes and his 2009 stop-motion animation Fantastic Mr Fox is nothing short of a modern masterpiece. Anderson blends the whimsy of directors such as Whit Stillman and Hal Ashby (both big influences) with the oddball world-building of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of arthouse hits Amelie and (with Marc Caro) Delicatessen. But on top of all that he adds something uniquely his own – a very particular world-view – and an ability to draw to his work a roster of regular collaborators which reads like a Who’s Who of everyone’s favourite actors. Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Tilda Swinton lead the list.

Anderson returned to stop-motion animation for 2018’s Isle Of Dogs, which has nothing to do with the London district of that name and everything to do with an island filled with pooches. The one in question is off the coast of fictitious Japanese city Megasaki where, at some point in the near future, an outbreak of something called canine flu has caused the authorities to round up all the dogs and isolate them – on Trash Island, so-called because it’s where previously the city’s junk was dumped. One of the’ dogs which is caught and deported, Spots Kobayashi, is the pet/bodyguard of 12-year-old Atari, who happens to be the ward of the city’s powerful mayor. When Atari takes off to Trash Island to find Spots he ends up being helped by a gang of other dogs headed by Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston). Among the other four-legged helpmates Atari encounters on his odyssey to find Spots are Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), Rex (Edward Norton, another Anderson regular), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray), and Oracle (Tilda Swinton). Other A-listers adding their voices to various roles include Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Greta Gerwig, F Murray Abraham and, playing a scientist called Yoko Ono, Yoko Ono. The real one.

The best of the rest …


Bringing Up Baby, BBC Two, 1pm

Palaeontologist Dr David Huxley’s (Cary Grant) ordered life is thrown into confusion when he meets madcap heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) and her pet leopard, Baby. Before he knows what's happening, David finds himself escorting the dangerous duo to the country home of Susan’s wealthy aunt, which is a bit inconvenient as he’s supposed to be getting married to his severe assistant – and impressing a museum donor. Despite flopping at the box office on release (what were the audiences of 1938 thinking?) Bringing Up Baby is now rightly regarded as one of the finest screwball comedies ever made. Grant and Hepburn are simply superb, legendary director Howard Hawks handles the comedy beautifully, and the supporting cast is crammed with terrific character actors.


Shallow Grave, Film 4, 9pm

Three flatmates try to find a fourth person to share their spacious Edinburgh apartment, but their chosen new lodger dies of an overdose on his first night, leaving behind a suitcase full of cash. Go figure. They decide to keep quiet about his death and hang on to the money, but disposing of the body has a traumatic effect on one of the trio, and the presence of all that lot – not to mention a dogged detective – soon has the former friends turning on each other. First-time director Danny Boyle would go on to make the even more successful Trainspotting and the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, and his promise is very apparent in this slick, gripping and blackly funny thriller. It’s arguably also the film which kickstarted the Scottish cinema renaissance of the 1990s. There's also plenty of talent in front of the camera too, with Kerry Fox, Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston playing the flatmates.


Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, BBC Two, 1pm

Proving that the perils of property developing have been with us for a long time, this classic comedy from 1948 stars Cary Grant and Myrna Loy as a city couple who set out to build a home in the wilds of rural Connecticut. They discover they have bitten off more than they can chew thanks to a host of legal problems and an apparently endless stream of cowboy workmen and high-priced materials. Sound familiar? The 1986 film The Money Pit starred Tom Hanks and was based loosely on this film. But the Grant/Loy version remains far superior, with both stars demonstrating their talent for screwball comedies. HC Potter, who also made Grant’s 1943 film Mr Lucky, directs – and look out for Lex Barker, who made the first of three Tarzan films a year after this was released.


Educating Rita, BBC Four, 9pm

Bored Liverpool hairdresser Rita (Julie Walters) enrols in an Open University English course. Her tutor is Frank (Michael Caine), a hard-drinking poet who is initially sceptical, but comes to see his new pupil's frank opinions and natural intelligence as a breath of fresh air. She's slightly in awe of him, but as she finds her feet and starts mixing with other pupils, the dynamics of their relationship change. Although Willie Russell's play, which was written as a two-hander, has been opened out for the screen, the film ultimately depends on the relationship between Frank and Rita. Fortunately, Walters and Caine, who were both deservedly nominated for Oscars, are perfect in their roles, making the growing friendship completely believable. The result is a smart, funny and very touching comedy drama.


Empire Of The Sun, BBC Two, 11.20pm

This lavish adaptation of JG Ballard’s autobiographical novel is one of Steven Spielberg’s most underrated films. Long before anybody thought he’d make a suitable Batman, a 13-year-old Christian Bale took the role of Jim, a young English boy in war-torn Shanghai. His life is turned upside down when the Japanese take over and he becomes separated from his parents. He’s eventually captured and forced to survive the terrors of internment alone. The previously spoilt young lad learns a few harsh life lessons, but displays a remarkable determination to survive which rubs off on those around him. The top-drawer cast includes John Malkovich, Nigel Havers, Miranda Richardson, Leslie Phillips and Burt Kwouk, while John Williams, as usual, excels with his stirring soundtrack.

And one to stream …


Hereditary, Netflix

Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne star in this long and pleasingly uncompromising 2018 horror from young American director Ari Aster. If the name sounds familiar it’s because Aster followed this up a year later with critical hit Midsommar, like Hereditary a film with a strong of folk horror feel though where this film sticks close to the US – the action takes place in Utah – Midsommar dropped its stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor into the middle of a Swedish summer. Different country, same weird stuff happening though.

Collette is Annie Graham, an artist who specialises in creating exact miniatures of houses, people and even events. Her real subject, though, is herself and her family, and in particular the troubled relationship she had with her mother Ellen, whose funeral opens the film. Collette delivers the most lukewarm of eulogies as husband Steve (Byrne) and teenage children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) look on, and then they all return to a wake in the large, wooden and decidedly creepy house which the family had been sharing with Ellen until her death.

From that set-up, Aster throws in a second family tragedy (the extent to which you see it coming may determine how much you enjoy Hereditary) and then lets the story unspool slowly through a series of often dissociated scenes as the lives of the children come in and out of focus. Annie makes a new friend in the form of Joan (Ann Dowd), who she meets at a bereaved person’s support group, and is persuaded to take part in a séance. Strange things are already happening from that point Aster ramps it up, feinting this way and that to keep his audience guessing.

Although there is some bravura image-making – keep your eyes peeled: there are surprises in the corners of that big shadowy house – Hereditary will feel overly arty for some. But if a blend of Rosemary’s Baby, The Wicker Man and J-horror classic Ring is your thing, then it’s worth a couple of hours of your life – and come the end of it you couldn’t argue that Collette’s Best Actress accolade at the Fangoria Chainsaw horror awards was undeserved. She makes a great Scream Queen.