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Top picks for games, free-to-air TV and DVDs including Far Cry Primal

Illicit secrets: Le Plaisir. Photo: Supplied Tom Hardy portrays the twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray in the film Legend. Photo: Supplied
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Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Photo: Supplied

Prehistoric menace in Far Cry Primal.

Richard Ayoade and Kathy Burke take on Barcelona in Travel Man.

GAMES

FAR CRY PRIMAL, XBOX ONE, PS4

A brilliant idea – a first-person-shooter set in prehistoric times – but does it actually play well? That’s been the pre-release fear around the latest Far Cry release, a series that has previously focused heavily on modern weaponry, explosions and mechanised transportation. In Primal, your character is a chap called Takkar, and he basically gets a club and a bow-and-arrow with which to fight mammoths, cannibals and sabre-toothed tigers. And it’s hilarious! The Far Cry games have always been beautifully constructed, and not only is this the most detailed yet, you spend a lot of time walking around in it – creeping towards objectives, finding animals to hunt or tame, or just staying alive (which is a much bigger factor than in previous games, since the landscape is filled with things that want to eat you). Highly recommended. AH FREE-TO-AIR

TRAVEL MAN, MARCH 10, SBS2, 8pm

Many have tried to combine the travelogue genre with comedy, but few have come close to Travel Man, in which The IT Crowd and Gadget Man’s Richard Ayoade, who finds travel tedious, attempts a series of 48-hour getaways with a different guest companion each week. Tonight he’s in Barcelona with actor and comic Kathy Burke, starting with the Barcelona Football Club Museum, about which Ayoade feels it’s his duty “to pour scorn on in a glib manner”. Which he does, of course, hilariously. Then they’re off to a cava tasting as he’s determined the two of them experience “art, theatrical food and vertigo as we pretend to guide you through a Catalonian mini-break”. They dutifully visit the Miro Foundation gallery (“Does f–k all for me,” says Burke) and attempt a degustation by one of the city’s leading experimental chefs (a highlight), while Burke tries to keep it together as Ayoade’s one-liners (cleverly snark-free), come thick and fast. More comedy than genuine travel guide, you might glean a few tips for you next holiday, but watching Ayoade’s dry, deadpan critique is as good as any mini-break. KN

DVD

LE PLAISIR, CRITERION, UNRATED

A cosmopolitan master who worked in Germany, France and the US, Max Ophuls​ is famous for his lengthy, elegant tracking shots; just as distinctive is his use of deep focus, which often gives the sensation of spying on illicit secrets. In combination, these techniques have a subtly diminishing, distorting effect, making society resemble a wind-up music box where figures move on predestined paths. Inspired by the late-19th-century writing of Guy de Maupassant, this trilogy of short stories portrays a world where transgression is regulated by custom, and sincerity and cynicism are permanently intertwined. As usual with Ophuls, the camera itself is caught up in the action – revolving with the dancers at a fashionable ball, hovering outside the windows of a provincial brothel, or following a pair of quarrelling lovers from a discreet distance. The implication of this incessant movement is that even the most heartfelt feelings rarely last long; askew angles and crowded compositions reinforce a mood both exhilarating and oppressive, with mirrors, jewels and works of art used as emblems of glittering falsity and of desire bent into constraining forms. JW DVD

LEGEND, UNIVERSAL SONY,  MA15+

I could have easily pulled the trigger and shot this double-headed gangster flick dead with a shot between the eyes in the first five minutes. The British accents seemed exaggerated, and it took a while to get into the rhythm of the language. But it’s worth sticking with it. Otherwise, you would miss Aussie actor Emily Browning making the most of a complex role as Frances Shea, a young  woman who married Reggie Kray, one-half of the dangerous Kray Twins (the other being Ronnie, who was eventually diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic). And  you wouldn’t have been able to study Tom Hardy’s technique of playing the roles of both brothers, who ruled London’s East End in the 1960s with tailored suits and violent tactics. While the violence is brutal and the plotline laboured, there are some standout moments, including a rollicking fight between the Kray brothers.  JK DVD

THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS, MGM, M

This 1988 romantic drama is a smooth jazz cover version of a plot that goes back to the earliest days of Hollywood, about a couple of would-be hardboiled guys and the woman who comes between them. Real-life brothers Beau and Jeff Bridges play the duo of the title, who scrape a living with corny piano duets in Seattle nightclubs; Michelle Pfeiffer is the gum-chewing broad who joins the act and takes it to a new level of success until, inevitably, everything falls apart. Written and directed by newcomer Steve Kloves​ when he was still in his 20s, the film has an assurance beyond many more experienced filmmakers: the dialogue is witty and economical, Michael Ballhaus’ soft-edged photography brings out the glamour of grimy alleys and cheap hotel rooms, and the dreamy mood is sustained right to the beautifully understated final shot. But the talent behind the camera would go to waste if not for the stars – especially Pfeiffer, whose fragile beauty is matched by a wispy but potent singing voice, and Jeff Bridges, who shows a lack of vanity almost unique in an actor playing an emotionally unavailable hunk.  JW

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