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Van Sant’s film not one to be missed

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cable and DirecTV serve up yet another Sunday with a field of film choice so good and wide that Also Rans include one of 2012’s funniest movies (Think Like a Man, 10.35 am HBO), an excellent war film, once you accept the fiction that there were no black American soldiers in Vietnam (Platoon, 10 am Fx1), a great marriage of rom-com and zombie genres (*Warm Bodies, 9 pm Fox Fam), a really funny, really silly, vehicle for slapstick-and-wordplay comedy (Airplane, 8.15 pm TCM) and, for music lovers, live concerts on DTV beginning with Jeff Beck in Tokyo (11.30 am) with Genesis in North America (1 pm) and Depeche Mode in Berlin (2.30 pm) hot on his heels. For those for whom the word “music” translates into “you’re gay,” the great homosexual litmus test (The Sound of Music) screens 6 pm on Fox Classics. In the week, Monday offers a double dose of offensive comedy, with Johnny Knoxville leading off (Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa, 6 pm FoxCom) and Ben Stiller and the Farelly Bros coming on later to steal the Jackass thunder with a show that, had it screened an hour earlier—as it does on the high-def channel version—would surely have been picked (The Heartbreak Kid, 10 pm CnCl).

Today’s best film:

Elephant (Gus Van Sant/ 2003/ USA/ Crime-Drama-Thriller/ 81 mins/ R for disturbing violent content, language, brief sexuality and drug use—all involving teens), 11 am HBO Signature BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. Watch this if you liked Mean Creek, Old Boy or After Hours. This film is likely to divide people: some may rail against the cinematography most will love; some may be as pissed off as others are pleased at the casting of unknown actors; what a few may declare slow the discerning will find unbearably tense. The great success of the film, though, is not just its explosive denouement, but the circular, tension-filled approach that reiterates its inevitability even as it builds to it. BC on TV will give nothing away about the plot, nor even its subject matter, on the off chance the viewer is ignorant of same; this is a film which deserves the full impact for which the filmmaker laboured. Miss it only if you are giving birth.

*Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer/ 2013/ UK-USA-Switzerland/ Thriller-Sci-fi-Drama-Art house/ 108 mins/ R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language), 8 pm Cinemax. Watch this if you liked The Double, The Machine or Melancholia. The first frames reveal the same director who made Radiohead’s Karma Police music video and the Ben Kingsley masterpiece Sexy Beast: this is a visually striking, beautiful-even-when-depicting-something-ugly film that starts with you at the edge of the seat and ends with your heart in your mouth. A strange, menacing tale of aliens masquerading as humans in Scotland is as enthralling for the genuine cinefile as it would be bewildering for the average viewer seeking distraction rather than engagement. Could have missed, the way Glazer’s own ambitious Birth miscarried, but hits big. Really good for those who will like it; you’ll know whether you’re included in that number from the first frame.

Rest of the week:

Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols/ 2011/ USA/ Drama-Thriller/ 128 mins/ R), 9 pm Monday Cinemax. Watch this if you liked Melancholia, My Zinc Bed or Silver Linings Playbook. A serious film taking mental illness as its starting point includes magnificent performances from Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and Bafta-winning and Oscar-nominated Best Actress Jessica Chastain as well as a genuine thriller element in the slow, relentless build-up of tension as the leading man prepares for an impending epic storm that may or may not be completely in his mind. Not for the Vin Diesel crowd at all, at all but, for people with an O-Level or two, this is a riveting portrayal of the cost paid by other family members of mental instability in a parent, child or sibling. One of those films that can cheer up people wrestling with what they come to realise is the relatively minor depression that results from living in a modern, crazy world, and not the genuine mental illness.

*Starred films have been chosen in the last three months. Scheduled Internet times often vary on the day, particularly around month-end.


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