Screen grabs: best of the small screen



Rush-released to coincide with the Australian Open, AO Tennis looks and feels unfinished, offering a disappointing and inconsistent official take on the sport. In the short time the game has been available, so much has been added via downloadable updates that it's tough to say what it will be like by the time you're reading this. Anyone expecting to buy the disc and play it offline is in for an especially bad time. Even after a patch that added missing features and players, the game feels like an early version months away from release (and with a global edition set to release later this year, you could argue that Aussies are just the testers). With a bare-bones presentation, easy-to-exploit AI and some weird remaining glitches, this is not the full five sets. At least not yet. TB



Fans of swordplay and extended battle scenes - and those who don't mind a bit of artistic licence with their historical dramatisations - will enjoy this series chronicling the story of the Knights Templar, the guardians of the Holy Grail and reportedly the inspiration for Arthurian legends. Tom Cullen plays the leader of the Knights Templar, Landry, a veteran of the Crusades and our bearded hero who mobilises his brothers to take up arms to win back the Holy Grail after the fall of Acre. Cue some fairly cheap-looking CGI and now-standard over-the-top brutal battle scenes - Vikings and Game of Thrones have a lot to answer for; the sex scenes also show up fairly early. Just try not to think of Monty Python or history textbooks and you will be rewarded with some of the Templar Knights' individual back stories to add something a little deeper, if soapier, to proceedings. Sword-and-shield drama fans should find enough to like here, but it's hard to imagine Knightfall appealing beyond the History Channel set.



Directed by Denmark's Niels Arden Oplev, best-known for the original Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this new version of Joel Schumacher's 1990 paranormal thriller generates a fair amount of intrigue for its first hour. Ultimately, though, it's an example of how a remake can suffer from being too faithful to its source. A promising cast including Diego Luna and Ellen Page play a gang of thrill-seeking medical students who take to deliberately stopping their own hearts (Kiefer Sutherland, who starred in Schumacher's film, returns here as their professor). It's a premise that could have been developed in any number of directions: there's always something fascinating about seeing young people in close proximity to death, the starting point for everything from the gory Final Destination films to Olivier Assayas' recent arty ghost story Personal Shopper. But writer Ben Ripley (Source Code) sticks to the moralistic plot of the original, which proves to be all about the characters paying for past misdeeds - and equally little imagination is evident in Oplev's would-be psychedelic efforts to visualise the soul leaving the body.



While the premise is reminiscent of the 1980s National Lampoon Vacation movies, The Detour is decidedly more 21st century - and far less family-friendly. Written by former Daily Show writer and Full Frontal host Samantha Bee and her husband Jason Jones (who also stars), and reportedly inspired by their own family holidays, it's a road-trip comedy peppered with rapid-fire gags and sharp commentary on everything from corporate life to cultural appropriation and Segue-riding Millennial bloggers. Jones plays Nate who, not having revealed he's been fired from his job (the details of which are slowly revealed throughout the first season), decides to make the planned family holiday to Florida a road trip - without telling his wife Robin (Natalie Zea), who naps en route to the airport only to wake up in a rural roadhouse. With their 11-year-old twins Dealiah (Ashley Gerasimovich???) and Jared (Liam Carroll), their trip, which flashbacks reveal is actually doubling as a desperate whistleblowing mission for Nate, goes horribly awry almost from the outset. There are some familiar tropes here (and many gross-out moments), but they're given a darkly acerbic update. The episodes are cleverly structured and the guest stars, among them Judge Reinhold, James Cromwell and Bee herself, are pitch-perfect. The overarching plot about Nate's work keeps it from being your standard road-trip caper.


FAIR GAME (Umbrella) M

"Get out of the way, ya crazy moll!" yells one of a trio of hoons tailgating wildlife sanctuary manager Jessica (Cassandra Delaney) at the start of Mario Andreacchio's??? 1986 action-thriller, the film that led Quentin Tarantino to enthuse, in Mark Hartley's documentary Not Quite Hollywood, that "no one shoots cars the way Aussies do". The term Ozploitation, popularised in Not Quite Hollywood, has been sloppily applied to many different kinds of Australian filmmaking. But it well and truly fits Fair Game, which uses elements lifted from Mad Max and Wake in Fright to fuel what is essentially one long chase across the outback. Andreacchio's brash yet physically grounded style has a touch of the great Brian Trenchard-Smith (Turkey Shoot), and his use of non-human characters such as a loyal border collie anticipates his later work on children's films such as The Real Macaw. Given the camera's leering gaze at the panicked though resourceful Jessica, you couldn't call it a feminist statement, but as in Tarantino's own Ozploitation homage Death Proof, the purity of the conception is reinforced by the total absence of sympathetic men.

This story Screen grabs: best of the small screen first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.