EVAN WILLIAMS FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
THE Christmas line- ups include a sadistic comedy about an eight- year- old boy fighting off violent home invaders, Bob Hoskins as a serial killer preying on young women, a Jewish lesbian romance and a formulaic sci- fi horror film with Vin Diesel, some of which I’ll return to. It almost makes one grateful for The Grinch ( aka Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ), the weird Jim Carrey fantasy about a shaggy green yetilike monster living in a rubbish dump. I think if I had to choose a Christmassy film it would be Danny Boyle’s dark and prankish comedy Millions ( 10.30pm, Monday, Seven), which has nothing to do with Christmas except that the heroes — two boys living in a housing estate in northern England — receive an unexpected present when a large quantity of stolen cash falls from the sky. Boyle’s film takes a hard look at our modern preoccupations with money and property. There’s a pleasing touch of fantasy, and Lewis McGibbon and Alex Etel are wonderful as the youngsters. Then there’s Holiday Inn ( 1pm, Tuesday, ABC), with Bing Crosby as a small- time song- and- dance man who retires to the country and lets his house for celebrations. The idea was credited to Irving Berlin, who was better at writing songs. But Bing gets to sing White Christmas for the first time, Fred Astaire does his stuff, and the director, Mark Sandrich, tries hard to emulate his success with the Astaire- Rogers musicals he made for RKO in the 1930s ( and don’t we miss them). You’ve Got Mail ( 9.30 pm, Tuesday, Nine) is Nora Ephron’s less than sparkling comedy about a bookshop owner ( Meg Ryan) who falls for Tom Hanks without knowing he’s the superstore takeover tycoon threatening her little business: a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 comedy The Shop Around the Corner , updated to the email age and already looking a bit dated in the age of SMS and broadband. Seven is showing Home Alone ( 8.30pm, Friday), that violent, paranoid kids’ fantasy with Macaulay Culkin, which ranked as the highest grossing comedy of all time ( and may still hold the title). Much of it is gruesome and unpleasant: a child- abuse comedy in reverse, someone called it. More harrowing, and more serious, is Atom Agoyan’s Felicia’s Journey ( 12.10am, Friday, Seven), my film of the week, a haunting adaptation of William Trevor’s novel about a pregnant Irish girl who arrives in England to search for her ex- boyfriend and finds herself
befriended by kindly, fussy, avuncular Mr Hilditch ( Bob Hoskins), who runs a respectable business and is grieving for his dead wife. All, sadly, is not as it seems. The film is a masterpiece of gathering terror and spiritual loss, with Hoskins giving possibly his finest performance.
( 1pm, Tuesday, SBS), Charlie Chaplin’s indictment of heartless industrialisation, is a loosely linked series of comic and melodramatic incidents including Chaplin’s stints as a shop worker and a waiter, with Paulette Goddard’s impoverished waif picked up along the way. It can be called the last of the great silent films, despite its musical soundtrack, composed by Chaplin.