Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am


Families tucking into supper and a television movie this evening may have to choose between two highly entertaining films with multigenerational appeal. Both revolve around standing up to bullies, but how each arrives at that message couldn't be more different.

The Karate Kid (HBO; tonight at 9pm) gets its story from the 1984 original, about a scrawny teenager who, having moved from New Jersey to California, takes up karate to defend himself against neighbourhood roughnecks with the help of an unlikely mentor. The 2010 remake ticks all the basic plot boxes but moves the action to China; and the martial art on display here, despite the title, is kung fu. Parents who came of age with the original will have fun looking for nostalgic takeaways ('wax-on, wax-off') in this incarnation.

Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith; The Pursuit of Happyness) relocates with his single mother, Sherry (Taraji Henson; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), from the American city of Detroit to Beijing and quickly becomes a punching bag for local youths. Dejected and alone, young Dre soon finds a reason to fight back in Meiying, his violin-playing schoolyard crush. Enter Han (Jackie Chan; above with Smith), a morose janitor with a drinking habit, who reveals himself to be an erstwhile kung fu master. The unlikely mentor-apprentice duo have a bumpy start but eventually bond over shared secrets and lots of training sequences, the results of which are put to the test in Dre's final battle against the head bully in a local tournament.

Budding action hero and second-generation Hollywood royalty (his parents, Will and Jada, produced the film), Jaden acquits himself well in the physically demanding action scenes (competently choreographed by Chan and Gang Wu); his transformation from bratty American tween to self-confident student of martial arts is made believable by Chan's gracious and subtly comic turn. Beijing and its environs are also given a shining supporting role as the vibrant backdrop to many a chase scene.

For an anthropomorphic take on themes of standing your ground and protecting your own, as well as a fun-filled cinematic hay-ride, director Wes Anderson (Rushmore) brings us the tale of Fantastic Mr Fox (Star Movies; today at 9pm).

Mr Fox (voiced by the ever-suave George Clooney; Ocean's Eleven), a dapper and literary fox (and 'reformed' barn thief), heads a zany family of four - his whip-smart wife, Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep; It's Complicated), oddball son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman; The Darjeeling Limited), and athlete nephew Kristofferson. Suffering a bout of mid-life angst, Mr Fox steals from his disagreeable human neighbours, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, incurring the wrath of the three farmers, who plot to kill Fox and his family. Enlisting the help of his animal friends, Mr Fox retaliates, but finds he has to dig deep, literally, for victory and survival.

In a youth market inundated with CGI-heavy live-action adventure films, Fantastic Mr Fox stands out visually for its well-crafted, old-school stop motion animation. Add to that a quirky story (loosely adapted from Roald Dahl's 1970 children's tale by the same name), top-calibre voice talent and Anderson's off-kilter humour, and you have a film that pops on as many levels as there are age groups.

Finally, Michael Mosley (left) is fast becoming the best-recognised face in popular science programming. The medically trained television journalist easily navigates, and translates for us laymen, the micro-miracles of human biology, neuroscience and medical advancements, all with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes. He's the Santa Claus of science education - unwrapping each fact, theory or case study like the offering of a present. In his latest series, Make Me (BBC Knowledge; Tuesdays at 10pm), Mosley asks whether modern science can make him smarter, stay awake longer and live forever - and proceeds to self-experiment, with the help of experts from relevant fields of study, to find out.