This Weekend in HD: January 21-22


SoHo Highlight: Hell on Wheels (Sky 10, 8.30 Sunday, 5.1) In post-Civil War America, a former confederate soldier seeking vengeance travels to the transcontinental railway – a breeding ground for greed, corruption, and violence. From the home of Mad Men and The Walking Dead comes what Newsday called “another winner” for AMC, with Wild Bunch overtones: “Sam Peckinpah would very much approve of the grit, dust and blood that’s ground into almost every frame of this new series — quite possibly as sanguineous as an average episode of The Walking Dead.” Judged the Wall Street Journal: “As familiar as this tableau may be, Hell on Wheels finds enough beauty, danger and emotion to make some part of every episode seem fresh and worth waiting for.” But The Hollywood Reporter had a “nagging suspicion” that it “doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, which may explain why after four hours it seems like a collection of ideas that haven’t quite gelled”. And the US TV Guide thought it a “sprawling but heavy-handed attempt to revive and redefine the Western … with precious little wit or originality.” ✭✭✭✭

Saturday

TradeZone Gone Fishin’/Rheem Outdoors With Geoff (TV3, 5.00/5.30) ✭✭✭

Keeping Up With the Joneses (TV One, 7.00) Milton heads a search party to find the wreckage and, hopefully, survivors of a chopper crash. ✭✭✭

Sky Movies Greats Premiere: The Island (Sky 22, 8.30, 5.1) Transformers director Michael Bay’s first flop borrows heavily from futuristic conspiracy thrillers like Minority Report and Logan’s Run, and is undermined by an execrable ending. But for the most part The Island is an exciting, startling take on genetic engineering that’s worth a look just to see how Scarlett Johansson acquits herself in her first action hero role. Ewan McGregor, Sean Bean and Steve Buscemi co-star.  (2005) ✭✭✭

Sunday

Hellcats (TV2, 5.30) Savannah and Alice throw a toga party; Marti, Vanessa and Julian come up with a plan that just may get Travis released from jail and save the Hellcats. ✭✭✭

The War at Home (TV2, 6.30, R) After Vicky contacts an ex-boyfriend on the Internet, Dave does some emailing of his own; Hillary is upset about something but won’t ask Vicky for advice like she used to do. ✭✭✭✭

North (TV One, 7.00, R) Marcus Lush visits the islands of Tiri (and its lighthouse), Kauwau (and its book club), and Little Barrier (and its bird life). ✭✭✭✭

Movie: G-Force (TV2, 7.00) Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action-comedy about gung-ho guinea pig spies. The Philadelphia Inquirer dubbed it a “humdrum hybrid of Mission: Impossible and The Wind in the Willows” and Variety “a fur-covered A-Team for the kiddies [that's] heavy on splashy pyrotechnics and predictably light on plot”. (2009) ✭✭

Movie: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (TV3, 7.00, 5.1, R) This neurotic zoo critters-in-the-wild sequel tries to squeeze everyone from the original into a mechanical plot that, even by ‘toon standards, is spectacularly absurd. The cinematic, inventive visuals and some sharp pop culture gags help to offset this and the more irksome characterisations. But there’s a laboured, cut-and-paste feel to the writing that, for adults at least, undermines the cutting-edge animation. (2009) ✭✭✭

Movie: Meet the Spartans (TV3, 8.50, 5.1, R) 300 spoof from the Disaster Movie crowd that’s unbelievably imbecilic. Variety summed up the shambles best: “Lazy, lame and painfully unfunny, Meet the Spartans is yet another scrambled-genre parody.” (2008) 

Sky Movies Premiere: Tangled (Sky 20, 4.50, 5.1) This Disney ‘toon is a tangle of banality and brilliance. It’s both a throwback to corny Mouse Kingdom crowdpleasers and a state-of-the-art example of hi-tech ‘toonmanship that puts a 3D sheen on hand-drawn artistry – just as Tangled’s modern spin on Rapunzel leavens traditional homilies with sophisticated wit, sprightly inventiveness and rollicking action. (2010) ✭✭✭✭

Sky Movies Premiere: RED (Sky 20, 8.30, 5.1) A corrupt politician with a sinister secret wants four CIA agents who are Retired but still Extremely Dangerous assassinated. After a terrific start that benefits from kooky chemistry between Bruce Willis and Weeds’ Mary-Louise Parker, RED becomes an extremely silly action-conspiracy romp. Karl Urban, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman co-star. (2010) ✭✭  

Sky Movies Greats Premiere: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Sky 22, 8.30, 5.1)  The writing of this first sequel didn’t start until pre-production, which explains why the screenplay isn’t as shipshape as the spectacular special effects. Otherwise, it’s an even more rollicking mix of goofy gags and gung-ho derring-do in which barmy buccaneer Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) spars with spooks, critters, cannibals and cretins. Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush co-star. (2006) ✭✭✭✭

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