By Dean Robbins
‘Mildred Pierce’ handles its source material way too politely
HBO turns the James M. Cain novel/Joan Crawford movie “Mildred Pierce” into a prestige project: a five-part miniseries starring Kate Winslet as a beleaguered mom-turned-businesswoman in the 1930s (Sunday, 8 p.m.). The story is your basic trashy melodrama, but director Todd Haynes treats it with misguided tastefulness. The pace is slow (I smell Emmys), the palette is muted (I smell Emmys), and Winslet plays her part with excruciating earnestness (boy, do I smell Emmys). Yes, “Mildred Pierce” will win its Emmys. The rest of us will have to suffer for it, though.
‘Scream of the Banshee’ Saturday, 8 p.m. (SyFy)
Anybody who loves bad monster movies, like me, will thrill to the opening scenes in “Scream of the Banshee.” The TV movie begins amid chanting in 12th century Ireland, natch, where bearded knights capture a bloodthirsty creature in a mystical metal box.
Fast forward to the present day. Lauren Holly leads a team of researchers in cataloguing ancient relics — the kind of team whose jokey bonhomie pretty much says “most of us will be dead by the second commercial break.” They find the box, open it, and discover a toothy severed head with the power to scream so loudly that blood drips out of their ears.
Holly, following genre conventions, under-reacts to this extraordinarily horrible event: “There’s got to be a plausible explanation.”
Well, probably not. But then again, plausibility would spoil all the fun. CV