FILM OF THE WEEK

Saturday

BlacKkKlansman, Channel 4, 9pm

Spike Lee’s 2018 film is based on a 2014 memoir by retired Colorado Springs police officer Ron Stallworth, the first African-American on the city’s force, in which he tells how he infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s. Hence the spellcheck-taxing title. Unsurprisingly given the premise, Lee’s adaptation is a black comedy.

Stallworth is played by future Tenet star John David Washington. We first meet him in the early 1970s as he’s reassigned from menial duties in the records department to a job keeping tabs on civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael while he’s in town. This brings him into contact with Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a young black activist, and the two are soon an item though understandably Stallworth keeps the fact that he’s a policeman under wraps.

But it’s when he begins to investigate the local Ku Klux Klan that things take a turn for the truly absurd. Stallworth rings up the local branch, pretends to be white, says he wants to join and gradually inveigles his way into their confidence. He manages the same trick with David Duke (Topher Grace), the notorious Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, when he rings him at KKK HQ in Louisiana. Problems arise, of course, when it comes time for him to go and meet his new confreres – which is where colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) comes in handy. And so Stallworth pretends to be white during the lengthy telephone conversations, then Zimmerman, who is white, pretends to be Stallworth for the purposes of the meet-ups. The fact that Zimmerman is Jewish and the Klan members hate Jews almost as much as they hate blacks does complicate matters slightly, especially when one of them tries to make him take a polygraph test at gunpoint to prove his Aryan worth. The two elements of the story – the civil rights movement and the far-right racist reaction to it – eventually come together in a KKK plot to bomb a rally being held in the city, which puts both Stallworth, Zimmerman and Dumas in danger.

Spike Lee’s strengths are many but subtlety isn’t one of them, though the set-up here is so preposterous it matters little – and it didn’t stop the film picking up six Oscar nominations, including Lee’s first (and long overdue) Best Director nod. Finally, keep an eye out for a cameo from genuine civil rights legend (and ace calypso singer) Harry Belafonte as Jerome Turner.

Sunday

Grease, Channel 4, 5.55pm

Following an idyllic holiday romance, 1950s teenagers Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) part company, believing they'll never see each other again. They're unexpectedly reunited when she enrols at his high school, but picking up where they left off proves difficult, as Danny has been boasting to his mates about his steamy summer fling and fears sweet, straitlaced Sandy isn't good for his image. Some of the so-called teenagers would struggle to pass for 30, let alone 17, but who cares, we love it anyway. The songs are catchy, Travolta and Newton-John make an exceptionally cute couple, Stockard Channing steals every scene she’s in as bad girl Rizzo and the whole film has so much good-natured energy, it's impossible not to be swept along. A classic.

Monday

Highlander, BBC Two, 10.30pm

A band of immortal warriors pit themselves against each other through the centuries, ultimately clashing in New York City in a dramatic final showdown from which there can be only one survivor. If you can stand the constant chopping and changing between centuries, this fantasy adventure starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery is great fun. Pop promo veteran Russell Mulcahy delivers one of his finest movies - not difficult when you consider he also made atrocious Kim Basinger vehicle The Real McCoy and yawn-tastic The Shadow. Nevertheless, it's also Christopher Lambert's finest hour – at least in English-speaking roles – and a genuine cult classic with some top 1980s songs to boot, courtesy of Queen.

Tuesday

Robin Hood, ITV4, 9pm

Fearless archer Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) and his friends head back to England after Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) is slain on the battlefield by the besieged French. To secure safe passage home, Robin poses as slain knight Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) and continues the ruse with the dead man's wife, Marion (Cate Blanchett), to help her cling onto the family estate once ruled by the now blind and decrepit Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow). Over time, Robin falls in love with Marion but any chances of an enduring romance are threatened by double-crossing Godfrey (Mark Strong). Shot with director Ridley Scott's typical bombast, this incarnation juxtaposes spectacular battle scenes with romantic interludes, political intrigue and melancholic flashbacks.

Wednesday

Rules Don't Apply, Film 4, 11.20pm

Baptist beauty queen Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) arrives in late 1950s Hollywood accompanied by her mother Lucy (Annette Bening) as the latest signing of RKO film studios run by the elusive Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). The Mabreys' private chauffeur Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), is instantly smitten with Marla, but fellow driver Levar Mathis (Matthew Broderick) reiterates strict rules against fraternising with the talent. Frank struggles to contain his desire while sweetly innocent Marla makes a firm impression on her employer. As the philanthropist's mental state deteriorates and he fires long-time friend Noah Dietrich (Martin Sheen) as CEO of his father's company, Frank is ushered into Hughes' inner circle. Rules Don't Apply is an uneven portrait of philanthropist Hughes, but it's good to see Beatty back on the screen and the 2016 film was also written and directed by him.

Thursday

The Elephant Man, BBC Four, 9pm

John Merrick is a hideously disfigured man working as a fairground freak until ambitious surgeon Frederick Treves spots him. The medic initially believes the unfortunate fellow is an idiot and wants to use him to further his own career ¬– until he realises that beneath the ugly exterior is a beautiful, intelligent and sympathetic person. It’s an affecting film and one of the most coherent narratives David Lynch has ever produced, and it marked his debut as a mainstream film-maker following the cult success of Eraserhead. John Hurt is superb as the title character, but it's Anthony Hopkins who provides the movie's heart as Treves, the man changed for ever by his meeting with Merrick. Freddie Jones deserves a mention too for his suitably creepy turn as the villain of the piece.

Friday

War Of The Worlds, BBC One, 11.35pm

Steven Spielberg's updated take on HG Wells's sci-fi classic is told on an epic scale, as seen through the eyes of one family battling to survive the alien apocalypse. Divorced dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a terrible father to his headstrong teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and young daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning), but he's forced to step up when a series of lightning storms strike the city, knocking out all power and telecommunications. All hell quite literally breaks loose as a towering three-legged machine rises from out of the earth and begins incinerating every living being in sight. In a little under two hours, Spielberg draws upon his mastery of intimate human drama and jaw-dropping big-budget spectacle to deliver an exhilarating thrill-ride.

And one to stream …

HeraldScotland:

Only The Animals, Netflix

On a high, lonely, snowbound road in rural France an abandoned car belonging to a woman called Evelyne Ducat is found though there is no trace of her and no clue as to her whereabouts. Meanwhile on a nearby farm, insurance representative Alice (Laure Calamy) lives in a sexless marriage with her brooding, introspective husband Michel (Denis Ménochet, soon to be seen in the new Wes Anderson film). She’s conducting an open affair with oddball loner Joseph (Damien Bonnard), also a farmer and one of her clients, and he’s grieving his mother, who has only recently died. How any of this relates to an opening scene in which a young man called Rolex walks through the streets of a West African city with a goat on his back is hard to fathom at first, though when we’re introduced to Armand (Guy Roger N’Drin), an Ivory Coast-based internet scammer, things begin to fall into place. A little, anyway.

Based on an award-winning French novel, this beguiling and enigmatic film is by Franco-German director Dominik Moll. He’s best known in the UK for directing the first series of The Tunnel, Sky’s adaptation of Scandi Noir hit The Bridge, but on the big screen his talent is for unsettling films where everything is just that little bit ‘off’. His Palme d’Or-nominated black comedy Lemming is a case in point.

Here he infuses his opening scenes with that same weirdness but then gradually brings things into focus as a series of separate chapters introduce us to other characters and other viewpoints – first Marion (Nadia Tereszkiewicz, above right), a feckless young waitress, and then Evelyne (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, above left), with whom Marion has an affair. Through those inter-connections and a series of random (or not so random?) occurrences on two continents, we finally learn what it is that happens to Evelyne on that lonely road. And how. And why. A masterful and suspenseful piece of film-making which is as sombre as it is engrossing.