Monday 27 April 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, April 27 - Sunday, May 3

CABLE & SATELLITE: Ryan Reynolds’ presence in a movie I’m watching is usually about as welcome as finding a UKIP canvasser at my door or a lump on one of my testicles. Mercifully, Buried (22:55, Thursday, ITV4) is an exception to the rule because Reynolds (an actor whose eyes are so close together he’s practically a cyclops) is actually pretty good in it. Ryclops plays Paul Conroy, a US truck driver working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of locals (possibly upset their country has been illegally invaded and lots of their friends and family killed) he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. Armed with only a lighter, a mobile phone and some glow sticks (in case he’s thinking about putting on a rave presumably), Paul embarks on a race against time to escape his wooden death trap. Like last year’s Locke, Rodrigo Cortes' film is mostly a one-hander and Reynolds rises to that challenge impressively. He sells his character’s awful predicament convincingly and sympathetically, while the director cranks up the tension and claustrophobia to unbearable levels. It’s a simple but incredibly effective film and one that you’ll come away from feeling quite drained. 

Five more...
Basket Case (21:00, Tonight, Horror Channel) Hilariously unpleasant horror/comedy that never fails to make me laugh. 

Wild Things (23:25, Wednesday, Film4) Twisty-turny bad-girl thriller notable only for the swimming pool scene in which Denise Richards and Neve Campbell snog. Saucy! 
Downfall (22:00, Thursday, BBC4) German film chronicling the final days of Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich. Bruno Ganz is mesmerising as the fallen Führer. 
The Football Factory (23:10, Thursday, Film4) Danny Dyer punches some geezers in the canister after they mug him off. Or something. 
Solaris (21:00, Sunday, Syfy) George Clooney and Natasha McElhone star in Steven Soderbergh’s atmospheric take on Stanisław Lem’s 1961 sci-fi novel. 

TERRESTRIAL: As a fan of the comic-book series it is based upon, I really wanted to enjoy the heck out of Dredd (22:00, Saturday, Channel 4). Unfortunately, it’s rather a disappointment. In the long-running and frequently excellent Judge Dredd strip in 2000AD, the future lawman’s stomping ground is Mega-City One and it’s one of the most perfectly realised future dystopias in all sci-fi, never mind graphic novels. In fact, you could easily argue the city is the series’ most important “character”. The film – mostly for budgetary reasons, I imagine – eschews much of what makes the Meg such a gleefully nightmarish place; the insane crush of chronic over-population, the vast sprawling maze of its pedways, city blocks and zoomtubes, the kind of extreme crime and poverty only an unholy alliance of rampant capitalism and state fascism could ever produce. Dredd – scripted by 28 Days Later scribe Alex Garland – also forgets to pack a sense of humour and there’s little evidence of the blistering satirical edge the comic strip is famous for. What you’re left with is a fairly standard action film which sees the titular lawman (Karl Urban) and sidekick Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) battle their way through a criminal-packed apartment block to reach a disfigured drug dealer called Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) on the top floor. It’s like The Raid with less interesting fight scenes although Urban and Thirlby are at least good value. 

Five more...
Unforgiven (23:00, Tonight, Channel 5) Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this superlative western long before he started talking to empty chairs and making right-wing horseshit like American Sniper. 
Ghost Town (23:50, Tuesday, BBC1) Ricky Gervais is a misanthropic dentist who can see the spirits of the dead in a passable if low-key comedy. 
Rushmore (02:20, Wednesday, Channel 4) Tycoon Bill Murray and geeky student Jason Schwartzman become love rivals in one of Wes Anderson’s best films. 
Senna (22:40, Friday, ITV) Powerful documentary about the life and death of triple Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna. 
Cop Land (00:15, Friday, Channel 4) Sylvester Stallone is surprisingly great as the small-town sheriff taking on police corruption in James Mangold’s underrated drama. 

VIEW ON DEMAND (VOD): I reviewed The Duke of Burgundy (various streaming services) when it enjoyed a brief dalliance with cinemas a few months back but want to mention it again now it’s available on VOD because it’s shaping up to be one of my favourite films of the year. Cynthia (played by Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’anna) are lovers with a penchant for a bit of the old S&M. They live in luxurious surroundings in an unnamed bit of Europe that seems to contain no men. Betwixt amorous assignations the pair attends lectures on lepidoptery, the study of butterflies and moths. It’s all very peculiar, as you’d perhaps expect from Peter Strickland, the director of Berberian Sound Studio, but also warm, funny, mischievous and playful. The relationship between the two women is beautifully told – the sub/dom element defines their relationship to a certain extent but also becomes a bone of contention between them – and the film exudes an odd charm that is difficult to resist. All in all, it’s 50 Shades of Grey for people with a sense of humour and a soul. 

Five more...
Cobain: Montage of Heck (VSS) Intriguing documentary about the life and times of the late Nirvana frontman from director Brett Morgan (The Kid Stays in the Picture).
The Knife That Killed Me (VSS) Experimental British drama about a dying boy looking back over the events that led to his fatal stabbing. 

I Am Ali (Netflix, from Tuesday) Legendary boxing champ Muhammad Ali’s life story told by his nearest and dearest. 
The Emperor’s New Clothes (VSS) Russell Brand channels Mark Thomas as he investigates increasing inequality in the UK in a documentary directed by Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, 9 Songs). Also in cinemas. 
Canopy (VSS) An Aussie fighter pilot is shot down in Singapore during WWII and must make his way to safety through a dangerous jungle in this taut, minimalist drama.

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Cop Land begins at 00:15 - technically Saturday morning - but is still part of Friday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.

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