Monday 2 February 2015

TV MOVIE PICKS (UK) Monday, February 2 - Sunday, February 8

TERRESTRIAL: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Wednesday, 23:45, BBC1) is a bit of a mouthful for those of us who prefer brevity in our movie titles (what’s wrong with Hop or Rope?). Reporter John Cusack stumbles into a murder mystery in the Deep South (that’s Savannah, Georgia, not Brighton and Hove) when Kevin Spacey shoots dead Jude Law, his gay lover. Spacey is his usual suave and compelling self but Clint Eastwood’s movie is lit up more by its ambience and incidental characters than anything else. Barney’s Version (Wednesday, 01:20, Channel 4) is one of those comedies keen to invite admiring adjectives like “witty and wise” but ends up being schmaltzy and irritating instead. However, none of that should detract from Paul Giamatti’s immense performance as the titular character; an unlikeable, boozy git who the actor somehow manages to make you root for. It's Bond in space as Roger Moore fights Jaws, Hugo Drax and a terrible script in the somehow-still-charming Moonraker (Sunday, 16:15, ITV). Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) remains one of my favourite 007 character names... 

CABLE & SATELLITE: Talking of Bond, Matthew Vaughan’s Kingsman: The Secret Service is in cinemas now (see last Friday's review) so Film4 have dusted off his first feature, Layer Cake (Tuesday, 23:35). Daniel Craig is a cocaine-dealing wrong ’un on the verge of early retirement in an effective and stylish “one last job” crime thriller. Elsewhere, Trance (Thursday, 6pm, Sky Select) is a tricksy heist-capade from Danny Boyle that is never quite as clever as it thinks it is. A fine turn from Rosario Dawson and some genuinely unexpected plot twists make it worth a look though. Somewhat better is This Is England (Friday, 21:00, Film4), Shane Meadows’ 80s-set drama about a troubled, fatherless boy (Thomas Turgoose) who finds love and acceptance amongst a gang of older skinheads. The only thing better than the performances (Stephen Graham, Joe Gilgun and Vicky McClure all in early roles) is the soundtrack. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (Tuesday, 22:00, ITV4) isn’t a patch on Holy Grail or Life of Brian but still boasts Mr Creosote and the Crimson Permanent Assurance.

VOD: Two of my favourite films from last year make their View on Demand debut this week. Gone Girl (Sky Store, BT TV, Virgin Movies) is David Fincher’s absorbing adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel of the same name. Ben Affleck becomes the police and media’s No.1 suspect when his wife – played with brio by Oscar-nominated Rosamund Pike – disappears. What starts as an above-average thriller gets better as it goes along, and the last half-hour is genuinely bat-shit bonkers. Equally demented is David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars (Sky Store, BT TV, Virgin Movies), a black-hearted Hollywood satire that takes no prisoners. Julianne Moore is the main attraction here – her washed-up soap actress, Havana Segrand, being one of 2014’s finest screen monsters. I’ve also heard good things about director Robin Campillo’s Eastern Boys (Sky Store, BT TV, Virgin Movies), a Paris-set drama that is part tender love story/part brutal home invasion thriller. It’s a fairly slow week on the Netflix front but from Sunday they do have Zero Dark Thirty, in which Jessica Chastain leads the hunt for Osama bin Laden after he turns down her Facebook friend request. The cad.

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