TV Films

by Matt Nippert / 30 December, 2006

===SATURDAY DECEMBER 30===

The Return of the Jedi, TV3, 7.30pm. The conclusion to a franchise that begat three prequels and countless fantasy conventions and action figures. Popcorn set-pieces abound: Ewoks run amok; Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) duels, and makes peace, with his father; and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) gyrates in a gold-wire lapdancer's outfit before an alien Buddha. "Fun, magnificent fun," says Roger Ebert (1983) 6

Waking Ned Devine, TV1, 8.40pm. If you're Irish, you'd be lucky to steer clear. A resident of a small town (population 53, uh, 52) wins the lottery - but immediately drops dead of shock. The eccentric community then band together to claim the prize by hoodwinking the authorities. Oh, the charm. In the wake of The Full Monty this film generated a fierce bidding war at Cannes, but the Village Voice wasn't nearly as generous: "Set against a painfully quaint backdrop of pig-farming, Guinness-swilling village idiocy, this cynical first feature by writer-director Kirk Jones (who's English) takes provincial whimsy to exasperating, borderline-offensive extremes." (1998) 5

Himalaya, Maori TV, 9.00pm. French documentarian Eric Valli, who also photographs for National Geographic, directs his first feature, set in his home of the past two decades, Nepal. The mountain backdrops are picturesque, and the struggles of the Dolpo Tibetans against nature are drawn from Valli's first-hand knowledge. Nominee for Best Foreign Film at the 2000 Oscars. (1999) 6

===NEW YEAR'S EVE===

Titanic, TV3, 7.30pm. The film that almost sank the movie studio that made it, this $300m epic also made stars out of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. A doomed couple aboard a doomed boat, the rich girl and plucky commoner trade jewellery and nude sketches. In 1912 an iceberg sank this ocean liner in two and a half hours. Director James Cameron makes the film go on for more than three. (1997) 6

Last Action Hero, Prime, 8.30pm. Arnold Schwarzenegger in an ironic blockbuster. A boy gets hold of a magic ticket, but instead of inheriting a wonderful chocolate factory he gets stuck in an intentionally derivative action film starring the body-builder from Austria. The Terminator here simultaneously plays both a cardboard cut-out action-hero and himself, going up against a psycho named "Ripper". The Washington Post wrote that it "also feels like a farewell, of sorts, to Arnold". His next role of any note would be Governor of California. (1993) 3

Stealth, Sky Movies 1, 8.30pm. Win an Oscar, star in a bomb, it seems the natural order. Halle Berry did Catwoman, and here, Jamie Foxx, fresh from Ray, is a terror-fighting pilot duelling with a stealth plane possessed by glitchy Artificial Intelligence. One critic described it as "Team America: World Police sans puppets, combined with a desire to be taken seriously." (2005) 2

===NEW YEAR'S DAY===

Grease, TV3, noon. Who'd have thought the 50s were ripe for retro? Featuring Olivia Newton-John surgically attached to her black stretch pants, buckets of brill cream, hot-rods and John Travolta's famed singing and dancing. (1978) 6

Mrs Brown, TV1, 8.30pm. Wherein a dame plays Queen. Judi Dench, in her first leading screen role, is Queen Victoria. Billy Connolly is John Brown, Victoria's below-station love interest. Connolly is, of course, a kilted Scotsman (described here as "a Highlander of independent mind"). He takes her riding and serves her scotch whiskey. Scandal, of course, ensues: the title refers to the name that Her Majesty is called behind her back. A charming, character-driven romance. (1997) 8

Forrest Gump, TV3, 8.30pm. Director Robert Zemickis also made Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but aside from the trips through time, who could tell watching this film? Tom Hanks, in an Oscar-winning performance, is Forrest, a man with an IQ of 75 whose thoroughly decent naivety charms one and all. He runs the gamut of modern American history by teaching Elvis to swivel his hips, inventing the hippie-era smiley face and being advised by Richard Nixon to stay at the Watergate Hotel. Like a box of chocolates, this film is packed full of sweet gooey goodness. (1994) 7

===TUESDAY JANUARY 2===

Four Weddings and a Funeral, TV1, 8.30pm. Writer Richard Curtis (of Blackadder fame) minted a subgenre here: the Hugh Grant Brit rom-com. (See also: Notting Hill and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.) True to form, Grant is endearingly foppish, and all the action is ingeniously confined to the five social events in the title. Fine ensemble cast, including Andie MacDowell, most of whom are endearing, actually. (1994) 7

As Good As It Gets, TV3, 9.30pm. A Jack Nicholson screwball vehicle, with Helen Hunt along for the ride. Nicholson is a curmudgeonly obsessive-compulsive writer of pulpish chick-lit, and director James L Brooks feeds him some delicious lines: "How do you write women so well?" a fan asks. "I think of a man. And I take away reason and accountability." Nicholson and his single-mother love-interest Hunt both won Oscars. (1997) 8

===THURSDAY JANUARY 4===

The Upside of Anger, Sky Movies 1, 8.30pm. Kevin Costner is best when not trying to save the world. (See: Waterworld, The Postman.) Here, in one of his better roles, he plays a bored former baseballer who strikes up a relationship with Joan Allen, a wronged and lonesome mother. Mostly they meet for drinks, ignore good advice and engage in self-destructive behaviour. Not picture perfect, the leading pair are likeable for being real. A love story for the burnt-out semi-alcoholic suburbanites in us all. (2005) 7

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