• The Listener
  • North & South
  • Noted
  • RNZ

TV Films (6)

SATURDAY OCTOBER 13

Swarm (TV2, 8.30pm) Snakes on a Plane didn't scare you? How about ants? No? (2006) 1

The Chronicles of Riddick (TV3, 8.30pm) The Vin Diesel vehicle Pitch Black was a kind of action-heavy Aliens knock-off: the sequel goes from the less-than-sublime to the completely, er, Riddick-ulous. As the pompous title suggests, there isn't much humour in this murky, bloated, largely incoherent sci-fi entry. The first movie was cheap and direct - this second film is evidence that bigger budgets can be the ruin of good ideas, or even mediocre ones. In the plot, Diesel's space warrior Riddick goes to war against the Necromongers, who might be first cousins of Star Trek's Borg super-race. With Judi Dench, Karl Urban and Thandie Newton. (2004) 3

Sexy Beast (Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm) Superb. London gangster Gal - the great Ray Winstone - has retired to the Costa del Otta with his porn-star missus for a life of blissful, sun-baked laziness. But, one day, a huge boulder careens down the hill and lands in his swimming pool. It's a portent: arriving soon after is Don Logan - a scary, hilarious Ben Kingsley - a short-fused mate who tries to "persuade" Gal to do one last job back home. Inventive, stylish and cleverly performed, Sexy Beast is a small, dark movie and should also be the last word on the British gangster flick - most look very minor compared to this. Best moment: Kingsley's touched-up-at-the-airport monologue, surely. (2000) 9

Temptation of a Monk (Maori Television, 9.00pm) Beautiful and confused, this Chinese epic has Joan Chen as one Princess Scarlet. We're in the Tang Dynasty; battle scenes are vast and brutal. (1993) 5

Death to Smoochy (TV2, 10.20pm) Even Robin Williams grew tired of the moist-eyed man-child he kept springing on the public through such ignominious feelgood efforts as Hook, Jack, Jumanji, Patch Adams, Jakob the Liar ... the list is very close to endless. In three smaller films, he tried to work up a darker, creepier quality, and as the killer in Insomnia, the best of those films, he remade himself as almost threatening. The evil Robin in this clumsy, self-conscious black comedy was but a warm-up. (2002) 5

SUNDAY OCTOBER 14

Evolution (TV2, noon)

Goop from space breeds alien creatures in Evolution, which puts the millennial fear of The X-Files through a comic work-out - the results are in the same ballpark as Ghostbusters (also directed by Ivan Reitman) and Men in Black. Aptly, David Duchovny is on board to make fun of his 90s meal- ticket. With Julianne Moore as the army scientist. (2001) 6

Wah Wah (TV1, 8.30pm)

In which Richard E Grant - memoirist turned movie director - looks back with both affection and bitterness on his colonial childhood in Swaziland. This was the 1960s, and even as the tide went out on the British Empire, the mores and the manners of the Home Counties were maintained, as if in a museum or historical theme park. All is thinly disguised autobiography: Gabriel Byrne is the drunk father, Miranda Richardson is the mother who ran off, Emily Watson is the American whom Dad takes up with and who gives the book and film its title - "wah wah" is the sound of the middle-class British accent to such an American. That it also sounds like a spoilt child doesn't hurt either. (2006) 7

Raising Helen (TV2, 8.30pm) It's right that Kate Hudson made her name as the cute, hollow object of longing in Almost Famous, because that's all there is to her - on the evidence of this Garry Marshall film and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, she's no comic actress. Her assignment here is to look cute, hollow while caring for the three kids orphaned by the death of her sister. Of course, it's an upbeat fantasy about such issues - not unlike Garry Marshall's upbeat fantasy about prostitution, Pretty Woman. Chick-flick décor? There's always John Corbett. (2004) 3

The Breakfast Club (C4, 8.30pm) A boredom experiment of Warholian proportions from director John Hughes, this somehow became a mid-80s sensation. Five teenagers, stereotyped for your convenience - jock, debutante, geek, stoner and Ringo - spend a Saturday in detention. The "careers" of Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy are launched. (1985) 3

Gypo (Maori Television, 9.00pm) This raw, minimalist melodrama was the first British film to get the Dogme stamp of approval - about a decade after Lars von Trier and his Danish provocateurs came up with the idea. Handheld cameras, real locations, no costumes, no soundtracks - the Dogme "vow of chastity" suits the tough material, which is to do with the treatment dished out to refugees in a British seaside town. (2005) 7

Interview with the Vampire (TV2, 10.55pm) A laughable trek through Anne Rice's gothic bestseller. The material is rich, no question - and if you want to track it in the Rice biography, it is to do with alcoholism and the death of a child, transformed into an eerie melodrama about addiction, codependency and an ageless vampire child, Claudia (a young Kirsten Dunst). It's a shame, then, that movie stars Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise take Byronic as "sulky" - who would want to spend a nocturnal eternity squabbling and bitching like these guys? Nor is there any getting past the fact that Cruise looks ridiculous as the poodle-wigged Lestat (who becomes a rock star in the second, still-unfilmed book). Neil Jordan directs, adding occasional horror flourishes to the lace-and-candelabra kitsch. (1994) 3

FRIDAY OCTOBER 19

Fracture (TV3, 11.30pm) Larry Parr's Fracture, adapted from Maurice Gee's Crime Story, is forever doomed to be remembered as the footnote to the main story: Brad McGann's far superior Gee adaptation, In My Father's Den. Both films share a Gee-world of frayed families, fundamentalist nutters and accidental crimes. But where McGann's film was tightly focused on two characters, Fracture tries to gather half of Wellington in a net: you need a flow chart and a family tree. Or a director more in control of such potentially rich material than Larry Parr. No film (originally) titled Crime Story should be so sluggish, so suspense-less, so boring. The saddest thing about Fracture's failure, though, is the number of fine performances that get thrown away: Michael Hurst's Athol Peet - love those Gee names - and, especially, Kate Elliott's Leeanne Rosser, a struggling, combative solo mother who is the only truly alive thing in it. (2004) 5