Byzantium, Zoolander, Legally Blonde: films on TV today

Saoirse Ronan's vampire stalks the streets, Ben Stiller's model struts the catwalk, while Reese Witherspoon's sorority queen strolls the mall: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

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ANDREW COLLINS: FILM OF THE DAY 
Byzantium ★★★★
PREMIERE 9.00-11.20pm Film Four 

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Director Neil Jordan already has an admired vampire film on his CV, but while the bulk of Interview with the Vampire took place in the past, Byzantium, adapted from her own play by Moira Buffini, spends more time in the modern world, where Saoirse Ronan’s eternal teenager stalks the streets of a run-down seaside town with a talon-like thumbnail to pierce victims’ necks. Gemma Arterton plays her mum, who turns the hotel Byzantium into a brothel. There are flashbacks to the Napoleonic Wars, it’s all super-stylish and if you prefer your vampire flicks a little seedier than Twilight, there’s plenty here to get your fangs into.


Zoolander ★★★★
9.00-10.50pm E4 

Born out of a satirical short film that Ben Stiller made with his friend Drake Strather for the VH1 Fashion Awards, Zoolander took a while to connect with audiences, but is now considered one of Stiller’s most complete comic creations.  A follow-up is being worked on, but until the green light is switched on fans will have to be content with this first outing, which sees the international male model with the blue steel stare brainwashed into an assassination attempt. It’s a great dumb comedy that works because the characters take themselves so seriously. And it gains that an extra cool point for coining the sarcastic comeback “cool story, bro.” 


Legally Blonde ★★★★
9.00-11.00pm 5★ 

Made for a paltry $18 million, Legally Blonde has repaid MGM richly, with $141 million worldwide, a sequel and a stage musical. And it’s all down to Reese Witherspoon, whose sensitive handling of the stereotype allows her to subvert it without abandoning it. The story sees Witherspoon’s Elle aiming to revenge herself on her boyfriend, who has dumped her before heading for Harvard, by following him there and kick-starting a career in the law. Writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, together with director Robert Luketic (who are currently working together on the up and coming Expendabelles movie) put the right froth into the script and action, but it is  Witherspoon (who is currently impressing critics and audiences in the cinema in Wild) who makes their efforts worthwhile.


Dawn of the Dead ★★★★★
12.45-3.05am BBC1 

The dead go shopping in this superb second part of George A Romero’s Dead trilogy, which sees survivors of an American zombie plague taking refuge in a giant shopping mall (the Monroeville Mall, Pennsylvania, was, at one time, the largest in the country). Made when zombie movies were scary, not funny, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; it’s gruesome and graphic, and although the budget was only $500,000 it’s impressively real. The action nevertheless leaves room for comedy and satire, as the sight of zombies lurching up escalators in search of their prey is too close to real, consumerist life to ignore. 


Chloe ★★★
9.00-10.55pm Movie Mix 

Like Hitchcock? Watch this tidy, if slightly strained psychological twister from art-house favourite Atom Egoyan, with Julianne Moore as the wife who’s so suspicious of flirtatious husband Liam Neeson that she hires call girl Amanda Seyfried to test him out. From that point, each character lives in a bubble of their own limited knowledge, while we can only sit and wonder what the heck is going to happen next. The cast is great: Moore’s confident professional is a puppet in the hands of innocent-faced Seyfried, while Neeson is an expert at the strong man laid low. Egoyan toys with his characters’ motivation, exploring the threads that join obsession and control, and even if the wheels come off before the end, it’s a relatively accessible vehicle from the director of The Sweet Hereafter.

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