WEEK IN MOVIES
9PM, 7MATE ★★★
Tom Cruise plays a futuristic soldier who is literally the last man left on Earth after some kind of mysterious alien incident has vanquished our planet. The film starts out very strong, with an imposing vision of a world running on empty. However, plotting can often switch from jaw-dropping to headscratching (and back again) very quickly. Deserves the benefit of the doubt thanks to some astonishing set-piece sequences, and an anchoring performance of undeniable quality from the muchmaligned Cruise.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
9.30PM, ONE ★★★★★
If the triumph of Schindler’s List put Steven Spielberg on the road to some belated artistic respect, then the astonishing Saving Private Ryan comprehensively completed the journey. A relatively subdued Tom Hanks leads a platoon across a hellish theatre of war to find the last surviving son in a family of soldiers. A superb supporting cast – including Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies and Edward Burns – keeps the cliches at arm’s length. Courtesy of a gutwrenchingly graphic opening that restages the D-Day landing in numbing detail it is impossible not to be caught up in this compelling drama for the long haul. Doesn’t get much better than this.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES
9.30PM, GO! ★★
Aliens have invaded Earth. Every major city on the planet has capitulated – with a sole exception. The extra-terrestrial aggressors are finding Los Angeles a tricky place to take over. And Uncle Sam’s best marines are leading the resistance. Not out to wow anyone on the authenticity front, this hyperactive action flick is really just a controlled blast of mayhem. Never boring. More than a bit bewildering. Stars Aaron Eckhart.
8.30PM, GO! ★★★★
We all turn to the movies for one reason: escape. The brilliant thriller Argo tells the staggering true story of a world superpower that turned to the movies for the very same reason. At the height of the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, six US Embassy staff evade capture by extremists. As they continue to hide out in Tehran, a CIA agent (Ben Affleck) concocts a scheme to bring them home by posing as a film producer and persuading the Iranians he intends to shoot a sci-fi film in their country. The screenplay is the key, knowing just when to stick to the facts, and when to embellish them. It’s directed by Affleck, who is fast becoming one of the best in the business.
UP IN THE AIR
9.30PM, ELEVEN ★★★★★
Corporate “transition specialist’’ Ryan Bingham (George Clooney in careerbest form) travels all over the US sacking people. He is very, very good at what he does. And self-aware enough to recognise that a great day at the office will still always be the worst day of someone else’s life. It might sound heavy going, but this brilliant work is blessed with an uncommon lightness of touch to keep the blues at bay. It is not only a movie that is actually about something. It is also a movie that is on to something: a conviction that the world is moving too fast, and many of us are too slow to realise, until it is too late. Highly recommended.
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
8PM, 7MATE ★★★
Did the world really need a fresh take on the origin story of the fella who became the Wonderful Wizard of Oz? Never mind. The target audience of Oz the Great and Powerful – non-discerning cineastes aged 10 and under – will still be happy enough with this prequel to one of the great children’s movies of all time. James Franco stars as Oscar Diggs, a dodgy travelling magician propelled by prairie tornado to the fabled land of Oz. On arrival, our hero gets an up-close look at a power struggle between witches wicked and good. Co-stars Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams.
8.30PM, TEN ★★★★
An impressively epic screen adaptation of the smash-hit musical based on the famous book by Victor Hugo. At the epicentre of this ever-rumbling, sprawling tale, you will see the ultimate man with a past, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). Chasing this noble fugitive all over 19th-century France with unrelenting determination is Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). The imposing scale of this production does not end with its ambitious screenplay, and its many colourful characters, lavish settings and extended musical sequences. Director Tom Hooper ( The King’s Speech) and a committed cast (which also includes Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and Sacha Baron Cohen) go for broke in every scene.
Ups and downs: George Clooney and Vera Farmiga are superb in UpInTheAir.