Monday 23 November 2015

Home Comforts: The best in TV, DVD, Blu-ray and VOD (Monday November 23 - Sunday November 29)

10 films worth a look this week on a variety of formats...

1. Inside Out
(VOD, DVD and Blu-ray)

You may have been led to believe that Pixar's latest animation (well, until The Good Dinosaur comes out later this week) is little more than a gussied up version of The Numskulls, the long-running British comic strip that appeared in the likes of The Beezer and The Beano for many years starting in the early 1960s
. Yes, the two stories share DNA - they both involve characters literally living inside the heads of host humans and controlling their emotions and actions. But that's where the comparisons end because, although The Numskulls was inventive and amusing, Inside Out elevates the concept to a whole new level. A sophisticated, joyous, clever, heartbreaking and funny (phew!) piece of work, co-directors Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen have genuinely given us a movie that can be enjoyed just as much by adults as kids (a lot of films say they can do this but how many really do?). It's up there with anything you'll have seen from Studio Ghibli (yes, even Spirited Away) and is arguably the best thing Pixar has ever done. I suspect Inside Out may even work better in your living room than it did in the cinema because there is so much going on and so many ideas on display that you'll want to keep rewinding to make sure you take it all in. Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader and Lewis Black head a terrific cast.

2. Cartel Land
(22:00, tonight, BBC4)

Being shown as part of the BBC's Storyville documentary strand, Matthew Heineman's chilling and intense film follows two modern-day vigilante gangs - one in Mexico, the other in the States - battling murderous Mexican drug cartels. The American group are Fox News-addicted halfwits for the most part, driving around the desert in a tiny convoy trying to find newly-arrived illegal immigrants like characters in one of Donald Trump’s wet dreams. Far more intriguing are Mexico’s Autodefensas, a veritable army operating successfully in the Mexican state of Michoacán and led by a charismatic small-town physician. Heineman is granted extraordinary access to Autodefensas and its leaders, and the tale he uncovers will make your jaw drop.

3. Force Majeure
(Netflix UK, from Sunday)
Thomas and Ebba – a young and attractive Swedish couple – are on a skiing holiday in the French Alps with their two kids. On the second day of their vacation it looks as if an avalanche is about to strike the restaurant they are in but, mercifully, it stops before it reaches them. However, terrified for his life, Thomas abandons his family and runs for it, pausing only to grab his gloves and phone. The rest of the film deals with the fallout from his moment of cowardice, particularly how it affects his relationship with Ebba. Swedish writer/director Östlund’s film is a thoughtful – and often cringe-makingly funny – study of modern masculinity and what happens when men fall short of its ideals.

4. Don't Look Now
(22:50, Horror Channel, Thursday)

Nicolas Roeg's horror classic from 1973 starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. A married couple travel to Venice to grieve after the death of their young daughter but there they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom has psychic powers. She brings a warning from beyond. Oppressive and sinister, no one makes horror films like this any more. Much to Sutherland's indignation, some idiot is planning to remake it...

5. '71
(21:00, Film4, Thursday)
The excellent Jack O’Connell is Gary Hook, a British soldier accidentally left “behind enemy lines” during the Troubles in 1970s Belfast. To get back to his regiment Hook has to rely on every ounce of guile, will and sheer dumb luck at his disposal as director Yann Demange ratchets up the tension again and again. It makes for a blistering thriller from which few of the characters emerge unscathed or uncompromised.

6. While We're Young
(Amazon Prime Video, from Sunday)

Noah Baumbach directs Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts. Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried in a wryly-observed and genuinely witty age-gap comedy. Josh and Cornelia
 (Stiller and Watts) are middle-aged marrieds stuck in a rut until they meet Jamie and Darby (Driver and Seyfried), a young, hip, endlessly energetic couple with whom they become fast friends. But it isn't long before petty jealousies and ulterior motives start to undermine their relationship leading to all-out war. Stiller hasn't been this good in years.

7. It's A Wonderful Life
(15:40, More4, Saturday)

Nothing says 'Christmas is just around the corner' more than this frequently dark but ultimately heartwarming celebration of community and comradeship from 1946. Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey, the family man at the end of his tether and contemplating suicide as his building and loan business runs into financial trouble. His salvation comes from a most unexpected source...

8. Moon
(23:35, BBC2, Friday)

Smart, savvy sci-fi from writer/director Duncan Jones that homages classics of the genre such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running. With only his computer companion GERTY for company, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) mines a substance called Helium 3 from Earth's moon, regularly shipping it back to his home planet where it is used to produce energy. Coming to the end of his three-year stint and desperate to return home to his family, Bell is knocked unconscious during an accident. He awakes to discover he's no longer alone...

9. Blackhat 
(11:30 and 22:15, from Friday, Sky Movies Premiere)
10. Jupiter Ascending
(16:00 and 20:00, from Friday, Sky Movies Premiere)

Two films that took a drubbing at the hands of critics and sank at the box office but that I nevertheless enjoyed. Blackhat is a nicely worked and suitably tense thriller from Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice) starring Chris 'Thor' Hemsworth as an ace hacker sprung from jail to bring down a global network of cyber terrorists. Jupiter Ascending, on the other hand, is a bonkers slice of sci-fi from the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) starring Mila Kunis as the one true queen of the universe (or something). The dialogue is risible, the plot ridiculous and Eddie Redmayne chews the scenery in a manner that would make even Brian Blessed blush. And yet, for all that, it's actually bloody good fun.

And one to avoid...
(VOD, DVD and Blu-ray)
Rotten boxing melodrama containing plot holes so vast you could comfortably pilot a Death Star through them. When even the great Jake Gyllenhaal can't save a movie you know you're in trouble...

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