Rob Pearson’s Films of the Week

January 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

OTB critic Rob Pearson casts an eye over what films are on TV- what to watch and what should be cast from the land of television never to return.

TROY, ITV 1, Sat 31st Jan, 9:50pm Alert Me

This week brings us one startling example of how to act like a wet blanket: step forward Orlando Bloom, uncharismatic elf extraordinaire, saddled with the thankless role of Paris in the non-more-epic, swords and sandals adventure of Troy. As Paris, Legolas plies a nice little trade in wife-stealing, seducing the most beautiful girl in the world with the frankly unattractive offer of a life being hunted by her entire country for the rest of their lives, having a farm somewhere, or something, oh, and some sweet Orlando-loving…

Yes: the war to end all wars essentially boils down to ‘you nicked my bird’. Diane Kruger stars as Helen, the face who launched a thousand ships – but in terms of storytelling and character, you’d barely even toss her a lifebelt. Despite this being a fairly loose adaptation of the Iliad – it’s Hollywood, after all – Homer actually gains a writing credit. He must have a very good agent.

In any case, Brad Pitt plays a conflicted, fame-obsessed Achilles, and Eric Bana has the plum role of the truly heroic, Hector. Both fare much better than Bloom, albeit with more sympathetic roles, but this really isn’t about the acting – it’s about the massive battles, historically only rivalled by those seen in Rotherham on a Saturday night. 50000 Greeks set sail to sack Troy, in 1000 ships, and 25000 Trojans gamely fight them back. There’s a lot of killing – often broken up by a bizarre, gentlemanly/playgroundy tendency to allow the main characters to engage in flashy duels… while everyone gathers around them… in a circle. Falling in to the trap of many an epic, Troy settles into a pattern of fight-stop-talk a bit-fight. It worked fine for Gladiator, with its cast of intriguing characters, but Troy’s dialogue is often so predictable that you might as well go out to make a cuppa.

Special mention goes to the immensely flaky female characters, who routinely fall in love in a single night, and are soon relegated to ancient-WAG duty, looking on and gasping/smiling/crying (delete as applicable) as their men fight. But they are fighting, and the fighting is – well – really cool. Do note that, as if the adverts weren’t annoying enough, Troy will be interrupted by the news. For 30 minutes. Nice one, ITV.

NOSFERATU, BBC4, Saturday, 10:10pm Alert Me

Over on BBC4, cerebral-minded horror fans may be interested to see Werner Herzog’s remake of the 1922 classic Nosferatu, starring Klaus Kinski – a man who could certainly teach Orlando Bloom a thing or two about acting. But then again, on the evidence of Troy, so could a pair of flip-flops.

NINE QUEENS, BBC2, Sun 1st Feb, 2:10am Alert Me

Wedged unsympathetically down in the wee small hours of Sunday night is Nine Queens. Surprisingly, this isn’t a high concept Will Ferrell comedy about attempts to clone Prince Harry’s nan, but a mighty fine Argentinian film about two conmen working hard to make a killing with the sale of the nine titular stamps. Sprinkled with deadpan humour and twists aplenty (those conmen – they’re always bloody conning!), it’s an excellent film unfortunately hamstrung by being put on at 2am.

HOTEL RWANDA, Channel 4,  Mon 2nd Feb, 10:00pm, Alert Me

On Monday, though, an equally excellent film is available at a thankfully excellent time: Hotel Rwanda. Being based around the Rwandan genocide, this one isn’t exactly an easy sale – but it stands shoulder to shoulder with Schindler’s List. In 1994, Rwanda is being torn apart by civil unrest, as warring Hutus attempt to exterminate their ‘enemy,’ the Tutsi. Over a million people were killed, as the world watched on – in between channel hopping, of course.

Don Cheadle, a man now synonymous with horrible cockney accents, thanks to the Oceans films, stars as Paul Rusesabagina, and proves that he is an absolutely wonderful actor, delivering a nuanced performance full of intelligence, determination and an intensely lingering vulnerability. He is the manager of the titular hotel, and goes about schmoozing with generals, building up favours with a bottle of Glenfiddich here; a lobster lunch there. He’s stylish – vain, but when the fighting comes to his doorstep, the ground shifts from under him. The white guests are protected, and leave with the UN. Paul is left to pick up the pieces, and offer sanctuary to some 1200 people seeking to avoid the fighting.

There are merciful touches of lightness in this Big African Issues film, mostly stemming from Paul and his family. Nick Nolte stands out in a supporting role as a UN colonol. Decrying the lack of action, he gives a startling line: “you’re not even niggers, you’re Africans.? Does the world care yet? 15 years on, and conflicts in Darfur and the Congo would sadly suggest not. But Hotel Rwanda is more than just an eye opening true story – it is a very fine, moving piece of filmmaking.

SIDEWAYS, FilmFour, Tues 3rd Feb, 10:45pm, Alert Me

Tuesday night lightens things up, with FilmFour offering the fuzzy emotional warmth and light comic stylings of Sideways and Amélie. Both wonderful, Sideways is a middle-aged buddy movie, displaying rare wit and heart as Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden-Church holiday amidst the vineyards of California, get drunk, love, leave, think about life – that sort of thing. It almost certainly spawned the Oz And James series of drinking adventures (currently showing on BBC2), so if you like that, you’ll probably like this.

AMELIE, FilmFour, Tues 3rd Feb, 1:10am, Alert Me

Amélie is an innocent young madamoiselle, and the film effortlessly dispenses love and whimsy, without ever becoming too sugary to handle.

STARSKY & HUTCH, BBC3, Sat 31st Jan, 9:00pm Alert Me

Finally, a silly pair of rather broader comedies. Starsky and Hutch is a loving remake/parody of the 1970s cop show. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson star as Bay City’s finest, out to bust the mother of all coke deals. There’s a stiff-ass chief of police, a litany of afros, and Snoop Dog trades the canine for the ursine as the new Huggy Bear. It’s heartening to see the nostalgic crash-zooms to tower block windows, and hear the funky wah-wah pedal get a triumphant dusting off. Sillyness permeates the entire picture, but, thankfully, in lieu of the original series’ terrorisation of cardboard boxes, the Ford Torino is given the respect it deserves. Hell, it’s so affectionate that the original Starsky and Hutch even turn up at the end. Good, light entertainment. See the Bill Bailey Vid below and go to 3mins 11secs.

ANCHORMAN, BBC1, Fri 6th Feb, 11:40pm Alert Me

In further 1970s-mocking comedy style, Anchorman rounds out the week on BBC1. Featuring Will Ferrel’s finest work as the legendary Ron Burgundy, as well as the twin delights of casual sexism  and jazz flute.