Monday 16 May 2016

Creed, Attack The Block and A Hologram For The King: Your Week In Film (May 16-22)

Stallone and Jordan fight for their futures in Creed

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

Monday 16th: Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Creed (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) has gone the 'requel' route. Ryan Coogler's film is part Rocky sequel, part reboot, and at times borrows wholesale from the original 1976 picture and its various follow-ups. That said, it's a definite cut above other recent boxing flicks, such as last year's Jake Gyllenhaal-starring Southpaw, while Michael B Jordan and Sylvester Stallone have genuine chemistry. Check out my original review hereWhen Animals Dream (DVD and VOD) is a Danish werewolf film that has been favourably compared to the likes of Ginger Snaps and Let The Right One In. Well, I'm sold. If you only see one film this week, you should probably make it The Master (23:10, Film4). Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson is at the height of his powers in a lengthy but powerful drama that sees Joaquin Phoenix's ex-soldier struggling to adapt to life, post-World War II. He soon falls under the spell of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the charismatic leader of a religious cult, known as The Cause. The writing is razor-sharp, the performances are pitch-perfect and any resemblance to the church of Scientology is fully intended.  

When Animals Dream: A werewolf movie from Denmark

Tuesday 17th: Attack The Block (21:00, E4) sees the denizens of a south London council estate fighting off an alien invasion. Luckily for them they have Finn from The Force Awakens (aka John Boyega, in his first movie role) to help them. Joe Cornish's film homages Walter Hill's The Warriors and John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13 to serve up a superior slice of sci-fi that is gritty, funny and surprisingly thrilling. MUBI have recently added The Hunt to their ever-changing but beautifully-curated catalogue of films. Thomas Vinterberg's excellent drama sees Mads Mikkelsen's nursery teacher accused of molesting one of the children in his care. He is quickly vilified and ostracised by the local community as his life falls apart. A fascinating, horrifying meditation on collective hysteria.

Attack The Block: South Londoners versus aliens

Wednesday 18th: The ubiquitous Oscar Isaac is the blue-hued big bad in X-Men: Apocalypse, which hits cinemas today. Amongst numerous new faces (including Olivia Munn, Sophie Turner and Kodi Smit-McPhee) are franchise regulars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Rose Byrne. Unusually for a Bryan Singer X-movie, the reviews have so far been a little underwhelming. To Rome With Love (Netflix) is typical late period Woody Allen - a likeable if hit and miss affair with all the substance of a soufflé. Rather better is Barbra Streisand's bravura debut turn as Fanny Brice in musical comedy Funny Girl (Netflix). Hello, gorgeous...

Barbra Streisand hits the heights in Funny Girl

Thursday 19th: Tom Hanks talks to Francine Stock about A Hologram For The King on The Film Programme (16:00, BBC Radio 4). Hanks plays a failed American businessman hoping to recoup his losses by traveling to Saudi Arabia and selling his idea for 3D meeting technology to a wealthy monarch. Director Tom Tykwer made the brilliantly inventive Run Lola Run back in the day, so I have high hopes for this culture-clash comedy despite its seemingly pedestrian premise. The trailer in which Hanks 'sings' Talking Heads' 'Once In A Lifetime' has certainly piqued my interest.

Hanks sings Talking Heads in A Hologram For The King

Friday 20th: Amy Schumer's US TV vehicle - Inside Amy Schumer - is one of the finest sketch comedies to appear on either side of the Atlantic in the last 20 years. Trainwreck (15:45 and 20:00, Sky Movies Premiere) was director Judd Apatow's attempt to refashion her schtick for the American mainstream and it smooths off far too many of the comic's sharp edges. In fact, the film's boozy, promiscuous journalist is like something out of 1990s Britain - a story about a ladette, only 20 years too late. Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton and Schumer herself are always worth watching, though. Tom Hanks pops up again on Kermode And Mayo's Film Review (14:00, BBC Radio Five Live), again talking about A Hologram For The King which opens in cinemas today. 

Amy Schumer deserves better than Trainwreck

Saturday 21st: In a fascist future America (insert Donald Trump gag here), Jennifer Lawrence is made to fight for her life in The Hunger Games (21:00, Channel 4). Yes, it's just 2000's Battle Royale repurposed for US teens but is hugely enjoyable all the same. Elena (00:40, BBC2) is the film Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev made before 2014's epic gloom-fest Leviathan. This time he focuses on an ageing Muscovite woman (Nadezhda Markina as the titular characterbattling to protect her future after her businessman husband changes the contents of his will. An atmospheric and gripping drama.

Elena: Where there's a will there's a way...

Sunday 22nd: Hitchcock (23:30, Channel4) stars Anthony Hopkins as the titular director struggling to get Psycho made. The big Hollywood studios with whom he'd had such a successful relationship all passed on it so he had to finance the movie - now, of course, a classic - himself. Sterling support comes from Helen Mirren (as Hitchcock's long-suffering wife Alma Reville) and Scarlett Johansson (as Vivien Leigh). 

Anthony Hopkins is Alfred Hitchcock in, erm, Hitchcock

Last 5 Films I Saw
1. Mustang (2015): Deniz Gamze Ergüven's Oscar-nominated drama chronicles the lives of five orphaned Turkish sisters, imprisoned and forced into marriage by their conservative guardians. Its subject matter is harrowing but the film never slips into clumsy melodrama. Instead, it is hopeful, defiant and a real kick in the pants for Turkey's ruling patriarchy. Currently in cinemas and on demand.
2. Dazed And Confused (1993): Richard Linklater's coming of age comedy about a group of American high schoolers perfectly captures the aimlessness and madness of adolescence. His female characters are all a bit too low in the mix though.
3. In The Bedroom (2001): A New England couple (Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek, both superb) struggle to come to terms with the violent death of their only son in this effective family drama. Takes an unwanted detour down Death Wish Boulevard towards the end.
4. Captain America: Civil War (2016): The opening sequence and punch-up at the airport are spectacular but, if I'm honest, I preferred the overblown silliness of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Plus, The Vision and Black Panther are just very dull, aren't they?
5. Hot Pursuit (2015): I'd watch Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara in anything... apart from this disappointing chase comedy. Not so much a Midnight Run, more a mid-morning amble through a series of weak gags.

Turkish drama Mustang is hopeful and defiant

UK box office top 10
1. Captain America: Civil War R
2. The Jungle Book R
3. Bad Neighbours 2
4. Florence Foster Jenkins
5. Robinson Crusoe
6. Eye In The Sky
7. Zootropolis R
8. Bastille Day
9. 24
10. Friend Request

R = Recommended

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