Monday 7 December 2015

Home Comforts: The best in TV, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray (week beginning Monday, December 7)

10 films in a variety of formats to check out in the coming week, including Jason And The Argonauts (pictured below)...

1. Mistress America 
The Frances Ha team of Noah Baumbach (co-writer/director) and Greta Gerwig (co-writer/star) reunite for a witty comedy that perfectly balances screwball elements with a more melancholic edge speaking to failure and betrayal. Lola Kirke (who you may remember from Gone Girl) is Tracy, a lonely college fresher taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Gerwig). The older woman is impetuous, adventurous and appears to have the world at her feet. But it doesn't take Tracy long before she realises Brooke's schemes for success and world domination are little more than pipe dreams and that she is going nowhere fast. With its Manhattan setting, scattershot dialogue, and moments of pure farce, Mistress America owes more than a little to Woody Allen which is never a bad thing. 

2. The Gift
(DVD, Blu-ray and VOD)
Joel Edgerton - last seen in Black Mass - writes, stars in and directs a powerful psychological thriller featuring Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as a married couple whose relationship is threatened when Gordo (Edgerton), a mysterious figure from the husband's high school days pops back up after 20 years. He starts showering them with gifts and eventually brings to light a terrible secret. The ending has divided audiences but, in a year when edge-of-your-seat thrillers have been in short supply, this is well worth your time and money.

3. Grizzly Man 
Werner Herzog (Aguirre The Wrath Of God, Fitzcarraldo) writes, narrates and directs a head-spinning documentary chronicling the life and death of amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell, who every summer for 13 years travelled to the Alaskan wilderness to live with and film the creatures. Suffice to say, things ultimately go south both for 'kind warrior' Treadwell and his partner, Amie, when they become lunch for one of the bears. A remarkable film about hubris, obsessiveness and madness.

4. The Wizard Of Oz
(Amazon Prime Video, from Thursday)
5. Jason And The Argonauts 
(Sunday, BBC2, 13:00)
Two classics from the Hollywood vaults that despite not being Christmas films per se have nevertheless become hardy holiday perennials. The Wizard Of Oz - from 1939 - is the beloved musical starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, a young girl swept up by a tornado and deposited in the magical land of Oz. Apparently, 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' was almost cut from the movie because MGM studio execs thought the Kansas sequence went on too long. Jason And The Argonauts - from 1963 - is rightfully most famous for Ray Harryhausen's fantastic special effects. This is said to be Harryhausen's favourite of the movies he worked on - the skeleton army scene alone took him four months to complete.

6. Batman Returns
(Tuesday, Sky Christmas, 21:30)
Tim Burton's sequel to Batman sees villains The Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) take centre stage in a Christmas tale so dark and twisted it makes Bad Santa look like Miracle On 34th Street. Director Burton expertly marries the gritty action and atmosphere of Frank Miller's Dark Knight comics to the surreal silliness of the '60s TV show to serve up a strange and disturbing noirish treat in which Michael Keaton's titular character is almost a guest star in his own movie. Christopher who?

7. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
(DVD, Blu-ray and VOD)
Guy Ritchie's reboot of the 1960s TV spy show took a kicking at the box office but is actually an enjoyable - if somewhat predictable - Cold War action flick. Henry 'Superman' Cavill, Armie 'Lone Ranger' Hammer and the ubiquitous Alicia Vikander star as the CIA/KGB secret-agent team battling a mysterious criminal organisation to prevent a nuclear device falling into the wrong hands. The direction's stylish, the script perfectly serviceable, the actors have genuine chemistry and a couple of the action scenes are real crackers. Obviously, everyone hated it...

8. The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water
(from Friday, Sky Movies Premiere, 11:45 and 18:15)
Gloriously surreal kids' movie featuring Spongebob, Squidward, Patrick and the rest of the Bikini Bottom gang venturing onto dry land to battle Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas), a diabolical pirate who has stolen the secret Krabby Patty recipe. Toast Of London star Matt Berry pops up as Bubbles, the dolphin protector of the galaxy.

9. Trainwreck
(DVD, Blu-ray and VOD)
Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, This Is 40) directs American comedian Amy Schumer's big screen debut as writer and star. A surprisingly traditional romantic comedy (Bill Hader's dorky sports injury doctor is the object of journalist Amy's affections), it has its moments but never comes close to matching the good honest filth of her stand-up or the inventiveness of the excellent Inside Amy Schumer TV show. Look out for Tilda Swinton as a foul-mouthed magazine editor - it's quite a transformation.

10. Future Shock! The Story Of 2000AD
As the self-styled Galaxy's Greatest Comic fast approaches its 40th anniversary in 2017, Paul Goodwin's documentary tells the tale of its origins in 1970s Britain and chronicles the influential and subversive publication's highs and lows over the last four decades. Talking heads such as actor Karl Urban and writer Neil Gaiman attempt to explain the enduring appeal of characters such as Judge Dredd (played by Urban in the movie Dredd), Nemesis The Warlock and Rogue Trooper. The bargain-priced DVD comes complete with PDF comics offering an introduction to 2000AD and its characters.

And one to avoid...
(DVD, Blu-ray and VOD)
A decent premise and some dazzling special effects are undermined by a terrible script and cringe-making performances from Josh Gadd and Peter Dinklage. Somehow, Adam Sandler is one of the least objectionable things about it.


  1. I was disappointed by Trainwreck. I think it wanted to be a comedy about alcoholism but someone somewhere chickened out and we got something much more bland and directionless. It was enjoyable enough, but I felt that it could have been great if it had a bit more courage.

  2. The first half of Trainwreck is Amy Schumer lite, the second half is like something cut and pasted from a Sandra Bullock film. I think it was an attempt to launch Schumer into the mainstream and it certainly seems to have worked. Unfortunately, it smoothed off a lot of her hard edges along the way. It was like a film about a 'ladette' 20 years after the UK had beaten that particular phenomenon into the ground.