The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Though it doesn’t pack quite the vis­ceral punch of the 1997 orig­i­nal, there’s some­thing to be said for in­tense and un­flinch­ing Aus­trian di­rec­tor Michael Haneke’s 2007 English-lan­guage re­make of his frankly ter­ri­fy­ing Funny Games (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Thriller).

For one thing, it stars Naomi Watts as the mother who watches with hor­ror as two mys­te­ri­ous young strangers in­vade the hol­i­day home of her hus­band and son, ini­ti­at­ing a se­ries of sadis­tic role-play­ing ex­er­cises that may or may not end in their deaths.

Clearly a cri­tique of the mod­ern cin­ema au­di­ence’s fas­ci­na­tion with wan­ton violence, the Aus­trian orig­i­nal is bru­tally shock­ing and this version barely less so. Haneke’s in­tent with the re­make seems to have been to bring his themes closer to an Amer­i­can au­di­ence. If it was a ca­reer move, it failed mis­er­ably: Haneke has since re­turned to Euro­pean-lan­guage cin­ema with The

White Rib­bon and Amour. An­other re­make worth the time is the Will Smith-star­ring 2007 post-apoc­a­lyp­tic hor­ror drama I am Leg­end (Mon­day, 8.30pm, Thriller). This is the third it­er­a­tion of Richard Mathe­son’s 1954 novel, fol­low­ing the 1964 Ital­ian cheapie

The Last Man on Earth, with Vin­cent Price, and 1971’s The Omega Man, in which Charl­ton He­ston in­hab­its a de­serted Los An­ge­les — ex­cept for the mu­tants who try to kill all three leads in var­i­ous ways. Di­rec­tor Fran­cis Lawrence knows his way around the genre, and Smith gives one of his most dis­arm­ing and easy­go­ing per­for­mances. The film was a big hit at the box of­fice, too.

Rus­sell Crowe seemed des­tined to direct a film even­tu­ally, and given the ac­tor’s in­ten­sity on­screen and off, it was bound to be com­mit­ted and am­bi­tious. Such is the case with his 2014 de­but

The Wa­ter Diviner (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Mas­ter­piece). Crowe stars as the grief-stricken Aus­tralian farmer who goes search­ing for his three miss­ing (and pre­sumed dead) sons in the wake of Gal­lipoli.

There are stir­ring pas­sages here, to be sure, yet Crowe’s am­bi­tion leads to an of­ten un­easy mix of aw-shucks mate­ship and ma­nip­u­la­tive melo­drama. Still, the film res­onated with do­mes­tic au­di­ences and is an hon­ourable ad­di­tion to Crowe’s fil­mog­ra­phy.

A pair of vin­tage mu­si­cals pro­vide a restora­tive to all the heavy drama. Elvis Pres­ley’s third film, the ki­netic 1957 Jail­house Rock (Mon­day, 3.45pm, TCM), stars the singer as a jail­bird un­done in the real world by his ego. This is Pres­ley’s best film by a coun­try mile, and shows him in great form. Con­trast this with the old­school an­tics of the much-cher­ished co­me­dian Danny Kaye, who stars as the wan­der­ing gypsy turned pub­lic fig­ure in the 1949 mu­si­cal The

In­spec­tor Gen­eral (Satur­day, 11.50pm, TCM). His act may be dated, but no­body can deny his charisma.

Rus­sell Crowe in The Wa­ter Diviner

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