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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

JAMES Marsh, who made that great doc­u­men­tary, Man on Wire, found an­other com­pelling sub­ject in Pro­ject Nim (Mon­day, 8.30pm, World Movies), about a young chimp who was placed in the care of a sur­ro­gate hu­man mother soon af­ter his birth and reared as a hu­man child. It was part of a sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ment de­vised in 1973 by Her­bert Ter­race, a psy­chol­o­gist at New York’s Columbia Univer­sity. Nim was wrapped in nap­pies, toi­let trained, fit­ted with chil­dren’s clothes, fed with a bot­tle and given toys to play with. At the age of five he recog­nised about 120 words and could for­mu­late sim­ple sen­tences in sign lan­guage. It is just pos­si­ble that his suf­fer­ing ex­tended the fron­tiers of hu­man knowl­edge and our un­der­stand­ing of the work­ings of lan­guage. I like to think so. Marsh’s film — fright­en­ing, sad and some­times dread­fully funny — is a re­minder that such knowl­edge may come at a heavy price.

Di­rected by Joe Car­na­han, The Grey (Tues­day, 10.50pm, M Pre­miere) is the story of a group of men stranded in an icy waste­land in Alaska af­ter a plane crash. It’s a sur­vival drama, a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller and an old-fash­ioned mon­ster movie, played out against a back­ground of un­com­pro­mis­ing stark­ness and grandeur. For much of their or­deal the men are threat­ened by wolves, com­puter-gen­er­ated preda­tors de­signed to look as scary as pos­si­ble with slaver­ing jaws and eyes that glow in the dark. I think the wolves are meant as a sym­bolic pres­ence, supernatural man­i­fes­ta­tions of the darker forces of na­ture the men must over­come. This gives the film a mythic qual­ity — we are al­ways a step back from hard-edged re­al­ity — which makes the men’s suf­fer­ing more bear­able. From a story by Ian Macken­zie Jef­fers. Liam Nee­son is strik­ing as the group’s leader.

In What to Ex­pect When You’re Ex­pect­ing (Fri­day, 4.50pm, M Pre­miere), Cameron Diaz plays Jules, host of a national weight-loss fit­ness pro­gram and part­ner of Evan (Matthew Mor­ri­son) in a celebrity dance show. They are one of five cou­ples wait­ing with vary­ing de­grees of ea­ger­ness and do­mes­tic dys­func­tion for the birth of their first ba­bies. Kirk Jones’s heavy-go­ing com­edy man­ages to com­bine the ba­nal, the sen­ti­men­tal and slap­stick, and pretty much ev­ery­thing is what we would ex­pect.

At just un­der three hours it was in­or­di­nately long by 1940s Hol­ly­wood stan­dards, but ev­ery minute of­fers some touch­ing and pow­er­ful in­sight. The Best Years of Our Lives (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Fox Classics) gives us three US ser­vice­men read­just­ing to civil­ian life af­ter re­turn­ing from World War II. One of them is played by Harold Rus­sell, a vet­eran who lost both hands in a train­ing ac­ci­dent and won a spe­cial Os­car. The film col­lected six oth­ers, in­clud­ing best pic­ture. It is my clas­sic of the week.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★✩ Mon­day, 8.30pm, World Movies

(M) ★★★ ✩ Tues­day, 10.50pm, M Pre­miere

(PG) ★★★★★ Satur­day, 8.30pm, Fox Classics

The Grey

Liam Nee­son in

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