A wide range of movies & TV shows curated by our avid AV fans on staff for the first half of the year. We hope you find something new to enjoy.
Beauty and the beast.
Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, recognising the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. Overall it was an interesting revamp of the original animated 1992 classic. I found there was more depth to the characters: Belle and the beast, and perhaps more of a back story as to how their background, experiences and personalities shaped the people that they came to be. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble, and generous. This movie is a must see and has been worth the long wait. A film that the entire family can enjoy on a night out on the town– especially on a Saturday night! 9/10 all the way! (Katie)
The girl on the train.
Rachel (Emily Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasising about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Solid adaptation of Paula Hawkins novel which, given it largely consisted of the main characters internal monologue, must have proven difficult to adapt. The location is changed to the States like High Fidelity, and like a spate of recent adaptations would probably have benefitted from being a BBC or ITV mini-series rather than a feature film. Probably, as with Gone Girl, more enjoyable if you haven’t yet read the book, but if you have it’s still an entertaining watch. (Mark)
I, Daniel Blake.
Always defending the socially vulnerable, Ken Loach’s career has spanned five decades and at the age of 80, he delivers one of his finest works. Obviously he is furious about the British welfare state and the heartless bureaucracy but with as little drama as possible, masterfully depicts the struggles of widowed carpenter Daniel Blake who has suffered a heart attack and a young single mother of two Katie. With the help of the excellent screenplay by his long-time collaborator Paul Laverty, there are lovely moments of humour and warmth in this harsh social realism drama and makes it even more memorable. A small triumph. (Shinji)
This movie is in a word, FANTASTIC! Finding Dory reunites the friendly but forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, along with her friends, Marlin and Nemo on an epic quest to find Dory’s family. The questions that hangs on everyone’s lips are what does she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak whale? Even the Pixar short film, Piper that was released alongside Finding Dory is beautiful and heart-warming. Two movies for the price of one, you can’t go wrong. Overall, I loved the film! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you want to watch it over and over again. It is truly unforgettable. A well-deserved 9/10. (Katie)
Clint Eastwood helms this adaptation of the events of January 15, 2009, the Miracle on the Hudson, when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. It would be easy to downplay this as ‘solid’ or ‘straight-forward’ but after a recent span of bloated and overly arty biographical adaptations this 96 minutes is a perfect example of solid Hollywood film-making. If it seems underplayed or lacks that ‘larger than life’ factor of most biopics it’s a deliberate move, the no-nonsense storytelling a perfect match for the cool, collected nature of its subject. (Mark)
Ben, a father of 6, is raising his kids “off grid” and teaching them how to survive in the wild as well as feeding their amazing minds with his own home schooling techniques. Each child is unique and the viewer sees how Ben has tailored their learning to incorporate each one as well as “the whole”. When tragedy strikes he is forced to take them away from their known environment into the frightening modern world. The children’s grandparents disagree with the way he is raising his children and arguments ensue and lead him to question his beliefs. This movie made me laugh and cry and gave insights into modern child rearing and how it can be scary no matter where you bring your children up. 5 out of 5 stars. (Raewyn)
The man from U.N.C.L.E..
Set in the 60’s and at the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. So in typical Superhero style, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the bad guys in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, Gabby (Alicia Vikander), whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe. In typical Ritchie fashion, there is plenty of fast moving (and perhaps violent) action sequences, memorable one liners, cameos by very famous actors and sporting figures (infamous cameo from David Beckham! – Whoohoo!), plenty of twists and turns that you don’t see coming. Overall a great film filled with action, comedy, romance and suspense. (Katie)
When mysterious spacecraft’s touch down across the globe, an elite team, led by expert codebreaker Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As various countries respond differently to the situation an ‘attack’ on the new invaders seems immanent, as Banks and the team (Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker) race against time to crack a way of communicating with the aliens to learn just what their purpose in coming to Earth is. Marketed as a sci-fi film, it’s more philosophical in nature, similar to Jodie Foster’s ‘Contact’, Solaris or the recent wave of films like Ex-Machina or Coherence that focus more on the cerebral rather than spectacle. Perhaps not for everyone, but definitely different than the usual Hollywood approach. (Mark)
This directorial debut of James Schamus, who is well known as a producer particularly for Ang Lee’s works, is a faithful adaptation of Philip Roth’s late novel of the same title. Set in the 50s, it’s a bitter coming of age tale about the intelligent but complex Jewish student Marcus (Logan Lerman). Schamus transformed it into a solid, sophisticated work which features some impressive acting, including a16-minute-long verbal spar scene between Dean and Marcus. Apparently Roth was pleased with the film. It’s a relief for the director and the audience alike. (Shinji)
Footrot Flats: the dog’s tail, tale.
Rattle your dags, boys and girls and feast your eyes on an oldie but a goodie Kiwi Classic and childhood favourite of mine that comes to the small screen in the form of Footrot Flats: A Dog’s Tale. Featuring the characters from the late Murray Ball’s “Footrot Flats” – New Zealands most beloved local cartoon strip. Join Dog, Jess, Wal, Cooch, Horse, Major, Rangi, Pongo, Cheeky and “those bloody Murphys”, where Dog goes on ‘a journey of a thousand miles’, and an epic adventure. This film will also keep you entertained and glued to the small screen. Not to mention it’s jam packed full of Kiwi words, sayings and slang and references to Kiwi culture! The soundtrack, by Dave Dobbyn is mind blowing filled with famous popular Kiwi classics such as Slice of Heaven and You Oughta to be in love. Overall this film is VERY FUNNY! A film that can be enjoyed by all ages and a great film to watch with the family over fish and chips on a Saturday night. 6/10 all the way! (Katie)
Hell or high water.
Gripping modern southern noir drama sees two brothers (loose cannon Ben Foster, and the calmer more reasoned Chris Pine) on a bank robbing spree in an effort to save their family farm from foreclosure. On the case is an aging dogged Texas Ranger Beau Bridges who is about to retire, and doesn’t want to let this one go. A great combination of tight script & Direction, David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Hallam Foe) from a screenplay by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Sons of Anarchy), with solid acting and a believable small scale grittiness. A real sense of moral ambiguity pervades. A gem. (Mark)
Impressive kiwi female talents come together here. It’s based on Eleanor Catton’s debut novel and radically adapted by the writer/director Alison Maclean (Crush). Emily Perkins co-wrote the screen play and Kerry Fox gave a memorable performance. It follows the first-year drama school student Stanley (James Rolleston) who pilfers his girlfriend’s family scandal for his group’s show. It’s small in scale but Maclean sensitively portrays young students’ wavering minds in a unique art-house manner. After premiering in New Zealand last year, it showcased at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival, which is something. (Shinji)
Jekyll and Hyde. Series one.
This TV series proves to be an exciting and surprising twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which takes places in London, 1930’s era and iconic dual personality villain, Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is now a reluctant anti-hero in the form of awkward, meek and mild mannered Dr. Robert Jekyll and cunning, sadistic and seductive Hyde. Overall, I loved this series, its a remarkably refreshing take on a classic tale. British actor Tom Bateman is outstanding playing the dual roles. I think his performance of Hyde is fantastic and appealing, with his playful banter, one liners, for example “Oh, no no, the question is, what am I?” and “Well, that’s enough speeches. I’m gonna go break something.” Not to mention awesome action sequences, fighting styles and special effects. It’s a shame that the series didn’t continue. (Katie)
Mr. Robot. Season_2.0.
One month on following the events of fsociety’s 5/9 hack on multi-national company Evil Corp in Season one, the second season of zeitgeisty show Mr Robot explores the consequences of that attack as well as the illusion of control. The second season seems to drift initially as the focus is more on protagonist/unreliable narrator Elliot’s attempts to deny and control his dual identities, adhering to an ‘analogue’ regime and avoiding exploring his missing memory of the events that unfolded in the last episode of the first season. But if you can stick with the first few episodes where it appears nothing plot wise is actually happening, various ne elements come into play. An FBI agent begins to link the members of fSociety, while others feel China’s Dark Army on their trail. Meanwhile Elliot comes closer to regaining his ‘lost time’ and discovering what the mysterious ‘phase 2’ is. Slow in places but worth sticking with. (Mark)
British auteur Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank)’s first US-set feature follows an 18 year old girl Star (stunning newcomer Sasha Lane) who escaped from her home and joined a group of dropout youths who travel around America to sell magazines. With a handheld camera, the crew and the largely unprofessional cast actually travelled 1200 miles to shoot the film as if it’s a documentary. This 163-minute-long road movie is a seemingly self-indulgent, freewheeling youth drama but has an exquisite intimacy and a cinematic beauty within. It may soak up your energy and you love or hate it, but it’s honest and hopeful. (Shinji)
The fall. Series 3.
The final and epic conclusion to The Fall is heart breaking, chilling and will leave you emotionally wrecked. Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) has finally been caught, and just when you thought his sadistic killing spree was over, a whole new game of cat and mouse is about to begin. Season three explores further into Spector’s background, as well as the emotional toll that Spector’s actions has on all the players throughout the series. The finale and showdown between Spector and Gibson fails to disappoint and is brutal to the core! Without revealing spoilers, Spector makes every iconic serial killer in pop culture look like a saint. But overall a satisfying end to a chilling thriller. (Katie)
Jesse Stone. Night passage.
Surprising excellent series of TV movies based on the series of Jesse Stone novels by crime writer Robert B Parker. Asked to resign from his job as a homicide detective for the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division because of a drinking problem that began after his divorce Stone shows up drunk to an interview for a job as police chief for the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts. But he is hired because the corrupt president of the town board of selectmen thinks he will be easy to control. Stone quickly notices that the town has big league crimes and political corruption and begins to dig into who is behind it all. While in real life he is 30 or so years older than the character in the books, Selleck is perfectly cast in what is perhaps his best role, imbuing the character with a deep sense of melancholy. Indeed all the movies are notable for their focus on mood and character, with minimal dialogue and a subtle intensity. Definitely recommended if you are a fan of the book series, or of Selleck in Blue Bloods. (Mark)
The man who fell to Earth.
Despite its strange 1970’s science fiction setting, challenging non- linear editing and graphic scenes of nudity the Man who fell to earth is at heart a reworking of the Pinocchio story about what it means to want to be human and is it really a goal worth striving for (a modern fall from grace parable). The film work is lush and sumptuous (as you might expect from someone who was the director of photography for Lawrence of Arabia) and David Bowie as the alien puts in his best acting performance by a land mile. It’s a fitting celluloid tribute to the artist. (Neil J)
Quarry. The complete first season.
Intriguing series based on the pulp novel series by Max Allan Collins about a former US Marine turned professional assassin after returning from the Vietnam War in 1973. Based loosely on the book series, the TV show sees Mac Conway (an amazing performance from Logan Marshall-Green), and his best friend Arthur (Jamie Hector) as Marines who returns home from a second tour of duty in Vietnam to find themselves stigmatized by their involvement in a highly publicized massacre. Finding it difficult to find work, due to his Vietnam history, and with the relationship with his wife (Jodi Balfour) Joni growing strained Mac finds himself tempted by a lucrative offer from The Broker (Peter Mullan), a shady criminal who fronts a network of hired killers. After he turns down the offer, he finds Arthur has accepted. Feeling duty bound to provide backup for his friend he tags along on Arthur’s first hit which goes horribly wrong, leaving Arthur dead and Mac in debt financially to The Broker. He soon finds himself conscripted into The Broker’s crew, placing him and Joni deeper in harm’s way. An excellent re-creation of the period and quality acting make this gritty crime drama definitely worth checking out. (Mark)
A tribute to the Polynesian culture and mythology, and full of heroic exploits of the heroes and heroines that Kiwis will be familiar with, namely Maui, the demigod. The plot follows the adventure and journey of Moana, a spirited teenager, who like most Disney princesses has a lot on her plate. This involves sailing out on a daring mission to save her island, restore the heart of Te Fiti – the island goddess, fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest and save the world. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui, and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous fiery creatures against impossible odds. Once again, Disney has put together a movie of epic proportions filled with quirky and memorable characters, as well as an amazing cast, including Kiwi actors, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement and Oscar Kightley. Moana embodies the qualities of an adventurous, headstrong, practically fearless, and physically capable heroine. An 8/10 all the way! (Katie)
Jessica Jones. The complete first season.
Perhaps the most successful of the Marvel TV show adaptations is the moody ‘Jessica Jones’. Haunted by a tragedy that broke her world apart, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) settles in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, and opens her own detective agency, called Alias Investigations, with the hope of rebuilding her life. However, she discovers that the source of her trauma, a mind-controlling sociopath named Kilgrave (David Tennant), has resurfaced forcing her to track him down before he causes more damage to her life or to anyone else. A subtle nod in the show to ‘That Green guy and the Aliens’ places the events somewhere in the timeline after the first Avengers film, but the success of Jessica Jones is that it never overplays the whole ‘superhero’ concept. As a minor superhero – in that she has extra strength and can jump heights – the character feels like a realer person that most of what is encountered in this genre, and it’s a testament to the writing that if you actually removed most of the ‘superhero’ elements the show would still work as a whole, in that it’s more a psychological thriller than anything else. Ritter is excellent, managing to tread a fine line between sleaze and sympathy and creating a deep sense of pathos around the sloppy, hard-drinking Jessica, and the rest of the cast are uniformly excellent, particularly Mike Colter who manages to make Luke Cage seem indestructible as well as venerable. Recommended, particularly if you’re not really a fan of the whole Marvel genre. (Mark)
Richard Fleischer’s Soylent Green is one of a number of 70,s dystopian science fiction movies that now have gained a new relevance dealing with political lies corruption and environmental catastrophe. Charlton Heston is his usual square jawed hero but the masterclass in acting comes from Edward G Robinson playing an aging librarian. (Neil J)
Broadchurch. Series 3.
After a disappointing 2nd season ‘Broadchurch’ returns for a final chapter. A couple of years have passed since the events of the previous season. DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) is back in Broadchurch with his troubled daughter and working again with with DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). Hardy and Miller are called on to investigate the brutal sexual assault of a local woman, Trish Winterman. The crime scene points to a party attended by close to a hundred people, but the act appears premeditated. What dark secrets still lie buried in a town that has been so closely examined? And how will unresolved issues around the death of young Danny Latimer finally be settled? Tennant & Colman clearly enjoy returning to these characters and while the 3rd season mines some of the same tropes as the first season -multiple suspects all with things to hide/small town secrets etc. However it is all handled well enough to create an on-going tension, and the subject matter is dealt with in a sensitive manner. A return to form. (Mark)
An oldie but a goodie. Based on the popular novel by Nick Hornby, High Fidelity is about Rob Gordon, (played beautifully by John Cusack), a record store owner, “music snob”, and compulsive ‘top 5’ list maker. When he breaks up with his long term partner, Laura (Iben Hjejli), this serves as the catalyst to recall his top 5 most memorable break ups of his adult life and really get to the heart of the matter as to why his relationships don’t work out, not to mention recall his unique and exquisite taste in music, depending on his mood and environment. Overall a fantastic film! Fantastic cast filled with a mixture well-known actors, B-grade and unknown actors who always steal the show, even when their appearance is brief. Jack Black, who plays cynical and revolutionary musician Barry is always a highlight and iconic presence in the film! Definitely a film amongst my all-time top 5 movies! (Katie)