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TV Films (5)

SATURDAY OCTOBER 20

Thank You for Smoking (Sky Movies, 10.30am). The comedy is as black as tar - as black as a smoker's lung - in this satire of corporate spin and political lobbying. Adapted from Chris Buckley's novel, Thank You follows Big Tobacco PR shark Nick Naylor (superbly played by Aaron Eckhart, here as smooth as an oil slick) on his dubious exploits. Spin is seen as a natural part of the American way and although the film can seem a little too glib, a little too obvious, a little too barbed, it has a nasty satirical energy that the recent Fast Food Nation could have used. Look out for a very good, odd cameo from the increasingly weird Rob Lowe - if he gets any stranger, he'll turn into James Spader. (2005) 7

The Scorpion King (TV3, 8.30pm). A violent collision between the World Wrestling Federation and the Old Testament as WWF hero the Rock - cast as the Scorpion King, and reprising his gig from The Mummy Returns - battles the evil ruler of the ancient sin city of Gomorrah (well, if it was Sodom, it wouldn't be playing in primetime, would it?). Most critics longed for the relative intelligence and taste of Schwarzenegger's Conan movies. (2002) 2

Injustice (Maori Television, 9.00pm). A highly regarded but rarely seen documentary about young black men who have died in police custody in the UK. It was rarely seen, in the UK at least, because the Police Federation consulted lawyers and cinemas suddenly developed cold feet. (2001) 9

Rock Star (TV2, 9.30pm). Anyone who has even casually followed the line-up changes of most heavy metal dinosaurs knows that lead singers are as expendable as guitar strings, individuality is meaningless and it's the brand alone that must endure. So it was that Judas Priest fired singer Rob Halford - no matter that he was the only one in that dim line-up with anything like a profile - after he came out as gay (as if such anthems as "Hell Bent for Leather" and "Living After Midnight" hadn't given the game away years earlier). Halford was subsequently replaced by a guy from a Judas Priest tribute band and some at the back seemed to be none the wiser. Rock Star takes the Halford story and fashions a soft, entertaining heartwarmer from it - the heavy-metal-lifestyle movie for the whole family. That's partly because the boyish Mark Wahlberg is the metal singer whose dreams come true when the fictitious but all too plausible Steel Dragon replace their fired singer with him. As we learnt in Almost Famous, the rock life is no place for a nice girl like Kate Hudson, or, here, Jennifer Aniston, who plays the girlfriend from back home. At the other extreme is Rachel Hunter, aptly cast as a more experienced rock star missus. (2001) 8

House of Flying Daggers (TV3, 11.30pm). In an ancient land, in times long past - okay, in China in about 1999 - Ang Lee refashioned the martial arts epic as an arthouse sensation. The film was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and it encouraged US distributors to mine for more, such as this sumptuous historical fantasy, which stars the great Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs). For my money, this is both livelier and deeper than Crouching Tiger, which seemed solemn, glossy, ponderous. (2004) 8

SUNDAY OCTOBER 21

Crossroads (TV2, noon).

Someone's idea of a joke, surely: here's the Britney Spears vehicle conceived in an age of relative innocence, or at least better image management. The superstitious might wonder about the curse of the title: historically, crossroads were where souls were sold and suicides buried. With blues fan Dan Aykroyd as Britney's dad and Kim Cattrall as her mother - less weird than reality, for a change. (2002) 5

The Forgotten (TV2, 8.30pm). False memory syndrome, the movie: a grieving woman (Julianne Moore, too brilliant for this) comes to "understand" that her missing daughter may never have existed. If you've seen The Sixth Sense, you'll need to wipe it from your memory, but this kind of story - which may be about genuine tragedy or equally tragic delusion - was done much better in Lodge Kerrigan's Keane, and without the supernatural bells and whistles. (2004) 5

Repo Man (C4, 8.30pm). This uneven drama is a landmark cult film, thanks to a beautifully downbeat performance from Harry Dean Stanton - he was on a roll: Paris, Texas was out the same year - as the veteran car repossessor who teaches Emilio Estevez a few things, and a great soundtrack of early 80s US punk rock. The theme tune is by Iggy Pop but the stupid fun of Black Flag's "TV Party" catches the spirit of the thing better. (1984) 7

TUESDAY OCTOBER 23

The Celebration (Rialto, 8.30pm). Thomas Vinterberg's Dogme film is set at the 60th birthday party of a family patriarch. The raw style - location sound, shaky cameras, all the Dogme tricks - initially seems to ape home movies, which is apt. The patriarch's three adult children are eccentric, and that there are shocks in store is clear from the start. Like Lars von Trier's The Idiots, The Celebration shows that, despite its avant-garde basis, Dogme theory produces films that are far from esoteric - this is more entertaining and less abrasive than von Trier's films, and also more narratively rigorous. Recommended. (1998) 9

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 24

Stargate (Prime, 8.35pm). Camp sci-fi, clumsily told by Roland Emmerich. There's a lot of promise in the set-up, which is straight out of Von Daniken: Egyptologists discover a portal that leads to a desert world where aliens appear as gods. But we're a long way from 2001. (1994) 3

FRIDAY OCTOBER 26

50 Ways of Saying Fabulous (TV3, 11.15pm). Stewart Main's strange, misjudged film is a gay coming-of-age story set in the gold remembered hills of central Otago. This is high summer in the 1970s: blue skies, tight shorts and long, dry afternoons. Early on, Main introduces a fantasy metaphor: "poofter" Billy (Andrew Paterson) and his tomboy cousin Lou (Harriet Beattie) watch a Lost in Space-like TV serial and Billy imagines himself as the girl and Lou as the boy. But unlike the UFO metaphor in the infinitely better Mysterious Skin, this idea soon disappears without having added much. Mostly, Main sets a slightly flat realism against an old-fashioned kids' show score by Peter Scholes - it's like a Famous Five soundtrack - which only makes the occasional detours into sexual frankness all the more jarring. (2005) 4