HDTV Movie Premieres: September 18-24

A Serious Man: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Saturday.

It won’t just be “goys”, or non-Jews, who’ll be left echoing the hero’s plea, “What does it all mean?” Set in 1967, Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man stars Michael Stuhlbarg as a Jewish academic whose family life is disintegrating as fast as his faith and profession. It’s an amusing, intricate, picture-perfect evocation of the Coen brothers’ banal suburban youth – there’s a great running gag about F Troop — but ultimately their No Campus for Old Men relies too much on idiosyncratic esotericism. (2009)

Pathfinder: TV3, 10.25pm Saturday.

Rarely are collaborations this bizarre: the German director of the 2003 re-make of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the writer-executive producer of TV’s reborn Bionic Woman remake a 1989 Nordic Oscar-nominee about a futuristic ice-age as a Vikings vs Indians showdown 600 years before Columbus discovered America. But wait, there’s more — Kiwi Karl Urban is the lead! The result is more fun than the movie’s critical reception would suggest, with lashings of graphic novel thrills, cheesy heroics and fetching romance. The stunts and special effects are spectacular, with even the clifftop climax managing to wring tension from an overfamiliar predicament. (2007)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Sky Movies Greats, 6.10pm Sunday.

Harry Potter and his Hogwarts pals were much more interesting as teenagers than 10-year-olds but it’s not only their characters who had matured for their third adventure. So had the franchise’s special effects and, moreover, its storytelling, thanks to the recruitment of pre-Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron. He has Harry learning the truth about his parents’ fate and combines a much darker, moodier sensibility with a smoother, more imaginative narrative and visuals that rival The Lord of the Rings’. Whereas the first two Potters strained for effect, this one has you straining to catch them all. (2004)

Twilight Saga: New Moon: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Sunday.

The glow of the first moon’s gone in this soulless sequel where werewolves outnumber vampires. Only the most undemanding Twilight diehards could be satisfied with such a limp pastiche of teen romance, angst and terror. The original was fun and ferocious but New Moon is tedious rather than tense. Kirsten Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Michael Sheen star. (2009)

Tropic Thunder: TV3, 8.30pm Monday.

The first movie Ben Stiller’s directed since 2001’s Zoolander is an audacious, sophisticated, film-within-a-film send-up of not just Vietnam war movies but Hollywood in general. He and a cast that includes Robert Downey Jr in blackface play combative actors on a boot camp in southeast Asia that turns out to be a real-life war zone. Shot with the scope and spectacle of a big-budget action movie, Tropic Thunder is both deliriously funny and surprisingly exciting. Jack Black and Steve Coogan co-star. (2008)

Dance Flick: Sky Movies, 8.30pm Tuesday.

Flat-footed send-up of the Step Up franchise from the Scary Movie crowd. Observed Variety: “This slapstick and scatological spoof settles for obvious punchlines, delivering just enough laughs to justify its existence without coming anywhere near the bar set by Scary Movie.” (2009)

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