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Instead of the Super Bowl

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On the worst week for cable and DirecTV choice for a long, long time—it’s like they want you to watch the Super Bowl—the best runner-up might be a marathon recap of season one of the most popular zombie show since Night of the Living Dead (The Walking Dead, from 11 am AMC). Apart from a good, but slow, Al Pacino vehicle (Serpico, 8.10 am, Max), a decent modern Woody (Midnight in Paris, 3.25 pm Max), Spielberg’s wonderful adaptation of Herge (The Adventures of Tintin, 4.30 pm HBOF) and a reliable Tim Burton (Corpse Bride, 3.10 pm HBOF), there’s nothing to write home—or film choice columns—about. The week isn’t much better, with only a pick from last week (*Michael Collins, 10 pm Thursday TCM), an excellent Kevin Costner—yes, excellent and Kevin Costner in the same sentence—fantasy (Field of Dreams, 6.05 pm Tuesday TCM) and Jodie Foster’s magnificent performance in an upsetting film that would have been picked, if it screened an hour earlier (The Accused, 10 pm Wednesday TCM).



Today’s best film: Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis/ 1993/USA/Comedy/102 mins/Rated PG-13) 10 pm Monday and again 5 pm Tuesday Turner Classic Movies. Watch this if you liked The Truman Show, Forrest Gump or Hugo. Groundhog Day was the turning point in Bill Murray’s career, the first time audiences could see the stinging talent for character acting that led to his magical performances in the offbeat The Life Aquatic and the otherwise boring Lost in Translation. Groundhog Day is far, far better than either of those. Buddhists revere it and even Hollywood critics concede it is an intelligent, penetrating comedy with more than a little to say on the human condition; and the belly laughs are there in abundance. Murray is amazing and the rest of the cast uniformly excellent. This, their sixth collaboration, was Murray’s last film with Ramis; if neither has gone on to top it, it is because it reached so high. Unstintingly recommended.



Rest of the week: Africa Unite (Stephanie Black/2008/USA/Documentary-Music/66 mins/G) 7.30 pm Wednesday HBOC. Watch this if you liked Rebel Music: The Bob Marley Story, One Love: The Bob Marley All-Star Tribute or Dancehall Queen. The music of this tribute concert-cum-documentary redeems a mixed bag of very intelligent commentary on Bob Marley with some immensely stupid, cringe-inducing Afrocentric pronouncements. His children—meaning the issue of his loins and his songs—are the real stars and outshine all else. Impossible not to like, overall. Not to be confused with Africa United, the also-plays-on-cable movie about kids walking from Rwanda to the South African World Cup. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (aka Wo hu can long) (Ang Lee/ 2000/China-Taiwan-USA/Martial arts-Drama/120 mins/Rated PG-13 for martial arts violence & some sexuality) 8.45 pm Thursday Max BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. Watch this if you liked Hero, House of Flying Daggers or Curse of the Golden Flower. By far the best of all stylized modern kung fu films, and so beautifully photographed and choreographed, you could watch it with the sound off—which you might have to, if you don’t speak Cantonese or read Spanish subtitles. No, but seriously, the English subtitles should also be legible. Of course, if you have a Blu-ray of it and a 1080p big screen TV…


Best of the rest: 
Mon: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 3 pm TCM; Tues: The Royal Tannenbaums, 4.15 pm HBOC; Wed: Wreck-It Ralph, 9 pm HBOC; Thurs: Ulzana’s Raid, 4.35 pm TCM; Fri: Remember the Titans, 6.55 pm HBOF; Sat: Othello, 7 am Max. *Starred films have been chosen in the last three months. Scheduled Internet times often vary on the day, particularly around month-end.


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