TV Films of the Week

TV films of the week 17

FILM OF THE WEEK: Spartacus

ITV4, Saturday September 28, 1.25pm

There’s something about the legend of Spartacus, the real-life Thracian slave who took on the might of the Roman Empire and gave it a seriously bloody nose, which has made it timeless through the ages. Perhaps it’s the universal nature of the tale of a man, unjustly forced into bondage by an immoral regime, who rose to champion the cause of an oppressed people. Or maybe it’s just a rollicking good story.

Either way, it has made for some pretty epic interpretations on both the large and small screens. There is no denying its influence on Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, while anyone fortunate enough to have caught US cable channel Starz’ Spartacus will have reveled in what is a deliciously grand guignol (read: buckets of gore and oodles of nudity) interpretation. But the original – and possibly still the best – screen adaptation was that filmed half a century earlier by the then 30-year-old Stanley Kubrick.

Starring Kirk Douglas (whom Kubrick had already directed in anti-war masterpiece Paths Of Glory) in the titular role, Kubrick’s Spartacus is a glorious experience and epic in every sense of the word. The likes of Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis and Peter Ustinov joining Douglas in a cast of Hollywood icons could have made for a disastrous clash of egos, but instead only serves to elevate its status as a classic. While Kubrick may have disowned the film in later years, angry that studio interference denied him complete creative control, it is actually one you should fight tooth and nail to keep firmly in a family of favourites.

 

SET THE RECORDER FOR:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Film4, Monday September 30, 10:55pm

David Fincher’s English language remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo may be an undeniably high-class affair, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it was ever so slightly unnecessary. Why? Because Stieg Larsson’s novel had already been adapted with thrilling verve by Niels Arden Oplev, making an international star of Noomi Rapace in the process. So much so, even knuckle-draggers who have a problem with subtitles will barely notice having to perform the oh-so taxing duty of reading and watching at the same time…

 

Chocolate, Film4,

Tuesday October 1, 11:45pm

No, not the confectionary-fuelled drama starring the triple J’s (Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp), but a head-thwacking martial arts thumper from the team that brought audiences the astounding Ong Bak. Eschewing the traditional male hero that the genre almost always employs, here the ass-kicking is instead performed by an autistic tweenager taking on a local mobster in order to save her ailing mother. Combining the creativity of Jackie Chan flicks with the bone-breaking fighting style of Muay Thai, Chocolate offers the full twelve rounds of destructive fun.

 

The Last King Of Scotland

Film4, Thursday October 3, 11pm

Thanks to adrenaline-inducing James Hunt/Niki Lauda biopic Rush, screenwriter Peter Morgan is currently riding high on yet another wave of success. So what better to excuse to enjoy the first of his cinematic hits, The Last King Of Scotland? If that’s not good enough, throw in the Best Actor Oscar-winning performance of Forest Whittaker as brutal African dictator Idi Amin, ably supported by James McAvoy and Gillian Anderson, and it’s a veritable must watch.

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