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Top films to watch on TV this week

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Reese Witherspoon in Election (Friday, BBC3, 9p.m.)

Reese Witherspoon in Election (Friday, BBC3, 9p.m.)

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hofmann in Rain Man (Sunday, BBC1, 10.30p.m.)

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hofmann in Rain Man (Sunday, BBC1, 10.30p.m.)

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Reese Witherspoon in Election (Friday, BBC3, 9p.m.)

WEDNESDAY

High Plains Drifter (1973) ITV4, 11.10p.m.

The residents of a mining town hire three outlaws to murder their sheriff, who was about to inform the government about their illegal activities – and then frame the criminals for theft to ensure their secret remains safe.

However, when they learn the felons are due to be released from jail and are undoubtedly plotting their revenge, the townsfolk secure the protective services of a mysterious gunslinger (Clint Eastwood), who turns out to his have his own agenda.

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Eastwood’s second stint in the director’s chair is a stylish, atmospheric and extremely violent Western with a twist at the end. The actor displays a lot of promise behind the camera, and there are plenty of scenes here that live long in the memory.

THURSDAY

The Full Monty (1997) 5*, 9p.m.

Two unemployed Sheffield steelworkers (Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy) fear they’ve been cast on the scrap heap, until they come up with an idea to raise some cash – stripping.

They go on the hunt for other unlikely exotic dancers to join their troupe, but even once they’re up to full strength, six-packs and dancing ability are in short supply. So how can they compete with polished groups like the Chippendales? By offering something different – full-frontal nudity.

There’s a reason this modest British film became a surprise international smash. It’s a funny, charming and heart-warming comedy that will have you cheering the unlikely strippers on.

FRIDAY

Election (1999) BBC3, 9p.m.

Over-achieving high-school student Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) announces she’s running for class president – an idea that fills teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) with dread.

He convinces dim-but-popular athlete Paul (Chris Klein) to stand against her, but when Paul’s rebellious sister (Jessica Campbell) decides to throw her hat into the ring as well, Jim’s plot begins to spiral out of control. Alexander Payne’s sharp, dark comedy takes a satirical look at more than just high-school politics.

Viewers of a certain age will find the sight of Ferris Bueller’s Broderick playing a crumpled teacher especially poignant, but it’s Witherspoon who runs away with the movie – she pulls off the difficult trick of making Tracy seem terrifying and vulnerable at the same time.

SATURDAY

Rocketman (2019) Channel 4, 9.30p.m.

Taron Egerton dons the rhinestone glasses, sequinned jumpsuits and platform boots to take on the role of Elton John in this biopic of the flamboyant singer.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher – who already had a bit of practice helming musical movies, having worked on Bohemian Rhapsody – the film details Elton’s breakthrough years, touching on his relationships with his lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and manager-lover John Reid (Richard Madden). It also doesn’t shy away from the singer’s troubles with addiction.

But whereas the Queen movie was a straight nuts-and-bolts narrative, this is anything but. Typical of anything made in Elton’s name, it’s a fantasy version of the singer’s life, jumping around from one time period to another, and using the most appropriate songs for that point. This one’s for you.

SUNDAY

Rain Man (1988) BBC1, 10.30p.m.

Cash-strapped, self-absorbed LA car dealer Raymond Babbit (Tom Cruise) travels to Ohio to deal with his recently deceased father’s estate and discovers that his dad has left the bulk of his fortune to Charlie (Dustin Hoffman), the autistic older brother Raymond never knew he had.

The yuppie tries to gain custody of Raymond so he can control the cash, but on a cross-country trip, the siblings begin to bond.

One of the first mainstream dramas to address the subject of autism, this heartfelt drama will tug at the emotions of even the most hardened viewer. Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance, but it’s arguably Cruise, in the less flashy role, who holds the film together.

MONDAY

Independence Day (1996) Film4, 9p.m.

Essentially a reworked version of War of the Worlds, Independence Day (which is getting a timely showing) sees a whole host of aliens visiting Earth, intent on destroying it.

After the world’s landmarks are laid to waste spectacularly, it seems to fall to the Americans – in the form of cocky, courageous fighter pilot Will Smith, computer genius Jeff Goldblum and plucky president Bill Pullman – to save the planet.

Don’t let the flag-waving patriotism – or the Grand Canyon-sized plot holes, such as Smith’s remarkable capacity to fly an alien spaceship and Goldblum hacking into an alien mainframe – put you off, this is glorious escapism. Featuring fun performances, a super David Arnold score and impressive special effects, it’s blockbuster that deserved the hype.

TUESDAY

Charade (1963) Talking Pictures TV, 11.50a.m.

Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant make a delightful pairing in director Stanley Donen’s hugely enjoyable romantic thriller, which mixes stylish Hitchcock-esque intrigue with screwball comedy touches.

Regina Lambert (Hepburn) is considering divorcing her husband, but before she can break the news, she discovers that he’s been murdered. What’s more, it turns out he was involved in a $250,000 robbery – and his former accomplices think she can point them in the direction of the loot. Regina turns to a handsome stranger (Grant) for help, but can she really trust him?

The impressive supporting cast includes Walter Matthau and James Coburn, but no one comes close to stealing Charade from the leads, who have such great chemistry, you’re left wishing they had made more movies together.


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