We’re approaching the BAFTAs, the biggest day of the British cinema year, but in the preamble there are some real gems on TV to wet your appetite.
Prisoners (Dennis Villeneuve, 2013)
Saturday, 9:00 pm on C4
In time for the home media release of the fantastic Sicario, Villeneuve’s interesting, heartbreaking and powerful drama film is an engrossing atmosphere piece.
Hugh Jackman is a ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’ type dad, happily married to Maria Bello, and father to Dylan Minnette and Erin Gerasimovich. On Thanksgiving, while enjoying some down time with Terrance Howard, his wife Viola Davis and their kids Zoe Soul and Kyla-Drew Simmons, the two youngest of the clans go missing. As the tensions rise, the finger of blame points to suspicious but simple Paul Dano, as desperate detective Jake Gyllenhaal attempts to keep all parties calm. But Jackman decides enough is enough, and it’s time to take justice into his own hands.
An interesting meditation of revenge in a post post-9/11 US, and the politics that are built on a lust for vigilante justice. Melissa Leo is somewhat miscast in a small but pivotal role, and the constant missteps muddies the water to the point of meandering, but as a piece of mood and atmosphere Prisoners is incredibly gripping.
In the Valley of Elah (Paul Haggis, 2007)
Sunday, 11:55 pm on BBC1
Tommy Lee Jones delivers his greatest performance ever in this moving drama. He’s on the search for his son, who’s gone missing following a tour in Iraq, while Charlize Theron is unshowy as the cop trying to help him, and Susan Sarandon is his devastated wife.
With supporting roles from James Franco, Barry Corbin and Josh Brolin, this is entirely the work of Jones as he navigates the world of a Bush-era America that lives by the stars and stripes but condemns those who have to stand up and do the leg work. It’s a powerful, moving meditation of the real cost of modern warfare, as Jones shows his range with the simplest of facial changes, while Theron, Brolin and Sarandon all provide classy support.
Harrowing, but worth a watch.
Hannibal (Ridley Scott, 2001)
Monday, 10:55 pm on Channel 5
A-follow up to 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal sees Anthony Hopkins’ suave cannibal/culture aficionado Dr Hannibal Lecter hiding out in picture perfect Italy, collecting fine art, attending opera, quaffing wine, charming the locals and smoking cigarettes. Back on the mean streets of the US, Clarice Starling (now played by Julianne Moore) is burnt out after her fateful meeting with the famed people eater.
Their lives are drawn together once more when Italian detective Giancarlo Giannini clocks who Hopkins really is, pressure from higher-up d-bag Ray Liotta forces Starling to confront her past, and Gary Oldman’s monstrous wheelchair-ridden ex-victim of Lecter plots his graphic vengeance. The film nicely plays on the relationship between Lecter and Starling while the sight of Liotta having his brains eaten is brilliant. The end shot is a real marvel and where the film dovetails from the Thomas Harris novel, it improves.
A very worthy follow up, and a hugely enjoyable psychological thriller.
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
Thursday, 11:40 pm on ITV4
From it’s opening scenes of The Door’s seminal song “The End” to the hammy over acting of Marlon Brando, this is a trip into the abyss.
Based in part by Joseph Conrad’s legendary novella Heart of Darkness, Martin Sheen stars as a young upstart sent through the hell-on-earth land of Vietnam during the Nixon-era war. Along the way he comes across swarms of music listening choppers, documentary film makers, strippers, Robert Duvall proclaiming his love of Napalm’s scent come breakfast time, a boat ride of dope smokers, a tribe of natives that praise a man as god, Denis Hopper… and a final confrontation with mad colonel Brando. It’s a long, drawn out epic, but the film repays you with beautiful images and ideas that far outreach the shortcomings of the famously drunk Brando.
Makes a great companion piece with the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.
Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
Friday, 9:00 pm on E4
Loud, brash, graphic comedy from producer Judd Apatow. While Paul Feig’s new career seems to be providing Melissa McCarthy with plenty of star vehicles (The Heat, Spy, the new Ghostbusters… *obligatory preemptive shudder*) this original comedy is definitely the best so far.
Kristen Wiig stars as the bitter woman-child who refuses to accept her bestie Maya Rudolph might have found a new bestie (Rose Byrne), while also dealing with new romances (Chris O’Dowd on underplayed form), her fuck-buddy Jon Hamm, new buddy Melissa McCarthy and the comedy stylings of Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson.
There is gross out humour, verbal gags and even the sight of some comical sex, but there is a heart to the film and when it goes from all out, gut-busting belly laughs, it scores high.