Monday 25 April 2016

Joy, Captain America: Civil War and Son Of Saul: Your Week In Film (Monday April 25-Sunday May 1)

Holocaust drama Son Of Saul opens in UK cinemas on Friday

Next Monday is not only a Bank Holiday but also my 50th birthday so, after today, this column is taking a two-week break but will return on May 9 (my hangover should have gone by then). The reviews will be back that week, too. In the meantime...

TV, Radio, DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and cinema picks for the next seven days...

Monday 25th: Joy (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) is my favourite David O Russell film since Three Kings but it seems to have gone under most people's radar, especially in the UK where its subject - Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano - is not really known. And that's a shame because Joy is not only a cracking biopic, but it boasts a great cast (Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper) and has some interesting things to say about the entrepreneurial spirit and American capitalism too. Far from being an unalloyed endorsement of the latter as some critics suggested, Russell's film explores the murky side of business and how dipping your toes into that world can make a person not just tenacious and determined but utterly ruthless too. Joy succeeds beyond her wildest dreams but the extraordinary luck she needs to get there and the sacrifices she has to make along the way are clearly and effectively signposted. Her familial relationships ultimately become compromised and her loss of innocence is genuinely quite heartbreaking. Russell doesn't invite you to feel sorry for Mangano (she's a multi-millionaire, so why the hell should you?) but very smartly presents her success as something of a double-edged sword. Is being wealthy better than being poor? Yup, every time... but expect to lose a tiny bit of your humanity to make it happen. Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac: Volume I (23:25, Film 4) is, essentially, a pornographic film about addiction and whilst the Danish master couldn't make a boring or uninteresting movie if his life depended on it, this one simply isn't in the same league as the likes of Antichrist (a horror film about grief) or the sublime Melancholia (a disaster movie about depression). Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stacy Martin and Stellan Skarsgård star. Mubi are rolling out French New Wave director Jacques Rivette's infamous Out 1 in eight feature-length parts this week, two a day from today. The entire film - a portrait of post-May '68 Paris and its dashed dreams - is 13 hours long but, in mitigation, was originally conceived as a TV series. People seem to recoil from long films but think nothing of binge-watching the latest season of Game Of Thrones or Girls but that's a subject for another day...

Jennifer Lawrence is a joy in, er, Joy

Tuesday 26th: Stay up late for Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac: Volume II (23:25, Film4). Although the film is a bit exhausting (and not just because of the wall-to-wall boning), it's worth sticking with for two cameos. Uma Thurman is brilliant as a scorned wife turning up with her two young children at protagonist Joe's apartment to show them "the whoring bed", while Shia LaBeouf's 'English' accent is truly a thing of mind-boggling wonder (and I still think he's taking the piss). If that doesn't float your boat, there's Spike Lee's bravura heist drama Inside Man (23:40, ITV4). Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster star. 

A bank job goes wrong in Spike Lee's Inside Man

Wednesday 27th: Blue Is The Warmest Colour (23:10, Film4) has become defined by its controversies as much by its artistic and commercial success. 
Abdellatif Kechiche's film is a touching, explicit and quietly devastating story of a passionate love affair between two young women (Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos are Emma and Adèle), and it was no surprise to anyone when it carried off the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2013. Unfortunately, relations between the director and his stars broke down soon after with Seydoux and Exarchopoulos speaking out about the "horrible" on-set conditions they had to endure, particularly during the movie's main sex scene, which Seydoux claimed took 10 miserable days to shoot. It led to a war of words between the two opposing sides with the actresses vowing never to work with Kechiche again. Additionally, Julie Maroh, the creator of the graphic novel the film is based upon, also spoke out about the sex scene, describing it as a "brutal and surgical display". She also took issue with the director's decision to cast two straight women in the lead roles. For me, whilst it would be difficult to explore the women's relationship without showing its physical side, I have to say the explicit scene in question struck me as entirely gratuitous. We're never left in any doubt about the attraction Emma and Adèle have for each other so chucking in a scene straight out of a porn film tells us nothing we couldn't guess for ourselves about the passionate nature of their relationship. It's a pity because Kechiche's film is otherwise terrific. If all this sauciness (and there's been quite a bit in this week's column) is too much for you, Snake Plissken's back in Escape from L.A. (Netflix UK).

Blue Is The Warmest Colour: Mired in controversy

Thursday 28th: On The Film Programme (BBC Radio 4, 16:00), director Laszlo Nemes discusses Son Of Saul, his Oscar-winning movie about life and death in a Nazi concentration camp. The film finally opens in UK cinemas tomorrow (it's also available via Curzon Home Cinema) and is something I've been desperate to see ever since the glowing critical notices it received at last year's Cannes. Films you can see on your TV or other screen today include Martin Scorsese's disappointing Gangs Of New York (22:05, ITV4), the brilliantly strange Duke Of Burgundy (23:15, Film4) and '90s-teenagers-invade-'50s-sitcom oddity Pleasantville (Amazon Prime Video), which I remember really liking way back when.

Son Of Saul won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film

Friday 29th: Kermode And Mayo's Film Review (BBC 5 Live) boasts special guests Chris Evans and Paul Rudd talking about Captain America: Civil War, which opens in cinemas today. Are you on Team Cap or Team Tony? I'm on Team Isn't It About Time Thanos Actually Did Something? If you're staying in, there's rude gags aplenty in Ted 2 (15:30 and 20:00, Sky Movies Premiere), a director's cut of last year's underwhelming Adam Scott comedy The Overnight (23:55, Sky Movies Premiere), or John Turturro's amusing Fading Gigolo (Netflix) which guest stars Woody Allen in a rare acting role. 

Cap and Iron Man fall out in Captain America: Civil War 

Saturday 30th: Directors the Russo Brothers have had an interesting career. These days they're making mega-budget superhero flicks for Marvel (including the aforementioned Civil War), but in the past they also directed multiple episodes of cult US TV comedies Arrested Development and Community. I first came across their work back in the early '00s on Welcome To Collinwood (23:55, BBC2), an offbeat crime comedy, starring George Clooney, Sam Rockwell, William H Macy and Luis Guzmán. Based on the Italian film Big Deal On Madonna Street, it was a box office flop but remains a winning tale of a bunch of idiots and ne'er do wells getting in way over their heads when they attempt to pull off a 'bellini' - a perfect heist.  
Sunday May 1st: Bridesmaids (21:00, Film4) never fails to make me laugh - the scene on the plane, featuring a heavily-medicated Kristen Wiig, especially. Am I the only person who reckons director Paul Feig will do a good job on the Ghostbusters remake and prove everybody wrong? Yeah, thought so...

Welcome To Collinwood: Honour amongst thieves

The last 5 Films I saw
1. Entertainment: Bleak, baffling and often quite brilliant road movie about a depressive, misanthropic comedian on a stand-up tour of seedy bars and strange visitor attractions in California. Gregg Turkington - aka real-life stand-up Neil Hamburger - stars. It's recently been added to Netflix.
2. Black Mountain Poets: Alice Lowe (Sightseers) and Dolly Wells (Dolly & Em) are two con-artist sisters on the run from the law and posing as beat poets at a weekend retreat in this likable British comedy.
3. A Little Chaos: Charming costume drama set in the court of Louis XIV with Kate Winslet and Matthias Schoenaerts falling for each other during the construction of a grand water feature in the gardens at Versailles. The late Alan Rickman directs and stars as the Sun King himself. 
4. Midnight Special: Jeff Nichols' Spielbergian sci-fi about a young boy with superhuman powers starts strongly but rather falls apart in its final act. Michael Shannon's as watchable as ever though.
5. Gloria: John Cassavetes mob drama starring Gina Rowlands as a former gangster's moll on the run with an endangered orphan. It has its moments but is ultimately torpedoed by a terrible child actor and his total lack of chemistry with the lead.

Entertainment: Bleakly funny and misanthropic

UK box office Top 10
1. The Jungle Book
2. Zootropolis
3. Eye In The Sky
4. Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice R
5. Eddie The Eagle
6. The Huntsman Winter's War
7. Fan
8. Theri 

9. Criminal
10. Kung Fu Panda 3

R = Recommended

All information correct at press time

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