Monday 20 June 2016

Elvis & Nixon, Trumbo and, um, Up Pompeii: Your Week In Film (June 20-26)

The King and I: Shannon and Spacey in Elvis & Nixon

Monday 20th: Trumbo (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) is a thoroughly enjoyable biopic of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman HolidaySpartacus), who was blacklisted and jailed for being a communist during the McCarthy 'witch hunts' of the 1950s. Jay Roach's film was damned with faint praise on its cinema release but deserves better as it boasts a sharp script (as you'd expect) and uniformly top-notch performances (Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston is gloriously OTT in the title role, but it's Dean O'Gorman's uncanny turn as Kirk Douglas that really caught my eye). Although the film's main theme - freedom of speech - is one well trodden, it never once tries to duck Trumbo's political affiliations; he was an unapologetic red who, even when subjected to the most heinous pressure, refused to renounce his beliefs. I'm not sure Hollywood has ever properly faced up to this particularly shameful episode in its history but Trumbo is a pretty good start. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has all got a bit too slick and soulless of late so Guardians Of The Galaxy's debut on Netflix UK is a timely reminder of how to do a big, blockbusting superhero movie right. Director/co-writer James Gunn's film is an action-packed treat that is also joyous, wildly inventive and laugh-out-loud funny. Like most Marvel movies it's slightly hobbled by an underwhelming villain (Ronan The Accuser) but you'll be too busy mainlining the manic pop thrill of the rest of it to care too much. Over at MUBI, Molly Ringwald stars in John Hughes' teen classic Pretty In Pink, in which she has to choose between two potential suitors - one called 'Duckie', the other named 'Blane'. I can't remember how it ends but I hope to god she opted to stay single.

Red menace: Bryan Cranston is communist Trumbo 

Tuesday 21st: In Cop Land (01:45, Film4) Sylvester Stallone gives probably his best performance as the bumbling sheriff of a New Jersey town populated by New York City police officers. When Robert De Niro's internal affairs officer shows up to investigate a murder, Stallone - overweight and partially deaf - slowly discovers his patch is a little more than a front for the mob and riddled with corruption. James Mangold's film remains an under-appreciated crime thriller.

Police and thieves: Stallone lights up Cop Land

Wednesday 22nd: I know everyone has Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and a dozen other ways of accessing movies these days but that's still no reason for terrestrial TV channels to schedule their best films at such inconvenient times. Blue Valentine (01:30, Channel 4) is the latest to be dumped in a post-midnight slot which is a shame, as 
Derek Cianfrance's drama not only boasts fine performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, but also a refreshingly unvarnished approach to the subject of marriage and what happens when one starts to unravel. Cutting between time periods, we see the evolution of working class couple Dean and Cindy's relationship from their initial courtship to ultimate parting in a melancholic movie well worth the space on your PVR.

Bad romance: Blue Valentine's star-crossed lovers

Thursday 23rd: Independence Day: Resurgence hits cinemas. No Will Smith this time, so you'll just have to make do with Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth and Bill Pullman teaming up to save the planet from aliens with a penchant for blowing stuff up. They're doing it in 3D this time, you'll no doubt be delighted to hear. Due to the EU referendum result and its aftermath, Kermode And Mayo's Film Review (14:00, BBC Radio 5 Live) is a day earlier this week. Actor Eric Stonestreet chats to Mayo about The Secret Life Of Pets, a new animated movie from the makers of Despicable Me. In The Film Programme (16:00, BBC Radio 4), Nell Dunn talks about her screenplay for Ken Loach's ground-breaking drama Poor Cow, which is back in cinemas from tomorrow. Fantasy and reality merge in Blind (01:05, Channel 4), an extraordinary Swedish film from first-time writer/director Eskil Vogt. Chronicling a young, visually-impaired woman's struggle to come to terms with isolation and paranoia, it boasts a great central performance from Ellen Dorrit Petersen.

Out of sight: Ellen Dorrit Petersen stars in Blind

Friday 24th: Elvis & Nixon is probably your best bet in cinemas this week and purports to tell the true story of the pair's famous Oval Office meeting in 1970. Michael Shannon is the king of rock'n'roll, Kevin Spacey is Tricky Dicky and, judging by the trailer (below), it looks an absolute hoot. Two films released simultaneously in cinemas and on VOD from today are Italian mob thriller Suburra and intriguing memory-loss drama 
Remainder - I shall be checking out both. Irrational Man (09:15 and 18:15, Sky Movies Premiere, also available on NOW TV) is another of Woody Allen's late-period lesser works but at least Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone can be relied upon to turn in fine performances, even if the script is merely passable. Phoenix plays a depressed philosophy professor given a new lease of life after he kills a corrupt judge. Stone is the optimistic, love-struck student trying to save the professor from himself.

Double Trouble: Elvis & Nixon hits cinemas today

Saturday 25th: In the mood for a bit of music but not keen on sitting through the Argos Alison Moyet (aka Adele) at Glastonbury? Allow me to again point you in the direction of MUBI who are still showing excellent Talking Heads concert flick, Stop Making Sense. Filmed in 1983, Jonathan Demme's film captures the band - rumoured to be reforming for a new tour and album - at the height of its powers. 
Miss You Already (Amazon Prime Video) is an over-the-top but engaging dramedy about two best friends whose relationship is threatened when one (Drew Barrymore) gets pregnant at the exact same time the other (Toni Collette) is diagnosed with breast cancer. Its melodrama is set to 11 throughout and Morwena Banks' script is hardly clich√© free, but Collette is always worth watching, even when she plays a selfish pain in the arse as she does here. L.A. Confidential (23:20, BBC1) is Curtis Hanson's noirish tale of police corruption in 1950s Los Angeles, starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce as cops with very contrasting styles but only one goal: root out the bad guys. Based on the James Ellroy novel of the same name, it's intricately plotted, nicely acted and just as hard-bitten as you'd expect.

Good cop, bad cop: Stakes are high in L.A. Confidential 

Sunday 26th: Lots of good stuff on today, including Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 (22:10, Sky Atlantic), enjoyable Nick Hornby adaptation High Fidelity (23:15, BBC One), superior supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense (23:20, Channel 4), and Bruce Robinson's wonderfully-quotable Withnail & I (23:00, Gold). If your tastes are a little more down market, there's profoundly un-PC Frankie Howerd comedy Up Pompeii (21:15, Gold). Despite its innumerable shortcomings, any film that includes Howerd, Patrick Cargill, Michael Hordern, Bernard Bresslaw, Madeline Smith and Lance Percival amongst its cast can't be all bad.

Let's be Frank: Up Pompeii is an un-PC treat

UK box office top 10
1. Me Before You
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows 
3. Alice Through The Looking Glass
4. Warcraft: The Beginning R
5. X-Men: Apocalypse R
6. The Nice Guys R
7. The Boss
8. Angry Birds 
9. Mother's Day 
10. The Jungle Book R

R = Recommended

All information correct at time of publication

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