Friday, 12 January 2018

Freeview film of the day : friday 12th of january

Amy (2015 122min.) [Ch4 12.10am saturday &+1]

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.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 3rd of January

Made In Dagenham (2010 108min.) [BBC4 9.00pm]

Comedy drama based on a true story, starring Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins and Miranda Richardson. In 1968, workers at the Ford auto plant in Dagenham - one of the biggest employers in the UK - go on strike, demanding equal rights for female staff. The unassuming Rita O'Grady finds herself at the centre of a movement that is destined to change the lives of women for years to come.

A timely reminder of what the British film industry can do apart from frocks'n'bonnets literary adaptations, alleged comedy films with floppy haired posh people and soft-hearted dramas about the elderly.

The always excellent Sally Hawkins leads a solid gold cast : Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson (note perfect as Labour legend Barbara Castle), Daniel Mays, Rosamund Pike, John Sessions (as Harold Wilson), Rupert Graves, Geraldine James and even Toby off of The West Wing and Trigger off of OFAH all pop-up at various points.

A warm, witty, affectionate slice of social history focussing on one of the pivitol moments in the development of British society with a well-realised sense of time and place and a script that makes its points well without feeling the need to bash you about the head with them constantly.
Thoroughly recommended.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Freeview film of the day : monday 20th of November

I Wish (2011 123min.) [Ch4 2.00am tuesday &+1]

A 12-year-old boy lives with his divorced mother, while his brother lives with his father in a different part of the country. When a bullet train line is built connecting the two towns, he starts to believe that when the first trains pass each other, a miracle will occur - which he hopes will reunite his family. Drama, starring real-life brothers Koki and Ohshiro Maeda. In Japanese.

Hirokazu Koreeda is the emerging star of Japanese mainstream cinema : his Like Father, Like Son (2013) and Our Little Sister (2015) both found a very large audience outside of his homeland and created interest in his back catalogue.

I Wish (along with the superb After Life (1998) ) demonstrates the development of his style and his abiding interests : childhood's hope, joy and sheer joie de vivre captured without sentimentally or a crushing layer of saccharine schmaltz.

It's a terrific story, based on a Japanese urban legend and it's brilliantly played by the young cast and the older ensemble portaying the adults in their life.

Beautifully shot and constructed it makes terrific use of the natural beauty of the Japanese landscape and the finished work is an absolute delight to watch.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 28th of August

Animal Kingdom (2009 108min.) [Ch4 1.10am BST sunday &+1]

Australian crime drama starring Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Mike from Neighbours 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.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : friday 27th of October

Pitch Perfect (2012 107min.) [E4 9.00pm &+1]

A new student finds herself a social outcast during her first year of college, but soon acquires a new circle of friends in a band of misfits with a shared talent for singing. She joins their a cappella group and leads them to compete in the campus music competitions.
Comedy, starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Elizabeth Banks.

Light hearted (but not lightweight) campus set big sister to the Glee TV series. High paced and bursting with energy; the story may not amount to much and the plot takes a fairly straight line from A to C but it's all done with such wit and performed with charm and verve that it's difficult not to get swept along.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : friday 20th of October

One-Armed Swordsman (1967 109mins.) [Film4 1.40am saturday &+1]

A man has his life saved by a farmer's daughter, who shows him a secret manual that enables him to seek revenge on the jealous classmates who chopped off his arm, as well as the people who killed his father. Martial arts action drama, starring Jimmy Wang and Lisa Chiao Chiao. In Mandarin.

Cracking example of the martial arts films that Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studio (and many others) were producing at the rate of dozens per year throughout the sixties and seventies.

Shanghai-born Wang Yu was the genre superstar up until the arrival of Bruce Lee - and this is one of his very best films.
Highly recommended to those who like this sort of thing.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 14th October

The Hunger Games (2012 136mins.) [Film4 6.15pm &+1]

A totalitarian future-America holds an annual nationally televised event in which two children from each of its regions fight to the death until only one remains. A teenage girl takes her younger sister's place in the games and must pit her wits against the deadly combat skills of her rivals. Sci-fi adventure based on Suzanne Collins' novel, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks.

The quite alarming drop-off in quality as the Hunger Games film series developed seems to have resulted in people forgetting quite how good this first film is.

It's a fairly straightforward book-to-screen adaptation and therefore has some of the same faults as the source material (overly familiar sci-fi themes, the rather unsubtle social satire etc.) but director Gary Ross does a terrific job of keeping the action moving forward in an interesting and stylish way.

The design of the film is also terrific - the rendering of the world where the action takes place is really well done and the set and costume design are both excellent.

And then there's the star making turn by Jennifer Lawrence as the film's resourceful and strong hero Katniss Everdeen : it's a very fine piece of acting indeed and sits comfortably in a cast filled with some great character actors - Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and woody Harrelson are especially good.

Thrilling, exciting, sad, sweet and tender it's a film that, while aimed at a specific audience, works just as well for those without any knowledge of the books.