Friday, 8 July 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 8th of July

Des Hommes et des dieux/Of Gods And Men (2010 122min.) [BBC2 12.35am saturday]

Directed and written by Xavie Beauvois.

Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay.

An utterly compelling story about a group of people under the most intense pressure; the differing ways in which they react to that pressure and the effect that the decisions they make has on their own lives and the group dynamic.

The early scenes set the scene perfectly - we learn all that we need to know about the monks attitude towards their work, their beliefs and their calling in a few beautifully shot and understated non-verbal sequences. We understand completely how they have, over a long period of time, won the respect and trust of the local population, integrated themselves into the society and contribute fully to it. Rather than acting as outsiders supplanted into a strange land we are shown how this small group of men have adapted to and fully adopted their new circumstances.

As the story progresses and the threat to their survival becomes increasingly great their (collective and individual) reaction seems natural and unforced - it's not overplayed for the sense of drama or tension, but seems to represent a real response to the rapidly changing world in which they live.

Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale lead the ensemble cast but each and every part in the film is perfectly cast. Individual identities are established easily and as a consequence of the story; there are no long scenes of exposition where a character's backstory is established. Each of the nine central characters is given significant dialogue to allow us to understand how they feel about the threat to their existence without the need for them to take turns to verbalise it.

Beauvois' direction is fluid yet languid; at times the camera lingers over a long or medium shot in order to emphasise it's point - the integration of the monks into the Algerian countryside is perfectly demonstrated through these shots. When the mood and tone change he's equally comfortable pitching us into the middle of the action - the shocks in the story are all the greater because they spring on us from within the story without elaborate set-up or foreshadowing. The bald, almost documentary, style in which the moments of brutality are shown emphasises the extent to which they differ from the tranquil gentility of the monks' lives.

There is, towards the end of the film, one long near-wordless scene between the brothers which has already became famous for the power that it has to evoke any number of different emotions simply by allowing us to study the faces of the actors in close-up as they go about preparing and eating a simple meal.

A beautiful and affecting film made with skill, care and precision by all of those involved.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 1st of July

Red Eye (2005 81min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]

Lisa Reisart (Rachel McCadams) makes a random connection with the charming Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) while waiting for her flight back to work after visiting her dad (Brian Cox).

During the flight Rippner's true motives are exposed. Rather than a chance meeting Reisart has been targeted because, using the threat of the murder of her father, she is able to help Rippner's terrorist mercenaries achieve their aim.

Carl Ellsworth's script doesn't bother itself too much with motivation or the psychology of either character but settles instead for moving the story forward at a decent pace.
Wes Craven directs with a lot of extreme close-ups and two shots in order to heighten the sense of McCadams being trapped in Murphy's orbit.

The whole thing is neatly put together; there's a genuine sense of tension, a couple of very strong performances from the two leads and (as you would expect from Craven) taut and lean direction with hardly a shot wasted.

The denoument may be a little fantastic but it's a satisfying end to a film that knows it's limits and doesn't make any attempt to overstep them.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Freeview films of the day : monday 27th of June

Hanna (2011 106min.) [Film4 11.20pm &+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.

A Story Of Children And Film (2013 105min) [Film4 1.30am tuesday &+1]

Mark Cousins' documentary exploring the connections between childhood and cinema, examining a wide range of movies for and about children from around the world and exploring the ways in which childhood experiences are depicted in different cultures and the responses of youngsters to the cinematic experience.

It's bright, enthusiastic, charming and entertaining : the clips that Cousins' uses to illustrate his points are well chosen and fascinating.

A real treat for the cinephile and a great starting point for younger viewers wanting to explore cinema from outside the UK/USA mainstream axis.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 10th of June

Animal Kingdom (2009 108min.) [Film4 1.30am saturday &+1]

Australian crime drama starring Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce and James Frecheville. After his mother dies of an overdose, young Joshua Cody takes up his grandmother's offer of a home. But he must also gain the acceptance of his three career-criminal uncles, who are under investigation by the local police.

Australian writer/director David Michôd's feature debut is a terrific piece of film making with a gritty but realistic central story that spins off in any number of directions and includes at least three "oh no!" moments of genuine shock.

Packed with great performances, but special mention for Jacki Weaver who received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the mater familias to this trio of hard-bitten, brutal but fading would-be gangsters.

It's a remarkable film that is highly recommened to everyone, but especially to those who found Chopper (to which this film has a stylistic resemblance) to be a gripping and taut piece of cinema back in 2000.

A really, really well made crime drama.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Freeview film of the day : thursday 9th of June

Perrier's Bounty (2009 84min.) [Film4 2.15am friday &+1]

Crime caper starring Cillian Murphy, Jim Broadbent and Brendan Gleeson. Hapless Dubliner Michael is pursued by local mobsters after failing to pay a debt and being implicated in a gangland murder. He goes on the run with his pretty neighbour and his dad, but things quickly become even more complicated.

A Dublin based In Bruges that's lighter in tone and less emotionally charged than that superior film. It works well enough and Cillian Murphy and Jodie Whittaker both give quiet, toned-down performances of merit.

Perfectly watchable but lacks a certain something that would have made it more gripping.
Terrible title as well.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 8th of June

Oblivion (2013 119min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]

Sci-fi action adventure starring Tom Cruise. In the year 2077, Jack Harper works as a drone repairman on an Earth left abandoned and devastated after a war with aliens. With only a few weeks before his mission is due to end, Jack's concept of reality comes crashing down after he rescues a stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft.

Cruise is a solid and dependable leading man and adds some weight to this rather flimsy sci-fi adventure.
Although the plot is paper thin there's still plenty here to enjoy : Olga Kurylenko is terrific in support of Cruise and Morgan Freeman turns up and does what he does so well.

There's some well realised CG effects and director Joseph Kosinski keeps the action moving along at a nice speed.

There's nothing new or too thrilling here (and the ending is a terrible cop-out) but it's an entertaining watch and certainly has far more plus points than negatives.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Freeview film of the day : tuesday 7th of June

The Last Picture Show (1971 114min.) [Film4 1.05am wednesday & +1]

Drama starring Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd.
1951: Sonny Crawford and his pal Duane Jackson are teenagers growing up in a small Texas town, dividing their time between local girls, the pool hall and most importantly, the neighbourhood cinema. The movie palace is about to close, the last picture show signalling the end of an era, a loss of innocence.

Writer/director Peter Bogdanovich came from the same Californian film school/university background as his contemporaries George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppolla and John Millius.
His early work suggested that he had the talent and vision to surpass all of them and yet he managed to throw away all of his early promise and spend two decades lost to the mainstream before slowly beginning to claw his way back in the early years of this century.

After making a huge impression with his debut feature, the stunning low budget thriller Targets (1968) Paramount Pictures were happy to give him a larger budget and a cast of emerging actors to make an adaptation of Larry McMurty's semi-autobiographical best selling novel.

The film he turned in is a beautifully constructed work shot in luminous black and white and with eye catching performances by all of his young cast (in addition to the three leads look out for Ben Johnson, Eileen Brennan, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, Clu Gulager, Randy Quaid and John Hillerman.)

The commercial and critical success of the film (eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Direction) led to more big budget, big grossing mainstream hits (What's Up Doc with Barbara Streisand and Paper Moon (1973).

But The Last Picture Show is probably his best and most personal work of the time and it's a film which deserves re-viewing and re-evaluation as it has much to offer.

(If you want to read about the bad decisions and self-destructive behaviour of Bogdanovich and his wife Polly Pratt that led to his decline to the point where he had to take bit-part acting jobs on the likes of The Sopranos to stay afloat they feature very heavily in the central section of Julia Phillips' cause celebre Hollywood insider expose You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again).

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009 95min.) [BBC2 1.00am sunday]

Thriller starring Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan. Two men kidnap a young woman and demand £2 million from her wealthy father, but their meticulously planned scheme soon goes violently wrong.

"Thriller" is a bit of a misnomer : the film is essentially a three-handed character study with the upper hand constantly rotating among the protagonists.

The always reliable Eddie Marsan leads the cast through an intense, claustrophobic film which has (to all intents & purposes) only one set and three characters ; director J Blakeson makes great use of these limitations and the film looks stylish and moody.

There's a few early scenes which might put you off but, while it may start out looking like just another kidnap-of-a-female movie it soon turns into something quite different.

Interesting and worthwhile.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Freeview film of the day : monday 23rd of May

Field Of Dreams (1989 101min.) [Film4 6.55pm & +1]

A farmer hears a mysterious voice inspiring him to mark out a baseball diamond in a cornfield - which, to his surprise, is visited by the ghost of the star player of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team, whose career was cut short by scandal. It later dawns on him the pitch has a greater purpose - to give people who have sacrificed important parts of their lives a second chance. Fantasy, starring Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones.

Kevin Costner clearly likes a baseball story - by my count he's so far involved in five films about the sport and is rumoured to be working on yet another.
Field Of Dreams is clearly the best of the lost though, and it could be argued that it's one of the best sport related films ever made.

Director Phil Alden Robinson channels the spirit of Frank Capra to produce a big hearted, warm, fantasy that walks the line between feelgood and schmaltz with skill.

Amy Madigan and Eay Liotta add steel and strength to the cast while the imperious Burt Lancaster adds a touch of class in his last on-screen appearance.

Of course, it's not a film about baseball but rather a celebration of the human spirit and will to succeed.

Very well done and a delight to watch.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Freeview film of the day : sunday 15th of May

Rescue Dawn (2006 120min.) [BBC2 11.30PM)

A fighter pilot is shot down over enemy territory during the Vietnam War and endures a harrowing incarceration in a prisoner of war camp. Determined to escape, he rallies his fellow captives to mount a daring break-out and together they embark on a desperate journey through the jungle. Werner Herzog's drama, starring Christian Bale, Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies.

In Europe Werner Herzog is still probably best known for his cult favourite Arthouse films of the seventies and eighties, such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982).
In later life though he has developed a secondary career making insightful documentary films and (from time to time) big budget dramas for the Hollywood studios.

Therefore the opening scenes of this film are a little surprising - is Herzog attempting to make a Top Gun style action adventure about military men and their machines?

But, once the story proper gets under way it's obvious that the subject matter and the director are a perfect fit.
Rather than explosions and gruelling battle scenes what you get is a study of the physical and psychological relationships between the group of US soldiers and their relationship to their captors.

And the director handles this very well : he's also perfectly at home with the more traditional elements of the war film genre and makes the absolute best of the locations (the stifling jungle heat and the oppressive nature of the landscape both help set the mood and tone of the film).

Christian Bale does solid work at the head of the cast but the real joys are in the supporting ensemble - the reliable Steve Zahn and the always excellent Jeremy Davies contribute some superb work. Davies is particularly good - his slightly spaced out, twitchy acting style is perfectly suited to the part and strongly but quietly reminds us that the Vietnam War wasn't fought by battle hardened veterans but, for the most part, scared kids barely out of school.

There's some saggy moments but overall Herzog keeps things moving along at a decent pace.
"Enjoyable" isn't the right word : but there's enough here to keep you interested and involved for a couple of hours.


Thursday, 12 May 2016

Freeview film of the day : thursday 12th of May

Dazed And Confused (1993 98min.) [Film4 12.25am friday &+1}

Comedy drama. Texas 1976: at the end of the summer term, high-school seniors and freshmen get ready for a big party in the woods later that night.

Among the innumerable US High School movies made down the years there's a long tradition of the "one last night" sub-genre : the best known of these being George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973).
It's not too much of an overstatement to say that Dazed And Confused deserves to be as popular, as widely known and as highly thought of as its illustrious predecessor.

It's time frame is a single night as the senior year celebrate/fret about leaving school, the new intake worry about what the future holds for them and various hangers-on and siblings interfere with the plans of all of the characters.

It's written and directed by Richard Linklater, hot from the success of his debut feature Slacker. If you've seen any of his later work (School Of Rock, Before Sunrise/Sunset, Boyhood etc.) you'll already know what a talented screenwriter and director he is.

Here he marshals a large ensemble cast and moves them around the story with skill and ease. Like Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) this is no rosy, nostalgic look back at a recent school year - in among the laughs and chuckles (and there are plenty of those) there are real moments of pathos and drama, especially as the Seniors realise the reality of their changed circumstances.

The terrific young cast is lead by Jason London and Rory Cochrane, neither of whom really fulfilled the potential they show here; both are outstanding, handling the changing emotions of their evening with charm, wit and real depth.
They're supported by a large catch from the young Hollywood talent pool of the time : Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck and Adam Goldberg all pop up at various points and the whole thing is soundtracked by some great examples of seventies pop-rock (Alice Cooper, Kiss, War, Dylan's Hurricane etc.)

Brittle and fragile in places, laugh out loud funny in others this is a tremendously well made and acted film that deserves a much, much wider audience and a critical re-evauation to match.


Monday, 9 May 2016

Freeview film of the day : monday 9th of May

Doubt (2008 99min.) [Film4 1.40am tuesday &+1]

Period drama starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In a New York Catholic school in the 1960s, a progressive, charismatic priest clashes with the principal, a strict, old-fashioned nun. When suspicions arise about the priest's relationship with the school's only black student, the principal becomes obsessed with learning the truth.

What this film has that seperates it from a TV Movie of the Week melodrama is assured direction and two top quality character actors in fine form.

Director John Patrick Shanley (adapting his own stage play) creates a real sense of place with the claustrophobic opening scenes which establish the prescribed world of the school - as the film unfolds he then uses the camera to emphasise the atmosphere of suspicion, and indeed doubt, that ensnares both of the central characters.

There is a lingering element of the theatrical origins of the piece - especially in some of the more dialogue laden scenes - but Hoffman and Streep are both very good at this sort of thing : Amy Adams adds some very fine work among the supporting cast.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Freeview film of the day : saturday 7th of May

ZodiacZodiac (2007 151min.) [BBC2 10.50pm]

Crime drama based on a true story, starring Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. San Francisco, 1969: following a series of homicides, a cryptic message is delivered to the offices of a local newspaper. It is the first in a series of letters that taunt Inspector David Toschi and his team who are on the trail of a serial murderer. It also launches the paper's cartoonist Robert Graysmith on an obsessive quest of his own to find the Zodiac killer.

In terms of serial-killer movies, you could hardly get more of a contrast to the so-called "torture porn" subgenre than David Fincher's engrossing account of the hunt for the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized San Francisco in the 1970s.

The period setting is recreated here impeccably and without cliché. There's a horrible murder and some grim moments but it's a long way from the Grand Guignol of Fincher's own Se7en, and mostly the film concentrates on the effect of the long-running, unresolved case on the lives of the investigators.

Robert Downey Jr is the dandyish reporter, Jake Gyllenhaal an earnest cartoonist who deciphers the psycho's coded messages and Mark Ruffalo (all sideburns and shockingly bad 1970s haircut) is the cop who was the inspiration for Dirty Harry.

The film sticks with the characters long after other, more sensationalist movies would have given up and gone home.

And there's inspired use of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" very early on in the film -

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : saturday 19th of March

Rush (2013 117min.) [Film4 11.05pm &+1]

Motor racing drama based on a true story, starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. The 1976 Formula One season is dominated by the intense rivalry between two brilliant drivers: the maverick James Hunt and the methodical Niki Lauda. As their quest for dominance of the sport grows more intense, tragedy seems almost inevitable.

Chris Hemsworth plays Hunt as a boozy, lazy, ladies man blessed with natural charm and talent while Daniel Brühl as Lauda is the technically minded perfectionist who scowls and gripes his way through his professional and personal life.

The two ends of the spectrum personalities of the central characters allows scriptwriter Peter Morgan to dig deep into the psyche of the two rivals - the scenes set in pre-race drivers meetings where Hunt teases and mocks Lauda's obsession with safety are superbly done.

Ron Howard's direction of the action scenes is quite thrilling and the sights and sounds (and the constant presence of sudden death) of 1970s Formula 1 are brilliantly re-created.

Olivia Wilde is terrific as Hunt's long suffering girlfriend/wife Suzy and Christian McKay is an absolute joy as Alexander Hesketh, the wealthy playboy who gives Hunt his first drive.

Even if you know nothing about (or care nothing about) Formula 1 racing don't be put off : the film is very low on technical chat and backstory and very big on personal relationships, spectacle and thrills.

Hugely entertaining.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : thursday 17th of March

The Yellow Sea (2010 140min.) [Film4 1.15am friday &+1]

A taxi driver living in an area on the borders of Russia, China and Korea ends up in debt to gangsters due to his gambling habit. A crime boss offers him a clean slate if he goes to South Korea and kills a man. He hopes to track down his missing wife while he is there, but the mission does not go to plan. Crime thriller, starring Jung-woo Ha and Yun-seok Kim. In Korean.

I quite enjoyed this film from the director/star who had previously made (the superior) The Chaser but would stop short of whole hearted recommendation to all viewers.

If you're familiar with (and enjoy) the Korean thriller genre and the tricks that it plays with narrative structure and visual style you will find a lot to admire in Na Hong-jin's film.

The first half is the more successful, with plenty of tension in the set-up and some thrilling set pieces : sadly the second section is largely a succession of (very well shot) shoot-outs, fist fights and car chases - which becomes quite wearying after a while.

The film also suffers from it's failure to resolve not only the central story but also several sub-plots : there's a definite air of setting up a sequel in the final third.

That said, for fans of the genre it's something of a treat as Na Hong-jin really knows his way around an action sequence and the two leads both give strong performance.

Not for everyone but an interesting film for devotees.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : saturday 12th of March

Kick-Ass (2009 112 min.) [Film4 12.20am sunday &+1]

Action comedy drama starring Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong and Chloë Moretz. In an effort to improve his image, comic-book nerd Dave Lizewski decides to reinvent himself as a superhero, despite not actually having any special powers. However, this doesn't stop him becoming an internet sensation and attracting the attention of some rather unsavoury characters.

There's two ways of making a film based on a graphic novel or long running comic book : you can treat the source work with reverence (but the danger then is that you end up with Wolverine) or you can accept the fact that the concept of super heroes is inherently absurd and make a film that delivers plenty of fun, fighting and frolics while not taking yourself seriously or treating the material as sacred text.

Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman did some impressive work with their previous film, the charming and very funny adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust, and they apply the same formula here. There's plenty of laugh out loud moments and sly humour in among the expected fists'n'fury set-pieces.

(Then) rising British star Aaron Johnson leads a cast who are firing on all ironic cylinders : Mark Strong as the baddest of all evil doers equally happy dispatching those in his employ who fail him or attempting to stamp on a child's face! ; Nicolas Cage is superbly wooden as the personification of a traditional comic book hero, complete with faltering Adam West speech patterns.

And the astonishing turn by Chloe Moretz as a potty-mouthed tiny teen one-girl wrecking crew, which is superbly handled by the director and executed by the young actor.

Kick-Ass is two hours of brilliantly constructed fun that everybody needs to see at least once.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 11th of March

Kill List (2011 91min.) [Film4 10.45pm &+1]

Horror starring Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring. Ex-soldier-turned-contract killer Jay is talked into doing one last job by friend and fellow hitman Gal. But as the bodies pile up, it soon becomes apparent the pair have become involved in a situation beyond their control.

Terrific British low budget thriller/horror film that casts back to the glory days of Hammer for its inspired air of creepy menace and moments of genuine shock.

Superly directed by Ben Wheatley, off the back of the equally striking Down Terrace, it's a mixture of gangster film, Mike Leigh style improvised domesticity and grand guignol horror.

A thoroughly engaging and satisfying film from beginning to end.

First of a triple bill of films directed by Ben Wheatley : it's followed by the black comedy Sightseers (2012) at 12.35am and the hallucinogenic A Field In England (2013) at 2.15am

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Freeview films of the day : sunday 6th of March

Shifty (2008 85min.) [BBC2 11.40pm]

Crime drama starring Riz Ahmed and Daniel Mays. After four years working in Manchester, Chris visits his old stomping ground on a London estate. He meets up with his drug-dealing best friend Shifty, but Shifty has moved on from just selling weed and is now involved in hardcore drugs, and with that comes danger.

Very well done low budget British film that remembers to put moments of comedy in among the social commentary.
Excellent performances by the three leads and a good sense of time and place. Worth the effort.

The Great Beauty (2013 135min.) [Film4 12.50am monday &+1]

A disillusioned writer leads a luxurious life in Rome's high society, but grows increasingly contemptuous of the shallow people who surround him. He wanders the city in search of inspiration, haunted by his own lost youth and past mistakes.
Comedy drama, starring Toni Servillo and Carlo Verdone.
In Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.

Paolo Sorrentino's film is something of a rarity in modern cinema - the central character is an older person who's neither a victim nor a burden; instead we join Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) as he wanders around Rome, wryly reflecting on the rather empty experiences enjoyed by certain sections of the population while casting his mind back over his own life and ruminating over missed opportunities.

There's not much in the way of a story or plot beyond that - but Servillo's Jep is such a pleasing companion that the two and a bit hours spent in his company are both rewarding and pleasant.

An original film with a nice wry humour running through it - all beautifully photographed and underpinned by a well chosen soundtrack. Absorbing and entertaining.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : saturday 5th of March

Seven Psychopaths (2012 105min.) [Ch4 11.40pm &+1]

Black comedy drama starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. Struggling screenwriter Marty finds inspiration for his next script in the dog-napping operation run by his nefarious best friend Billy and his partner Hans. But the target of their next sting is going to put everyone's lives in danger.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh follows up his cult favourite In Bruges (2008) with another darkly comic thriller.
The setting moves from the picturesque fantasy world of Bruges to the vapid fantasy world of the Los Angeles hinterland and the deluded population of would-be Hollywood actors and writers.

McDonagh is well served by a fantastic cast, especially Colin Farrell as the booze soaked lead and Christopher Walken at his wigged-out best; but also Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish and Sam Rockwell.
Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton, Zeljko Ivanek, Olga Kurylenko and Michael Pitt also pop up at various points to great effect.

The film suffers a little from a sense of rushing and sometimes trips over it's own feet in it's haste to cover all of the ground it needs to in order to fit in all of the elements of the story.

However, it's hugely entertaining and has moments of genuine hilarity; it just needed a little more care at the editing phase.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 4th of March

Drug War (2012 102min.) [Film4 12.50am saturday &+1]

A drug dealer is hospitalised following an accident, which leads to him being identified by the police and facing the death penalty. He agrees to help bring down the criminal organisation he works for in return for his life, assisting undercover officers to infiltrate the syndicate. Gangster thriller, starring Louis Koo and Ka Tung Lam. In Mandarin and Cantonese.

Director Johnnie To is a superstar in his native Hong Kong with a string of well-respected and commercially successful action/thriller films to his name.
Sadly, in the UK his work struggles to get a cinema release and he has become something of a cult figure through the home entertainment releases of his work.

Drug War is a high energy series of set-pieces linked with a slightly confusing plot that features double and triple crosses, identity swaps and multiple timelines.

However, even if you struggle to follow who is doing what to who and why there's loads to enjoy here. It's all really well shot and the action sequences are artfully constructed.
It's the kind of film Asian cinema does really, really well and those who enjoy the work of John Woo, Takashi Miike, Chan-wook Park etc. will find a lot to enjoy and admire here.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : thursday 3rd of March

The Skeleton Key (2005 99min.) [MovieMix/moremovies (Freeview 32, Freesat 143, Sky 185) 12.40am friday &+1]

Supernatural thriller, starring Kate Hudson. Live-in nurse Caroline takes a position in a decrepit mansion to care for the ailing husband of the mysterious Violet Devereaux. Intrigued by the secretive couple, she begins to explore the house but her snooping takes a sinister turn when she stumbles upon a hidden attic room that holds a deadly secret.

Well constructed piece of Southern Gothic directed with considerable style by Britain's Ian Softley who creates a world of suffocating heat, claustrophobia and alienation during the slow paced first two thirds of the film before conjouring up an (unexpected) denoument that probably isn't the one the viewer was expecting.

Some very good performances, especially from Gena Rowlands as Violet, and Softley's astute direction help paper over the deficiences of the script.

Enjoyable voodoo based nonsense.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 2nd of March

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013 100min.) [Film4 9.00pm & +1]
Freeview premiere

An aspiring musician struggles to make a name for himself in the Greenwich village folk scene of early 1960s New York. As he pursues an audition with an influential music mogul, he comes across a series of obstacles - many of his own making.
The Coen brothers' drama, starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake.

The folk scene of New York's Greenwich Village at the start of the sixties may not (on the face of it) seem to be the most promising setting for a comedy/drama : however, the Coen Brothers bring their usual mix of deadpan wit and absurdity to the story and deliver a film that's by turns reflective, moving and laugh out loud funny.

Oscar Isaac is very, very good in the title role (and has an impressive singing voice) and the supporting cast, especially Mulligan and Timberlake, are excellent.

Llewyn Davis himself is a very well drawn character - a mix of self-serving wannabee and untrustworthy leach with just enough of a varnish of talent to make his story believable.

An enjoyable film, very well scripted, made and acted with a real sense of time and place. A darker companion piece to Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind (2003).

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Freeview film of the day : tuesday 1st of March

Shutter Island (2009 132min.) [Film4 10.55pm &+1]

Mystery thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In 1950s Boston, US marshal Teddy Daniels is called in to investigate the disappearance of a female murderer from an institution for the criminally insane. But with the hospital's authorities being less than helpful, Teddy's work becomes hampered by false leads and misinformation.

The fourth film collaboration between director and star is a broad genre piece based on a best selling novel by Dennis Lehane.
It's part noir thriller, part psychological drama and part adventure story which the director blends together with his usual skill. There's a rip roaring score underpinning the story as it twists and turns and the (very good) cast all work their socks off : especially Mark Ruffalo and Max von Sydow - but also Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams and Emily Mortimer.

It's not 100% perfect but it's a thoroughly entertaining attempt at adapting the interior world of the novel into a cinematic piece.

Note : the title is an anagram (as well as the name of the setting for the story) and truths and lies is what the story is all about.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Freeview film of the day : monday 1st of February

The Troll Hunter (2010 99min.) [Film4 11.25pm &+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.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 27th of January

Someone To Watch Over Me (1987 102min.) [BBC1 12.15am thursday]

Thriller from director Ridley Scott, starring Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers and Lorraine Bracco. Mike Keegan is a happily married New York detective assigned to protect Claire Gregory, a wealthy socialite who has agreed to testify against the gangster who murdered her friend. But Mike gradually finds his involvement with the witness affecting his family life.

Ah! The eighties thriller - usually a confection of ludicrous plot, consumer-porn housing, cars and accessories, impossibly glamorous people and set among shiny, reflective surfaces all of which are there to distract from the lack of anything worthwhile or interesting happening on screen.

In amongst this great slew of empty headed films there's a few that stand out from the crowd and Someone To watch Over Me is one of them.

Firstly, it's directed by Ridley Scott who has a sure touch and a knack for this sort of material : secondly it's two lead actors are Mimi Rogers and Tom Berenger who are believable as human beings rather than walking, talking clothes horses.

We actually care what happens to these two thanks to a smart script from Howard Franklin which has greater depth and subtly than usually find in thrillers of this time - the subtexts with regard to consumerism and the nature of voyeurism are well handled while the thriller elements keep the story moving forward.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Freeview films of the day : monday 18th of January

Mud (2012 124 min.) [Film4 6.25pm &+1]

Two boys exploring an island on the Mississippi discover a fugitive has made his home there. He tells them he is on the run from bounty hunters after killing a man, and needs their help to be reunited with his lost love. As they ferry messages to the woman in question, the youngsters are forced to come to terms with the complexity of adult relationships. Drama, starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon.

The possible beginning of the re-evaluation of Matthew McConaughey after several years lost in the wasteland of landfill rom-coms.

He plays the title character and puts in a very strong performance while his two young co-stars (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) are both exceptional.

In fact there's some serious acting talent throughout the cast : Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Joe Don Baker and Paul Sparks all turn up at various points.

Neatly handled by writer/director Jeff Nichols and making the absolute most of the scenery of its Mississippi River setting it's a small but tense drama with some very fine performances by all involved.

Interesting and involving.

Rush (2013 117min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]

Motor racing drama based on a true story, starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. The 1976 Formula One season is dominated by the intense rivalry between two brilliant drivers: the maverick James Hunt and the methodical Niki Lauda. As their quest for dominance of the sport grows more intense, tragedy seems almost inevitable.

Chris Hemsworth plays Hunt as a boozy, lazy, ladies man blessed with natural charm and talent while Daniel Brühl as Lauda is the technically minded perfectionist who scowls and gripes his way through his professional and personal life.

The two ends of the spectrum personalities of the central characters allows scriptwriter Peter Morgan to dig deep into the psyche of the two rivals - the scenes set in pre-race drivers meetings where Hunt teases and mocks Lauda's obsession with safety are superbly done.

Ron Howard's direction of the action scenes is quite thrilling and the sights and sounds (and the constant presence of sudden death) of 1970s Formula 1 are brilliantly re-created.

Olivia Wilde is terrific as Hunt's long suffering girlfriend/wife Suzy and Christian McKay is an absolute joy as Alexander Hesketh, the wealthy playboy who gives Hunt his first drive.

Even if you know nothing about (or care nothing about) Formula 1 racing don't be put off : the film is very low on technical chat and backstory and very big on personal relationships, spectacle and thrills.

Hugely entertaining.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Freeview film of the day : saturday 16th of January

Spider (2002 94min.) [BBC2 12.45am sunday]

Bleak psychological drama starring Ralph Fiennes. A destitute man recently released from a mental hospital visits East End locations where he thinks he saw his father murder his mother.

David Cronenberg may have made his name and found cult fame with his early 'body horror' films in the 1980s but here he's more concerned with the internal struggle of a mind of a man attempting to come to terms with a traumatic experience in his early life.

Ralph Fiennes turns in a career best performance as Spider, recently released from a mental institution into community care. He spends his time wandering the streets of his youth and attempting to piece together the shocking events of his past that led directly to his present situation.

Cronenberg uses multiple timelines, shifting chronology and compound characters to show Spider's isolation, confusion, angst, sadness and pain. It's a highly effective film making the absolute best of it's East London setting and the dislocation the characters feel from their times.

Complex and rewarding.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Freeview film of the day : thursday 14th of January

Orphan (2009 117min.) [Film4 11.45pm &+1]

Horror thriller starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, and Isabelle Fuhrman. When bereaved couple Kate and John adopt nine-year-old Esther from an orphanage, their dreams of family happiness soon descend into a nightmare.

Camp, ever so knowing cuckoo-in-the-nest thriller with an outsanding performance by Isabelle Fuhrman and multiplex pleasing direction by Jaume Collet-Serra.
Very stylish and very entertaining.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 13th of January

What Richard Did (2012 83min.) [Film4 1.25am thursday & +1]

A wealthy teenager manages to seduce another student's girlfriend, but his confidence is shaken by her continuing friendship with her ex. His insecurity results in a violent confrontation that has unforeseen consequences, and leads to his seemingly charmed life rapidly falling apart. Drama, starring Jack Reynor and Roisin Murphy.

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (who then went on to make the excellent Frank) this sombre and careful character study follows the descent of the title character (superbly played by newcomer Jack Reynor) as he travels from school golden boy to wretched, haunted misfit.

Seen by some as a parable for the journey the national psyche of the Irish nation went through during it's dramatic economic expansion and equally dramatic fall; it's an ensemble piece that relies on mood, atmosphere and some terrific acting by the young cast backed up by a well cast group of supporting adults - Lars Mikkelsen is especially good as Richards dad.

All of the drama comes from the situations that Richard causes by his actions and the film is so well made that we never feel as though we are wallowing in his predicament, but rather the audience is taken along on the fascinating and compelling journey of a haunted young man.

Not much in the way of laughs - but a sturdy and well developed piece of small scale drama.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Freeview film of the day : saturday 9th of January

The Hunger Games : Catching Fire (2013 140min.) [Ch4 9.00pm &+1]
Freeview premiere

Katniss Everdeen's victory in a televised death match makes her a focus for revolution against the totalitarian nation she lives in. The rulers of the regime plot to crush dissent with a new series of games, in which past champions battle it out. Sci-fi adventure sequel based on the second book in Suzanne Collins' trilogy of novels, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The second film in the four film franchise picks up where the first finished and provides more of the content that made its predecessor such a delight.

Jennifer Lawrence returns and is once again sensational in the lead role : the support from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer is top quality and Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, the wonderful Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland all add weight to the cast.

Director Francis Lawrence remembers that in among the terrific action sequences and well handled CGI effects there's a story that needs to be told and does so very well indeed. Despite the extended running time the film never flags or lags and the whole thing is expertly held together.

Very, very good with high entertainment value.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Freeview film of the day : friday 8th of January

Amy(2015 122min.) [Ch4 9.00pm &+1]
Freeview premiere

Using archive footage, previously unseen material and contemporary interviews, director Asif Kapadia paints an intimate portrait of singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse, who died at the age of just 27.

Asif Kapadia's previous film was the superb documentary Senna (2010) and he used the same approach when putting together this biography of the doomed singer.

Once again there's no narration or on-screen talking head to guide you through the story ; it's told entirely through archive footage and specially filmed interviews with those who were close to the subject or important to their career during their time in the public eye.

As before you need to have no prior knowledge (or even liking of) the subject to be pulled into and enthralled by the story as it unfolds on screen : the meticulous construction and painstaking care taken with the film means that this is neither a hagiography nor a hatchet job - it's an informed, balanced and respectful look back on a life ended far too soon.

One of the most interesting aspects is how quickly Winehouse's very public failures became a staple of chat show, stand-up and TV panel games 'jokes' - some of the archive footage is very revealing of the nature of 21st. centruy celebrity culture : watching some of these routines back is very uncomfortable with the benefit of hindsight.

Amy is a remarkable film and the wealth of material that Asif Kapadia and his team assembled gives a real sense of depth to the story which they tell with real compassion and style.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Freeview film choices : monday 4th of January

Master And Commander : The Far Side Of The World (2003 132min.) [Film4 6.25pm &+1]

Period adventure drama based on the novels by Patrick O'Brian, starring Russell Crowe. In 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, British frigate HMS Surprise is out-gunned by a French warship and badly damaged. Despite severe injuries to his crew and his opponent's greater fire power, uncompromising captain Jack Aubrey patches up the Surprise and sets off to seek revenge.

Thoroughly entertaining seafaring adventure story.
Russell Crowe reins it in a bit as the driven but human ship's captain driven to pursue a French pirateer seeking revenge and glory while Paul Bettany gives a quiet, thoughtful but well rounded performance as the ships doctor and resident biologist.

There's some spectacular CGI effects and model work (the rounding of Cape Horn in a full-on storm is especially well done) and Peter Weir spends enough time with the main characters and a strong supporting cast to add some human interest to the action sequences.

Genuinely exciting in places and very well photographed and shot - although it did unconvincing box-office business it's by no means a failure.
Warmly recommended for a chilly evening.

The Next Three Days (2010 133min.) [Ch5 11.00pm &+1]
Freeview premiere

Crime drama starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks and Liam Neeson. The world of academic John Brennan collapses when his wife is arrested for her boss's murder and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Brennan is convinced of his partner's innocence, but with every legal channel exhausted, this mild-mannered man is forced into taking desperate measures.

Paul Haggis's film is (essentially)a remake of Fred Cavayé's French thriller Pour Elle /Anything For Her (2008) moving the action from Paris to Philadelphia.
Part of the effectiveness of the French film is down to the fact that we believe in Diane Kruger and Vincent Lindon's relationship, and that Lindon's character is capable of the acts that we see him perform in the story.

The addition of Hollywood A List stars and the much larger budget thus creates problems of it's own, problems that the film largely fails to resolve.

However it is beautifully shot by cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine who makes the absolute best of the inner-city & urban setting of much of the film.
It's a perfectly serviceable and enjoyable film in it's own right : but I would urge you to seek out Cavayé's superior original version.

If you enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie's locked room mystery And Then There Were None over Christmas you might be interested in the enjoyable 1974 film version, starring Olive Reed and Richard Attenborough.
It's on ITV3 at 12.05am tuesday &+1

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Freeview film choices : saturday 2nd of January

From Russia With Love (1963 110min.) [ITV1 2.45pm &+1]
Spy adventure starring Sean Connery. James Bond is sent to Istanbul to help a beautiful Russian diplomat defect to the West with an important cipher machine. However, he is unaware that he is being drawn into a trap laid by criminal organisation Spectre.

In most people’s top five Bond films.

Iron Man Three (2013 125min.) [BBC1 7.10pm]
Freeview premiere
Fantasy action adventure starring Robert Downey Jr. Wealthy industrialist Tony Stark must rely on his wits when an attack on his home leaves him without his super suit. To make matters worse he has to square up to an evil scientist from his past and a nefarious new villain called the Mandarin.

Pretty much the package as before, although a distinct improvement on the disappointing first sequel in the franchise. Director Shane Black is very good at this sort of action movie and, with co-writer Drew Pearce, has a lot of fun mixing in dark humour, surprises and wit among the (very spectacular) special effects and robot fights.
A popcorn munching monster of a Saturday night movie.

The Dark Knight (2008 145mins.) [ITV1 9.00pm &+1]
ction fantasy starring Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger. Now that Gotham City has its very own masked protector, the heads of the underworld find it more and more difficult to operate. But then they receive an offer they can't refuse from a garishly attired criminal called the Joker. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne's former girlfriend Rachel Dawes has started a relationship with DA Harvey Dent who is pursuing his own crusade against crime in Gotham.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011 100mins.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]
Sci-fi action adventure starring James Franco and Freida Pinto. When scientist Will Rodman's programme of drug experiments to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease is shut down he secretly takes an offspring from one of the chimpanzees he was using into his home and names him Caesar. Caesar has inherited the effects of the trial drug and begins to show remarkable intelligence, a development that will put him on a violent collision course withthe humans who have abused him.

There's justification for the revisiting of the classic Planet Of The Apes film series on the basis that new technology allows the film makers to use motion capture and CGI rather than people in suits to portray the apes.

Caesar, the ape at the centre of the story, is mostly a motion captured Andy Serkis while the team behind Avatar's special effects help to fill the screen with any number of virtual but believable primates.
In the original series Rise came after the Charlton Heston starring first film and it does make sense, if revisiting the series, to begin with the origins of...story.

And it's done rather well...some of the dialogue is a bit clunky and some of the human acting is a bit too knowing for the tone of the piece andthemoral questions raised by the story are largely sidestepped.
But those quibbles aside director Rupert Wyatt delivers some great set-pieces and a touching story and the special effects are very, very good.

A well crafted big-budget Hollywood blockbuster that is extremely watchable.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011 112min.) [Ch4 10.35pm &+1]
Spy thriller adapted from John le Carré's novel and based on the classic television series, starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth. Following the death of an agent, information is received that a Soviet mole is operating at the heart of the British secret service. Veteran operative George Smiley is called out of retirement to try to uncover the spy and he soon discovers that you can trust no-one - not even those closest to you.

Those who remember the BBC TV adaptation may be slightly disappointed by this film version : the abbreviated running time (compared to the TV series) means there's little room for background or providing depth of character - both of which were an essential part of the series.
This means that it's difficult to work up much empathy with George Smiley or fathom the motives of the mole he's working so hard to uncover.

That said it's a decent enough stand-alone spy thriller, filled with period detail (the gruesome office Christmas party is a standout scene) and enough decent acting talent to keep you watching, even though you may not care too much about the eventual outcome.

Black Death (2010 97min.) [BBC1 midnight sunday]
Horror mystery starring Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne. Medieval England is in the grip of the plague, so when it comes to light that a remote community has been left mysteriously untouched by the pestilence, a young monk and a band of mercenary knights are sent to investigate whether witchcraft is responsible.

Director Christopher Smith moves from the contemporary setting of his two previous films (Severance and the really very good Triangle) to tackle medieval superstition, swordplay and sorcery in this rather good British horror/fantasy.

Sean Bean is reliably gruff and swarthy in the lead role but Eddie Redmayne and the excellent Carice van Houten (Zchwarzbok/Black Book) carry off most of the acting credit.

There's a lot going on : religion, philosophy, fighting, withcraft, re-animation, persecution etc. but Smith keeps a handle on it all and produces a rather smart and thought provoking little film.

Marley (2012 139min.) [ITV1 1.00am Sunday &+1]
Kevin Macdonald's documentary that uses rare footage to trace the life of iconic reggae musician Bob Marley from humble beginnings to world superstar.

A little lightweight and uncritical : but an interesting introduction to the lige and work of the first global reggae superstar.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Freeview film choices : friday 1st of January

Monsters vs Aliens (2009 90min.) [BBC1 10.25am]
Animated sci-fi comedy featuring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen and Hugh Laurie. Susan Murphy is in love and about to marry her weatherman fiancé Derek when she is struck by a meteorite that endows her with extraordinary powers. Codenamed Ginormica, she is enlisted by the military to join other "monsters" in defending the Earth from alien invasion.

We're living in a Golden Age of Animation, but aside from an occasional Disney princess, animated female protagonists are rare in American films, which makes this Dreamworks production all the more welcome.
Fans of 1950s sci-fi will have a field day spotting homages to films like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The Blob, but even non-fans should enjoy the colourful action, lovely characters and some delightfully subversive little genre tweaks.

Carry On Cabby (1963 88min.) [Ch5 10.50am &+1]
Comedy starring Sidney James and Hattie Jacques. The proprietor of Speedee Taxis gets some unexpected competition when his neglected wife starts up her own firm - the all-female Glamcabs.

The Sound Of Music (1965 167min.) [BBC1 1.15pm]
Classic family musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. When trainee nun Maria begins to have doubts about her vocation, she leaves her convent in Salzburg to become governess to the seven children of Captain Von Trapp, a widower and retired naval officer. The spirited Maria instils a loveof music in the children, but the family's happiness is threatened by the Nazi occupation of Austria.

Being shown in a digitally restored print.
Robert Wise's direction, Julie Andrews and the Rodgers and Hammerstein score are all perfect. One of the great musicals of the sixties.

Dr No (1962 105min.) [ITV1 1.25pm]
Spy adventure, the first in the series of films based on Ian Fleming's famous fictional secret agent, starring Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. James Bond is sent to Jamaica to find out more about the mysterious killing of a fellow agent. With the help of CIA man Felix Leiter, Bond discovers the evil Dr No's plan to hold the United States to ransom by threatening its space programme.

Wreck It Ralph (2012 97min.) [BBC1 4.30pm]
Freeview premiere
Animated adventure featuring the voice of John C Reilly. The villain of a 1980s arcade game sets off on a quest through other state-of-the-art games to prove there's more to him than just being a bad guy.
Great fun for the first two thirds of its running time but the pace seems to flag as it run out of ideas in the final stretch.
I really enjoyed the voice work of John C Reilly as the titular animated character but felt that they could have done just a little bit more with the story. Still, it’s an entertaining enough hour and a half and very well animated.

The Terminal (2004 123min.) [BBC2 5.55pm]
Comedy drama directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. On a visit to the United States from the eastern European state of Krakozhia, Viktor Navorski suddenly finds himself with no legal status after his country falls to a military coup. Without a valid visa or diplomatic status, the hapless Navorski is therefore confined to JFK airport, much to the irritation of US customs official Frank Dixon who is determined to be rid of the unwanted visitor.

A far better film than it's popular reputation would lead you to believe.

Tangled (2010 96min.) [Ch4 6.00pm &+1]
Freeview premiere
Animated fairy-tale adventure featuring the voices Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. The long-haired Rapunzel has spent her entire life incarcerated in a tower so when she falls in love with a bandit, she must venture into the outside world for the first time.
From the team that brought you the superior canine animated adventure Bolt (2008) ; this fairy tale animation has several moments of real beauty as the characters are swept along on a series of adventures.
It’s fun to watch, has an uplifting story and several genuine laugh out loud moments.

Independence Day (1996 138min.) [Film4 6.15pm &+1]
A fleet of vast flying saucers launches a devastating and unprovoked attack on Earth. As survivors try to flee the seemingly unstoppable alien invaders, the courageous US president, an ace pilot and a computer genius come up with a plan to take the fight to the enemy and save the human race. Roland Emmerich's sci-fi adventure, starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia and Harry Connick Jr.

Sometimes what you want from a film is to be able to park your brain in neutral and be entertained by an adventure story with lots of explosions and some cool special effects. (What sniffy film theorists call "an empty experience").

If tonight is such a night then you're in luck.
"Independence Day" has a story of sorts but it's mainly an excuse for some "oooooh!" moments as well known global landmarks (mainly in the US!) are blown to bits by pesky aliens.

There's some bits and bobs of acting in there : the always reliable Bill Pullman as the gung-ho action hero POTUS, Jeff Goldblum doing his nutty professor turn, Will Smith as the wise cracking pilot and Vivica A Fox as the token kick-ass female.
Director Roland Emmerich handles the CGI elements well and obviously enjoyed the experience as he reprised the trick with varying degrees of success in "Godzilla" (1997) "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004) "10,000 BC (2008) and the godawful "2012".

Despicable Me (2010 90min.) [ITV2 6.50pm &+1]
Animated comedy featuring the voice of Steve Carell. Behind the seemingly tranquil façade of small-town America, super-criminal Gru plots his biggest heist yet: to steal the Moon. But an encounter with orphan sisters Margo, Edith and Agnes proves that even the most dastardly villain has a soft centre.

Skyfall (2012 137min.) [ITV2 8.00pm &+1]
Spy adventure starring Daniel Craig as agent James Bond. When an operation to retrieve a computer hard drive containing the names of agents goes wrong, the authority of MI6 boss M comes under scrutiny. Her only ally seems to be Bond, who is assigned to track down the mastermind behind the theft. It's a mission that will reveal long-hidden secrets from M's and Bond's past.

Shrek 2 (2004 88min.) [BBC3 8.30pm]
Sequel to the hit animated fantasy comedy, featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz. On arriving back from their honeymoon, Shrek and princess Fiona are invited to stay with her parents in the kingdom of Far Far Away. But King Harold is less than enchanted by his new son-in-law, and the Fairy Godmother has good reason to want the ogre out of Fiona's life. Cue assassin-for hire Puss-in-Boots...

Rather disappointing sequel to the rip-roaring original. Some very good sight gags and brilliant animation but the story and some of the voice work let too much daylight in on the magic.

A Good Day To Die Hard (2013 93min.) [Ch4 9.00pm &+1]
Freeview premiere
Action thriller starring Bruce Willis. Tough cop John McClane travels to Moscow to help his estranged son, who has somehow become embroiled in an assassination plot. But when McClane senior arrives he discovers that junior is in much deeper than he imagined.

Awful, terrible, desperate : over done and under scripted. A massive waste of everyone’s time.

Les Miserables (2012 151min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]
Period musical based on the internationally successful stage show and the novel by Victor Hugo, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried. In post-revolutionary France a criminal tries to make amends for his past by raising a young girl as his own. But the policeman who first put him away is unconvinced by the transformation and is determined to expose him.

Catch Me If You Can (2012 134min.) [BBC2 10.20pm]
Comedy drama, based on the true story of conman Frank William Abagnale Jr, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. Shattered by the news that his parents are divorcing, 16-year-old Frank runs away to New York. For six years he lives a life of fraud, cashing over $2 million in bad cheques while impersonating an airline pilot, paediatrician and lawyer, and always staying one step ahead of tenacious FBI agent Carl Hanratty.

An essentially lightweight confection that works because Steven Spielberg knows exactly how to make films like this and because of Leonardo DiCaprio's charisma and charm in the lead role.
Great work in the supporting cast from Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen. Enjoyable nonsense.

Shadow Of A Doubt (1942 103min.) [BBC2 12.30am Saturday]
Classic Hitchcock thriller starring Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright. When Uncle Charlie arrives in the small Californian town of Santa Rosa, he is welcomed with open arms by his family. However, his admiring niece soon begins to harbour doubts about her favourite uncle.

Brilliantly played by the two leads and perfectly directed by Hitchcock (it was his own favourite of his work) it’s a tense thriller which builds to a very satisfying final act.