Robin Hood, Twelve Monkeys, Vertigo: films on TV today

Russell Crowe is a reliant Robin, Bruce Willis a reluctant time-traveller, while James Stewart is dogged but dizzy: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

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BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY 
Robin Hood ★★★
9.00-11.45pm C4 

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Director Ridley Scott gives us Robin Hood as you’ve never seen him before. As played by Russell Crowe he is no dashing Errol Flynn but a dour mercenary, unemployed after the death in battle of King Richard. Maid – or Lady, as she is here – Marion (Cate Blanchett) is a bit of a surprise, too – no blushing maiden she, but a doughty fighter protecting her land. This, in fact, is the story of Robin before he became an outlaw and folk hero. Of course, Marion and Robin get together but it’s never easy, what with the machinations of wicked Prince John (Oscar Isaac) and the even wickeder Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) plotting with the French to conquer England. Oh, it’s a devious and complex plot, studded with rousing action and ending with a terrific battle on the beaches. Crowe and Blanchett are always good but Strong steals the movie. Will there, as indicated, be a sequel? I do hope so.


Twelve Monkeys ★★★★
9.15-11.55pm 5USA 

Terry Gilliam’s films may not always come off, but they’re always worth a look, and when they do – as in this gripping sci-fi thriller – they’re worth several looks. Bruce Willis anchors the movie as the convict who is sent back in time to discover the origin of a virus that has all but wiped out the human race. And Brad Pitt steals the movie as the asylum inmate who may provide the key to Willis’s search. 


Vertigo ★★★★★
2.50-4.55pm BBC2 

Hitchcock’s cool masterpiece of obsession, jealousy and unrequited lust stars James Stewart as the San Francisco detective with a fear of heights and Kim Novak as the old friend’s wife that Stewart is hired to follow. It was Stewart’s fourth and final movie with Hitchcock – who blamed the movie’s commercial failure on Stewart “looking old” – but moved from 61st to 9th place on the AFI’s list of greatest American films between 1997 and 2007. Things to look out for, as well as Hitch’s slick style, include Saul Bass’s titles, Bernard Herrmann’s score and, especially after a three-year, $1 million restoration released in 1996, great colour design, both on set and in the costumes.  


American Gangster ★★★★
10.20pm-1.05am ITV 

Director Ridley Scott is on great form with this blistering fact-based crime drama that sees honest New Jersey cop Russell Crowe out to bust ruthless drugs lord Denzel Washington. Released just a fortnight before the director’s 70th birthday, it’s 150 minutes long, but shows Scott in full control of his material. And with a worldwide gross of over $265 million, it also proves that audiences trust him through the different genres and subjects that he chooses – okay, we can forget about A Good Year.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen ★★★
9.15-10.55pm BBC2 

With its quirky title and kooky subject, this romantic drama from Lasse Hallström at first feels as unrealisable as star Ewan McGregor’s character, a shy fisheries expert, expresses when asked to help make a rich sheikh’s dream come true. But, with its warm-hearted script (from The Full Monty’s Simon Beaufoy) and  sympathetic performances (fine support from Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas), it grows into a broad-brush but not over-sentimental tale, with a humorous vein that will grow on you if you let it. 


  

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