Star Wars Episode V: the Empire Strikes Back – 5:45pm, ITV2
Director Irvin Kershner’s imaginative supervision of George Lucas’s brainchild gives this second part of the first Star Wars trilogy a truly epic dimension, adding a mature, philosophical aspect to the nonstop barrage of brilliant special effects. Events take place all over the universe – Darth Vader sends Imperial troops to crush the rebels on the ice planet Hoth, while Luke Skywalker searches out Jedi master Yoda for further instruction in the mysterious ways of “the Force” – and the much-loved characters are developed in intriguing ways. Kershner darkens the imagery of Lucas’s vibrant, futuristic fairy tale and deepens its narrative with provocative plot strands, giving this sequel a cynical, harder edge that lifts it above the serial roots of its predecessor.
Kick-Ass – 10:05pm, C4
Based on the graphic novel sensation by Mark Millar (Wanted), director Matthew Vaughn’s cutting-edge adaptation is refreshing, if somewhat controversial. It follows the exploits of high-school nerd Dave Lizewski (a perfectly cast Aaron Johnson), whose attempts to reinvent himself as real-world superhero Kick-Ass seem doomed to failure – largely owing to his utter lack of powers. Until, that is, the boy blunder meets Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage in hilarious, Adam West-as-Batman mode) and his 11-year-old daughter Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz), who are determined to crush Mafia boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). The movie is initially unsteady before the main revenge plot sets in, but once Hit Girl starts swearing like a trooper and causing major bad-guy damage, Vaughn’s witty verve, instinctive knack for bizarre counterpoint and sheer bravado speed the cartoon violence towards a manic action climax. A sophisticated and sometimes shocking parody laced with wistful comic-book nostalgia, this is cult film-making on a grand scale.
Berberian Sound Studio – 12:25am, C4
Shy sound engineer Gilderoy (a masterfully restrained Toby Jones) leaves Surrey and the world of nature documentaries to work on a lurid Italian horror film in Katalin Varga writer/director Peter Strickland’s evocative celebration and sly deconstruction of 1970s Grand Guignol cinema. Thrown by the shock images for which he supplies sound effects by hacking away at various vegetables (the grotesquely violent scenes are never shown) and by the unpalatable behaviour of the people around him – a sex-crazed director, sleazy voice talent, a supremely unhelpful secretary – Gilderoy becomes increasingly disturbed. As the film takes its toll on this mild-mannered man, Strickland cleverly forces the viewer to question what they are hearing and how it keys into Gilderoy’s spiralling nightmare. Some knowledge of the genre would be useful for deciphering some of the film’s more esoteric pointers, but even without that familiarity this is a dazzling curio in which every sound effect reverberates with multiple meanings.
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