Film of the week

The Limehouse Golem, Saturday, BBC One, 11.05pm

Peter Akroyd’s 1994 murder mystery Dan Leno And The Limehouse Golem, set in a bawdy and filthy Victorian London of music halls and sex workers, is a hit-and-miss affair in its own right. It’s no surprise then that in adapting it for the big screen Kick-Ass writer Jane Goldman suffers a few mis-steps. However the biggest change she makes – putting a peripheral police detective centre stage – works well enough, and both the performances from the strong cast and the image-making of director Juan Carlos Medina raise this 2016 chiller above the usual run-of-the-mill historical serial killer fare.

That police detective is John Kildare, played here by Bill Nighy who stepped in after illness prevented Alan Rickman from taking the role. Rickman died of cancer in January 2016, two months after shooting finished. Kildare is given the unenviable job of solving a gruesome quadruple murder which appears to be a copycat of the infamous Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811 – slayings later examined by Thomas De Quincey in his famous 1827 essay On Murder Considered As One Of The Fine Arts (and you’ll also find them cropping up in Alan Moore’s celebrated graphic novel From Hell). Other murders attributed to the same killer have seen him dubbed ‘the Golem’ by terrified locals, a reference to clues left at the scene of the murder of a Jewish scholar in Limehouse.

At the same time, London bobby George Flood (Daniel Mays) finds himself arresting former music hall star Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) for the murder of her husband, John (Sam Reid). Are the two cases linked? Kildare starts to think so and, with Flood now deputising as his sleuthing assistant, he delves into the Cree case. And so, through flashbacks and testimonies, we learn from Elizabeth how she met her husband and the part played in her life by the great Dan Leno (George Booth), a famous music hall comedian who specialises in playing women.

One of the joys of Akroyd’s novel is that Leno was a real person, and the re-imagining of history doesn’t stop there. Kildare finds that a British Library copy of De Quincey’s work has been defaced by weird drawings and symbols and what seems like a confession, so he deduces that the killer must be one of four men who have recently had access to that copy. As well as Cree it turns out they include George Gissing, a fledgling novelist in 1880 when the film is set but later the author of some 23 works, and a certain German born philosopher and political theorist by the name of … Karl Marx. Morgan Watkins and Henry Goodman play Gissing and Marx, while Eddie Marsan, Maria Valverde and Paul Ritter also feature. Not a masterpiece, but diverting enough.

And the best of the rest …


Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood, Channel 4, 9pm

Effortlessly blending laidback hangout comedy, nail-biting tension and shocking violence, Quentin Tarantino's recreation of 1969 Los Angeles is one of his best movies. Leonardo DiCaprio is on great form as actor Rick Dalton, whose star has faded since the days when he was the lead in the TV Western Bounty Law. Still accompanied by his stunt double-turned-right-hand man Cliff (an Oscar-winning Brad Pitt at his most charismatic), he's struggling to stay relevant in a changing Hollywood - unlike his new next-door neighbours, rising actress Sharon Tate (the luminous Margot Robbie) and her husband, director-of-the-moment Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). There are also eye-catching supporting roles for Margaret Qualley as a hippy, Julia Butters as a precocious child actor and Mike Moh as Bruce Lee.

Pain And Glory, BBC Four, 9pm

Spanish writer-director Pedro Almodovar brings a personal touch to this beautifully calibrated, semi-autobiographical memory maze, which reunites him with leading man Antonio Banderas. The best days of filmmaker Salvador Mallo (Banderas) are behind him as he stumbles, literally and figuratively, through middle age with crippling back pain. When a local cinema hosts a screening of one of his most celebrated films, Salvador nervously extends the hand of friendship to its handsome star, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia). Their awkward reunion sparks vivid memories of a bucolic childhood in Paterna, where nine-year-old Salvador (Asier Flores) orbited his mother Jacinta (Penelope Cruz). Banderas delivers one of the most compelling performances of his illustrious career, peeling back layers of regret and despair.


Big, Channel 5, 4.20pm

Twelve-year-old Josh (David Moscow) is humiliated when he's turned away from a fairground ride for being too short, and makes a wish to be big – which is granted when he wakes up the next morning in the body of a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks). With the help of his best mate Billy (Jared Rushton), the newly grown-up Josh moves to New York and gets a job at a toy company, where his enthusiasm impresses his boss (Robert Loggia) and cynical executive Susan (Elizabeth Perkins). But is Josh really ready for all the complexities of adult life? Hanks, who picked up his first Oscar nomination for his performance, is absolutely pitch perfect in this funny, bittersweet fantasy from 1988.

Ali, BBC Two, 10pm

Will Smith is currently being tipped for an Oscar for his performance as the father of Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard, but some of his fans think he should already have a statuette in his trophy cabinet for this 2001 sporting biopic. Directed by Michael Mann, it follows 10 years in the life of iconic boxer Muhammad Ali, from his 1964 bout fight with Sonny Liston (when he was still known as Cassius Clay to his 1974 'Rumble in the Jungle' against George Foreman. Along the way, it takes in his conversion to Islam, friendship with Malcolm X and refusal to fight in the Vietnam War. There's strong support from Jon Voight as Howard Cosell, but this is undoubtedly Smith's film.


Shakespeare in Love, BBC Two, 11.15pm

John Madden’s glorious 1998 romantic comedy collected seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. Gwyneth Paltrow, who was one of the winners, is on sparkling form as Viola, a young woman who yearns to be an actor - but the conventions of the day dictate that only men are allowed on stage. Her luck changes when she meets young Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes), who is suffering from writer’s block. When Viola and Will meet, the chemistry is instant and so begins a passionate affair, with Viola disguising herself as a man to achieve her dreams and Will using their affair as the inspiration for his latest play, Romeo & Ethel: The Pirate's Daughter. Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love is awash with clever literary references and a keen sense of humour that is impossible to resist.


Colette, BBC Two, 11.15pm

In early 20th-century Paris, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) marries well regarded author Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West), who operates under the pen name Willy. When he discovers Colette's gift with words, he encourages his wife to document her formative years on the page ¬– with some artistic licence for colour - and takes credit for her first book, Claudine A L'Ecole. The saucy tale becomes a sensation and Henry encourages Colette to pen further adventures of her heroine, Claudine. Over time, she becomes frustrated that only Willy visibly profits from her toil. Based on a script by director Wash Westmoreland and his late husband Richard Glatzer, Colette lovingly details the true story of the French novelist, who challenged the supposed limitations of her gender.


Four Weddings And A Funeral, Film 4, 11.35pm

A clumsy English fop (Hugh Grant) seems destined to always be the best man at weddings and never get married himself. However, he finally finds the stirrings of true romance after a one-night stand with a beautiful American (Andie MacDowell). After going their separate ways, he realises he wants to be with her - but fate seems to intervene at every turn. The first collaboration between writer-director Richard Curtis and actor Grant was the movie that put them both on the map. This hilarious romantic comedy makes full use of Grant's natural charm and boasts a superb cast, which also includes John Hannah, Charlotte Coleman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Simon Callow. What's more, Rowan Atkinson pops up in a laugh-out-loud cameo.


Black And Blue, Film 4, 9pm

After serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the US Army, Alicia (Naomie Harris) returns to her native New Orleans to take a job as a police officer. She discovers she’s viewed with mistrust by the people's she's supposed to be helping, especially in the poor neighbourhood where she grew up. But Alicia also becomes an outsider in the force after she witnesses three fellow officers killing a trio of unarmed drug dealers. When the corrupt cops realise she recorded the crime on her bodycam, they give chase. The mix of action thriller and social commentary is occasionally uneasy, but Harris holds it all together.


Lady Bird, BBC Three, 9.15pm

Although Lady Bird isn’t strictly autobiographical, writer-director Greta Gerwig draws on fond memories of her Californian hometown for a beautifully observed study of mother-daughter relationships and youthful exuberance in turn of the 21st-century Sacramento. This exquisite coming-of-age comedy drama is a near perfect confluence of direction, writing and performance, which elicits tears and laughter in generous equal measure. Gerwig has a sharp ear for the ebb and flow of pithy conversations between friends and family and her script is infused with unabashed warmth for the well-drawn characters. Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are delightful as the spunky title character and her hard-working mother, who generate friction every time they are in bickering proximity.