TV Films Fiona Rae
A Guide to the Week’s Viewing
SATURDAY DECEMBER 1
Friends with Kids (Choice TV, 8.30pm). The indie directorial debut of actor-writer Jennifer Westfeldt, once also known as Jon Hamm’s long-term partner. She is exploring what kids do to relationships and perhaps alternative ways to approach the need to procreate, but comes to a depressingly predictable conclusion. Nevertheless, it’s worth it for the dream comedy cast of Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Maya Rudolph, Adam Scott and Westfeldt, whose script is pithy, clever and sometimes downright dirty. (2011)
Phantom Thread (Movies Premiere, Sky 030, 8.30pm). Paul Thomas Anderson weaves a warped fairy tale for his second film with Daniel Day-Lewis, about a frock prince in an ivory tower who is rescued in the strangest of ways. There are an awful lot of levels to Reynolds Woodcock’s house of couture in London, which are ascended by Woodcock, his sister, Cyril (the wonderful Lesley Manville), his seamstresses and, finally, his new muse, Alma (Vicky Krieps), whom he meets in a cafe. In another extraordinary performance, which he says is his last, Day-Lewis gives the aesthete Woodcock a light, clipped accent and folds his long limbs in like an insect. He expands when he meets Alma, however, and is suddenly hungry, ordering a massive breakfast. In fact, food becomes the surprising way that Alma finally captures his heart, although not in the way you might think. The dresses are lovely (Mark Bridges won an Oscar for the costumes, his second after The Artist), and the score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is a triumph. (2017)
Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot (Rialto, Sky 039, 8.30pm). Possibly
the most charming, heartwarming, lovely thing you’ll see all year, starring Dustin Hoffman, Judi Dench and a lot of tortoises. This Dahl adaptation, which screened at Christmas 2014 in the UK, is written by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer and narrated by James Corden.
“An utterly, completely, inescapably beguiling adaptation,” said the Guardian. (2015)
The Interview (TVNZ 2, 8.45pm). The comedy movie that went all the way to the top of two governments: North Korea called it an act of war and after US screenings were cancelled due to threats from an anonymous hacker group, Barack Obama commented that Sony had “made a mistake”. Working from a script by former Daily Show writer Dan Sterling, directors Seth Rogen and Evan
Goldberg do tread a thin line between bad taste and sheer American arrogance, especially when they start squashing North Koreans in a tank. Rogen and James Franco are the producer and presenter of a lightweight entertainment show who are asked to “take out” Kim Jong-un ( Fresh Off the Boat’s Randall Park) when they unexpectedly get an interview. Pratfalls, toilet humour and dick jokes follow, but at least Kim’s downfall isn’t entirely predictable. (2014)
SUNDAY DECEMBER 2
Hidden Figures (Three, 8.30pm). A beautifully made sledgehammer from writerdirector-producer Theodore Melfi ( St Vincent) – but then, the African American female mathematicians who endured the racism of 1960s Nasa would probably say that segregated bathrooms and coffee pots weren’t even the worst of it. There are lovely performances from Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae as maths geniuses Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who are working at Nasa as “computers”, but who become integral to sending John Glenn into space in 1962. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali also star and the Pharrell Williams soundtrack is a treat. (2016)
Clueless (Bravo, 8.30pm). The valley girl movie that is remembered more than 20 years later for the fashion and slang. According to Vanity Fair, American teens and pre-teens rushed to the mall in search of plaid skirts and knee-high socks after seeing Clueless, and the term “As if!” entered the lexicon. It’s all the work of Amy Heckerling, director of Fast Times at Ridgemont
High, who mashed together the positive lead characters of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Jane Austen’s Emma. (1995)
Charlie Wilson’s War (Māori
TV, 8.30pm). The heavy-duty triumvirate of Tom Hanks (producer), Aaron Sorkin (writer) and Mike Nichols (director) make the story of the American congressman who helped mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan fight the Soviets more entertaining than
it should be. Hard-drinking, womanising Texan politician Wilson becomes an exuberant charmer in Hanks’ hands, rather than the alcoholic lecher that he was, and Julia Roberts is feisty businesswoman and political operative Joanne Herring, who pushed him. The movie is ambivalent about how all this American interference created a worse situation in Afghanistan in the long run. (2009)
TUESDAY DECEMBER 4
The International (TVNZ Duke, 8.30pm). Clive Owen is a kind-of homeless James Bond in this Tom Tykwer thriller, and instead of coming up against some crazy villain with a death ray, he and lawyer Naomi Watts are after … a bank. After the global financial crisis, this is perfectly reasonable, but to make the movie more exciting, Tykwer returns to his Run Lola Run days and sends Owen and Watts on an international chase through Berlin, Luxembourg and Milan, culminating in an excellent denouement at the Guggenheim Museum. (2009)
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 5
Die Hard (Three, 8.45pm). Best. Christmas. Movie. Ever. (1988)
THURSDAY DECEMBER 6
GoldenEye (Three, 7.30pm). Kiwi director Martin Campbell seems to have the knack of rebooting Bond: Pierce Brosnan’s first film as 007 was the highest-grossing Bond film since 1979’s Moonraker and was a critical success to boot; in 2006, Campbell would do the same for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. It’s the beginning of the era of the more self-aware Bonds – sure, there are great stunts, a beautiful companion (Izabella Scorupco) and a villain (Sean Bean) and his sadistic sidekick with a stupid name (Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp), but previous Bonds would never have referred to Bean’s Janus as “no less than the 12th megalomaniacal madman striving for world domination that I’ve met”, nor be told by Q (Judi Dench, also in her first Bond) that he is a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War”. (1995)
FRIDAY DECEMBER 7
Notting Hill (Maori TV, 8.30pm). Hugh Grant and his floppy hair, again. The follow-up to Four Weddings and a Funeral, also written by Richard Curtis, is a slicker affair under the direction of South African Roger Michell, although Rhys Ifans runs away with the movie and the pairing of Grant and Julia Roberts still seems implausible. (1999)
Ant-Man (TVNZ 2, 8.35pm). A heist movie with superhero suits. Paul Rudd’s MacGyverlike thief becomes king of the ants in an improbable series of events involving genius scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his genius daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who, as Marvel fans will know, later becomes the Wasp. The script could be a bit sharper and maybe it would have been if Edgar Wright, who was supposed to direct, hadn’t left the project. Nevertheless, there are some nice Land of the Giants- style effects and an “epic” battle on a Thomas the Tank Engine playset. (2015)
Phantom Thread, Saturday.
Hidden Figures, Sunday.
Die Hard, Wednesday.
Charlie Wilson’s War, Sunday.