June 2-8: Including Monster House and Thor

by Fiona Rae / 02 June, 2012


Monster House (TV2, 7.30pm). Spielbergesque animated caper that references The Amityville Horror, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween – in a benign way, of course. In fact, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis are co-executive producers, which explains why this is a story of strange occurrences in an otherwise ordinary picket-fence sort of suburb. Three kids investigate a spooky house on their street that “eats” people; a rollicking ride and pre-teen learnings ensue. (2006) *** 1/2


The Whole Nine Yards (TV2, 9.20pm). In a former life ­British director Jonathan Lynn wrote episodes of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. But instead of next making an In the Loop-type satire, he devolved and directed My Cousin Vinny and Nuns on the Run. The Whole Nine Yards? Not much better. A crude farce with a messy screenplay that alternates between exposition and pay-off. Your tolerance may also be strained by ­Matthew Perry playing a slapstick version of Chandler Bing. Again. He’s a dentist with an insufferable wife (Rosanna Arquette), and when former Mob hitman Bruce Willis moves in next door, everyone suddenly has an agenda, including Perry’s dental assistant, Amanda Peet, who is the only ember among the ashes. (2000) **

Apocalypto (Maori, 9.30pm). A cracking action adventure, said Listener film reviewer Helene Wong, even if director Mel Gibson fails to contemplate the nature of evil. Strange, considering his avowed religiousity. In the dying days of the Mayan empire, warriors from outside attack a small tribe of people and take them back to the capital. Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) escapes, and is pursued back to his home and family. Typically, Gibson includes beheadings, animal killings and the ripping out of organs, although The Passion of the Christ was worse. (2006) **

Away We Go (TV3, 10.30pm). Sam Mendes goes mumble­core. Well, after serious stuff like Jarhead and Revolutionary Road, this is low-key and charming. Loving couple John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph go on a parenting road trip to find the best place to bring up their soon-to-be baby. They visit her old boss in Phoenix (Allison Janney), her sister in Tucson (Carmen Ejogo), his childhood friend (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in Wisconsin and some old college friends in Montreal (Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey). Learnings, but not in a bad way, ensue. (2009) ***


The Karate Kid (TV2, 8.30pm). A remake produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith principally as a vehicle for their son, Jaden, which is a slightly queasy thought. Mini-Will goes to Beijing with his mother (Taraji P Henson), likes a girl, gets bullied, learns kung fu from Jackie Chan. Oops, too spoilery? (2010) **

Ray (TV3, 8.30pm). There’s a point in Walk the Line when you forget you are watching Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and just see Johnny Cash; Jamie Foxx achieves the same feat in this biopic of Ray Charles. Roughly halfway through, Foxx becomes the genius and womaniser who fused gospel music and blues and made pop and country. There’s no sugar-coating of Charles’s drug addiction and bad behaviour, either, and the film is an honest tribute to a legend. (2004) ****

Thor (Sky Movies, Sky 020, 8.30pm). Haven’t seen The Avengers yet? Get up to speed with this terrific adaptation of the magnificently silly comic. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, of all people. Australian Chris Hemsworth is both funny and heroic as Thor, and Tom Hiddle­ston, as his brother Loki, is nicely set up for big baddiedom in The Avengers. (2011) ***½ (Read David Larsen's ridiculously long review of the movie here.)


The Incredible Hulk (TV3, 8.30pm). Ed Norton was reportedly disappointed that his Hulk was replaced by a new Hulk – Mark Ruffalo – for The Avengers, and to be fair, Norton’s Bruce Banner is sympathetic, troubled and an improvement on the Ang Lee attempt with Eric Bana. But after an early high-speed-chase-through-the-slums worthy of a Bourne movie, Louis Leterrier (The Transporter and The Transporter 2) turns the movie into a boring CGI slugfest between the Hulk and super-soldier Tim Roth. We know the Hulk is a metaphor for Banner’s alter ego, but a little saving of the world would have been nice. (2008) **

Flashdance (Four, 8.30pm). Preposterous, overblown, embarrassing. And welding with that hair? Downright dangerous. Flashdance was the first collaboration between producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and its success unfortunately let them set the tone for the 1980s. One can only wonder what David Cronenberg or Brian De Palma (who both turned it down) would have done … (1983) *


A Fistful of Dollars (MGM, Sky 023, 8.30pm). Clint Eastwood was not the first actor to be approached by Sergio Leone for his Italian western, but he made the role his own in the first of the Dollars Trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars. Leone wanted to reinvent westerns by marrying his own film-making style to the genre, and Fistful became one of the first spaghetti westerns to be released in the US. Although Fistful is based on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, it is unmistakably Leone: intense close-ups, an operatic feel and brutal shoot-outs. MGM is having a mini film festival of Eastwood classic westerns on Wednesdays from today. (1967) *****


US Marshals (TV1, 8.30pm). Unimaginative quasi-sequel to The Fugitive. That movie was a thrilling remake with an Oscar-winning performance from Tommy Lee Jones; this movie is a rambling mess punctuated with big-bang special effects and car chases. Jones reprises his role as US Marshal Sam Gerard, who goes after escaped fugitive Wesley Snipes. There’s more to the story than meets the eye, but you’ll be long past caring by the fifth set-piece chase. (1998) **


28 Days Later (Four, 8.30pm). The Walking Dead meets Survivors. In Danny Boyle’s lean and dirty zombie horror, like a British version of Dead’s Rick Grimes, Cillian Murphy wakes up in a hospital bed to find London is an eerie, deserted wasteland. He meets other survivors, and excellent grainy digital video frights ensue. Christopher Eccleston as the leader of a group of soldiers is especially sinister. Perhaps the promise of Tony Blair’s New Labour hadn’t quite taken hold yet, because Britain, remarks one character, is a “diseased little island”, however, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg would be cheering up the place just two years later with Shaun of the Dead. (2002) ****

Georgia O’Keeffe (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). An ordinary biopic, despite its extraordinary subject. Joan Allen plays the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, an absolutely unconventional and fabulous artist who married philandering photographer Alfred Stieglitz (Jeremy Irons) in 1924, but eventually outstripped him, finding more inspiration in the landscapes of New Mexico. Director Bob Balaban is better known for his television work, both on and off screen, and the subject could have done with a more painterly, less prosaic touch. Vincent Ward, perhaps? (2009) ***

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