Films galore on the small screen

Happy B-day Bob, sporting dopes, spies and teen trouble.

'The program'  (photo credit: PR)
'The program'
(photo credit: PR)
In the dog days of August, many series have ended or are winding down, so check out what’s on the movie channels.
Robert Redford is 80 — can you believe it? YES is celebrating his birthday by showing a marathon of his movies on YES 4 on August 19. Redford made his name as one of the handsomest actors in movies, but he has proven himself to be much more than a pretty face. He won an Oscar for directing the emotionally intense but somewhat cliched Ordinary People in 1981. He also changed the movie landscape by founding the Sundance Film Festival, which promotes independent cinema, and the Sundance Institute, which includes the Sundance Labs, workshops that nurture the projects of writer/directors, among them many Israelis, including Talya Lavie (Zero Motivation) and Rama Burshtein (Fill the Void).
The YES 4 marathon is a mixed bag, with some of his most enjoyable movies, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, and some of his later, preachier, more serious films, such as Lions for Lambs, The Horse Whisperer and A River Runs Through It, all of which he directed.
The celebration includes my favorite of the movies Redford directed, Quiz Show, the drama about the TV game-show scandals of the 1950s, which stars Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro in a gripping story of class, ethnicity, ego and temptation. Spy Game, with Redford playing opposite Brad Pitt, an actor whose good looks have drawn comparisons to Redford, will play decently on television but is nothing special.
YES 4 will also show Redford’s latest movie, A Walk in the Woods, on August 19 at 10 p.m. It’s a feel-good story of two old friends who hike the Appalachian Trail together, a kind of bromance, geezer version of the Reese Witherspoon movie Wild.
The Olympics are almost over, and that’s a good time to enjoy one of the best sports movies in years, The Program, on HOT Gold at 10 p.m. on August 21 and YES 1 on August 20 at 9:30 p.m. It tells the story of Lance Armstrong, the cyclist who was found guilty of doping and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, as well as an Olympic bronze medal from 2000, which he returned in 2013.
Because of the controversy surrounding the Russian team this year, doping is more of an issue than ever. Obviously, we all know the ending of the Armstrong saga, but Ben Foster gives an extraordinary performance as the duplicitous, narcissistic cyclist. Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The Sapphires), one of the most appealing actors in movies, plays a relentless journalist who exposes the scandal.
In Steven Spielberg’s recent Bridge of Spies, which will air on August 20 on YES 4 at 10 p.m., Tom Hanks plays an ordinary lawyer who, through an unusual combination of circumstances, is pressed into negotiating the release of Americans held prisoner in East Germany in 1957. Every aspect of the movie is impeccable, from the acting to the production design, and Mark Rylance won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as a captured Russian spy. But with Hanks in the lead, the movie lacks suspense. It’s hard to believe, even for a minute, that Hanks will fail in a Spielberg film.
Marielle Heller’s Diary of a Teenage Girl will be shown on August 23 at 10 p.m. on YES 3 and on HOT Drama on August 25 at 10 p.m. The movie, based on a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, combines striking drawings by its heroine, Minnie (Bel Powley, who starred as Princess Margaret in the recent A Royal Night Out), with live action.
Set in San Francisco in 1976, it tells the story of Minnie, a sensitive teenager who can’t help finding herself drawn to her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). Her mother (Kristen Wiig) is hard partying and doesn’t pay much attention as Minnie and Monroe have a sexual relationship. It’s a sad story but well told.