FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
THE interesting one this week isn’t very good, but check out On Deadly Ground ( Tuesday, midnight, Nine). In some ways it anticipated Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, ending with a five- minute lecture from the director Steven Seagal ( cut from 15 minutes in the original) about the dangers of ecological damage. Seagal, a committed environmentalist, blamed big business for a threat to humanity from industrial pollution. ( Those were the days before climate change became the environmentalist’s prime concern.)
Seagal’s villain was Michael Caine. Hollywood had always loved casting smoothtalking English actors in nefarious roles ( James Mason, Alan Rickman, et al), and Caine plays a ruthless tycoon desperate to plunder the oil reserves on Inuit land in the Arctic. A conspiracy drama with promising moral implications becomes a fairly conventional action thriller. And for Caine the film was a disaster. According to his biographer Christopher Bray, Caine vowed never to work with Seagal again and insisted that he was never cut out to play bad guys anyway. In Blown Away ( Saturday, 11.10pm, Seven), Jeff Bridges stars as a bomb disposal expert in Boston, which is being terrorised by a mad bomber in the diabolical person of Tommy Lee Jones, a loony from the IRA. These days the plot would have more topical implications, but domestic terrorist thrillers are one genre the studios now prefer to avoid. Bridges must have liked them because he went on to play the hero in Arlington Road, a not dissimilar story about a terrorist bomber, and a better film than this one.
Two this week for Steve Martin fans. Father of the Bride Part 2 ( Friday, 8.30pm, Seven) takes up the story of Martin’s anxious, overprotective dad after the wedding of his daughter. If the source of the first film was the old Spencer Tracy comedy, the inspiration this time was the Tracy sequel, Father’s Little Dividend ( 1951). The whole thing is like a feelgood commercial for happy American families, culminating in multiple births after Martin’s wife ( Diane Keaton) gets pregnant at the same time as their daughter ( Kimberly Williams). Kids and grandkids everywhere. In HouseSitter ( Sunday, 1pm, Ten), Martin plays a rather stuffy architect whose one- night stand with wacky waitress Goldie Hawn leads to her moving into his house and taking over his life. Hawn emerges as the film’s real star,
a funnier character than Martin in Mark Stein’s screenplay. After her smashing success with The Piano in Cannes, Jane Campion directed an uneven film of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady and followed with this excellent jeu d’esprit, Holy Smoke ( Monday, midday, Nine).
It’s the story of the beautiful and slightly eccentric Ruth ( Kate Winslet), a girl from suburban Sydney whose life is changed when she meets a guru while backpacking in India. Her family hire a spiritual counsellor ( Harvey Keitel) to dissuade her from becoming another of the guru’s several wives.
The film is ambitious, uncompromising, crammed with big ideas, boldly executed and beautifully acted.