TV Films Fiona Rae

A Guide to the Week’s View­ing

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - By FIONA RAE

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.

Clue­less, Sun­day.

Ant-Man, Fri­day.

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