Films on TV December 27-New Year's Day: including Cars, Robots and a War of the Worlds

by Sarah Barnett / 27 December, 2008

SATURDAY DECEMBER 27


Gosford Park (TV1, 8.30pm). A classic British murder mystery with director Robert Altman's busy, sardonic touch. The film is set between World War I and II; a country shooting party finds those upstairs amusing themselves with acidic quips and those below working frantically. When a member of the party is found poisoned and stabbed, it becomes clear that not everyone has stayed at the right end of the staircase. With Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Stephen Fry and Kristin Scott Thomas. (2001) 8

The Shawshank Redemption (TV2, 8.30pm). Tim Robbins is Andy Dufresne, a young banker banged up for life for the murder of his wife and her lover, of which he maintains his innocence. Inside, fellow prisoner, sage and black marketeer Red (Morgan Freeman) is a calming anchor. Tedious in parts but Robbins and Freeman are excellent. (1994) 8

Babel (Sky Movies, 8.30pm). Cate Blanchett is accidentally shot in Morocco, where she and husband Brad Pitt are travelling in an attempt to escape the grief of the death of one of their children. Back in the US, their nanny decides to take the other two kids with her to Tijuana. And in Japan, a young girl acts out against her dad. The interconnectedness of all things begins beautifully, as director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams) explores the ways in which good intentions pave the way to communication breakdown hell. But, thought David Denby of the New Yorker, "He also abuses his audience with a humourless fatalism and a piling up of calamities that borders on the ludicrous." (2006) 6

The Family Stone (TV3, 9.00pm). Sarah Jessica Parker is an uptight priss, meeting her fiancé's loosey-goosey family for the first time. Parents Diane Keaton and Craig T Nelson are so enamoured of their tolerance that you get the feeling they'd have been disappointed if their other son hadn't been gay and deaf, with a black boyfriend and an adopted son. The implication is that if this right-on family doesn't like Parker, she must be, like, totally awful. She is, but so are they - you wish they'd all go their separate ways much sooner. (2005) 5

Infernal Affairs (Maori TV, 9.00pm). The excellent inspiration for Martin Scorsese's The Departed, this Hong Kong thriller stars Tony Leung and Andy Lau as the moles who've been living with their secrets for 10 years - one a cop posing as a gangster, the other vice versa - who are finally called into service by their higher-ups, long after they'd become more comfortable with their undercover identities. (2002) 8

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (MGM, 10.30pm). You never know where this new breed of vicious killer, the deadly female, might be hiding, promises the opening narration in this brilliant, mad, Russ Meyer grindhouse classic - "One might be your secretary, your doctor's receptionist ... or a dancer in a go-go club!" This story of three such vixens is, insisted John Waters (Hairspray), "beyond a doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future." Quentin Tarantino appears to agree - he's planning a remake for 2010, with rumours flying that Britney Spears will take on one of the roles. Waters may have to rethink. (1965) 6

SUNDAY DECEMBER 28


Cars (TV2, 7.00pm). Hot-shot racing car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), in a fit of pique after drawing his latest race, winds up off the cambered track in small-town Radiator Springs. Local, wise old-timer, a Hudson Hornet voiced by Paul Newman in his last role, takes McQueen by the carburettor to teach him some much-needed humility. Not Pixar's finest work - but even not-great Pixar is still pretty good. (2006) 7

Robots (TV3, 7.00pm). You would think a robot movie could do without fart jokes, but there are gorgeous touches to this retro-futuristic robot society. The bad guy is called Ratchet - surely a reference to the most hated character in cinema, Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Robots have babies "delivered" by courier, some assembly required - "Making the baby's the fun part!" Ewan McGregor is a young 'bot in Robot City ready to seek his fortune at Bigweld industries when Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) takes over as CEO and ends the construction of replacement parts, forcing cash-strapped robots to buy expensive upgrades. Sound familiar? Can our hero save the day? And, seriously, how do robots fart? (2005) 7

Atonement (Sky Movies, 8.30pm). Thirteen-year-old Briony witnesses a moment between her chic, bored sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the housekeeper's Cambridge-educated son Robbie (James McAvoy), and driven by misunderstanding and jealousy, accuses him of a shocking crime. Director Joe Wright plunges straight into Ian McEwan's novel, as a heatwave strikes 1935 England and Briony's vicious mistake drives Cecilia and Robbie apart. Years later, Briony (Romola Garai), now 18 and a nurse in World War II, is desperate to make amends, and once again sets in motion events that pack a wallop. (2007) 8

TUESDAY DECEMBER 30


War of the Worlds (TV2, 7.30pm). The grandmother of all alien invasion tales, HG Wells' 1898 novel gets the Steven Spielberg treatment and he keeps it gritty. If you allow the liberties he takes with the novel, this is a powerful thriller, which doesn't gloss over a massive loss of human life, as Martian tripods stride the landscape wreaking very real destruction. The machines are never far behind Tom Cruise and his kids, who are trying to flee to a safety that no longer exists. (2005) 8

NEW YEAR'S EVE


Antz (TV2, 5.25pm). Woody Allen voices Z as an insect version of himself - an ant-y Semite, if you will - a neurotic citizen of a Central Park anthill. He has middle child syndrome "in a family of five million", a yearning to be more than just one of a dutiful crowd. Like Pixar's A Bug's Life, this DreamWorks production explores the importance of individualism with a sharper satirical spirit than, if not quite the smoothness of, its rival. (1998) 8

The Sound of Music (TV3, 7.30pm). Problematic nun Julie Andrews takes on a widowed captain and his kids, who won't shut their von Trapps. A flibbertigibbet, a will-o'-the-wisp, now in high def and surround sound ... (1965) 7

NEW YEAR'S DAY


The Green Mile (TV3, 8.30pm). Death Row, Louisiana, 1935. Michael Clarke Duncan plays John Coffey, a farmhand who has been jailed for killing two white girls and winds up on warden Tom Hanks' watch. Stephen King's cracking yarn is a big, unambiguous melodrama and about half an hour too long, but it's also a 10-tissue tear-jerker. When Hanks discovers big John's gift of healing, his guilt comes into question, but "Old Sparky" is an unavoidable fate. (1999) 7

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