Monday 25 May 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, May 25 - Sunday, May 31

VIEW ON DEMAND (VOD): Having never read Cheryl Strayed’s titular novel (based on her own true story), I was prepared to dismiss Wild (Various Streaming Services) as “Eat Pray Love for hikers” with Reese Witherspoon standing in for Julia Roberts on some self-important journey of self-discovery. I couldn’t have been more wrong, though, because director Jean-Marc Vallée’s follow-up to Dallas Buyers Club is a far better and bleaker film than Ryan Murphy's soppy effort. Witherspoon – who was deservedly Oscar-nominated for her role – is Cheryl, a woman destroyed by grief following the death of her beloved mother (Laura Dern). It impacts every aspect of her life, leading to the breakdown of her marriage and a steep descent into heroin use. Desperate to escape her increasingly parlous situation, on a mad whim she decides to hike the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail. What follows is a little predictable but gripping nonetheless as Cheryl overcomes a series of difficult obstacles – mostly involving ill-fitting boots, creepy fellow travellers and a lack of proper food – to slowly but surely make her way up America’s West Coast. Of course her hard physical quest is matched every step of the way by Cheryl's mental journey as she battles her demons to achieve some kind of inner peace. It’s beautifully told and I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that utilised flashbacks so effectively. Some are lengthy, some no more than tiny little echoes of conversations and moments. Crucially, though, every single one of them adds a little to our knowledge of the characters and Cheryl’s situation.

Five more…
Big Hero 6 (vss) Likeable but surprisingly dark animation about a boy and his inflatable robot/superhero pal.
The Emperor’s New Clothes (vss) Russell Brand puts the world to rights in this Michael Winterbottom-directed documentary.
Before Midnight (Amazon Prime Instant Video, from Thursday) Third instalment of director Richard Linklater’s ongoing relationship drama starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
The Devil’s Advocate (Amazon Prime Instant Video, from Thursday) Al Pacino is on top scenery-chewing form as the Devil himself in this blackly comic melodrama.

Timbuktu (vss, from Friday) Muslim director Abderrahmane Sissako’s powerful, Oscar-nominated drama tackles life under religious fundamentalism. Also in cinemas.

TERRESTRIAL: I haven’t seen Jagged Edge (Wednesday, 23:45, BBC1) for years but it’s a film I had enormous affection for when it was first released in 1985. You’ll already know the ’80s and early ’90s were synonymous with implausibly overblown thrillers (Fatal Attraction, Body Heat, Sea of Love, Basic Instinct, Someone to Watch over Me) and this is about as implausible, overblown and thrilling as it gets. Glenn Close is Teddy Barnes, a former criminal lawyer who returns to action to defend Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges), a man suspected of murdering his beautiful heiress wife with a serrated knife (hence the title). Of course, the two commence a passionate affair despite the fact slippery Jack’s innocence is in doubt. Director Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi) lets the is-he-or-isn’t-he question bubble away nicely as the tension inside and outside the courtroom builds and builds, before clipping you round the ear with an impressively-worked twist that you see coming but has you perched on the edge of your seat nonetheless. 

Five more…
Avengers Assemble (20:00, today, BBC1) Tom Hiddleston’s charismatic villain Loki steals the show in Joss Whedon’s hugely entertaining superhero blockbuster.
Seven Psychopaths (22:00, Thursday, Channel 4) Passable black comedy from In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh, starring Colin Farrell as a struggling screenwriter.
Rear Window (15:10, Saturday, BBC2) Alfred Hitchcock’s sublime and much-imitated thriller, starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly.
Shutter Island (21:00, Sunday, Channel 4) Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio in a mysterious melodrama.
Frost/Nixon (23:00, Sunday, BBC2) Michael Sheen and Frank Langella re-enact the famous post-Watergate interviews conducted by David Frost with disgraced US President Richard Nixon.

CABLE & SATELLITE: When it opened back in 2008, people's main problem with found-footage monster movie Cloverfield (00:25, Friday, Film4) was that they couldn't empathise with its cast of victims, all good-looking Manhattan yuppie types. As the titular beast fetched up in New York to rain down death and destruction, filmgoers simply didn’t give a hoot about gorgeous Beth (Odette Yustman), ambitious Rob (Michael Stahl-David) or any of their ghastly loft-dwelling pals either. Personally, I think they were reading the film completely wrong. They weren’t supposed to care about the yuppies because it’s the titular monster that is the hero of the story, self-absorbed couple Beth and Rob the villains in urgent need of the kind of corrective only a skyscraper-sized monkey/scorpion thing can provide. Once you view it in those terms – as a sort of creature feature with added class war – Matt Reeves’ picture is an absolute blast. (I’m sure the film was meant to be a 9/11 analogy but, even in 2008, that was a hackneyed approach and just seems even more so seven years later). There are a couple of other reasons to love Cloverfield. The fact Reeves keeps the creature under wraps for so long. You don’t see the bizarre beastie in all its glory until well into the film and it’s definitely worth the wait. And there’s also a clever idea involving Doberman-sized parasites that live on Cloverfield and end up having a little human-terrorising mini-adventure of their own. Now, whatever happened to that sequel? 

Five more…
We Need to Talk About Kevin (21:00, Tuesday, BBC4)
Tilda Swinton is at the height of her powers in Lynne Ramsey’s unsubtle but powerful family drama.
Warm Bodies (21:00, Wednesday, Film4) Nicholas Hoult stars in a charming zombie rom-com.
Apocalypse Now (23:15, Wednesday, ITV4) Francis Ford Coppola’s psychedelic war movie from 1979 still stands the test of time. 

Oculus (07:50 and 22:00, Sky Movies Premiere, from Friday) Karen ‘Amy Pond’ Gillan battles a haunted mirror armed only with an unconvincing American accent.
Dune (21:00, Horror Channel, Friday) David Lynch's Marmite adaptation of Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic featuring Sting in his pants.

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Cloverfield begins at 00:25 - technically Saturday morning - but is still part of Friday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.

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