Staff Picks: Film & Television on DVD

Many of our staff are avid cinephiles – here are their latest film and TV recommendations…

Cover imageDrive.
Everything about Drive screams stylism from the Scorpion jacket that Ryan Goslings lead character wears, to the fonts in the opening credits, the synthy 80’s soundtrack, the neon streets and the minimalist dialogue. Gosling plays ‘The Driver’ a stunt-man by day, who moonlights by night as a getaway driver for various criminal enterprises. Drawn to his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) & her young son, things become complicated when her husband returns from jail owing protection money from his time inside. Wary of threats to Mulligan & her son Driver agrees to help her husband in a heist to pay back the money, but things take a turn for the worse… Adapted from the James Sallis Neo-Noir novel, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and Gosling apparently pared down the originally sparse script even further, eschewing dialogue and exposition for moody atmosphere. In spite of its title ‘Drive’ isn’t really an action movie, and there really isn’t even that much driving. It’s more of a slow character study interspersed with some admittedly pretty full-on violence, a kind of European ‘art-house’ take on an American action movie, similar in some ways to Joe Wright’s Hanna. How much you enjoy it probably depends on how much you appreciate it for its style. Not the action movie that it may seem to be but worth watching. (Mark)

Cover imageThe war you don’t see. A film by John Pilger
You have to be in the mood for a John Pilger doco; he pulls no punches and always manages to drag the skulduggery and corruption that invariably underlies powerful elites into the light for censorious inspection. ‘The War You Don’t See’ is no exception, the theme for this film being the role the media plays in the perpetuation of the war machine. It is chilling to understand the colossal scale of civilian casualties that are regularly downgraded in importance to the point that they don’t rate as news at all. Pilger ruthlessly interviews, among others, the head of BBC News regarding the irresponsibility of the mainstream media’s biased reporting, meanwhile, and a DVD extra features an in depth and revealing interview with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange prior to his arrest. (John)

Cover imageThe protectors. Series 1.
Danish TV must be pretty good judging by exports like The Killing & now The Protectors. The show follows 3 Police Officers, Jasmina, Rasmus, & Jonas who apply to join PET (the Danish Secret Service) where they become bodyguards. While you get involved in the private lives of all the characters, Cecilie Stenspil’s Jasmina draws the most focus as the team’s female agent, and as a non Danish native struggling with her family’s expectations & the often volatile ethnic tensions at play in Denmark. The ‘Missions’ themselves range from protecting important members of Government and VIPs from stalkers, to domestic hate groups and foreign terrorists. While its story and structure is not as original as The Killing, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable mix of 24 styled action and focused character development. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageUpside down: the Creation Records story.
Gripping may be an odd adjective to use to describe the story of the evolution of a record label — nevertheless, the description holds. This is a fascinating piece of pop culture history that tells the story of Alan McGee, a drug fuelled visionary, and Creation Records, the label he ran from 1983-1999. The label pretty much created the shoegaze genre, featuring artists such as The Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver, and was then inspired by the Manchester acid-house scene and experienced huge success with Primal Scream before finally going down in a blaze of glory with the overwhelming success of Oasis. An engrossing story and some very cool music. (John)

Cover imageGame of thrones. The complete first season.
Adapted from the first installment of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice & Fire ‘Game Of Thrones’ succeeds on multiple levels. The story begins with Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark, who is called upon by his old friend the King to assume the position of the King’s Hand after the mysterious death of the previous Hand. Reluctant to abandon his family & position he nevertheless is drawn into service, but that is just the beginning of his problems as various factions vie for power in the Kings court, and across the sea an exiled Prince trades his sister for an alliance that could help him regain the Throne. The quality of the show’s production values is evident everywhere, as the world of Westeros looks amazing in every detail. Most of the trappings that cause non-fantasy fans to avoid this kind of thing are absent, at least for now, with the characters speaking in fairly modern terms, with mysterious creatures & dragons merely hinted at. More than anything the first season resembles a political drama along the lines of The Tudors, or Rome, but being HBO there is, of course, plenty of violence & sex along the way. The acting is also uniformly good, with Sean Bean a standout as the noble Stark struggling with the double-dealings of Court intrigue. Lena Heady is also excellent as the manipulative Queen Cersei, and Peter Dinklage steels every scene as the droll imp Tyrion. Recommended, even if Fantasy-fiction is not your thing at all. (Mark)

Cover imageRed Dog.
And the Oscar … should have gone to “Red Dog” who roamed the mines of Australia for many years. Based on a combination of fact and “a good old yarn” this story is funny, sad, outrageous and much more. Have a hanky ready for both tears and laughter!! (Liz)

Cover imageMidnight in Paris.
Owen Wilson is a disillusioned Hollywood screen writer, & would be novelist, on holiday in Paris with his shallow girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) & her crass parents. While they shop, he revels in the history of Paris in the magical 1920’s, the jazz-age of his literary idols. Sure enough, a magical old fashioned car soon transports him back to his favourite era where he meets Hemingway (who offers to show his novel to Gertrude Stein), the Fitzgerald’s, Dali, and others, falling for Picasso’s lover. Able to return to his favourite time each night at midnight he revels in the array of famous people he meets yet also begins to discover that every generation has its ideal golden age to which they would like to return. Gentle charming fantasy that won Allen an Oscar for the screenplay. Wilson is surprisingly good as the lead, and the supporting cast shines with Kathy Baker great as Gertrude Stein & Corey Stall hilarious as an intense Hemingway. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageAlan Partridge. Mid morning matters.
For many fans Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge and the success of the character has been both a curse and a blessing for the hugely talented British comedian. After an eight year break, the sad, infuriating and incredibly funny character was reawakened for a series of 12 x eleven minute web-only episodes and this DVD features those pieces edited into 6 x TV episodes. All the action takes place at the broadcast desk of Radio Norwich, where Partridge hosts a daily chat show called ‘Mid-Morning Matters’ aided by ‘Sidekick Simon’. This is a return as humorous and sadly poignant as a fan could hope for. (John)

Cover imageContagion.
In ‘Contagion’ Steven Soderbergh takes on pandemics the same way Traffic took on the drug trade in this multi character thriller. The movie begins with Gwyneth Paltrow who returns from a business trip to Hong Kong infected with a virus that she spreads to everyone she comes into contact with. The film slowly builds up the pandemic’s effects as hospitals are overwhelmed & the virus draws the attention of the CDC (Kate Winslet, Lawrence Fishburn) & the WHO (Marion Cotillard), who attempt to follow proper protocols to cope with the rapidly escalating worldwide virus & the gradual breakdown of society. Meanwhile Paltrow’s husband (Matt Damon) who remains unaffected tries to take care of his grown daughter, and a muck-raking blogger (Jude Law) files stories that the Government is lying about the virus & offers a homeopathic remedy. Slow moving, ‘Contagion’ isn’t a disaster/action ‘thriller’ in the same sense as say, Outbreak, which covered similar material, but more of a cerebral documentary styled look at how humanity would cope with a virus that kills millions. Not to everyone’s taste, but worth a watch. (Mark)

Kaikohe demolition.
An oldie but a goody, released in 2004 this light hearted documentary captures the humour and warmth of the people of the small Northland community of Kaikohe. The highlight of the Easter Calendar is “The demolition derby” where they crank up the old car wrecks that are no longer ‘legally road worthy’ and make them ‘derby worthy’ enough to compete in the Easter derby. Everything’s above board (sort of) however, if the tyres have no tread, no probs, get out the chainsaw and make some by cutting horizontal lines across the tyres, there are many many tricks of the derby trade (that was just one). Then the spirited locals give us a look see into their very own slice of heaven, the ‘Ngawha hot springs’. After the shakes, the rattles and rolls of the derby, it’s time to relax and soak up all its therapeutic healing properties to treat those bumps and bruises caused by their insatiable appetite to crash and bang. Have a laugh and a korero with the boys…a time to reflect and unwind. ‘Bliss’. (Ethel)