TV film picks: Monos, Scarface, Pale Rider

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Henry Fonda heads the cast as Juror Number Eight, who faces the seemingly impossible task of changing the minds of the 11 other men on a hung jury. They’re convinced a teenage boy is guilty of murdering an elderly neighbour, but Fonda claims there isn’t enough evidence to convict. It might not sound much, but this is a masterpiece of movie-making with excellent performances from the actors involved. It doesn’t even matter that as soon as you realise it’s Fonda arguing the case for the accused, you can already guess what’s going to happen; sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Lee J Cobb, Martin Balsam, Jack Krugman and Ed Begley are among those playing the other jurors; the film was director Sidney Lumet’s big screen debut, for which he deservedly received an Oscar nomination.

Tuesday

Scarface, ITV4, 11.15pm

In 1932, Paul Muni starred in influential gangster movie Scarface, which left its mark on many great film-makers. Among them was director Brian De Palma, who took charge of this remake and was so impressed by Oliver Stone’s script he backed out of a prior agreement to helm Flashdance to make it. Displaying levels of violence that left some queasy, it was one of the most controversial movies of 1983. However, it also features one of Al Pacino’s finest and most iconic performances. He plays Tony Montana, the Cuban villain who becomes a lieutenant for a South Florida drug lord, before aiming for the top. The only place to go from there is down. Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia and Steven Bauer are among the supporting cast.

Wednesday

Pale Rider, ITV4, 9pm

A group of impoverished prospectors are being terrorised by the henchmen of a local businessman who wants to drive them out of the area. In desperation, a terrified teenage girl prays for help, and her wish is granted when a mysterious preacher arrives out of the blue. But this is no ordinary man of the cloth. Instead, he’s a skilful fighter and gunman whose expertise proves rather handy. Clint Eastwood directed and stars in this intriguing offering, a loose revamp of his earlier hit, High Plains Drifter, which shares its mysterious air. Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Chris Penn, Sydney Penny and Richard Kiel provide able support.

Thursday

Films of the Week

Monos, Film 4, 11.25pm/Under The Skin, Film 4, 1.30am

Whether Film 4 intends this pairing as a late-night Mica Levi double-bill is hard to say, but that’s exactly what it is – Levi being the much-in-demand British musician, composer and avant-garde experimentalist, whose preferred personal pronoun is they and who won an Oscar for their score for Jackie, Pablo Larrain’s 2016 biopic of Jacqueline Kennedy.

Monos, the 2019 debut feature from Brazil-born Alejandro Landes, opens on a remote, mist-shrouded mountain-top in Colombia. There, a group of teenage guerrillas are stationed in what looks like the remains of a weird, Brutalist fort (imagine the ruined St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross transported to the high Andes). It’s never stated, but we assume they’re members of FARC, Colombia’s recently disbanded left-wing insurrectionists. Besides training, the only duty they have is guarding a kidnapped American and, when a guerrilla officer known as The Messenger turns up with it, a milk cow. The American is known as Doctora (though she’s actually an engineer) and the young guerrillas are only ever referred to by a nom de guerre: Bigfoot, Dog, Wolf (the leader), Lady (Wolf’s girlfriend), Smurf, Swede, Rambo and Boom Boom.

The cow is called Shakira, but when she’s felled by a stray bullet fired by Dog during a bout of drunken exuberance, the sense of camaraderie and cohesion begins to falter. Soon this group of child soldiers is transferred to the jungle. It’s there that the cracks really begin to show.

Episodic, fractured and shot through with some extraordinary image-making (not to mention Levi’s brooding soundtrack), Landes’s portrayal of teens in extremis comes over like a psychedelic blend of Lord Of The Flies and Apocalypse Now. With bravura performances from all (but particularly former FARC child soldier Wilson Salazar as The Messenger, Karen Quintero as Lady, Sofía Buenaventura as Rambo and ex-Hannah Montana star Moisés Arias as Bigfoot) Monos is not a film you’ll forget in a hurry. A deserved winner of the World Cinema prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and here making its Film 4 premiere.

Under The Skin, an adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name by Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer, is set closer to home. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who we first meet in Glasgow. Travelling around Scotland, sometimes in the company of an enigmatic motorcyclist, she seduces and murders a string of men accompanied by an insistent score – Levi again, of course – and some high-concept visuals involving her victims disappearing into what looks like a vat of black gloop. An enigmatic meditation on what it means to be human, and a stunning piece of work from one of the UK’s most innovative directors.

Friday

The Devil Rides Out, Talking Pictures TV, 9.05pm

This latest entry in the wonderful nostalgia channel’s Cellar Club strand, introduced by cult star Caroline Munro, is Hammer’s engaging adaptation of Dennis Wheatley’s frightening thriller of the same name, shot in 1968. Christopher Lee is in imperious form – playing a hero for once – as the Duc de Richleau, an adventurer and occult expert who joins forces with a group of acquaintances to save a friend from Satanists. However, their leader, the sinister Mocata, unleashes the supernatural powers of darkness against his foes – can they find a way to combat his terrifying skills? Nike Arrighi provides the glamour, while Charles Gray is outstanding as the villain of the piece. The supporting cast includes Patrick Mower, Paul Eddington and Sarah Lawson.

And one to stream …

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Amazon Prime

A riotous and life-affirming adaptation of an award-winning West End musical, itself inspired by a 2011 BBC Three documentary, Jonathan Butterell’s film follows Sheffield schoolboy Jamie New as he turns 16 and, though already out, declares his intention to attend the school prom in drag.

Unsurprisingly, his plan meets with objections from virtually everyone except his ever-supportive mum Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) and his best mate Pritti (Laurent Patel). Sharon Horgan’s careers advisor Miss Hedge is particularly unhappy about the idea, telling Jamie and the rest of his classmates to lower their expectations as the end of their school career looms. Jamie’s estranged dad (Ralph Ineson) and school bully Dean (Samuel Bottomley) make their feelings pretty clear too.

Enter Hugo Battersby (Richard E Grant), proprietor of run-down retro clothes store House Of Loco but once upon a time the all-conquering drag queen Loco Chanelle. “What you need is a mentor,” he coos when Jamie plucks up the courage to walk through the door into this emporium of wonders. One sobering video montage later – footage of news reports about AIDs and the death of Freddie Mercury, flashbacks to Hugo’s dying friends – and Jamie is on his way to living his dream under Hugo’s tutelage. Of course it doesn’t run quite as smoothly as that.

A co-production between Film 4 and uber-hip Sheffield record label Warp, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was denied a theatrical release for some reason, though cinema’s loss is Amazon’s gain. This is a definite crowd-pleaser. The song and dance routines are great, the snappy lines come thick and fast– “Where in the name of Cher do you think you’re going?” – and if there isn’t a tear in your eye at the moving scene then you don’t have a heart. End of.

Max Harwood as Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie



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