Monday 8 June 2015

TV Movie Picks (UK): Monday, June 8 - Sunday, June 14

VIEW ON DEMAND (VOD): Having watched the trailer for Inherent Vice (Various Streaming Services), you might have been somewhat taken aback by the film itself. For what seemed a laugh-a-minute madcap comedy full of pratfalls in the highlights package was a woozy, sprawling, slow-burning, pot-head noir in Paul Thomas Anderson's finished picture. This seemed to infuriate some punters who took to Twitter to report they'd left halfway through a movie they'd found "interminable" and "pretentious". However, like all of Anderson's films, it improves on a second or third viewing, even though the plot itself remains somewhat hard to precisely pin down. Set in Los Angeles, in 1970, Joaquin Phoenix is Larry "Doc" Sportello, a private investigator tasked by old flame Shasta (Katherine Waterston) to help foil a plot to have her current lover - a real-estate bigwig named Mickey Wolfmann - committed to a mental institution. Things grow more complicated when Wolfmann and Shasta disappear and Sportello once again becomes the target of an old nemesis: LAPD Detective Christian F "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (played with bullying zeal by Josh Brolin). It seems simple but trust me when I say it isn't. This being based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, there are all kinds of tangents and detours to explore before the film reaches any kind of resolution. Just let yourself go with it, though, and there's lots to admire, particularly the performances of a terrific cast, Anderson's gimlet eye for period detail, and a downbeat death-of-the-sixties vibe.

Five more...
Jauja (vss) Gorgeous-looking, hallucinatory "western" set in 19th Century Argentina about a Danish army captain (Viggo Mortensen) searching for his missing teenage daughter. One of those films that leaves an indelible impression on you (full review by me here).
Kajaki (vss) Gripping war thriller about a group of Paras becoming trapped in a mine field whilst on patrol in Afghanistan.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (vss) Uproariously entertaining spy flick, that celebrates and satirises all things Bond. Colin Firth is superb as the super-suave secret agent training a new recruit.
Tusk (vss) Kevin Smith's bizarre horror/comedy has to be seen to be believed. Enormous fun featuring Johnny Depp in one of the oddest cameos you'll ever see.
The Wizard of Oz (Amazon Prime, from Thursday) It's all about feminism, atheism and, um, American Monetary Policy, apparently.

CABLE & SATELLITE: Aubrey Plaza (Life After Beth, Parks & Recreation) is such an accomplished comic actor that she almost made Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever worth a look. In oddball indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed (22:45, Tuesday, Film4) she turns the snark down a bit as Darius Britt, an intern at a Seattle magazine investigating a strange classified ad, which reads: "WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED". Smelling a potentially interesting story, Darius - along with two colleagues from the magazine - embarks on a road trip to find the man who placed the ad. They quickly realise it isn't a joke or a scam, and that paranoid supermarket worker Kenneth (Mark Duplass) is deadly serious - he genuinely believes he has built a time machine and plans to use it to visit the past to save the life of an old girlfriend. Director Colin Trevorrow's debut film (his follow-up is an obscure little project called Jurassic World) is a clever romcom spin on Back to the Future and it is not only very funny but utterly charming too. 

Five more...
Race with the Devil (01:50, Tonight, 
Film4) A family camper van holiday goes tits up when Peter Fonda and Warren Oates fall foul of a satanic cult. Same thing happened to me in Cromer a couple of years back.
The Cruel Sea (16:20, Wednesday, Film4) Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden star in a gripping WWII drama about soldiers aboard a British convoy escort ship.
As Above So Below (09:45 and 22:00, Friday, Sky Movies Premiere) Found-footage horror set in the Paris catacombs. (22:55, Friday, Film4) Emma Roberts and Tamsin Egerton star in writer/co-director Noel Clarke's likeable and breathless female-centric crime drama.
Money Train (23:10, Friday, TCM) Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes are New York cops plotting to rob the titular train in this slight but fun buddy comedy/drama.

TERRESTRIAL: Whatever happened to Paul Verhoeven, the talented and subversive Dutch director who bestrode '80s and early-'90s cinema like a colossus with films such as Robocop, Basic Instinct, and Total Recall (22:40, Friday, ITV)? I'd got it into my head he'd been laughed out of Hollywood following the critical mauling meted out to 1995's kitsch and seedy Showgirls but that turned out to be a false memory (rather fitting as we shall see). In fact, the filmmaker was back on top form just two years later with the underrated sci-fi satire Starship Troopers, and directed Kevin Bacon in the big-budget Hollow Man at the turn of the century. But maybe 20 years in La La Land were enough as Verhoeven returned to his native Holland soon after, from where he gave us 2006's Black Book. He's 76 now and further films seem increasingly unlikely but Total Recall remains a beautifully-realised and hugely-imaginative slice of SF. Based on the Philip K Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid, a man travelling to Mars to lead a revolt against a corrupt regime – or, thanks to false, implanted memories – he could be dreaming the whole thing. It's certainly one of the very best Dick adaptations and the jaw-dropping special effects – courtesy of Rob Bottin and his team – deservedly won an Oscar. I still haven't seen 2012's remake/reimagining/reboot (or whatever the hell it was) and have no plans to do so. 

Five more...
Carry on Screaming! (23:40, Tonight, 
ITV) Fenella Fielding and Kenneth Williams are on top form in this inventive and amusing horror-flavoured outing from 1966. Frying tonight!
Reign of Fire (23:20, Tuesday,  BBC1) Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey battle dragons in this future-set fantasy.
In Our Name (23:00, Friday, BBC2) The excellent Joanne Froggatt is a British soldier haunted by the death of an Iraqi child in a powerful drama.
Rebecca (14:40, Saturday, BBC2) Alfred Hitchcock directs and Laurence Olivier stars in this creepily atmospheric adaptation of Daphne de Maurier's novel. 
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (19:00, Saturday, ITV) First part of Peter Jackson's interminable - but sporadically enjoyable - adaptation of JRR Tolkien's novel.

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Race with the Devil begins at 01:50 - technically Tuesday morning - but is still part of Monday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.

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