Independence Day, Star Trek: First Contact, Role Models – best films on TV tonight

Make it a movie night with our top film picks Friday 4 July

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Independence Day – 6:15pm, Film4

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No film had presented the destruction of the Earth on such an epic scale before this preposterously successful smash-hit sci-fi adventure came along. Of course, when we say Earth we really mean the USA – the rest of the world barely gets a look in. The story is simple: gigantic alien spacecraft hover above major cities and set about destroying everything below. Those plucky Yanks, however, won’t go down without a fight. There are subplots focusing on the fate of ordinary folk, but most of the effort goes on the mind-boggling set pieces. Such scenes of digital mayhem are now commonplace, but this provided the template, and the levelling of Washington here is still impressive. Will Smith’s charismatic performance as a wisecracking fighter pilot helped make him one of the biggest box-office draws in the western world, while Jeff Goldblum delivers a variation on his boffin role in Jurassic Park. Bill Pullman, meanwhile, manfully keeps a straight face as the beleaguered American President. Of the females, Vivica A Fox fares the best, although the likes of Mary McDonnell and Margaret Colin are largely wasted in supporting roles. But this is, after all, a special effects, not an acting, showcase, and a very entertaining one at that.


Star Trek: First Contact – 9pm, E4

In this first-rate adventure, the Borg travel back in time to sabotage that pivotal moment in Earth’s destiny when we first made contact with an alien race. What else can Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) do except follow and sort things out? Epic in scope, grandiose in emotional sweep and featuring awesome special effects, this is captivating science fiction packed with ideas, thrills, in-jokes and tense action. It’s all expertly marshalled by director Jonathan Frakes (who also plays Commander Riker) with a keen visual eye and an inherent understanding of the history and importance of the series.


Role Models – 12:05am, C4

This step-up from the usual crude teen comedy elevates its smutty set pieces and filth-ridden dialogue with strong performances, likeable characters and the ability to stay the right side of sentimental. After crashing his truck in a fit of pique, energy-drink salesman Paul Rudd and his cohort Seann William Scott are sentenced to 150 hours community service mentoring disenfranchised youngsters. Scott’s initiation of streetwise Ronnie (Bobb’e J Thompson) into the ways of the party animal is funny. However, the real pleasure is in Rudd’s relationship with fantasy-obsessed nerd Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse who played “McLovin” in Superbad), which gets much comedy mileage from satirising the murky world of role-playing games. But where this unexpectedly entertaining movie really scores is in its tweaks to the standard formula: while the life lessons and character arcs are inevitable, the journey proves both admirably restrained and winning.

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