Your night in: Every movie on TV tonight rated
WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME? (M)
9.05pm Channel 9
A poignant, pointed reminder that the late, great singer Whitney Houston was taken from us way too soon, and for no good reason. This well-crafted documentary is a little light on for footage of the music legend in her prime, but the shortfall is made up in other areas. While carrying the same shortcomings that affect many an 'unauthorised' doco - particularly when it comes to accessing interviewees who really knew the gifted songbird - the filmmakers do make the most of not having to please any keepers of her flame. This is anything but a puff piece, and is worthy of consideration purely for its willingness to address certain controversial aspects of Houston's sad life story that a recent 'authorised' doco was inclined to avoid. It's all here: the meteoric rise, the slow drug-ravaged descent, the doomed marriage to singer Bobby Brown, and the ongoing frustration of being trapped inside a manufactured image nothing like her real self.
WALL STREET (M)
7.30pm WORLD MOVIES
Controversial director Oliver Stone's stinging indictment of the high-flying corporate excesses of the 1980s - embodied by the "greed is good" mantra spouted by reptilian junk bond trader Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) - offers a vital reminder that the world learnt nothing once the dotcoms turned in dot-cons just over a decade later. Much is made of Douglas' superbly sleazy display here, but the heart of the film is Charlie Sheen's anchoring effort as the stock market ingenue getting a crash course in cornering other people's cash.
KISS OF THE DRAGON (M)
9.50pm WORLD MOVIES
A punchy little action thriller that contains encouraging traces of gifted French filmmaker Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), credited here as co-writer and producer. Underneath a misshapen bowl haircut not dissimilar to that once sported by Moe from The Three Stooges, Jet Li (whose Unleashed has just hit local cinemas) plays a Shanghai spy who arrives in Paris to arrest a Chinese mobster. For reasons that don't quite stack up, our man is framed for the gangster's murder by a corrupt police chief (Tcheky Karyo). With a dishevelled junkie prostitute (Bridget Fonda) in tow, Li spends the rest of the movie in spectacular combat with the villain's unruly mob of henchmen.
11.40pm WORLD MOVIES
A slow-burning true story of self-discovery and finding redemption in places most people wouldn't dare look. Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl Strayed, a young woman reeling from two major life mistakes in a row. To put a failed marriage and a recurring struggle with heroin behind her, Strayed embarks on an arduous 1700-kilometre hike along the challenging Pacific Crest Trail. Scripted by award-winning author Nick Hornby from Strayed's own best-selling book, Wild slowly but surely enters the frazzled mind of its subject in vividly moving detail.
THE DIRTY DOZEN (M)
US Army Major Lee Marvin leads a gang of convicted murderers on a risky assassination assignment in World War II. One of the few films of its type to lose nothing from repeated viewings. Co-stars Charles Bronson, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine.
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Military buffs with an eye for value will appreciate the bonus loading affixed to this big-budget war movie. Not only is there a stupendously detailed reconstruction of the 1942 Battle of Midway, that famous four-day skirmish which turned the tide of World War 2 in the Pacific. You also get two more authentic-ish action replays drawn from earlier America-versus-Japan fixtures in the same season of conflict: the brazen attack upon Pearl Harbor, and the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo months later. This old-fashioned movie will almost certainly never be mentioned in the same breath as 1917 or Dunkirk. The acting is too wooden, and the storytelling too splintery. However, when it comes to thrilling, chilling spectacle and a desire to put some simple context on a complicated aspect of WW2, Midway holds its own most efficiently. Whether filmed from the perspective of American or Japanese pilots, the vertigo-inducing dive-bombing sequences are almost worth the price of admission in their own right. Stars Woody Harrelson.
FIRST MAN (M)
The epic story of the eight-year journey of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) from unassuming civilian pilot-engineer to unlikely NASA astronaut, becoming the first man to set foot on the moon. Though its brave visual style and skeletal storytelling are sure to divide viewers, First Man is still undoubtedly one of the best movie releases of the past few years. Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle (La La Land) has shaped an imposing screen spectacle with an intimacy and intricacy normally undetected on this vast cinematic scale. The key scenes are those focusing exclusively on Armstrong strapped inside a variety of spacecraft as the US missions of Gemini and Apollo evolve. Chazelle's frenetically rattling camera keeps registering confusion, concentration and real terror in Armstrong's eyes. Then there is the sound the craft makes: a chilling combination of a rolling thunderous rumble, topped by a continuous metallic scream. To reach for greatness from such a primitive, low-tech place inspires legitimate awe, fear and wonder.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (M)
A battered brown suitcase that holds a bright, shiny alternate universe within.
Eccentrically exotic creatures with bizarre names such as Nifflers, Erumpents, Murtlaps, Graphorns and Bowtruckles. A diminutive, deceptively modest hero who can change the world with the wave of a wand. Yes, there can be no mistaking the magically active mind of the celebrated author J.K. Rowling. But just a gentle word of warning nonetheless: don't expect this prequel-ish adjunct to the Harry Potter series to be matching those beloved movies set at Hogwarts on any level. Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, a wizardly magizoologist who misplaces a bottomless suitcase full of adorably anarchic species on the streets of 1920s New York City. There are stretches where the film as a whole goes on auto-pilot, coasting along on the fumes of former glories as it trollies all of its many colourful characters and cunning critters from one set piece to the next. It's all so very entertaining, but never quite essential. Co-stars Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston.
Originally published as Your night in: Every movie on TV tonight rated