TV Films: April 16, 2016

by Fiona Rae / 15 April, 2016
Including Silver Linings Playbook, Mud and Pride & Prejudice.
Silver Linings Playbook, Saturday.
Silver Linings Playbook, Saturday.


Austenland (TV2, 9.00pm). A hot mess in a frilly bonnet. Director Jerusha Hess (Napoleon Dynamite co-writer) is all over the place like Lydia Bennet’s drawers and one-shtick Jennifer Coolidge ruins what could have been a sweet romcom. Keri Russell almost holds it together as an Austen obsessive who blows her savings on a theme weekend at a stately pile in England; Bret McKenzie is her Mr Darcy. Or possibly the gardener. The movie is produced by, of all people, Twilight author ­Stephenie Meyer. Reader, do not tarry. (2013) 

Silver Linings Playbook (TV2, 10.55pm). After Jennifer Lawrence broke onto the scene playing teenagers in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games, it’s difficult to reconcile her in Silver Linings Playbook as a widow who has been assuaging her grief with sex (ditto she seemed too young for her role in American Hustle, or are we just showing our age?). Nevertheless, she and Bradley Cooper act – and dance – their asses off in this romcom with a mental-health message. Cooper plays the bipolar Pat who, after eight months in a facility, is obsessed with getting his wife back. Lawrence’s Tiffany agrees to help if he will partner her in a dance competition. Cooper, Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver were all Oscar-nominated for the movie and Lawrence won. (2012) ••

Friends with Kids (TV2, 3.15am Sunday). The indie directorial debut of actor-writer Jennifer Westfeldt, until recently 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) ••½


Skeptics: Sheen of Gold (Sky Arts, Sky 020, 7.45pm). Terrific documentary about one of the most interesting and visceral bands of the post-punk era in New Zealand. Palmerston North’s Skeptics produced an almighty racket in the 1980s and enjoyed controversy over their music video for AFFCO, which was filmed in an abattoir. Director Simon Ogston elicits comment from film-maker Stuart Page as well as musicians and writers around during those heady days. He tracks down all former band members and pays tribute to frontman David D’Ath, who died in 1990 of leukaemia. (2013) ••

Pride & Prejudice (Maori, 8.30pm). Keira Knightley, not-yet-one-and-20, and a brooding Matthew Macfadyen are the gorgeous leads of Joe Wright’s directorial debut, an earthy version of Jane Austen’s classic. A US critic bitched that Knightley was too pretty and everyone knows it’s Jane who is the belle of the ball, but despite the impediment of her looks, Knightley is a charming Lizzie, laughing at her neighbours and pouring scorn on pompous Darcy. Wright’s version is set apart by his depiction of the class difference between the Bennets and the Darcys. The Bennet’s rumpty house with its muddy yard (at one point a massive porker, bollocks swinging, wanders inside) is contrasted with posh Pemberley and Rosings, where Judy Dench presides. Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Tom Hollander, Rupert Friend and Rosamund Pike also star. (2005) ••

The Railway Man (Choice TV, 8.30pm). Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky muddles this biopic of Eric Lomax, a British soldier who was forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway – also known as the Death Railway – and was tortured for building a radio receiver. It’s perhaps one of the few films to address the long-term effects of PTSD: Colin Firth’s Lomax is an ageing absent-minded professor when he meets lonely Patti (Nicole Kidman, looking real for once) in 1980. However, his experiences, seen in flashback with Warhorse’s Jeremy Irvine as a young Lomax, have never left him and finally he embarks on a journey to confront his torturer. Although the film is rather inert, there are very good performances and a moving denouement. (2013) ••½

Mud, Monday.
Mud, Monday.


Mud (Duke, 8.30pm). In a very short time, young indie director Jeff Nichols has produced a body of work, albeit a small one, of depth and perception (“already ranks with the best American directors of his generation,” said Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers in a review of Nichols’ Midnight Special). He is concerned with lives out of kilter, and here tells a coming-of-age story about two boys who meet Mud (another excellent performance by Matthew McConaughey), a drifter hiding out on the Arkansas River. Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) is especially good as the young Ellis, confronting the trials of adult life while having his first crush. Reese Witherspoon, Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard and Nichols regular Michael Shannon also star. (2013) ••


A Good Day to Die Hard (TV3, 8.30pm). Despite – or perhaps because of – a small armoury’s worth of bullets, the fifth Die Hard is a leaden 97 minutes in which John McClane (a grizzled Bruce Willis) argues with his son Jack (Australian Jai Courtney) while dodging explosions in Russia. The action sequences are too set-piece and the script lacks the smarts of the previous flick. (2013) •½


Cartel Land (Rialto, Sky 039, 8.30pm). Matthew Heineman, a documentary-maker who has never been in a war zone, embeds himself with vigilante groups on either side of the Mexican border and winds up in the middle of a firefight. In the US, Arizona Border Recon are armed citizens patrolling for illegal immigrants, and in Mexico, militia group Autodefensas is trying to rid the Michoácan region of drug cartels. Heineman finds out that the US appetite for meth is fuelling the cartels, but corruption is also rife in Mexico involving militia, cartels and officials. Visceral and frightening; it seems a miracle he got out of it alive. (2015) ••••

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