Monday 20 July 2015

Home Comforts: The best in TV, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray (Monday July 20 - Sunday July 26)

Pacific Rim 
(Amazon Prime Instant Video, from Saturday)
This monsters v giant 'robots' battle-fest isn’t in the same league as director Guillermo del Toro’s best films – the haunting and heartbreaking Devil’s Backbone or the simply magnificent Pan’s Labyrinth. But, judged on its own terms, Pacific Rim is a hugely enjoyable slab of purest hokum and a fine addition to the monster movie canon. 

The plot couldn’t be simpler: enormous and highly destructive creatures known as Kaiju are slipping from their home dimension into ours and laying waste to the entire planet. The last line of defence are the Jaegers – equally colossal battle suits, each one piloted by a two-person team telepathically linked to one another. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is the former Jaeger pilot called out of retirement for one final, desperate showdown with the marauding beasts.

When it comes to the Kaiju v Jaeger punch-ups, Pacific Rim certainly doesn’t disappoint and the action is breathtaking throughout, while the monsters themselves turn out to be a lot more intriguing and complicated than it first appears. Del Toro and his team do a fine job with the world building, too, particularly in the scenes featuring Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), a procurer and black-market seller of Kaiju organs and body parts.    

Yes, some of the dialogue is clunky and the performances a little broad (I’m looking at you, Idris Elba) but surely such things are both necessary and obligatory in what is, at heart, a good old-fashioned monster movie.

Rating: WWW

(DVD, also on View on Demand)
When I was 26 years old I’d just about mastered getting out of bed before noon and putting my shoes on the right feet. By the time he’d turned 26, French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan had already made five movies, including Mommy which is easily his best yet. The film charts the fraught relationship between feisty, middle-aged widow Diane ‘Die’ Després (Anne Dorval) and her violent, ADHD-afflicted 15-year-old son, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon). In the middle of it all, trying to keep the peace, is Kyla (Suzanne Clément), their neighbour and friend who has quite enough troubles of her own. The performances are uniformly superb, the writing evocative and beautifully observed. You quickly come to care for all three of these characters so vividly are they brought to life, even Steve who is difficult to like never mind love. It’s incredibly melodramatic and probably 20 minutes too long, but Dolan’s decision to film in 1:1 aspect, as if on a mobile phone, works surprisingly well. What better way of showing the narrow horizons these characters must battle every day?

Rating: WWW

(01:05, Wednesday, Film4)
Maidan is a fascinating documentary chronicling the Ukrainian uprising of 2013/14 against pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. The demonstrations – often half-a-million strong – start off peacefully with people occupying Maidan Square in the centre of capital Kiev. There is a communal atmosphere almost like at a music festival as volunteers make food, entertainers do their thing on stage and a variety of activists give speeches demanding closer links with the European Union. But as Yanukovych’s position becomes more intransigent and aggressive, the mood darkens and suddenly the pop music and poetry readings give way to bloody street battles between demonstrators and riot police. Beyond a few captions here and there, director Sergei Loznitsa deliberately doesn’t provide much context for what is going on – there are no talking heads or voiceovers to tell us what is happening and why. At times, it’s almost like watching the whole thing on CCTV – distant and eerie. Some critics and commentators have found this problematic but I’m not sure how spoon-feeding your audience ‘characters’ and ‘storylines’ would have made Maidan any better. The footage shows what it shows – the state responding to the demands of its people with bloody violence and those people (a veritable army of perfectly ordinary Ukrainians) refusing to be cowed. Stirring, inspiring stuff.

Rating: WWW

Streaming and View on Demand highlights
(films available from today unless otherwise stated)...
Home (VSS, also DVD/Blu-ray) Likeable alien-flavoured kids’ animation featuring the vocal talents of Jim Parsons (Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory) and pop star Rihanna.
The Gunman (VSS, also on DVD/Blu-ray) Sean Penn does a Liam Neeson and tries to reinvent himself as an all-action badass. Wolf Hall’s Mark Rylance looks embarrassed by the entire thing. Trailer below

Paddington (Amazon Prime Instant Video, from Thursday) Surprisingly loveable adaptation of the famous children's books starring Ben Whishaw as the titular talking ursine. Just in time for the summer holidays!
The World's End (Netflix UK, from Saturday) The final part of Edgar Wright's so-called Cornetto trilogy sees the director riffing on 
John Wyndham and Nigel Kneale, not always successfully. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star.
Suite Francaise (VSS) WWII love story between a German soldier and a French villager. Boasts a fantastic cast: Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas, Margot Robbie, Ruth Wilson and Sam Riley.

DVD and Blu-ray highlights...
Accidental Love (DVD) Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel star in a political satire long ago disowned by its original director David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle).
Housebound (DVD) A criminal teen under house arrest battles supernatural forces in this Kiwi comedy-horror. 
The Third Man (DVD/Blu-ray) Beautiful 4K restoration of Carol Reed’s noir classic, starring Orson Welles. Named the best British film of all time in a BFI poll. Trailer below

The Face of an Angel (DVD/Blu-ray, also on VOD) British director Michael Winterbottom takes on the Meredith Kercher murder case with rather mixed results.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Blu-ray) Bonkers 80s sci-fi which sees the titular neurosurgeon/rock star/superhero battle inter-dimensional aliens. 

Cable and Satellite highlights...
Half Nelson (01:15, tonight, Film4) Junkie teacher Ryan Gosling befriends one of his students in a powerful – and refreshingly unsentimental – drama.
The Departed (22:00, Tuesday, Sky1) Martin Scorsese’s remake of the Hong Kong crime classic Infernal Affairs boasts an A-list cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon – and four Oscars.
Coogan’s Bluff (23:15, Tuesday, ITV4) Clint Eastwood stars in an action-packed police drama from 1968. It’s a kind of dress rehearsal for Dirty Harry, which came along three years later. Trailer below

Blackfish (21:55, Wednesday, BBC4) Disturbing documentary looking at the sometimes awful consequences keeping Orcas in captivity can have both for them and the humans they have been known to attack and kill.
Planet Terror (00:30, Friday, Horror Channel) The words “Rose McGowan has a machine gun for a leg” should be all the incentive you need to watch this Robert Rodriguez-directed Grindhouse homage.

Terrestrial highlights...
Next (22:55, tonight, Channel 5) Nicolas Cage can see two minutes into the future in this limp adaptation of Philip K Dick novella The Golden Man.
Good Morning, Vietnam (23:40, Friday, Channel 4) The late Robin Williams on top form as an Armed Forces Radio DJ cheering up the troops and pissing off the brass. Trailer below

Despicable Me (19:00, Saturday, ITV) The first – and funniest – of the three movies featuring the Minions and Gru.
Pitch Perfect (21:00, Saturday, Channel 4) Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson sing up a storm in a genuinely amusing musical comedy.
Adventureland (23:20, Sunday, BBC 2) Lex Luthor Jesse Eisenberg plays a down-on-his-luck college graduate forced to work at a decrepit local theme park in this ’80s-set drama. Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig co-star.

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Planet Terror begins at 00:30 - technically Saturday morning - but is still part of Friday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.


WWWW = Wonderful
WWW = Worthy
WW = Watchable
W = Woeful

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