Your eyes can be forgiven for rolling at the thought of another renovation show, but The rescue of Carlos Reno (Tuesday, February 20, TVNZ 1) is less about fighting for tiles and more about helping those who help others. In search of noble and unsung heroes from small communities, former All Black Carlos Spencer and his team secretly give a room in their house a makeover. Then there’s the big reveal where our deserving recipient discovers that all their hard work is deeply appreciated and hopefully there are tears of joy and we all share a scone and a cup of tea in a heartwarming finale.
* In or out – the rules of the game for a new UK drama
* Ragdoll: Why TVNZ’s new dark drama is the best British crime series since Luther
* Amazon’s Reacher, TVNZ’s Bel-Air, Netflix’s Inventing Anna among February must-watches
After The dark world nearly sucking all the joy out of the Thor franchise, Marvel turned to Taika Waititi to give the overly serious Avenger a makeover. He exceeded all expectations and did Thor: Ragnarok (Tuesday, February 8, 8:40 p.m., TVNZ 2) one of the funniest movies in the franchise and has grossed over $800 million at the box office. It’s a superhero movie that embraces silliness and delivers more laughs than any sci-fi action has right. Forget Thor and Hulk, Rachel House nearly stole the movie, taking on an off-leash Jeff Goldblum, and among many Easter eggs for local viewers – a Kiwi-accented alien (played by Waititi) feels like a joke nothing only for us.
With the most advanced cameras in the world, filming schedules that span years and sky-high budgets, BBC Earth productions always show us something we’ve never seen before, sometimes things no human has never seen. Attenborough’s Green Planet (Monday, February 14, 8 p.m., TVNZ 1) promises Planet Earth from the perspective of plants where a single life can last a thousand years. From the redwood to the sprinkler cucumber (Ecballium elaterium), from the desert to the ocean, let the soft tones of the world’s best nature storyteller amaze you with never-before-seen wonders.
An unforgettable ride, Class Action Park (Friday, Feb. 11, 8:30 p.m., SoHo) is the story of a New Jersey amusement park that was a real death trap. Considered a “no rules” space, it opened in 1978 and was hugely popular with teenagers who stocked up on beer before getting into bumper cars and doing rides like the Cannonball Loop, despite the risk of losing teeth – or worse. Dreamed up by ‘entrepreneur’ Eugene Mulvihill and never subject to safety standards or the oversight of actual engineers, the world’s most dangerous theme park has been the target of multiple lawsuits but has gone on to put thousands people in life-threatening situations year after year.
From his cancer diagnosis at 38 until his death at 70, revered South American filmmaker Hector Babenco made cinema his medicine. His last request was to be the protagonist of his own movie and his partner Barbara Paz fulfilled this wish in Babenco: Tell Me When I Die (Tuesday February 8, 9:30 p.m., Sky Arts), a beautiful examination of life and rumination on death. He talks about his fears, shares his regrets, and reflects on how filmmaking has extended his life figuratively and literally. An intimate elegy, this moving film also features Willem Dafoe and Barbra Streisand.
It’s very different from the 1969 John Wayne classic. Partly because the Coen brothers’ version of The real courage (Saturday, February 12, 8:40 p.m., Māori TV) sticks more closely to the book, partly because everything the Coen brothers do is a bit “different,” but also because Jeff Bridges is not John Wayne. He is drunker, dirtier, much more brutal and much more difficult to understand. Matt Damon is even more despicable as his Texas Rangers sidekick, but they’re both edged out by the gorgeous Hailee Steinfeld in the lead role. A Western without punches, like all of Coen’s films, it’s a mix of uncomfortable laughs, genuine suspense, surprising twists, stellar performances and cinematic beauty.
A three-part examination of the rapid rise of drug distribution in the 1980s – episodes of Narcos of Liverpool (Thursday, February 10, 8:30 p.m., Sky 5) are titled Heroin, Ecstasy and Crack Cocaine. As supply chains opened up from Afghanistan and South America, a growing global drug trade began to seep into Europe. In the port of Liverpool, plunged into unemployment, the conditions were ripe for the drug epidemic to rage. Featuring interviews with top dealers and dramatic re-enactments, this is a series that could (and probably will) be replicated in any number of locations around the world.
While some see it as an insightful reflection of isolation that can lead to antisocial behavior, others see it as an endorsement of incel culture and a glorification of violence as a justifiable response to sadness. Either way, most people agree Joker (Sunday, Feb. 13, 8:30 p.m., Three) is a well-made film with an impressive performance from Joaquin Phoenix. It emulates 70s movies like Taxi driver, rather than following a traditional comic book tone, a reference made all the more heavy by Robert De Niro playing the Joker antagonist. Or is the Joker the antagonist? Who is the villain in a movie with only villains?