A Guide to Holiday Season Viewing
SATURDAY DECEMBER 22
The Trial (Movies Vintage, Sky 035, 8.30pm). Based on Franz Kafka’s classic novel, The
Trial tells the travails of Josef K (Anthony Perkins), a man arrested by unidentified agents and charged with an unidentified crime. His case goes to a court whose rules are … you get the point. Director Orson Welles called it “the best movie I have ever made” – though some critics disagreed. He does, however, capture the disorientating bureaucracy with cinematographical skill and inventiveness. (1962)
SUNDAY DECEMBER 23 Moana (TVNZ 2, 7.00pm). Flight of the Conchords star
Jemaine Clement voices a giant, singing, dancing crab in this animation about Princess Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), who searches for demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) so that she can bring life back to the dying oceans around her home island, Motunui. A dozen or so Pacific cultures are rolled into one Disneyfied version that kids will love. (2016)
Sully (TVNZ 1, 8.15pm). A weighty drama that cuts between the emergency-landing of a US Airways flight on the Hudson River and the subsequent formal investigation into the pilots’ actions. The pilots (Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart) are easy heroes, while the men and women of the National Transportation Safety Board are nothing but nosey nitpickers. It’s another classic Clint Eastwood middlefinger to the man – what else? (2016)
A Quiet Place (Movies Premiere, Sky 030, 8.30pm). A horror movie made more terrifying by the near silence maintained throughout as a young family tries to hide in the wilderness from mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. (2017)
Frozen (TVNZ 2, 7.00am). The Disney animated kids’ film that launched the name of heroine Elsa into the 100 most-used baby names in 2014. As children started learning all the catchy songs by heart, to sing on any and all occasions, parents began to complain of what Time columnist Joel Stein called “cultural assault”. Forget the rabble-rousers, the film is just good, clean fun. On Christmas Eve, it could even provide you with a well-timed escape from your kids. (2013)
The Polar Express (TVNZ 2, 5.10pm). One for Santa agnostics. On the night before Christmas, Hero Boy (a motion-captured Tom Hanks, voiced by Daryl Sabara) is beginning to doubt the big man’s existence until a train suddenly arrives outside his bedroom window. It’s the Polar
Express and it’s heading for the North Pole. What follows is an enchanting and timeless story told in quasi-animation and performance-capture before it was cool. (2004)
Home Alone (Three, 7.00pm). Just as you dust off the box of decorations from the cupboard under the stairs, TV programmers around the country do the same with Christmas classics such as this one from John Hughes ( Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Chris Columbus ( Mrs Doubtfire). Home Alone 2: Lost in New York plays on the same channel on Christmas Day at 7.00pm, but be warned, Donald Trump makes an appearance. (1990)
You’ve Got Mail (TVNZ 1, 10.35am). As the internet gets older and crankier, You’ve
Got Mail comes off worse and worse. Meg Ryan and
Tom Hanks play the owners of two bookstores – one family-owned, the other a megastore – who anonymously befriend each other on the web. When they decide to meet up, Hanks’ character discovers who it is he’s fallen in love with (he’s the corporate guy) so, out of fear, stands her up. Then he continues to message her … It’s really quite a charming story. Just don’t think about it too much. (1998)
Lion (TVNZ 1, 7.00pm). Decades after getting lost in India at a young age and adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), Saroo (Dev Patel) embarks on a long and personal journey to his hometown to reunite with his family. It’s a true story only slightly palled by emotional manipulation. (2016)
What We Do in the Shadows (Māori
TV, 8.40pm). If Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s oddball comedy isn’t already a Kiwi Christmas tradition, then it should be. The mockumentary follows four vampires who live together in central Wellington as they navigate the minefield of flatting, partying and feeding on the blood of local nightclubbers. A TV spinoff by Waititi and Clement is coming to US channel FX in 2019. (2014)
Michael Jackson: This Is It (Prime, 9.25pm). See Michael Jackson strut his stuff in what proved to be his final performance. (2009)
The Pursuit of Happyness (TVNZ 1, 7.00pm). In this biographical drama, salesman Chris Gardner (Will Smith) goes in search of the American dream – and has more of a chase on his hands than most. While selling the last of his illbought bone-density scanners and studying for an unpaid internship, Gardner survives a year of homelessness with his son (Jaden Smith), sleeping rough in dosshouses and train stations. His wife (Thandie Newton) has already left him. But it’s Boxing Day, so expect a happy ending. (2006)
Boy (Māori TV, 9.00pm). The movie that put Taika Waititi on the map. (He has since directed such behemoths as Thor: Ragnarok.) It’s a
small-town New Zealand coming-of-age comedy about an 11-year-old boy (James Rolleston) who idolises Michael Jackson, and his absent father (Waititi). His dad is busy “doing some pretty important stuff”, aka a stint for robbery, and when he returns, isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. It’s a real charmer – and funny, too. (2010)
SATURDAY DECEMBER 29
Life of Pi (Three, 7.00pm). Here’s a lesson in how to film the unfilmable. Based on Yann Martel’s 2001 fantasy-adventure novel, director Ang Lee creates a world of his own in telling the story of Pi Patel, who survives 227 days on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger as his only companion. Life of Pi is a moving experience, especially for the more
spiritual among us. (2012)
Valkyrie (Three, 9.30pm). A fictionalised account of the the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler and trigger the takeover of the German state by the Reserve Army. Tom Cruise plays Claus von Stauffenberg, a Wermacht colonel who personally carried the bomb that narrowly missed its target. Production of the film was almost scuttled due to controversy over Cruise’s Scientology beliefs. (2008)
SUNDAY DECEMBER 30
The King’s Speech (Choice, 8.30pm) Public speaking is bad enough at the best of times. If you’re heir to the British throne and you’ve got a speech impediment, it must be hell. Such was the lot of Prince Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth), who, after his older brother abdicated, became King George VI. The movie focuses on his mission to overcome his stammer with the help of an eccentric Australian vocal therapist (Geoffrey Rush) – an unlikely friendship blossoms between them – and the King’s preparation for his momentous speech on the outbreak of World War II. (2010)
One Thousand Ropes (Māori TV, 8.30pm). Following on from his well-received O Le Tulafale (The Orator), the first Samoan-language feature film written and directed by a Samoan, director Tusi Tamasese delivers again, this time with the story of a father (Uelese Petaia) trying to reconnect with his daughter (Frankie Adams) while struggling with demons in his past. (2016)
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Prime, 7.30pm)
If you’re looking for somewhere to park your youngsters in the countdown to the New Year, in front of animated sciencefiction comedy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs might just be the spot. Aspiring inventor Flint (voiced by Bill Hader) finally solves the problem of the town’s food shortage with his
Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator – though he somewhat overcooks it. (2009)
Cast Away (Three, 8.35pm). In Forrest Gump, director Robert Zemeckis had Tom Hanks near-single-handedly entertain an audience
for over two hours. So why not put him on an island alone (well, except for Wilson) and see what he can do? (2000)
In the Fade (Rialto, Sky 039, 8.30pm). A German-language film ( Aus dem Nichts), which won the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, centres on a theme that is sadly more relevant by the day. Diane Kruger plays Katja, a German native, who, after dropping her Turkish immigrant husband (Numan Acar) and son (Rafael Santana) at work, returns to a crime scene ripped by a nail bomb. The terrorists are neo-Nazis and justice doesn’t come easily. (2017)
NEW YEAR’S DAY
Anchorman: The Legend of
Ron Burgundy (Bravo, 8.30pm). With almost-surprising skill, Will Ferrell holds together this bizarre comedy about a lead anchor and his news team of misfits (Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner) as they deal with the spectre of the first-ever female news anchor (Christina Applegate). The sequel was a bit of a flop, but a Ron Burgundy podcast is coming in 2019. (2004)
Collateral (Movies Greats, Sky 033, 8.30pm). A taut thriller in which Los Angelese cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) is forced to drive hitman Vincent (Tom Cruise) from job to job. Michael Mann ( Heat, Public Enemies) is no fool. He makes the characters and their conversations as interesting as the murders and chase scenes. When the murders start to take on a pattern, Max realises who’s next. (2004) Man on Wire (TVNZ Duke, 10.55pm). Even before the twin towers of the World
Trade Centre stood tall on the Manhattan skyline, Frenchman Philippe Petit decided that he would walk a tightrope between them. After years of planning, detailed meticulously in James Marsh’s documentary in real and reenacted footage, Petit achieved his insane goal in 1974. He walked and waltzed across the wire, suspended 411m above ground, with cheering and disbelieving crowds below. The authorities were not amused. Marsh deals with the tension of the build-up deftly, lending the feel of a heist film to the performance. (2008)
THURSDAY JANUARY 3
Casino Royale (Three, 7.00pm). Come for Daniel Craig’s first Bond outing, stay for Mads
Mikkelson’s evil genius. (2006)
The Truman Show (Movies Classics, Sky 034, 8.30pm) With a reality TV star in the White House, chances that we’re living in The Truman Show are on the up. The premise, if you somehow missed it, is that Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives a completely scripted life, only he doesn’t know it. Everyone he’s ever met is an actor: his neighbours, co-workers, best friend (Noah Emmerich) and wife (Laura Linney). His life is one of the most popular shows on the box. And it’s all controlled by the devilishly ingenious show producer Christof (Ed Harris), until a series of mishaps threaten to tear a hole in Truman’s world. (1998)
Films are rated out of 5: (abysmal) to (amazing).
Sully, December 23.
Boy, Boxing Day.
Life of Pi, December 29.
Valkyrie, December 29.
Anchorman, New Year’s Day.
The Truman Show, January 3.
In the Fade, New Year’s Eve.
Casino Royale, January 3.