Runaway Train, The Rock, Julie & Julia: films on TV today

Jon Voight and Eric Roberts are out of the frying pan, Nicolas Cage must save San Francisco, Meryl Streep's recipes are worth getting excited about: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

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BARRY NORMAN:FILM OF THE DAY 
Runaway Train ★★★★
11.05pm-1.25am ITV4 

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Based on a script by Akira Kurosawa and directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, this is a raw, wild thriller with a lot of class. Jon Voight and Eric Roberts are escaped convicts, both dangerous men, who leap on a train consisting of four linked locomotives. Freedom – until the driver collapses and dies. The two men can’t stop the train; neither can the only other person aboard, railway employee Rebecca De Mornay. As they hurtle along at increasing speed, subplots develop – railway dispatchers squabble over how the tracks ahead can be cleared to avoid a fatal crash and the prison warden in a helicopter is hot on their trail, determined to kill the escapees. Boundless tension, very strong performances and an emotionally powerful ending.


The Rock ★★★★
9.00-11.50pm 5★ 

Former British spy and jailbreak expert Sean Connery teams up with chemical weapons scientist Nicolas Cage to thwart renegade general Ed Harris’s biological attack on San Francisco in a thriller from Michael Bay that adds a liberal dose of wry humour to the director’s trademark action set pieces. There’s nothing new in the story, but Bay’s direction is slick, and the chemistry between Connery and Cage  is very entertaining. The pair admitted that they got on well on set, and share the method of thinking about dialogue in musical terms to find the rhythm of a script – don’t you just wish Cage could practise the technique more regularly in his movies? 


Julie & Julia ★★★★
9.00-11.30pm Movie Mix 

Nora Ephron’s mouthwatering biopic stars Meryl Streep as Julia Child, the Delia of her day and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, one of her disciples, cooking up a storm four decades later. Powell’s original blog led to the 2005 book, first published as Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, but it was considered as more of a stunt by Child. Ephron’s script merged it and Child’s autobiography My Life in France, which is how Meryl Streep gets more meat into her character (not to mention, as ever, a perfect accent). It’s an entertaining and amusing movie, but the obsession of both lead characters can get a bit wearing at times.


The Last Picture Show ★★★★★
1.15-3.55am Film Four 

Peter Bogdanovich’s paen to small-town America wowed the critics when it opened in 1971. Its use of black and white made it timeless, the pop soundtrack was daring, the cast of mostly unknown actors (Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms) forged careers out of their roles here – though it was the established support playing of Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachmen that won the movie its two Oscars. And for Bogdanovich, it was the first of a trio of movies (he followed this with What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon) that made him untouchable in the future, even when it was all going pear-shaped. It’s still a beautiful movie. 


Love Story ★★★
4.45-6.55pm Film Four 

Author Erich Segal’s romantic tale was actually a screenplay before it was a novel, expanded as a kind of marketing ploy for the movie, and it went on to be the bestselling fiction book of 1970. The mix of romance and tragedy struck home with movie audiences, too, making it the top-grossing film in the US that year. Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal are the eye-catching students from opposite sides of the tracks who fall in love and carry all before them until they come up against some unbeatable opposition. The movie holds the number nine spot in the American Film Institute’s most romantic movies list.


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