Michael Jackson’s This Is It, I, Robot, The Social Network – best films on TV tonight

The infamous story of Facebook's origin is among our top film picks tonight Sunday 22 June


Michael Jackson’s This Is It – 8pm, 5*


Giving the ardent admirer everything they could wish for and the cynics much to ponder, this curiously bittersweet tribute to the late Michael Jackson is better and slicker than expected, especially considering its fast turnaround after his untimely death. Director, choreographer and friend Kenny Ortega (High School Musical) assembles a heartfelt celebration from over 100 hours of auditions, interviews and rehearsal footage taken from the “King of Pop’s” preparations for his ill-fated London concert series. Nothing negative or scandalous is allowed to permeate this commemoration of one of pop culture’s greatest entertainers. Instead the focus is on his creative genius, driven perfectionism (including some surprisingly waspish comments to his musical director) and catalogue of chart hits (Thriller, Beat It), and the fascinating way it was all being put together for his O2 Arena comeback.

I, Robot – 9pm, Movie Mix

Stories by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov provide the inspiration for this futuristic action thriller set in Chicago in the year 2035 when robots have been fully integrated into society, occupying the positions of trusted servant and menial worker. Asimov’s laws of robotics state that a robot may not allow a human to come to harm. When a top scientist from the US Robotics corporation turns up dead, Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) suspects the involvement of a prototype that may not be bound by the laws that govern its brethren. Smith gives a charismatic performance in a blockbuster that succeeds chiefly because of the use of CGI – the robots are seamlessly blended into the human environment. As a meditation on whether robots are capable of human emotions, this may not delve as deeply as AI: Artificial Intelligence or Blade Runner, but director Alex Proyas keeps the action racing along with enough invention and thrills to make this well worth the ride.

The Social Network – 10:20pm, C4

The foundation of online phenomenon Facebook comes in for scrutiny in this fact-based drama, which turns the site’s formative years into a morality tale for our times. Computer-science student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg, giving a subtly commanding performance) is an unloved outsider at Harvard in 2003, but finds a way of circumventing the university’s traditional elite by creating the networking technology that eventually makes him one of the world’s youngest billionaires. Along the way, there’s camaraderie, betrayal, class tension and much litigation: both his one-time best pal Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, providing the conscience of the piece) and super-snooty rivals the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer, in a dual role) sue for their slice of an increasingly large pie. The dazzling wordplay from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (TV’s The West Wing) and David Fincher’s intensely focused direction work in concert to favour character conflict over computer geekery, digging deep to elucidate the story’s essential tensions between greed and loyalty, and online and real-world friendship. It’s riveting stuff, not least when Justin Timberlake swaggers on as cocksure internet visionary Sean “Napster” Parker. Most significant though, is how this brilliantly assembled cautionary tale gets straight to the heart of the human needs and failings underpinning dizzying technological advancement, creating one of the truly defining films of its era.


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