Monday 7 March 2016

Anomalisa and The Lady In The Van: Your Week In Film (March 7-13)

Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa opens in the UK on Friday

TV, Radio, DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and cinema picks for the next seven days...

Monday 7th: The Lady in The Van
(DVD and Blu-ray) is the real-life tale of Miss Sheperd (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel's Maggie Smith), an itinerant eccentric who lived in a van parked on acclaimed playwright Alan Bennett's drive for 15 years. Nicholas Hytner's film (screenplay by Bennett himself) is nicely written and acted but something has always bugged me about it. Miss Sheperd was a tragic character and her story is genuinely heartbreaking, so for her to be reduced to a comic turn (as she frequently is here) somehow seems a bit... disrespectful. Smith even called her "a funny old thing" in one interview. Yes, a funny old thing Smith and Bennett have gone on to make an awful amount of money out of. Elsewhere, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) stars in gambling addiction drama Mississippi Grind (DVD, VOD); The Seven-Ups (Blu-ray) is a New York-set cop thriller from 1973, with Roy Scheider (Jaws); and Liam Neeson (Taken) plays the titular Irish freedom fighter in Michael Collins (DVD and Blu-ray).

Maggie Smith is The Lady In The Van (trailer)

Tuesday 8th: Francois Ozon's The New Girlfriend (Netflix) was my favourite film of last year, just pipping Mad Max: Fury Road and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night when I sat down to write my Top 30 list. Initially, it's a comedy/drama about a young widower's struggle to come to terms with his cross-dressing habit, but quickly turns into something altogether darker and more complex. The two leads - Romain Duris and Anaïs
 Demoustier - are both excellent, the film itself criminally underrated. Movie-wise, terrestrial TV is pretty much a wasteland all week but satellite and cable provides richer pickings. For instance, there's a cracking horror/comedy double bill on Syfy tonight, featuring rom-zom-com classic Shaun Of The Dead (21:00) and the clever but blood-spattered Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (23:00). Meanwhile, Jack O'Connell is a young British soldier stranded behind enemy lines in Belfast during the Troubles in Yann Demange's '71 (21:00, Film4). A blistering thriller.

Jack O'Connell stars in Troubles drama '71 (trailer)

Wednesday 9th: Too Late Blues (Mubi) is John Cassavetes’ 1961 drama starring singer Bobby Darin as Ghost, a jazz pianist who finds himself selling out to become famous after he falls for a beautiful singer. John Boorman's Hope & Glory (Noon, Sony Channel) is a semi-autobiographical film about growing up as a young boy (nine-year-old Bill) in London during the Blitz. It's funny, moving and genuinely terrific. A far odder proposition is Synecdoche, New York (01:15, Film4), Charlie Kaufman's outrageously imaginative tale of a struggling theatre director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose latest, wildly ambitious, work blurs the gap between reality and fantasy.

Synecdoche, New York: Outrageously imaginative (trailer)

Thursday 10th:
Antonia Quirke talks to the writer/director Charlie Kaufman 
about his stop-motion puppet extravaganza Anomalisa on The Film Programme (16:00, BBC Radio 4). Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star in Ridley Scott's feminist road movie Thelma & Louise (17:40, Sky Drama), while Robert De Niro is bad to the bone as a vengeful ex-con in Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear (22:30, Sky Greats). 

Robert De Niro is terrifying in Cape Fear (trailer)
Friday 11th: Two potential crackers hit UK cinemas today. There's the aforementioned Anomalisa from Charlie Kaufman, and atmospheric horror The Witch, which has been favourably compared with The Babadook and It Follows. Elsewhere, Jack Black reprises his role as Po in Kung Fu Panda 3. This time the chop-socky ursine meets his dad (Bryan Cranston) and takes on bad-guy Kai (JK Simmons). Frantic German crime caper Run Lola Run (Mubi), sees crimson-haired Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity) racing against the clock to save her boyfriend's life when he falls foul of a local criminal. Tom Tykwer's film is clever, fun and achingly hip. Kermode And Mayo's Film Review (14:00, BBC Radio 5 Live) features an interview with Sienna Miller about Ben Wheatley's long-awaited movie adaptation of the JG Ballard novel High Rise. It stars Tom Hiddleston and hits UK cinemas next Friday. On the subject of Wheatley, Film4 boasts an excellent late-night triple bill of the director's films comprising disturbing horror Kill List (22:45), black-hearted comedy Sightseers (00:35), and the gloriously bizarre A Field In England (02:15). 

The Witch is an atmospheric horror (trailer)

Saturday 12th: Up there with Iron Man and Guardians Of The GalaxyCaptain America: The Winter Soldier (Netflix) is one of Marvel's best films. This time Cap - plus Black Widow and Falcon - takes on the evil Hydra and former-sidekick-turned-assassin Bucky Barnes. Kick-Ass (00:20, Channel 4) serves up more superheroes but this time with generous side orders of anarchy and outrageous humour. Matthew Vaughn's film - based on the Mark Millar comic-book - sees high-school nerd Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) suit up to battle a local gangster despite having no powers. Chloë Grace Moretz's foul-mouthed Hit-Girl steals the whole film though. Michael Douglas does what Michael Douglas does best in Beyond The Reach (Netflix) – namely playing an absolute rotter. This time he's corporate shark Madec, who, desperate to cover up a hunting accident, tries to murder his young guide (Jeremy Irvine). Jean-Baptiste Léonetti's Mojave Desert-set thriller seemed to pass under the radar when it was released last year, which is a shame because it's a tense, atmospheric and gripping affair. 

Kick-Ass: Violent and very funny (red band trailer)

Sunday 13th: The Magdalene Sisters (23:50, BBC2) is a powerful and angry drama from writer/director Peter Mullan (Neds) set in Dublin during the 1960s. Based on true events, it tells the story of three supposedly 'wayward' young women who are forced into servitude in one of the 'Magdalene laundries' - glorified workhouses ran by the Catholic church - where they are beaten, humiliated and sexually abused. In a fine cast, Geraldine McEwan stands out as bullying Mother Superior, Sister Bridget.

The Magdalene Sisters: Powerful and angry (trailer)

Last 5 films I've seen (from best to worst)
1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975): Jack Nicholson gives the performance of his life in director Milos Forman's multiple-Oscar-winning drama about mental illness, authoritarianism and conformity. Still a fantastic film.
2. James White (2015): Sharply observed character study of a hedonistic New Yorker struggling to cope with his mother's terminal illness. Cynthia Nixon is superb.
3. Far From The Madding Crowd (2015): Thomas Vinterberg (Festen) adapts the Thomas Hardy novel with aplomb, helped in no small part by fine performances from Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen.
4. Grimsby (2016): Sacha Baron Cohen's secret agent comedy is thoroughly filthy and very funny. Full review here.
5. She Monkeys (2011): Odd coming-of-age drama from Sweden, featuring two teenage girls competing for a place on an equestrian team. Parts of it made me feel quite uncomfortable, actually. 

UK box-office Top 10
1. Deadpool R
2. Grimsby 
3. Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
4. How To Be Single
5. Goosebumps 
6. The Forest
7. The Revenant 
8. Dad's Army
9. Zoolander 2
10. Triple 9

R = Recommended

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