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Including La Vie en Rose and The Pacifier

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 15


La Vie en Rose (Rialto, 8.30pm). Rialto's international film festival continues this week with an exceptional French biopic of Edith Piaf, the singer known as the "Little Sparrow". Marion Cotillard, a dead ringer for the tiny Piaf, gives a career-defining performance in a narrative that is less a dramatic arc than a trajectory. The most famous French singer of the 20th century was the model for the modern diva: brought up in a brothel, Piaf drank continuously, became addicted to morphine, slept with world-famous boxing champions and artists and died prematurely. Cotillard and the make-up crew both won Oscars for their work. (2007) 8

The Big Cube (MGM, 10.30pm). Ant Timpson, programmer of the cult-inspiring Incredibly Strange Film Festival, appears to have taken the management of MGM hostage and is bending their Saturday-night slots to his own twisted will. For the foreseeable future, Timpson is scheduling oddball double-features on Saturday nights, and this first offering is as bizarre as anything he's put on to the big screen. The Big Cube is a drug-addled freak show centred on a toxic and acid-fuelled clash over an inheritance. Lana Turner, at the tail-end of her career, goes from quoting Shakespeare to LSD-induced senility - and clearly enjoys chewing -whatever scenery she can get her jittery hands on. (1969) 6

The Hunt for Red October (TV3, 10.45pm). Not the best submarine movie (that honour belongs to Das Boot), but nonetheless a classy thriller. Sean Connery is a mutinous captain of a high-tech Russian submarine (but, perplexingly, he speaks in Scottish-accented English) and Alec Baldwin is the plucky CIA agent assigned to figure out exactly what the nuclear-capable Connery is up to. Tom Clancy, king of the cold war potboiler, wrote the book and John Mc-Tiernan (of the excellent first Die Hard) directs. (1990) 7

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 16


The Pacifier (TV2, 8.30pm). Vin Diesel (Pitch Black, xXx) treads where many muscle-bound meatheads have gone before (see Stallone, Schwarzenegger, "The Rock" et al) in trying to cross over to family-friendly fare. Diesel, a bankable action hero, plays a hard-edged naval commando who is - hilariously - left in charge of five children. North Korean and Serbian kidnappers, as well as the onset of puberty, are the stock villains here, but more than fish-out-of-water casting was needed to save this Disney flick from flapping helplessly. The one highlight is Diesel directing a high school production of The Sound of Music. (2005) 2

Drugstore Cowboy (C4, 8.30pm). Matt Dillon delivers the performance of his life as a junkie outlaw who drifts from pharmacy to pharmacy with a ragtag gang of jaded hipsters. Gus Van Sant (Last Days, Good Will Hunting) directs a joyous, empathic piece of work that forces us to care when the teenage Heather Graham overdoses at a motel that, in shades of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is also hosting a deputy sheriff's convention. Towards the end, William S Burroughs cameos in a role reminiscent of Death itself: the author of Naked Lunch is a defrocked heroin-addicted priest. A great American tragedy. (1989) 10

Skins (Maori, 9.00pm). Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) directs a Native American film about alcoholism. Set in the shadow of Mt Rushmore, two Sioux brothers have taken different paths: one is a drunk and fried Vietnam veteran, and the other is a vigilante cop angry about social decline. The setting is documentarian, but the narrative arc is all melodrama. The New York Times notes: "In the absence of real dramatic development, the film's anger collapses into sour discontent and a sense of tired helplessness, neither of which makes vivid cinema." (2001) 3

The Contender (TV3, 10.25pm). After the three-ring Arctic circus that was Sarah Palin, the premise of this film seems vaguely documentarian. President Jeff Bridges has a choice to make after his vice president dies in office. Senator Joan Allen is a history-making pick, but Gary Oldman, as a sexual inquisitor modelled on the Monica-hunting Kenneth Starr, has to put her to the question. Director Rod Lurie, the son of a noted Los Angeles political cartoonist, wears his politics on his sleeve: Democrats are treated as noble ethicists and Republicans as prudish attack dogs. (2000) 5

MONDAY NOVEMBER 17


Inside Man (TV3, 8.30pm). Spike Lee directs a bank-heist thriller with a Holocaust subtext. Lee is usually content to craft works for the arthouse, but here he sets his film on Wall Street and has a gaggle of A-listers to push through a cunning and Byzantine plot. Denzel Washington is a cocky cop matching wits with smooth mastermind Clive Owen, and they are joined by Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Plummer. Clichés of the genre are attacked with gusto, and Lee finds plenty of room to riff about Dog Day Afternoon, post-9/11 profiling and racist video games. Gourmet popcorn. (2006) 7

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 20


A Mighty Heart (Sky Movies, 8.30pm). A film that has at its core a snuff YouTube clip. In 2002, American journalist Daniel Pearl was interviewing Islamic militants in Pakistan when he was taken hostage and beheaded. The resulting footage became the first in a terrible series of war-on-terror DIY movies. This film begins with Pearl's disappearance, and Angelina Jolie makes up for Tomb Raider by playing his wife, Mariane, who, pregnant, goes to Karachi in a frustrating and ultimately doomed search for her husband. The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper Pearl was writing for when he was murdered, reckoned "menace is the essence of this -shattering story, which has been told with skill and conviction". (2007) 8

Shaun of the Dead (Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm). Zombie movies have never strived for realism. George Romero's 1979 Dawn of the Dead used the shuffling undead as a metaphor for consumers, and here Edgar Wright (with a title that's an obvious homage to Romero) opts to tell the Scream of zombie movies. Lovable loser Simon Pegg is so hungover he doesn't notice his slack-jawed neighbours have morphed into slack-jawed cannibals. When he finally catches up with the news that "Z-Day" has arrived, he collects a ragtag group of friends and begins an epic trek to sanctuary from the undead hordes. In other words, they head straight to the pub. Classic moments abound: arguments over which LPs are worth wasting as head-severing frisbees, a riotous all-in melee to the tune of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now, and a touching scene between Pegg and his mum. (2004) 9