Including Kingdom of Heaven and The Castle

by Sarah Barnett / 26 December, 2009


The Castle (TV1, 7.30pm). Aussie pearler in which the Kerrigan clan fight to keep their house from being compulsorily acquired for the airport next door's expansion. The Kerrigans, simple folk, could so easily have been the butt of the joke but, in Ocker tradition, they're portrayed with nuance and affection. Beaut. (1997) 9

Armageddon (TV2, 8.30pm). The world is going to end with a bang not a whimper: an asteroid the size of Texas is on its way. A hero is called for, and that hero is Bruce Willis, who assembles a dirty dozen to go into space and blow that sucker to kingdom come. Clichéd blockbuster fun, just don't expect to feel smarter afterwards. (1998) 7

The Sentinel (TV3, 8.30pm). Michael Douglas is the Secret Service agent providing extra service to the First Lady when he's framed for an assassination attempt on the President. Kiefer Sutherland is the detective determined to out him, reprising his 24 character Jack Bauer. Indeed, it's no better or worse than an average episode of that show. (2006) 5


Madagascar (TV2, 7.00pm). Gaudy DreamWorks fare that finds a handful of New York zoo animals shipped to the African island of the title where they must deal with life in the wild for the first time. Laden with old movie references - a nice Planet of the Apes homage, particularly - the slow-burning plot here is that the lion's (Ben Stiller) appetite for hunting is returning, bad news for his zebra buddy (Chris Rock). A nice idea, but a bunch of mad mafia penguins steal the show comprehensively. (2005) 6

Nanny McPhee (TV3, 7.00pm). "In American movies," wrote Roger Ebert in his review of this film, "the kids end in triumph, pumping their fists into the air and chanting, 'Yes!' In British movies, they end as well-behaved miniature adults who have come to see the truth of all the wisdom bestowed upon them." When he puts it like that, one can't help but feel a little chilled that the Brown family of seven children and widowed dad (Colin Firth) achieve perfect happiness only after the titular warty nanny (Emma Thompson) erases chaos and dissent from their lives. Still, it's a welcome spoonful of cod-liver oil to Mary Poppins' sugar. (2005) 6

Psycho II (C4, 8.30pm). Twenty-two years on, Norman Bates (played again by Anthony Perkins) has been declared "sane" and sent home. Forget Hitchcock - although on that classic set, how could you? - and this is a deft thriller, especially when Mother makes a comeback. (1983) 7

Australia (Sky Movies, 8.30pm). Director Baz Luhrmann reimagines his country's history as a cross between Gone with the Wind and a deodorant commercial in this epic. Nicole Kidman, English aristocrat, comes to Oz just before World War II to save her inheritance, joining forces with Hugh Jackman, topless drover. It is, in Luhrmann tradition, overwrought, but what has worked for him in his previous films is simply too much here - the Melbourne Age critic noted that almost no cliché about the lucky country had been left unturned; "the only thing missing is a bloke called Bruce". (2008) 5

Confetti (TV3, 9.05pm). This non-scripted take on the wedding industry is like a cross between a Richard Curtis romcom and a Rob Reiner mockumentary, though without the best bits of either. Three couples compete to stage "the most original wedding of the year", which is a great reality TV idea but this execution is just a good case for the value of screenwriters. (2006) 4

C.R.A.Z.Y (Maori, 9.00pm). Gorgeous French-Canadian flick about growing up gay in the 60s and beyond. A fantastic soundtrack sets the scene for Zac's coming of age as he, and his dad, struggle with his emerging sexuality. Director Jean-Marc Vallée has a light touch and a gift for finding the funny in some awful situations. (2005) 8


Driving Lessons (TV1, 8.30pm). Writer/director Jeremy Brock puts his own teenage acquaintance with Dame Peggy Ashcroft into this charming story about a downtrodden lad (Harry Potter's Rupert Grint) who spends a summer working for an imperious retired actress, played with gusto by Julie Walters. Walters is the polar opposite to Grint's fanatical mother, Laura Linney. As the wife of a clergyman who is far more evangelical than her husband, Linney pushes her son into community service while apparently receiving special "visits" from a New Age curate. You could say that the ensuing battle for Grint's soul is a helluva way to enter adulthood. (2006) 8

Bride and Prejudice (TV2, 9.50pm). A mash-up of Jane Austen and Bollywood that seems strange to Western eyes. Characters are likely to burst into song or dance at any moment. The film boasts not one but two Kiwis - Martin Henderson is Darcy and Daniel Gillies is Wickham. You know the story: beautiful Indian girl (Aishwarya Rai) meets a snooty Western boy. Misunderstandings ensue, but it will all work out in the end. Only, this being Bollywood, don't expect any kissing. (2005) 5


Hairspray (TV2, 7.00pm). Nicole Blonsky is a bootylicious suburban 60s teen, hell-bent on getting on a TV dance show despite not fitting in with the preppy crowd - she finds inspiration from the black kids at school. Despite the overly cute casting of John Travolta in a fat suit as Blonsky's mum, and fears that time and rewrites would dull the edge of a story made when hairspray still had CFCs, it has still got a decent subversive bite to it. (2007) 7

Gladiator (TV3, 8.30pm). Grisly ancient-times spectacular from the brain of Ridley Scott and featuring the Serious Face of Russell Crowe. Maximus is an ex-general sold into slavery and forced to become a gladiator, but this is essentially a really long revenge movie in Roman sandals. (2000) 6


Kingdom of Heaven (TV3, 8.30pm). Director Ridley Scott's authentic (for an epic movie) take on the Crusades finds young French blacksmith Orlando Bloom striking out for Jerusalem, where he takes up his father's role as lieutenant to King Baldwin (Edward Norton in a silver mask). Despite a stellar cast - Norton, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Marton Csokas - Bloom carries the show, and he does so limp-wristedly, a complete milquetoast blank slate. (2005) 6

Big Fish (TV1, 9.30pm). Typically magical yarn from Tim Burton in which a son tries to re-create his terminally ill father's life, recounted as a series of mythic stories. With Ewan McGregor playing Albert Finney as a young man, this was a whimsical return to almost-form after Burton's egregious Planet of the Apes remake. (2003) 7

Lost in Translation (TV3, 11.25pm). A tour de force performance from Bill Murray as the washed-up star looking to make a quick buck filming commercials in Japan. Sofia Coppola's take on Americans in Tokyo ruffled feathers, but Murray totally nails his haughty, haunted, lugubrious fellow. (2003) 8


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