April 28-May 4: Including Agora and Infamous

by Fiona Rae / 28 April, 2012


Strange Wilderness (TV2, 8.30pm). A comedy about the producers of a terrible natural history TV programme who go to great lengths to stop it being cancelled. This stupefyingly mindless effort just doesn’t know when you’re laughing at it, not with it. (2008) 3

28 Weeks Later (TV3, 8.30pm). The sequel to 28 Days Later, which revisits the horror of a Great Britain in the thrall of a jolly nasty virus. Danny Boyle wasn’t available to direct this one (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo does the job), but popped up every now and then to lend a hand. It lacks the punch-in-the-guts surprise of the first instalment but it’s still atmospheric and scary, with Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne running around screaming. Boyle hasn’t discounted the possibility of a third go-around – working title, 28 Months Later! – but writer Alex Garland points out many of the bigwigs are no longer talking to each other. Probably not, then. (2006) 7


Agora (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). A sword-sandals-and-astronomy epic starring Rachel Weisz as a super-brainy maths and philosophy professor in 4th-century Egypt whose pupil (Oscar Isaac) develops an almighty crush on her. Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar also wrote the script and he had Weisz in mind for the part, but her valiant efforts leave her standing blamelessly on a rock amid a sludgy pool of mediocre acting and dodgy history that tries in vain to make the intellectual bits sparkle. Amenábar also wanted Sacha Baron Cohen to appear, but he turned it down, saying it was “too prickly and it would lift sores”. Ironic, really. The set was built on the same spot in Malta (Fort Ricasoli) where the Coliseum was reconstructed for Gladiator. The fort was also a location for Caesar, Helen of Troy and Troy. I wonder if this made the Maltese cross. (2009) 6

Infamous (TV1, 10.15pm). You’d think one movie about American writer Truman Capote and his unhealthy obsession with a couple of convicted murderers would be enough. Director Douglas McGrath obviously didn’t think so and released this one a year after Bennett Miller’s Capote. Critics were divided over which was better, but Englishman Toby Jones, although less of a name than Capote’s Philip Seymour Hoffman, does a terrific job as “the aggressively gay elf”, as one reviewer called him. The outstanding cast also includes Daniel Craig, Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock and Isabella Rossellini. (2006) 7

Flirting with Disaster (TV2, 10.15pm). Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette and Téa Leoni star in this smart, funny bone-dry comedy about a man looking for his birth parents. Writer/director David O Russell’s follow-up to the hit debut Spanking the Monkey, with George Segal, Mary Tyler Moore, Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin as the mums and dads. (1996) 7


You Don't Know Jack (SoHo, Sky 010, 7.30pm). Cute title. Serious subject. A decidedly unfunny biopic about the life and work of Jack Kevorkian, the physician-assisted suicide advocate whose droll nickname was “Dr Death”. This TV movie goes deeper than merely telling the life story of Kevorkian (Al Pacino), who died, unassisted, last year. It looks at the character of the man whose sometimes challenging personality made him as controversial as his methods. Directed by Hollywood veteran Barry Levinson, this has been called his best film since Wag the Dog. (2010) 8

Valentine's Day (TV2, 8.30pm). Director Garry Marshall generally goes for the fluffier end of the movie spectrum and this romcom – featuring one of the largest ensemble casts in Hollywood history – is no exception. It includes Julia Roberts, whom he directed in Pretty Woman: here, a Pretty Expensive Woman. She says just 251 words and reportedly received a US$3 million pay cheque. That’s nearly $12,000 a word. Waddling along for more than two clichéd hours, and with nearly two dozen characters to pair up and sort out, it is overstuffed, underwhelming and outdated. Starring (drum roll, please) Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper, Queen Latifah, Ashton Kutcher, Shirley MacLaine, Kathy Bates, Topher Grace, Eric Dane, Jessica Biel, Hector Elizondo and Taylor Lautner. Jennifer Aniston must have been busy. (2010) 5

Kingpin (Four, 8.30pm). Those Farrelly brothers set their skewed sights on 10-pin bowling in this typical gross-out comedy about a one-handed bowler, his Amish protégé and the rival who contributed to the loss of his hand. The comedic talents of Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid and Bill Murray – who ad-libbed most of his lines – keep this spinning along, but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, which is really saying something for a film by these directors. (1995) 6


Jennifer's Body (Four, 8.30pm). … is corpsing. Diablo Cody wrote this dead disappointing follow-up to the terrific Juno. If a horror-comedy about a possessed cheerleader who kills her male classmates has something to say about female empowerment, I’m darned if I know what it is. The body belongs to Megan Fox. (2009) 5


Someone I Loved (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). Daniel Auteuil – whose cinematic range seems to begin and end with quietly desperate losers – plays yet another deep, mysterious type in this romantic drama based on the bestseller by Anna Gavalda. When his daughter-in-law (Florence Loiret Caille) is dumped by his son, he takes her and the grandies away for a bit of time out. In an American film, his surprise revelation might involve alien abduction or time travel, but this is a French film, so not much happens, but it happens beautifully. (Aka Je L’Aimais.) (2009) 7


The Four Feathers (Prime, 8.30pm). A not very well-loved fifth film version of AEW Mason’s adventure story about a 19th-century British officer who resigns his post shortly before his regiment leaves for battle in the Sudan. Pakistani director Shekhar Kapur proved he understood English ways with Elizabeth in 1998, but here he seems to equate stiff upper lips with an almost complete lack of passion. It’s a bit like Lawrence of Arabia without Lawrence. Heath Ledger does his best, but like the titular feathers, it’s a lightweight affair. (2002) 6


Normal (SoHo, Sky 010, 8.30pm). Of all the actors out there who could have played Roy Underwood, a midwestern American farmer who has a sex change and becomes Ruth, the writer and director chose Englishman Tom Wilkinson, which meant he had to inhabit two unfamiliar characters. Fortunately, he and his screen-wife, Jessica Lange, know how to bring a bit of gravitas – and humour – to a topic that could become tasteless mockery in the wrong hands. A TV movie that is, in the end, about love. (2003) 7
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