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Monday, 22 August 2016

The Jungle Book, Weiner, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Your Week In Film (August 22-28)

Animal magic: Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book

Monday 22nd: I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD), a rich and rewarding adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's original stories that also pays fulsome homage to the beloved 1960s animation (The Bare Necessities, Trust In Me and I Wan'na Be Like You all get an airing). You'd be hard pressed to find more immersive CG anywhere and the voice cast is uniformly terrific (Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson). Rather less savoury is Weiner (DVD), a candid documentary chronicling the fall of disgraced US politician Anthony Weiner. The appropriately-named Democrat was forced to resign from Congress in 2011 after sending 'dick pics' of himself to women via social media. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's excellent film picks up his story two years later with Weiner running to be Mayor of New York. Suffice to say, old habits die hard and it isn't long before he and his long-suffering wife - Huma Abedin, an aid to Hillary Clinton - are under siege from the media as his reputation is trashed all over again. I can't wait to reacquaint myself with Ken Russell's Women In Love (Blu-ray) which I haven't seen in an age. Based on a novel by DH Lawrence and most famous for the nude wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed (although we must not overlook Glenda Jackson's Oscar win), here it gets a swanky 4K restoration courtesy of the BFI on a disc packed with extras. TV-wise, The Survivalist (22:25, Sky Cinema Premiere) is a bleak but gripping British post-apocalypse drama that works wonders on a low budget.

Russell restored: Women In Love hits Blu-ray 

Tuesday 23rd: Online subscription service Mubi adds Franklin J. Schaffner’s sci-fi thriller The Boys From Brazil to its catalogue today. Gregory Peck. Laurence Olivier and, erm, Steve Guttenberg star in the adaptation of Ira Levin's novel which sees Dr Josef Mengele (Peck) alive and well in South America and putting together a bizarre plot to clone Hitler and create the Fourth Reich. Olivier is the Nazi hunter hot on his trail. Tony Scott directs Man On Fire (13:25, Film4), a brutally efficient thriller with Denzel Washington's washed-up bodyguard rampaging through Mexico City to get at the ruthless gang who have kidnapped his nine-year-old charge (Dakota Fanning).  

Fired up: Denzel Washington's on a mission

Wednesday 24th: Have to say, I don't know much about Japanese manga adaptation Tokyo Tribe (22:25, Sky Cinema/NOW TV) but, if it lives up to its Sky listing, it should be an absolute hoot: "A cannibalistic yakuza boss and his bloodthirsty lieutenant declare all-out war on the rival gangs of near-future Tokyo. Madcap kung fu musical." The trailer is pleasingly unhinged too. Altogether less "madcap" is Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education (01:25, Film4). One of the Spanish director's most personal and multi-layered films, it tells the harrowing tale of sexual abuse at a Spanish boarding school in the 1960s. Gael García Bernal, Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez star.

Two tribes: Japanese gangs sing each other to death

Thursday 25th: Camp sci-fi thrills are the order of the day in Mike Hodges' stupidly brilliant Flash Gordon (14:25, Film4), a film that flopped on its original release in 1980 but has since become the epitome of the term cult classic (although use of the term 'classic' might just be pushing it a bit). Sam Jones is Flash, Melody Anderson is Dale Arden, and Brian Blessed puts on some wings and bellows "GORDON'S ALIVE!" In The Film Programme (16:00, BBC Radio 4), Antonia Quirke meets two groups who are trying to save their local cinemas, while poet Don Paterson continues his series on great movie speeches with Jack Nicholson's "You can't handle the truth!" spiel from A Few Good Men.

King Jack: Nicholson's on top form in A Few Good Men

Friday 26th: I was obsessed with Star Wars as a kid - revered the first couple of films, collected the comics (the action figures were too expensive) and even remember reading the novelisation of A New Hope (which wasn't actually called A New Hope back then, of course). Somewhere between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, though, I just lost interest and never regained it. I caught The Phantom Menace but have never seen Attack Of The Clones or even Revenge Of The Sith all the way through. Sad to say, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (13:10 and 20:00, Sky Cinema Premiere and NOW TV) did very little to rekindle my interest in the franchise, being little more than a rerun of the very first movie with a couple of promising new characters and one wholly unnecessary death. I'm holding out hope Rogue One might be a little more interesting. At the cinema, there's Mila Kunis comedy Bad Moms, Stephen King adaptation Cell, brutal political satire in Purge: The Election Year, and Julieta, which is being billed as a return to form for director Pedro Almodóvar (although, to be honest, I wasn't aware he'd been out of form). Mubi has Guys And Dolls, a thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of the Broadway musical starring Frank Sinata as Nathan Detroit and Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson. If you don't sing along with Lucky Be A Lady, you simply have no soul. Kermode And Mayo's Film Review (14:00, BBC Radio Five Live) returns at its proper time with its proper presenters. Robbie Collin is a more than capable stand-in for Mark Kermode but I'll take laid-back Simon Mayo over Edith Bowman's gushing Saturday Superstore style of presentation any day of the week.

Mom & bad: Mila Kunis goes over to the dark side

Saturday 27th: Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (21:30, ITV). In the third of the series, the amnesiac rogue assassin has his memories reawakened by a journalist researching the organisation responsible for turning him into a killing machine. Paul Greengrass directs a terrific cast, which also includes Joan Allen, Julia Styles, David Strathairn, Paddy Considine and Albert Finney. No, I still haven't seen any of the Bourne films but I did pick up the first three (two quid the lot) in Cex a couple of weeks ago so I'm getting closer. Neil Jordan's atmospheric Byzantium (01:30, Film4) stars Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a vampire mother and daughter, and should be a lot better known than it is.

Blood relatives: Neil Jordan's Byzantium

Sunday 28th: Frank Sinatra directs and co-stars in None But The Brave (14:00, BBC 2). Ol' Blue Eyes' one and only foray into the director's chair sees a team of US marines crash-landing on a tiny Pacific island during World War II, only to find it already occupied by a Japanese unit. The film is no classic but went down in history as the first American/Japanese co-production. Steve Carell is super-villain Gru in the hugely charming animation Despicable Me (16:55, ITV). Made in 2010, a time when people weren't heartily sick to death of the Minions. Joel and Ethan Coen have made much better films than Burn After Reading (23:00, Gold) but even the brothers' lesser works are still worth a look. This comedy caper sees John Malkovich's disgruntled former CIA agent writing a tell-all memoir but the computer disc upon which it is stored falls into the hands of two gym employees (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) who concoct a cack-handed blackmail plan.

 The Burn ultimatum: Blackmail mayhem from the Coens

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