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Top films to watch on TV this week

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Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther (Thursday, Film4, 4.25p.m.)

Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther (Thursday, Film4, 4.25p.m.)

Barkhad Abdi and Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips (Sunday, ITV4, 9p.m.)

Barkhad Abdi and Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips (Sunday, ITV4, 9p.m.)

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Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther (Thursday, Film4, 4.25p.m.)

WEDNESDAY

Ronin (1998) ITV4, 9p.m.

A group of hard-as-nails former special forces soldiers and intelligence operatives-turned-mercenaries are hired to take part in an international plot to steal a briefcase containing an apparently deadly secret. However, shifting loyalties and self-serving behaviour sees the group betraying one another – with inevitably explosive consequences.

This gritty thriller steps back from the glossy style of the 1990s and returns to the violent actioners of the Seventies in a high-octane affair with car chases that would put Steve McQueen to shame.

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Robert De Niro is great in the lead and, understandably, gets all the best lines, but even he can’t take all the limelight away from his bevy of talented co-stars, including the marvellous Jean Reno as French agent Vincent.

THURSDAY

The Pink Panther (1963) Film4, 4.25p.m.

Inspector Clouseau, an inept French police detective, heads to Switzerland in search of a suave and successful jewel thief who has designs on a valuable gem. Unfortunately, the bumbling officer’s attempts to foil the crime leave a trail of chaos in his wake, while someone close to home is giving his foe a helping hand.

A truly hilarious classic comedy, this well-cast gem spawned a number of sequels, as well as an animated series and a woeful pair of revamps with Steve Martin as Clouseau. Peter Sellers is nothing short of a comic genius, and this superb crime comedy gives him free reign to demonstrate his rib-tickling talents. David Niven, Capucine, Robert Wagner and Claudia Cardinale co-star.

FRIDAY

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) ITV, 11.10p.m.

The third instalment of the gripping thriller series is a corker. Matt Damon reprises his role as lethal assassin Jason Bourne, and this time, a meeting with a journalist awakens the former hitman’s memories. Once again, he embarks on a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as he attempts to uncover who he really is, why he became embroiled in Project Treadstone and why the people who employed him now want him dead. Many ‘threequels’ are mere rehashes of old successes, but this surpassed all expectations. Damon is breath-taking in the leading role, and Paul Greengrass directs with aplomb. Julia Stiles offers strong support to Damon’s maverick agent and David Strathairn is mesmerising.

SATURDAY

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) Channel 4, 6.20p.m.

The Desolation of Smaug picks up where An Unexpected Journey concluded, with plucky hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), wise wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and the company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) running for their lives.

As the adventurers head towards the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the lost gold from dragon Smaug, they encounter a shape-shifter called Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), who aids them on the quest.

When the orcs storm Mirkwood, elves led by King Thranduil (Lee Pace) repel the invaders, allowing Bilbo and the dwarves to venture onwards, crossing a vast lake that separates them from the mountain with the help of Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). Meanwhile, Gandalf discovers the identity of the necromancer in Dol Guldur.

SUNDAY

Captain Phillips (2013) ITV4, 9p.m.

Directed by Brit Paul Greengrass, this superb drama focuses on what happened when the US container ship Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. At the vessel’s helm is Richard Phillips, who is taken hostage and forced to comply with the group during a tense, five-day crisis.

Hanks is superb in the title role (it’s fairly routine stuff until the final stages when he reveals, in amazing detail, the impact the trauma had on his character), but is more than matched by the previously unknown Barkhad Abdi, who is a revelation as the Somali leader Muse. He had no acting experience or desire to become an actor when cast, but is now a man in demand.

MONDAY

The Krays (1990) ITV4, 9p.m.

Spandau Ballet siblings Gary and Martin Kemp may have seemed unlikely casting at the time, but they are very impressive as Ronnie and Reggie, the vicious Kray twins who ruled Sixties London’s underworld with fear and violence.

The result is a stark and occasionally brutal drama, which deals rather well with the complex influences – maternal power, filial devotion and homosexual tension – that shaped the gangland supremos.

Billy Whitelaw gives a powerful performance as the boys’ doting, but wily, mother, and it’s arguably superior to the more recent take on the Krays’ story, Legend, in which Tom Hardy played both twins.

TUESDAY

There’s Something About Mary (1998) 5STAR, 9p.m.

The Farrelly brothers’ riotous comedy stars Ben Stiller as loveable schmuck Ted, who misses out on a prom date with high school honey Mary (Cameron Diaz) after a rather unfortunate bathroom incident.

Thirteen years later, Ted is still obsessed with Mary and sets out to track her down with the assistance of slimy claims adjuster Pat Healey (Matt Dillon), who also falls for Mary and does everything he can to prevent her and Ted ever meeting again.

Lee Evans is thrown into the mix as Mary’s architect best chum but his is very much a supporting role. The gross-out setpieces are hilarious, while Stiller and Diaz add a touch of genuine sweetness.


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