Staff Pick DVDs: The Best of 2015

We’ve got a great range of picks from our staff, from docos to dramas, TV shows to true stories. Enjoy our favourites from 2015!

Shinji’s picks:
Cover imageWinter sleep.
The winner of Cannes’ Palme D’or in 2014, Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep is a 3 hours 16 minutes-long haunting chamber drama. Inspired by Chekov’s short stories, heavy dialogue drives the movie, but Ceylan’s rigorous direction together with superb acting by all actors never fails to keep you riveted. Once a professional photographer, Ceylan sets up a desolate but stunningly beautiful milieu, and the whole movie is like an amazing mix of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. A masterful work.

Cover imageInherent vice.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s (Magnolia, The Master) conjuring hands make this first ever edition of Thomas Pynchon’s novel a visually dazzling, playful off-beat comedy. Set in the hippie culture of LA in 1970, it’s a rather confusing story as a lot of bizarre characters come and go. However, with an impeccable camera movement, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the drug addled detective, is wonderfully amusing, and the soundtrack (Can, Neil Young etc.) and the narration by Joanna Newsom will help it gain ‘cult’ status.

Cover imageThe salt of the earth : a journey with Sebastião Salgado.
Brazilian photographer Sebastiano Salgado has travelled around the world, often in remote, life-is-severely-harsh areas, and witnessed some of the darkest moments of human history; exploitation of labour, starvation, exodus, genocide and so on. His photographs are truly remarkable and even rather disturbing images such as dead bodies on the road show some kind of dignity. Also a conservationist, Salgado has embarked on restoring the forest in Brazil. This extraordinary person’s life and work are reconstructed by Vim Wenders and Sebastiano’s son Julian, in a sensitive, aesthetic way. It’s a visually stunning, compelling portrait.

Cover imageAmy.
She just wanted to be loved by someone she loved but her wish was never fulfilled. A story about someone who died at the age of 27 is naturally sad and this well-constructed documentary gets more painful to watch towards the end. However, the music holds us and in fact, Amy Winehouse was a genius singer. There are some intriguing performances here, notably the cover of her idol Donny Hathaway’s We’re Still Friends (previously unreleased). Hathaway also died young (jumped off from the 15th floor. He was 33) but he achieved something remarkable, whereas the albums Amy left barely show her potential. If she could remain performing in a small jazz club, her life might have not turned out this way. We all may wonder.

Mark’s picks:
Cover imageNightcrawler.
Jake Gyllenhaal as a sociopathic loner who discovers his true calling as a freelance hawker of footage of car accidents & violent crimes to sleazy local news shows to boost their ratings. A cadaverous Gyllenhaal is all bulging eyes & homespun philosophies as he manipulates everyone around him. A scabrous look at the moral corruption that pervades the media world we live in.

2016 was a good year for intelligent Sci-Fi (Ex-Machina, Coherence) but ‘Humans’ gets the nod, as its longer form gives it more time to explore the issues at play. The Hawkins family acquires a new ‘Synthetic’ helper, who slowly begins to exhibit some odd behaviour. Meanwhile a police unit responsible for robot related crime is tracking a group of ‘free’ robots. Works its central plot around the larger impact of robots upon society as a whole – as people begin to feel displaced. Recommended if you enjoyed the recent Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror.

Cover imageLove & mercy.
Excellent music biopic from director Bill Pohlad on famed ‘Beach Boys’ vocalist Brian Wilson, presented in a parallel narrative covering two specific time periods in Wilson’s life. In the mid-60s young Brian (Paul Dano) begins a slow mental collapse as the voices and sounds in his head begin to take over his life & destroy his creativity. Meanwhile in the 1980s old Brian (John Cusack) is alone and isolated from his family, under the control & guardianship of his corrupt therapist Dr. Landy (played by Paul Giamatti). A fascinating and highly enjoyable film, and a unique way to approach a music biography.

Cover imageMarshland.
Excellent Spanish thriller set in Spain’s deep south in 1980s. The Fascist government has recently been replaced by a new democracy and two ideologically opposed detectives are sent to a small town to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls. Full of brooding suspense and atmosphere, with amazing cinematography of the rural region. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed the first season of True Detective.

Cover imageThe affair. Season one.
An affair between a blue collar teacher & a working class waitress, told from both points of view. With superb acting from the two leads (Domenic West, & Ruth Wilson), ‘The Affair’ is an adult drama that deals with the pressures of marriage and responsibility, as well as the cost of desire and betrayal.

Maxine’s picks:
Cover imageGrantchester. Series 1.
Being a girly romantic I really liked the DVD series 1 of Grantchester with the murder solving vicar played by the drop dead gorgeous James Norton and Robson Green as the detective.

Cover imageNoble.
As for films I loved the true one about an Irish woman who went to Vietnam to save orphaned kids.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
I also liked the latest James Bond’s Spectre and of course Star wars!!!

Janice’s picks:
Cover imageWoman in gold.
A must see, Helen Mirren is amazing!

Cover imageLast cab to Darwin.
Never too late to start living!

Cover imageA royal night out.
Easy going interesting movie. Did the Queen actually have a night out on the town in her younger years??

Katie’s Pick:
Cover imageCinderella.
This is Cinderella as you have never seen it before. The story of Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” is different from its predecessor. Directed by award winning actor, Kenneth Branagh, This version follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James). After Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her ugly-in-nature daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera), and is forced to become their servant, disrespected, covered in ashes and spitefully renamed Cinderella. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her, and she continues to remain positive, determined to honour her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” Ella’s fortunes seem to turn for the better in the form of a dashing stranger named Kit aka The Prince (Richard Madden) and a quirky fairy godmother, (brilliantly played by Helena Bonham Carter) that will change Ella’s life for the better. Overall a fantastic film that can be enjoyed by all ages. Rating: 9/10.

Pru’s pick:
Cover imagePaddington.
The grandkids and I have just watched Paddington. We are aged from 4 up. It was lots of fun and we all loved it.

Brigid’s picks:
Cover imageOutlander. The complete first season.

Cover imageHector and the search for happiness.

Cover imageThe longest ride.

Cover imageThe equalizer.

Cover imageMan up.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Star Wars: the Force Awakens

Monty’s picks:
Cover imageThe jinx : the life and deaths of Robert Durst.

Cover imageParticlefever.

Cover imageInherent vice.

Cover imageSilicon Valley.

Jay’s Picks:
Cover imageEx_machina.

Cover imageThe Martian.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Merchants of Doubt

Raissa’s picks:
Cover imageEx_machina.

BestOf2014DVDs5Going clear : Scientology and the prison of belief.

Cover imageThe Martian.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
The End of the Tour
The Big Short

Jessica’s picks:
Cover image

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Mistress America

Bridget’s pick:
Cover imageMad Max. Fury road.

Ingrid’s pick:
Cover imageEx_machina.

Neil’s pick:
Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Fargo – Season 2