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.

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