Screen Savors: Brave woman, wealthy wives and happy hustlers

Great movies to see this week on the small screen.

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story (photo credit: PR)
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
(photo credit: PR)
YES Docu is starting out 2016 with some terrific documentaries. One of the most unusual of these is Sara Hirsh Bordo’s A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, which airs on January 10 at 10 p.m. on YES Docu and YES VOD.
Velasquez is a bright, confident young woman who has had to deal with unimaginable bullying in her life and via the Internet because she was born with a rare neurological syndrome that makes it impossible for her to gain much weight and causes other problems, such as impaired vision.
She has never weighed more than 64 pounds (29 kilos), and her emaciated appearance has made her the butt of cruel jokes, including a YouTube video that labeled her the “World’s Ugliest Woman,” which she came across as a teenager. Even more shocking were the comments that accompanied the video, predictable perhaps but nonetheless indescribably mean spirited: People offered to burn her to death and questioned why her parents had not aborted her.
She was able to rebound from this blow and become a motivational speaker — you can find many clips from her speeches on YouTube — and is lobbying Congress to pass stronger laws against cyber bullying. She is not alone in this fight but because of her unique story, she is one of the most effective advocates for this cause.
On January 20 at 10 p.m. and January 23 at 10:40 p.m. on YES Docu, and on YES VOD, you can see The Oligarchs’ Wives: Russia, Rubles and Love. This isn’t some reality show but incisive social commentary from director Alexander Gentelev (co-directed by Victoria Kurakova), who has made several acclaimed documentaries about life in Russia.
Among them is Putin’s Games, about the corruption surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. One of the warmest spots in Russia, Sochi is too warm for good skiing and winter sports, but the games were held there because Putin has a house near there, and it suited him. Watching the intrepid and apparently fearless Gentelev expose all of this made for a compelling documentary. So it will certainly be interesting watching him investigate the lives of the oligarchs’ women, many of which have taken tragic turns.
Russia is at the center of another upcoming documentary, Red Army, a look at the Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team, told through interviews with its former players. It will air on January 17 at 10 p.m. and January 23 at 9:15 p.m., as well as on YES VOD.
You’ll have to wait until January 28 at 10 p.m. to see Respectable: The Mary Millington Story, a look at the famed British porn star of the 1970s. It will be rebroadcast on January 30 at 10:30 p.m. and will also be shown on YES VOD.
If you want to start the year off with a fun, popcorn movie, try Focus, which will premiere on HOT Gold on 10 p.m. on January 1. It stars Will Smith as a master con man who schools a gorgeous young woman (Margot Robbie, who played the wife in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street) in how to scam. Smith has been in a lot of lackluster movies over the last few years and this is no masterpiece, but it’s fun to see him when he seems like he’s enjoying himself, as he does here.
David O. Russell’s latest movie, Joy, just opened in theaters, and his 2013 movie American Hustle is airing on HOT Gold on January 15 at 10 p.m. American Hustle is a fact-based drama about several simultaneous long cons, perpetrated by Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale, who is almost unrecognizable with the weight he gained for this part and a strange toupee); his partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a stripper who pretends to be an uppercrust Brit; and unhinged FBI agent Richie di Maso (Bradley Cooper).
Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar for Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook, is miscast but entertaining as Rosenfeld’s wife.