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Another fine old film Stan and Ollie have gotten us into


JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, turns the clock back in his search for the best movies coming to TV in the week ahead (starting Saturday, July 31).

I hope to offer some respite for those of you seeking refuge from the Olympic Games. (What else is happening in the world while the news is preoccupied with sport?) The prospects are not very promising, I’m afraid. There is very little new or unusual and I feel an acute case of déjà vu about much of what is on offer and don’t want to repeat myself, so I shall strike off in a different direction.

It would be possible to escape a reasonable tranche of Saturday afternoon sport on Talking Pictures TV. They continue their Laurel and Hardy celebration with Towed in a Hole 1932 (Talking Pictures TV 16.00 Sat 31 July) where our heroes get entrepreneurial and seek to catch their own fish as well as just selling it. This is followed by their classic, Blockheads 1938 (Talking Pictures TV 16.25 Sat 31 July), pictured above, in which Stan is a soldier who does not know the war is over and Ollie takes charge of reintroducing him to the modern world, 20 years after the armistice.

From this, you could segue into Went the Day Well? 1942 (Talking Pictures TV 18.35 Sat 31 July) which is adapted from a story by Graham Greene about the politics and intrigue of an English village infiltrated by German paratroops and local quislings. Rather more sober than much of the propaganda output of the day, it asks some serious questions of our compatriots and also features a feisty, young, gun-toting Thora Hird.

If you would like further Laurel and Hardy, you can pick up the thread again with A Chump at Oxford 1939 (Talking Pictures TV 16.00 Sun 1 Aug) with a pair of dunces among the dreaming spires, Pack Up Your Troubles 1932 (Talking Pictures TV 18.40 Tue 3 Aug), another post First World War tale of two war buddies who promise their dying comrade that they will look after his daughter and take her to her grandparents. Here, the pathos rings out among the slapstick routines. The Laurel and Hardy Murder Mystery 1930 (Talking Pictures TV 17.15 Sun 2 Aug) gets a less warm review but does what it says on the tin. The classic Sons of the Desert 1933 (Talking Pictures TV 18.30 Thu 5 Aug) where our boys join the Foreign Legion, gets a repeat screening.

Mayhem in a later era is to be found in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits 1981 (Film4 14.35 Sun 1 Aug), a glorious cascade of visually dynamic nonsense as a young boy finds himself in league with an anarchic gang of larcenous dwarves who slip through rifts in time and emerge in different points in history. It is so detailed and inventive that I never tire of watching it.

Hugh Grant and a very young Nicholas Hoult feature in the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s About a Boy 2002 (5Star 22.55 Wed 4 Aug) in which the inveterate bachelor is adopted by a lad with a bucket load of family troubles. As characters and performers, they bring out the best in each other.

Grandma 2015 (Channel4 01.25 Thu 5 Aug) alias Lily Tomli, has her own way of communicating with her grandchild which takes no prisoners and champions the principle of growing old disgracefully. The grand daughter’s (Judy Greer) unplanned pregnancy draws some very practical advice from grandma and also restores her relationship with her estranged daughter, (Marcia Gaye Harden).

Child rearing of a different sort is to be found in The Eagle Huntress 2016 (BBC4 22.50 Sat 31 July) which purports to be a documentary about a Mongolian girl who defies convention by training her eagle to hunt, traditionally the preserve of men. It is very much a dramatised documentary that fits into the tradition that harks back to Robert Flaherty and Nanook of the North from the 1920s. However, it tells a good tale and depicts a very different lifestyle from having a Saturday job in Tesco.

Deborah Moggatch, who wrote Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, adapted the classic Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice 2005 (BBC2 18.30 Sat 31 July), in which Joe Wright got to direct his first film, before going on to make Darkest Hour and Atonement. This iteration of Austen’s best loved story also launched the careers of bright young things including Kiera Knightley, Matthew MacFaddyen, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan and Kelly Riley. It is suitably pretty and happy to parade its wit and irony proudly.

Last week, I harked on about the talent that is Richard Linklater. This week, we are offered his reflection on a college baseball team finding their way into the complexity of adulthood and relationships in Everybody Wants Some! 2016 (Film4 01.30 Sat 7 Aug). Nowhere near as broad as the comedy of American Pie, it avoids a number of the clichés of the college comedy. It is not Linklater’s best work but still worth the time, if you can’t sleep.

It is as though there is a festival of underachievement this week: films of which you would expect more than they deliver:

All Is True 2018 (BBC2 22.10 Sat 31 July) tells of the latter days of Shakespeare, after the Globe Theatre has burnt down, with Kenneth Branagh as the Bard, reflecting on his life and Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway, his missus. Branagh directs from a script by Ben Elton. It is far from being as animated as his Upstart Crow comedies for TV.

Book Club 2018 (Channel4 22.00 Sun 1 Aug) has a terrific cast: Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenbergen, but lacks the lightness of touch that would allow them to breathe life into this discussion of sexuality in later life and ways in which feminism has changed over the decades.

Downsizing 2017 (Channel4 00.00 Mon 2 Aug) is a satire on modern living by Alexander Payne, (Nebraska, Sideways) another of my heroes, on what could be achieved by reducing oneself in size for economic reasons. It has some bright ideas but somehow does not engage in the ways you would wish. This may be due to the presence of its star, Matt Damon, or because it does not know how to finish the story. Perhaps I should watch this again. Let me know what you think, if you fancy the experience.

Dad’s Army 2016 (ITV3 20.00 Wed 4 Aug). Iconic TV sitcom of the 1970s, revived for the big screen 40 years later with an impeccably selected cast of equivalents: Toby Jones as Capt. Mainwaring, Bill Nighy as Sgt Wilson, Bill Paterson as Fraser, Tom Courtney as Cpl Jones,. But the magic is lost and unfavourable comparison is too easy.

Maybe next week will be better. Maybe there is something to be said for synchronised swimming. Why are there no pedestrians on the skateboarding course? Whatever happened to the Olympic poetry competition?

It is always good to hear back from you, so please put your thoughts down and send them to us at Stokescreenfilmclub@aol.com Facebook: StokeScreen at CNWSC and www.StokeScreen.uk