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Sputnik stars Pyotr Fyodorov as Konstantin
Damon Smith

FILM OF THE WEEK

SPUTNIK (Cert 15, 114 mins, Vertigo Releasing, Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller, available from August 14 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services)

Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasiliev, Aleksey Demidov.

IN 1983, commanding officer Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) and co-pilot Kirill Averchenko (Aleksey Demidov) complete their mission aboard the Orbita-4 spaceship.

Before they re-enter Earth's atmosphere and return home as heroes, something otherworldly attaches itself to the crew's module in deep space.

When the men touch down in Soviet Kazakhstan, Averchenko is dead – eviscerated in his spacesuit – and Veshnyakov is gasping for air between coughs of blood.

Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk), who oversees the All-Union Scientific Research Institute, invites renegade clinician Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) to offer her expert opinion of Veshnyakov.

The patient has recovered from his ordeal at remarkable speed and appears to be suffering from amnesia.

With the reluctant help of research director Yan Rigel (Anton Vasiliev), Tatyana discovers that an extra-terrestrial parasite is nestled inside Veshnyakov's throat and is forming a symbiotic bond with its unsuspecting host.

Sputnik is a robust science-fiction thriller which establishes an intriguing dramatic premise then struggles to achieve a satisfying payoff.

First-time director Egor Abramenko withholds our first contact with the alien invader for almost 30 minutes then proceeds to let his special effects wizards hold court, conjuring icky death sequences for nameless supporting cast.

Lead actor Akinshina, best known for her award-winning title performance in Lilya 4-Ever, descends through the layers of Tatyana's psyche as her damaged heroine wrestles with terrible sacrifices in the name of scientific advancement.

Oleg Karpachev's militaristic, drum-laden score is stirring and unsettling – more so than our close encounter with Abramenko's vision.

Rating: 7/10

 

:: PROJECT POWER (Cert 15, 115 mins, streaming from August 14 exclusively on Netflix, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action)

HENRY Joost and Ariel Schulman, co-directors of Nerve and two instalments of the Paranormal Activity franchise, unleash destruction on the streets of New Orleans in a high-stakes spin on a superhero origin story.

Rumours spread throughout the city of the existence of a pill that can temporarily transform everyday people into superhumans.

Powers vary from one person to the next and anyone swallowing a pill will only learn their secret ability once the narcotic is in their system and it is too late to turn back.

As a crime wave sweeps across New Orleans fuelled by the pills, local cop Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) embarks on a crusade to eradicate the drug from the streets and quell civil unrest.

He joins forces with teenage dealer Robin (Dominique Fishback) and former soldier Art (Jamie Foxx), who has a deeply personal reason for wanting to track down the source of the pills.

BOX SETS

Nick Mohammed as Nathan, Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso and Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard in Ted Lasso

:: TED LASSO (10 episodes, starts streaming from August 14 exclusively on Apple TV+, Comedy/Drama/Romance)

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed, Hannah Waddingham, Juno Temple, Brett Goldstein, Phil Dunster, Toheeb Jimoh.

TED Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), a second division American football coach from Kansas, is unexpectedly hired to galvanise the disjointed dressing room of mid-table Premier League club AFC Richmond without any knowledge of the beautiful game.

Accompanied by deadpan Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), he instils team spirit and plays mind games with perpetually angry captain Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), egocentric lead striker Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) and homesick Nigerian defender Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh).

Unbeknownst to Ted, his arrival is part of an underhand scheme by new owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) to ruin her ex-husband's club in revenge for his adultery.

However, her fury is no match for Ted's unstinting optimism and the insider knowledge of quietly spoken kit man Nathan (Nick Mohammed).

Based on a TV advert character, which lead actor Sudeikis originated to market English football to American audiences, Ted Lasso is a relentlessly upbeat underdog comedy which borrows some of the initial plot set-up from the 1989 film Major League.

Scripts for early episodes take easy potshots into the gaping chasm between American and British culture – a cup of tea is casually dismissed as "hot brown water" – but the unswerving bonhomie of Sudeikis's everyman works its undeniable charm.

Following the playbook of Forrest Gump, Ted meets cynicism with exuberance and affirmation, instilling belief in many things including ghosts, who just "need to believe in themselves".

Juno Temple is effervescent in a splashy supporting role as a star player's girlfriend who respects the power of social media.

She'd probably reward this unapologetically feel-good Apple TV+ series with an encouraging 'thumbs-up' emoji.

Lovecraft Country stars Jonathan Majors as Atticus Freeman and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Leti Lewis

:: LOVECRAFT COUNTRY (10 episodes, starts streaming from August 17 exclusively on NOW TV, Drama/Horror/Romance)

BASED on Matt Ruff's novel, Lovecraft Country is a 10-part HBO drama which is broadcast simultaneously in the UK on Sky Atlantic in weekly instalments and streams exclusively on NOW TV.

Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) is determined to track down his missing father Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams) in racially segregated 1950s America.

He embarks on a road trip with good friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B Vance) into the beating heart of white states, where racism is the least of the group's worries.

Atticus, Letitia and George also face monstrous beasts that could have thundered off the page of a novel penned by HP Lovecraft.

:: BATWOMAN – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Cert 15, 860 mins, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, available now on All 4/Amazon Prime Video/iTunes and other download and streaming services, available from August 17 on DVD £29.99/Blu-ray £39.99, Fantasy/Adventure/Romance)

RUBY Rose dons the mask of Bruce Wayne's crusading cousin Kate Kane in an action-packed TV series based on the colourful DC Comics character of the same name.

It has been three years since billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) disappeared from Gotham City and Batman stopped protecting residents from dastardly criminal masterminds.

Authorities prepare to retire the Bat Signal only for a new face of evil to emerge.

Alice Kane (Rachel Skarsten), who was presumed dead, runs amok as leader of the Wonderland gang, which intends to sow seeds of fear by detonating a bomb in a city park.

Alice's father Jacob (Dougray Scott), who is head of a private security firm, enlists the help of his other daughter Kate (Rose) to neutralise the threat posed by her sister.

Kate is shocked to learn the truth about uncle Bruce's secret identity and she collaborates with Wayne Enterprises employee Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) to don her own figure-hugging bat suit and become a new figure of hope for Gotham's people.

The five-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets include all 20 episodes plus a behind-the-scenes featurette and deleted scenes.

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Arts