AS all true fans will know, Skyfall (Saturday, 8.30pm, M Premiere) is the most recent James Bond adventure, and for the first 15 minutes or so it looks like your standard Bond movie from the 1980s and 90s: automotive antics, exotic locations, blatant product placements and swift seductions. We begin with a wild car chase through a crowded Eastern market, followed by a motorbike ride across the rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and some hair-raising business on top of a speeding train. Only an arthouse sourpuss would complain about the stuntwork. Daniel Craig, in his third appearance, gives us a frowsy, hard-bitten Bond with a troubled past; and director Sam Mendes brings a new layer of psychological depth to the franchise — especially in Bond’s relationship with M (Judi Dench). The final shootout, in a farmhouse on the Scottish moors where Bond spent his childhood, has enough explosions to reassure traditional audiences that when it comes to old-fashioned slam-bang action the Bond films do it best.
Among the many films of Shakespeare’s classic love story — the first Hollywood sound version with Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard, a visually stunning British film shot in Italy with Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall, not to mention Baz Lurhmann’s fast-and-loose treatment with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes — my favourite is Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (Tuesday, 6.10pm, M Masterpiece), released in 1968. It had everything going for it: exquisite photography (Pasqualino de Santis), a haunting musical score (Nino Rota), and great performances. Zeffirelli cast two unknown teenagers as his star-crossed lovers: Leonard Whiting was 17 and Olivia Hussey 15 when the film was made, as close as you can get, perhaps, to the real ages of the characters without being charged with some offence.
There was time, in the late 70s and 80s, when Hollywood was obsessed with television and saw it as a prime target for satire. And the era produced some notable films — Network, starring a demented Peter Finch; Broadcast News, with its scathing critique of the ethics of electronic journalism; The King of Comedy, with a crazy Robert De Niro looking for his big break as a TV funnyman; and My Favourite Year (Wednesday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics), set in the fledgling years of TV in the 50s. Peter O’Toole is Alan Swann, a Hollywood matinee idol in the Douglas Fairbanks tradition who is set to make his TV debut in a live comedy skit. On the night before going to air he goes on a madcap boozing spree with the show’s writer and turns up at the studio to deliver a hilariously bungled performance. The story is said to be based on a real-life escapade involving Errol Flynn and a young Mel Brooks. Richard Benjamin directed in dizzying, helter-skelter style, with O’Toole a standout in one of his rare comedic roles.
Skyfall (M) ★★★ ✩ Saturday, 8.30pm, M Premiere
Romeo and Juliet (PG) ★★★★✩ Tuesday, 6.10pm, M Masterpiece
My Favourite Year (M) ★★★★✩ Wednesday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics
Daniel Craig and Judi Dench in