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Don’t fight the pull of the TV

Published: 
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Sandra Bullock in Alfonso Cuaron’s space film Gravity.

The second Sunday of Lent and the New Year’s resolution of cable & DirecTV to show great films remains strong. Today’s Also Rans include a great Danny Boyle thriller (Trance, 10.45 am FxMvs), Meryl Streep leading a blow-mind cast in a sweltering drama (August: Osage County, 12.50 pm Fx1), a Jimi Hendrix bio with jaw-dropping, knee-bopping music clips (Hear My Train A-Comin’, 4.30 pm DTV), a heart-warming music biz doc bringing backup singers to centre stage (20 Feet from Stardom, 6.45 pm HBO), Graham Greene-not-done-in-by-Da Dook (The Quiet Man, 9 pm FxCl) and a strikingly innovative Holocaust film that would have been picked for sure, if BC on TV could have been sure of English subtitles (Life is Beautiful, 9 pm StUn) BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. 

Today’s best film:

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron/ 2013/ USA/ Sci-fi-Adventure-Thriller/ 91 mins/ PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language), 8.25 pm HBO. Watch this if you liked Pacific Rim, The Hobbit or Das Boot. Alfonso Cuaron’s space film has been criticised for lacking the gravitas of his earlier films like Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men but that seems pedantic when the recreation of space is so overwhelmingly realistic. This is stunningly good use of technology—but the real success is the film itself, as adventure-thriller. For all its runtime, the viewer sits transfixed in another world—apart from the several moments when he or she jumps out of his seat to dodge debris hurling through space towards him or her. Dismiss the pretentious monologue at the end as suffering in translation from the Spanish in which one assumes Cuaron wrote the screenplay and you understand why Gravity scored a near perfect 96 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. 

Today and rest of the week:

The Counsellor (Ridley Scott/ 2013/ USA / Crime-Drama-Thriller/ 117 mins/ R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language), 5.20 pm today Fox Movies. Watch this if you liked No Country for Old Men, The Departed or the AMC TV series Breaking Bad. The first screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, BC on TV’s favourite living male American writer, is seriously flawed. The opening scene, eg, peaks at dreadful, and several of the type of soliloquies that worked so well when translated from novel (No Country for Old Men) or play (The Sunset Limited) fall entirely flat as original screenplay movie dialogue. Additionally, the central female character is a caricature, certainly as misplayed by Cameron Diaz. Still, with a director like Ridley Scott and a cast including Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Michael Fassbender, a film could hardly be all bad—and it isn’t. Much of it is excellent, if violent, like all McCarthy’s work, and all of it is rescued by Scott’s tight direction. Recommended like drinking an excellent rum, scotch or wine with a dead beetle floating in your glass. 

The Others (Alejandro Amenábar/ 2001/ USA/ Horror/ 101 mins/ PG-13), 5.30 pm Tuesday Universal Studios. Watch this if you liked The Sixth Sense, The Omen or Skeleton Key. The director of the wonderful, groundbreaking Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos) and the magnificently distressing The Sea Inside turns his formidable skills to the horror genre and turns in a beautifully spooky, spine-shivering, other worldly film, featuring a superb performance from Nicole Kidman. This is a horror for people who hate horrors and a wonderful film however and by whomever measured. A rare delight not to be missed.

* 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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