HDTV Movie Premieres: July 17-23

The Soloist: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Saturday.

In this restrained true-life dramatisation, an unusually sympathetic Robert Downey Jr plays a Los Angeles Times columnist who befriends a mentally-ill homeless man who was a classical music prodigy (a virtuosic Jamie Foxx). What starts as fodder for his readers turns into a test of endurance, commitment and understanding that brings the two to breaking point. Atonement’s Joe Wright directs a Susannah Grant (Erin Brokovich) screenplay without trying to pluck our heartstrings. (2008)

Monsters vs Aliens: Sky Movies, 5.10pm Sunday.

The ideas behind this sci-fi spoof are sharper and funnier than their implementation. When an alien robot threatens to bring Earth to a standstill, Uncle Sam unleashes a monstrous secret weapon: freaky beasts who are as much misfits as monsters. The pop culture gags and animation are inspired but the writers can’t sustain the novelty or hilarity of the first half-hour. Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland lend their voices. (2009)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Sunday.

Not surprisingly, critics hammered it but if you’re in the mood for mind-blowing, mechanised mayhem leavened by goofy, Gremlins-style gags, this sci-fi spectacular delivers with dynamite grunt. It’s more fun than the original and director Michael Bay and his crew crank up the visual effects to a level that’s so beyond state of the art it transforms expectations of what Hollywood’s whizzkid will do next. Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel star. (2009)

The Green Mile: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Sunday.

This uplifting, supernatural prison drama is from the team behind The Shawshank Redemption. It strives to be just as inspirational and impeccably crafted yet lacks the emotional pay-off to justify its length and meticulous build-up. That’s not to say it isn’t beautifully told and movingly acted, it’s just that given the calibre of all concerned, you can’t help but expect miracles. Frank Darabont directs; Tom Hanks, David Morse and Michael Clarke Duncan star. (1999)

Ladder 49: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Tuesday.

A trapped fireman (Joaquin Phoenix) reflects on his life while waiting for his company, Ladder 49, to rescue him, if they can … World Trade Center it’s not. John Travolta and Robert Patrick (TV’s The Unit) co-star; The Water Horse’s Jay Russell directs. (2004)

Murder by Numbers: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Thursday.

Moviemaking by numbers sums up this dull Sandra Bullock thriller in which she’s miscast as a hunch-driven cop with a troubled past and a rookie partner trying to outwit two teenagers who kill for kicks. Convinced they can commit the perfect crime, they murder a young woman at random merely to test the hi-tech, deductive skills of the local police department. Clearly they’ve seen one too many episodes of CSI. Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl) and Ben Chaplin (Me and Orson Welles) co-star. (2002)

The Last House on the Left: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Friday.

US critics were streets apart on this re-make of the 1972 Wes Craven thriller, about a vicious gang that gatecrashes a family’s holiday home. The Hollywood Reporter said it “manages to pack an intensely visceral punch of its own” whereas Variety argued, “If the original could be accused of having a real point (even a subtext), the uninspired redo has none.” Tony Goldwyn (The Last Samurai), Garret Dillahunt (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Monica Potter (TV’s Parenthood) star. (2009)

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