Saturday, 28 June 2014

Freeview films of the day : saturday 28th of June

Hard Candy (2005 99min.) [BBC2 1.30am sunday]

Psychological thriller starring Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page. A 32-year-old paedophile meets up with the 14-year-old girl he's been grooming on the internet and discovers that she has a secret agenda.

Before the wonderful Juno (2007) Ellen Page starred in this taut little two-hander with the versatile but always engaging Patrick Wilson.

Director David Slade has a background in low-budget horror films and he brings that sense of the gritty and realistic to this vigilante Little Red Riding Hood story of a meeting between a teenage girl and an older man that starts off as one thing and quickly develops into something else. Page is spectacularly good as the Lolita from hell and Slade keeps the action shifting along at a breakneck pace.

May be a little too intense for those of a sensitive nature and male viewers will feel a specific discomfort during one especially visceral scene.

Don't look Now (1973 105min.) [Film4 1.45am sunday &+1]
Film of the day

Nicolas Roeg's supernatural thriller, adapted from Daphne du Maurier's short story, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. Following the tragic drowning of their young daughter, John and Laura Baxter go to Venice - he to work, she to recuperate. There they meet two sisters, one of whom claims to be able to communicate with the dead child. Caught up in the bizarre events that follow, the Baxters are drawn inexorably toward a mysterious and forbidding fate.

Nicolas Roeg's near-masterpiece ; one of the five hundred best films ever made.

The Troll Hunter (2010 99min.) [Film4 11.40pm &+1]

Horror thriller starring Otto Jespersen. Present-day Norway: a student film crew sets out to investigate who's responsible for a series of bear killings. But when they track down Hans, the grizzled loner who they believe to be the culprit, they discover he's actually hunting creatures that belong in the realm of local folklore.

Oh! How much fun is this film? – the whole thing is predicated on the idea that trolls are real and that they aren’t small grumpy types who live under bridges but enormous tree pulling-up monsters that roam the forests inside the Arctic circle.

The Norweigan government is involved in an enormous cover-up in order to prevent the world discovering the exsistence of these beats and employ a squad of troll hunters to keep them from coming into contact with the population.

Hans the Troll Hunter is a wonderfully downbeat character, the Scooby Gang he falls in with are perfectly written and the CGI monsters are very well realised.

Terrific, daft, thrilling and funny.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Freeview film of the day : friday 20th of June

Coraline (2008 96min.) [C4 6.45pm &+1]

Animated fantasy, featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher. A little girl finds a hidden door that leads to an eerie parallel world where her "Other Mother" lavishes her with attention, but she soon feels stifled and wants to go home.

Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, adapted this deliciously creepy stop-motion animation fantasy from the children's book by Neil Gaiman.

Coraline (superbly voiced by Dakota Fanning) is bored in the big old house she's just moved into with her parents, who are too busy to talk to her, so she goes through a door leading to a parallel world where mum and dad are lots more fun, even if they do have buttons for eyes, and where the already weird neighbours (Ian McShane as a Russian acrobat with a mouse circus; French and Saunders as ageing burlesque stars with Scottie dogs) are even weirder.

There's even more to this magical parallel world than meets the eye, and some of it turns out to be not very pleasant.

There's a slightly ill-judged addition of a young male character who wasn't in the original book but adults as well as children should enjoy this spooky, imaginative modern children's classic, almost worthy of being set alongside Spirited Away.

Just a note of caution : some of the more intense scenes may not be suitable for the under tens.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Freeview films of the day : monday 9th of June

Stalag 17 (1953 115min.) [Film4 4.40pm &+1]

Director Billy Wilder's classic Second World War drama, starring William Holden, Don Taylor and Otto Preminger. When two American prisoners, attempting to escape from Stalag 17, run into a German ambush, it becomes clear that one of the men in Barrack 4 must be an informer. The obvious suspect is Sefton, who spends his time trading with the guards and organising gambling among the prisoners.

Terrific drama directed by Wilder with all of his usual skill, wit and invention. He creates a thoroughly believable claustrophobic world for his characters to live in and gets a terrific performance from William Holden in a role that is effectivly an anti-hero, a decade before such roles were to become a popular move for a big name Hollywood star.

Among the supporting cast film director Otto Preminger is a revelation as a thoroughly corrupt Nazi and Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck are wonderful among Holden's fellow inmates.

Uzak (2003 106min.) [Film4 1.30am tuesday &+1]

A photographer living in Istanbul slips into a mid-life crisis when his wife leaves him. However, he is shaken out of his misery by a visit from his eccentric, penniless cousin who has come to the city seeking new employment to support his ailing mother. Drama, starring Muzaffer Ozdemir and Emin Toprak.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a rather special film maker and Uzak is a beautifully constructed, photographed and acted study in isolation, disillusionment and the difficulties caused by a lack of communication, even between people sharing the same living space.

It's not an easy watch but it is a superbly controlled charcter study that is both moving and absorbing. The two leads shared the Cannes best actor prize for their superb realisation of charcters who are both facing their own (very different) personal crisis.

An extremely good film that probably won't be everyone's cup of tea but, if you buy into the world Ceylan and his actors create, a hugely rewarding one.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 4th of June

Hanna (2011 106min.) [Film 4 9.00pm &+1]

Action thriller starring Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan. Teenager Hanna has never left her home in the Finnish wilderness and has spent years in isolation being trained to be the perfect assassin by her ex-CIA father Erik. But Erik has unfinished business with the Agency and so he leaves Hanna, who is soon forced to put her skills into practice to elude the murderous attentions of a ruthless intelligence officer.

The absurdly talented Saoirse Ronan leads the cast in director Joe Wright's spirited attempt to mix together the conventions of the conspiracy thriller and the surrealism of European fairy tales.

A very strong supporting cast (Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett , Olivia Williams, Tom Hollander and Jason Flemyng) add depth and weight in the acting department and the visual style is suitably dreamlike and off-kilter to match the oddly twisted storyline.

Distinctly odd but also enjoyable.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Freeview film of the day : tuesday 3rd of June

Swingers (1996 92min.) [BBC1 11.45pm]

Comedy drama starring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. Six months after ending a relationship, actor/comedian Mike still seems to be having trouble forgetting about his old girlfriend. Sick of his obsession, best friend Trent takes Mike on a trip to Las Vegas to cheer him up.

Setting this film in the world of the short-lived US craze for jump or swing dancing is a smart idea. It allows the film to create it's own world by using a sub-culture whith which most viewers will be unfamiliar.
This, in turn, means that the film makers can emphasise the closeness of those connected to the small scene and also make best use of the mores and slang of those involved (most noticeably the now ubiquitous "you're so money")

There's some strong performances among the cast of (then) virtual unknowns, especially Vince Vaughn and Jon Faverau (who also wrote the script). Director Doug Liman, whose next film was the uber cult Go, handles the material, the dance scenes and the atmosphere with great skill.

Sadly, neither the two lead actors nor the director have so far this century been able to recapture the magic and excitement that makes Swingers such a pleasure to watch.