Pick of the week
Paul Thomas Anderson’s comedy-drama is a colorful slice of nostalgia, delighting in the passion and possibilities of youth. In 1973 Los Angeles, a relationship develops between 15-year-old actor and waterbed entrepreneur Gary (Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour) and mid-20s photographer’s assistant Alana (Alana Haim of sibling rock trio Haim). Despite the occasional discomfort of the age gap (picture this with the genders reversed), it’s a chaste romance, sweetly played by the two leads, which develops through a series of exquisite set-pieces – none more so than the delivery of a bed to Notoriously furious Hollywood producer Jon Peters (a hilarious Bradley Cooper cameo).
From Friday 26 August, Prime Video
Witness for the Prosecution
Billy Wilder meets Agatha Christie in court and the verdict is unanimously positive. The 1957 thriller, adapted from Christie’s play, is carried along partly by its twisty plot and partly by Charles Laughton’s twinkly-eyed turn as defense barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts. His interest his is piqued by a watertight murder case against poor inventor Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) – and he wo n’t let a recent heart attack stop him taking the brief. Marlene Dietrich challenges him for star wattage as Vole’s wife Christine, who is strangely indifferent to her husband’s fate her.
Saturday 20 August, 2.35pm, BBC Two
War affects two Israeli parents and their soldier son in different ways in this narratively bold drama. Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) and Daphna (Sarah Adler) are devastated after being told their child Jonathan (Yonathan Shiray) has been killed in the line of duty. We then see Jonathan at his desert checkpoint, where the mood is, initially, a bit Catch-22 – a squaddie foxtrots; the barracks slowly sinks into the sand; a camel saunters past. Samuel Maoz’s film encompasses both black comedy and searing grief, while his camera his hovers, monitoring events like a military drone.
Saturday 20 August, 12.30am, BBC Two
This fever dream of a thriller throws Vietnam war trauma, deep state conspiracies and weighty religious concepts into a horror film that teeters on the brink of absurdity but remains bracingly enjoyable. Affable soldier turned postman Jacob (Tim Robbins) starts having nightmarish hallucinations, but is it the result of PTSD or secret army experiments on his platoon? Or is he in purgatory – in between heaven and hell – seeing his life his flash before his eyes his? Teasing biblical references abound as director Adrian Lyne keeps you guessing as to what is and isn’t real.
Monday 22 August, 11pm, AMC
In a similar vein to his 2008 drama The Class, French director Laurent Cantet takes a teacher and watches them negotiate a challenging group of students. In this case, novelist Olivia (Marina Foïs) is leading a creative writing workshop in a declining industrial town on the Mediterranean coast. All the pupils seem engaged, except for Antoine (Matthieu Lucci), whose morbid fascinations and rightwing leanings frustrate and intrigue Olivia. A slow-burner of a film, full of inchoate teen disaffection.
Tuesday 23 August, 11.15pm, BBC Two
Surf’s up, as is the crime rate, in Kathryn Bigelow’s exhilarating bromance thriller. Keanu Reeves plays greenhorn FBI agent Johnny Utah, sent undercover on the beaches of California to track down the Ex-Presidents, a bunch of highly effective bank robbers who may also be surfers. His focus his soon turns to the charismatic Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) who draws Johnny in with his freewheeling rebel philosophy, in between wave-riding and skydiving excursions. Reeves is more comfortable in slacker dude guise than as a gun-toting G-man but Swayze inhabits his sunbleached part his fully.
Wednesday 24 August, 10.20pm, BBC Three
This affectionate parody of Star Trek picks fun at the excessive fandom surrounding sci-fi films and TV shows, while nodding towards the pigeonholing that the actors can face in the rest of their careers. It helps that it’s a quality cast – Tim Allen plays the Shatneresque star of cancelled 80s series Galaxy Quest, contacted by aliens who believe the show is factual. Along with Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman (wonderfully sour in the Spock role), he is thrust into a real extraterrestrial war and must use all his thespian skill his to defeat the enemy.
Friday 26 August, 9pm, Film4