TV Films

By Philip Matthews In Uncategorized

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28th October, 2006 Leave a Comment


Sleepy Hollow, TV2, 8.30pm. Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow is a gorgeous piece of pop-gothic, both deeply romantic and impressively grim, if not plain Grimm. Mining a similar vein to Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, it casts Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, the sceptic in colonial New York, which is an environment of witchcraft and superstition where a headless horseman (Christopher Walken, snarling) haunts the dark woods. This is also unusually gory for the normally PG-rated Burton; its gothic images, and its Christopher Lee cameo, mark it out as an obvious Hammer tribute. (1999) 8

Love Actually, TV3, 8.30pm. This painfully contrived and cynical romantic comedy is the result of writer Richard Curtis (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral) going to his rom-com well at least once too often. The usual suspects – Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, etc – are scattered across interwoven stories that revolve around the search for love in London at Christmas. Love conquers all, even hate, as Curtis’s ludicrous post-9/11 insight reveals: “As far as I know,” says Grant in an early voice-over, “none of the phone messages from the planes were messages of hate.” (2003) 3

Halloween: Resurrection, TV2, 10.45pm. The next victim needs to be the Halloween series itself, which has drifted a long way from John Carpenter’s original cheap-but-effective classic. In a desperate effort to be relevant, this instalment incorporates a reality-TV motif – in a debt to The Blair Witch Project and such Japanese media-horror as Ring – and the rapper Busta Rhymes. (2002) 2

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, TV1, 11.05pm. One of Steve Martin’s better films. The concept is inspired: Martin plays a hapless gumshoe edited into a seamless series of excerpts from old noir films, allowing him to co-star with Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, James Cagney, Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck … (1982) 6


About Schmidt, TV1, 8.30pm. In Alexander Payne’s courageously melancholy comedy, Jack Nicholson is Warren Schmidt, a 66-year-old retired insurance actuary. The retirement party that opens the film feels like a wake and Nicholson plays Schmidt as subdued, forlorn. His long stint in the “insurance game” gives him the knack of calculating the exact span of a man’s life, and he gives himself seven more years. Suddenly widowed, he takes to the road in a mobile home while his funny and depressive outpourings are related by voice-over in letters to a child he sponsors in Africa. (2002) 9

No Man’s Land, Maori Television, 9.00pm. An absurdist situation, set during the war in Bosnia: two Bosnians and one Serb are trapped in a trench and one is lying across a mine that will detonate if he moves. The UN is next to useless and the media are self-serving. The spirit of entertaining pessimism that Bosnian director Danis Tanovic creates is akin to anti-war films of another age: M*A*S*H, Dr Strangelove, Catch-22. (2001) 7


The Vampire Lovers, MGM, 10.00pm. The first of British horror studio Hammer’s more “permissive” films, this dry ice, fangs and cleavage number inevitably stars the gaunt, haunted Peter Cushing, but it also stars Polish actress Ingrid Pitt as a blood-sucking lesbian vampire and Pitt has, er, dined out on the role, and a similar one in Countess Dracula, ever since. Although hardly “scary” by today’s standards, this film is a good demonstration of Hammer’s unique, chilly gothic atmosphere and its fearful, repressed, decidedly English perspective. The very best Hammer film, The Wicker Man – with its uncanny blend of the erotic and the frightening, and star appearances by Christopher Lee and, naturally, Ingrid Pitt – was three years away, and then it was all over for Hammer as everyday violence replaced the supernatural as the new, true horror. (1970) 6


Panic Room, TV2, 8.30pm. The setting is a palace-sized apartment in New York, which comes with its own “panic room” – a secret chamber built to withstand a home invasion. Even on the realtor’s guided tour, Meg (Jodie Foster) reveals her claustrophobia – Meg is moving in with her daughter – and wouldn’t her claustrophobia be that much more acute if there were three bad guys breaking into the place? Panic Room is a basic cat-and-mouse gotcha livened up with the technical ingenuity you expect of director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club). And, in the role originally intended for Nicole Kidman, Foster runs through her extensive repertoire of terrified expressions. (2002) 6


American Wedding, TV3, 8.30pm. Upping the gross-out ante, a dog turd gets consumed in the third American Pie film. There you go, now we’ve ruined it. Possibly to be followed by American Mortgage and American Divorce. (2003) 2


Memento, TV3, 11.30pm. Time runs backwards in Christopher Nolan’s ingenious Memento, which is both a black-humoured formal exercise and an existential noir murder story that introduces the most mindbending of plotlines and the most unreliable of narrators. How unreliable? Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) took a blow to the head and lost the ability to form new memories. He has developed a back-up system: he takes polaroids of the people he meets, the car he drives, the hotel he lives in, and takes copious notes, sometimes as tattoos. In this postmodern, hall of mirrors Fugitive – Leonard is also tracing his wife’s killer – the mournful human element is Pearce’s negotiation of shifting levels of forgetfulness and awareness. (2000) 8

28th October, 2006 Leave a Comment

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