Monday 11 May 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, May 11 - Sunday, May 17

If Antichrist was a horror movie about grief and guilt, and Melancholia a disaster movie about depression, then that must make Nymphomaniac: The Director’s Cut Volumes I and II (various streaming services) a sex movie about, um, sex. I’m being facetious, of course, but Lars von Trier’s latest does seem a little more straightforward than his other recent work. In fact, at times it’s almost a simple cautionary tale of what happens when libidos go unchecked – the emotional and physical damage the life of a sexual libertine can bring down upon their head. As we follow Joe (Stacy Martin ageing into Charlotte Gainsbourg) through her shag-packed existence we soon become aware her sex addiction is a disease with the potential to be every bit as lethal as alcoholism or drug dependency. I suspect its Von Trier’s critique of and satire on the “pornification” of our culture and being Von Trier he doesn’t do it subtly. Anyone who found the original versions of Nymphomaniac hard going should probably avoid these new extended cuts. Most of the extra 80 minutes – spread over the two films to give us a final running time of around five-and-a-half hours – is taken up with screwing of one sort or another and the addition of a gruelling abortion scene that at least sheds some light on one of the story areas I failed to grasp first time around. This isn’t one of the maverick Danish director’s best films – giving up booze and drugs clearly doesn’t suit his artistic muse – but even a below-par Von Trier is more interesting and challenging than practically anyone else out there. 

Five more...
Fast & Furious 6 (from Saturday, Netflix)
Dom, Brian, Hobbs, Letty and the rest of the gang return to take on a band of mercenaries by, er, doing stunts and driving really fast. 
The Theory of Everything (VSS) Over-praised biopic of Professor Stephen Hawking featuring fine turns from Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
2001: A Space Odyssey (from Thursday, Amazon Prime Instant Video) Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece remains baffling and brilliant.
Clouds of Sils Maria (VSS) Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz star in a deliberately-paced but absorbing drama about an ageing actress facing up to her own mortality. Also in cinemas.
Bypass (VSS) Moody British crime drama starring Pride’s George Mackay. 

TERRESTRIAL: The most recent Inbetweeners film may have done good business at the UK box office but the fact it was almost free of laughs and appallingly lazy (gap-year students are all middle class wankers – who knew?) surely cannot have gone unnoticed. It just goes to show that there’s a real art to transferring successful TV shows and their characters to the big screen, and its one the makers of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (21:20, Saturday, BBC2) seem to have down pat. In short, Partridge’s movie debut is bloody funny and probably the best British TV-to-film transfer since, um, forever. The movie sees Steve Coogan’s finest creation still gainfully employed as a DJ at North Norfolk Digital but his cosy world of chat and Neil Diamond is rudely interrupted when the radio station is bought out and rebranded. Heads must roll and when the axe falls on Alan’s unstable colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) an armed siege at the station ensues – with the cowardly Partridge stuck in the middle. Quotable lines (“I am Siege Face”) and memorable scenes come thick and fast and although it never quite matches the best bits of I’m Alan Partridge or Knowing Me, Knowing You… Alpha Papa doesn't fall far short. 

Five more...
Margin Call (23:15, Wednesday, BBC1) Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany head a terrific cast in JC (All Is Lost, A Most Violent Year) Chandor’s thriller set at the start of the financial crisis.
Cape Fear (22:40, Friday, ITV) Robert De Niro is terrifying as vengeful rapist Max Cady in a brutal crime thriller directed by Martin Scorsese. 
The Hunger Games (21:00, Saturday, ITV) Jennifer Lawrence makes her debut as Katniss Everdeen in this Battle Royale for tweens.
In The Loop (23:45, Saturday, BBC2) Peter Capaldi’s ferocious spin doctor Malcolm Tucker heads for Washington DC in this big screen version of The Thick of It.
The Great Escape (17:40, Sunday, Channel 5) Quintessential WWII flick starring Steve McQueen as Virgil Hilts, the “Cooler King”.

DIGITAL & SATELLITE: For me, The King of Comedy (01:25, Wednesday, Film4) is not only director Martin Scorsese’s finest movie but it also boasts Robert De Niro’s greatest performance as Rupert Pupkin, a fame-chasing oddball who fancies himself a stand-up comic. Rather than paying his dues and honing his craft on the comedy club circuit, though, Pupkin skulks in his mother’s basement, acting out weird fantasies in which he appears on a chat show hosted by TV star Jerry Langford (a fantastic Jerry Lewis). Pupkin hopes to befriend Langford and use their connection as a quick way to fame and fortune. Made in 1982, King was years ahead of its time anticipating as it did the rise of celebrity stalkers (Sandra Bernhard is terrific as the deranged Masha) and the “fast route to fame” notion that utterly permeates contemporary culture. De Niro has been rightly celebrated for his roles as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and Jake La Motta in Raging Bull and, traditionally, the actor has tended to play alpha males; macho, nasty bastards. Here he’s asked to do something completely different – step into the shoes of a genuinely strange little man. Pupkin is fastidious, neat, oleaginous and decidedly creepy, and De Niro just completely nails it. Forget Meet the Parents, this is the film in which the actor proved himself adept as a great comic actor. Some of his scenes with Bernhard and Lewis (especially) are hilarious and cringe-making in equal measure. The comedy of embarrassment before such a term had even been coined. It’s showing at stupid o’clock so set your PVRs.

Five more...
Re-animator (22:45, Tuesday, Horror Channel)
Blood-soaked and darkly comic take on HP Lovecraft's horrific – not to mention unpleasantly racist – original short story.
Maria Full of Grace (22:00, Wednesday, Sky Arts 1) Powerful drama about a pregnant Colombian teenager who agrees to smuggle cocaine into the US. 
Martha Marcy May Marlene (01:15, Thursday, Film4) A pre-Avengers/Godzilla Elizabeth Olsen is superb in this affecting drama about a vulnerable young woman on the run from the members of a Waco-style cult.
Bronson (22:45, Friday, Film4) Tom Hardy stars as infamous British lifer Charles Bronson in Nicholas Winding Refn’s funny, surreal but also quite brutal and disturbing drama.
The Jerk (22:45, Sunday, ITV4) “Poor black child” and hopeless idiot Navin R Johnson (Steve Martin) searches for his "special purpose" in one of the finest film comedies ever made.

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