Our last lot of Staff Picks DVDs for the year has plenty to keep you entertained over the Christmas period. Our picks feature blockbuster visuals with ‘Atomic Blonde’, ‘Baby Driver’ & ‘Valerian and the city of a thousand planets’; foreign drama with ‘Land Of Mine’ & ‘Things to Come’; noir-ish crime with ‘Wind River’ & ‘A Conspiracy of Faith’; and quality foreign television shows with ‘Trapped’, ‘The Frozen Dead’ & ‘Salamander’.
A conspiracy of faith.
Another solid entry in the Department Q series from the novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, that is setting Danish Box Office records. An old note is found in a bottle in Jutland which has been in the sea a long time, but its suspicious nature leads it to land on the desk of Department Q. The note is hard to decipher, but analysis seems to suggest it is a note from a kidnapped child who went missing 14 years before. Carl & Assad track the missing child to a remote Religious community, and with the disappearance of another pair of siblings realise they are tracking a killer who targets the faith of others. Intense, gripping and dark. Recommended for fans of the Sandi-noir genre. (Mark)
Valerian and the city of a thousand planets.
I loved the Fifth Element Luc Besson’s previous Science Fiction mega blockbuster science fiction movie I loved its quirky, idiosyncratic, humorous distinctly non Hollywood style. And like that movie Valerian and the city of a thousand planets is chock full of bonkers, wildly inventive, weird candy coloured neon eye popping visual effects. Besson has stated it’s his labour of love movie and it shows. On its release it got very mixed reviews and fared poorly at the box office largely due to its weak script and the lack of chemistry between the lead actors. For me though it has a very 30s/40s Flash Gordon serial style and feel and at its core is basically an innocent, good natured, action packed romp with a truly unique French comic book sensibility and stunning stylish visuals. (Neil J)
The wrong girl. Season one.
Probably one of the funniest Aussie comedies to date! The Wrong Girl is Bridget Jones’ Diary for Aussie TV! Poor Lily Woodward is approaching 30 and can’t seem to catch a break whether it is climbing up the career ladder, finding Mr. Right and is the epitome of a walking disaster. My favourite moment is her mad dash across Melbourne to intercept a hate email slamming the new hot chef on her TV segment that she sent to her boss in the heat of ‘burn out’ moment – Hilarious! Further complications arise when she has to ‘make nice’ and work with the chef, Jack and ends up falling in love with him! Another moment is when she talking to her best friend about how she feels about Jack… while the microphone is on, hence all her work colleagues know! Haha! Lily is adorable, lovable and relatable to women. She is the type of character that women feel better about themselves. So if you are interested in drama-based show with spice of a comedy, but which highly focuses on emotions and emotional conflict, this show is for you! (Katie)
From director David Leitch (John Wick) based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City this action spy-thriller is set in Berlin in 1989 against the backdrop of the rising chaos that preceded the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Charlize Theron is a lethal MI6 agent sent on a covert mission to recover a microfilmed list with the identities of all Western agents operating in Berlin. Theron is nothing short of fantastic and the gritty action sequences rival anything from the Jason Bourne series. Super stylish fun. (Mark)
Edgar Wrights slick, smart and incredibly cool film Baby driver watches in a way like one of car chases that are central to its plot. One moment it’s the still before the storm the next full pedal to the metal adrenalin .It also sports an ace soundtrack that is central to the storyline. In many ways it’s also a homage to films like ‘Vanishing point’ or Walter Hill’s 1978 film The Driver both well worth checking out but that for me and a lot of other people is in itself no bad thing. (Neil J)
Things to come.
A leading young French auteur Mia Hansen-Love has dealt with ‘devastating loss’ in a variety of stages of life – loss of a father (Father of my Children), first love (Goodbye first Love), creative young days (Eden) – in her works. It continues in her latest effort and a 50-something female philosophy teacher is the subject this time. Nathalie (played by delightful Isabelle Huppert) has what appears to be a good life which suddenly becomes turmoil; her long-time husband leaves her for a younger woman, she is confronted with professional setbacks and her mother’s death. Showing her fine aesthetic and intelligence, Hansen-Love tackles this potentially melodramatic material in a modest manner, just subtly constructing small moments of everyday life, and thanks to its light tempo and Huppert’s effortless performance, it appears that almost nothing happens while everything happens. In fact, in her film’s ‘loss’ is the starting point of ‘new hope’, and this film ends with the lovely scene; Nathalie cradles her new born grandchildren, accompanied by The Fleetwoods’ ‘Unchained Melody’. Life goes on. (Shinji)
The frozen dead.
Adaptation of French crime writer Bernard Minier’s debut novel, which became a bestseller, the first in his Commandant Servaz series. A thoroughbred horse is found hanging from a cable car station in a Pyrenees town, St Martin de Comminges. The horse belongs to Eric Lombard, one of the richest men in France and so Commandant Martin Servaz is sent from Toulouse to investigate. He is not happy to be there, and things gets progressively worse as the dead horse is just the beginning in a complex set of crimes that lead back to a mysterious mass suicide in the towns past and one of his former colleagues, a murderer now housed in a local asylum for the criminally insane near the town. Servaz is perhaps a bit too much of a typical hard drinking, ruffled middle aged cop with a messy personal life, but the story is a tense and the location atmospheric. Shades of Hannibal Lector echo in the shows manipulative villain. Worth a watch. (Mark)
Broadchurch. Series 3.
UK crime/drama, Broadchurch ends with a bang with the third and final season! Three years has passed since the last season of Broadchurch. The peace and tranquillity of the town is disrupted once again when a gruesome crime, (Sexual assault) has been committed. Once again Hardy and Miller, (David Tennant and Olivia Coleman), are on the case, where they will both be tested, professionally, personally and emotionally. This season was heart-breaking. It will leave you emotionally wrecked and paint a vivid picture of modern masculinity gone wrong. However there were humorous moments in the form of playful banter between Hardy and Miller. As always their partnership, banter and bickering, mainly on Hardy’s part, is funny, entertaining and the embodiment of mutual trust and respect. It was nice to see a different of Hardy in this series. Normally portrayed as an emotionally unavailable, rigid, by-the-book police detective, you get see a loving, empathetic and emotional side. I loved the moments where he takes the “initiative” of “instructing” teenage boys on how to treat young women after they ‘disrespected’ his teenage daughter and comforting Miller when they finally catch the culprit, gently telling her that the rapist is an aberration and does not represent all men. Overall this season was a great to finish an entertaining and gripping crime series. (Katie)
A young American woman found murdered in the bleak snow blasted landscape of an Indian reservation in Wyoming is the premise to this murder mystery. The film is chilling in both visuals and in tone and like the fantastic Coen’s film Fargo the landscape and atmosphere of the location are treated as an extra character. The film is occasionally brutal, well-acted with a cleverly crafted deceptively simple script that makes for a compelling and riveting watch. (Neil J)
Trapped. The complete series one.
If Agatha Christie were alive today and decided to try her hand at one of those ‘new-fangled’ Scandinavian mysteries she may well have come up with something like this. A ferry carrying 300 passengers from Denmark pulls into an Icelandic town’s small port, just as a heavy snow storm begins. The ferry can’t leave until the storm passes and the main road into town is impassable. Then a mutilated and dismembered body washes on the shore, an unidentifiable man murdered only hours ago. The local police chief, Andri, realizes a killer has descended into his town. As word spreads, order disintegrates into chaos as the ferry’s passengers and the town’s residents realize they are all possible suspects and that a killer is trapped among them. The local police are told to wait until a crack police team can arrive from the capital city of Reykjavik to do the investigations, but then the corpse goes missing and dead bodies start to turn up – all linked to a mysterious fire that destroyed an abandoned factory & killed a local teenage girl 15 years previously. But Andri is, of course, far smarter than anyone gives him credit for and is determined to get to the bottom of things…Great stuff. Totally recommended. (Mark)
Land of mine.
This film written and directed by Martin Zandvliet is based on the true story of a little known part of World War II history. Towards the end of the war hundreds of surrendered German soldiers were ordered by Allied forces to remove the thousands of land mines from around the coast of Denmark. This brilliant film follows a group of very young German soldiers as they painstakingly search for land mines. Although at times shockingly violent, the tension is at times almost unbearable. The small group of German soldiers are played to perfection, and there is a very convincing performance by the war worn brutal Danish Sergeant, Rasmussen played by Roland Moller. In Danish and German with English subtitles, this is one film viewers will remember long after. (Linda)
Powerful drama following 3 stories interwoven that play out in an area of modern day London: A former rugby player struggling to find a life after the end of his career, and trying to save his marriage; a small time drug dealer seeking a way off the streets; and a cab driver and his wife dreaming of having children, but then a serious road accident changes everything. Great easy to watch addition to the general collection. (Janice)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Season two.
Rescued after fifteen years in an underground doomsday cult, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) decides to rebuild her life in New York City armed with only a fifth-grade education and a firm belief that truly anything is possible. She quickly finds a roommate, Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), a job working for a spoiled Manhattan mom, Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski), and a series of wacky adventures as she finds her new self. From the executive producers of 30 Rock (Tina Fey and Robert Carlock) this is very much in that ’30 Rock’ mould of zingy one-liners and the skewering of NY society. Ellie Kemper (Erin Hannon in ‘The Office’) is great in the title role, as is Jane Krakowski (Jenna from ’30 Rock’) as her narcissistic boss. There is also a nice turn from John Hamm as the crazy ‘Reverend’ who kept her prisoner. The first season is a bit patchy, but it really comes into its own in the 2nd season. Definitely one to watch if you were a fan of ’30 Rock’ or anything Tina Fey. (Mark)
‘Logan’ was for me a totally unexpected treat whilst Hugh Jackman is never short of brilliant the same couldn’t be said of some of the previous Wolverine instalments. This is NOT your usual superhero movie sure it has characters with superpowers and sure it has some big set piece fight scenes but the fight scenes are gritty and brutal and the super hero characters are fragile and flawed and the relationship between Logan and Xavier is at its core . The movie is much more a meditation on morality, fragility, friendship and love than a spandex knock about and both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart put in scintillating nuanced performances. It’s much more Samuel Beckett than Marvel comic universe and for me at least all the more better for it. (Neil J)
Sixty-six safes are robbed during a spectacular and heist on the small but influential Jonkhere Bank in Brussels. The banks clients hold high-level positions in industry, finance, the military, the magistracy, politics, unions, and only the safes belonging to these powerful people were hit. Money is left behind but all the private documents are stolen, and soon an unparalleled blackmail scheme is underway to destroy the country’s entire political system. Doggedly honest Euro-cop Inspector Paul Gerardi catches a rumour of the bank robbery from an informant, and when his informant later turns up dead from an apparent ‘suicide’ he knows he is onto something big. However he has no idea how big, as he is soon forced out of the police, harassed by members of the intelligence service, and has to go it alone to track down who is behind the bank robbery. All the while he has to stay one step ahead of people from his own Government out to silence him, and protect his family from a mysterious group called Salamander whose origins lie in a botched operation during WW11. Excellent self-contained Belgian series grips over 12 episodes as the tension increases and the personal stakes get higher for Gerardi. An equal to anything in the Scandi-Noir cannon. (Mark)