A great selection of recent material has been highlighted by our staff this time around, including fantastic TV shows and film festival favourites.
Thomas Pynchon’s novel is adapted to the big screen for the first time by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, The Master). It will surely excite some people, and the result is a quirky, plot-careless affair but a visually dazzling, playful off-beat comedy. Set in the hippie culture LA in 1970, it’s a rather confusing detective story as a lot of bizarre characters come and go. However, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the drug addled yet wonderfully amusing detective, is leading the charge all the way, and masterful camera movements with fabulous close-ups make it a great pleasure to watch. The soundtrack (Can, Neil Young etc.), which well represents the milieu of the era, and the narration by Joanna Newsom, who also appears in the film, will help it gain ‘cult’ status. A conjuring work. (Shinji)
The spoils of Babylon.
So bad it’s good! An A-grade cast presents a B-grade ‘Dallas-meets-Thunderbirds’ production that is a real hoot. It’s tacky, it’s totally unrealistic and completely unbelievable. If you love backgrounds on a loop, and mannequin acting you’ll love this forbidden love story. (Belinda)
From the writer/director team that created the hugely entertaining You’re Next, comes this homage to 80s slasher flicks. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), sporting a perfect American accent, plays ex-soldier David. One day he knocks at the door of the Peterson family and informs the mother that he was a close friend of the son she recently lost in combat. Still traumatised by grief she willingly invites him in. Soon he is sleeping in her dead son’s room and gradually begins to insinuate himself into the lives of her husband, younger son and daughter Anna (Maika Monroe, It Follows). Soon things begin to go right for the family as David charms everyone with his polite manners & helpful attitude, but as some sudden deaths plague the small town Anna begins to suspect that there may be more to David than it appears…Chilly yet also deliberately cheesy in parts it’s a great take off of 80s ‘straight-to-video’ schlockers with an over the top last third & a John Carpenter Halloween homage finale, complete with dry ice & cheesy synth music. (Mark)
This is an amazing true story of an Irish lady who grew up in the slums of Ireland. A drunken father, a mother who died young with several siblings, all put away into homes. In her later years heads off to Vietnam and helps the children with no homes or families, to give them a better life. Her dream is to succeed and prove to the authorities that she can and will. (Janice)
Mammon. The complete season one.
While it is stated as being ‘Season One’, this is in fact a self contained 6 episode mini-series. Beginning at the height of the financial crisis, doggedly ethical journalist Peter Verås (Jon Øigarden) discovers a complex financial fraud implicating Norway’s elite politicians & businessmen, with his own brother at the centre. Refusing to compromise Peter publishes the story, with the outcome culminating in his brothers suicide. Ostracised by his peers he is relegated to the sports desk, his reputation & career shattered. However fast-forward 5 years later, and he receives a mysterious briefcase on the anniversary of his brothers death that propels him into a labyrinthine conspiracy of which his brothers suicide was just one facet…Complex (perhaps overly so), it tries a bit too hard at times to be a Norwegian take on the ‘Millennium’ trilogy, and throws a lot of plot elements into the mix (not all of which are believable), but it is none-the-less another exciting & entertaining entry in the Scandi-Noir cannon. (Mark)
Z nation. Season 1.
Fun with zombies! Three years after a zombie apocalypse has killed off most of the Earth’s population a rag-tag group of survivors have a mission to get Murphy, a convict who survived eight zombie bites after being injected with an experimental vaccine, from New York to the last known medical lab in California. Let’s just say the trip doesn’t go smoothly. Once the story is established, it starts to get very funny and we’re introduced to a variety of zombie types. A bit b-grade in parts, but it’s funny so who cares, and it’s faster moving than the Walking Dead. (Belinda)
While we’re young.
Another charming art-oriented comedy by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale) centres a middle-aged documentary filmmaker (played by Ben Stiller) whose career and marriage are at a dead end. He and his wife (Naomi Watts) seem to regain their buoyancy and mojo after befriending young artistic couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) but their close friendship soon sours. The middle-age anxiety, longing for youth and the generation gap are depicted comically, and at times it’s like a Woody Allen movie. However, cynical and sensitive Baumbach subtly contrasts the fearlessness of youth with the wisdom of age, leaving a bittersweet aroma. With the ingenious script and the wonderful ensemble cast, it’s a lovely chamber work. (Shinji)
The longest ride.
This is the movie of the book by Nicholas Sparks. It is a lovely story of a young man Luke (this is Scott Eastwood – Clint’s son) whose passion is rodeo and staying on the bull the longest. He meets a lovely young woman Sophia and starts a romance. At the same time their paths are crossed by an elderly man Ira in a rest home (played by the delightful Alan Alda of MASH fame). Their ups and downs of romance are intertwined with the story of the elderly gentleman’s life with his wife. Also intertwined is the Rodeo rides and art galleries. Conflict between careers. There are some good twists and it is a delightful story. A chick flick to be enjoyed by males too. The library also has the book and Audio book. (Brigid)
A remake of the Scandinavian series ‘Real Humans’ sees a parallel future where household robots (Synths) have become the new must have gadget for menial tasks & caregiver roles. After his busy wife begins to spend more time at work, Joe Hawkins decides to buy a synth (Gemma Chan) to help around the house, and give him more time to spend with her when she is home. However his wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson) soon feels displaced, as the new synth becomes an integral part of the family, especially for their youngest child who names her Anita, after a friend who moved away. However, unbeknownst to the Hawkins family, Anita is not a ‘normal’ synth at all, and slowly she begins to exhibit some odd behaviour. Meanwhile a police unit responsible for robot related crime is tracking a group of ‘free’ robots…’Humans’ works its central plot around the larger impact of robots upon society as a whole – as people begin to feel angry at their futures, displaced at jobs and in the home – and while it features some tropes of the SF genre that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica, or Ex Machina to name a few influences, it is still a very entertaining series that raises some interesting issues around the insidiousness of technological advancements. Some critics say that it is not as good as the Swedish original (as yet not released in this country), but it’s definitely recommended if you enjoyed the recent Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror, as it explores similar themes.