January 26-February 1: Including Sweeney Todd and Dead Silence

by Diana Balham / 17 January, 2013
A stylish slasher with surprisingly accomplished singing and horrorless horror.


Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd, Saturday

Godzilla (TV2, 7.30pm). Nobody liked this haphazard mash-up that grabs scary-monster ideas from Japan to the dinosaur age and blends them on low power with no real idea of what the recipe is supposed to taste like. (1998) 2/5

Bad Blood (Maori, 8.30pm). Our “cinema of unease” got a kickstart with this local classic about dairy farmer Stanley Graham, who went quietly nuts in the bush during World War II, killing seven people and instigating a 12-day manhunt. Aussie Jack Thompson (Breaker Morant) plays Graham: maybe British director Mike Newell couldn’t find a Kiwi male who wasn’t getting crazy on Close to Home at the time. Well-acted and suspenseful, with the brooding West Coast scenery and constant rain underlining Graham’s isolation. (1982) 3.5/5

Dead Silence (Four, 9.05pm). Horrorless horror from the creators of Saw that pads down the familiar road that leads to … a town haunted by – in this case, the restless soul of an insane ventriloquist and her 101 evil puppets. Silence welcome here. (2006) 2.5/5

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (TV1, 10.30pm). A quarter of a century in development, this film version of Sondheim’s Broadway musical could have starred a slew of actors, including Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Kevin Kline, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford and Harrison Ford, but when Tim Burton finally got hold of it, he chose his very close friends Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter: the latter was close enough to be having his baby during filming. It’s the trio’s third collaboration (Alice in Wonderland followed in 2010), and you can see why they keep at it. This is a stylish slasher with surprisingly accomplished singing by the leads (Bonham Carter practised while she was working on her baking – also a required skill here – and Depp sang on camera for the first time ever). Macabre thrills, black humour and even romance manage to co-exist remarkably comfortably in a film about revenge and very sharp objects. Also featuring Sacha Baron Cohen – who sang the entire score of Fiddler on the Roof for his audition – Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall. (2007) 4/5

Mrs Henderson Presents (TV3, 11.25pm). The British discover their naughty bits: a rich widow reopens a rundown theatre in London’s Soho in 1937 and progresses to putting on nude revues. Dame Judi Dench to Bob Hoskins, when the choreographer forces everyone at the dancers’ first nude rehearsal to undress, too: “Why, Mr Van Damm, you are Jewish!” Of course, once the Brits got over their initial reluctance to talk about parts best covered up, there was no stopping them, but here the Lord Chamberlain (played with a delightful cat’s-bum stuffiness by Christopher Guest) delicately refers to “foliage” and “the Midlands” when remonstrating about nudity on stage. Lovely fun. (2005) 3.5/5


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (TV2, 7.00pm). Quirky with a chance of moralising. (2007) 3.5/5

Despicable Me (TV3, 7.00pm). Hilarious Universal Pictures animation about a killjoy crim called Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, who adopts three orphaned girls as pawns in his most ambitious heist yet – to capture the moon. Expect your kids to adopt an Eastern Europeanesque accent and quote Gru’s funniest lines ad nauseam. (2010) 3.5/5

The Pillow Book (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). This was Peter Greenaway’s first full-length feature after 1993’s shocking The Baby of Mâcon, and Ewan McGregor’s first since his equally shocking breakout role in Trainspotting, so perhaps both were trying to cool things down. The Pillow Book is certainly erotic and intricate rather than deliberately offputting: it concerns a young Japanese woman (Vivian Wu) who is obsessed with books, papers and writing on bodies – and being a Peter Greenaway film, this translates into sexual longing and experimentation. Body art for fetishists. (1996) 3.5/5

Step Brothers
Step Brothers, Sunday

Step Brothers (TV2, 8.40pm). A stupid comedy from the team that brought you Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Writer/director Adam McKay is back with another daft situation for Will Ferrell (who co-wrote) and John C Reilly, but this time they’re not Nascar drivers, they’re 40-something loser step brothers. And some childish and unembarrassable part of you is going to be laughing. (2008) 3/5

The Boat That Rocked (TV3, 9.00pm). Water music: Rhys Darby is described as “a New Zealander whom nobody likes” in one synopsis of this disappointing comedy about 1960s DJs broadcasting at sea, written and directed by Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary). (2009) 3/5

Dead Calm (TV2, 10.40pm). eFilmCritic.com noted that this three-handed thriller “plays out like Hitchcock on the High Seas”. Close, but no (Monte cristo) cigar: Orson Welles made it under the name The Deep, but his version was never released because star Laurence Harvey died before filming was completed. This one, by Aussie director Phillip Noyce, features a very young Nicole Kidman with a pre-Hollywood nose and mad hair, and Billy Zane and Sam Neill as Naughty and Nice (one, her attacker, the other, her husband). Stylish chills in the Doldrums. (1989) 3.5/5?


The Runway (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). Flying under the radar is how the Colombian pilot at the centre of this factbased story got into trouble in the first place, and also what this little independent comedy did. A nine-year-old (Jamie Kierans) “adopts” Ernesto (Demián Bichir), who speaks not a blessed word of English, and then the wee fella has to convince the residents of his Cork village to help build a runway so his friend can go home. It trades heavily on its Oirish charm and generous dollops of blarney, but is at its heart a film about people and their actions, not cataclysmic events. (2010) 3.5/5


Demolition Man (Prime, 9.30pm). Sly Stallone (cop) and Wesley Snipes (murderous crim) slog it out in a non-violent Californian city in 2032 after they are cryogenically frozen, then thawed so that one can bring down the other. A comic sci-fi/actioner that serves up corny one-liners with its ultra-violence. Would you like ice with that? (1993) 3/5


Distrubia, Friday

Disturbia (Four, 8.30pm). David Morse got very methody to play a suspected serial killer in this Steven Spielberg executive-produced thriller: during filming he refused to talk to Shia LaBeouf, the teenager on house arrest who thinks he’s seen fishy goings-on. Then he broke three fingers slamming his hand into a wall and didn’t say a word. That’s loving your art. A well made, tense drama that borrows from Rear Window, but has a vibe all its own. But solve this, Sherlock. Why would an experienced knocker-off of innocent victims do it in view of a suburban front window? Details, details … (2007) 3.5/5
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