New to stream and on DVD/Blu-ray: Judas and The Black Messiah, The Comeback Trail, Wild Mountain Thyme and more...
FILM OF THE WEEK
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (Cert 15, 120 mins, Warner Bros Home Entertainment, Drama/Romance, available now on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from June 21 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £26.99)
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Martin Sheen.
IN 1968 Chicago, 18-year-old petty criminal William 'Bill' O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) confidently wields a fake FBI badge to compel a group of black men to give him the keys to a Pontiac, which he claims has been reported stolen. Flashing blue lights interrupt his frantic getaway.
At Cook County Jail, FBI special agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) coolly informs O'Neal that he will dismiss the charges if the thief is willing to turn informant and infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party commanded by charismatic chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).
The chairman's rising popularity is a thorn in the side of J Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen).
O'Neal reluctantly agrees and he wins the confidence of Hampton's girlfriend, Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback).
Judas And The Black Messiah is a gripping dramatisation of an FBI counter-intelligence operation to infiltrate the Black Panther Party. Themes of racial injustice, betrayal and collusion, which run deep in a muscular script co-written by director Shaka King and Will Berson, strike discomfiting chords in the current climate and underline the short distance travelled since the shooting of 21-year-old party chairman Fred Hampton during a pre-dawn raid.
Assured direction makes light work of the two-hour running time, illuminating O'Neal's anguished odyssey under the yoke of the FBI. Oscar winner Kaluuya scorches every pixel of the screen as he delivers Hampton's ferocious oratory.
Black and white stock footage of clashes between white police officers and black citizens lights a fuse on tension between the two communities, which detonates with full force in the film's suspenseful second act.
THE COMEBACK TRAIL (Cert 15, 105 mins, Sky Cinema, streaming from June 19 exclusively on NOW TV, Comedy/Drama)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, Zach Braff, Emile Hirsch, Eddie Griffin.
HOLLYWOOD loves making movies about itself and the glory days of film-making so director George Gallo clearly had a great time with this crime comedy.
Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman, who featured in Gallo's recent thriller Vanquish, are among a starry cast in a movie with a whiff of Get Shorty.
In debt to the mob and in need of a new money-making scheme to save his skin, greedy grind-house film producer Max Barber (De Niro) decides to produce a dangerous new film, all for the sake of killing his lead actor in a stunt so he can collect the insurance money.
When he casts suicidal movie star Duke Montana (Lee Jones) as the lead, Max never expects the depressed drunk to be re-energised in front of the camera. As Duke survives stunt after stunt, Max unwittingly starts making the best film of his career.
The script by Gallo and Josh Posner is a feast of fun for cineastes and cinematography by Lucas Bielan is suitably nostalgic and atmospheric.
Best of all is that cast. De Niro (looking a bit like Albert Einstein) gives a fabulous turn, while Freeman has a fine time as the menacing guy who uses movies like A Touch of Evil, Psycho and Kiss Of Death as his reference points.
Attention to period detail is excellent.
Some films with more than 50 producers and executive producers can be a cinematic car crash so kudos to Gallo for keeping this fun vehicle firmly on track.
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME (Cert 12, 102 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Comedy/Romance, available now available via Premium Video On Demand rental, available from June 18 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from July 2 on DVD £19.99)
Starring: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Abigail Coburn, Don Wycherley.
GROWING up on her family's farm, Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) hankers dreamily for aloof neighbour Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan). He is reluctant to reciprocate Rosemary's doe-eyed advances.
Anthony's ageing father Tony (Christopher Walken) fears his only child will never marry and the Reilly clan's proud 121-year history of working the land will die with the next generation. Consequently, Tony proposes bequeathing the farm to his smooth-talking American nephew, Adam (Jon Hamm).
Rosemary is furious that Anthony should be denied his birthright. As matters come to a head and a torrential downpour lashes the two farms, Tony has a heart-to-heart with his boy and reassures Anthony: "I have faith love will find you in those fields when you want her."
Wild Mountain Thyme is a misfiring romantic comedy adapted by writer-director John Patrick Shanley from his 2014 Broadway play Outside Mullingar. Taking its title from a lilting folk ballad, which Blunt and Dornan croon in a cosy pub setting, this slice of garish Irish whimsy has tantalising, brief flashes when performances, script and direction dance a merry jig.
Alas, those genuine belly laughs are as scarce as leprechauns and a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – Shanley stops short of going there, but only just.
A luminous cast is frequently at odds with clunky dialogue that would sit awkwardly in an outdated sitcom festooned with Guinness-quaffing stereotypes. A bewildering array of patchy Irish accents does not help a lost cause, but cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt captures the lush sprawl and coastal grandeur of County Mayo even when the heavens open.
SERIES / BOX SETS
BETTY – SEASON 2 (6 episodes, starts streaming from June 22 exclusively on NOW TV, Comedy/Drama)
THE critically acclaimed comedy drama based on writer-director Crystal Moselle's 2018 independent film Skate Kitchen returns to Sky Comedy this week and streams exclusively on NOW TV.
The second series continues to follow talented New York skateboarders Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), Honeybear (Kabrina Adams), Indigo (Ajani Russell), Janay (Dede Lovelace) and Kirt (Nina Moran) as they contend with relationship woes and financial pressures in a male-dominated sport.
These six episodes unfold in the second half of 2020 and directly refer to Covid in the city with characters wearing masks.
The indoor skate park, which brings the young women together, is ruled off limits in an era of social distancing.
Meanwhile Honeybear faces compromises in her relationship with girlfriend Ash (Katerina Tannenbaum).
ELITE – SEASON 4 (8 episodes, streaming from June 18 exclusively on Netflix, Drama/Thriller/Romance)
WRITTEN and created by Carlos Montero and Dario Madrona, sexy Spanish drama Elite set pulses racing and sent streaming figures through the roof when it debuted in 2018 with a plot centred on the murder of student Marina at the exclusive secondary school Las Encinas.
The tagline for the fourth series – "They have it all. But they want more!" – promises lashings of sex, seduction and betrayal for returning classmates.
Ander (Aron Piper), Guzman (Miguel Bernardeau), Rebeka (Claudia Salas), and Samuel (Itzan Escamilla) repeat their final year with newly enrolled Omar (Omar Ayuso).
The aftershocks of Polo's supposed suicide continue to be felt, while new arrivals at the school, including twins Ari (Carla Diaz) and Patrick (Manu Rios), test the strength of existing relationships.