Monday 4 May 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, May 4 - Sunday, May 10

DIGITAL & SATELLITE: Despite its good reviews and awards I’d never fancied Greek movie Dogtooth (02:00, Tuesday, Film4). I always suspected it would be gratuitously and unpleasantly transgressive; the kind of thing Lars von Trier would bang out at his most obnoxious just to annoy journalists. My feeling wasn’t helped by reports it was inspired by the notorious Josef Fritzl case (it wasn’t) and a Blu-ray box that warned the film contained “incest themes and infrequent real sex”. Not for me then. I only relented after reading about director Yorgos Lanthimos’ next movie – The Lobster – which sounds so crazy and off-the-wall imaginative, I became immediately interested in his other work. It turns out that Dogtooth is terrific – a laugh-out-loud and hugely scabrous satire about the tyranny of the nuclear family and, more generally, the ways in which we are all controlled by those who hold power over us. A wealthy but insanely overprotective father (Christos Stergioglou) lives with his wife and three teenage children but he is the only one ever allowed to leave the confines of their spacious country home. The kids are kept in a state of perpetual ignorance about the outside world with no access to TV, radio or the Internet. They aren’t even allowed to know the correct meanings of certain words (they’re told “zombies” are flowers and that a “pussy” is a large lamp) or that the planes they see soaring through the sky aren’t just plastic toys. This hermetically-sealed environment starts to crumble with the arrival of Christina, a woman from the father’s workplace who he brings in to have sex with his son. However, Christina doesn’t play ball and it isn’t long before her influence is undermining everything the deluded dad holds dear. It’s showing at a truly ungodly time so set your PVR – you won’t be disappointed. 

Five more... 
Frankenstein Created Woman (21:00, Tuesday, Horror Channel) Hammer horror in which Peter Cushing makes Katie Hopkins from the contents of a cesspit and some sticky-back plastic. 
Dead Man's Shoes (23:20, Thursday, Film4) Shane Meadows’ gritty British revenge thriller starring Paddy Considine. 
Fight Club (23:35, Thursday, ITV4) It turns out he was Keyser Soze and his mother was dead all along. 
Sex Tape (14:00 and 20:00, from Friday, Sky Movies PremiereCameron Diaz and thingy from How I Met Your Mother stink up the place in a flat comedy. 
Angel Heart (01:15, Friday, Film4Alan Parker’s smart gothic horror starring Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro.

VIEW ON DEMAND (VOD): There are a couple of big new releases on VOD this week, most notably Birdman which won Best Picture at the Oscars. But I'm going to recommend something a little less well known. Set in 1942 at the height of WWII, Canopy (Various Streaming Services) sees Jim (Khan Chittenden), an Australian fighter pilot, shot down over Singapore. He crash-lands in a dense, forbidding jungle and ends up stuck in the branches of a tree having parachuted out of his plane. He is relatively uninjured but his nightmare hasn't even begun yet. Jim has nowhere to go, few supplies and Japanese soldiers are everywhere. This is a war film with an effective vein of horror running right through it. Writer/director Aaron Wilson is clearly working with a miniscule budget but takes full advantage of the film’s setting to ramp up the tension and give proceedings an oppressive eeriness. Never mind sadistic soldiers, you half expect some monstrous grotesque to pop out of the deep shadows to eat him at any moment. There’s hardly any dialogue and no musical score (the alien sounds of the jungle and distant gunfire more than make up for it) but the film is nevertheless gripping from beginning to end. A short, sharp and powerful piece of work.

Five more...
Unbroken (VSS) Middling prisoner-of-war drama directed by Angelina Jolie and starring Jack O'Connell.
Birdman (VSS) Michael Keaton is superb as a washed-up Hollywood star battling to be taken seriously in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Oscar-winning satire. 

National Gallery (VSS) Acclaimed documentary about London’s National Gallery, which is home to 2,400 paintings. 
The Last Five Years (VSS) I’d happily listen to Anna Kendrick sing the Southend Yellow Pages so shall be all over this musical about a relationship in meltdown.
The Iron Giant (Amazon Prime Instant Video, from Thursday) Classic animation featuring a boy and his big robot pal on the run from the military.

TERRESTRIAL: Admitting you’re a fan of Alien’s sort-of-prequel Prometheus (21:00, Sunday, Channel 4) is like confessing to having a crush on Sarah Palin or a soft spot for Scientology. Not the sort of thing you readily cop to in polite circles without inviting an intellectual pummelling down on your head. But like it I do and whilst readily admitting Ridley Scott’s film isn’t a patch on the first two Alien movies, it’s certainly better than everything that followed, especially those wretched AvP disasters of a few backs back. The world of the Xenomorphs and Engineers is one I find fascinating and I’m always happy to spend time in it, even if the actual story is full of plot-holes and inconsistencies. Besides, Scott’s film – which sees Noomi Rapace’s explorer and Michael Fassbender’s android journeying across the universe to discover the real origins of mankind – imbues the whole franchise with a certain mythic air. It’s grandiose, up its own arse and full of ideas – just the way good sci-fi should be. 

Five more... 
Lord of War (22:55, Tonight, Channel 5) Nicolas Cage is a wealthy arms dealer battling with the morality of his business and a dogged Interpol agent in this decent drama. 
Kinky Boots (22:30, Thursday, BBC2) Winning comedy in which Chiwetel Ejiofor’s flamboyant drag queen comes to the rescue of a family shoe business. 
Vertigo (14:50, Friday, BBC2) Alfred Hitchcock thriller widely regarded as the greatest film ever made (after Maniac Cop, obviously). 
Swingers (Midnight, Friday, BBC1) Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau star in Doug Limon’s sharp Vegas-set comedy. 
The Mothman Prophecies (23:30, Sunday, BBC1) Creepy supernatural thriller starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. 

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