HDTV Movie Highlights: April 24-30

Ghost Town: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Saturday.

Said the New York Times of Ricky Gervais’ first starring role in a Hollywood feature: “A misanthropic dentist, a roguish ghost and a zany Egyptologist: as these unlikely companions scamper around Manhattan in the buoyant comedy Ghost Town, they resurrect the spirits of classic movie curmudgeons like WC Fields and such romantic comedians as Cary Grant and Carole Lombard in Woody Allen territory.” Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni co-star; David Koepp (Secret Window, Stir of Echoes) directs his own screenplay. (2008)

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

Marty and Doc saddle up the Delorean to do the timewarp to the tune of My Darling Clementine, when Hill Valley was a frontier town and Bif Tannen’s ancestor a droolin’, duelin’ gunslinger. The trilogy ends with Marty (Michael J Fox) conquering his chicken persecution complex and Doc (Christopher Lloyd) solving the greatest mystery of the Universe — women. Mary Steenburgen adds freshness to the finale as the woman he falls in love with, and director/writer Robert Zemeckis triumphantly wraps up the narrative with almost the same ingenuity and panache that started it. (1990)

Obsessed: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Sunday.

A successful, happily married executive is stalked by an office temp in this fatally derivative thriller starring Beyonce Knowles, The Unborn’s Idris Elba and Heroes’ Ali Larter. TV Guide said Larter “just doesn’t have the same bite as the bunny-killing stalkers of years gone by” while the New York Times noticed distasteful parallels between the Elba and Larter characters and OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson. (2009)

Night Watch: TV3, 10.25pm Sunday.

Russia’s first fantasy movie also was its first blockbuster – and has evolved into a trilogy with the cult devotion of another Lord of the Rings or Matrix). Conceived as a TV series, Night Watch is a startling, richly realised take on Good-versus-Evil with pseudo-epic production values and virtuosic visual effects that invigorate otherwise derivative storytelling. Director Sergei Lukyanenko calls it “a kind of a reflection of American culture with Russian art.” (2004)

The Last Samurai: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Sunday.

Dances With Wolves meets Seven Samurai in this startlingly beautiful historical drama that uses Taranaki as a stand-in for Tokyo. It stars Tom Cruise as a disillusioned Civil War vet who’s recruited by the Emperor of Japan to train his army in modern warfare to help quash samurai unrest. But after being captured by the enemy, the American immerses himself in samurai culture and undergoes a spiritual renewal that changes his life and loyalties. Less complete is Cruise’s metamorphosis from superstar to born-again warrior but not even his celebrity can diminish this intelligent, enthralling spectacle’s multi-layered storytelling, sublime production values and breathtaking martial artistry. (2003)

12 Rounds: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Monday.

It’s tempting to dismiss 12 Rounds as a movie for “dum-dums” since it rivals Transporter 3 as last year’s silliest action flick. But it’s also a slick throwback to director Renny Harlin’s heyday, when he was pumping out escapist touchstones like Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea. The hero is a New Orleans cop desperate to outwit a fiendishly inventive thief with a grudge who’s kidnapped his girlfriend. The brain-teasing time bomb of a plot is fatally preposterous but the movie’s Hurricane Katrina energy and stunning Big Easy locales keep you going one more round. (2009)

28 Days Later: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Wednesday.

The first half, about the aftermath of a British-spawned virus that’s left only a few survivors battling infected, homicidal maniacs, is alarming and suspenseful. But once they reach the safety of an army outpost that isn’t all it seems, 28 Days Later deteriorates beyond the redeemable and disgraces Christopher Eccleston’s presence. Slumdog Milionaire’s Danny Boyle directs; Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight’s Scarecrow) co-stars. (2002)

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