From The Terminator to Annie Hall, our pick of the week's TV films

Mean machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator
Mean machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator


20th Century Women, BBC Two, 11.10pm

Bohemian mum Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening) and her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) share a ramshackle home in Santa Barbara with New Wave photographer Abbie Porter (Greta Gerwig) and handyman William (Billy Crudup), who is slowly renovating the property. This madcap menagerie of misfits is completed by 17-year-old waif Julie (Elle Fanning), the object of Jamie’s hormone-driven affections, who refuses to entertain his clumsy advances. Meanwhile, Dorothea grows concerned that she can’t provide for her son’s emotional needs and entreats Abbie and Julie to help her shepherd Jamie across the rubicon to adulthood. Anchored by Bening’s tour-de-force theatrics, 20th Century Women is a compelling family portrait daubed in a similar style to writer-director Mike Mills’ previous picture, Beginners.

Sicario, Channel 4, 11.35pm

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is part of the FBI’s Special Weapons and Tactics team, who are at the forefront of the war against drugs. A government agent named Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) asks Kate to join his top-secret task force, which intends to cripple a drugs cartel from the top down. Kate willingly signs up and learns that she will be venturing onto Mexican soil, but as the bullets fly, her conscience is left spattered in blood. Sicario gradually tightens the screws on our frayed nerves until we’re begging for mercy. At the blackened heart of the film is a tour-de-force performance from Blunt, whose steely-nerved heroine might have to sacrifice more than her idealism.


Beaches, Channel 5, 3.25pm

If you’re a fan of Bette Midler, or just fancy a good cry, this film will fit the bill. Meeting in Atlantic City as 11-year-olds, brash singer CC (Midler, played as a kid by the perfectly cast Mayim Bialik) and the more strait-laced rich girl Hilary (Barbara Hershey) vow to be friends forever. They keep in touch over the years through letters, supporting each other during highs and lows in their careers and love lives. They have their ups and downs, as the men in their lives get in the way of the friendship. But it’s when Hilary becomes ill that their friendship is really cemented. John Heard and Spalding Gray are among the supporting cast.

The Most Beautiful Boy In The World, BBC Four, 9pm

Thomas Mann’s novel Death In Venice likens the character of Tadzio to a Greek sculpture with "the expression of pure and godlike serenity". In 1970, celebrated director Luchino Visconti cast shy 15-year-old Bjorn Andresen as the alluring Tadzio in his big screen adaptation and propelled the unknown to international stardom. Visconti anointed his discovery the “world’s most beautiful boy”. Fifty years after the film’s glitzy premiere, documentary film-makers Kristina Lindstrom and Kristian Petri look back over Andresen’s meteoric rise to fame. They interview close friends and delve into the archives to unearth the truth about his mother’s death and his father’s identity.


Jerry Maguire, Film 4, 9pm

Cameron Crowe’s heart-warming romantic comedy stars Tom Cruise as the eponymous sports agent who becomes disillusioned with his job and suggests that his firm should take on fewer clients but offer them a better service. This radical idea gets him fired and forces him to set up his own business - but the only people standing by him are a lovelorn accountant (Renee Zellweger) and a footballer (Cuba Gooding Jr). The movie won an Oscar for the charismatic Gooding Jr, turned Zellweger into a star, and handed a scene-stealing role to child actor Jonathan Lipnicki, but Cruise holds it all together with one of his best performances.

The Notebook, BBC Three, 10.20pm

An elderly man (James Garner) spends his days trying to get through to an ailing care home resident (Gena Rowlands, the real-life mother of the film’s director Nick Cassavetes) by telling her a story from his notebook. It’s the tale of Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) who fall for each other despite their class differences. However, disapproving parents, rival suitors and even the Second World War conspire to keep the star-crossed lovers apart. If you want a good, old-fashioned sweeping romance for Valentine’s Day, then The Notebook is the film for you. Only the most hardened cynics won’t be touched by this tale, especially given the chemistry between leads.


Eaten By Lions, BBC Two, 11.15pm

Half-brothers Omar (Antonio Aakeel) and Pete (Jack Carroll) are orphaned at a young age when their parents’ romantic hot air balloon getaway crash-lands in the lion enclosure of a safari park. The boys’ grandmother (Stephanie Fayerman) takes them in and encourages Omar and Pete to look out for each other. When she dies, the half-siblings are condemned to the questionable care of their acid-tongued aunt Ellen (Vicki Pepperdine) and her husband Ken (Kevin Eldon). They propose adopting Pete but not Omar because, in Ellen’s words, "You’re not our side." Desperate to find a place he belongs, Omar ventures to the coast to track down his biological father, with Pete in tow. Eaten by Lions is a bittersweet, multicultural buddy comedy, which purrs gently with a couple of uproarious interludes.

Journeyman, Film 4, 11.20pm

Actor Paddy Considine returns to the director’s chair for a hard-hitting drama about a boxing champion whose charmed life suffers a series of knockout blows inside and out of the ring. Matty Burton (Considine) is a veteran of the boxing scene who has a comfortable life with his loyal wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) and their baby daughter. Matty is in the final years of a glittering career and he feverishly prepares for a high-profile bout against cocksure younger rival, Andre Bryte (Anthony Welsh). The subsequent showdown takes a devastating toll on Matty’s battered and bruised body. The injuries are life-changing and he returns a shadow of his former self, relying completely on Emma to perform the most basic daily tasks, putting pressure on their marriage.


High Noon, Film 4, 5.20pm

It’s former town marshal Will Kane’s (Gary Cooper) wedding day, and he’s just discovered that a killer he tried to bring to justice has been freed on a technicality - and is heading back to town on the midday train, intent on revenge. Will has to decide whether to leave as planned to start a new life with his Quaker bride (Grace Kelly) or stay and face his adversary. But he gets little support from the townsfolk, who make it clear that he will have to face his fate alone. High Noon was seized on at the time as an allegory for McCarthyism, but even without that added layer of meaning, it’s still one of the greatest Westerns ever made. The fact that it plays out in (approximately) real time just adds to the tension, and Gary Cooper is on iconic form as Kane.

Judy, BBC One, 10.35pm

If you missed it over Christmas, here’s another chance to catch the biopic. Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) is embroiled in an acrimonious tug-of-war with third husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) for custody of their children. Crippled by debt, Judy reluctantly agrees to a five-week run of shows at The Talk of the Town nightclub in London run by Bernard Delfont (Michael Gambon). Delfont assigns despairing assistant Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley) the unenviable task of shepherding Garland to the stage each night. Unfortunately, flighty fiance Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) continually distracts Judy when she should be rehearsing. Adapted from Peter Quilter’s stage play End of the Rainbow, Judy is elevated beyond the pages of Tom Edge’s script by the luminous, Oscar-winning Zellweger.


Film of the week

The Terminator, ITV4, 10pm

The first in a franchise which now numbers six films, James Cameron’s inspirations for this seminal sci-fi/action/horror hybrid were John Carpenter’s slasher flick Halloween, Walter Hill’s neo-noir The Driver, George Miller’s freaky, violent, post-apocalyptic Mad Max films – two had been made by the time The Terminator hit cinemas in late 1984 – and, according to the director’s biographer Rebecca Keegan, a nightmare he had while ill. Some nightmare.

To the plot, then: two opposing soldiers from a future war are sent back in time to modern-day Los Angeles to find a woman named Sarah Connor. (Linda Hamilton). Why? Because her unborn son, John Connor, will become a crucial player in the coming conflict, which pits human defenders against a machine army controlled by Skynet, a conscious artificial intelligence. One of the soldiers dropping in from 2029 is the Terminator of the title (Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role which made him famous), a remorseless and apparently indestructible cyborg. He has been sent to execute Sarah, a task her undertakes by working his way through the phone book. The other soldier, one Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), has been sent by John Connor himself to protect his mother. The two combatants, human and cyborg, arrive naked and have to clothe and arm themselves before embarking on a violent odyssey through the streets of night-time Los Angeles – cue any number of set-piece action scenes in which bullets and bodies fly and Schwarzenegger deploys famous lines such as ‘I’ll be back’ (this before ramming a stolen car into the police headquarters).

Fans of all things Cameronian will enjoy seeing Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen sharing screen time two years before they were paired together as Corporal Dwayne Hicks and on-board android Bishop in the equally seminal Aliens. Here Henriksen plays Vukovich, one of the hapless LAPD detectives who go up against Schwarzenegger’s gun-toting, leather-clad cyborg during one of his endless rampages.

It’s great stuff though there are those who think the 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, is the superior film. They have a point. It certainly gives Hamilton more to do: here, in the best traditions of the scream queen, she’s dragged from life-threatening situation to life-threatening situation and it’s only towards the end of the film that she is given any you could call agency. Things are very different in T2 when her kick-ass side is revealed.

Annie Hall, BBC Four, 9pm

Woody Allen may be a controversial figure, but his Oscar-winning romantic comedy remains an impressive and hugely influential achievement - and it’s also very funny. The writer-director stars as Alvy Singer, a neurotic New York comedian who reflects on his relationship with aspiring singer Annie (Allen’s real-life ex Diane Keaton, who was born Diane Hall). He looks back at how they fell in love, and what eventually drove them apart. There are clever flourishes, including an animated segment, flashbacks, fourth-wall breaking and a scene where the characters’ real thoughts are shown using subtitles, while Keaton’s wardrobe started fashion trends. But beneath all the style, Annie Hall ultimately works because the relationship it depicts is so believable.


A Simple Favour, BBC Three, 9.00pm

Single mother and food blogger Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) strikes up a friendship with impossibly glamorous PR director Emily Nelson (a charismatic Blake Lively). When Emily calls one afternoon and asks Stephanie to pick up her son from school while she deals with an emergency, Stephanie gladly obliges. The publicist never returns to collect her child and Stephanie turns amateur sleuth to unravel the mystery. A Simple Favour is a sinfully entertaining comedy thriller, which blends a fruity cocktail of Hitchcockian whodunnit and gnarly black comedy, garnished with generous twists of spite and betrayal. Think Gone Girl with killer one-liners and perfectly shaken martinis and you’ll be close to the lip-smacking delights of this depiction of intrigue in small-town suburbia.

Rocky, ITV, 11.05pm

Forget the increasingly overblown sequels - the original, Oscar-winning Rocky is a surprisingly sweet, low-key underdog story. Sylvester Stallone wrote himself his best role as Rocky Balboa, a struggling boxer from working-class Philadelphia who combines fighting with a day job running errands for a loan shark. His luck changes when reigning heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) decides to celebrate America’s bicentennial by giving an unknown a shot at the title. With the support of coach Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and shy pet store employee Adrian (Talia Shire), Rocky sets out to prove he can go the distance. It’s impossible not to root for the ‘Italian Stallion’, especially when Bill Conti’s stirring score kicks in.