Monday, Jan. 28 at 9 pm/ET
The Monastery | SUND
An old man who dreams of converting his crumbling Danish chateau into a Russian Orthodox monastery butts heads with a strong-willed nun. Could anything sound duller? But this wonderful documentary is actually a surprisingly complex and deeply poignant portrait of a stubborn and irascible loner who meets his match in the last person he ever expected.
Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 10 pm
Frances | FLX
Jessica Lange took everyone by surprise with her shockingly raw portrayal of the troubled movie star Frances Farmer, a promising but difficult actress who went from Paramount costumes to a straightjacket in record time. On the short list of revelatory moments that suddenly redefine an actor's career, this one's close to the top.
Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 9:30 pm
One, Two, Three | TCM
When it came to comedies, Billy Wilder made some of the funniest ( Some Like It Hot) and sharpest ( The Apartment) ever. This underseen 1961 effort, in which a surprisingly spry 63-year-old James Cagney plays a fast-talking company man who heads up Coca-Cola's bottling interests in Germany, might be the most hilariously hectic.
Thursday, Jan. 31, 6:45 pm
American Splendor | IFC
Comic-book stories aren't all superhero fantasies, and comic-book movies don't have to be special-effects-heavy junk for perpetual adolescents. Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, and star Paul Giamatti bring Harvey Pekar's autobiographical graphic-novel cycle to the screen in all its grown-up glory.
Friday, Feb. 1, 10:15 pm
The Hospital | TCM
Let's be honest: The late George C. Scott was always a bit of a ham, but sometimes his scenery chewing was exactly what the director ordered. Take this dark satire written by Paddy Cheyevsky, who looks at the medical establishment through the same jaundiced eye he turned toward the media in Network. Scott plays a New York City hospital's chief surgeon who's teetering on the brink of suicide. He's overblown, over-the-top and just about perfect.
Saturday, Feb. 2, 9:15 am
Forbidden Planet | TCM
IMHO, the high-water mark of intelligent '50s sci-fi is a tie between The Day the Earth Stood Still and this colorful reworking on Shakespeare's The Tempest. Instead of an island, the setting is now a strange, pink planet where Leslie Nielsen encounters a rogue scientist (Walter Pidgeon), his leggy daughter (Anne Francis), Robby the Robot and invisible monsters, à la Lost.
Sunday, Feb. 3, 8 pm
Smokin' Aces | HBO2
Critics hated this when it came out, but I'm with Maitland on this one. Writer-director Joe Carnahan's convoluted follow-up to Narc, in which a swarm of cops, mercenaries and freaks descend on a Lake Tahoe hotel in pursuit of mob turncoat Jeremy Piven, is less a Guy Richie lark and more an existential howl of despair. Deal with it.
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