Free to air
FOR every Jaws, E.T. or Catch Me If You Can, Steven Spielberg has come up with something weighty and historically significant — an Amistad or a Schindler’s List — as if determined to secure his place in the pantheon of serious directors. His World War II drama Saving Private Ryan (Saturday, 10pm, Seven), is remarkable for its unforgettable battle sequences. The first 25 minutes — a reconstruction of the Allied landing at Omaha beach in Normandy in 1944 — is so engulfing it threatens to overshadow the story of the Ryans, three brothers killed in action while the one surviving Ryan (a very boyish Matt Damon) is spared from further combat duty for the sake of his family. But Private Ryan is missing somewhere in France and it falls to Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) to lead a squad of eight men to track him down and bring him back to safety. Much graphic spectacle, much horror and excitement, though we never care as deeply as we should about the characters.
With only three films to his credit in a career spanning 28 years, English-born Ray Lawrence is the least prolific of Australian directors — with the result that it’s easy to underrate his achievement. But each of his films — among them his masterpiece Lantana — has offered something rare and special. For Bliss (Monday, 1.10am, ABC1), he worked with Peter Carey on an adaptation of Carey’s novel — the story of Harry Joy (Barry Otto), who suffers a heart attack and is clinically dead for four minutes. During that time he has an out-of-body experience before returning to life a changed man, discovering that his wife (Lynette Curran) has been unfaithful and finding escape in the company of a new love (Helen Jones). But his happiness is short-lived. When he dies a second time there is no return.
Look Who’s Talking (Saturday, 1.30pm, Nine) is a flimsy comedy saved by a clever gimmick: the story is narrated by a baby, Mikey, voiced in the cutest tones by Bruce Willis. Audiences loved its corn and kitsch, and two sequels followed.
Howard Hawks’s Scarface was the first great Hollywood gangster film. It was the most violent film to come out of Hollywood in its day, with many scenes falling victim to censors around the world. Brian De Palma’s 1983 Scarface (Saturday, 11pm, 7Mate) is a more or less faithful remake, except that the main character has morphed into Tony Montana (Al Pacino) who, in a blood-soaked career, eliminates a string of rivals to become the most powerful drug lord in Florida. Oliver Stone based his screenplay on Ben Hecht’s script for the 1932 film, and the result was a homage to Hawks and a fresh milestone in the gangster genre.
(M) ★★★★✩ Monday, 1.10am, ABC1
(M) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 10pm (10.30pm SA, 11pm Vic,Tas), Seven
(M) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 11pm (9.30pm SA, 10pm Tas, 10.30pm Qld, not WA), 7Mate