FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
IT can’t be a bad week when Seven is showing Legally Blonde for the 34th time ( Friday, 8.30pm). With the entire female cast talking in sophomoric fan- mag cliches — accompanied by endless pouting, sulking, preening, flouncing and flopping about — Reece Witherspoon manages to come over as a real person. Elle Woods was her quintessential, career- defining role, and we love her for it.
Otherwise it’s a choice between Astronauts ( Monday, midnight, SBS), a Spanish film about a would- be writer kicking his drug habit ( I know that’s a gross over- simplification of the story’s many subtle tragicomic overtones), or The Astronaut’s Wife ( Sunday, midnight, Nine), a Hollywood thriller in which Johnny Depp returns from a routine shuttle mission carrying what may be an alien virus destined to turn him into Captain Jack Sparrow. What happened in those three vital minutes when the shuttle lost contact with Earth? Can Charlize Theron save the world? Don’t ask.
Depp turns up in another spooky one, Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate ( Sunday, 12.10am, Ten), as a New York antiquarian book dealer searching for a 17th- century satanic text, The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows ( a sequel, perhaps, to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness ). It seems the volume may be helpful when summoning the prince of darkness, last revealed by Polanski in Rosemary’s Baby , a much more unsettling thriller than this long, overdecorative exercise in metaphysical mumbo jumbo.
In Dying Young ( Friday, noon, Seven), Julia Roberts is even more working class than she was in Pretty Woman or Erin Brockovich , and Joel Schumacher’s weepie is correspondingly trashier. Roberts plays an unemployed single Catholic girl who gets a job as a carer for a millionaire’s son ( Campbell Scott) suffering from leukemia. A sad blend of the morbid and the sentimental only partly redeemed by Roberts’s natural charms.
Now here’s something. Ten is showing a rare Mel Brooks double on Sunday afternoon. The Producers ( 1.25pm) is his famous spoof of the Broadway theatrical scene, with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder staging ( for their own devious financial purposes) a dreadful musical called Springtime for Hitler, which turns out to be a hit. It’s famously funny and tasteless. In Robin Hood: Men in Tights ( 3.05pm), Brooks trashes the legendary dogooder in what looks to be a camp send- up of Kevin Costner’s Prince of Thieves . Plenty of throwaway gags, but not one of Mel’s best.