BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY
Adapted from Frank (Sin City) Miller’s graphic novel, this is the story of how, in 480 BC, 300 Spartans under King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) held off the Persian hordes at Thermopylae and helped save ancient Greek civilisation. And, boy, did they hold them off. You’ve rarely seen such slaughter because, with the liberal aid of CGI, this is like a violent video game writ large, all whirling axes, thrusting spears, blood spouting, heads and limbs scattered to the winds. The narrative itself borders on the nonsensical, but once you get used to the unlikely sight of all those multi-muscled Spartans, their bodies so digitally enhanced that they seem to have been pumping iron since birth, it becomes oddly gripping. Technically it’s fascinating and, to be fair, you do learn something, not much but a bit, about what happened at Thermopylae. There’s a subplot involving treachery at Leonidas’s court but mostly it’s a frenetic bloodbath. The squeamish will squeam a lot.
Terms of Endearment ★★★★
Reports of tension on the set between Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger only add to the bittersweet joy of this portrait of a mother and daughter relationship. It won five Oscars, including best picture and director, with MacLaine and co-star Jack Nicholson also grabbing actorly awards.
Dead of Night ★★★★★
6.00-8.05pm Talking Pictures TV
If you love portmanteau horror movies, this Ealing effort is one of the best. Don’t be fooled by its initial period quaintness, as the story featuring Michael Redgrave as an unhinged ventriloquist is guaranteed to give you the chills.
Men in Black 3 ★★★★
Will Smith is back in black for this witty sequel where Agent J travels back in time to save a young Agent K. That’s Josh Brolin, brilliantly channelling his inner Tommy Lee Jones.
Mercury Rising ★★★
Bruce Willis is the FBI agent (a bit of a maverick, apparently) called upon to protect a nine-year-old autistic boy who has become a target of crooked agents after cracking a top security code.