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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Cover Story -

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.

Critic’s choice

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

Sky­fall

Daniel Craig and Judi Dench in

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