February 11-17: Including Sarah’s Key and Snatch

by Fiona Rae / 11 February, 2012


Mrs Doubtfire (Four, 6.30pm). Ah, the old Scottish nanny trick. You can tell a lot about an actor by the way he looks when impersonating a woman. He doesn’t have to be pretty, but it helps if he’s not Robin Williams. Think Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Dustin Hoffman, who all made fabulous ladies without compromising their essential blokeness. Williams improvises so hard his make-up starts to melt, but you can’t forget for a second that it’s him. His kids and estranged wife, on the other hand, have no idea who he is. Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I Love You, Beth Cooper, see Monday) directs. (1993) 6

Sarah's Key

The Ex (TV2, 8.30pm). Always-watchable actors Zach Braff, Amanda Peet and Jason Bateman find themselves in an insidious triangle in this romcom about Tom, a loser (Braff); his wife, Sofia (Peet), who has just had a baby; and her wheelchair-bound ex, Chip (Bateman). Tom and Sofia are forced into Chip’s path when Tom gets fired and has to take a job in a small town, working for Sofia’s father. And Chip the Crip, it transpires, is hell on wheels: still carrying a torch for Sofia and ready to make Tom’s life miserable. Amy Adams, Mia Farrow, Donal Logue and Paul Rudd round out the cast in a film that’s mostly routine but offers some tasteless laughs. (Aka Fast Track.) (2006) 6

Sarah's Key (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). Holocaust dramas can only be effective if they stay away from melodrama and over-sentimentality. Conveying shock and shame should be enough and, fortunately, this film doesn’t step over the line. Kristin Scott Thomas as American journalist Julia Jarmond keeps this French film classy, and Melusine Mayance as Sarah, the young Jew, is a revelation. But Julia, in the present-day, has an unhappy marriage, and that story competes with the 1942 Nazi occupation of Paris, during which thousands of French Jews were sent to concentration camps. It’s not intentional, but it takes away a little gravitas from the film. (2010) 7

White Noise (Four, 9.20pm). A third-rate variation on the dead-contacting-the-living theme. Here, Anna, the author, keeps in touch via electronic voice phenomena – static from the telly and radio. Poor old Michael Keaton plays the befuddled and bereaved target of all this supernatural communication, but that look of dawning horror on his face is possibly the realisation that his Beetlejuice days are over, and he’s starring in a thrill-less thriller with a bunch of nobodies. (2005) 4

The Grocer's Son (Maori TV, 9.30pm). Beautiful cinematography, languid pacing, dry but twinkly characterisation: it’s a French comedy. Here, city boy Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) returns home to his Provençal village after his shop-owning father gets sick, bringing his worldly friend Claire (Clotilde Hesme) along. As light and tasty as a well-made crème caramel. The delicious crunchy part on top is the splendidly deft humour these accomplished actors draw from the script. (Aka Le Fils de l’Épicier.) (2007) 7

Friday Night Lights (TV3, 10.30pm). What lifts this sports-team underdog film above the rest is that it’s about much more than American football and it dares to look at the emotion and psychology behind the game and its players. It also stars Billy Bob Thornton. Other than that, you’ll need to have more than a passing interest in gridiron to be on your feet cheering. Spawned a TV series, but telly really isn’t Billy Bob’s thing and he wasn’t in it. Boo. (2004) 7

Two Lovers (TV1, 11.30pm). Quiet understatement and fine performances add up to a satisfying romantic drama starring Joaquin Phoenix as a depressed man trying to choose between the “nice girl” his parents want him to marry (Vinessa Shaw) and his volatile nutcase of a next-door neighbour (Gwyneth Paltrow). (2008) 7


Front of the Class (TV3, 8.25am). Brad Cohen is a successful motivational speaker, award-winning teacher and author. He also has severe Tourette syndrome and is the subject of this fact-based TV movie in which his teachers accuse him of being, quite literally, barking mad. (His particular repertoire of involuntary utterances includes loud vocal tics and yips.) Part promotional tool, part hand-on-your-heart drama, this is exactly what you expect it to be: a film about a guy everyone says is a loser who turns out to be a winner. Stars James Wolk and Patricia Heaton. (2008) 7

The Bounty Hunter (TV2, 8.30pm). Andy Tennant has directed some good movies – Ever After, A Cinderella Story and Hitch among them – but for this recent clunker he seemed to forget everything he had ever learnt. The Bounty Hunter has two attractive, successful stars (Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler), but also a totally lame script, sloppy editing and nothing kind to say about human nature. For Aniston, the search for her happy place continues. (2010) 4

The Celestine Prophecy (Maori, 8.30pm). The poster – with its lush rainforest and skies full of heavenly light – looks like a copy of one of those free magazines God botherers foist upon you if you don’t close the front door quickly enough. And that’s pretty much what this film is. Based on the book by James Redfield, it’s supposed to be an adventure-drama about a guy who goes on a journey to find some ancient scrolls in Peru. But it looks more like a bad recruitment film for an impoverished cult religion. “A delectable fusion of New Age babble and luridly bad film-making”, and “Believer and sceptic alike can agree on one thing: it is a transcendentally awful movie” were the stark verdicts of two critics. (2006) 3


I Love You, Beth Cooper (Four, 8.30pm). Three stereotypes walk into a high-school comedy: a dweeb pines for a hot cheerleading babe, whose boyfriend is a jock. Ratchet up the cruelty quotient to the point where Dennis the Dweeb (Paul Rust) is as weird as the titular Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) is nasty. This horrid film really gives popularity a bad name. Based on the book by journalist/author/screenwriter Larry Doyle. (2009) 4


Snatch (Four, 8.30pm). Gordon Bennett! At last there’s some quality on the box. This is Guy Ritchie’s next tale about working-class lowlifes after his debut feature, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which so impressed Brad Pitt he begged to be in it. He was even prepared to play another boxer soon after Fight Club, but he couldn’t do a Cockney accent, so Ritchie gave him the part of Mickey O’Neil, the gypsy. Pitt’s Oirish accent is so hilariously incomprehensible that most of the actors couldn’t understand him, let alone the audience, which was Ritchie’s intention. Whether he wanted people to follow the convoluted plot is up for debate. Either way, the parade of jewel thieves, Russian gangsters, pawnshop owners, Jewish thugs and vicious dogs is a rich and violently entertaining spectacle, with the usual suspects (Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng, Vinnie Jones) plus Benicio Del Toro as a bogus diamond merchant. Awright? (2000) 7
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