December 8-14: Including My Name is Khan and Love Actually

by Diana Balham / 29 November, 2012
My Name is Khan; Love Actually; and On Deadly Ground.
My Name is Khan
My Name is Khan

SATURDAY DECEMBER 8


Heaven’s Burning (Maori, 8.30pm). You can tell a film needs a stable home when it’s described as a “drama, action & adventure, art house & international, mystery & suspense, comedy”. Given that its star, Russell Crowe, generally veers wildly between trying too hard and not giving a monkey’s, it’s no great surprise that this Aussie mash-up about a bank robber, two Afghans and a runaway Japanese bride makes about as much sense as a duckbilled platypus. (1997) (2.5/5)

The Last Waltz (MGM, Sky 023, 8.30pm). Should last forever. Martin Scorsese’s brilliant account of the Band’s final gig in 1976, getting by with a little help from their friends. Technology and some rather diva-ish antics conspired against them, which all added to the fun: Bob Dylan packed a sad 15 minutes before he was due on stage, saying he didn’t want to go on because this would compete with his film Renaldo and Clara. (He did go on, but insisted only his last two songs be filmed.) The stage lights blew during Mystery Train, leaving only one spotlight on the performers. Guitarist Robbie Robertson forgot to turn on his microphone and sings in the wrong place during Helpless. Eric Clapton’s guitar strap came off during Further on Up the Road. Neil Young had a blob of cocaine hanging out of his nose, which was airbrushed out. Muddy Waters nearly didn’t appear because the Band’s management decided there were too many artists, but drummer Levon Helm said he’d take his toys home if Muddy couldn’t come to his party and … Bloody musicians. (1978) (4/5)

Starship Troopers (TV2, 8.35pm). Sci-fi writer Robert A Heinlein really got stuck into fascism in his 1959 novel, on which this all-out splatterfest is based. The overt political message is diluted to a general anti-war message – which translates as “let’s kill the giant bugs!” Impressive visually and gleefully gut-wrenching, it follows the happy post-graduation days of a bunch of teens who sign up for what counts for military service in the distant future. Whether it’s a slightly campy satire or just a rather heavy-handed attempt to repeat Star Wars is hard to say, but this has become a classic of its genre nonetheless. With Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer and Jake Busey. (1997) (3/5)

My Name Is Khan (TV3, 11.30pm). It would be easy to say this was Bollywood’s answer to Forrest Gump. An Indian Muslim with Asperger’s journeys across the US after 9/11 to tell the President he’s not a terrorist – but that’s just ticking the (chocolate?) boxes without looking inside. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, it will have you begging Rizwan’s Hindu wife to take him back by the end of it, but Shah Rukh Khan brings a pureness to the character that never imitates Gump’s cloying weirdness. (2010) (3.5/5)

SUNDAY DECEMBER 9


Happy Feet (TV2, 7.00pm). Isn’t there anywhere on Earth you can get away from Americans? Emperor penguins get the Hollywood treatment: anthropomorphism goes nuts. (2006) (2.5/5)

Love Actually (TV3, 8.30pm). It’s romcom madness! As with blue vein cheese, you’re either going to love it or run screaming from the room. This is writer Richard Curtis’s directorial debut and he goes hard out with a film that could be called Eight Relationships and a Prime Minister. It’s sentimental, it’s heart-tugging – it’s Christmas! What a cast: Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, Andrew Lincoln … (2003) (3.5/5)

We Bought a Zoo (Sky Movies, Sky 020, 8.30pm). There’s nothing wrong with family movies and there’s nothing wrong with this one. Director Cameron Crowe has California-ised the hell out of Englishman Benjamin Mee’s memoir about how, following the death of his wife, he bought a house on gloomy Dartmoor, complete with zoo. So – everyone glows with health and good looks, even as they Go on Their Journey to bring a failing animal enterprise back to financial life. Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson grin and grimace as a biblically hard rain falls (it would have been much harder on Dartmoor!), but you’re never in any doubt the sun’s going to come out again. Still, it might have the useful function of putting a few kiddies off wanting to be zookeepers. (2011) (3/5)

Bride & Prejudice (TV2, 9.10pm). A fun and fizzy Bollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic, with elephants. In Austen’s original, young ladies played gentle airs on the piano. Here, breaking into song means the entire cast bellows a bad pop song, sometimes for no reason. Kiwis Martin Henderson and Daniel Gillies play the unsuitable love interests Will Darcy and Johnny Wickham, and leading Indian hottie Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the Lizzie/Lalita character. I think Jane would have approved. (2004) (3/5)

MONDAY DECEMBER 10


Step Up 2: The Streets (Four, 8.30pm). Fame with bad dudes. (2008) (2.5/5)

TUESDAY DECEMBER 11


On Deadly Ground (Prime, 9.35pm). Steven Seagal is pro-environment good guy (yay!) and Michael Caine is dastardly Mr Big Oil (boo!) in this dreadful thriller and Seagal’s first in the director’s chair. As one reviewer put it: “Just what the world needs. Environmental lessons from Steven Seagal.” Nature might be the backdrop, but blowing up half of Alaska just ain’t right. Joan Chen plays a Native American – badly. (1994) (1.5/5)

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 12


21 (TV3, 8.30pm). There’s “based on a true story” and then there’s “inspired by a true story”. This is the latter and it’s not inspired at all: a taut, exciting story is replaced by banal melodrama. The action centres around six brilliant students who cook up a blackjack scam in Vegas to pay the tuition fees of maths whiz Ben (Jim Sturgess). It’s a rare misfire for Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne, who usually evaluate scripts as cannily as these guys count cards. (2008) (3/5)

The Breakfast Club (Four, 8.30pm). Five Go Mad in the Library. In 1985, John Hughes set out to make a teen drama about a bunch of American kids sentenced to Saturday detention. Twenty-seven years later, this is a historical artefact – the hair, the frills, the high school caste system that’s as rigid as anything you’ll find in rural India – and it’s as effective as ever. With many of the 80s Cool Kids: Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall, although Demi Moore and Rob Lowe must have been on a sleepover that weekend. (1985) (4/5)

FRIDAY DECEMBER 14


The Scorpion King (Four, 8.30pm). Dopey action adventure set in “ancient Egypt” 500 years before The Mummy and its offspring. That should explain everything. (2002) (2/5)

Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing
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