Film

Viewer Discretion Advised: 27 January, 2007

As the more athletic-minded members of the home audience prepare for next week's Super Bowl, and American Idol continues to woo the schaudenfreuda set, the motion picture choices this week are actually pretty decent. Between a marvelous '70s scare film, a brilliant mid-'90s documentary, and an overlooked gem from an Oscar winning director, the possibility exists for some quality small screen viewing. Even some of the ancillary picks can and do provide a wealth of watchability. For the week starting 27 January, here are your viewing options:

Premiere Pick

Jarhead

Sam Mendes must have done something in his past to deserve such a rollercoaster ride. When American Beauty hit, it was immediately embraced as a sensational, satiric skewering of strangled suburban sexual politics. What a difference a few years, and dozens of messageboard debates, makes. Mendes is now condemned for helming one of the worst Best Picture winners ever and his own award is dismissed as the result of standard Oscar overkill. All of this undermined his fine follow-up, the Gulf War epic Jarhead. Instead of embracing this latest effort as a visually stunning experiment in storytelling, it was cast aside as another example of Mendes' cinematic meaninglessness. As a result, what should have been an acknowledged minor masterwork was poisoned by the Internet’s inane ability to turn everyone into a critic. (27 January, HBO, 8PM EST)

Additional Choices

Grandma's Boy

The Farrelly Brothers should be flayed for what they have wrought. The gross out comedy sinks to the lowest possible denominator ever with this tale of a video game tester forced to live in his aging relative's basement. (20 January, Cinemax, 10PM EST)

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Here's a little independent oddity – a period piece (the '50s) about a woman who supports her 10 kids by writing commercial jingles. Though it's got chick flick written all over it, the presence of Juliann Moore helps soften the saccharine blow. (27 January, Starz, 9PM EST)
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Dark Water

As one of the less successful adaptations of the one time fright fad known as J-Horror, there is still some wonderfully evocative filmmaking to be experienced here, thanks in part to Brazilian director Walter Salles' deft touch behind the lens. (27 January, ShowCase, 8PM EST)

Indie Pick

Hoop Dreams

When Steve James and Frederick Clark stumbled upon the story of basketball phenoms William Gates and Arthur Agee, little did they know their decision to follow them throughout the trial and tribulations of high school would result in pure motion picture art. But that's exactly what happened with Hoop Dreams, one of 1994's best films, and a definitive argument for narrative fact over fiction. As the boys are recruited to various campuses both in and outside the city of Chicago, we see the beginnings of the kind of inflated entitlement that's destroying modern professional sports. While the outcome is more or less a given, especially in light of what we know about basketball in 2007, the way in which the duo survive their time in the spotlight is mesmerizing – and very meaningful. (27 January, Sundance, 9:30PM EST)

Additional Choices

Mona Lisa

It’s the film that brought director Neil Jordan and actor Bob Hoskins to the attention of American audiences, and with good reason. This moody thriller is a brilliant deconstruction of character and crime. (27 January, IFC, 10:55PM EST)

Series 7: The Contenders

Way, WAY ahead of its time, this look at the ridiculous extremes the reality TV genre would go to in capturing audience attention is a stinging social commentary. Looks even more prophetic today than it did back in 2001. (30 January, Sundance, 7:30PM EST)

Monster

The usually stunning Charlize Theron goes the dirty and dowdy route to play notorious female serial killer Aileen Wuornos in this strangely atypical drama. There's as much heart as homicide in this Oscar winning character study. (31 January, Sundance, 9PM EST)

Outsider Option

The Other

It is safe to say that, among the movies made in that defining cinematic decade of the '70s, The Other is one of the best—a near-flawless example of tone and storytelling melded with wonderfully effective material and meaning. In the hands of Academy Award nominee Robert Mulligan (responsible for To Kill a Mockingbird) and adapted by actor-turned-writer Thomas Tyron from his own best-selling novel, this paranormal period piece about psychologically unsound twins takes elements of The Bad Seed and twists them into an amazing American Gothic. It utilizes the recognizable realities of an old-fashioned family in the middle of a picturesque, pastoral setting and then scans the surfaces for the ugly underneath. Eventually, we start to see the horrors hiding behind the antique old-world gentility. (29 January, Fox Movie Channel, 6PM EST)

Additional Choices

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula

John Carradine is the Count, and someone named Chuck Courtney is the famous outlaw in this bad movie bedlam from director William Beaudine. Featured as part of Rob Zombie's TCM Underground presentations. (27 January, TCM, 2AM EST)

High Tension

Before taking over the reigns of the well-received Hills Have Eyes remake, French fright master Alexandre Aja delivered this stylish take on the old fashioned slasher film. A brilliant bit of violent cinematic slight of hand. (30 January, Showtime, 10PM EST)

May

To hear the web geeks tell it, this Frankenstein homage from The Woods director Lucky McKee has adolescent angst to spare. The simple storyline, about a girl who builds a friend out of spare people parts, should make gorehounds happy. (31 January, IFC, 10:55PM EST)

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