Arts

New to watch on demand: Mank, Babyteeth, Pinocchio, Perry Mason and more...

Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried star in Mank
Damon Smith

FILM OF THE WEEK

MANK (Cert 12, 131 mins, streaming from December 4 exclusively on Netflix, Drama/Romance)

Starring: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Pelphrey, Lily Collins, Monika Gossman, Tom Burke, Charles Dance, Arliss Howard, Ferdinand Kingsley.

RKO Pictures invites wunderkind director Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to make his first picture and he chooses booze-sodden playwright and journalist Herman J Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) to pen the script.

With typist Rita Alexander (Lily Collins) on hand to deliver pages and live-in German nurse Frieda (Monika Gossman) to aid his recovery, Mank draws on his turbulent relationship with media tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and screen starlet Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) to produce a mammoth first draft of Citizen Kane.

Mank's brother Joseph (Tom Pelphrey) is effusive with praise: "It's the best thing you've ever written!"

However, a power struggle manifests with Welles for screenwriting credit while studio titans including Louis B Mayer (Arliss Howard) and Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley) irrevocably alter the balance of political power in California by influencing the 1934 gubernatorial campaign.

Shot in lustrous black and white, Mank is a rhapsodic valentine to a bygone age of Hollywood based on an exquisite script by director David Fincher's late father Jack.

His snappy, rat-a-tat words sing and the cast visibly savour every polished facet of the dialogue, such as when Mank succinctly relates his feelings about Mayer: "If I ever go to the electric chair, I'd like him to be sitting in my lap."

Oldman leads a terrific ensemble cast while Fincher makes a compelling case for his first Academy Award by emulating cinematography of the era and intentionally adding imperfections of the photochemical process.

Almost 80 years after Welles unveiled his crowning glory, Fincher proudly follows suit.

Rating: 10/10

ALSO RELEASED

BABYTEETH (Cert 15, 118 mins, Picturehouse Entertainment, Drama/Romance, available from December 7 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, also available from December 7 on DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £17.99)

Starring: Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Ben Mendelsohn, Essie Davis.

SIXTEEN-year-old schoolgirl Milla Finlay (Eliza Scanlen) should have the world at her feet in between violin lessons and heart-to-hearts with her psychiatrist father Henry (Ben Mendelsohn) and concert pianist mother Anna (Essie Davis).

Instead, Milla is bravely contending with cancer treatment and the shattering realisation that she may slip from this world without experiencing the pangs of love.

That changes on a train platform when tattooed 20-something Moses (Toby Wallace) attempts to fleece her for money to feed his drug habit.

Wise to his motivation, Milla obliges, setting in motion a fiery romance that burns white hot.

Despite fierce opposition to their daughter's choice of beau, Henry and Anna are resigned to Moses's presence to ensure Milla spends her final moments adrift on adolescent bliss.

Babyteeth is a stylistically bold and offbeat rites-of-passage comedy-drama, which marks an emotionally shattering debut for director Shannon Murphy.

Scanlen delivers a fearless lead performance as a teenager at peace with her premature demise.

She is luminous as the glue holding together her parents' fractured relationship.

As a stark counterpoint to this mournful middle-class introspection, Wallace conveys surprising tenderness through his homeless drug addict.

Screenwriter Rita Kalnejais deftly navigates first love in the shadow of terminal illness a la The Fault In Our Stars without resorting to emotionally manipulative tropes that often bedevil characters confronted by their mortality.

The heat of a summer in suburban Sydney ripples off the screen thanks to Andrew Commis's saturated cinematography, exacerbating tensions between dysfunctional family members, who have forgotten what it means to suck the marrow out of life.

Rating: 8/10

Roberto Benigni as Gepetto and Federico Ielapi as Pinocchio

PINOCCHIO (Cert PG, 124 mins, Vertigo Releasing, Fantasy/Adventure, available from December 7 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from December 14 on DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99)

Starring: Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Massimo Ceccherini, Rocco Papaleo, Davide Marotta.

AGEING woodcarver Geppetto (Roberto Benigni) lives hand to mouth in a 19th century Tuscan community.

When a travelling puppet theatre owned by Mangiafuoco (Gigi Proietti) pitches a big top on the edge of town, Geppetto fashions a puppet out of a trunk of enchanted wood and christens his creation Pinocchio (Federico Ielapi).

The proud father trades his only jacket and waistcoat for a spelling book so Pinocchio can attend school.

Instead, the inquisitive scamp defies the warning of a Talking Cricket (Davide Marotta) to sneak out of class and attend the puppet show.

Pinocchio becomes a prisoner of Mangiafuoco and almost ends up as firewood.

He escapes with five gold coins, which sly Wolf (Massimo Ceccherini) and conniving Cat (Rocco Papaleo) plot to steal from the puppet's wooden palms.

Pinocchio is a fantastical feast for the senses, tightly strung to the episodic structure of Carlo Collodi's 1883 novel.

Matteo Garrone's live-action adventure reintroduces darker elements from the book that were tempered by Walt Disney's classic 1940 animation.

Consequently, this adaptation outstays its welcome at more than two hours and scenes establishing a tender father-son bond between Geppetto and his wooden ward are a lesson in patience that younger children might struggle to learn without fidgeting.

Once the eponymous puppet is spirited far from home, pacing noticeably quickens to herald a colourful parade of travelling companions before a moving resolution that underlines the strength of family ties in crisis.

Benigni plumbs deep wells of pathos while young Ielapi subtly carves out childlike wonder and regret beneath the wood grain.

Rating: 7/10

NEW TO DOWNLOAD, STREAM OR BUY ON DVD/BLU-RAY

Matthew Rhys stars as Perry Mason

PERRY MASON – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Cert 18, 476 mins, Warner Bros Home Entertainment, available now Amazon Prime Video/iTunes/NOW TV and other download and streaming services, available from December 7 on DVD £27.99/Blu-ray £44.99, Thriller/Drama/Romance)

MATTHEW Rhys doffs a fedora as the tenacious private detective created by author Erle Stanley Gardner when the stylish HBO drama set in 1932 Los Angeles arrives on home formats this week.

Famed defence lawyer Perry works as a private eye, accepting cases from successful attorney Elias Birchard Jonathan (John Lithgow) to keep a roof over his head as most of America recovers from the Great Depression.

Perry is tormented by spectres of wartime service in France and bears the deep emotional scars of a failed marriage.

A bungled kidnapping leads Perry into the city's underbelly to learn the shocking truth about the crime.

In the process, he encounters Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany), leader of the Radiant Assembly of God, and questions the path he is destined to follow.

The two-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets include all eight episodes and three behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Stillwater

STILLWATER (6 episodes, streaming from December 4 exclusively on Apple TV+, Animation/Fantasy/Adventure)

DREAMWORKS Animation draws inspiration from the Zen Shorts book series by Jon J Muth for an imaginative coming-of-age story that should resonate deeply with younger viewers.

Siblings Karl (voiced by Judah Mackey), Addy (Eva Ariel Binder) and Michael (Tucker Chandler) sometimes feel that the smallest obstacles can be insurmountable.

Thankfully, the children's inspirational next-door neighbour is a wise panda named Stillwater (James Sie), who is full of magical stories that can help the tykes gain a deeper understanding of their feelings.

Karl, Addy and Michael accompany Stillwater on exciting escapades around the neighbourhood and discover quiet wonders just around the corner from their home.

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Arts