Monday 6 June 2016

The Revenant, Where To Invade Next and Mistress America: Your Week In Film (June 6-12)

The Revenant: The CGI bear attack scene is genuinely stunning

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

Monday 6th: The Revenant (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) has a great deal to recommend it but somehow never quite manages to blow me away. It's 1823 and Leonardo DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, a guide for a party of trappers somewhere in the great American wilderness. After being attacked by a bear, he is left for dead by arch-rotter Tom Hardy, who, for some reason, sounds an awful lot like Deputy Dawg. By force of will alone, Glass survives, then proceeds to drag his battered, bitten carcass hundreds of miles through deep snow and freezing rivers to confront the man who betrayed him and also killed his son. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's triple Oscar winner is beguilingly beautiful to look at (courtesy of Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography) and contains several stunning moments, the notorious CGI ursine assault being one, the attack by a Pawnee war party in its early moments being another. But, at 156 minutes, the film is far too long and there are some serious longueurs between its most impactful scenes. More than that, I could also name you 10 better but non-Oscar winning performances from DiCaprio off the top of my head, while its use of hackneyed noble savage tropes places it only a hop, skip and a jump away from Dances With Wolves territory. All in all, it's a solid revenge western with a few bells and whistles but hardly a classic. A Million Ways To Die In The West (Netflix UK) is also a western, albeit one filled with knob, boob and fart gags. Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane (who also directs and co-writes) plays a cowardly farmer cosying up to Charlize Theron's mysterious badass, unaware her gun-happy old man (Liam Neeson) is about to make an appearance too. It's worth seeing for one genuinely inspired moment (you'll know the one I mean if you've seen it), and the fact Theron, Neeson and Neil Patrick Harris are always good value for money. This week's offering from the Criterion Collection is Overlord (Blu-ray), director Stuart Cooper's 1975 film about the D-Day landings, as seen through the eyes of a quiet young conscript. Unheroic and brutal.

Overlord is an unflinching World War II movie

Tuesday 7th: 
Charlie Kaufman writes, George Clooney directs and Sam Rockwell stars in Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (MUBI), an odd and entertaining adaptation of US game show host Chuck Barris's memoir in which he claimed to have been a CIA hitman with 33 kills to his name. Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore and Clooney himself also star.
Wednesday 8th: Dazed and Confused (Netflix UK) is Richard Linklater's '70s-set coming-of-age comedy about a group of American high school jocks. It perfectly captures the aimlessness and madness of adolescence, although his female characters are all a bit too low in the mix. Everybody Wants Some!!, the director's recent "spiritual sequel" to Dazed, is reviewed by me right here. Paranormal Activity (Netflix UK) is a genuinely unsettling slice of found-footage horror, while Michael Winterbottom's The Look Of Love (01:40, Film4) features Steve Coogan as Soho soft-porn king Paul Raymond. 

Clooney directs Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

Thursday 9th: Film-maker Mark Cousins and composer David Holmes discuss their documentary I Am Belfast with presenter Francine Stock on The Film Programme (16:00, BBC Radio 4). Movie-wise, there's Re-Animator (22:45, Horror Channel), Stuart Gordon's hilarious, transgressive and gory adaptation of the HP Lovecraft story about a deranged medical student able to return dead tissue to life. It's an absolute hoot.

Re-Animator: Good, old-fashioned gory fun

Friday 10th: Sky Movies Premiere have rolled out two of my favourite films from last year. Mistress America (14:15 and 23:45) sees 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. Lola Kirke 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. Nearly as good is Love & Mercy (17:45), a bravura biopic of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, which concentrates on two crucial periods of his life. Paul Dano plays the songwriter as a young man at the height of his musical powers, but teetering on the brink of mental illness, while John Cusack is the older Wilson, under the perfidious spell of Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), a quack psychologist who took his money and cut him off from his family. Both films are also on NOW TV from today.

Love & Mercy: Brilliant biopic of Brian Wilson

There is a ton of interesting new stuff in cinemas from today, far too much to mention here in fact. I shall be seeking out Michael Moore's latest documentary, Where To Invade Next, in which the veteran rabble-rouser "invades" other countries - including Germany, Italy and Iceland - to see what the US can learn from them. I suspect "quite a bit" will be the Bowling For Columbine filmmaker's conclusion as he continues to get up all the right noses in a quest to make his home country a better place. Oh, and if you're staying up late (or know how to work a PVR), try and catch Valhalla Rising (00:05, BBC Two), Nicolas Winding Refn's violent and baffling Vikings-on-acid tale, starring the great Mads Mikkelsen as mute warrior, One-Eye.

Michael Moore returns in Where To Invade Next

Saturday 11th: The term 'hidden gem' could have been coined to describe Couple In A Hole (VOD), Tom Geens' bravura but harrowing drama about the terrible impact of grief on a husband and wife living like savages in a French forest. Paul Higgins (The Thick Of It) and Kate Dickie (The Witch) are both superb in a film that perfectly blends pitch-black humour and gut-wrenching emotion. It reminded me most of Lars von Trier's Antichrist, albeit without the genital mutilation and talking fox. TV-wise, you'll find CRIME! (The Lavender Hill Mob, 08:55, BBC Two), SMUT! (Carry On Loving, 23:45, ITV) and THE UNDEAD! (Zombieland, 23:35, Channel 4).
Sunday 12th: Three fractious brothers set off on a train trek through India in an attempt to rebuild their broken relationships, and find their estranged mother, in Wes Anderson’s charming comedy/drama, The Darjeeling Limited (23:05, Gold). Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Anjelica Huston star. Lambert And Stamp (23:25, Sky Arts) is an entertaining but by-the-numbers documentary about Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, the aspiring filmmakers who ended up discovering and managing The Who. 

Couple In A Hole is a true hidden gem

The Last 5 Films I've Seen
1. Youth (2015): Paolo Sorrentino's follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty is an eccentric, tragicomic meditation on old age, grief and regret. Michael Caine is reliably superb as the retired composer waiting for the end at an exclusive Swiss spa, while Harvey Keitel turns in his best performance for years as a movie director chasing past glories.
2. Our Brand Is Crisis (2015): Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton are both excellent in this unfairly maligned political satire about two feuding spin doctors tearing metaphorical lumps out of each other during a presidential election in Bolivia. 
3. Arabian Nights Volume 1: The Restless One (2015): First part of Miguel Gomes's trilogy of films which satirically and polemically explore modern-day, austerity-hit Portugal using the famous Arabian Nights tales as their inspiration. Here we meet a cockerel put on trial for his early-morning squawking and a group of permanently tumescent bankers.
4. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982): Amy Heckerling's high school comedy is very of its time, with the likes of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Judge Reinhold doing their best with a script full of the usual sex, drugs and rock'n'roll teen misbehaviour. Still a lot of fun though.
5. Warcraft: The Beginning (2016): Duncan Jones' long-awaited adaptation of the fantasy online role-playing game is unwieldy and silly at times, but ultimately just about transcends its Dungeons & Dragons/Lord Of The Rings influences to deliver a pretty solid summer blockbuster. 

Youth: A tragicomic meditation on old age and regret

UK Top 10 box office
1. X-Men: Apocalypse R
2. Alice Through The Looking Glass
3. Angry Birds
4. Money Monster
5. The Jungle Book R
6. Captain America: Civil War R
7. Bad Neighbours 2
8. Love And Friendship
9. Secret Cinema: 28 Days Later
10. Minuscule: Valley Of The Lost Ants

R = Recommended

All information correct at time of publication

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