Pay-tv films

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Pay / Streaming Television -

This riv­et­ing HBO fea­ture looks be­hind the scenes at US pres­i­dent Lyndon Baines John­son’s first year in of­fice, when he bat­tled the south­ern party lead­ers who brought him to power to forge an un­likely al­liance with Martin Luther King Jr and The much-an­tic­i­pated new Top Gear launches lo­cally this week, with­out of course orig­i­nal hosts Jeremy Clark­son, James May or Richard Ham­mond. Its tra­jec­tory was strato­spheric, strad­dling the planet with an es­ti­mated 350 mil­lion view­ers. May called the show “three blokes push­ing the bound­aries of au­to­mo­tive ac­cept­abil­ity”, and their con­stant barking at the es­tab­lish­ment — the of­ten mis­chie­vously aimed, po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect commentary — seemed like the cal­cu­lated wind-ups of pro­fes­sional stir­rers. Top Gear

Even­tu­ally their over-the-top ways caught up with them and the new host is BBC pre­sen­ter Chris Evans, with Matt LeBlanc ( Friends, Episodes), Rory Reid, Sabine Sch­mitz, Chris Har­ris and Ed­die Jordan. Bri­tish com­men­ta­tors are hop­ing for bet­ter pranks, fun­nier stars be­hind rea­son­ably priced cars, women treated as equals, not novel­ties or pop­pets to be leered at, and less big­otry. But I al­ways got the im­pres­sion the bad be­hav­iour so com­plained about was a great in­gre­di­ent in the show’s ap­peal. Clint East­wood’s High Plains Drifter (Thurs­day, 8.35pm, Fox Clas­sics), a con­tro­ver­sial and pos­si­bly the dark­est por­trayal of the East­wood screen char­ac­ter, is also the most enig­matic. Clint plays a name­less char­ac­ter, The Stranger, sim­i­lar to roles he played in Ser­gio Leone’s spaghetti westerns of the 1960s. One of East­wood’s most de­lib­er­ately aus­tere and eerie movies, it’s harsh in its light and an­gles, man­nered in style, black in its hu­mour and un­for­giv­ing in its view of hu­man na­ture. There’s plenty of gun­play in East­wood’s much later (2014) Amer­i­can Sniper (Fri­day, 8.30pm, Mas­ter­piece), the con­tro­ver­sial film based on the mem­oir of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Bradley Cooper stars as Kyle, cred­ited with a stag­ger­ing 160 sniper kills, though the film fo­cuses as much on his in­creas­ing dif­fi­culty in read­just­ing to home life as com­bat in Iraq. Cooper un­der­went sig­nif­i­cant phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion for the role and ends up look­ing and sound­ing re­mark­ably like the real Kyle, but the strength of his per­for­mance is the dig­nity and nu­ance he brings to a char­ac­ter that could eas­ily have be­come a trig­ger-happy car­i­ca­ture.

Matt LeBlanc is a new co-host on

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