Sunday, August 4, 2013

Monday, August 5

Dance Academy

Talented: The Dance Academy crew. Photo: Supplied


Pan, Pus and Poison, SBS, 8:30pm

Don't be put off by the ghastly title. This fascinating BBC documentary is an absorbing wander down the corridors of Western medical history. British doctor turned television presenter Michael Mosley (Inside the Human Body) presents an account of how doctors and scientists who were courageous enough to challenge the wisdom of their day transformed potions previously known only to witches into the life-saving - and sometimes life-destroying - concoctions that have shaped the modern world. This third episode tracks the development of chemotherapy, Botox and the chemical warfare of World War II. Mosley's presentation is a combination of passionate professor and curious amateur enthusiast. The imagery is historical and helpful.

Red Widow, Channel Seven, 11pm


This ambitious American remake of a Dutch crime thriller (2010's Penoza) was cancelled in the US after its debut season. The complicated web of events leading to a final-episode cliffhanger that will never be resolved doesn't warrant serious investment from the viewer, and the script has too many kinks to make the story believable. Australian actor Radha Mitchell admirably inhabits her conflicted character, Marta Walraven, a mother-of-three who finds herself involved with the Russian Mafia as she grieves for her murdered husband while seeking his ultimate revenge. But she is too often let down by the series' flaws. Unintentional giggles are to be gleaned from the portrayal of female Russian crime boss Alexandra Duchenko (Branka Katic, who played Bill's almost-fourth wife in Big Love). Perpetually reclining on a chaise longue, sipping so much champagne she could hardly be in a fit state to run her illegal weapons empire, Duchenko is an amusingly ridiculous stereotype and another example of a fine female actor being underused.

Dance Academy, ABC3, 6pm

This show covers genuine issues for its target age group, including that of older sexual predators; in this case, a female teacher intent on seducing a talented male dancer. Dance Academy offers inspiration and an opportunity for reflection with a deftness of touch and a good grasp of the lexicon. Veteran actor Barry Otto guest stars as eccentric artistic director Sir Jeffrey McEwan.

Bridget McManus



Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual, Bio, 3pm

Cyndi Lauper wears a lot of hats - pop star, Broadway composer, LGBT activist, mother. As she puts it: ''I'm a f---ing Renaissance woman.'' Her undiluted charisma and straight-talking style make her a natural for the celeb-reality format, but Still So Unusual gets off to a slightly slow start. It begins, pleasantly enough, with Lauper at home with her 14-year-old son, Declyn, and stay-at-home hubby, actor David Thornton (who is instantly recognisable from his work as a defence lawyer on Law & Order: SVU). Lauper's immediate concern is her voice as she prepares for a duet with Beverly McClellan on the US version of The Voice. With Lauper 59 years old at the time of filming - and her style of singing still so demanding - her vocal cords understandably need a bit of nursing. The lead-up to the her appearance on The Voice provides the episode with a little drama, but there's not much else going on.

Ultimate Survival Alaska, National Geographic, 8.30pm

Eight hardy Alaskan outdoorsmen race through the Alaskan wilderness. In each stage they have 72 hours to get from point A to point B, hunting, fishing and foraging along the way. Tonight the presence of wolves is cause for some concern, but a caribou carcass provides fur with which to make a fishing fly.

Brad Newsome


Max Payne (2008), One, 8.30pm

Stars in old Hollywood had a certain consistency: the studio system cared for them but in exchange often kept them in movies that played to their perceived strengths. Today's autonomous actors, with their production companies and sundry fiefdoms, have much more choice even if they work less, and that's partly why you have a career as uneven as Mark Wahlberg's. A Boston delinquent who went from underwear model to starring in pungent classic Boogie Nights, Wahlberg can be explosively loose, surprisingly vulnerable or blankly workmanlike. Max Payne, an adaptation of a video game from director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines), is a low point for Wahlberg, who tends to fall back on stoic minimalism that offers little unless there's a catalytic actor opposite him. It's why he was so good amid the fireworks of The Fighter. As an obsessive cop hunting his wife's killer, Wahlberg merely mutters and runs, stares and shoots.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), M Premiere (pay TV), 11.45pm

As Martha, a young woman who has fled a cult in which abuse and brainwashing studiously flourish, Elizabeth Olsen gives a remarkable performance. Arriving at the house of her older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), she starts to crack under the stress of absence and paranoia, while flashbacks show her life on the rural enclave administered by the monstrous Patrick (John Hawkes). Martha has a calm surface with traumatic ruptures just beneath the surface. Her sudden changes of mood are mirrors of Patrick's gentle segues from caring solicitations to rape and murder, and, after several years in isolation, the yuppie lifestyle of Lucy and her British partner, Ted (Hugh Dancy), bewilders the indoctrinated Martha. Director Sean Durkin uses changes in camera focus and careful framing to hold information back, so answers come with the dread of sudden realisation, while the rake-like and soft-spoken Hawkes is quietly mesmerising as the messianic cult leader.

Craig Mathieson
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