Saturday, 25 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 25th of February

It Follows (2014 96mins.) [Film4 11.15pm &+1]

A university student discovers her boyfriend has passed a curse onto her after they sleep together for the first time. It results in her being stalked by a supernatural menace that always seems to be one step behind. Can she and her friends find a way to get rid of it before it finally catches up with her? Horror, starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist and Olivia Luccardi.

Terrific ghost story/psychological horror that seems to draw its inspiration from the Japanese horror tradition and then mix it with the creepy style first used by John Carpenter in his 1978 classic Halloween.

There's no ultra-gory murders or dismemberment- all the "horror" comes from the seemingly unstoppable and relentless nameless thing that pursues its young victims - and this 'monster' is brilliantly used to build a genuinely disquieting tone through the film.

Superbly directed by David Robert Mitchell and with a terrifically strong female lead (Maika Monroe is excellent); the film also makes great use of its setting amid the urban decay of contemporary Detroit.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : friday 24th of February

Red Eye (2005 81min.) [Film4 11.05pm &+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.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 22nd of February

Belle (2013 99mins.) [Film4 11.15pm &+1]

The illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral is raised in the household of her great uncle, but is never entirely accepted in Georgian British society. She falls in love with an idealistic lawyer, and together they campaign against the slave trade. Fact-based period drama, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson.

Amma Asante's fact-based film is a warm-hearted, witty, glamorous treat : even for those people who would normally run a mile rather than settle down in front of a frocks'n'bonnets historical love story.

While the issues around slavery, class, domestic servitude and the inequities of a closed Victorian society are addressed the over-riding theme is the way in which love wil find a way to survive and triumph even when faced with the obstacles of closed minds and hearts.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is sensational in the lead role; ably supported by Wilkinson, Watson and Sam Reid's unfussy and controlled work - Asante's direction is assured and the period settings are neatly realised.

A perfectly done gem of a film.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 18th of February

The White Ribbon (2009 137min.) [BBC2 12.55am sunday]

Period mystery drama from director Michael Haneke, starring Christian Friedel and Ulrich Tukur. When a series of supposed accidents occurs in a outwardly idyllic north German village in the early 1910s, tension between the residents grows and it becomes apparent than everyone, young or old, has something to hide.

Genuine modern classic from Michael Haneke which won the Palme D'Or at Cannes and a whole bunch of other awards.

Everything about it is right - from the story, which is essentially a parable for the rise of the far-right in Germany, to the ensemble cast, the superb production design and Christian Berger's gorgeous photography.

Haneke builds suspense and disquiet through every scene and creates a haunting psychological thriller which I thoroughly recommend.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : friday 17th of February

Skyline (2010 88min.) [C4 1.05am saturday &+1]

Sci-fi thriller starring Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson and Brittany Daniel. Jarrod and his girlfriend Elaine travel to Los Angeles to meet up with an old friend, Terry, and celebrate his birthday with a big party at his penthouse flat. But during the night, flashing lights appear in the sky and it quickly becomes apparent that an alien invasion is taking place and their lives are in peril.

Dumb, faintly absurd, camp sci-fi thriller that mixes and matches elements of several much better films to produce a curious mixture of CGI driven effects and "beautiful people in peril" that often topples over the thin line between fun and stupid.

A solid cast of "oooh it's him/her off the telly" (the lead actor was Tuck in 'Scrubs') battle with some over-ripe dialogue while attempting to avoid The Alien Invaders.

As is so often the case with this sort of film the writers had no idea how to end it (does the Earth get saved? If so how? If not, what happens next?) and so opt for a laughable quasi-mystical sequence that rather undermines the flashy, crashy, showy stuff that's gone before.

Fun but not to be taken at all seriously.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 11th of February

Behind The Candelabra (2013 113min.)[BBC2 11.05pm]

Biographical drama starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Flamboyant pianist Liberace was already one of the most famous entertainers in the world when he was introduced to young Scott Thorson in 1977. Scott is at first seduced and then overpowered by the larger-than-life character and his opulent lifestyle. But their six-year relationship is volatile and is kept secret from Liberace's adoring fans.

Directed by indie darling Steven Soderburgh and with a host of big names in small supporting roles (including Rob Lowe and Debbie Reynolds, who are both very good) this is an affectionate portrait of one of the great American showmen that neatly balances the two aspects of its subjects life : the glittering live performances and the equally glittering but sequestered private life. It’s also very good on the lengths that Liberace and his friends have to go to in order to keep his personal life behind closed doors.

There’s a real warmth in Douglas’ wonderful portrayal of a man tortured by loneliness and loss and the whole film is as camp, endearing, glitzy and eccentric as the man himself.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : friday 10th of February

The Last Samurai (2003 147mins.) [Dave 9.00pm & +1]

The emperor of Japan recruits an American Civil War veteran to train his troops in a bid to wipe out a rebel faction of samurai warriors. The soldier is taken captive when the imperial army is defeated, and comes to respect his enemies' traditions and code of honour, finally going over to their side. Historical adventure, starring Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly and Shichinosuke Nakamura.

Surprisingly entertaining (if sometimes preposterous) big budget historical epic which tells its story very well with some solid performances and genuinely exciting battle scenes.

Cruise does a decent enough job in the lead role, but Ken Watanabe's dignified samurai warrior leader takes all the acting credits.

Beautifully shot with some remarkable sets and period reconstructions, there's a lot more to enjoy here than you might think from the plot synopsis and cast list.

Decently directed by Edward Zwick it's a smart film that could have done with perhaps a little more care at the editing phase, some scenes run far too long while others aren't given sufficient room to play out.

Enjoyable if a little too heavy handed with its message.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 8th of February

Someone To Watch Over Me (1987 102min.) [BBC1 11.45pm]

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, 6 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : monday 6th of February

It Follows (2014 96mins.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]
Freeview premiere

A university student discovers her boyfriend has passed a curse onto her after they sleep together for the first time. It results in her being stalked by a supernatural menace that always seems to be one step behind. Can she and her friends find a way to get rid of it before it finally catches up with her? Horror, starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist and Olivia Luccardi.

Terrific ghost story/psychological horror that seems to draw its inspiration from the Japanese horror tradition and then mix it with the creepy style first used by John Carpenter in his 1978 classic Halloween.

There's no ultra-gory murders or dismemberment- all the "horror" comes from the seemingly unstoppable and relentless nameless thing that pursues its young victims - and this 'monster' is brilliantly used to build a genuinely disquieting tone through the film.

Superbly directed by David Robert Mitchell and with a terrifically strong female lead (Maika Monroe is excellent); the film also makes great use of its setting amid the urban decay of contemporary Detroit.

A really interesting (and creepy) American independent film packed full of invention, wit and skill.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 4th of February

The Falling (2014 97mins.) [BBC2 9.45pm]
Freeview premiere

A 1960s girls' school is rocked by the sudden death of a star pupil. Soon afterwards, the students suffer an outbreak of mass hysteria, and begin inexplicably fainting. The close friendship between two very different girls seems to lie at the centre of the strange happenings. Drama, starring Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake and Greta Scacchi.

A swirling, impressionistic, dreamlike almost surrealistic story about peer pressure, female sexuality and its awakening, jealousy, fear and repression beautifully shot by Agn├Ęs Godard and with a hypnotic Tracey Thorn score.

If you're familiar with director Carol Morley's previous film, the semi-documentary Dreams Of A Life, you'll know that she's very skilled at capturing the time and place of a story and has a real ability to make the viewer invest in and care about the characters on the screen.

The cast here is phenomenally good - Masie Williams is at the heart of the story and drives the narrative, but there's some exceptional work around her : newcomer Florence Pugh excels as the cause of the mysterious events, Greta Scacchi plays brilliantly against type and Maxine Peake and Monica Dolen are terrific as the authority figures in Williams' life.

There's hints of David Lynch in the tone and feel of the film but it's closer antecedents are off-kilter thrillers such as The Haunting, Picnic At Hanging Rock and the British wave of supernatural chillers from the 50s and 60s.

A remarkable film that deserves (and rewards) your attention.