FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
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 .