March 2-8: Including Midnight in Paris

by Fiona Rae / 21 February, 2013
A Woody Allen showcase begins on Rialto, and one of the best remakes ever.


Midnight in Paris, Saturday

The Game Plan (TV2, 8.30pm). First, Arnie in a kindergarten, then Vin Diesel looking after five kids, and now this. Oh, the humanity. And the terrible, terrible movies. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a party-boy bachelor football player whose eight-year-old daughter turns up. Heartwarming Disneyfied lessons ensue. (2007) **

And When Did You Last See Your Father? (Choice TV, 8.30pm). An “intelligent and heartfelt film”, said the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw about this adaptation of novelist and critic Blake Morrison’s 1993 memoir. It centres around a painful visit to a dying father – Jim Broadbent again – which brings back memories good and bad for a son (Colin Firth). Intelligent, moving and thankfully unsentimental. (2007) ****

Gone with the Wind (TCM, Sky 024, 8.30pm). Jimmy Carter recalled the 1939 film premiere of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta as the biggest event to happen in the South in his lifetime. The film was a huge hit even then; it won eight Oscars, and also ran for four years in London, cheering up wartime audiences. This is the golden age of Hollywood, so sit back and enjoy the ride. (1939) *****

Midnight in Paris (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). Rialto’s Woody Allen showcase begins with the movie widely regarded as his real return to form, after Vicky Cristina Barcelona turned out to be a fake return to form. It’s a light and frothy contrivance in which a disillusioned writer (Owen Wilson) is magically transported to 1920s Paris and starts hanging with F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Man Ray, Salvador Dali … it’s a writer’s – or perhaps a film director’s – fantasy, but also Allen’s way of having some fun with nostalgia. (NB: The showcase continues with the classic Manhattan on Sunday.) (2011) ****

Whiteout (TV2, 10.45pm). A critically acclaimed graphic novel is turned into a critically panned movie. Fanboy favourite Kate Beckinsale plays a US marshal investigating a murder in Antarctica. A couple of movies have utilised the spookiness of either end of the planet – Insomnia springs to mind – but this isn’t one of them. (2009) **½

Happy-Go-Lucky (TV1, 11.30pm). It’s not often that social realist Mike Leigh makes a comedy, but his 17th film features a wonderful, light performance from Sally Hawkins as Poppy, an almost annoyingly cheerful teacher in London. She’s so happy, you’re waiting for the bomb to drop, and it seems as if her psychotic driving instructor, Eddie Marsan (Vera Drake), will be the one to pop her balloon. It’s a beautiful characterisation that builds into a whole person, and you gradually realise Leigh is not blindly saying “Don’t worry, be happy”, but suggesting we engage, like Poppy, with an imperfect world. (2008) ****


National Treasure: The Book of Secrets (TV2, 8.30pm). The history-lesson-as-action-movie gets another go-around. Surprisingly, this sequel to National Treasure out-grossed its predecessor. Nicolas Cage again plays treasure hunter Ben Gates and the plot is something to do with missing pages from John Wilkes Booth’s diary. It’s all rubbish (an “absurd and fevered plot”, said Roger Ebert), but a romp nonetheless. (2007) **½

Gone with the Wind, Saturday

Fast Five (TV3, 8.30pm). The Fast and Furious franchise basically does what it says on the tin: high-speed car chases, preposterous stunts that laugh in the face of physics, muscly macho guys and super-sexy girls. Director Justin Lin (who has also directed the Modern Warfare episode of TV series Community) seems to have a knack for it, and Fast Five is his third F&F (and he’s at the helm of the upcoming Fast & Furious 6, too). Most of the action takes place in Rio de Janeiro, where a druglord, the local cops, DEA agents and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are after Vin Diesel and his crew. (2011) ***

Away from Her (Maori, 8.30pm). Canadian actor Sarah Polley is so well-respected that she was able to gather the talents of two lovely screen legends, Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis, for her debut feature, Away from Her. That’s not the only remarkable thing about this movie. Most 28-year-olds would be making some clever, possibly drug-referenced outing about life among the twentysomethings, but Polley is not most 28-year-olds. Based on a short story by Alice Munro, Away from Her is about a sixtysomething couple facing the awful destruction of Alzheimer’s. Do not think, however, that this is a disease movie; it is a complicated story of love and heartbreak. (2006) ****


The Nutty Professor (Four, 8.30pm). Eddie Murphy dons the fat suit for the first time in a new version of a 1963 Jerry Lewis comedy and inadvertently causes a genre. Big Momma’s House, Shallow Hal, Norbit … damn you, Murphy! (1996) **


What a Girl Wants (TV2, 8.00pm). Friday night fluff for the pre-teen staying-in crowd. It’s an updated version of 1958’s The Reluctant Debutante, but instead of Sandra Dee and Rex Harrison, Amanda Bynes is the long-lost daughter and Colin Firth is the dad whom she shocks out of his stuffy British ways with her bubbly American personality. There is a cliché about every 30 seconds, but your tween probably won’t notice once the Cute Boy (Oliver James) comes on the scene. (2003) **½

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Friday

Paycheck (Four, 8.30pm). Another elegant failure from John Woo, whose trademarks, including two Mexican standoffs, a whizzy motorcycle chase and a dove, are here, even as he misses the potential of the original Philip K Dick story. Ben Affleck plays a computer genius whose memory is wiped after a top-secret job. He then finds himself in all sorts of trouble with no idea why, which is where the movie turns into lumpen action nonsense. It is interesting to see how far Affleck has reinvented his own career, however – he won a Razzie award for the movie, and the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw joked in his review that “the search for Ben Affleck’s career was abandoned last night”. Just look at him now. (2004) **

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (MGM, Sky 023, 8.30pm). Widely regarded as one of the best remakes ever (it “may be the best film of its kind ever made”, said Pauline Kael). Philip Kaufman, who went on to direct The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the under-rated Quills, gives paranoia a new look with this update of the 1956 movie – there are reflections, odd details, weird rays of light; everything is slightly off. Leonard Nimoy is just plain strange. In a post-Watergate America, Kaufman’s themes are alienation and individuality rather than the 50s fear of communism (or McCarthyism, take your pick) as Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams begin to realise more and more people are being turned into emotionless drones. (1978) ****½

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