The last lot of Staff Pick DVDs for the year features a mix of Foreign films, indie Sci-Fi, new TV shows and a poignant tribute to actor Harry Dean Stanton.
Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz’s bold first feature Lebanon (2009) shocked the world, depicting warfare exclusively through the gunsight view from the tank. Eight years down the line, his new work appears slightly more conventional but equally impressive. A Tel Aviv couple are devastated to learn that their son, who is serving in the military, has been killed, but it turns out to be misinformation. Then, the story, which uniquely divided into three parts, unfolds with an unexpected twist. Without the scenes of conflicts or gun battles, Maoz deftly highlights the tragedy of war from the different angle. With a superb cinematography, it’s an immaculately crafted, flawless work. The only criticism may be the fact that the whole movie is too perfect and too structured. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable achievement. (Shinji)
A man (Diego Klattenhoff, Homeland, The Blacklist) wakes from a car crash with no memory. Seeking help he soon discovers that anyone who comes within a certain radius of him instantly drops dead. Retreating to his home he attempts to avoid all contact until a woman (also suffering from amnesia) finds him. She is immune to what is happening and they soon realize that she can nullify the effect he has on others – but ONLY if she remains within 50 feet from him at all times. Together they attempt to get help and find out what has happened to them. Tense and low key with minimal use of effects, this is another great indie Sci-Fi film that proves that all you need is a really intriguing idea and a good script. Klattenhoff excels at straight arrow good guys, and is perfectly cast. Has a nasty twist at the end that you may not see coming. Solidly entertaining. (Mark)
This film came out about 2 years ago and went around the film festival circuit winning great reviews all around. If you are anything like me, one look at the cover and the story line will have you interested, yet will fill you with hesitation, this movie screams hard hitting. Rest assured this film is hard hitting, and at times intense, filled with big emotions and questions about life, how we live it and we view and judge each other for the choices they make. Put aside your understandable hesitation and make the time to watch Captain Fantastic. You are bound to be blown away! (Jess)
More indie Sc-Fi with ‘Upgrade’ a mix of cyberpunk tech stylings and action. Logan Marshall-Green (Quarry) is Grey, an analogue guy in a near-future digital world, a mechanic who fixes classic cars for rich clients while his wife works for an advanced Tech company. When his wife’s self-driving car malfunctions one day in a deserted part of town they are attacked, his wife is murdered and he ends up as a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. After a suicide attempt by overdosing on medication, he is visited by a famous young tech innovator who offers to illegally surgically implant his latest creation, an AI chip called STEM, into his spine and restore motor functions to his body. Healing faster than expected Grey is surprised to hear STEM speak into his mind. STEM says it can help identify his wife’s attackers, and using his new found ‘upgraded’ abilities he decides to take revenge…’Upgrade’ comes off as a more action orientated take on a Black Mirror episode, depicting a world of human-computer augmentation and ubiquitous police drones that doesn’t seem that far off, however like most things in a Black Mirror type world, there is a price for everything… (Mark)
His career spanned more than six decades. Harry Dean Stanton appeared in countless movies, but played a rare substantial role – probably the first time since the memorable ‘Paris, Texas’ – in his final movie ‘Lucky’. In fact, the whole movie pays tribute to Stanton, who was 90 years old when it was shot and died not long after. Following an old man Lucky (Stanton), who lives alone in a small desert town, it’s a subtle study of facing mortality. Although nothing much happens in the movie, Stanton still has a remarkable screen presence, exquisitely expressing the complexity of the character, from loneliness to stubbornness to tenderness. Some of the casts are played by Stanton’s real life friends including David Lynch, who is the best supporting actor here. Harry Dean Stanton wasn’t the biggest name in the industry, but no one was given as good a send-off in this wonderful fashion. Well-deserved. (Shinji)
Rick and Morty. Season 3.
Anarchic animated comedy from the creator of Community, that follows the adventures of an eccentric alcoholic scientist and his good-hearted but fretful grandson across an infinite number of realities, with the characters travelling to other planets and dimensions through portals and Rick’s flying car. Hilariously sick and depraved. (Mark)
Room / a film by Lenny Abrahamson.
The heart-breaking story of a young woman and her five year old son who are kept prisoner in a shed, and what happens to them when they are ultimately freed. (Belinda)
The Americans. The complete final season.
Things seem grim at the outset of the final season of ‘The Americans’ set in 1987, three years after the last season, and nine weeks before the pivotal Reagan-Gorbachev summit. Philip has quit intelligence work and is now full-time travel agent, while Elizabeth is still a zealous operative, fulfilling increasingly dangerous missions and training Paige to follow in her footsteps. The cracks in their marriage are becoming increasingly wider, and only worsen as Elizabeth is recruited for a secret Mission by the anti-Gorbachev Soviet Military, and then Philip is asked to return to intelligence work to monitor what she is doing. As the summit deadline approaches can they move past their increasingly separate ideologies to save their marriage and, as FBI Agent (and neighbour) Stan Beeman’s suspicions start to solidify, can they even save themselves? A lot of series fail in the last episodes, but ‘The Americans’ delivers a fitting wrap up for each of its characters, though perhaps not always what you expect, and ends on the same level of high quality that sustained its entire run. Recommended. (Mark)