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Monday, 23 May 2016

Victoria, Spotlight and Money Monster: Your Week In Film (May 23-29)

George Clooney and Jack O'Connell star in Money Monster

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

Monday 23rd: German crime thriller Victoria (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) sees a naive young Madrid girl (Laia Costa) led into criminality on the mean streets of Berlin by a group of local lads she befriends at a club. Most critics have focused on the fact it was shot in one long take (no cheats or shortcuts) but, as well as being an incredibly impressive technical achievement, Sebastian Schipper's film has genuine heart and soul. 'Understated' is probably the best way to describe Best Picture Oscar winner Spotlight (DVD, BR and VOD), a low-key film with no directorial flashiness, action set-pieces or melodrama. The movie's plot – journalists investigating the cover-up of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Boston – is front and centre at all times and even the excellent ensemble cast in Tom McCarthy's movie (including Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) are granted little external life outside of their quest to chase down witnesses and pour over information sources. It's a fascinating piece of work and one happy to take its time in showing the Boston Globe writers methodically and forensically building their jigsaw of evidence. Elsewhere, there's The Big Short (DVD, BR and VOD), Adam McKay's breathlessly entertaining dissection of 2008's global financial meltdown, Netflix has jaw-dropping 'war on drugs' documentary Cartel Land, and MUBI dips a rare toe into the Hollywood mainstream with Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky.

German thriller Victoria is a one-take sensation

Tuesday 24th: The movie adaptation of graphic novel 30 Days Of Night (23:20, ITV4) is memorable mainly for Danny Huston's vampire leader, Marlow. He's genuinely bloody scary as his gang of blood suckers lay waste to a remote Alaskan town that remains dark for one month every year. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George star. On the subject of comic-book adaptations, there's also Barbarella (11:50, Sky Select) in which Jane Fonda plays the highly-sexed 41st-century heroine on a quest to stop the evil Durand-Durand. Glad I resisted the temptation to add the words 'from ever making another album' to the end of that sentence.

30 Days Of Night: More bite than most vampire films

Wednesday 25th: Like The Big Short (mentioned above), 99 Homes (Amazon Prime Video) tackles the global financial meltdown of 2008, specifically America's subprime mortgage crisis, which saw many thousands of people lose their homes. When Floridian construction worker Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) has his family home repossessed, he ends up working for Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the greedy and ruthless real estate broker responsible for taking his house in the first place. Nash makes serious money but in so doing loses his soul and breaks the law. Ramin Bahrani's film is ultimately a bit more optimistic than Adam McKay's but still packs an emotional punch.

99 Homes: Spider-Man battles General Zod... sort of

Thursday 26th: The Last Man On The Moon (Netflix UK) is a documentary chronicling the extraordinary life of Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan. It focuses not just on Cernan's space-faring adventures but also looks at what happens to people like him once they return to normal life. As his wife says: "If you think going to the moon is hard, try staying at home." On The Film Programme (16:00, BBC Radio 4) director Whit Stillman talks to Francine Stock about his new film Love And Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen's posthumously-published novella Lady Susan, which hits cinemas on Friday. Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny star.

Beckinsale and Sevigny star in Love And Friendship

Friday 27th: Money Monster is the week's big cinema release and director Jodie Foster discusses it on Kermode And Mayo's Film Review (14:00, BBC Radio 5 Live). The movie has suffered an iffy critical response so far but nevertheless looks interesting. Unfolding in real-time, it sees TV financial whiz George Clooney and his producer Julia Roberts taken hostage by Jack O'Connell, a heavily armed and now-unhinged investor who lost his shirt when one of Clooney's tips went pear-shaped. As a set-up for a thriller, I've heard a lot worse. If you're staying in, there's Darren Aronofsky's traumatic drug addiction drama Requiem For A Dream (23:15, Film4), starring Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly, or Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho (00:35, Channel 4).

Will Clooney cash out in Money Monster?

Saturday 28th: BBC2 has become the only terrestrial channel that seems to give a hoot about its weekend movie programming and they've been serving up some splendid double bills of late. This week's is no different with the showing of Christopher Nolan's twisty period thriller The Prestige (23:00), which stars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as rival stage magicians, followed by The Disappearance Of Alice Creed (01:00, BBC2), another twisty thriller, this time of the British variety. Gemma Arterton stars as the titular Alice, kidnapped by Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston, who intend to extort money from her wealthy dad. If neither of those takes your fancy, there's always George A Romero's zombie classic Night Of The Living Dead (00:45, Horror Channel). "They're coming to get you, Barbara..."

The Prestige: ...and that's magic!

Sunday 29th: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac star in classy thriller The Two Faces Of January (00:30, Channel 4). Set in '60s Greece, Isaac is a hustler posing as a tour guide. He targets a pair of wealthy American tourists (Mortensen and Dunst) but soon realises he's in way over his head. Directed by Drive screenwriter Hossein Amini, it's smart, well-acted and hums with sexual tension. The Act Of Killing (22:05, Sky Atlantic), Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary about the systematic slaughter of alleged communists in Indonesia in the 1960s, remains as disturbing as ever. It is also utterly essential viewing.

Sexual tension ahoy in The Two Faces Of January

The Last 5 Films I've seen
1. Fear Eats The Soul (1974): An elderly German woman begins a relationship with a Moroccan immigrant 20 years her junior in Werner Rainer Fassbinder's brutal dissection of prejudice and racism.
2. Viridiana (1961): People are scum, especially the very rich and very poor, in Luis Buñuel's misanthropic masterpiece that sees a novitiate nun abandon her convent life after the suicide of her uncle. A brilliant but deeply fucked-up film.
3. Persona (1966): A nurse discovers her identity is merging with that of the mute actress she cares for in Ingmar Bergman's hugely influential psychological thriller-cum-horror.
4. Ivan's Childhood (1962): Andrei Tarkovsky's debut feature is a haunting and powerful WWII drama about a young boy working as a scout for the Red Army after the Nazis kill his mother and sister. 
5. The Brown Bunny (2003): If you can forgive its notorious  and entirely gratuitous  blow-job scene, Vincent Gallo's road movie is actually a pretty effective character study of a soul in torment. 

Buñuel'ViridianaA misanthropic masterpiece

UK box-office Top 10
1. Captain America: Civil War R
2. Angry Birds 
3. The Jungle Book R
4. Bad Neighbours 2
5. Florence Foster Jenkins
6. Our Kind Of Traitor
7. Everybody Wants Some!! R

8. Secret Cinema: 28 Days Later
9. Eye In The Sky 
10. Green Room

R = Recommended

Cannes film festival 2016 winners
Palme d’Or: I, Daniel Blake (dir: Ken Loach)
Grand Prix: It’s Only the End of the World (dir: Xavier Dolan)
Jury prize: American Honey (dir: Andrea Arnold)
Best director: Graduation (dir: Cristian Mungiu) and Personal Shopper (dir: Olivier Assayas)
Best screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, The Salesman
Best actor: Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman
Best actress: Jaclyn Jose, Ma Rosa
Caméra d’Or: Divines (dir: Houda Benyamina)
Best short film: Timecode
Honorary Palme d’Or: Jean-Pierre Léaud

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