Monday 9 March 2015

TV MOVIE PICKS (UK) Monday, March 9 - Sunday, March 15

TERRESTRIAL: The smorgasbord of terrestrial delights looks a bit lacking this week so, one time only, I’m going to recommend a film I haven’t actually seen. Lone Star (Sunday, 00:30, BBC2) is a complex, slow-burning Texas murder-mystery from acclaimed indie writer/director John Sayles, whose work you might know from baseball film Eight Men Out or union drama Matewan. Chris Cooper plays Sam Deeds, a small-town sheriff who discovers the skeleton of his predecessor Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson) buried in the desert. Wade was a corrupt man and thought run out of town long ago by Deeds’ late father (Matthew McConaughey, seen in flashback). The sheriff immediately opens a murder investigation but is unprepared for the dark secrets his decision threatens to unleash. Sounds right up my street and hopefully yours too.

Also showing: The Fugitive (Tonight, 23:00, Channel 5) Tommy Lee Jones hunts Harrison Ford in this thrill-a-minute spin on the ’60s TV show. The Darjeeling Limited (Wednesday, Channel 4, 02:35) Three fractious brothers attempt to bond during a train trek through India in Wes Anderson’s charming comedy/drama. California Man (Friday, 01:35, Channel 4) It might be Stig of the Dump for dummies but I’ve always had a soft spot for this Pauly Shore/Brendan Fraser cave man comedy. No weezing the ju-uice!

CABLE & SATELLITE: I never thought I’d be recommending a bawdy comedy starring Zac Efron and Seth Rogen but Bad Neighbours (Tuesday, 18:15, Sky Premiere + other showings through week) is a genuine hoot. Rogen and Rose Byrne are Mac and Kelly Radner, a couple with a newborn baby whose domestic idyll is ruined when Efron and his obnoxious and noisy fraternity house moves in next door. A battle of wits and wills ensues as the couple attempt to drive out the interlopers, even while being drawn to the free-wheelin’ lifestyle parenthood has taken from them. Efron’s as wooden as ever, Rogen does his usual “I’m out of shape and smoke weed” routine so it’s Byrne who takes on most of the comic heavy lifting. As a result she steals every scene she’s in and the moment she orders Rogen to “Be a man and milk me!” is pure spun gold. Obviously Bad Neighbours isn’t a patch on the daddy of all fraternity comedies, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and it probably says something not entirely complimentary about the way the US film industry has changed in the last 35 years that it’s the squares not the anarchic students who are the heroes of this story. But, that said, Bad Neighbours is about as good as mainstream Hollywood comedy gets these days and for that alone it’s more than worth your time.

Also showing: Chronicle (Tonight, 21:00, Film4) Super-powered found-footage flick from director Josh Trank, whose intriguing Fantastic Four reboot arrives later this year. The Elephant Man (Sunday, 23:30, ITV3) David Lynch directs John Hurt in a powerful and moving biopic of John Merrick. Dark Star (Saturday, 01:50, Film4) John Carpenter’s “Waiting for Godot in space” is 40 years old but still funny.

VOD: ’71 (Virgin, Sky, BT) Even when he was playing the oafish Cook in Skins it was pretty obvious Jack O’Connell was destined for great things. A fair few of the kids in the influential teen drama could certainly act but none of them quite burned up the screen with the intensity O’Connell had. There was something a bit unpredictable and scary about him. He wasn’t some posh boy pretending to be a complicated working-class hard case – he was the real thing. He brought that same glowering authenticity to his role as an out-of-control young offender in Starred Up but proves his range with a far more nuanced display here. 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. The film makes the right decision not to engage too much with the politics of the time preferring to explore the very dark places any person under unconscionable pressure can end up in. It makes for a blistering thriller from which few of the characters emerge unscathed or uncompromised.

Also showing: The Imitation Game (Virgin, Sky, BT) Worthy but flawed biopic of Alan Turing, the breaker of the Nazi Enigma Code. Benedict Cumberbatch is on top form. Miller’s Crossing (Netflix, from Wednesday) Superb Prohibition-era mob caper starring Gabriel Byrne. Still one of the Coen brothers’ best. Mars Needs Moms (Amazon Prime/Netflix, from Sunday) Passable Walt Disney animation described on its own Wikipedia page as the “fourth biggest box office bomb in history”. Ouch.

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