Robin Hood, Hairspray, The Fighter – best films on TV tonight

The most famous archer, the biggest hair and the toughest fight for glory in our top film picks tonight Wednesday 9 July

Robin Hood – 6:50pm, Movie Mix

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This version of the classic tale had the misfortune to come out around the same time as Kevin Costner’s epic and unsurprisingly was overshadowed by that Hollywood blockbuster. It’s a shame because this, in many ways, is an infinitely better film. Patrick Bergin sparkles in the title role, doing battle with an enjoyable trio of baddies (Jeroen Krabbé, Jürgen Prochnow and Edward Fox), while Uma Thurman makes for a rather sympathetic Maid Marian. Director John Irvin authentically re-creates the murky medieval settings while staging some grand action sequences and rousing swordfights. But, best of all, there’s no sign of that dreadful Bryan Adams.


Hairspray – 8pm, E4

If any movie musical could threaten the standing of retro favourite Grease, it’s this one. Director Adam Shankman adapts the hit Broadway show, itself spun off from John Waters’s 1988 camp classic, retaining the original story (plus a few tweaks). Set in 1962, this has the amply proportioned Tracy Turnblad (a stunning debut by Nikki Blonsky) attempting to realise her dream of becoming a featured dancer on a local Baltimore TV teen show. She wows host Corny Collins (James Marsden) with her moves, but is then confronted by the twin menaces of racial prejudice and scheming showbiz mum Velma von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer), who also happens to be the manager of the TV station. The cast is terrific – a fat-suited John Travolta is a delight as Tracy’s mother, Edna – and each lead gets a solo in the spotlight before the rousing finale. With its catchy songs, well-groomed performances and slickly teased dance routines, this tuneful toe-tapper is simply irresistible fun.


The Fighter – 11:15pm, Film4

Based on the career of welterweight boxing champ “Irish” Micky Ward, this rousing crowd-pleaser stars Mark Wahlberg as the fighter whose unlikely career took him from the working-class streets of Lowell, Massachusetts, to the heights of pugilistic fame. Director David O Russell expertly handles the shift from gritty realism to a triumph-against-the-odds Hollywood finale that really does justice to the story, delivering kinetic, exciting fight sequences and a peppering of humour along the way. Oscar-winning Christian Bale is a mass of crazy energy as Dicky Eklund, Micky’s drug-addled half-brother and coach, who’s determined to relive his own past success in the ring through his sibling. But it’s Wahlberg’s lower-key performance as the good-natured scrapper torn between family loyalty and a desire to take a shot at glory on his own terms that is the movie’s real, and utterly irresistible, heart. This is easily the most shamelessly enjoyable boxing flick since Rocky.

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