Free to air
MY daily struggle with the Times crossword has taught me that whenever the word alien appears in a clue one can confidently substitute the letters ET. Steven Spielberg’s interplanetary traveller is not only a worldwide box-office phenomenon but an embedded figure in popular culture, still pulling audiences after 30 years. We may no longer remember Henry Thomas, who played the little boy, or even Melissa Mathison, who wrote the screenplay, but no one can forget that lovable, rubber-nosed critter discovered and protected by a bunch of local kids. One of the most popular films of all time, ET: The ExtraTerrestrial (Sunday, 7pm, 7Mate, NSW only) was in many ways Spielberg’s masterpiece, transposing what was essentially a religious myth into a familiar suburban milieu and investing the whole with magical exhilaration.
Clive Cussler is in the front rank of American adventure writers, in the best tradition of H. Rider Haggard and Alistair MacLean, with a large dash of James Bond. It’s not long since I got through Treasure, all 700 pages of it, and couldn’t put it down. It’s surprising that only two of Cussler’s books have been filmed and only one of those ( Sahara) by a Hollywood studio — though one reason may be that their plots are all much the same. Like James Cameron, the creator of Titanic, Cussler is an underwater explorer. He founded an organisation called the National Underwater and Marine Agency that claims credit for discovering some notable wrecks, including that of the so-called ghost ship Mary Celeste and the Carpathia, the ship that first came to the aid of the Titanic’s survivors and was sunk itself by a German U-boat in 1918. Raise the Titanic! (Sunday, 3.50pm, 7Two), based on an early Cussler yarn, was a box-office flop in 1980 but still offers plenty of fun and spectacle. Richard Jordan stars as Dirk Pitt, the underwater adventurer (and Cussler’s alter ego) who is assigned to recover a cargo of precious metal in the Titanic’s hold. For grand escapist nonsense it’s hard to beat.
If you’re feeling strong, the one to see is No Country for Old Men (Saturday, 9.3pm, SBS One), Joel and Ethan Coen’s horrific thriller about a hit man (Javier Bardem) on the trail of an innocent who has stumbled on the bloody aftermath of a drug deal while hunting near the Mexican border and made off with the proceeds. Cormac McCarthy’s novel seems to have been perfectly attuned to the talents and obsessions of the Coens, who have made one of their darkest and strangest films. Bardem, who went on to star in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, is unforgettable as the sinister and implacable killer.
Best on show
(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 9.30pm, SBS One
(G) ★★★★✩ Sunday, 7pm, 7Mate (NSW only)
(PG) ★★★✩✩ Sunday, 3.50pm, 7Two