HDTV Movie Premieres: August 21-27

Sunshine: TV3, 10.25pm Saturday.

Only sci-fi diehards will enjoy this trip to the malarkey side of the sun (it has to be re-ignited with a nuclear payload). Duller than a cloudy day, it stars Cliff Curtis, Damages’ Rose Byrne, Inception’s Cillian Murphy and Kick-Ass’ Mark Strong. Slumdog Millionaire’s Danny Boyle directs another screenplay by his 28 Days Later ... scribe Alex Garland, who’s also penned the pending Halo and Judge Dredd (which, like Sunshine, will star another Kiwi, Karl Urban, and will be shot in 3D under the direction of Vantage Point’s Pete Travis). (2007)

Couples Retreat: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Sunday.

It’s not just couples that should retreat from watching this laboured marriage guidance comedy. There is a handful of amusing lines but mostly it’s a feeble, predictable take on what happens to relationships when the honeymoon’s over, set on an island resort from which there’s no escape (viewers will know the feeling). Amazingly, it was written by stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, whose infinitely funnier first collaboration, 1996’s Swingers, is about to be reissued on Blu-ray. Co-star Temuera Morrison looks as if he wishes he were in Guatemala. (2009)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Sunday.

The plot is pure skull and crossbones: a British man ‘o war commanded by an obsessive captain pursues a faster French foe off the Brazilian coast during the Napoleonic wars. But this is no mere swashbuckler. It’s the authentic atmosphere, attention to detail and textured relationships that make Master so commanding — which is why it earned only one less Oscar nomination than best picture rival The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (whose Weta team built two miniature ships for the movie). Peter Weir directs Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. (2003)

Transformers: TV3, 8.30pm Monday.

The kids who were playing with their Optimus Primes and Megatrons in the 1980s are now transforming the mechanics of Hollywood movies. Boys’ toys don’t come any bigger than a $200 million playground where animatics, or animated storyboards, matter more than scriptwriting. Transformers’ visual effects never stop astounding with their computer-generated ingenuity but even the most extravagant hi-tech eye candy is no substitute for a story well told – and this is not one of them. Michael Bay directs Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. (2007)

The Accidental Husband: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Thursday.

One of the stars of TV2’s Trust Me, Griffin Dunne, directed this hopelessly contrived romantic-comedy about an agony aunt talk show host (Uma Thurman) who discovers, on the eve of her wedding, she’s already inadvertently tied the knot with someone else as the victim of a vengeful prank. Rightly observed The Observer: “The feeble plot of this dull film depends on a flimsy plotting device that a single phone call or letter from a lawyer would have solved overnight.” Colin Firth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy) co-star. (2008)

What Happens in Vegas: TV3, 8.30pm Friday.

… is not a lot to write home about, it turns out, but as far as odd-couple screwball comedies go, Vegas is worth a punt. Variety summed it up best: “This two-seated star vehicle for top-billed Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz wrings a respectable number of laughs from a formulaic scenario about attracted-opposites who bicker and back-stab their way toward happily-ever-aftering.” (2009)

Ocean’s Twelve: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Friday.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt and the rest of the gang get back together to rip off the Faberge Egg so they can pay back the casino tycoon (Andy Garcia) they ripped off in the original. Unfortunately, it’s Ocean’s Eleven fans who are ripped off the most: what began as an expedient rewrite of a John Woo thriller winds up so smug, lightweight and self-indulgently Hollywood that it’s hard to view as anything other than a vanity vehicle for its elite stars and director (Steven Soderbergh). (2004)

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