Monday 3 August 2015

Home Comforts: The best in TV, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray (Monday August 3 - Sunday August 9)

Film of the week #1
White God
(DVD and Various Streaming Services)

How best to describe this Hungarian film which won the Un Certain Regard prize in Cannes last year? Rise of the Planet of the Apes with dogs? Cujo 2: This Time He's Brought His Mates? Marley and Me: Revolution? However you choose to look at it, Kornél Mundruczó's movie is a powerful, moving and visceral piece of work; part apocalyptic horror, part political allegory.

When the state announces a crackdown on mixed breed dogs - owners have to pay a fee to keep them - it isn't long before 13-year-old Lili's callous father puts her own pet mongrel, Hagen, out on the streets. Lili scours the area for her beloved pet with no success while the poor mutt encounters the very worst humanity has to offer. Eventually, turned feral by the constant mistreatment, he leads dogs from the local pound in an all-out assault on those who terrorised and betrayed him. But what will happen when, during this million mutt march, Hagen and his army of strays encounter Lili and her father?

Of course, White God isn't really about dogs at all - it's about capitalism and exploitation; the way the poor and desperate are treated by the powerful and wealthy. You could say it was a Marxist film, one that predicts bloody revolution as a direct consequence of the historic struggle between the haves and have-nots. That said, you don't have to view Mundruczó's film through a socialist lens to enjoy it. It works just as well as a revenge thriller or even a coming-of-age story about a spirited young girl learning to deal with loss. Zsófia Psotta is superb as Lili - a perfect study in adolescent confusion and heartbreak, but it's the dogs themselves that linger longest in the memory. 

Director Mundruczó eschewed the use of CGI which is astounding when you consider the film contains scenes of dog fighting, a 250-strong canine rampage through the streets of Budapest and an extraordinary, heart-in-mouth sequence in which Hagen (played by two separate dogs in the film) attempts to cross a busy highway. It's an amazing achievement in a film destined to be one of the year's very best.

Rating: WWWW

Film of the week #2
(23:30, from Friday, Sky Movies Premiere)
Jake Gyllenhaal (currently starring in the disappointing Southpaw) plays two roles in this bleak, surreal and rather impenetrable film from director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, the forthcoming Sicario). He’s Adam, a gloomy history lecturer who we first see in a depraved sex club, and Anthony, a philandering bit-part actor with a heavily-pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon).

After spotting Anthony in a DVD and recognising him as his spitting image, Adam initiates contact between the pair. And it’s at that point things get truly interesting. Fascination and suspicion quickly turn to jealousy, rivalry and ultimately outright hostility, with the two women in their lives little more than sexual pawns in a macho pissing contest. All that would be fascinating enough but you soon get the impression all is not as it seems in this adaptation of Jose Saramago’s 2002 novel, The Double. Are Adam and Anthony the same person warring for control of a mind in turmoil? Could they be twins, or do they just share the same mother (Blue Velvet’s Isabella Rosellini in the briefest of cameos)? And, um, what’s with all the giant spiders? The answers are left tantalisingly just out of reach but trying to work it all out is a big part of the film’s puzzle-box charm.

Enemy wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does if not for Gyllenhaal. His unsettling, creepy performance as the appalling Lou Bloom helped make Nightcrawler one of 2014’s best films, and he’s no less impressive here. A shambling, self-loathing mess as Adam, a flashy little wannabe as Anthony – I didn’t even think to look for the special effects “joins” in the characters' shared scenes because Gyllenhaal had me convinced I was watching two separate actors. In time, Enemy may well go down as one of the great doppelganger movies (my favourites are Dead Ringers and Adaptation). Right now, it’s a must-see for anyone with a yen for the challenging and bizarre.

Rating: WWW

View on Demand highlights...
(from today unless otherwise stated)
The Grandmaster (Netflix UK) Wong Kar-Wai's biopic of Ip Man, the martial arts legend who taught Bruce Lee. Unfortunately, this is the notoriously ham-fisted US edit of the movie.
Good Kill (Various Streaming Services, plus DVD/Blu-ray) Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) is a disillusioned drone pilot battling terrorists in Afghanistan from the comfort of his Las Vegas base. Effective political thriller. Trailer below

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water (VSS, plus DVD/Blu-ray) Imaginative, demented and frequently hilarious tale of Spongebob, Squidward and the gang. Look out for Matt Berry (Toast of London) as Bubbles the Dolphin.
Hyena (Netflix UK, from Thursday) Brutal and occasionally brilliant British police corruption drama, starring Peter Ferdinando as the crooked London officer up to his neck in trouble.
Inception (Amazon Prime Instant Video, from Saturday) Christopher Nolan's clever but head-spinning dream adventure starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy.

DVD and Blu-ray highlights...
Cub (DVD) 
A swift home-viewing release for this gory but uneven Belgian horror which only debuted in cinemas last Friday.
Blast (DVD and Blu-ray) Rutger Hauer (Blade RunnerThe Hitcher) dukes it out with terrorists holding the US Olympic swimming team hostage in an odd action thriller from 1997.
Killing Zoe (DVD and Blu-ray) Eric Stoltz and Julie Delpy star in a fully restored Tarantino-esque crime thriller from 1993. Nihilism was all the rage back then, apparently. Trailer below

Nekromantik (Dual format Blu-ray/DVD) Extras-packed special edition of Jörg Buttgereit's revolting horror flick about a love triangle between a boy, a girl and a putrefying corpse.
Woman in Gold (DVD and Blu-ray, plus VSS) Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds battle the Austrian government for the return of a priceless Gustav Klimt painting stolen by the Nazis.

Terrestrial highlights...
Then She Found Me (23:35, Tuesday, BBC1) Helen Hunt (The Sessions) directs and stars in a powerful family drama. Bette Midler and Colin Firth co-star. 
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (23:05, Friday, BBC2) Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) is Ian Dury in this excellent biopic of the much missed rock star. Trailer below

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (23:15, Friday, BBC1) Kenneth Branagh's critically-mauled take on the famous novel stars Robert De Niro as the Monster.
The Bourne Identity (21:00, Saturday, ITV) Sharp-as-a-tack spy thriller starring Matt Damon as amnesiac secret agent Jason Bourne. 
Life of Pi (21:00, Sunday, Channel 4) A boy and a Bengal tiger – the only survivors of a ship wreck – develop a bond in this epic adventure, directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain).

Cable and Satellite highlights...
Iron Man (21:00, Tonight, Film4)
Robert Downey Jr is perfectly cast as billionaire genius/egomaniac/superhero Tony Stark in a movie Marvel are yet to top.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (21:00, Tuesday, Horror Channel) Eight years after supposedly being destroyed by his nemesis, Van Helsing, the titular Count (Christopher Lee) returns.
Breaking the Waves (21:00, Thursday, Sky Arts) Has Lars von Trier ever made a drama that wasn't controversial? This one stars Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard, and is very good indeed. Trailer below

Midnight Run (22:35, Thursday, ITV4) Charles Grodin is the accountant on the run from the Mob, Robert De Niro the bounty hunter hired to bring him back in an hilariously sweary road movie.
Clockwise (00:10, Friday, ITV3) All-but-forgotten John Cleese comedy in which he plays a fastidious headmaster up shit creek without a paddle after missing his train to a conference.

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Clockwise begins at 00:10 - 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


  1. I will never forget Clockwise because there was a period, in my younger days, when I seemed to be watching it once a month. I don't know why, maybe it was on TV a lot.

    1. Apart from the premise and the fact Cleese was in full-on Basil Fawlty mode, I can't remember anything about it. Must set the recorder so I can see it again - probably for the first time since 1986!