week’s free to air
AT least three books have been written about him, a four-wheel drive club has been named after him, and there’s a statue erected in his honour in Dampier, Western Australia. Within 11 days of its opening, Red Dog (Monday, 8pm, Nine) became Australia’s highest grossing film of 2011, and the DVD remains a bestseller. Directed by Kriv Stenders and starring Koko in the title role, it tells the true story of the legendary hound of the Pilbara, who roamed through much of northern Australia searching for his lost master (Josh Lucas) after his death in a motorcycle accident. One of the best and most lovable of animal adventure films, Red Dog offers a vibrant portrait of life in Australia’s remote mining communities, and is one of two classic Australian films showing this week.
Muriel’s Wedding (Tuesday, 9pm, Nine) has lost none of its verve and charm since its triumphant opening in Cannes in 1994. Toni Collette’s lovable ugly duckling from Porpoise Spit anchors PJ Hogan’s dark comedy with a performance of touching frailty and exuberance, proving that every girl’s dream can come true in the end. All those ABBA songs are a bonus.
The producers of 8 Mile (Sunday, 10.30pm, 7Mate) have stressed that the characters are fictional, though I took the main story to be a more or less true impression of the early days of Eminem, the rap star who grew up in the slums of Detroit before becoming famous. Eminem plays Jimmy Smith jr, known as Rabbit, who shares a trailer with his deadbeat mum (Kim Basinger) and holds down a mean job in a car plant. Among the film’s pleasures is the depiction of rap itself — those half-rhyming couplets with their fractured rhythms and funny, bitter reflections on the injustices of life that became the authentic mode of expression for a destitute generation. Brittany Murphy is convincing as Rabbit’s girl, and Curtis Hanson ( LA Confidential) directs with an unerring feeling for mood and character. This excellent film left me greatly moved.
Disney breathed new life into the pirate genre in 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Saturday, 6.30pm, Seven), famous for Johnny Depp’s charismatically larky Captain Sparrow. It was the first film in the mega-dollar franchise and spawned three sequels, none quite as good as the original.
The screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (the writers of Shrek) is said to be based on a Disney theme park ride — which brings us to Westworld (Saturday, 2am, Nine), set in the scariest theme park of all, where computers malfunction and Yul Brynner’s robot gunslinger turns his not-so-friendly fire on a couple of visiting businessmen (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin). Michael Crichton directed this truly disturbing sci-fi fantasy from his own screenplay.
(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Sunday, 10.30pm, 7Mate
(M) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 2am (1.15am SA, WA) Nine
(PG) ★★★★✩ Monday, 8pm, Nine