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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

IF you have been vow­ing for years to spend an hour a night learn­ing Man­darin, this may be the week to start, as de­cent films are thin on the ground. The two best are op­po­site sides of a coin. Per­fect Strangers ( Wed­nes­day, noon, Seven) is an in­trigu­ing 2003 drama from New Zealand di­rec­tor Gay­lene Pre­ston. Me­lanie ( Sarah Blake) is en­joy­ing a night on the town when she meets a sexy stranger ( Sam Neill). When he asks, ‘‘ Your place or mine?’’, she replies, ‘‘ Yours. I’ve seen mine.’’ His place turns out to be a boat, then a shack on a re­mote is­land off NZ’s rugged west coast. Me­lanie has been ab­ducted, but it’s not as sim­ple as that. Blake and Neill are su­perb in this in­ver­sion of the Prince Charm­ing story that owes more to John Fowles’s creepy novel The Col­lec­tor than to any fairy­tale. In Pretty Woman ( Satur­day, 8.35pm, Seven, NSW, Queens­land only) suavely hand­some Richard Gere starts out a bit of a creep but ends up a prince, of sorts. He’s a cor­po­rate raider who has jet­ted into Los An­ge­les to bust up a few com­pa­nies and re­sell their parts. He hires a hooker ( Ju­lia Roberts) to be his com­pan­ion for the week. He teaches her how to be a lady ( abet­ted by Hec­tor El­i­zondo’s scene- steal­ing ho­tel man­ager) and she learns him to be a nicer man. It’s so shal­low, re­ally, but harm­less enough and the leads are pretty to watch. With 18.6 mil­lion empty houses in the US due to mort­gage fore­clo­sures, a story about a yup­pie cou­ple ( Jim Car­rey and Tea Leoni) who turn to crime af­ter los­ing their jobs and home is one for our times. If you can tol­er­ate Car­rey, and I know many can’t, then Fun with Dick and Jane ( Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, Nine) is an amus­ing enough ca­per. Of course, it’s a re­make of Ted Kotch­eff’s 1977 ( post- oil shock and re­ces­sion) orig­i­nal with Ge­orge Se­gal and Jane Fonda. Fi­nan­cial pres­sures also dom­i­nate Three Dol­lars ( Sun­day, 9.10pm, SBS), Robert Con­nolly’s 2005 film adap­ta­tion of El­liot Perl­man’s novel. David Wen­ham stars as a de­cent but in­de­ci­sive hus­band and fa­ther who gets the sack and starts to ques­tion his life choices. Kevin Ba­con has ma­tured into a most in­ter­est­ing ac­tor ( see the 2004 sex of­fender drama The Woods­man). But back in 1984 he was just an­other teen rebel looking for a cause. He finds it when his fam­ily moves from Chicago to a small town out west where rock mu­sic and danc­ing are banned. If you think this set- up for Foot­loose ( Fri­day, noon, Seven) sounds silly, re­mem­ber that un­til quite re­cently the US had in John Ashcroft an

at­tor­ney- gen­eral who be­lieved danc­ing was bad news. I haven’t seen any of the film- ettes in this week’s Shorts on Screen slot on SBS ( Satur­day, 12.25am) but I love the pub­lic­ity blurbs so much I think I’ll set the recorder. From Aus­tralia there’s Med­i­ta­tions on a Name: ‘‘ Wat­tle hates her name. She’s suf­fered her whole life.’’ What’s so bad about be­ing called Wat­tle, one won­ders. Only one way to find out. In the Os­car- nom­i­nated Dan­ish short Helmer & Son , ‘‘ a busy son is called to the re­tire­ment home where his fa­ther has locked him­self in a wardrobe’’. Good to see a film­maker tak­ing on the tall­boy genre, which has lain fal­low for too long in the shadow of Ro­man Polan­ski’s 1958 mas­ter­piece Two Men and a Wardrobe .

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