February 16-22: Including The Pursuit of Happyness and Ngati

by Diana Balham / 07 February, 2013
An uplifting true story and Barry Barclay’s lovely debut feature Ngati.


The Pursuit of Happyness (TV2, 8.30pm). Uplifting true story about a homeless African-American, part one (see The Soloist, Sunday). This fact-based drama manages to avoid falling down the potholes of sentiment that litter the path of newly homeless Chris Gardner (played with grace and depth by Will Smith) and his son (played by Smith’s boy, Jaden). Today’s messages: bad things happen to good people, but having the right attitude and enough grit will get you through. Not nearly as hokey as it sounds. (2006) 3.5/5

The Pursuit of Happyness
The Pursuit of Happyness, Saturday

Ngati (Maori, 8.30pm). Like Boy and Whale Rider, Barry Barclay’s lovely debut feature Ngati is a glimpse into an isolated Maori community, but this time it’s 1948 and fictional Kapua is claustrophobically inward-looking. Everyone stops everything when a stranger – Aussie doctor Greg Shaw (Ross Girven) – comes to town. This gentle little film records a people realising they can take control of their destiny when the freezing works comes under threat. In the same way, Ngati was not only the first film to be written and directed by Maori but also the first “first nation” film made anywhere in the world. With Wi Kuki Kaa, Connie Pewhairangi, Judy McIntosh and Michael Tibble. (1987) 3.5/5

Felon (Choice, 8.30pm). A warning to anyone who feels the urge to whack the guy who breaks into your house. According to the rules of film, the whacker will be at his happiest when an intruder calls, sending him spiralling into hell where normal rules don’t apply after the whackee dies. A rather staged depiction of prison life is kept realistic by great performances by Stephen Dorff as the new inmate and Val Kilmer as the old hand. (2008) 3.5/5

Take Shelter (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). Is Curtis LaForche mad or just very careful? We’ve seen so much of Peter Elliott stalking about and delivering Civil Defence advice recently that it’s hard to tell. But the storms against which Curtis is shoring up his family may not be real. This excellent drama won the Critics’ Week Grand Prize at Cannes in 2011 and is built around Michael Shannon’s brilliantly gothic turn as disintegrating Curtis, whose urge to tunnel his way into the backyard isn’t normal, even in Ohio. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, whose first feature, Shotgun Stories (2007), also starred Shannon. (2011) 4/5

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (TV1, 11.35pm). It’s a gun and she’s not pleased to see him. Penélope Cruz is totally unhinged and recently divorced from Javier Bardem in this Woody Allen comedy that’s as far away from his beloved New York as you can get without leaving the planet. Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson are the Vicky and Cristina of the title, and because it’s Woody, everyone takes themselves very seriously and they talk a lot. Cruz is only on screen for 41 minutes, but bagged a best supporting actress Oscar. Bardem, clearly impressed, married her for real two years later. (2008) 3.5/5


All About Steve (TV3, 8.30pm). Sandra Bullock plays a verbally dribbling, lovestruck stalker and won a worst actress Golden Raspberry Award for this and then a best actress Oscar for The Blind Side days later. The scene where she falls down a mineshaft is a pretty good analogy for this unexplainable movie. (2009) 1.5/5

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Saturday

Breakfast on Pluto (Maori, 8.30pm). I always said Cillian Murphy looks like a girl. Director Neil Jordan obviously thought so, too, casting him as Patrick “Kitten” Braden, who soon realises that wanting to dress up as a woman in 70s Ireland is going to end in tears. London, glam rock and an adjacent career in the IRA beckon. There, he hooks up with a magician played by Stephen Rea, who infamously fell for a gender bender in The
Crying Game
(1992). This is a very different film, though: it’s outrageous and heartfelt, with an extraordinarily brave turn by Murphy. You won’t be surprised to hear that T-Rex’s Children of the Revolution is an integral part of the soundtrack. (2005) 3.5/5

Man on a Ledge (Sky Movies, Sky 020, 8.30pm). A completely daft thriller in which a bloke (Sam Worthington) spends about an hour and a half standing on a ledge zillions of storeys above New York. But wait, that’s not the half of it. While he’s enthralling the public and tying up the city’s emergency departments, his brother is stealing a diamond. And that’s not the half of it. Said one unconvinced reviewer, “The ledge is the movie’s most dynamic performer.” (2012) 2.5/5

The Soloist (TV3, 11.35pm). Uplifting true story about a homeless African-American, part two. This time, it’s mentally ill but musically gifted Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a cellist on Skid Row, who captures the attention of a story-hungry journalist (Robert Downey jnr). A swerve towards reality for director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice), but he kind of overdoes it. This is worthy and thought-provoking, but the seriousness doesn’t let up for a moment. A shot of Keira Knightley flouncing past in a muslin frock would have done wonders. (2009) 3/5


The Rocker (Four, 8.30pm). This comedy about an ageing drummer who gets another shot at stardom feels like something Jack Black turned down. Actually, it’s loosely based on the sad story of the Beatles’ original drummer, Pete Best, who can be seen at the beginning of this movie reading Rolling Stone magazine. Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from the US version of The Office) does his best with a weak script, but he’s rather a charming old groover, in spite of everything. (2007) 3/5

The Soloist
The Soloist, Sunday

Red (Prime, 8.30pm). Helen Mirren with a gun. Phwoarrrr! There have been lots of films made about retired agents/cops/crooks reforming for one last hurrah, but this one does it with such casual, classy ease, because of the calibre of its stars: Mirren, Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman. Bring out the big guns, you might say. And they certainly do. (2010) 3.5/5


Herbie: Fully Loaded (TV2, 8.00pm). Undemanding family entertainment starring Lindsay Lohan, who seems to spend most of her life fully loaded. She was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award as worst actress of the decade for this episode in the life of a ’63 VW Beetle that started out with The Love Bug 18 years before Lohan was born. (2005) 2.5/5

The Core (Four, 8.30pm). Oh, bollocks. The Earth’s core has stopped spinning and birds are acting crazy. We’re going to need some experts ending in “ologist” and some Nasa astronauts to fix it. Make sure one of them is pretty. Roger that: we’ll send two pretty ones (Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart) and some ordinary-looking ones. Watch carefully. Some day, a B-movie could save your life. (2003) 2.5/5

Films are rated out of 5: 1 (abysmal) to 5 (amazing).
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