Wondering what to watch when you come back from your summer break? Or looking to slip some entertainment into your luggage to avert the horrors of Eurotelly at the holiday villa? Here’s our pick of August releases, including films you may have missed at the cinema, a sprinkling of rebooted classics and Paul Abbott’s latest multi-stranded TV drama.

1. White God

What if man’s best friend goes rogue? Hungarian director Kornél Madruczó uses this premise as an allegory for humankind’s mistreatment of the other in all its guises, leavened with the transforming power of compassion. Astonishing performances from teenage screen debutant Zsófia Psotta as Lili, a girl with a Doolittle touch, and a cast of hundreds of non-CGI hounds (not least Luke and Body who share the role of top dog Hagen).

In turns both terrifying and tender, this wildly ambitious film takes dystopian dangers and dog-training to remarkable new levels, and delivers a provocative appraisal of our capacity for brutishness.
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2. Timbuktu

This bold and uncompromising drama examines the real-life tragedies and triumphs of a community in the grip of terrorism. Based on the brief but barbarous jihadist takeover of Mali’s legendary trading town, writer-director Abderrahmane Sissako is unsparing in his depiction of mindless violence and irrational rule, but also celebrates bravery, endurance and spirited resistance.

Visually breathtaking, deliberately fragmentary and astonishingly seductive, Sissako present the worst and best of humanity with an evenhanded clarity that is alarming and affirmative, creating a poetic and powerful fable for our times.
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3. The Falling

An atmospheric coming-of-age tale about a mysterious fainting epidemic at a rural girls’ school. Writer-director Carol Morley explores teenage anxieties and pent-up tensions between the generations, assisted by the surreal cinematography of Agnès Godard and a haunting folk-horror soundtrack by Tracey Thorn. Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams is the girl at the centre of the psychological contagion, while Maxine Peake plays her buttoned-up mum who harbours an unutterable secret.

Set in the late 1960s, this well-to-do corner of middle England is a world apart from Summer of Love libertarianism, but the teenagers are driven by age-old impulses to experiment and strike out for independence.
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4. The Happiest Days of Your Life

Alastair SIm

A kind of prequel to the wildly popular St Trinian’s series, this delicious 1950 farce pitches Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford against each other as the put-upon heads of a boys’ and girls’ school that are forced to merge due to a mix-up at the Ministry of Education.

Adapted from a play by John Dighton (co-writer of Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Man in the White Suit), the archly anarchic pupils are upstaged by Joyce Grenfell’s lovelorn Miss Gossage, whose attention-seeking enthusiasms suggest that growing up is vastly overrated.
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5. Charlie Chaplin: Modern Times

Modern Times

One of Artificial Eye’s digitally remastered re-releases of Chaplin’s greatest films, Modern Times (1936) sees the Little Tramp in his last outing struggling to get to grips with the automated assembly lines of industrial society, abetted by Paulette Goddard’s homeless waif.

Chaplin’s last silent film (though talkies had been around for some years) is packed with memorable sight gags and is also significant for its far-sighted political message about alienation and inhumanity. Among the mayhem and comic invention is a message of hope for anyone who’s ever felt themselves to be a helpless cog in an unforgiving world.
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6. Dark Horse

Louise Osmond’s feelgood real-life fairytale tells the story of a group of friends from a Welsh mining town who decide to take on ‘the sport of kings’ and breed an elite racehorse. The documentary follows the passion and ambition of barmaid Jan Vokes, who leads a syndicate that raises an against-the-odds champion on a local slagheap – overcoming devastating setbacks along the way.

The political snobbery of the racing world proves the group’s biggest handicap, but community spirit wins the day, along with the affirmation that things look rosier when you have a genuine stake in the world.
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7. Jet Storm

Jet Storm

Another blast from the past from 1959, written and directed by Cy Endfield (Zulu, Child in the House), starring Richard Attenborough as Ernest Tilley, a man who lost his daughter in a hit-and-run accident and tracks down the man he believes is responsible. Boarding the same plane, Tilley threatens to blow himself up as an act of vengeance.

A fascinating precursor to Airport (1970) and the disaster movies that followed in its wake – with Attenborough utterly convincing as the bereft and desperate father. Stanley Baker, Hermione Baddeley and Bernard Braden co-star, with Sybil Thorndike, Harry Secombe, Marty Wilde and Paul Eddington among other notables along for the ride.
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8. No Offence

Paul Abbott’s provocative police procedural comedy drama throws together a larger-than-life cast in a riotous exploration of crimes and misdemeanours on both sides of the law. Joanna Scanlan is unstoppable as DI Vivian Deering and ably backed up by Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach and Will Mellor as key members of her crack (and slightly crackpot) investigative team.

Abbott’s genius for interlinking storylines across the series is as apparent as ever, making for some richly rewarding counterpoints and connections. A second series is planned for 2016, promising more criminally funny delights in the manner Abbott describes as “The Bill, tilted.”
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9. Queen and Country

A sequel to the semi-autobiographical Hope and Glory (1987) in which writer-director John Boorman fast forwards to Bill Rohan (Callum Turner)’s draft into the army, where he joins forces with the eccentric and rebellious Percy Hapgood (Caleb Landry Jones) for run-ins with snooty officers and bittersweet liaisons with army nurses and members of the typing pool.

A vibrant tale of army and family life in post-war Britain, culminating in the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, heralding a new era of optimism and prosperity.
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10. School for Scoundrels

Terry-Thomas plays trademark cad-in-chief Raymond Delauney in this welcome reissue of Robert Hamer’s 1960 comedy based on the Gamesmanship series of books by Stephen Potter. Ian Carmichael’s hapless Henry Palfrey, a failure in sport, work and love, enrols at a ‘College of Lifemanship’ run by the wily Dr Potter (Alastair Sim) to be trained in the ways of the world and win the hand of fair April Smith (Janette Scott). But can he get the better of Terry-Thomas’s arch rotter, and will his compassion and sincerity survive his cynical life training?

Dennis Price, Peter Jones, John Le Mesurier, Hattie Jacques and Irene Handl also star.

 

11. Woman in Gold

Helen Mirren is reliably majestic in this biopic of Maria Altmann, who as an elderly former World War II refugee waged a protracted legal battle with the Austrian Government to retrieve precious art stolen from her family by the Nazis.

Ryan Reynolds is insipid as defence lawyer Randy Schoenberg, whose resemblance to Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch is as shallow as the rims of the glasses he wears in a futile attempt to add gravitas. But Mirren’s dry-eyed reserve and fearsome determination are underscored by delicate vulnerability in a performance that carries the film and maintains the tension.

 

You can buy all these DVDs and more in our Film & TV shop 

 

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