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