HDTV Movie Premieres: July 9-15

The Matrix Reloaded: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Saturday

The hi-tech hodgepodge of kung-fu, sci-fi, spiritualism and spectacular f/x seems goofier second time around. It opens six months after the original, with the machine army marching on the last human city of Zion just as the visions-racked Neo (Keanu Reeves) is getting to grips with his Kryptonite-lite powers as “The Chosen One”. But novelty soon gives way to nuttiness as laughably lame dialogue, insufferably chic heroics and overlong, over-the-top setpieces like the freeway free-for-all take their toll. (2003)

Night Watch: TV3, 10.30pm Saturday

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. Sergei Lukyanenko directs what the Chicago Tribune dubbed “a contemporary Russian movie that you could honestly call revolutionary, more for its style than its politics.” (2004)

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Sunday.

This child-scratcher is reborn in a re-make that’s more competent than blood-curdling. There’s not a lot here that’s new if you’re familiar with the ‘80s franchise about a supernatural killer who avenges his death in the dreams of those he blames. But it’s sharply made and updates Freddy Kruger’s CV with a child molestation twist. Rock music video vet Samuel Bayer directs Jackie Earle Haley (TV’s Human Target), Kyle Gallner (The Haunting in Connecticut) and Rooney Mara (The Social Network). (2010)

Fast & Furious: TV3, 8.30pm Monday

Fast 4 fast-forwards the franchise to reunite the petrol-head phenomenon’s original cast and characters in a storyline that sees lawman and outlaw join forces to defeat heroin smuggling from south of the border. The title reflects this return to roots as well as the non-stop action that’s imbecilic but irresistible, particularly the tanker hi-jacking that opens the movie and is amusingly referenced at the end. Franchise vet Justin Lin directs Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez. (2009)

Predators: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Monday.

There’s plenty of running and screaming in the latest instalment of this sci-fi franchise, which returns to the jungle setting of the original – only in an alien world where humans have become the game for a Predator hunt. It looks sensational in HD and the storyline intrigues and excites until mid-point, when it starts to grind towards a climax that’s less a resolution than an excuse to unleash another sequel. Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) directs Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne. (2010)

Elizabeth: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Monday.

Rip-snorting re-interpretation of the dawning of England’s Golden Age that owes less to historical pedantry than the epic intrigue and ruthless machinations of The Godfather. It succinctly but sensationally dramatises how Elizabeth I’s coronation changed Henry VIII’s Protestant daughter from a naïve princess to a hardened survivor of murderous Catholic plotting and a “virgin queen” married only to her people. Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes star. (1998)

Death at a Funeral: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Wednesday.

Not the rollicking Frank Oz farce about a dysfunctional family reunion but a broader, lazier re-make from a director, Neil LaBute, who’s lost his edge since his first film, In the Company of Men. But as The Washington Post pointed out: “Still, if for the most part Death at a Funeral is as tame as the tasteful parlour where most of its action takes place, it manages to explode one taboo, in casting mostly black actors in roles originally played by whites.” Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Regina Hall and Martin Lawrence star. (2010)

American Bandits: Sky Movies, 10.10pm Thursday.

Low-budget, revisionist take on the exploits of the James Gang, which depicts Jesse and Frank James as ‘victims’ of the Civil War who became outlaws to redress the South losing to the North. Surprisingly, it was made by a filmmaker synonymous with exploitation titles like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Tarzeena: Jiggle in the Jungle. The cast is largely cut from the same tatty cloth: 7th Heaven’s George Stultz, Soldier of Fortune’s Tim Abell, Re-animator’s Ed Bass and Peter Fonda. (2010)

Hitch: Sky Movies Greats, 8.30pm Sunday.

The inspired pairing of Will Smith and Grown Ups’ Kevin James makes this one of the funniest romantic-comedies since My Best Friend’s Wedding. Smith plays Hitch, a smooth talking ‘date doctor’ who helps men make it through the minefield of romance; James is the overweight geek he tries to match with a beautiful heiress (Amber Valetta). The movie stumbles with a tritely dramatic third act but otherwise is highly recommended for everyone who loves to laugh and who loves New York City. (2005)

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