TV Films December 22-28: Including Nanny McPhee and Boy

by Fiona Rae / 13 December, 2012
A Kiwi classic for Christmas, and a magical nanny who doesn't sing.


Boy, Christmas Day

The Last Emperor (Maori, 8.00pm). Barely a virtual tomato was lobbed at the screen by critics or audience when this mighty epic about the life of Pu Yi, the last of China’s emperors, was released. It won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. With John Lone as the ultimately ordinary man who gardened his way to inner peace. (1987) ****

Brideshead Revisited (TV1, 10.30pm). Brideshead Revisited revisited: a pointless movie version of the classic TV series from 1981: remember that first halcyon hour in which Charles Ryder and the gorgeous Sebastian Flyte cavort in golden June with a large teddy, a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey? Makes you come over all Evelyn Waugh just thinking about it. But nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, and good though this remake is, it would have turned Aloysius the bear sulky, requiring him to be spanked with an ivory-backed hairbrush with very stiff bristles. Matthew Goode and Ben Whishaw impersonate Charles and Sebastian. The latter has dark hair: a sacrilege that renders the whole enterprise null and void, in my humble opinion. (2008) ***


Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (TV3, 7.00pm). Think of them as rats. Then exterminate their little furry arses. (2009) **

Bad Santa (TV2, 8.55pm). Who better to play an alcoholic Father Christmas con man than the seriously wacky Billy Bob Thornton? (Well, Larry David, Bill Murray and Jack Nicholson might have been, but they turned it down.) It’s a pity that this wasn’t scheduled to screen on Boxing Day: it would have been a great palate-cleanser after too many heartwarming Christmas movies. Thornton took the opportunity to get genuinely trolleyed during Bad Santa filming, just to get into the spirit of things. (2003) ***½

You, Me and Dupree (TV3, 8.50pm). About the worst thing Owen Wilson’s been in. A terribly laboured three’s-a-crowd comedy in which Wilson rehashes his increasingly boring slacker persona as the best friend who just won’t leave. You can make him disappear, however. One press of a button and poof, he’s gone! (2006) **

Corpse Bride, Sunday

Corpse Bride (TV2, 10.45pm). Tim Burton gathers buddies Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and a stunning array of other acting royalty around him in this classic death-warmed-up stop-motion animation about a 19th-century groom who accidentally marries a lass who is … not as alive as she once was. Gleeful, delightful and not strictly for kids, unless they have a morbid fascination with the other side. (2005) ****


Nanny McPhee (TV3, 7.00pm). It takes a brave actor to let the make-up department go as far as they did here. Emma Thompson goes for the full “think of me as a witch” look as the eponymous nanny, with hairy moles, a huge hooter and a shocking overbite. But Thompson’s no fool: she wrote the screenplay knowing full well that, as magic happens, she miraculously gets less ugly. Great fun. (2005) ***½

Nights in Rodanthe (TV1, 8.30pm). Two faded hotties (Richard Gere and Diane Lane) show that getting older is no barrier to starring in an excessively syrupy romcom. They find each other at last; they can’t believe they have managed to live so long without each other; will they walk off down the attractive North Carolina beach into the sunset together? You could turn the sound off and invent your own drippy dialogue, you’ll have seen this stuff so many times. (2008) **½

Four Holidays (TV2, 9.20pm). 

A Christmas comedy about the joy of hating your family. The very tall Vince Vaughn and the very short Reese Witherspoon might be able to see eye to eye as loving couple Brad and Kate, but nobody else does. A mean, measly and distinctly unfestive offering. (2008) **½


Nanny McPhee Returns (TV3, 7.20pm). Big Nose is back. Still the same nanny magic, with a warty Emma Thompson whooping it up, and although this is essentially the same film with different ghastly children, the addition of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bill Bailey, Ewan McGregor and Maggie Smith make McPhee’s lessons easy to take. (Aka Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.) (2010) ***

Boy (Maori, 8.30pm). It would be an unpatriotic act to dislike this film, which speaks so truly of our Kiwiness and our certainty that we can now celebrate it. Taika Waititi, who has quietly become a bit of a taonga, isn’t afraid to match side-splitting moments with achingly sad ones. Scene for scene – he knows we’ll follow Boy’s story to the end. (2010) ****½

New in Town (TV3, 9.05pm). Old in Movieland. Yet another retelling of the hoary old fish-out-of-water city-slicker-in-the-country story. Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick jnr try hard as the bad-ass Miami businesswoman and her hairy Minnesota love interest but the only point of difference here is an extreme climate. (2009) **½


2012 (TV2, 7.30pm). Disaster master Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day) brings us to the brink again with this cataclysm epic about solar storms and the Earth’s core heating up like a microwave. Longer and even more incoherent than oblivion ought to be, but it sure looks good. The excellent cast includes John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt and Chiwetel Ejiofor. According to Western doomsday theory, the game really will be up at the end of this year – so stay tuned. (2009) **½

Apocalypto (Maori, 9.30pm). These days, we know a little more about what goes on in Mel Gibson’s head, so it’s easier to understand why he chooses to make movies like this. In this mercilessly bloody account of the fall of the Mayan empire, Gibson chronicles every gore-splattered moment on its way down. Historically accurate, apparently, but how would you know? (2006) ***½


Marley & Me (TV3, 8.30pm). A sporadically funny meditation on how one large and completely untrainable pet can become essential to a family’s story. Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are the couple who invite disaster, in the shape of Marley, into their lives. He is played by 22 different golden labs, and the real John Grogan, who wrote the book on which this movie is based, is a cocker spaniel owner. A word of warning: don’t get too attached to the dog … (2008) ***


Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (TV2, 7.30pm). In a small village in the Shire a young hobbit named Frodo … you know the rest. That Tolkien dude is so hot right now. (2001) ****

The Marine 2 (Four, 8.30pm). Temuera Morrison gets second billing playing yet another bad brown person in this action trash set in Thailand. (2009) **½

Films are rated out of 5: * (abysmal) to ***** (amazing).
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