Christmas is almost upon us, the Black Friday madness has finally subsided, it’s time to check the finances and prep for the celebration of winter and goodwill to all men. If you’ve nothing better to do, and are saving your cash for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then check out some of the cinematic delights on TV this week.
The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)
Saturday, 06:00PM on 5*
A revisit to the classic post-modern fairytale whose influence is clear on the likes Shrek and Tangled.
When young Fred Savage is sick, his grandfather – the legendary Peter Faulk – tells him a tale of heroism, love, adventure, and revenge. Adapted by William Goldman from his own novel, The Princess Bride is a triumph on every level. Cary Elwes is as charming as ever, Robin Wright great in her debut as Princess Buttercup, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, and Chris Sarandon are all good support. But the film’s ace is of course the vengeful Inigo Montoya as played with relish by Mandy Patinkin. Great cameos include Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Mel Smith of Not The Nine O’Clock News fame, and Peter Cook as the Priest who delivers the famous “mawage” monologue.
A great film, and enjoyable for the entire family.
The Little Mermaid (Ron Clements & John Musker, 1989)
Sunday, 03:35PM on Channel 5
The film that ignited Disney’s ten year long Renaissance is the musical showstopper about a plucky young Mermaid called Ariel, her crab friend Sebastian, her fishy sidekick Flounder and her bid to win the heart of landlubber Eric.
It’s classic Disney stuff, and doesn’t add anything new to the familiar narrative plot wise. Instead it boasts brilliant show-tunes (“Under the Sea”, “Kiss the Girl”, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”), a great central villain in the sea-witch Ursula, and a supporting cast a brilliant characters.
Almost thirty years on The Little Mermaid a brilliant piece of work, and takes pride of place in Disney’s crown.
Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008)
Sunday, 09:00PM on Channel 5
Doing for the Dirty Harry character what Unforgiven did for The Man with No Name, Eastwood directs this restrained non-revenge story of a lonely Korean war vet, who following the death of his wife befriends his neighbors – people of the Hmong culture – and sets out to help them with their issues. Eastwood is of course perfectly cast, and delivers lines and grumbles like no one else, and the new comer cast are also very good in supporting roles.
While not the success of his Western swan song, this take on the Harry Callahan character – here called Walt Kowalski – is as much a tribute to the Magnum-wielding cop as any “official” follow up could be. A brilliant, understated drama.
The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)
Wednesday, 11:35PM on BBC1
Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian, All The Pretty Horses), and directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition, Lawless), Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee star as a father and son, attempting to survive in a world that is slowly dying.
With a color palette that is almost black and white, and such minimal dialogue it could have been done as a silent film, The Road is a hard-hitting but majestic film about the love a parent can have for their child. Supporting roles from Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Molly Parker and Michael K Williams all add to the slow burn of a film that paints the end of the world as the dying of the light.
Team America: World Police (Trey Parker & Matt Stone, 2004)
Thursday, 11:00PM on 5*
If North Korea wanted a reason to attack the rest of the world prior to The Interview, they had a perfectly reasonable one eleven years ago.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame direct this political comedy that is two parts Gerry Anderson tribute and one part Jon Stewart tirade. A police force of Americans run afoul of the world when trying to stop terrorists in Paris, so their boss recruits an Actor, Garry, to join their ranks and help bring down the evil Kim Jong-Il who is using Hollywood actors as pawns in his bid to destroy the world.
The puppet animation provides plenty of visual gags and the trademark filthy humour and witty songs also provide plenty of laughs. Including great lines like “Alec Baldwin is the greatest actor of all time”, “Freedom costs a buck o’ five” , and the sight of UN weapons unspector Hans Blix being fed to shark followed by Kim Jong-Il singing a ballad about how lonely he is, all make for a film that is irreverent, sometimes offensive, and always entertaining.
This is how you make a Korean-centric political comedy.
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
Friday, 1:05AM on C4
Winning an Academy Award for her role as obsessive ballet dancer, Natalie Portman holds the screen every second she’s on it. A deserved win allowing her to go to dark places that her recent film choices have failed to do so. Not since Closer and The Professional has Portman been this good.
With the always reliable Vincent Cassel on fine form as the ballet director, Winona Ryder on Carrie form as a psycho ex-dancer, Mila Kunis as the sexy vixen rival to Portman’s role in the dance, and Barbara Hershey channeling some serious Mrs Voorhees into her performance as Portman’s overbearing and abusive mother.
Aronofsky makes a triumph of a film that washes away the bad taste of Noah and The Fountain, and exceeds The Wrestler‘s ambitions in showing a physical transformation. Clint Mansell’s clever reworking of the Swan Lake score also makes for a film that feels less like The Red Shoes and more like Les Diaboliques or Repulsion.
Shocking, thrilling and entirely seductive, Black Swan is Portman’s finest hour by a country mile.