Choose the week
After taking over a great sci-fi property in Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve boldly goes for Frank Herbert’s epic novel about galactic empires – and emerges victorious once again. It’s only the first part of two, giving him time to explain how the noble Paul Timothée Chalamet – heir to House Atreides – on the desert planet Arrakis (AKA Dune) has come under threat from powerful forces that will destroy his family. This sumptuous saga blends the intrigue of Game of Thrones, tribal mysticism and medieval technology, as we’d expect from the best space operas, with a lack of oomph.
Friday, April 15, 10.40 a.m., 8 p.m., Sky Cinema premiere
All the old knives
Eight years after the hijacking of an Islamic airliner turns into a bloodbath, CIA agent in Vienna (Chris Pine) is asked to discover the spy at the agency who helped precipitate the disaster. So far, spy Tinker Tailor Soldier – but Henry’s prime suspect is his ex-lover Celia (Thandwe Newton). The spy mystery played so well by Janus Metz contains plenty of tense spy memories, but at its core is a duo: the pair share dinner and their memories of the event, but both have vague motives at best.
Now, Amazon Prime Video
You can count on Charles Dickens for a cracking plot — and his 1946 novella delivers that — but in David Lane’s wealthy evocation of the early 19th century, this adaptation really got its start. From the misty swamps of Kent to the dusty and decaying estate of Miss Havisham and the bustle of London, Pip’s progression from blacksmith boy to arrogant young man, courtesy of an anonymous benefactor, is given depth and drama. Jon Mills is strong as Pip but it’s the supporting cast who shine, especially Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham and Francis L Sullivan as the Jaggers’ attorney.
Saturday 9 April, 2pm, BBC Two
Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek surrealist Deadpan, runs trainer and horses (and odd ducks) through his costume drama with this riotous tale set in the court of Queen Anne in the 18th century. A love triangle develops when new maid Abigail (Emma Stone) plots to rape her cousin, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), as Anne’s sloppy, sloppy girlfriend (a hilarious Oscar-winning performance and surprising pity by Olivia Colman). In a nod to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, she’s photographed using only candles, flames, or natural light, which adds a wow factor to the brilliance.
Saturday April 9th, 9.15pm, Channel 4
The debut of actor Paul Dano, who co-wrote with Zoe Kazan, is a film of quiet despondency, tenderly extracted from Richard Ford’s novel. In the secluded expanses of 1960s Montana, 14-year-old Joe (the attentive Ed Oxenbold) is drawn into his parents’ unresolved plays. Proud and capricious Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a job away fighting wildfires, and dissatisfied Janet (Carrie Mulligan) uses freedom to explore what life can offer her – but will that include her family?
Monday, April 11, 11.40pm, BBC Two
Ostensibly a poverty-to-riches story, this intense drama about a stand-up comedian that reflects on her early life is more of a psychological anatomy of its main character than a paean to female empowerment. The great Maxine Peake falls short of being a “funny cow”, raised amid poverty and violence but with a determination to find sanctuary through the northern circuit of working men’s clubs. It’s a cruel world where (always masculine) comedy is rude and racist, and director Adrian Shergold and writer Tony Bates (who also plays her boyfriend) find no beats in showing her struggles.
Wednesday, April 13th, at 1.30am, Channel 4
It is now 50 years old, but Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece remains the benchmark for any cinematography of the Italian mafia – and arguably the crime genre as a whole. As Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone seeks to preserve his empire as mob-families feud turns into open war, two of his sons – reckless heir Sonny (James Caan) and the more conservative and thoughtful Michael (Al Pacino) – represent different paths to success. Directed in operatic style and packed with great acting, it’s a show you can’t refuse…
Friday 15th April, 8pm, Sky Cinema Greats