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Top films to watch on TV this week

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Octavia Spencer, Taranji P. Henson and Janelle Monae in Hidden Figures (Saturday, Channel 4, 6.05p.m.)

Octavia Spencer, Taranji P. Henson and Janelle Monae in Hidden Figures (Saturday, Channel 4, 6.05p.m.)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (Wednesday, ITV4, 11.10p.m.)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (Wednesday, ITV4, 11.10p.m.)

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Octavia Spencer, Taranji P. Henson and Janelle Monae in Hidden Figures (Saturday, Channel 4, 6.05p.m.)

WEDNESDAY

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) ITV4, 11.10p.m.

In the aftermath of Black Monday, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) loses his job on Wall Street and is forced to sell penny stocks at a fly-by-night operation in Long Island.

Blessed with the gift of the gab, Jordan excels and decides to open his own firm, Stratton Oakmont, with salesman Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). The dodgy business goes from strength to strength, but its ‘work hard, play harder’ mantra attracts the attentions of FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), who resolves to bring Belfort down.

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The Wolf of Wall Street is a lurid, exhilarating and blackly funny portrait of debauchery. Director Martin Scorsese pulls no punches in his depiction of Belfort’s wild excesses, and his brio, coupled with DiCaprio’s twitchy lead performance, means the lengthy running time flies by.

THURSDAY

Mrs Brown (1997) BBC4, 9p.m.

It’s been more than two years since Prince Albert died, but Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is still in the depths of depression and unmoved by public obligations. In the desperate hope that a breath of fresh air may dispel her gloom and thereby quell republican sentiments, John Brown (Billy Connolly) is summoned from Balmoral with the Queen’s nag.

What follows, however, is the last thing staid Private Secretary (Geoffrey Palmer) had in mind, as the Scot develops a close and exclusive relationship with HRH, leading to rumours of a scandalous affair.

Thanks to strong performances, this period drama is a good deal more gutsy and compelling than the subject matter might lead you to expect, and it also reigns above the more recent, very similar Victoria & Abdul.

FRIDAY

The Heat (2013) ITV2, 9p.m.

Ladies can be every bit as politically incorrect as the lads in Paul Feig’s oestrogen-fuelled buddy movie, which pairs Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as a strait-laced FBI Special Agent and a gung-ho Boston police detective who join forces to bring down a criminal mastermind.

The lead actresses spark off each other brilliantly, milking belly laughs from Katie Dippold’s script. Every time the pace flags, Bullock and McCarthy crank up the slapstick and verbal one-upwomanship including a brilliantly simple visual gag with a knife that draws as many winces as guffaws.

Feig and McCarthy, who also worked together on Bridesmaids and Spy, went on to team up again for the Ghostbusters reboot.

SATURDAY

Hidden Figures (2016) Channel 4, 6.05p.m.

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson) and fellow mathematicians Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) work in the segregated West Computing Group in Hampton, Virginia. They are part of Nasa’s concerted effort to put a man into space before the Soviets.

Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), director of the Space Task Group, desperately needs a mathematician in his team to check computations. Supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) selects Katherine, who is the first African-American to work with Al’s crack squad.

Based on an inspirational true story, Hidden Figures is a crowd-pleasing drama, emboldened by sparkling performances from Henson, Monae and Spencer. Sterling support from Costner and Dunst, and a dramatic role for Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons, add to the golden lustre.

SUNDAY

Mogul Mowgli (2020) BBC2, 10.15p.m.

Award-winning documentary film-maker Bassam Tariq makes his fiction feature debut with a stirring tale of triumph over adversity, co-written by leading man Riz Ahmed.

British Pakistani rapper MC Zed (Ahmed) is on the cusp of his first world tour, which will give him the exposure he desperately craves. Ahead of his live dates, Zed travels from New York back home to London for an awkward reunion with his family. He is involved in a scuffle with a fan and is taken to hospital, where he is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that could rob Zed of his musical dreams.

An experimental procedure offers the rapper a lifeline but the risky procedure flies in the face of staunch beliefs held by his estranged father (Alyy Khan).

MONDAY

The Wife (2017) BBC2, 11.15p.m.

In 1992 Connecticut, celebrated writer Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) receives a telephone call to confirm he has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Joe’s wife Joan (Glenn Close) celebrates with her spouse yet there is unspoken tension.

The Castlemans travel to Sweden on Concorde and, mid-flight, they are pestered by muck-raking journalist Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater). He is keen to pen a biography on Joe and hopes that he can get to his unwilling subject via Joan. The prize ceremony approaches and tension between the Castlemans explodes with devastating consequences.

Bjorn Runge’s slow-burning drama is draped elegantly around Close and her deeply moving performance, which secured her a seventh Oscar nomination (although she lost to Olivia Colman).

TUESDAY

Venus (2006) Film4, 11.55p.m.

Maurice (Peter O’Toole) is a 73-year-old actor, who spends most of his time meeting up with his friends Ian (Lesley Phillips, who died earlier this month) and Donald (Richard Griffiths) for a gossip in the local café.

However, his life turned upside down when Jessie (a pre-Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker), Ian’s 20-year-old grand-niece, arrives to stay. An unlikely but lively friendship between the elderly man and the brash young woman develops as they explore the sights of London together.

This comedy from Notting Hill director Roger Michell and Hanif Kureishi falters slightly towards the end but it’s still a hugely rewarding film, with great performances, including from O’Toole. He received his eighth Oscar nomination for Best Actor – but lost to Forest Whitaker.


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