Film of the Week


Clueless, Channel 5, 3.05pm

High on the list of films nobody should miss an opportunity to re-watch is this gem from 1995, a bona fide comic masterpiece from Fast Times At Ridgemont High director Amy Heckerling. It certainly doesn’t harm its legacy that it’s based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but if you’ve never read the novel it won’t affect your enjoyment: Heckerling’s whip-smart script is (almost) a match for Austen as she skewers wealthy America and in particular the most vapid aspects of 1990s teen culture. Like Austen, however, she does it with enough fondness to make it not feel like a total take-down – and it’s testament to the lasting influence of the film that it in turn inspired aspects of Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 period take on Emma, which starred Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role.

In a career-best performance, Alicia Silverstone is brilliant as Cher Horowitz, a ditzy but well-meaning It Girl living in a Beverly Hills mansion with high-flier lawyer father Mel (Dan Hedaya) and earnest, down-to-earth step-brother Josh (Paul Rudd). Cher narrates the film with a succession of killer one-liners – “Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie” etc. – and hangs out with fellow teen queen and best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash). They spar with class stoner Travis (Breckin Meyer) and Dionne’s on-off boyfriend Murray (Donald Faison), and take under their wing new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy). It’s Tai’s sartorial and social cluelessness which Cher sets out to rectify in her self-appointed role of matchmaker. Multi-tasking young woman that she is, she does it while also setting her sights on another new student, Rat Pack-obsessed 1950s wannabe Christian Stovitz (Justin Walker). (Him to her: “Do you like Billie Holliday?” Answer: “I love him”. Needless to say the date doesn’t go well.)

Peppered with cute pop culture references – everything from Nine Inch Nails to Forrest Gump gets mentioned – and a rolling tableau of eye-watering 1990s fashions, Clueless has lost none of its charm or energy even after a quarter of a century. A word of advice though if you’re watching with an avid fan: ban them from shouting out the best lines. Along with Some Like It Hot, The Life Of Brian and Withnail & I, there is no more quotable film in the history of cinema.


Murder On The Orient Express, BBC Two, 2.05pm

Forget the Kenneth Branagh remake – this is the superior (and even starrier) version of Agatha Christie's famous whodunnit. Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) is travelling on the Orient Express from Istanbul to Paris when he is approached by an American businessman (Richard Widmark), who wants to hire the famous detective to find out who has been sending him death threats. Poirot declines – and awakes the next morning to learn the man has been stabbed to death while the train was stranded in a snow drift. It seems the killer must be on board, but which of the fellow passengers – among them Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins and an Oscar-winning Ingrid Bergman: what a cast! – wielded the knife?


The 39 Steps, BBC Two, 2.20pm

Hitchcock’s 1935 masterpiece, adapted from the novel by John Buchan. Robert Donat plays hapless hero Richard Hannay who finds himself in a spot of trouble when a young female spy is murdered in his hotel room and he is framed for the crime. With the police in hot pursuit, Hannay heads for the highlands and highways of Scotland. En route, he meets a beautiful blonde stranger (Madeleine Carroll) who tries to have him arrested, but Hannay escapes by the skin of his teeth with the blonde now handcuffed to him. Never one to pass up an opportunity to indulge in kinkiness, Hitchcock milks what we may as well call the bondage scene for all it's worth. It fairly sizzles as a result. The twists and turns come thick and fast as the couple outwit the real killers and the authorities, culminating in a tense final showdown in a grand music hall. Perfect direction, perfect performances and some breath-taking chase sequences. They certainly don't make them like they used to.


Suspicion, BBC Two, 2.30pm

More Hitchcock. Here he brings out Cary Grant's dark side – who knew, right? – in a masterful thriller co-written by his wife, Alma. Shy Lina (Joan Fontaine who, believe it or not, is the only person to ever pick up an Oscar for a performance in a Hitchcock film) comes from a wealthy family and is swept off her feet by handsome playboy Johnny (Grant). It's only after she marries him that she discovers he's a penniless habitual liar with a gambling habit. However, that becomes the least of her problems when she grows increasingly afraid that Johnny is planning to murder her. Despite Hitchcock's reported dissatisfaction with the ending, this remains a compelling watch.


Gloria Bell, BBC Two, 11.15pm

In 2013, Chilean film-maker Sebastian Lelio directed the Oscar-nominated drama Gloria about a 58-year-old divorcee embracing life after her family has flown the nest. He helms this English language remake co-written by Alice Johnson Boher and starring Julianne Moore in the title role. It transplants the soul-searching to the bright lights of Los Angeles where Gloria decides to actively search for romantic diversions now that son Peter (Michael Cera) and daughter Anne (Caren Pistorius) are grown up, and ex-husband Dustin (Brad Garrett) has a new wife. During one of these dalliances, she meets paintball instructor Arnold (John Turturro) and they begin to date. Gloria introduces Arnold to her friends and loved ones but her close relationship with Dustin is a cause for concern to Arnold.


American Made, Film 4, 9pm

Pilot Barry Seal (Tom 'Two Curries' Cruise) is losing all enthusiasm for his job as he provides for his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) and children. But he makes a little extra cash smuggling Cuban cigars into America in his hand luggage, a side hustle which is cottoned on to by CIA handler Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson). He coerces Barry into working for the US government flying reconnaissance missions over Central America to photograph of a supposed emerging communist threat. During one covert flight, Barry meets members of the high-powered Medellin cocaine cartel, who exploit his greed by employing him to transport narcotics back to America. Based on a true story of outlandish lies, American Made recreates the late 1970s and 1980s with a swagger.


Thor: The Dark World, BBC One, 10.35pm

The Dark Elves of Svartalfheim led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) intend to unleash a fluid called the Aether, which will plunge the Nine Realms into eternal darkness. Or something. Throwing a spanner in the works, astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been exposed to the swirling gelatinous goo. Thus, Malekith and his hench-elves launch an assault on Asgard, where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has concealed Jane in the hope that his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) can extract the Aether from his sweetheart. Or something. When that glimmer of hope is snuffed out, the crown prince of Asgard turns for help to his nefarious adoptive brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Thor: The Dark World is as big and muscular as its titular hammer-swinging hunk, ricocheting noisily between action, comedy and romance. But mostly action.

And one to stream ...

Candyman, Netflix

Young American director Nia DaCosta’s re-imagining of Clive Barker’s slasher horror was released yesterday and has a script by Jordan Peele, writer-director of Us and the Oscar-winning Get Out. If you’re planning a visit to the multiplex to see it, you may want to check out Bernard Rose’s 1992 original which is currently being given a timely outing on Netflix.

Rose’s film is based on Barker’s short story The Forbidden, which took class as its theme and was set in a housing scheme in the author’s native Liverpool. Rose keeps the depressed urban setting, but in switching the action to Chicago’s crime-ridden (and predominantly black) Cabrini-Green housing project, he makes it about race. It’s easy to see why it appealed to Jordan Peele, whose own horror films deal with the same subject.

Virginia Madsen plays Helen Lyle, a postgraduate student studying semiotics who has a particular interest in urban legends. During a routine interview, she hears about a bogey-man killer who will appear if you say his name five times while facing a mirror. Guess who? Digging a little deeper – she talks to two black women, cleaners at the university – she learns that Candyman was once a relatively well-to-do African-American who was murdered in the city in the late 19th century for having an inter-racial affair. His right hand was chopped off and he was covered in honey, resulting in his being stung to death.

Discovering that a serial killer appears to have been at work for years in the Cabrini-Green flats, Helen sets out to investigate the Candyman myth in the company of friend and fellow student Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons). In a graffiti-bedecked stairway they meet young single mother Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams, who reprises the role in the new film) and, of course, they stand in front of a mirror and … well, you can probably guess the rest. Bees feature heavily, as does the hook Candyman uses to eviscerate his victims as he closes in on Helen. Tony Todd, who also features in the new version, plays the killer.

Always coherent it is not. There have been better (and scarier) slasher flicks. But Candyman tugged hard enough at the public imagination (and rang up enough in box office receipts) to spawn two sequels, and there’s no doubting the esteem in which it’s held by certain horror cognoscenti. It’s also the only slasher flick with a soundtrack by cult minimalist composer Philip Glass, another point in its favour.