HDTV Movie Highlights: April 17-24

Appaloosa: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Saturday.

This stirring, elegiac western reunites A History of Violence’s Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen but this time they’re on the same side of the law – as town tamers who avenge the murder of a marshal by ruthless rancher Jeremy Irons. There’s much more to Harris’ second stint as a director than this, including a touching triangular relationship involving a frontier Jezebel (Renee Zellweger), but everything is rooted within the sturdy framework of a traditional western. The humour’s dry, the violence fast and brutal, and the dialogue’s as lean as the New Mexico landscapes with which director of photography Dean Semler (Dances With Wolves) lights up the screen. (2008)

Back to the Future Part II: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Saturday.

A sequel that’s nearly as much fun as the first trip around the time-warp block. Instead of merely having Marty (Michael J Fox) and Doc (Christopher Lloyd) travel back and forth to the future, director Robert Zemeckis teases our powers of logic (and theirs) with a parallel time frame, a confusing but clever device that lets cast members plays their characters in different generations (and gender). (1989)

Chain Reaction: TV3, 8.55pm Saturday.

Keanu Reeves plays a resourceful laboratory machinist on the lam with a beautiful young physicist (Rachel Weiz) in this far-fetched but exciting thriller from Fugitive director Andrew Davis. They’ve been framed for the industrial sabotaging of a scheme to turn water into a pollution-free energy substitute for oil, and can trust no one if they’re to escape with their lives while saving the world from corporate greed and evil. In doing so, they’re chased cross-country by good guys and bad in a scenario more formulaic than the secret recipe that landed them in hot water. (1996)

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: Sky Movies, 5.15pm Sunday.

This neurotic zoo critters-in-the-wild sequel tries to squeeze everyone from the original into a mechanical plot that, even by ‘toon standards, is spectacularly absurd. The cinematic, inventive visuals and some sharp pop-culture gags help to offset this and the more irksome characterisations. But there’s a laboured cut-and-paste feel to the writing that, for adults at least, undermines the cutting-edge animation. (2008)

Angels & Demons: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Sunday.

Who is killing the great cardinals of Europe? That’s the conundrum facing master riddle solver Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in this daft Da Vinci Code sequel about a Vatican conspiracy involving a ticking time bomb of anti-matter. Hanks and director Ron Howard made the original’s implausibility plausibly entertaining but amped-up action, red herring-casting, and science vs religion conflict can’t save a screenplay that starts promisingly only to turn demonstrably silly. Ewan McGregor co-stars. (2009)

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Monday.

Coarse and stupid romp about a fish tank cleaner-cum-house-sitter (Rob Schneider) who becomes a gigolo to pay for the repair of a hustler’s house that he accidentally wrecks. (1999)

Zack and Miri Make a Porno:  Sky Movies, 8.30pm Tuesday.

Imagine if Harry and Sally had met to make a dirty movie … That’s the premise of this relentlessly crass romantic-comedy that Kevin Smith originally wanted to film 12 years ago with his Chasing Amy cast. An excess of profanity and puerile gags about bodily functions wastes the perky odd-couple chemistry of Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as indebted flatmates who screw up their lifelong friendship with sex when they make a blue movie. For all of Zack and Miri’s X-rated outrageousness, it’s remarkably sentimental and formulaic. (2009)

In the Name of the Father: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Thursday.

Potent, blood-stirring dramatisation of the Guildford Four case, in which innocent men and women were imprisoned for the IRA bombing of two pubs in a small town outside London. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the petty Belfast thief who inadvertently gets caught up in the Irish cause, and pays dearly, along with his father (Pete Postlewaite), when they are framed for the killings. Director/writer Jim Sheridan doesn’t use this landmark case just to expose bent coppers; it’s also a vehicle for exploring relationship riddles between kith and kin. (1993)

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