Monday 31 August 2015

Home Comforts: The best in TV, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray (Monday August 31 - Sunday September 6)

(15:45 and 20:00, from Friday, Sky Movies Premiere)

It's difficult to talk about a film whose politics you agree with totally. Do you like it because it's a fine movie or because it confirms your beliefs and prejudices? As a mere whippersnapper of 18, I marched in support of the miners during the year-long strike of 1984/85 against massive pit closures, and honestly believe the moment they lost set the UK onto the dispiritingly venal path it has trod ever since. Thankfully, whilst Pride is an unabashedly left-wing movie, I'm fairly sure it's also a very good one - laugh-out-loud funny script, terrific performances from a great cast and, if my sniffing and sniveling through pretty much the entire second half is anything to go by, an incredibly moving one too.

Director Matthew Warchus's film tells the true story of the unlikely alliance between a London-based group of gay activists and a mining community from a Welsh village fighting the closure of their coal pit. In the early 1980s gay people and trade unionists, including the National Union of Mineworkers, were both under direct assault from Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, but any alliance between the groups would have seemed unlikely. Macho working class pit villages were hardly gay-friendly while the gay community themselves were rightfully mistrustful of politics of any stripe (back then you could still find supposed socialists who dismissed homosexuality as a 'bourgeois deviation'). 

But activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) - a Northern Irishman living in Bromley - believed the two camps not only had a lot in common but would be stronger if they stood together. He and his friends (played here by the starry likes of Andrew Scott, Joe Gilgun and Dominic West) begun to raise funds for the miners and, although their efforts were initially rebuffed, they eventually found a branch of the NUM (including the even starrier likes of Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton) prepared to receive both the activists and the cash they had raised. And it's that relationship - at first fraught but eventually growing into one of mutual trust, respect and genuine affection - that forms the crux of the movie.   

When I first heard about Pride, I was worried it was going to be twee and patronising – a Richard Curtis-style take on the miners' struggle with all the difficult, political stuff taken out. I needn't have worried; whilst Matthew Beresford’s script is keen to accentuate the positive aspects of the strike (the solidarity, the community, and how those things helped ameliorate a parlous situation) it doesn't duck the difficult bits (the appalling behaviour of the police and the media, as well as the straight-no-chaser nastiness of Thatcher and her droogs). It also manages to be extraordinarily uplifting and frequently hilarious; West (The Wire's Jimmy McNulty), tearing up the dancefloor to 'Shame, Shame, Shame' by Shirley and Company, surely being one of last year's very best film moments. 

Rating: WWWW

View On Demand/Streaming highlights...
(available now unless otherwise stated)
Body (Various Streaming Services) A night out tuns nasty when three girls break into a seemingly empty mansion in this US horror fresh from FrightFest.
The Confessions of Thomas Quick (VSS) Only in cinemas a couple of weeks ago, this Swedish serial killer docu-drama packs a big twist.
Top Five (VSS) Chris Rock's latest attempt to turn his brilliant stand-up into movie gold. Here he stars as a successful comedian trying to make it as a serious actor. Rosario Dawson co-stars.
Far From The Madding Crowd (VSS) Director Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) adapts Thomas Hardy's beloved novel. Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen and Matthias Schoenaerts star. Trailer below

Time is Illmatic (Netflix, from Friday) Feature-length documentary chronicling the making of rap star Nas's 1994 debut album, 'Illmatic'.

Blu-ray highlights...
The Decline of Western Civilization Collection (DVD/Blu-ray) Penelope Spheeris' much-celebrated hat-trick of music documentaries in a four-disc, extras-packed deluxe box-set. 
Medium Cool (Blu-ray) Haskell Wexler's underrated 'New Hollywood' classic about a fearless TV news reporter (Robert Forster) gets a 1080p upgrade and a big bunch of extras. Trailer below

Phoenix (DVD/Blu-ray) Superb post-WWII drama about a Holocaust survivor (Nina Hoss) returning to Berlin after undergoing reconstructive surgery on her face. She's searching for her husband - the man she's been told sold her out to the Nazis.
Robbery (DVD/Blu-ray) Meticulously researched drama based on the Great Train Robbery starring Stanley Baker. The Blu-ray boasts a brand-new High Definition restoration of the original film, plus a big bunch of extras.
The Night Has Eyes (DVD) A youthful James Mason stars as a former pianist traumatised by his experiences in the Spanish Civil War in an atmospheric British thriller from 1942.

Terrestrial highlights...
The Golden Dream (01:40, tonight, Channel 4) This deeply-effecting migrant drama from Guatemala was one of last year's very best foreign-language films. Bearing in mind the situation at Calais and beyond, its showing is also very timely.
Milk (23:05, Friday, BBC2) Sean Penn deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of inspirational gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the first 'out' man to hold political office in California.
Boyz N the Hood (23:10, Saturday, BBC2) Violent but heart-breaking ghetto gang drama starring rap superstar – and former member of NWA – Ice Cube. The same Ice Cube who went on to appear in Are We There Yet? And it's sequel Are We Done Yet? And the Are We There Yet? TV show. Sad. Trailer below

The Double (00:15, Saturday, Channel 4) Jesse Eisenberg plays doppelgangers – one painful introvert, one monstrous extrovert – in Richard Ayoade's loose adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novella of the same name.
Superman II (17:25, Sunday, Channel 5) Christopher Reeve battles General Zod and his evil Kryptonian pals in a hugely enjoyable superhero adventure. I was going to say something rude about Zack Snyder at this point but really can't be arsed.

Cable and Satellite highlights...
The Titfield Thunderbolt (22:00, Tuesday, BBC4) Classic Ealing comedy about a community trying to save its local railway from closure. Stanley Holloway stars.
Nosferatu The Vampyre (01:45, Tuesday, Film4) Werner Herzog's arthouse homage to FW Murneau's original Nosferatu from 1922. It stars Klaus Kinski as the titular bloodsucker. Trailer below

Modern Times (22:00, Thursday, Sky Arts) Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp battles the machine age – and the coming of the 'talkies' – in his final silent film (which nevertheless contains sound effects).   
The Sixth Sense (23:05, Friday, Film4) M Night Shyamalan's film boasts one of the finest twists in cinema history (I speak as someone who genuinely didn't see it coming).
The Man With Two Brains (23:00, Saturday, Gold) Steve Martin's finest film never fails to make me laugh no matter how many times I've seen it. "Into the mud, Scum Queen!"

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Nosferatu The Vampyre begins at 01:45 - technically Wednesday morning - but is still part of Tuesday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.


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

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