Monday 13 April 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, April 13 - Sunday, April 19

VIEW ON DEMAND (VOD): My local Odeon showing Swedish black comedy Force Majeure (Virgin Movies, Curzon Home Cinema etc) is about as likely as the Pope converting to Scientology so let’s be thankful Ruben Östlund’s follow-up to the controversial Play arrives on VOD at the same time as it is being shown in select UK cinemas. The film is a slow-moving affair but a never less than fascinating one. Thomas and Ebba – a young and attractive Swedish couple – are on a skiing holiday in the French Alps with their two kids. On the second day of their vacation it looks as if an avalanche is about to strike the restaurant they are in but, mercifully, it stops before it reaches them. However, terrified for his life, Thomas abandons his family and runs for it, pausing only to grab his gloves and phone. The rest of the film deals with the fallout from his moment of cowardice, particularly how it affects his relationship with Ebba who is, understandably, somewhat aggrieved by his actions and refusal to accept what he did. Matters become truly uncomfortable as she embarrasses Thomas in front of anyone who’ll listen and their marriage threatens to unravel completely. Östlund’s film is a thoughtful – and often cringe-makingly funny – study of modern masculinity and what happens when men fall short of its ideals. 

Five more...  Snow in Paradise (Film4oD, Virgin Movies etc) A petty criminal converts to Islam but his old life returns to haunt him in this British thriller.
Black Sea (Film4oD, Virgin Movies etc) Gripping submarine caper starring Jude Law.
The Inbetweeners 2 (NOW TV, from Friday) Someone says “clunge”, hilarity ensues...
Centurion (Amazon Prime, from Saturday) Michael Fassbender and Dominic West star in Neil Marshall’s Romans v Picts stab-fest.
Oblivion (Netflix UK, from Sunday) Xenu-botherer Tom Cruise has been in some great sci-fi films... this isn’t one of them.

TERRESTRIAL: I bow to no man in my love of biting satire and black comedy but when it comes to cinematic chuckles, silly is always best. Steve Martin as Doctor Hfuhruhurr in The Man with Two Brains, Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Knights who say “Ni”, Woody Allen being chased by a giant chicken in Sleeper. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (Sunday, 19:20, Channel 5) isn’t quite in the same league as those examples but it is still very silly indeed and has the power to make me laugh every time I see it. Jim Carrey turns the stupid up to 11 as the titular private dick, hunting for the Miami Dolphins’ mascot (a bottle-nosed dolphin, oddly enough) while clashing with Sean Young’s unpleasant police lieutenant. Because he seems to have spent most of the last decade doing movies of, shall we say, “varying quality”, people forget just how pant-wettingly funny Carrey once was. He’s on top form here, refining and improving the “living Tex Avery cartoon” schtick that had worked so well in The Mask. The only sour note is the way the film ends – a rather nasty bit of transphobia that looks horribly wrongheaded 20+ years on from its original release.

Five more...Cyrus (Wednesday, 01:00, Channel 4) Jonah Hill and John C Reilly feud over Marisa Tomei in an unusual comedy.
Synecdoche, New York (Friday, 00:40, BBC2) Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his finest roles as a theatre director suffering a mid-life crisis.
X-Men: First Class (Saturday, 21:00, Channel 4) James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence light up a superior superhero prequel.
Red Heat (Saturday, 22:15, ITV) Quaint Cold War buddy comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi.
Drive Angry (Sunday, 22:55, Channel 5) Nicolas Cage escapes from Hell to track down the agent that keeps signing him up for this ridiculous guff.

CABLE & SATELLITE: Belle (From Friday, 09:55 and 18:00, Sky Movies Premiere) is that rarest of cinematic offerings; a period costume drama that didn’t put me to sleep within the first 10 minutes. Set in 18th Century England and based on a true story, it chronicles the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle (beautifully played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. She is raised in splendour by her aristocratic great uncle (Lord Mansfield) but held back socially by the colour of her skin. She falls in love with a young abolitionist and together they set about trying to persuade Mansfield – in his role as the Lord Chief Justice – to refuse insurance to the owners of a ship who had thrown slaves overboard then tried to claim for them as “cargo”. Yes, it’s worthy and liberal, and yes, the usual costume drama tropes are all present and accounted for, but the racial tensions of the period give the material a real edge and modern perspective. The cast, which includes Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson and Emily Mortimer, is uniformly superb, while director Amma Asante is clearly one to watch.

Five more...
Hard Candy (Tonight, 21:00, Horror Channel) Ellen Page takes violent revenge on the man she accuses of trying to groom her.
Play (Tonight, 01:25, Film4) A controversial tale of race and crime from Force Majeure director Ruben Östlund (see above).
Shenandoah (Wednesday, 11:05, More4) James Stewart stars in a classic Civil War-based western.
127 Hours (Friday, 21:00, More4) James Franco’s mountain climber battles for survival in Danny Boyle’s gripping tale. 
Croupier (Friday, 02:00, Film4) Clive Owen becomes involved in a plot to rob a casino in Mike Hodges’ clever thriller.

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