Monday, 14 September 2015

Home Comforts: The best in TV, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray (Monday September 14 - Sunday September 20)

A Most Violent Year
(Amazon Prime, from Sunday)
An atmospheric, slow-burning drama from director JC Chandor (Margin CallAll is Lost) that somehow makes the business of selling heating oil utterly compelling. Set in New York in 1981 (to that point, statistically, the most violent year in the city’s history), Ex Machina's Oscar Isaac plays immigrant businessman Abel Morales. He is successful and ambitious but lately has seen his drivers assaulted and other parts of his operation under attack, presumably from one or more of his many rivals. Worse still, he is being investigated for tax evasion and price fixing by David Oyelowo’s Assistant District Attorney, while his mob-connected missus (Jessica Chastain on top Lady Macbeth form) is urging him to take robust action against the saboteurs. 

If A Most Violent Year was merely a portrait of a flawed man desperately trying to hang on to his sanity, dignity and humanity in the face of enormous provocation, it would already be a very good film. The fact it offers so much more than that – superb performances, a critique of US capitalism, a vivid recreation of the period, and sumptuously-shot views of wintry New York – is what makes it one of the finest dramas you’re likely to see all year. 

It would have been easy for Chandor – who also wrote the screenplay – to do the predictable thing and turn this into a typical mob drama full of wiseguys trading blows and bullets, but he’s far cannier than that and his film is all the better for it.

Rating: WWWW

DVD and Blu-ray highlights...
Hard To Be A God (DVD/Blu-ray) Long, difficult Russian film about an alien planet stuck permanently in the Middle Ages. Bleak and harrowing, it's a tough but ultimately rewarding watch. 
Zardoz (Blu-ray/DVD) Swanky new 4K restoration of John Boorman's barmy sci-fi flick from 1974. Sean Connery sports thigh-length boots, a pony-tail and red posing pouch throughout. Trailer below

The Dance Of Reality (DVD/Blu-ray) Gloriously bonkers and frequently transgressive autobiographical tale from Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Santa Sangre). Full review here.
James Bond – 23 Film Collection (DVD/Blu-ray) Every 007 film, from Dr No to Skyfall, in a budget-priced box-set (less than 40 quid for the DVD set on Amazon).
9/11 Trilogy Boxset (DVD) Three films from Laura Poitras including CitizenFour, the Oscar-winning documentary chronicling the Edward Snowden affair.

View On Demand/Streaming highlights...
(available now unless otherwise stated)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (various streaming services, plus DVD/Blu-ray) Overstuffed and underwhelming superhero sequel starring James Spader as the eponymous baddie.
Marshland (vss, plus DVD/Blu-ray) Two mismatched detectives chase a serial killer who prays on young women in this atmospheric Spanish thriller.
The New Girlfriend (vss, also DVD) A young woman makes a surprising discovery about the husband of her late best friend in a dark and irreverent comedy/drama from Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women). Trailer below

An Evening With Kevin Smith (Netflix UK, from Wednesday) The filmmaker (Clerks, Mallrats), comic-book writer and raconteur talks about his life and career. 
Beetlejuice (Amazon Prime, from Thursday) Michael Keaton is the titular 'bio-exorcist' in Tim Burton's demented – but still wonderful – dark comedy.

Cable & Satellite highlights...
Man On A Ledge (21:00, Tuesday, Film4) Sam Worthington's ex-cop turned fugitive is the titular 'man' in a passable but silly thriller.
The Krays (21:00, Wednesday, ITV4) Timely showing of Peter Medak's Ronnie and Reggie biopic from 1990. Spandau Ballet pop stars – Martin and Gary Kemp – are surprisingly effective as the criminal twins. Trailer below

Black Sea (16:00 and 20:00, from Friday, Sky Movies Premiere) Gripping action-adventure flick, starring Jude Law as a submarine captain hunting for sunken treasure.
Lovelace (22:40, Friday, Film4) The story of Deep Throat 'star' Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) told twice - once from her perspective and then from that of her scummy ex-husband. 
Lust For A Vampire (23:00, Sunday, Horror Channel) Saucy Hammer horror about a beautiful bloodsucker running amok at a girls' finishing school in Transylvania. Good clean fun.

Terrestrial highlights...
Chocolat (02:00, Wednesday, Channel 4) Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp star in a charming comedy about temptation and tolerance.
Surrogates (23:35, Friday, BBC1) Sci-fi murder mystery set in a future where humans stay at home while 'surrogate' androids go out into the real world and live their lives. Bruce Willis stars. 
Winter's Bone (00:05, Friday, BBC2) Jennifer Lawrence is the dirt-poor young woman trying to keep her family together, hang on to her house and find her missing dad in a cracking drama.
Invictus (22:45, Saturday, ITV) How then-president Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to help unite post-apartheid South Africa. Matt Damon co-stars. 
Down Terrace (23:55, Sunday, BBC2) Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field In England) made his directorial debut with this bleak but blackly funny low-budget crime drama. Trailer below

Please note: Films starting after midnight are always considered part of the previous day's schedule, e.g. Chocolat begins at 02:00 - technically Thursday morning - but is still part of Wednesday's listings. All times in 24-hour clock.


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

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