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A Trifecta of What’s Best on the Box for Sunday 18 February 2018

Either of the first two Also Ran films might have taken the BEST FILM OF THE DAY and the top slot if they had not been chosen last month.

Today’s Number One Film:

*Manchester by the Sea, 11.36am HBO Signature BEST FILM OF THE DAY. Watch this if you liked Boys Don’t Cry, Blue Valentine or Moonlight. The winner of the 2016 Best Screenplay and Best Lead Actor Oscars and BAFTAs, Best Actor Golden Globe was also nominated in nearly every category for all the major awards – and earned a Metacritic score of 96 out of 100. This is a film any serious movie lover must see – but not one many will be said to enjoy. Unrelentingly bleak but magnificently real, Manchester by the Sea stands the notion of escapism on its head – in a pool of misery. Astonishingly, it ends as almost hopeful and almost rejuvenating – but for most of its two-hour-plus runtime, the only positive is just how good an actor Casey Affleck is; and even that is largely negatived by his real personal life. One of those films that blow you away entirely without ever making you feel remotely good. Heartily recommended, with the warning that it is not so much a three-bags-of-popcorn flick as a three-handkerchief one. Directed by Kenneth Lonergan 2016/ USA/ Drama/ 137 mins/ Rated R for language throughout and some sexual content.

Also watch:

Once Upon a Time in America, 11.40am Fox Classics. Watch this if you liked Chinatown, Goodfellas or Once Upon a Time in the West. Sergio Leone, the man who lifted the spaghetti Western to fine dining-level, does for Prohibition-era Jewish gangsters in New York what he did for cowboys in the American West – and to about the same runtime. A slow, beautifully-crafted film that attempts to recount a modern history of America (as seen through the eyes of New York Jewish hoodlums) through its sprawling story of friendship over a lifetime of crime, it was panned my many critics as confusing and closer to a self-indulgent homage to the Italian director’s love of American films than the American story he was aiming for; this, then, is is not a film for everyone. For the patient cinefile, though, it is likely to be one of the most rewarding four hours spent on a Sunday this year and is certain to be better than the same time spent in church.Kind of like Cinema Paradiso meets The Godfather, this full-length version that rarely screens on movie channels is far better than the 145-minute cut it is assumed short attention span audiences would prefer. Directed by Sergio Leone (1984/ Italy-USA/ Crime-Drama/ 229 mins/ Rated R for strong violence, sexual content, language and some drug use.

Chappie, 2.30pm HBO Caribbean. Watch this if you liked District 9, Ex Machina or Mad Max: Fury Road. The District 9/Elysium guy combines the strengths of his well-known earlier features in his newest film. Set in a future South Africa still asking itself questions about basic humanity that could have been settled by the Boers – or by annihilating them – a century ago, Chappie is an action film that peels off as many layers as a large onion. Tight action set pieces, for example, are instantly followed by side-splitting comedy covering deeper pathos. Through its futuristic robotic hero, Chappie puts forward powerful arguments for greater humanity in the present. The live action capture is stunningly good. There are moments – such as when the police robot is learning how to act like a gangsta – that recall the scenes between the waif and the monster in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. The very last frames may be closer to Disney than District 9 but that’s small beer when the preceding two hours are so very good. Directed by Neill Blomkamp/ 2015/ South Africa-USA/ Action-Crime-Drama-Sci-fi-Thriller/ 120 mins/ Rated R for violence, brief nudity and language.

Just Nosed Out:

**Black Mass (Crime-Drama-Thriller), 9pm HBOS; **Inception (Action-Fantasy-Thriller), 11.25am HBOP; Miles Ahead (Biodrama-Music), 12.35 midday HBO2; Split (M Night Shyamalan Horror-Thriller)12.25 midday HBOC; Split (with Alternate Ending), 10.03am HBO2.

Also Ran:

Action/Adventure: **Avatar (Sci-fi), 6.20pm FoxAct.

Animated/Family: **Rango, 1.42pm CnCl.

Arthouse/Independent/Cult: Running with Scissors, 11.14am HBOP.

Biography/Documentary: Spielberg (Doc), 1.57pm HBOS; JFK (Biodrama), 8.30am FoxClas.

Classic: *Von Ryan’s Express (War), 5pm FoxClas.

Comedy: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Parody), 12.17midday TCM.

Drama: The Fault in Our Stars (Drama-Young Adult), 3.32pm CnCl.

Foreign: Shaolin Soccer (Chinese Action-Comedy), 11.37am FoxMov.

Horror: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt I (Fantasy), 6.49pm HBOP.

Sci-fi/Fantasy: Forrest Gump, 5.40pm CnCl.

Thriller: Doctor Strange (Superhero), 9.25am & 7pm HBOP.

War: The Hunt for Red October (Cold War), 6pm Prmt.

Western: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 8.09am HBOS.

*Starred films have been picked in the last year.**Double-starred films have been picked in the last two months.***Triple-starred films were picked last week.

Particularly strong Also Ran films are bolded.

Please verify times. Advance Internet scheduled times can be wrong, especially at month-end.