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This space odyssey is a real nail-biter


This looks to be a week of treading water, says JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club. It's time to catch up on the things you may have missed. Gravity (20.35, BBC1, Sat, 22 Aug) pictured above finds George Clooney and Sandra Bullock floating in a tin can, far above the Earth, when disaster strikes, literally. Planet Earth is blue and it would appear that there is nothing they can do but struggle to fix the problem all the same. This is a real nail biter, brilliantly filmed by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) and is the only film I have seen that was enhanced by 3D technology. I fear that it will be much diminished on the small screen, but for want of something better to do on a Saturday night, try it. It is excellent cinema, however reduced its circumstances. If you think that space stories and sci-fi are not your thing, think again. It is a fine cocktail of tension and psychology. Manhunter (21.00, ITV4, Mon, 24 Aug) is the first of the Thomas Harris adaptations which introduced us to Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. In this, the first of the cycle, Brian Cox plays the world’s favourite psychopath and it is the first feature by Michael Mann (Heat, Last of the Mohicans), already displaying the 80s gloss and capacity for intense suspense. Eye in the Sky (21.00, More4, Wed, 26 Aug) finds Gavin Hood (Official Secrets) exploring the ethics of drone strikes in anti-terrorist operations: What is the cost of collateral damage? Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman head the cast of an exploration of a very contemporary dilemma for the armed forces. The film came out shortly after Good Kill, which, I think, is a better movie - but this one will certainly set you thinking. Una (01.35, Film4, Sun, 23 Aug) is the exploration of a romance of a young woman with a much older man, the consequences of which would upset his current relationship. It is not comfortable viewing but the performances by Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Carol) and Ben Mendelsohn (George VI in The Darkest Hour) are riveting. Mistress America (02.15, Film4, Wed, 26 Aug) is, in complete contrast, is a comedy of the chaos created when a newly arrived student is adopted by her soon to be sister-in-law. The force of nature is played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, director of Lady Bird) in what is a kind of contemporary comedy of manners. It is directed by Noah Baumbach, who excels in this area (The Squid and the Whale, While We’re Young), inheriting the mantle of Woody Allen (without the baggage!). The Future (02.00, Film4, Wed, 26 Aug), is another slice of American indy, where the rescuing of an injured cat by a thirty something couple, whose presence alters the pattern of their lives and quite possibly, the universe. I have not yet seen this but it promises charm and quirkiness enough to make me want to have a look. No less than the doyen of American critics, Roger Ebert, described it as ‘magical’. Get Out (21.00, Film4, Thu, 27 Aug) is the breakout success for Jordan Peele. It draws on the myth of white American suburbia being populated by monsters and aliens disguised as the epitome of middle class normality. As a satire on racism, it is sharp and funny, but also works as a good old fashioned chiller, too.

The debut of another black director, John Singleton, Boyz and the Hood (21.00, Sony Movies, Wed, 26 Aug) will be interesting to reassess to see how it has stood the test of time, being nearly 30 years old now. Singleton went on to make the TV series Snowfall and the remake of Shaft before his untimely death. This portrait of the lives a group of young men in Los Angeles brought a number of new talents to the fore including Cuba Gooding Junior, Angela Bassett and Ice Cube. I mentioned a few weeks back, Ruben Ostlund’s satire of the art world, The Square (00.30, Channel4, Mon, 24 Aug). It returns, so, if you missed it last time, I would recommend you try to catch it this time. Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men, The Handmaid’s Tale) and Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire) ably assist Claes Bang in the straightfaced comedy. Comedy of a more direct nature is to be found in the late Terry Jones’ Personal Services (21.50, Talking Pictures TV, Sat, 22 Aug), the tales of Cynthia Payne, Madame Cyn, and her customers in the fleshpots of Streatham. If the literary and costumed is more to your taste then The Book Thief (22.00, Channel4, Sun, 23 Aug), adapted from the novel by Markus Zusak, is set in wartime Germany where a young girl delights in stealing books to read and share at the height of Nazi oppression as acts of defiance and liberation. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (21.00, BBC4, Thu, 27 Aug) gained great affection with the TV serialisation in the 1980s so to revisit it, even 30 years later, seems courageous, if not foolhardy - so they gave the job to Andrew Davies. The cast is led by Ben Wishaw, an elegant performance as Sebastian Flyte, with a memorable contribution by Emma Thompson as the dowager matriarch, Lady Marchmain. The last of the Bright Young Things are discovering forbidden love on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War. For younger viewers and those of a trusting and generous nature, there is a chance to share a delightful hour and a half in the company of everyone’s favourite asylum seeker, Paddington (17.15, Film4, Sun, 23 Aug). Check out the return of StokeScreen Film Club on Facebook - StokeScreen at CNWSC; log on to www.StokeScreen.uk; or send an email to stokescreenfilmclub@aol.com

Winner!