Monday 20 April 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, April 20 - Sunday, April 26

What to see and what to give a swerve in the coming week…

VIEW ON DEMAND (VOD): JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit isn’t even 400 pages long but it’s an exceedingly dense book in which an enormous amount happens. With that in mind, I wasn’t as horrified as some when director Peter Jackson announced he was going to split his adaptation into three movies. This led to the first instalment – An Unexpected Journey – being criticised for its perceived lack of pace but I didn’t mind that, especially when the second part – The Desolation of Smaug – turned out to be real thrill-a-minute stuff. However, maybe the sceptics had a point all along because The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (various streaming services) is easily the weakest of the trilogy. There are fine moments (Smaug’s attack on Lake-town in the first 15 minutes being one obvious highlight) but it soon descends into an interminable and really quite tedious CGI-fest with Orcs, Dwarves, Wargs, Goblins and Elves all beating the Baggins out of each other. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo – our protagonist, supposedly – gets a bit lost as the cacophony of battle threatens to drown out all sense of character and plot. I like long movies but this felt like an endurance test at times.

Five more...
Big Eyes (VSS) Tim Burton’s feminist art drama starring Christolph Waltz and Amy Adams. Based on a true story.
Back to 1942 (VSS) Harrowing account of the famine during WWII that killed three million Chinese.
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Netflix UK) Billy Wilder’s comedic take on the famous consulting detective. From Wednesday.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (VSS) Much-acclaimed Swedish comedy/drama that does what it says on the tin. From Friday, also in cinemas.
Stonehearst Asylum (VSS) Thriller based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story, starring Kate Beckinsale and Michael Caine. From Friday, also in cinemas.

TERRESTRIAL: I showed my wife Withnail and I (00:20, Friday, Channel 4) in the early weeks of our relationship about 16 years ago. She didn’t like it much and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how we’d possibly be able to stay together as a result. I mean, come on, it’s bloody brilliant, isn’t it? One of the best British comedy films of all-time certainly; filled with laughs, endlessly quotable (“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake”, “If I medicined you, you'd think a brain tumour was a birthday present”) and boasting superb, career-defining performances from Richard E Grant and Paul McGann. Bruce Robinson’s 1987 film is set in Camden in the late 60s and tells the story of two chronically out-of-work actors – hopeless alcoholic roué Withnail (Grant) and his rather more sensible sidekick Marwood (McGann). They live in squalor on a diet of booze and drugs but it’s when they escape to the country that their problems really begin. Every scene is a joy (especially those featuring the late Richard Griffiths’ Uncle Monty) and, like many of the best comedies, there’s a genuine sadness underlying the whole thing. And my wife didn’t like it. Tsk.

Five more...
In the Electric Mist (23:45, Tuesday, BBC1) The always-dependable Tommy Lee Jones stars as a Cajun detective in this gothic crime drama.
Insomnia (23:15, Wednesday, BBC1) Christopher Nolan’s atmospheric crime thriller starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams.
Paul (21:00, Saturday, Channel 4) Amusing alien caper with Simon Pegg.
Inside Man (22:15, ITV, Saturday)
Spike Lee’s stylish siege thriller starring Denzel Washington and Clive Owen.
Kali Salwaar (01:05, Sunday, Channel 4) An Indian prostitute quits her small town existence in search of a better life. Sub-titled.

CABLE & SATELLITE: Based on a true story, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (21:00, Thursday, Film4) is a deliberately slight but blade-sharp reflection on celebrity culture, consumerism and class. A gang of fame-obsessed teenagers – including Emma Watson’s Nicki – use the internet to track favourite celebs’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes. Reality and fiction collide as we see the gang rummaging through Paris Hilton’s house-sized wardrobe and making off with all manner of insanely-expensive designer goodies. Amusingly, Hilton is so laden with cash, clothes and jewels that at first she doesn’t even notice she’s been ripped off. Of course, the gang’s crime spree can’t continue and it isn’t long before they start showing up on stars’ security footage all over Los Angeles. Coppola’s film – her best since Lost in Translation – has been criticised for being shallow but I disagree; it’s a rather clever piece of work that shows the gang (four girls and a guy) as victims as well as criminals. The director doesn’t pretend to have any easy answers but she at least asks the right questions about the kind of brand-obsessed, celebrity-led culture that produces young people so venal, vacuous and selfish.

Five more...
The Paperboy (23:05, Tonight, Film4) Sixties-set death row thriller starring Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman.
Girl, Interrupted (23:00, Tuesday, Movie Mix) Powerful mental health drama starring Winona Ryder.
Eight Legged Freaks (21:00, Wednesday, Sky 1) Giant spiders invade a US mining town and only David Arquette can stop them in this enjoyable B-movie.
Roman Holiday (10:50, Thursday, More 4) Delightful, Rome-set romantic comedy for which Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar.
Quadrophenia (22:30, Thursday, ITV4) Mods versus Rockers classic, starring Phil Daniels and “Ace Face” Sting.

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Kali Salwaar begins at 01:05 - technically Monday morning - but is still part of Sunday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.

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