Monday 10 August 2015

Home Comforts: The best in TV, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray (Monday August 10 - Sunday August 16)

Film of the Week
Les Combattants
(Various Streaming Services, also on DVD)

You’d be hard pressed to find a more unusual or satisfying modern love story than the one contained in this sweet, funny, clever and occasionally spiky French film from debutant director Thomas Cailley.

Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) is bored, restless and unfulfilled, and life as a carpenter in a small coastal town isn’t helping any. Escape arrives in the form of Madeleine (Adèle Haenel), a feisty, serious but peculiar young woman convinced some terrible environmental apocalypse is waiting in the wings for which she must be ready. To improve her survival skills, Madeleine signs up for a two-week army boot camp and the smitten Arnaud tags along. Neither is truly prepared for what awaits them there…

Les Combattants (The Fighters) scooped three César awards (the French Oscars) including Best Actress for Haenel (beating Juliette Binoche and Marion Cotillard), and the 26-year-old is really the heart of Cailley’s film. Madeleine’s deadpan seriousness provides Les Combattants’ biggest laughs (swimming with heavy roofing tiles in a backpack, drinking a raw fish she has just put through a blender) while her slow acceptance that maybe she’s not quite as tough as she thinks is one of the film’s many revelatory moments.

Cailley is keen to subvert hackneyed movie gender roles and it’s refreshing to see a young woman as the more mentally and physically robust partner in a relationship, her would-be paramour the sensitive, easy-going one following along just for the chance to spend time with her. Towards the end, when the merde hits the fan and the pair’s lives are threatened by a forest fire, the roles revert to something a little more traditional but even that makes sense in terms of these characters’ development over the course of the narrative.

The film was marketed as a romcom when it hit cinemas in this country back in June but that description really doesn’t do it justice. It has far more wit, warmth, vim and vigour than the likes of Man Up or whatever Richard Curtis-aping bit of middle class fluff is clogging up the multiplexes this week. One thing, though; whoever decided to re-title the film Love at First Fight for the US market deserves six months at an army boot camp… at the very least.

Rating: WWW

DVD/Blu-ray highlights...
Charlie Chaplin: The Gold Rush/The Kid/The Circus (Blu-ray)
Three Chaplin classics with more to come later in the month.
Blame It On Rio (Blu-ray) Michael Caine and Demi Moore star in this best-forgotten '80s cheese-fest.
Everly (DVD/Blu-ray) Not even the great Salma Hayek could save this piss-poor piece of Poundland Grindhouse from a critical kicking.  
Glassland (DVD) Harrowing Irish drama about a young taxi driver (Jack Reynor) desperate to help his alcoholic mother (Toni Collette) conquer her addiction. Trailer below

Snow in Paradise (DVD) A 'special edition' release for the frustratingly flawed British crime thriller boasting extras not on the original DVD. 

View on Demand highlights...
(from today unless otherwise stated)
She’s Funny That Way (VSS, also DVD) Rather old-fashioned screwball comedy from Peter Bogdanovich, the director of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston star.
Timbuktu (VSS, also DVD/Blu-ray) Powerful drama chronicling the occupation of the titular Malian city by Jihadists. It's heartbreaking and bleak at times but writer/director Abderrahmane Sissako is skilled enough to mine moments of comedy from his story too. Trailer below

The Water Diviner (VSS, also DVD/Blu-ray) Russell Crowe directs and stars in this controversial tale of an Australian farmer desperately searching for his three missing sons after the end of World War I.
The Babadook (Netflix UK, from Sunday) Superb Aussie horror that expertly mixes an atmosphere of palpable dread with jump-out-of-your-skin scares. One of last year's very best chillers.

The Swimmer (MUBIfrom SundayBurt Lancaster oddity from 1968 in which a mentally-ill man whose life is falling apart decides to “swim home” via the pools of his friends and neighbours.

Terrestrial highlights...
Grosse Point Blank (23:35, Friday, BBC1) John Cusack is the depressed young hitman back in town to attend his high school reunion while trying to make amends with the former girlfriend (Minnie Driver) he stood up on prom night 10 years before. A classic black comedy.
The Dirty Dozen (15:20, Saturday, Channel 5) Lee Marvin leads a group of brutal military prisoners on a suicide mission to attack a chateau packed with Nazis in this terrific WWII action drama. Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland co-star. Trailer below

Smokey and the Bandit (13:35, Sunday, ITV) Burt Reynolds stars in one of those peculiar '70s films about butch men with moustaches and cowboy hats driving really fast whilst being pursued by incompetent lawmen. There were a fair few of them, I seem to recall.
Zero Dark Thirty (21:00, Sunday, Channel 4) Jessica Chastain leads the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow's tense and intelligent thriller. 
We Are What We Are (01:05, Sunday, BBC2) Cannibal horror drama from Mexico full of black comedy, visceral violence and sly social commentary. 

Cable and Satellite highlights...
War Book (22:00, Tuesday, BBC Four) Tense but stagey nuclear war drama starring Sophie Okonedo, Ben Chaplin and Kerry Fox shown to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also in cinemas.
Throne of Blood (01:40, Tuesday, Film4) Akira Kurosawa's stunning adaptation of Macbeth, from 1957 (trailer below). Film 4 is also showing the legendary Japanese director's Seven Samurai this week (23:25, Thursday). 

Melancholia (21:00, Thursday, Sky Arts) Kirsten Dunst stars in Lars von Trier’s extraordinary tale of mental illness and impending apocalypse. One of the maverick Danish director’s very best films.
Bridesmaids (21:00, Friday, Film4) Raucous but smart wedding comedy from director Paul Feig, starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy.
30 Days of Night (23:30, Saturday, ITV4) Underrated adaptation of the Steve Niles/Ben Templesmith vampire graphic novel, starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George. Danny Huston steals the show as the genuinely terrifying bloodsucker-in-chief Marlow.

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. We Are What We Are begins at 01:05 - technically Monday morning - but is still part of Sunday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.


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

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