FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
WE should all be grateful to Ten, which is showing three remarkable films this week, including Robert Altman’s hilariously sinister Hollywood satire The Player ( Sunday, 11.15pm). This typically Altmanesque showcase, a wander through the byways of Tinseltown in pursuit of dirty secrets and hollow pretensions, has scores of real- life celebrities popping up in cameo roles. Tim Robbins plays a production executive who murders a writer, providing a framework for the film’s real business: a string of loosely connected character sketches and Hollywood in- jokes, a bit dated after 18 years but still funny if you get them. Sample: Buck Henry, who wrote The Graduate, is seen pitching an idea for a sequel in which a bedridden Mrs Robinson moves in with Benjamin and Elaine. Bridget Jones’s Diary ( Friday, 9.30pm, Ten) wasn’t the best romantic comedy of 2001, but readers of Helen Fielding’s book were grateful to Renee Zellweger for putting on 10kg and an English accent in order to look suitably fraught as the girl forced to choose between dashing cad Hugh Grant and rich barrister Colin Firth. Britain’s answer to Sex and the City arrived at the height of the Jane Austen revival, and we were meant to notice that the story was a rerun of Pride and Prejudice, with Firth’s character called Mr Darcy. Cut ( Friday, 1.30am, Ten) was Australia’s first teen slasher movie, our entrant in the Scream and Halloween stakes, made in 2000 and looking a little tame now that the standards in this specialised field have been raised dramatically by the Saw and Hostel films. But the idea was rather good: a group of film students get together in a spooky old mansion to complete a horror movie 14 years after the director was murdered. Kylie Minogue was silly enough to get involved, but since she’s killed early on after having her tongue cut out, her career may not have suffered unduly. More scary is Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist ( Saturday, 1.50am, Nine), produced by Steven Spielberg. This is one of the few films best seen in the small hours on television. A happy suburban couple ( Craig Nelson and JoBeth Williams) suddenly find that their children are terrified by something nasty emerging from the small screen in the living room, and it’s not Sex and the City. It seems the house was built on a sacred Native American burial ground, probably during the sub- prime mortgage crisis, and the gods are
angry. Uneven, but effectively creepy stuff. Frenzy ( Wednesday, 1.25am, ABC), Hitchcock’s first British film after his Hollywood years ( and the second last of his career), was widely seen as a return to form after Topaz and Torn Curtain. But try as I might, I’ve never been able to love it. The strangulation murders have a disagreeably sadistic flavour and the characters are unattractive. But there are still those famous set- pieces, including the killer’s search for an incriminating tiepin clutched in the dead hand of a nude girl, and it is worth seeing for Alec McCowen’s harassed London police chief, forced to endure his wife’s unappetising culinary experiments at home.