HDTV Movie Highlights: June 19-25

Independence Day: TV3, 8.30pm Saturday.

About an alien invasion of Earth, its incidence of corny melodrama, lazy stereotypes, gargantuan plot holes and gung-ho patriotism is as high as the body count. Yet they’re part of the fun of watching what is unabashedly a B-grade ’50s doomsday movie dressed up in the blockbuster trappings of a Star Wars meets Top Gun with an X-Files twist. And the special effects are out of this world. Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch and Jeff Goldblum star. (1996)

W: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Saturday.

Having tackled JFK and Nixon, writer/director Oliver Stone targets George W Bush with more empathy than many expected. The New York Post called it “an often compelling, tragicomic psychological analysis of Dubya, viewed through the prism of his relationship with an allegedly disapproving father” while the Los Angeles Times thought it “persuasive and perfectly creditable”. Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men), whose father, James, played a previous Republican President in TV’s The Reagans, stars. (2008)

Die Hard 2: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Saturday.

Would you believe it? Wisecracking cop John McClane again is in the wrong place at the wrong time — a Washington DC airport where he winds up having to thwart terrorists, bureaucracy and the weather while waiting for his wife’s plane to land. Hard to fault as empty-headed, high-revving escapism but fatally tries to Rambo-ise a hero whose credibility was one of the original’s chief assets. NYPD Blue’s Dennis Franz co-stars. (1988)

Inglourious Basterds: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Sunday.

What chance of making sense does a movie whose writer/director can’t even explain the obscure spelling of its title? Virtually zero in the case of Quentin Tarantino’s latest loathsome, infantile exercise in inglorious self-indulgence. This exquisitely filmed but bloodthirsty World War II fantasy about a plot to blow up the Third Reich has flashes of cinematic brilliance but too few to justify its inflated running time, perverse violence and fatuous film brat dialogue (if not Christoph Waltz’s Oscar for best supporting actor). Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger star. (2009)

The Break-Up: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Sunday.

Jennifer Aniston and former ex- Brad Pitt were funnier together in a Thanksgiving Day episode of Friends than she and another ex-, Vince Vaughn, are in this erratic romantic-comedy about a couple on the skids. While more thoughtful than most of its ilk, it’s also muddled and laboured, and the stars are no match for Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. Jason Bateman and Jon Favreau co-star. (2006)

17 Again: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Wednesday.

Watching this body-switch comedy will make you feel like 17 going on 70 if you remember the genre’s ‘80s heyday (Big, Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son). It doesn’t revitalise the formula with as much fun as 2003’s Freaky Friday, and how a floundering father in mid-life crisis, on the verge of divorce, gets to be 17 again — but with the wisdom of a 40-year-old — doesn’t bear scrutiny. But his efforts to become a better dad and husband in the process generate enough laughs to leaven the inevitable sentimentality and sermonising. Zac Efron, Leslie Mann and Matthew Perry star. (2009)

Tears of the Sun: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Wednesday.

It sounds like Die Hard In Africa: Bruce Willis plays a grizzled combat vet in charge of a US Navy SEALS squad who breaks all the rules — and risks international fallout — to rescue an American doctor and her refugee patients from the jungles of darkest, bloodiest Nigeria before they’re massacred by genocidal rebels. But before you can say “Yippie-kay-ya!”, Willis and his director, Antoine Fuqua, eschew behind-enemy-lines bravado to shockingly convey the horrors of ethnic cleansing while indicting the politics of compromise and complacency that let it flourish. (2003)

American Dreamz: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Thursday.

Media values are skewered in this nutty spoof of the American Idol phenomenon that pits a scheming Southern belle country singer against a naive Iraqi terrorist who loves show tunes, with an unhinged President of the United States as one of the judges. American Dreamz amuses and engages, and is splendidly cast, but neither the direction nor writing is sharp enough to mine dream satire from Simon Cowell’s worst nightmare. Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid and Willem Dafoe star. (2006)

Saving Private Ryan: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Friday.

Two shattering combat sequences bookend this three-hour tour de force: the D-Day landing that turned Omaha Beach into a slaughterhouse and an against-all-odds showdown that would risk being impossibly heroic if not so convincing in its authenticity. In-between is an action-charged narrative that subtly but eloquently articulates the brutality and brotherhood of war. Tom Hanks and Matt Damon star; Steven Spielberg directs. Expect the Blu-ray to go on sale here in time for Father’s Day. (1998)

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