Choice of the week
Pinocchio by Guillermo Del Toro
This stop-motion animated version of the fable is co-directed by Mark Gustafson, known for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, so attention to detail is guaranteed, with Del Toro providing the whimsy and wonder. Gregory Mann plays the wooden boy on a perilous quest to be human, while David Bradley (Geppetto), Ewan McGregor (Cricket) and Cate Blanchett (Spazzatura) are just a few of the famous names lending their voices. The recent (mostly) live-action version with Tom Hanks was typical schmaltzy Disney fare; Del Toro’s vision is much darker.
Friday, December 8, Netflix
This moving observational documentary by Andrea Arnold (American Honey, Wuthering Heights) gets up close and personal with a dairy cow called Luma – after she gives birth, milks her calf, milks, gives birth, and more. nose cameras follow her and her offspring in and out of sheds, paddocks and fields to give a sense of the restricted existence of farm animals – and perhaps pause to think as you purchase your next liter of milk. It’s far from a campaign film, though it’s easy to attribute emotions – grief, pain, anger, joy – to Luma and his severed calf; moments of beauty and humor nuance the portrait of a life spent in the service of humans.
Sunday December 4, 10:30 p.m., BBC Two
The glass key
Alan Ladd is a dependable, carefree hero in Stuart Heisler’s hard-hitting 1942 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s crime novel. He is the right-hand man of a corrupt political boss (Brian Donlevy) who decides which side to support in the gubernatorial election. Add in a murder and a candidate’s eligible daughter (Veronica Lake) and – in typical Hammett fashion – nothing goes as planned. Ladd and Lake would move on to bigger things with The Blue Dahlia, scripted by Raymond Chandler; an earlier collab, This Gun for Hire, can be seen Sunday at 9 p.m.
Saturday, December 3, 12:20 p.m., Sky Arts
Coming 25 years since its release, the epic disaster film whose vast success inspired James Cameron to launch a thousand Avatar films (well, five) remains a bravura blend of action and romance. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, hapless ocean liner passengers battling class barriers and icebergs in the name of true love, bring the necessary humanity to a succession of exquisitely rendered floods, upheavals and crowd jostling. And you may wonder once again if there was room for Jack on that raft…
Saturday December 3, 7 p.m., Canal 4
The movie Francis Ford Coppola shot between his first two godfathers is a slice of ’70s paranoia. Rarely has Gene Hackman been better as Harry Caul, a San Francisco surveillance expert (“the best bugger in the west coast”), whose latest job of eavesdropping on a young couple (pre-Star Wars Cindy Williams and Harrison Ford) leads him to suspect that their lives are in danger from his client. But did his parabolic mics and reel-to-reel recorders capture the whole story? Coppola increases the tension as Harry investigates further and begins to lose his grip.
Saturday December 3, 1 a.m., BBC Two
Naive actress Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in “the dream place” – Hollywood – hoping to make it big in movies. Then she meets glamorous amnesiac Rita (Laura Harring) and their search for Rita’s identity turns that dream into a nightmare. A puzzle you’ll sink into rather than solve, David Lynch’s riveting film noir takes the tropes of the genre – femme fatales, menacing gangsters – and subverts them or injects them with its brand of surreal playfulness. Glorious stuff that pulls the rug.
Wednesday, December 7, 11:05 p.m., Film4
Colin Eggleston’s largely forgotten but pleasantly edgy eco-horror, part of Australia’s new wave of the 70s, is more in the vein of Ozploitation than the fuzzy, ambiguous dramas of Peter Weir that embodied the movement. John Hargreaves and Briony Behets play a couple on a trip to a secluded beach hoping to mend their strained marriage, but their jaded spoliation of their surroundings – from running over a kangaroo to spraying insecticide – returns bite them. Think birds with additional dugongs.
Friday, December 8, 11:30 p.m., Talking Pictures TV