Staff Picks DVDs – July/August

Some staff picks of new TV shows & movies, from biographical adaptations to indie Sci-Fi.

Cover imageCoherence.
‘Coherence’ proves once again that it’s indie movies with the most interesting Sci-Fi ideas, and not Hollywood blockbusters (even those by Christopher Nolan). Eight friends – all couples- get together to catch up over dinner, at the same time that a comet is passing close to Earth. Strange things begin to happen. To say any more would give away the story, such as it is. Written & directed by James Ward Byrkit with a bunch of mostly unknown actors (Buffy alumnus Nicholas Brendon is the only recognisable face), with an improvised script that is filmed mostly in his living room, the movie is an examination of the nature of reality, quantum physics & Schrödinger’s cat theory. Recommended if you’re a fan of Memento or Primer. If it’s all too confusing after a couple of watches the Director explains it all in a spoiler-heavy interview here. (Mark)

Cover imageGone baby gone.
This is Ben Affleck’s first time as Director. It stars his brother Casey. Gritty story about a Private Detective who is investigating the disappearance of a little girl. There are many twists and turns in this movie. It is a thought provoking story, and not your run-of the mill detective movie. Containing moral dilemmas. There were conversations about it in our house afterwards. It does contain violence, offensive language and drug use. Good movie. This story also stars Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris so a star cast. This is written by the same author (Dennis Lehane) as Mystic River. If you enjoyed this movie we also have the book in the Library. (Brigid)

Cover imageForce majeure.
In the interview related to this film, Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund talked about an article he read. “The posh couple gave a party at their house which has a pool. Their three-year-old son fell in and couldn’t swim. The father was standing there and the mother was shouting ‘Get into the pool. What are you doing?’ He said ‘But my iPhone is in my pocket’”. This episode gives you some ideas about this film; an ideal family holiday in a French ski resort turns into a relationship disaster by a tiny incident (from the husband’s point of view). This could be a comedy because it definitely makes you laugh but could be a horror or a serious human drama. Whatever it may be, it’s utterly unique. (Shinji)

Cover imageFortitude. The complete first season.
UK series with an international cast set in the fictional Arctic Norwegian settlement of Fortitude. Stanley Tucci appears in his first British television role as Detective Chief Inspector Morton from London’s Metropolitan Police, who has flown to Fortitude to assist with the investigation of the violent murder of Charlie Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston), a British scientist who leads the arctic biology department at the Fortitude arctic research facility, who has become embroiled in the possible discovery of a Wholly Mammoth frozen in the Ice. The closed off town seems to have plenty of secrets, with a taciturn local sheriff played by Richard Dormer, and a local developer & Town Governor (Sofie Gråbøl), controlling everything. At first it seems to be a variation of Broadchurch in the Arctic, plenty of people with mysterious pasts and adulterous affairs, but the plot soon shifts into more ‘X-Files’ territory. The disparate tones at play sometimes clash, and the plot initially feels like a conglomeration of various other shows, but it finds its own pace as the story moves forward. Chilly & atmospheric. Worth sticking with. (Mark)

Cover imageChef.
This is an enjoyable story. A very well-known chef in a famous restaurant in Los Angeles is under a lot of stress trying to create wonderful and creative food whilst working under a boss who does not get his style. After accidently sending a rather provocative tweet to a food critic (who had been very critical of his cooking) and it went viral. He is forced to resign and in doing so starts to rediscover his passion for cooking and his love of his son. He goes on a road trip with him. This is a lovely story and funny in parts and is full of lots of South American music. Also stars Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman (as the boss). There is some offensive language in it. (Brigid)

Cover imageThe last diamond.
Master thief Simon has just been released from prison and is on parole, when is friend, Albert, lures him back to his old ways for one more hit – a priceless 137 carat diamond ‘Florentin’, that has just been brought to auction. To steal the diamond the crew of thieves need 2 custom made keys, one of which is in the possession of beautiful auctioneer Julia. An elaborate plan to gain her confidence is put in place, but as Simon begins to develop feelings for her he seeks to move her away from danger. The elaborate heist goes off without a hitch…but then, of course, there is always the double-cross…A pleasant & charming throw back/homage to the traditional heist/caper/romance films of 50s Hollywood. The second half takes a more serious turn, and while not up to the classic standards of Jean-Pierre Melville or Olivier Marchal, its none-the-less an entertaining watch. (Mark)

Cover imageTak3n.
This is the third in the Taken series of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). It is also violent but not quite as violent as the other two. It starts off with Bryan meeting up with his wife.
Then she is murdered. He is framed so he becomes the hunted. Also stars Forrest Whitaker as the investigating Policeman. Lots of action as Bryan tries to hunt the killer and clear his name. Lots of twists. (Brigid)

Cover imageWild.
A true story based on the Best Selling book by Cheryl Strayed, starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. From a journey of self-destruction to one of self-discovery, she sets off ‘on her own’ with zero experience, an oversized however necessary backpack and a survivor or is it survival spirit, to walk the Pacific Crest Trail in a quest to walk herself back to life. A bid to face and forget the self-inflicted poor life choices she had made up unto this point in her life though one would see this “walk back to life” as a poor life choice as well, but as spontaneous and unprepared she was for what was ahead, what was she to lose, it was time to accept and let go of what was.. the great loss of her mother, the irresponsible behaviours, the drugs, the infidelities, the random sexual encounters and embrace a new found freedom for life, and this was how she aimed to do it. A three month journey, amid hunger, dehydration and the terrors and pleasures of the wild, with physical and mental strength as her constant companion. Would this ‘walk back to life’ heal her from the trials and tribulations of her past.. An inspirational true story about loss and Life. 3 ½ stars. (Ethel)

Cover imageOutlander. Season one, Volume one.
Classed as Romance. This is an interesting time shift story. Clare Randall (Beauchamp) is just enjoying a break in the Highlands of Scotland. The Second World War has just finished. Clare was a nurse on the frontlines and her husband Frank was in Intelligence. Frank is about to start a new job at a University as a Historian when they have a break in Inverness. Whilst visiting the Special Druid stones in Inverness Clare goes missing and finds herself travelling back in time to 1743. Just a couple of years before the battle of Culloden. There she has some interesting adventures and is cast into a totally different life. Clare becomes the Sassenach (outsider Celtic derogatory term for an English person). Quite a dilemma for her, as circumstances beyond her control force her to marry the young Scottish Highlander Jaimie Fraser. Passionate love is ignited between her and her new husband. Her original husband has not even been born in that time. There were other dilemmas for her like trying to nurse the people in that era without being able to resort to modern medicine, as it had not been invented yet. The story continues as she is caught up in the political happenings of that time period. It is an intergenerational story. The main characters are very likeable. This is a series made from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. This DVD covers the first part of the first book. There is a second DVD to come to finish the series off. So far there is no confirmed release date for New Zealand which is such a pity as it leaves you with a real cliff-hanger. They are still making series two. Thoroughly enjoyed this first DVD. This is not just a Romance. Lots of blood and guts as well. Brilliant storyline but definitely an R16. There are some passionate love/ sex scenes. You might also want to read the books the library also has them. The first one is Cross stitch (in England) and Outlander (in America) then Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, Fiery cross, A breath of Snow & Ashes, and An Echo in the Bone. Plus the Lord John series as well. Diana Gabaldon is involved in the making of the series and so it keeps true to her books. Well worth a watch. (Brigid)

Cover imageBlackhat.
A nuclear plant in Hong Kong is hacked followed by a stock market manipulation of soy futures. The Chinese government and the FBI determine that the hack was caused by a Remote Access Tool (RAT). A military officer in China’s cyber warfare unit (Leehom Wang) is tasked to find the people responsible for the attacks and enlists the aid of his sister (Tang Wei), a networking engineer. He meets with an FBI Agent (Viola Davis) in Los Angeles and reveals the code in the RAT was written by himself and Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), his college roommate, before Hathaway was sent to prison for an unrelated hack. Hathaway is released from prison, and offered a pardon if he can track down the hacker responsible for the attacks. The trail soon leads from LA, to Hong Kong to Jakarta & Malaysia. A thriller about people watching computer screens & then explaining it to other people is an obvious oxymoron, so Director Michael Mann’s idea of a hacker thriller is an attempt at a kind of digital update of Thief. Helmsworth is pretty much the Val Kilmer character from Heat – someone who can break down firewalls as well as actual walls – & not particularly convincing in the role. A bit of a misfire from Mann, ‘Blackhat’ is still a pretty decent thriller, that moves to a unexpectedly gritty ending. Mann’s sense of lighting & visuals is still amazing, with lots of shots of cities at night, and no one does urban combat scenes like he does. Worth watching for the trademark Mann touches if you are a fan of his work. (Mark)

Cover imageI survived a zombie holocaust.
This is a New Zealand Zombie comedy. It is a story about a B grade Zombie movie set in the wilds of the South Island of New Zealand. When strange Zombie like things start happening for real. It is full of blood and guts and occasional swear words. If you are into Zombie comedy movies that could absolutely never be taken seriously this is for you. Good movie with drinks and chips and your mates. (Brigid)

Cover imageIt follows.
Marketed, perhaps incorrectly, as a horror movie may explain why ‘It Follows’ has a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, but fairly mixed reviews on Amazon. College student Jay begins to think that her new boyfriend, Hugh, is acting strangely after he becomes agitated at a movie theatre when he can see someone that she can’t. On another date they have sex, but afterwards he knocks her out and tapes her to a wheelchair. Once she recovers he tells her that he has infected her with a curse. An entity visible only to those cursed that can – take on any number of appearances including people you know are dead – will pursue Jay at walking pace. If the entity catches her, it will kill her and then pursue the person who passed the curse to her. Hugh implores that Jay sleep with someone else as soon as she can to be rid of the entity. There are real no traditional ‘horror’ tropes in what follows. Despite a very brief scene at the beginning there is no real gore or violence, instead ‘It Follows’ is all about establishing a constant sense of dread & suspense. Nowhere is safe as Jay becomes more scared & traumatised by the apparitions that stalk her. With its artistic direction, acting and narrative style it has the feel of an indie art-house approach to the horror genre. Definitely something that won’t appeal to everyone, but original and interesting. (Mark)

Cover imageThe theory of everything.Cover image
Kingsman. The secret service.
Two films I have seen recently that I think are good are the Stephen Hawking biography ‘The Theory of Everything’, a great sensitive film; and the ‘Kingsman’ spy film adapted from the comic book – putting the fun and spoof back into the spy genre. (Maxine)