December 15-21: Including Snowtown and We're Here to Help

by Fiona Rae / 06 December, 2012
An Aussie stomach-churner and a Kiwi comedy about the tax department.


Snowtown, Saturday

Snowtown (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). One of the most stomach-churning films to come out of Australia. The most shocking thing about Snowtown is that it’s pretty much all true: Justin Kurzel’s debut feature is based on the 11 South Australian “bodies in barrels” murders in the 90s. It’s a sickening portrait of a collection of bottom-of-the-heap drifters drawn into the world of psychopath and serial killer John Bunting. Saddest of all is 16-year-old Jamie, who looks up to his mum’s new boyfriend and soon joins the gang of self-appointed vigilantes. Jamie is played with an agonising blankness by Lucas Pittaway, who looks rather like a gormless Heath Ledger. Daniel Henshall (Bunting) projects pure, smiling evil. An outstanding but almost unwatchable movie. (2011) ****

Stealth (TV2, 8.35pm). If a roaming dog called Top Gun mated with a bitch called 2001: A Space Odyssey, this is what you’d get: good-looking US Navy pilots straining to control a rogue computer in the form of a crazy stealth fighter jet. “Edi” – the “Extreme Deep Invader” – is quite docile until it gets struck by lightning and begins to think for itself. Uh-oh, scramble the wasps, or something! A loud, idiotic action sci-fi that moves fast and thinks little. (2005) **

Five Minutes of Heaven (TV1, 11.45pm). Two men on opposite sides of the Northern Ireland divide are brought together by the media 25 years after Protestant Alistair Little killed Catholic Joe Griffen’s brother. The first two-thirds are riveting, mainly thanks to extraordinary performances by Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, but the last section goes on and on – a bit like the Troubles. (2009) ***½


We’re Here to Help (TV3, 10.00am). A gripping local comedy about the tax department. Not surprisingly, this bombed at the box office, although it wasn’t up against any blockbusters. I guess Kiwis just weren’t that interested in the true story of Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson and his battle with the IRD. Which is a shame because this has an attractive cast, including Erik Thomson (Packed to the Rafters), Jason Hoyte (Nothing Trivial), Miriama Smith, John Leigh, Peter Elliott and Michael Hurst – as Rodney Hide! – and is a great little movie. Produced by South Pacific Pictures and written and directed by Jonothan Cullinane: his first movie as Top Dog. (2007) ***½

Alvin and the Chipmunks (TV3, 7.00pm). Do not let the kids watch this unless you want to spend the summer holidays wearing enormous earmuffs as they pretend to be singing rodents. This very annoying adenoidal trio – who were a huge novelty in 1958 – have never really gone away. Haven’t they heard of hibernation? (2007) **½

Hugh & Heke (Maori, 8.30pm). If a fish jumps in the sea and no one is around to see, does it cause a ripple? It would be hard to find a recent New Zealand film with a lower profile than this one. It’s a comedy about two families – one Maori and one Pakeha – who have to learn to get along when they both set up camp in Northland’s Matauri Bay. Everyone slides into summer-holiday mode except the eponymous dads, who think that starting a race war might make a nice change from fishing and cooking snags on the barbie. Director, actor and executive producer Reston Griffiths’s first film looks more like a home movie than he would probably have wished and the acting is pretty dodgy in places. A good idea that needed more work. With Pete Smith, Geoff Dolan, Dominique Crawford and Sarah McLeod. (2010) **½

Van Wilder’s Party Liaison (TV2, 9.05pm). Ryan Reynolds has been in a lot of awful movies. He never bothered to watch this one. (2002) **


40 Days and 40 Nights (Four, 9.00pm). Not to be confused with 30 Days of Night, in which Auckland stood in for an Alaskan town plagued by blood-sucking vampires. Although – spookier, possums! – both movies star Josh Hartnett, but here he’s a guy plagued by hot face-sucking babes. Then he meets the woman of his dreams (Shannyn Sossamon) and it rapidly descends into a promo for that weird US virginity pledge movement. Two words: “get” and “real”. (2002) **½


We're Here to Help, Sunday

Nico: Above the Law (Prime, 9.35pm). More like a geography lesson than an actual movie, this was Steven Seagal’s breakthrough into usually crummy martial-arts action flicks. Here, he’s an Italian immigrant who learnt aikido in Japan, worked for the CIA in Vietnam and is now a cop in Chicago, on the trail of a particularly nasty drugs cartel with links to his globetrotting past. Seagal developed, co-wrote, choreographed and starred. (1988) **½


Sixteen Candles (Four, 8.30pm). Another 1980s John Hughes teen classic starring his muse, redheaded It Girl du jour Molly Ringwald, whose fans called themselves Ringlets. She recently wrote a book but the wheels fell off her acting career years ago. Maybe she shouldn’t have turned down the leads in Ghost and Pretty Woman. (1984) ***½


Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). In the days before YouTube and the internet, it would have made no sense that a stack of cassette tape recordings of two old alkies bickering would become a cult hit. Back in 1987, slacker university grads Eddie and Mitch stuck a microphone on a ski pole out the window of their San Francisco apartment to record their neighbours’ sozzled quarrels as evidence to support an official disturbance complaint. But the miserable pair – ageing queen Peter and homophobic Raymond – soon fascinated the flatties and their friends and the tapes went on an international journey that culminated in catchphrases, comic books, stage plays, songs and four feature films (although only one came to anything). This documentary, by Australian Matthew Bate, asks uncomfortable questions about privacy and exploitation, and yet the old boys knew they were being taped and didn’t seem to mind. A guilty pleasure. (2011) ***½


The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (Four, 8.30pm). Question: in Movieland, what’s usually worse than a sequel? Answer: a prequel. It’s like explaining a joke. And is “straight to video” a good thing? No, gentle readers. It means absolutely nobody thought it was any good but some paperwork had already been done. The gripping backstory of Mathayus, who was played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 2002’s first desert-warrior saga, which screened last week. Now he’s a guy called Michael Copon. Heard of him? Nah, me either. (2008) 

Films are rated out of 5: * (abysmal) to ***** (amazing).
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