| TV Films Fiona Rae
A Guide to the Week’s Viewing
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 2
Frozen (TVNZ 2, 5.10pm). It took until 2013 for a woman to direct a Disney animated feature and what did she do? Only went and made the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee (who wrote the screenplay) also became the first woman to direct a feature that made more than $1 billion at the box office and she did it with an annoyingly catchy song and a reimagined snow queen fairy tale about two sisters. Lee has subsequently written the screenplay for A Wrinkle in Time and will again direct, with Chris Buck, Frozen 2. (2013) Everest (Three, 7.00pm). Filmed in splendid Imax, which in no way cheapens the true story of the 1996 Everest expedition that went agley and resulted in the deaths of eight climbers, including New Zealander Rob Hall. Jason Clarke plays Hall and Jake Gyllenhaal is the swaggering rival tour operator, Scott Fischer. The film makes the point about overcrowding on Everest – it is a little crammed itself, with additional cast members Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington, Naoko Mori, Emily Watson and Ingvar Sigurðsson as well as
Keira Knightley playing Rob’s pregnant wife Jan, and Robin Wright as Brolin’s spouse. (2015)
Curse of the Golden Flower (Maori TV, 8.45pm). The most visually stunning, epic and brutal soap opera ever committed to film. House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou marries martial arts, Lord of the Rings-level battle scenes and internecine plotting in the Tang Dynasty: Emperor Ping comes home from the war to his wife, Gong Li, who is sleeping with his stepson, Liu Ye, who’d rather be running away with his secret lover, Li Man … and so on. Lurid, staged, spectacular. (2006)
A Walk Among the Tombstones (TVNZ Duke, 9.00pm). At this point, the Liam Neeson Action Figure is interchangeable, whether it’s Taken 2
(see Sunday) or this neo-noir potboiler directed by Scott Frank ( The Lookout). It should be a western with that title (it is based on a 1992 novel by crime writer Lawrence Block), but Neeson is on the mean streets of New York, attempting an American accent and working as an unlicensed private investigator. His latest job is tracking down the men who murdered a drug trafficker’s wife and just about the only surprise here is post- Downton
Dan Stevens as the guy. There are almost no women, except for dismembered ones. (2014)
GI Jane (TVNZ 2, 11.40pm). Unlike Alien’s Ellen Ripley and Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott’s GI Jane is hardly a great leap forward for the sisterhood. A pumped-up Demi Moore is selected as a test case for Navy Seal training; the men are against her, particularly the sadistic Master Chief (Viggo Mortensen), and there are behind-the-scenes political machinations willing her to fail. Of course she doesn’t, but is it a triumph? More an apologia for US Army fire and fury. (1997)
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 3
The Hunger Games (TVNZ 2, 8.30pm). Television is the opium of the people in this dystopian world where America is divided into 12 districts of varying poverty ruled by the super-rich 1% in the “Capitol”. Seabiscuit director Gary Ross treads another fine line when it comes to the actual Hunger Games – a Survivor- on-steroids, kids-killing-kids reality show. There’s that breakout performance from Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and special mention goes to Stanley Tucci as the oleaginous TV show host. There are great turns from Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz too. (2012)
Taken 2 (Three, 8.30pm). To lose one family member may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness, Liam Neeson. His Bryan is just trying to have a life, but what’s a deadly former CIA agent to do when a mobster (Rade Šerbedžija) targets his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace) in revenge for killing the bad guy’s son in the first movie? (2012) The Fighter (Maori TV, 8.30pm). Mark Wahlberg’s labour of love is less about Massachusetts boxer Micky Ward than about Ward and his brother, Dicky. Christian Bale is incredible as the crack-addicted ex-boxer and both he and the brilliant Melissa Leo, who plays the boys’ heartbroken and manipulative mother, won supporting actor Oscars. (2010)
Nocturnal Animals (Movies Extra, Sky 031, 8.30pm). Tom Ford may have outdone himself in this multilayered psychological thriller in which the surface sheen of Amy Adams’ life is disrupted by a manuscript she receives from her ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal. As Adams reads, Ford depicts the violent, Badlands story within and another strand flashes back to her early life with Gyllenhaal. Based on the 1993 novel by Austin Wright, the movie has echoes of Lynch and the Coen brothers, but Ford’s obsessive aesthetic can be choking. Nevertheless, it was nominated for a slew of awards, including an Oscar nod for Michael Shannon, the grand jury prize at Venice for Tom Ford, and a Golden Globe win for Aaron Taylor-Johnson. (2016)
Burn Burn Burn (Rialto, Sky 039, 8.30pm). A charming debut from British director Chanya Button (whose next project is Vita & Virginia, about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West) in which two friends are sent on a road trip to scatter the ashes of their dead friend. It’s slightly annoying that he (Jack Farthing, Poldark’s evil George Warleggan) is directing the whole thing via recordings, but that’s millennials for you. Laura Carmichael ( Downton Abbey) and Chloe Pirrie are the two friends, and there are some terrific cameos from Julian Rhind-Tutt and Alison Steadman. (2015)
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 7
Speed (Three, 8.30pm). Cinematographer Jan de Bont’s first film as director is also still his best; it probably helped that quip-meister Joss Whedon was an uncredited script doctor who wrote nearly all the dialogue and changed Keanu Reeves’ character from a hotshot to a polite, earnest cop. It was Sandra Bullock’s break-out role; Dennis Hopper chews the scenery; and a bus jumps a gap in the freeway. What’s not to love? (1994)
Curse of the Golden Flower, Saturday.
Nocturnal Animals, Sunday.
The Fighter, Sunday.