Leonardo DiCaprio travels far and wide for bloody revenge, Brie Larson does her best to raise her son in captivity and the late, great David Bowie rules over the mystical Labyrinth in this week’s handy film guide. Happy viewing!
State of Play (2009)
Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Black Sea) directs this US-set adaptation of the celebrated BBC TV series. The political thriller follows an old-school journalist (Russell Crowe) who starts investigating the case of a Washington congressman and old college friend (Ben Affleck) who comes under suspicion when his young female aide is suddenly and mysteriously killed. Movies often portray journalism as an unrealistic game of high stakes and zero deadlines (yeah right!) but this manages to paint a somewhat realistic portrayal of the profession while still making it a compelling and thought-provoking watch.
Watch it if you liked: State of Play (BBC series), Broken City, Shattered Glass
Showing on Friday January 22nd, 11:30pm, ITV4
Just last week we lost one of the truly all-time great celebrity figures of the last half century in David Bowie. Here’s a chance to celebrate one of his absolute best film roles in this classic fantasy adventure about a teenage girl (Jennifer Connell) who sets out to find her baby brother who has been kidnapped and held captive by the Goblin King (Bowie) at the centre of the mystical Labyrinth. From Jim Henson’s charming puppetry to the imaginative plot to, of course, Bowie’s incomparable soundtrack, it simply doesn’t get much more classically ‘80s than this. A gem from the past that still holds up remarkably well.
Watch it if you liked: The Dark Crystal, Legend, Willow
Showing on Sunday January 24th, 5:05pm, Five
A Royal Night Out (2015)
Ever wondered what The Queen got up to on the night that victory was declared in WWII? That’s the premise of this British romantic comedy drama as we follow the young Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) who ventures out of Buckingham Palace with her sister Princess Margaret (scene-stealing rising star Bel Powley) to enjoy the VE celebrations. It’s undeniably slight – nothing you’ll remember a few weeks from now – but it’s got a very British sense of charm and a fun devil-may-care attitude. Take it all with a fairly sizable pinch of salt, mind you.
Watch it if you liked: The King’s Speech, The Queen, Brideshead Revisited
Available on Netflix
Child 44 (2015)
A cracking cast including Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Noomi Rapace star in this wartime thriller based on the worldwide best-seller. Hardy plays a disgraced member of the Russian military police who starts investigating a series of brutal child murders during the Stalin-era of the Soviet Union which seem to be either ignored or actively covered up. It’s not exactly 100% historically accurate and some of the plotting ties itself up in contrived knots. But there’s nevertheless a dark and interesting film here about corruption of power and degrees of evil, with a predictably great performance by Hardy at the centre.
Watch it if you liked: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Black Book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Available on Amazon Instant
Top Five (2015)
Chris Rock writes, directs and stars in this knowing romantic comedy as a comedian who is trying to make it as a serious actor while his shallow fiancée talks him into allowing a TV reality crew to film the run-up to their big day. Part-cathartic vanity project, part-exploration of fame, celebrity and the self-obsessed inanities of the entertainment industry, it’s a film with its finger on the self-aware button. Sometimes that can come off as smug, and it’s not as deep and meaningful as it thinks it is, but Rock’s comedic wit and chemistry with co-star Rosario Dawson shines through.
Watch it if you liked: Entourage, Get Shorty, Down to Earth
Available on NOW TV
The Revenant (2016)
Birdman Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu returns with this tremendous historical epic which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as real life early 19th century expeditioner Hugh Glass who is mauled by a grizzly bear while on a fur trading expedition in the American wilderness. Barely clinging on to life, he sets out to track down the former colleague (Tom Hardy) who left him for dead and killed his son. DiCaprio is all but guaranteed to win an Oscar (finally!) for his fantastic performance at the centre of a film that’s often a tough and gruelling watch but a primal, exhilarating one that’s simply not to be missed.
Watch it if you liked: The New World, Aguirre the Wrath of God, Apocalypto
Last year Whiplash was the little film that rose up to take on the big boys in the awards race and this year that honour falls to this supremely moving drama. Rising star Brie Larson plays “Ma,” a young woman who has spent years confined to a 10-by-10 room while trying her best to raise her son (relative newcomer Jacob Tremblay) who thinks that their confined space is all there is to the world. It shows tremendous filmmaking skill when a director can make a film that’s a whole load of things at once: uncompromising, powerful, harrowing, thought-provoking and deeply uplifting. Director Lenny Abrahamson does all that and so much more.
Watch it if you liked: Prisoners, Gone Girl, Chained
This continuation of the Rocky franchise stars Michael B. Jordan as the son of the great Apollo Creed who is taken out of care when he’s a boy to be raised by his late father’s wife. Years later he is determined to become a great boxer himself, recruiting the legendary Rocky Balboa to train him. You’d think by the seventh film that the series would be out for the count by now. But this passing of the gloves from one generation to another is done with a lot of heart, soul and passion to make for an exciting, inspiring and really quite moving experience.
Watch it if you liked: Rocky 1-6, The Fighter, Southpaw