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‘Killer’ on thin ice

A Trifecta of the Week’s Best Films on the Box
Published: 
Sunday, August 10, 2014
BC on TV
Matthew McConaughey and Juno Temple in Killer Joe.

Today’s also rans include two former picks, one excellent (The Artist, 8.15 am HBOC BEST FILM OF THE WEEK) and one very good (Argo, 6.45 pm HBOC), a documentary that will thrill the intellectual sections of the horror crowd (Room 237, 2.40 pm Max) and two chances to see one of the most influential Westerns ever shot (the 1939 version of Stagecoach, 2.10 pm and again 10 pm Enc3).

The kiddie choice today peaks at tertiary level, so to speak (Monsters University, 5 pm HBO). The week offers one of BC on TV’s most beloved horrors (*A Nightmare on Elm Street, 10 pm Tuesday TCM), a strong feminist/humanist Jodie Foster (The Accused, 10 pm Monday TCM), a contender for Spielberg’s best (*Schindler’s List, 5.05 pm Tuesday TCM) and, on the other end of the scale, a chance to see, for free (so you waste only your time) how bad a film a genuinely great filmmaker can make (Side Effects, 9 pm Wednesday HBO). 

Today’s best film: The Dark Knight aka Batman (Christopher Nolan/ 2008/ UK-USA/Crime-Thriller/ 152 mins/ PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace), 9.30 pm HBO Family.

Watch this if you liked Batman Begins, Watchmen or Sin City. By far the best Batman film made to date, The Dark Knight surpasses the first film of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale trilogy, which was itself the best non-animated, non-Frank Miller or Alan Moore depiction on screen of the near anti-hero. It also trumps the violence-as-spectacle conclusion and even (and BC on TV never thought it would say this) features a better Joker than Jack Nicholson in the first Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman. The late Heath Ledger steals the show in his last major role (discounting the dubious Imaginarium of Dr Whatshisname) and makes sure no one will ever play the Joker as if he were the King. Hugely entertaining, almost as disturbing, this is Hollywood at its best.

Rest of the week: Killer Joe (William Friedkin/ 2011/ USA/ Crime-Thriller/ 102 mins/ R for strong and disturbing violence, sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and language), 6.15 pm Monday HBOC.

Watch this if you liked The Paperboy, Prisoners or The Woodsman. One wouldn't be surprised to find disturbing themes in a film by the maker of The French Connection, The Exorcist and The Boys in the Band, even though he was aged 76, but William Friedkin outdoes himself with a hugely watchable film about a corrupt cop turned hired killer who is also merrily skating on thin underage sex ice. This extremely edgy kind of material should not be manageable at all—as films like Birth and Mysterious Skin illustrate—but Friedkin handles it so well that the viewer doesn’t have the chance to react with revulsion. Not for everyone, and many who do enjoy it may well be attracted for reasons far more base than the appreciation of the filmmaker’s craft, perhaps; but it remains a surprisingly well-made film about distressing subject matter.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (Glenn Ficarra & John Requa/ 2011/ USA/ Romantic Comedy-Drama/ 118 mins/ PG-13 for coarse humour, sexual content and language) 9 pm Thursday HBOC.

Watch this if you liked Hall Pass, The Hangover or The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Crazy, Stupid, Love is far less coarse than any of the films to which it is compared and probably delivers fewer belly laughs, but the script is tighter than all the others, its pacing more polished and the story unfolds far better—and it still will have you laughing out loud often. It is quite a polished little film with very strong performances from Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, whose vehicle it is. Few rom-coms could be labelled “intelligent” without chortling, but this is one of them.

Not for the kiddiewinks, perhaps, but teenaged offspring will chuckle along with parents; if they laugh out loud in some places, they’re probably far more aware than you think.

Best of the rest: Mon: Cinderella Man, 7 pm MaxW; Tues: Monsters University, 5.45 pm HBOC; Wed: Looper, 6 pm HBOC; Thurs: Donnie Brasco, 10 pm TCM; Fri: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, 9.15 pm Max; Sat: Letters from Iwo Jima, 7.30 am HBOC. 

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