week's best films

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television Free To Air - Ed­die Cock­rell

Half of a Yel­low Sun (M) Satur­day, 10.50pm, SBS Hal­loween (MA15+) Wed­nes­day, 10.30pm, SBS Two The Ghost Ship (PG) Wed­nes­day, 1.24am, ABC It isn’t dif­fi­cult to find a hor­ror film this week, as Oc­to­ber marks the on­slaught of Hal­loween fes­tiv­i­ties now lodged firmly on the Aus­tralian cul­tural cal­en­dar. For an au­then­tic game-changer in the genre, look no fur­ther than di­rec­tor John Car­pen­ter’s sem­i­nal, low-bud­get 1978

Hal­loween (Wed­nes­day, 10.30pm, SBS Two). Car­pen­ter’s jumpy elec­tronic score and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Dean Cundey’s slowly glid­ing cam­era set the sin­is­ter mood for the story of Michael My­ers, an in­sti­tu­tion­alised psy­chopath who breaks free to wreak havoc in his old neigh­bour­hood of Had­don­field (a name swiped from pro­ducer De­bra Hill’s New Jersey home town). If you’ve seen the film, it re­mains re­mark­ably durable on sec­ond view­ing; if you haven’t, Car­pen­ter’s style will ex­plain just about ev­ery other hor­ror film made in the sub­se­quent decades.

For those look­ing to welcome Hal­loween early, the morn­ing hours of­fer a rare and rec­om­mended screen­ing of di­rec­tor Mark Rob­son’s at­mo­spheric, ship­board-set 1943 psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller The Ghost Ship (Wed­nes­day, 1.24am, ABC). Pro­duced by Val Lew­ton for RKO Pic­tures fol­low­ing his great early run of Cat Peo­ple and The Sev­enth Vic­tim, the film tells of a mer­chant marine ship on the high seas and the slow men­tal dis­in­te­gra­tion of its cap­tain (Richard Dix). Filmed on ex­ist­ing and pre­vi­ously used sets, the film is at­mo­spher­i­cally lit by di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy Ni­cholas Musuraca. It is rare be­cause a law­suit kept it out of re­lease for a half-cen­tury, and thus worth watch­ing.

For the Hal­loween de­niers out there, sev­eral al­ter­na­tives beckon. Nige­rian-born ac­tor Chi­we­tel Ejio­for, cur­rently seen in The Mar­tian, is the star of play­wright turned di­rec­tor Biyi Ban­dele’s mov­ing 2013 drama Half of a Yel­low Sun (Satur­day, 10.50pm, SBS). He plays a rad­i­cal aca­demic try­ing to hold a fam­ily to­gether dur­ing Nige­ria’s bru­tal civil war in the late 1960s. Thandie New­ton is vivid in sup­port.

To date the only X-rated film to win the best pic­ture Os­car, di­rec­tor John Sch­lesinger’s 1969 drama Mid­night Cow­boy (Mon­day, 1.05am, ABC) is now shown un­cut on free-to-air TV, which speaks vol­umes to the so­ci­etal changes un­der way in the late 1960s. Jon Voight and Dustin Hoff­man are down-and-outers hus­tling their way through a grimy New York City, with the lat­ter par­tic­u­lar mem­o­rable for his im­pro­vised “I’m walkin’ heah!” to an ag­gres­sive cab­bie.

It was a dark horse when first re­leased, yet the first of two White House-un­der-siege movies,

Olym­pus has Fallen (Satur­day, NSW and QLD only, 9.30pm, Nine), is far bet­ter than Roland Em­merich’s sub­se­quent White House Down.

An­toine Fuqua di­rects flu­idly, Ger­ard But­ler is com­fort­able in the square-jawed hero role, and the whole thing was filmed in Shreve­port, Louisiana. Hooray for Hol­ly­wood.

The 400 Blows (PG) Sun­day, 5.20pm, World Movies (430) A Night at the Opera (G) Mon­day, 2.20am, TCM (428) Punch-Drunk Love (M) Thurs­day, 3pm, Ro­mance (408) Among the most aus­pi­cious and sub­se­quently revered di­rec­to­rial de­buts in movie history is French film­maker Fran­cois Truf­faut’s 1959 com­ing-of-age drama The 400 Blows (Sun­day, 5.20pm, World Movies). Point­edly au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, it tells of the young An­toine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud), who is let down at ev­ery turn by his par­ents, teach­ers and other well-mean­ing adults. Af­ter a se­ries of tur­bu­lent ad­ven­tures (in­clud­ing steal­ing Citizen Kane lobby cards from a cin­ema), he is sent to a youth cen­tre, where his fate is un­clear.

Although they’d been fa­mous be­fore this, the Marx Broth­ers are per­haps best re­mem­bered for the fast-paced, sub­ver­sive and al­to­gether de­light­ful 1935 screw­ball com­edy farce A Night

at the Opera (Mon­day, 2.20am, TCM). Grou­cho, Chico and Harpo be­come in­volved with a rich dowa­ger (their per­pet­ual foil, Mar­garet Du­mont) and the­atri­cal shenani­gans. This is the movie with the fa­mous state­room scene, in which Grou­cho wel­comes an ab­surd num­ber of peo­ple into an ab­surdly small space. Though their on­screen act flailed soon af­ter this, the movie re­mains as clas­sic a com­edy as Hol­ly­wood has pro­duced.

Mov­ing from black and white to colour, com­edy looked very dif­fer­ent by the time wri­ter­di­rec­tor Paul Thomas An­der­son forged an un­likely al­liance with Adam San­dler to make the pro­foundly strange 2002 ro­man­tic com­edy

Punch-Drunk Love (Thurs­day, 3pm, Ro­mance). He plays the owner of a Los An­ge­les nov­elty items busi­ness whose bud­ding re­la­tion­ship with Emily Wat­son is threat­ened by a phone sex scam in­volv­ing Utah mat­tress king Philip Seymour Hoff­man. Ev­ery bit as off­beat as it sounds, the film is also an an­ti­dote to the vast num­ber of more com­pla­cent ro­man­tic comedies. And in some corners, this re­mains San­dler’s most com­plex and best work to date.

The Thriller Movies chan­nel is host­ing an on­go­ing Shya­malanathon, show­cas­ing the work of tal­ented yet in­creas­ingly rud­der­less di­rec­tor M. Night Shya­malan. The two best en­tries are his one un­qual­i­fied tri­umph, the 1999 supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense (Satur­day, 8.30pm), and the far less well re­garded but nev­er­the­less worth­while 2008 end-of-days saga The

Hap­pen­ing (Mon­day, 8.30pm). The for­mer stars Bruce Wil­lis as the mys­te­ri­ous child psy­chol­o­gist at­tempt­ing to coun­sel trou­bled young­ster Ha­ley Joel Os­ment (“I see dead peo­ple”) and the lat­ter, a guilty plea­sure to be sure but a must for genre fans, fea­tures Mark Wahlberg as the leader of a group try­ing to es­cape an in­vis­i­ble air­borne virus that causes peo­ple to com­mit sui­cide.

The first film to be pro­duced in East Ti­mor, the mov­ing 2013 drama Beatriz’s War (Satur­day, 2pm, World Movies), charts the 24-year un­rest there and is co-di­rected Bety Reis and Luigi Ac­quisto.

Adam San­dler stars in Punch-Drunk Love

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