Richard Lutz cuts through the brushwood of TV-land to unearth a fine run of movies on the crystal screen embedded in your wall.
Whisking through the listings, the schedules and the guides, it’s obvious we got a whole lot of television in the next seven days once you lift your weary gaze from your digi-gizmo of fun.
Jump past the momentum that is the World Cup semi of Ingerlund v Croatia, the elegance and heat of Wimbledon (with no Brits….), the three (yes, count ’em three) Trumpie documentaries as he gears up for a demented drive through Blighty and you have…. well, you have a splendid week of director-led movies to digest. To wit:
TONIGHT: Robert Altman gives us McCabe and Mrs Miller (Sunday, TCM, 23.25). The bad boy of Hollywood says this is his anti-Western. Warren Beatty is a gambler who plays fast and loose with truth. Julie Christie is an opiated brothel owner who joins him in a madcap plan to revitilise a tough goldrush town.
It’s dreamy, funny, poetic and subverts the cowboy myth that would have made John Ford et al twist in their chaps. No heroes here, just snow encrusted dreamers as the west headed into the 20th century.
MONDAY: The Coen Brothers take on the fablesque original True Grit that had crusty John Wayne save the day. Here in the 2010 re-make (Film4, 21.00) the story is told through the cold eyes of a child abandoned by all but Wayno’s successor Jeff Bridges. It’s darker, devoid of the Coens’ loopy humour. But a western tale that embroiders a modern irony on the 1969 film.
TUESDAY: Keep the ten gallon hat firmly in place. Michael Crichton lurched onto the scene with Westworld (TCM, 21.00) 45 years ago. It mixes horse opera with fantasy. Yul Brynner, the bad guy in black, is an android in a cowboy theme park where adults can play shoot em up. Richard Benjamin and pals have a week end there. But they find the silent Brynner goes postal and rebels.
Cue dozens of similiarly themed films that show robots going nuts. Crichton sold 200 million books as an author, was 6’9″ tall and wrote Jurassic Park and the TV show ER before dying too young ten years ago. The Westworld TV re-boot is currently going great guns.
WEDNESDAY: Yes, I know this is the night when England beat Croatia 10-0 to head for the World Cup final. I know. I know. So why not launch Peter Weir’s war galleon, Master and Commander (Sky Cinem! 16.25)? It’ll set the British flag waving just fine even though star Russell Crowe is a Kiwi. Weir also did The Truman Show and Witness so knows how to twist a tale or two.
THURSDAY: As The Brits celebrate that 10-0 victory, Alfred Hitchcock (above) delivers a dose of creepy darkness with Psycho (Sky Arts, 22.00). This movie is still scary thanks to The Master of Scary Things. He said he purposely shot this 1960 classic in black and white to cloak the gore. It made it more scary. Footnote of fun: his daughter Pat is in it.
FRIDAY: Chris Columbus is not only a bloodthirsty fifteenth century explorer but also the name of a director with a fine upbeat back catalogue (Home Alone, Harry Potter).
Mrs Doubtfire (E4, 19.30) is a jolly light comedy with Robin Williams despite its inevitable Americanised ending that must end in gooey sentimentality. It’s happy stuff and a good way to….yes, get ready for England winning the World Cup two days later.