They really nailed the casting on those kids right? Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts (Sunday, January 2, 7pm, TVNZ 2) brings (almost) the whole gang back together for a sentimental celebration of the seminal children’s classics. It’s the third-highest grossing film franchise of all time. Potter’s universe has made more money than all the Bond films, a little less than Star Wars and only half what the Marvel movies made – although Iron Man and his masked, superhero mates needed twice as many films to do it. It’ll be sappy for sure, probably a bit stilted and awkward, but hey – it’s also bound to be fun and one assumes many tributes will be paid to the real star of the films – R.I.P Alan Rickman.
* This Way Up: Aisling Bea’s thought-provoking, dark comedy finally reaches NZ
* Beauty and the Beast: At 30, it is still the greatest animated movie of all time
* Station Eleven: Audacious, addictive new pandemic drama comes to Neon and SkyGo
* The Lost Daughter: Netflix’s haunting film might be the best Elena Ferrante yet
Captain Phillips (Tuesday, December 28, 8.40pm, Three) is a tense thriller inspired by the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Winner of six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Barkhad Abdi in his genuinely terrifying debut performance. Tom Hanks anchors the film with typical gravitas and Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum) points his long lenses at the action from surreptitious places, giving a sense of claustrophobia, adding intimacy and realism to the naturally nerve-wracking narrative.
Why not start the new year with a good ol’ Aotearoa road trip? It’s risky to remake the classics, but Pork Pie (Saturday, January 1, 9.05pm, Prime) managed to please new audiences and not annoy those for whom the original is a beloved classic. As charismatic as they are chaotic, Dean O’Gorman and James Rolleston lead a who’s who of Kiwi character actors on a merry chase from the top to the bottom of our long island nation in a stolen yellow mini. A delight.
If you haven’t seen this documentary yet – you’re in for a treat. Paul Sorenson spent 40 years teaching, and more importantly, learning from his beloved canine companions. A retired kiwi farmer and basically a dog whisperer, he spends his time helping the next generation better understand their four-legged friends and, in this heartwarming film, he reflects on a life dedicated to dogs. Old Dog (Sunday, January 2, 7.30pm, Māori TV) shows us we have many misconceptions about dogs (and people) with down-to-earth humility and dry, wry humour.
It’s a smart social experiment in increasingly difficult economic times, but also it’s just a great title. Lodgers For Codgers (Thursday, December 30, TVNZ 1, 8pm) is an English show where millennials move in with retirees to save money and “learn from each other”. Like Lucy (25), who runs her own business (a social enterprise promoting veganism and mental health) and moves out of her van to board with musician Merv (70) and his wife Viv (67), a retired teacher. Everyone’s hopeful peace and harmony will blossom, but you can just tell that Lucy isn’t going to clean up after herself and intergenerational war is right on the cusp of exploding.
If watching The Great has piqued your interest for historical Russian melodrama with a modern, comedic spin, try The Death Of Stalin (Saturday, January 1, 9pm, Māori TV). It’s funnier than it sounds. An Armando Iannucci (Alan Partridge, The Thick Of It, Veep) satire starring Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs and Michael Palin, it’s a twisted farce about the scramble for power following the sudden death of one of the all-time great mass murderers. If you love the dark comedy of Succession, this is for you.
It began with a Kaikōura adventure. Then they visited Stewart Island in the middle of winter to get that exploratory experience. This week, Uncharted: New Zealand (Monday, January 3, 8.30pm, Three) takes Tim Roxborogh and Carolyn Taylor to Wellington’s Weta Workshop and urban eco sanctuary Zealandia, before heading over the strait to neck some Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. To be fair, much of this ground has been charted before, but it’s always nice to take a tour of our unique home Aotearoa and see people discover it for the first time.
This latest iteration of War Of The Worlds (Tuesday, December 28, 8.30pm, Rialto) is loosely based on the H.G. Wells classic, but goes beyond the book to explore post-apocalypse life and the survivors of the alien massacre. Whether it’s a book, a radio play, a film or a TV show, it’s a terrific yarn, and this version (which has recently shot its third season), is set across France and England, stars Gabriel Byrne and Daisy Edgar-Jones and has proved popular with fans of shows like The Walking Dead and Kingdom.
A one-on-one interview series conducted by Julian Wilcox, Indigenous 100 (Monday, January 3, 7.30pm, Māori TV) speaks to leading thinkers about their perspectives and insights, with the hope of inspiring, motivating and providing actionable tools to effect real change. These are conversations we need to be having and voices we can learn from. In episode one, Wilcox speaks to Pania Newton, the public spokesperson for Soul (Save Our Unique Landscapes), about her life and the work she’s done to protect her village at Ihumātao.