WCL staff recommend these DVDs

The latest instalment of Staff pick DVDs has a bit of everything from political drama, sci-fi adventure & monster movies, to Oscar winning coming of age, and foreign crime stories.

Guardians of the galaxy. Vol. 2.
A technicolour explosion in a glitter factory. The cinematic equivalent of a long soak in a huge luxurious bubble bath, sound tracked by an ace, superb. guilty pleasure music mainly “from the 1970s” with wise cracking, funny well rounded characters you love or loathe. In a sharp, well-paced, slick, action packed science fiction story. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is everything you want it to be and totally lives up to its predecessor. So get out the popcorn, turn off the lights settle down on the sofa you are in for a real treat. (Neil J)

The missing. Season two.
Excellent stand-alone follow up to the first season. In 2014, a young British woman stumbles through the streets of her German hometown and collapses. Her name is Alice Webster, and she has been missing for 11 years. Alice’s return sends shock waves through the small community. Told in dual timelines, flitting between 2014 and the present day, we follow Alice’s family as they are thrown back into a turmoil on her return. French detective, Julien Baptiste (from Series 1) becomes embroiled in the mystery when it is revealed that she holds vital clues about another missing girl, a case in which he was the lead detective 12 years previously. Retired & suffering a health crisis he struggles to gain access to Alice and unlock the mystery of her reappearance. As good, if not better, than the first season. Full of great acting and creepy plot twists. (Mark)

High-rise.
This is 1970s dystopian science fiction at its best, all exaggerated and exuberant bleakness concrete and chrome, hessian and wood, except for one thing this film was made in 2015. Its retro futuristic Science Fiction at its best and a total blast. The kind of film Ken Russell or Nicholas Roeg might have made back in the day. (Neil J)

Paterson.
A small quiet movie with a big warm heart – Jim Jarmusch depicts a week in the life of a bus driver and a poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey. Not much happens plot-wise, just following his everyday orbit and routine with his wife and their English bulldog. However, Jarmusch is a ‘master of variation’. Along with Paterson’s poems, he offers subtle but intriguing twists throughout creating slightly odd people and offbeat humours. It’s about love and creativity, and through the minimal but wonderfully spontaneous performances by Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani (and the dog Marvin!), reminds us that love is not only giving but, more importantly, accepting others. It’s a beauty of less-is-more. (Shinji)

Sherlock. Series four.
This season is shocking, brutal, heart pounding, will have you glued to the screen and as always, has some clever twists that you never coming. Sherlock and Watson are back in the new season, where their friendship and partnership is put to the test. This season also sees the return of old characters, the departure of a much beloved character and the appearance of new characters, one character that constantly makes multiple appearances in all three episodes. A character that is so deeply connected to Sherlock in a way you don’t see coming and is hell bent on destroying him to the point of psychological and emotional torture where another side of Sherlock is unleashed. More of an emotional, caring, loving and vulnerable side. Overall a fantastic season that had me glued to the screen, not to mention had me on edge from start to finish. Bring on Season Five! (Katie)

Homeland. The complete sixth season.
Homeland is back for another season taking place several months after Season 5. Carrie (Claire Danes) is back in the United States, living in Brooklyn and working at a foundation whose efforts are to provide aid to Muslims living in the United States. Peter Quinn is alive but has suffered a major stroke and is incapacitated and his personality has changed significantly. The season features the results of a presidential election of a female candidate, and takes place between Election Day and inauguration day, as CIA operatives Saul Berenson and Dar Adal begin to suspect that the new President Elect has an anti-intelligence bias and that Carrie may be helping shape her policy. A more personal season as the attacks on Carrie become more insidious, the show also follows an eerie parallel to the current US political climate. Definitely worth reconnecting with if you have found the last few seasons patchy. (Mark)

Colossal.
Colossal is a very different type of monster movie from the usual Hollywood or Japanese blockbuster. Anne Hathaway plays a woman who has to leave her urban life and return home due in part to issues she has with alcohol abuse. There she falls into an abusive relationship with someone from her past. At this point a giant creature emerges in Seoul and she slowly comes to the realisation that this is connected in some way to her and events in her past. It’s a quirky odd American indie film and more about the female lead than the monsters. Think of a version of Cloverfield directed by Jim Jarmusch rather than Godzilla directed Ishiro Honda. (Neil J)

Schitt$ Creek. Series 1, 2 & 3.
Written, produced and starring two veterans of Christopher Guest movies like ‘A Mighty Wind’ and Best in Show, Schitts Creek is very funny and well worth watching. No one says what they mean, no one hears any responses they don’t like and the main characters take forever to hear the sarcasm directed their way. The series features a great cast, led by Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, Schitts Creek and has a very well-written script. (Belinda)

Moonlight.
Chiron is too sensitive in a macho black community. His mother is a drug addict and his best and only friend Kevin is the one he loves. It’s just too hard for him to be true to himself. In this exquisite coming of age tale which is uniquely divided into three chapters, the newcomer Berry Jenkins portrays Chiron’s lonely heart brilliantly. Showing the shadows of modern auteurs such as Claire Denis, Hou Hsiao- Hsien and Wong Kar-Wai, Jenkins displays his enormous talent and fine aesthetic, particularly in immaculately crafted poetic images, and makes it a beautifully intimate, humanising drama. This may be the most unusual Oscar winner – non-white, small art-house movie dealing with a sexual minority – but will be long remembered for its quality. (Shinji)

American Gods. Season 1.
‘American Gods’ is one of the latest mega budget T.V. series to follow in the wake of the success of Game of Thrones it’s been showered by critical acclaim and attracted a huge loyal fan base and when you watch it it’s easy to see why. Eye popping visuals that swoop from macro stunning landscapes to microscopic detail in seconds, a wildly inventive plot based on the Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel. It’s surreal, provocative, and in some circles controversial and has even been called blasphemous. It’s brilliantly acted. I esp. like Ian McShane as a God. I personally can’t wait to see what they do in series two. (Neil J)

A dog’s purpose.
A heart-warming movie about the eight life journey of Bailey/Ellie/Tino/Waffles/Buddy and Bailey… again as he tries to find himself and his purpose in life. This movie will make you laugh, make you cry, feel warm and fuzzy, and will make you develop an appreciation, as well as respect for the aptly named man’s, as well as woman’s best friend, which Bailey/Ellie/Tino/Waffles/Buddy and Bailey proves time and time again throughout the movie, finding his purpose in life and teaching a few lifelong lessons along the way. Be prepared to have tissues on hand. I haven’t seen a better movie dogs since Red Dog. A librarian’s choice all the way! (Katie)

The disappearance.
Francois-Xavier Demaison is Bertrand Molina the new Police Commandant in Lyon’s national police station. As soon as he arrives for his new job a young teenage girl disappears at a music festival. With the grieving family pressing for answers, it’s not long before Molina uncovers a number of shocking secrets in a case that pushes everyone to breaking point. A combination of police procedural and drama, with the central focus is on a grieving family it naturally evokes comparison to the first season of Danish series The Killing, and is apparently inspired by the award-winning Spanish series Desaparecida. While not quite at the same level as The Killing it is well constructed, believably acted and worth a look if you are a fan of shows like Witnesses & Broadchurch. (Mark)

The red turtle.
A shipwrecked sailor has to survive on a desert island and comes across a red turtle that changes his life. This studio Ghibli co production is as you we have come to expect an exquisitely animated and very beautiful film in places it’s like watching a dream. The story is deceptively simple with the narrative instead driven by the visuals. In tone it’s like an adult version of the studio Ghibli classic Ponyo. If you are enjoying the new golden age of animated film we are in then this is a must. (Neil J)

Manchester by the sea.
Manchester’s gloomy winter sky sets the mood. Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret)’s new film is a deeply emotional, haunting drama. Following the taciturn, solitary man Lee (superb Casey Affleck), it’s a study of grief, and the story unfolds with elaborate flashbacks as if reading a compelling novel. Lonergan seems to learn a lesson from the previous work Margaret, which was potent but terribly messy, and weaves a beautifully balanced, coherent drama in which every detail has a meaning. Cassy Affleck received numerous awards and deservedly so but under masterful direction, all characters, including wonderful Michelle Williams, shine here. Marvellous. (Shinji)

John Wick. Chapter 2.
More bonkers action with the taciturn John Wick (Keanu Reeves in great form), who is forced out of retirement again to honour a blood ‘marker’ from a former associate wanting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. As sequels go this is pretty good. It sets up the background for ‘one more comeback’ nicely and fleshes out the underground world & rules of the mysterious guild. But John Wick is all about the high octane action and once this hits the ground it never lets up. Is it completely daft? Yes. Is it also totally enjoyable? Definitely. (Mark)

T2 trainspotting.
Begbie and the boys are now having to deal with middle age and the ghosts of their past. This sequel is nowhere near as bleak and unrelenting as the original. It’s much funnier (in a very dark way) and fairly rattles along . As sequels go pretty much everything you could wish it to be. If you prefer the original try the other recent Welsh film adaptation Filth (the title in a way says it all). (Neil J)

Toni Erdmann.
Slightly bizarre, certainly unique and definitely wonderful- the German filmmaker Maren Ade’s father-daughter relationship drama Toni Erdmann offers a delightful cinematic experience like no other. It takes a while for the narrative to get going but evolves superbly with a plenty of surprises after the prankster father visits his all-business daughter in Romania. Although it appear an improvised, free-flowing affair, Ade, in fact, meticulously prepared for this project; researching many comedians particularly Andy Kaufman, writing the script for two years (even biographies for every characters), a year casting and countless rehearsals, and succeeded to bring out a deep melancholic emotion from the comedy. Enthralling. (Shinji)

Shin Godzilla.
Godzilla movies are for me one of my ultimate guilty pleasures. I know they are cheesy and corny but there is just something about watching a person in a rubber suit trashing a model city that deeply appeals. In ‘Shin Godzilla’ the effects are now CGI but in many other ways this is a back to basics Godzilla movie the terror, the fear, awe and wonder at this unstoppable raw force of nature are all there and to top it all the final destruction scene is ace. A proper top notch GUILTY PLEASURE. (Neil J)

Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month

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)

Finding Dory.
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)

Sully.
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)

Captain Fantastic.
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)

Arrival.
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)

Indignation.
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) Continue reading “Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month”

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #13

With this next update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have the latest season of historical Australian drama ‘A Place To Call Home’, adaptations of Joanne Fluke’s bestselling series of books with ‘Murder She Baked’, the Tina Fey produced hit comedy ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, crime thrillers ‘One Of Us’ & ‘The Level’ and the historical fashion & glamour of ‘The Collection’ & ‘The Halcyon’.

A place to call home. Season 4.
“Marta Dusseldorp leads the cast of this sweeping romantic drama set in 1950s rural Australia. The season follows the lives of the Blighs, a wealthy and complicated pastoralist family, who live in Inverness, NSW. With George now married to Regina, Sarah is seemingly separated from him forever but still they struggle to move on from the deep love that they feel for each other; Anna and Gino’s new marriage is tested again; jack tries to prove to Carolyn, full of self-doubt, that she’s worthy of him; and Elizabeth shocks the family with her new attitude to life.” (Syndetics Summary)

Murder, she baked : 4 movie collection.
“A CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MYSTERY: When the milkman is found murdered behind her bakery, Hannah Swensen, the heroine of Joanne Fluke’s bestselling series of books, sets out to track down a killer. If she doesn’t watch her back, Hannah’s sweet life may get burned to a crisp. A PLUM PUDDING MYSTERY: This holiday season, Hannah Swensen is making plum pudding and trying to solve the murder of a man in his own office. A PEACH COBBLER MYSTERY: With The Cookie Jar, Hannah Swensen has a mouth-watering monopoly on the bakery business of Lake Eden, Minnesota. But when a rival store opens, and one of the owners is found shot to death in the store, Hannah is determined to prove that she wasn’t the only one who had an axe to grind with the Quinn sisters. A DEADLY RECIPE: Hannah discovers the body of Sheriff Grant–bludgeoned while holding one of her homemade fudge cupcakes.” (From Amazon.co.uk description)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Season one.
“Rescued after fifteen years in an underground doomsday cult, Kimmy 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, a job working for a spoiled Manhattan mom, Jacqueline Voorhees, and a new beginning.” (Syndetics Summary)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Season two.
“She’s back, she’s only slightly more informed, and she’s ready to take life by storm! From the executive producers of 30 Rock (Tina Fey and Robert Carlock), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns for a second season that’s “as ridiculous and fun as ever” (Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter). As Kimmy (Primetime Emmy nominee Ellie Kemper) continues to learn the ways of New York City, she’s got her roommate Titus (Primetime Emmy nominee Tituss Burgess) and socialite Jacqueline (Primetime Emmy nominee Jane Krakowski) by her side to tackle all social matters that are hashbrown: relevant.” (Description from Amazon.com)

Rectify. Season four.
“In the fourth and final season, Daniel has moved away from his hometown in Georgia and is beginning his new life at a halfway house in Nashville. Separated from his family, Daniel continues his struggle to manage life after prison. The family that he left behind is fractured, but not completely broken. Can they find ways to move forward?” (Syndetics Summary)

The collection.
“A gripping entrepreneurial fable set in France just after the Second World War. An ambitious designer is tasked to restore Paris’ supremacy as the haute couture capital. His fresh vision will usher in a new romantic era lifting the post-war gloom and paving the way for optimism and romance. But can this business, spearheaded by two clashing brothers survive meteoric success? The staff of the atelier survived one devastating war, but another looms, where personal battles and passionate love stories set family against family and the past against the future.” (Syndetics summary)

Rizzoli & Isles. The complete sixth season.
“Best friends and work colleagues Detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Dr. Maura Isles use the best of their expert skills and unique personalities to solve Boston’s deadliest crimes. Hundreds of threatening emails. Credit accounts hacked. Her apartment burned. A death message found inside a murder victim. Someone has it out for Detective Jane Rizzoli in Season Six, and she’s consumed with finding out who. As clues keep coming and Jane is assigned a bodyguard, Boston’s finest are put on the case in a race against time…until medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles disappears, victim of a possible kidnapping. As the investigation grows more dangerous and more puzzling, it will take everything the two women have to get themselves out of trouble and back into the arms of friends and family.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

One of us.
“Grace Douglas and Adam Elliot grew up side by side in remote rural Scotland. Recently married, they are full of hope for the future – until their young lives are cut short by a brutal murder. The Douglases and Elliots are fiercely different families, split by old rifts but forced together in rage and grief when the man who killed Grace and Adam crashes into their lives, they face a choice that will have dark consequences for all of them. As they stumble down the path they have chosen, truth and morality become obscured. The death of Grace and Adam is just the start of this dangerous journey, one that will twist and turn until its devastating end…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

The Level.
“Nancy’s exemplary police career masks a covert attachment to shady businessman and drugs trafficker, Frank Le Saux. Inextricably linked to Frank from childhood as the father of her best friend, Hayley and the father figure she herself craved, Nancy has been playing a dangerous game – ensuring that Frank always remains off the police radar. When Frank is murdered Nancy finds herself at the centre of an investigation which will put her at risk of exposure and see her stalked by a killer intent on destroying her…” (Syndetics summary)

My mother & other strangers.
“Moybeg is home to Englishwoman Rose, her Irish husband Michael Coyne and their three children: Emma, Francis and Kate. With her English accent and her London ways, Rose is the only ‘stranger’ in the community. That is until 4,000 American servicemen and women arrive along with the handsome Captain Dreyfuss. As Rose finds herself acting as peacekeeper between the disgruntled locals and the airbase, she is also drawn to the engaging young captain”… (Syndetics summary)

The Halcyon. Season one.
“The Halcyon is the story of a bustling and glamorous five star hotel at the center of London society and a world at war. Set in 1940, series shows London life through the prism of war and the impact it has on families, politics, relationships and work across every social strata–set to a soundtrack of the music of the era”… (Syndetics Summary)

Movies galore: the NZ International Film Festival is back #nziff

Our beloved winter event the New Zealand International Film Festival 2017 opens 28 July in Wellington offering a wide variety of movies from all over the world. To get into the mood, some of our movie buff staff listed their favourite titles from recent festivals and the results are below.

We have a lot of movies previously showcased at the festival. You can find the titles here – check them out to have your own festival at home.

Our Staff picks from the recent film festivals

Beth
Aquarius
A sensitive portrayal of a beautiful woman, now aging, who stubbornly wants to keep her apartment despite all odds.

Bridget
Free to Run / A War / Paterson / Midnight Special / Chasing Asylum

Jessica
The Rehearsal
A really great kiwi film based on the book by Eleanor Catton. I haven’t read the book but I from my understanding the film only covers part of the story, but you couldn’t tell it was missing anything.

When Marnie Was There
I really loved it. As with any Studio Ghibli film, it was visually stunning.

Mark
Goodnight Mommy
German horror/thriller, part of the new ‘wave’ of non-slasher horror films as represented by films like It Follows, Babadook & Under The Skin. 9 year old twins Lukas & Elias living in an idyllic isolated summer cottage waiting for their Mother to return from having plastic surgery. When she returns her face is covered in bandages, and slowly little things emerge about her seem that seem off. Gradually their suspicions increase… Is that really their mother under the bandages? The nasty twist may be easy for some to spot, but it’s still super creepy.

The Lobster
One you immediately love or loathe, a savage indictment of modern interpersonal relationships, taken to its natural dystopian extreme. In the near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. The newly single Colin Farrell navigates the surreal Hotel, and survives by escaping into The Woods to live with ‘The Loners’ who have their own sets of rules. Perhaps mislabelled as a ‘Comedy’ or a ‘Romance’. Very very deadpan, but plenty of great lines and moments if you can get into its mindset.

Green Room
Tight indie thriller sees a punk band fall afoul of a bunch of skinheads after accidentally witnessing a murder in an Oregon roadhouse. The claustrophobic setting is put to maximum effect as the skinheads (led by a nasty turn from Patrick Stewart) are determined to eliminate all witnesses. Sadly one of the last roles of the very talented Anton Yelchin.

Neil J
Midnight special
An indie feeling road movie/chase/Science fiction film with family relationship at its core rather than blockbuster special effects. Though it does have one or two nice visual effects to boot.

Swiss army man
Daniel Radcliffe distances himself even further from this Harry Potter days in this truly bizarre yet rather wonderful film about a magical corpse.

Captain Fantastic
A film that works on so many levels . It is touching, funny, serious, intense and a whole gambit more of emotions a really rounded film that asks us to question 21st century life and its true value. My pick of this selection of films.

Rams
This is an off kilter quirky gem of a film . Two Icelandic brothers who haven’t spoken in years conduct their affairs through their prize herds of sheep. Very black and wry humour throughout.

Turbo Kid
A film that revels in mega low budget science fiction of the 80’s ( in a really fun way) . All the tropes are there and one or two of the actors too!.

Inherent Vice
Set in a drug drenched 1970s an L.A. private eye investigates the disappearance of one of his former girlfriends a hypnotic, rambling, impressionistic film, immersive film perhaps not to everyone’s taste , But so vividly realised you can almost taste and touch 1970s Los Angeles .

High Rise
This is 1970s dystopian science fiction at its best, all exaggerated and exuberant bleakness concrete and chrome, hessian and wood, except for one thing this film was made in 2015. Its retro futuristic Science Fiction at its best and a total blast. The kind of film Ken Russell or Nicholas Roeg might have made back in the day.

Shinji
Paterson – Jim Jarmusch masterfully crafts a quiet but lovely warm-hearted movie about a working class poet Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey.
I, Daniel Blake – Anger within but with as little drama as possible, Ken Roach depicts the struggles of a widowed carpenter. One of his finest works.
Our Little Sister – A ‘sweet and lovely’ movie which offers beautiful tenderness and emotion though successive small moments of everyday life.
The Assassin – a sublime, breathtakingly beautiful film in which every scene is a work of art.
My Mother – about facing mortality but Italian auteur Nanni Moretti makes it a charming family drama which has a perfect balance of melodrama and comedy.
Embrace of the Serpent –The powerful tale of Western civilization vs. indigenous value takes us into the mysterious Amazon jangle with a stunning image.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – often described as ‘the Iranian feminist vampire western’. A little Indie gem.
Tehran taxi – Iranian master director Jafar Panahi ingeniously turns the taxi into a mirror of Iranian society. Serious yet playful.

William
From 2016: A War and Green Room – both are recommended for those with strong stomachs.
From 2015: Dope and The Mafia Kills Only in Summer – both are fine for anyone

Fiona
Girlhood / Helvetica / Cabin In The Woods / Only Lovers Left Alive / Drowning By Numbers

Marilyn
Life Animated / Boyhood / The music of strangers : Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble / Amour / The Daughter

Staff Pick DVDs – Best of 2016

We’ve been watching a wide variety of films & TV shows so here are some of our favourites from last year. Plenty of different genres, so hopefully you will find something to enjoy that you may have missed the first time around.

Katie’s Picks:
Cover imageBlindspot. The complete first season.
A new crime/drama/thriller TV series that focuses on a mysterious tattooed woman dubbed Jane Doe who has lost her memory and possesses unique hand to hand combat skills. She then works with the FBI when they realize her tattoos hold the key to solving certain crimes that take place throughout the series. However the question on everyone’s lips throughout the series, is who is Jane Doe and whose side is she on. I think she is the most mysterious, unique and captivating character I have ever encountered. Just when she learns something new about herself and her identity, and you think you have her figured out, something new always arises and leaves you wondering. This is an amazing series that will have you glued to the screen, that will keep you on the edge from start to finish, with a gripping season finale that will encourage you to watch season two.

Cover imageEye in the sky.
A unique and heartbreaking thriller that provides insight into the moral implications and the cost of modern warfare. What should sound like a walk in the park for the military minds in the US and the UK when they together to capture terrorists in Nairobi goes pear shaped when a girl enters the kill zone. This then triggers an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare over whether the girl should be sacrificed to save the lives of many and prevent imminent disaster. This film will leave you crying tears of frustration and agony, as well as hanging in moral knots and pondering over questions such as “Does conscience still figure in modern warfare?”, and perhaps make you think twice about people working in military roles. I was particularly by the late Alan Rickman’s performance, especially during the last scene where he gives a touched by a passionate and moving declaration about what a military man really knows of war, that will also get you thinking. Overall, a fantastic film worth watching!

Mark’s Picks:
Cover imageBillions. Season one.
In this Showtime drama about power politics in the world of New York high finance Damian Lewis is hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, while Paul Giamatti is the shrewd & ruthless U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades who is out to bring him down – a task made more complicated by the fact that Rhodes’ wife (Maggie Siff) works for Axelrod’s company as an in-house therapist. Rhodes believes that Axelrod & his Wall Street associates are nothing but criminals who are destroying America and and soon the two alpha-males are on an explosive collision course, with each using all of his considerable smarts, power and influence to outmanoeuvre the other. Fast paced and full of complex shady financial & political dealings and fantastic performances from the three main leads.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.
‘Mr. Robot’ stars Rami Malek as Elliot a socially-awkward cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, who finds himself approached by the enigmatic ‘Mr. Robot’ (Christian Slater), the mysterious head of an underground hacker collective who want to bring down the major corporation that Elliot’s company provides security for. However Elliot is also a very troubled young man with a ‘history’ of breakdowns, is currently undergoing court-mandated therapy, & has recently stopped taking his medication. ‘Mr. Robot’ pushes zeitgeist buttons on everything from wealth inequality, the power & control of corporations, social media, data breaches & hackers in new & interesting ways. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Malek & Slater.

Cover imageOccupied. Series 1.
Set in the near future, where a catastrophic hurricane fuelled by climate change, has led to the rise of the Norwegian Green Party into political power. Idealistic Prime Minister Jesper Berg, has plans for thorium-based nuclear energy, and cuts off all fossil fuel production. With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe is suffering an energy crisis, and in retaliation the EU asks Russia to initiate a ‘velvet glove’ invasion of Norway. Russian special forces kidnap Berg, insisting that he submit to EU demands or face a full-scale invasion. What follows is told from the perspective of several characters as the effects of a ‘non-violent’ occupation begin to insidiously colour the lives and undercut the political processes of the Norwegian people.

Cover imageThe night of.
Critically acclaimed HBO drama starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed. New York student Naz (Ahmed) embarks on a wild night of drugs and sex with a mysterious woman after picking her up in his father’s cab. The next morning he wakes to find her stabbed to death in her bed. With no recollection of the previous night’s events, Naz flees the scene but is quickly brought in by the city’s police and identified as the main suspect for the murder. Scuffling precinct- crawling defence lawyer John Stone (Turturro) finds himself in the right place at the right time to take Naz’s case, and after initially thinking of it as a way to lift his own fortunes, he comes to believe in his clients innocence. Based on the UK series Criminal Justice.

Cover imageThe night manager. The complete series.
British-American television miniseries adaptation of the 1993 novel of the same name by John le Carré, adapted to the present day starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, and Olivia Colman. Hiddleston is the titular ‘Night-Manager’, a loner and former soldier who crosses paths with the beautiful mistress of a powerful man in the Cairo hotel where he works. After she passes some documents to him for safe keeping, he in turn passes them onto a contact in the British Embassy & thus on to British Intelligence. A leak ensues, and blaming himself after she is killed, he drifts through several courtiers, eventually ending up 4 years later in a small hotel in Zurich. One night he learns a guest is coming to stay, an English arms dealer (Laurie) whom he believes was one of the people responsible for the death of the woman years ago. Seeing a chance for revenge he re-instigates a contact at British Intelligence (Coleman) and thus begins a plan to infiltrate Laurie’s organisation.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageTehran taxi.
Iranian master director and activist Jafar Panahi has been banned from making films since 2010. However, he is somehow still doing what he is genius at. In this film, the director himself drives a taxi through the city of Tehran and picks up various passengers, and cleverly turns the taxi into a mirror of Iranian society, social morals and politics. The message implied in the film is powerful and serious but he does it with a droll, playful manner. Ingenious.

Cover imageCarol.
In the painting of Edward Hopper’s like milieu, Douglas Sirk-esque gorgeous melodrama unfolds. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, Todd Haynes weaves an impeccable love story of two women in the 50s. The milieu of the era is exquisitely recreated and every element shapes the film, such as cinematography, art design, wardrobe and music, contribute marvellously to this forbidden but distained encounter. Divine. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe assassin.
This meticulously crafted film is better to be watched on a big screen, but Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first wuxia (martial hero) film in his long career is a sublime, breathtakingly beautiful film in which every scene is a work of art. The story is told in ‘read between the lines’ style and it may be a good idea to go into the film with some prior knowledge of the plot. Nevertheless, it’s a bliss. (Shinji)

Cover imageOur little sister.
With the exquisite tempo and the graceful camera work, Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda crafts an intimate, slowly savoured family drama about four Japanese sisters, one of whom has been adopted by the other three. One of the most consistent filmmakers of today, Kore-eda offers beautiful tenderness and emotion though successive small moments of everyday life. Maybe everything is too nice and a little soppy, but this ‘sweet and loveliness’ is hard to resist. (Shinji)

Sandy’s Pick:
Cover imageSoundbreaking : stories from the cutting edge of recorded music.
This is an 8-part documentary series about the evolution of music production and recording, mainly in the form of interviews with people from the industry – artists, writers, and producers (the unsung heroes!). Fascinating and informative, it tells how various innovations led from one recording method to the next and covers genres from disco to hiphop to rock – a trip down memory lane for us older music lovers and for the younger ones, a real eye-opener, I would imagine. I particularly enjoyed listening to well-known musicians talking about the artists who influenced them.

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageOutlander. Season two.

CoverimageLondon has fallen.

Cover imageThe BFG.

cover imageStar wars. The Force awakens.

Axel’s Picks:
Cover imageThe witch: a New-England folktale.

cover imageGreen room.

Cover imageKubo and the two strings.

Cover imageThe jungle book.

Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageHunt for the Wilderpeople.

Cover imageSausage party.

Cover imageTickled.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.

Cover imageThe big short.

Cover imageThe revenant.

Cover imageVictoria.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.

Staff Pick DVDs – Dec/Jan

Some staff DVD picks to round out the year- an acclaimed HBO drama, Italian comedy, Japanese animation, German horror, and an in depth examination of the Cimemax oeuvre. We will be back early next year with the picks of our favourite DVDs of 2016.

Cover imageThe night of.
Critically acclaimed HBO drama starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed. New York student Naz (Ahmed) embarks on a wild night of drugs and sex with a mysterious woman after picking her up in his father’s cab. The next morning he wakes to find her stabbed to death in her bed. With no recollection of the previous night’s events, Naz flees the scene but is quickly brought in by the city’s police and identified as the main suspect for the murder. Scuffling precinct- crawling defence lawyer John Stone (Turturro) finds himself in the right place at the right time to take Naz’s case, and after initially thinking of it as a way to lift his own fortunes, he comes to believe in his clients innocence. Based on the UK series Criminal Justice, it had initially been a passion project of James Gandolfini, who was to play the part of lawyer Jack Stone before his untimely death. However Turturro steps up instead and delivers a knockout performance. Scripted by novelist Richard Price, it succeeds on every level. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageOur kind of traitor.
A civilian couple (Ewan McGregor & Naomie Harris) on vacation in Marrakesh to work on their marriage befriend a flamboyant and charismatic Russian named Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), who, unbeknownst to them, is a financial wizard/money launderer for the Russian mafia. When Dima confides to his new friends that he plans to escape from the mob, they agree to be the go-between for him with MI6. He promises the accounts and names of prominent British Politicians receiving bribes to open a new London based bank that will be a front for Russian Mob money, in exchange for asylum for himself and his family. But with MI6 officer Damien Lewis running an operation unsanctioned & opposed by his political bosses, how can they get Dima and his family out? While it perhaps lacks the gravitas of The Constant Gardener, or A Most Wanted Man, this is a solid adaptation of the John Le Carré novel from 2010. McGregor & Harris are good as the ordinary couple, Skarsgard chews scenery as the larger than life Dima, and Damien Lewis is excellent as the clinical upper-crust MI6 agent. Definitely worth a watch. Perhaps the main issue it has, is that it had the misfortune to be made/released around the same time as the excellent The Night Manager, which showed just how much Le Carre’s tales benefit from a longer running time and a more detailed approach. (Mark)

Cover imageMy Mother = Mia madre.
Margherita is a renowned film director but struggling to complete her latest film. She’s broken up with her partner and doesn’t have the slightest idea what her daughter has been up to. Her life is in tatters, and furthermore and most importantly, her beloved mother is dying. Italy’s leading film maker Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room, We have a Pope)’s new film is about facing mortality. The theme is naturally sombre but Moretti, who is one of the unique auteurs of today, shows his flair of comedy and ingenious skill to make it a tender, charming family drama. It’s a perfectly constructed film in which every detail is in the right order, and has a beautiful balance of melodrama and comedy. Before we know it, we share the story rather than watching it. After all, we are all someone’s children. (Shinji)

Cover imageGoodnight mommy.
Eerie German ‘horror’ film sees 9 year old twins Lukas & Elias living in an idyllic isolated summer cottage waiting for their Mother to return from having plastic surgery. When she returns her face is covered in bandages, and slowly little things emerge about her seem that seem off. Gradually their suspicions increase… Is that really their mother under the bandages? Some have criticised that the twist is telegraphed far too early & easy to guess. Maybe so, but the film isn’t really about the twist, it’s about the insular nature of the world of ‘childhood’ , the slow build of tension & atmosphere. More for those who are into the new ‘wave’ of non-slasher horror films as represented by films like It Follows, Babadook & Under The Skin. (Mark)

Cover imageGreen room.
Down-on-their-luck punk rockers ‘The Ain’t Rights’ agree to a last-minute gig in a backwoods Oregon roadhouse. The gig soon takes a sinister turn as the band members stumble upon a grisly murder scene and find themselves trapped in the Roadhouse, targeted by a ruthless club owner and his associates, determined to eliminate all witnesses. Effective indie thriller sees the talented Anton Yelchin in one of his final roles, and a nasty turn from Patrick Stewart as the leader of a bunch of Neo-Nazi’s. Makes the most of its claustrophobic setting. Definitely worth a watch. (Mark)

Cover imageThe tale of the Princess Kaguya.
Watching at home last week, I found ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ to be an absolute revelation. The film retells one of the earliest recorded Japanese folk-tales, a story of love and obligation which plays out between humans and the denizens of other realms. It blends the fantastic with the everyday, and handles both with deftness and great emotional charge. Coming from the famous Ghibli studios, its elegant design and thoughtful storytelling are a cut above even its famous stable-mates; the animation style is particularly striking, drawing on traditional modes of brush painting and contemporary digital techniques to produce some startlingly expressionistic and charged moments. The sound design is likewise exceptional, building an elegiac mood of dreamlike fantasy around the film’s stunning images. I have rarely been more moved by any film than by ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’, which manages to draw memorable moments of great lightness, sublimity and humour, and weighty human realities, into one perfectly formed whole. Due to the film’s length, I wouldn’t recommend it for the smallest people, but it’s excellent for the thoughtful older child who loves a strong story, as well as adults of all ages. (Alex)

Currently riding high with the success of the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ gritty Quarry crime novels which is getting favourable comparisons to the first season of True Detective, the following reviews are a look at the guilty pleasure of some of Cinemax’s (or ‘Skinemax’ as it is better known) attempts at legitimate TV programming…
CoverimageHunted.[Series one].
Melissa George helms this Spy drama, created by X-Files alumni Frank Spotnitz, a joint production between the BBC & Cinemax. George plays Sam Hunter an operative for a private Intelligence/Security firm called ‘Byzantium’, who is ambushed after a rescue operation in Tangiers. Barely managing to survive she recuperates for a year in secret before returning to Byzantium, where her new assignment is to infiltrate the family of a wealthy British criminal who has leveraged his entire fortune into winning the bid on a Dam construction project in Upper Khyber. Paralleling this, Sam attempts to uncover which of her Byzantium colleagues was behind her assassination attempt, and why it seems to tie into a traumatic incident from her childhood. At only 8 episodes this slick spy show throws in a lot of plot, sometimes becoming overly convoluted, and most of the secondary characters don’t make much impact. However it’s entertaining enough if you’re looking for a post-Spooks spy fix with plenty of action. Dropped by the BBC after this series.

Cover imageStrike back. Cinemax season one.
Two things are clear from then first moments of Cinemax’s ‘Strike Back’ Season 1. The first is that it has incredibly high production values, and the second is that it has almost zero intellectual content. The Cinemax series is technically Season 2 of this show, as it was originally a BBC Sky 2010 UK mini-series entitled Chris Ryan’s Strike Back (Reviewed here) which starred Richard Armitage in the lead role as John Porter, a member of Section 20 a secretive branch of the British Defence Intelligence service. Supposedly envisioned as a continuing role, that idea came to an end when Armitage left to work on the Hobbit movies. However American channel Cinemax decided to continue the series, rebooting it as a joint US/UK production with two new leads, Philip Winchester (an American playing a Brit) & Sullivan Stapleton (an Australian playing an American – who would later turn up as the lead in Blindspot). When Porter is kidnapped & killed by mysterious Pakistani terrorist Latif, who is masterminding a upcoming terror plot, Michael Stonebridge (Winchester) is tasked to find dishonourably discharged Delta Force operative Damian Scott (Stapleton), who is the only other person who can positively identify Latif. Scott is soon recruited into Section 20, and the five stories (10 episodes) are essentially stand alone, but all connected by the unifying search to find Latif. Sort of 24 minus the moral questions & hand-wringing, and with more gun fights & gratuitous sex scenes. Strike back would go on for 3 more Cinemax seasons: Cinemax Season Two, Cinemax Season Three & Cinemax Season Four before wrapping up.

Cover imageBanshee. The complete first season.
Of the Cinemax series’ before Quarry ‘Banshee’ was the most critically & commercially successful. Created by writer Jonathan Tropper & produced by Alan Ball (creator/EP of True Blood) ‘Banshee’ is, if anything, more lurid and violent than ‘Strike Back’. It begins with a thief (Kiwi Antony Starr) just released from jail after serving fifteen years of hard time. He persuades his foul mouthed drag queen/computer expert friend (a hilarious Hoon Lee) to track down his ex-flame and partner-in-crime Anna (Ivana Milicevic), and the diamonds she got away with. Arriving in a crooked Pennsylvania town called Banshee he soon finds her living under an assumed name and married with 2 children, one of which could be his. Seeking solace in a bar on the outskirts of town he and bartender and ex-con Sugar (Frankie Faison) witness the brutal death of Banshee’s incoming sheriff Lucas Hood, whom no one in town knows. He then decides, while burying the body, that assuming Hood’s identify is this best way to disappear off the grid and stay near his ex-girlfriend [No spoilers, as this all takes place within the first 30 minutes]. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the show: in that it’s somewhat preposterous, but also addictive & incredibly intense. Each episodes is stuffed full of action, with brutally realistic fight scenes, gratuitous sex and intense character interactions. The arrival of ‘Hood’ causes decidedly mixed feelings in Milicevic’s Anna (now married to the local D.A) in that she still harbours feelings for him but is scared his presence will cause the mysterious Mr. Rabbit, the Ukrainian mob boss whose diamonds they stole, to find her. In turn Hood finds that the corrupt town, controlled by Amish overlord Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen) is the perfect vehicle to dilute his barely contained anger, and proceeds to dispense some distinctly non-by-the-book Policing. Starr is excellent as Hood, his wounded countenance the perfect balance to the American Gothic hardboiled noir of the story. The hidden secrets, relationships, shifting alliances between the characters, Hoods Deputies, the local Indian Tribe, the Amish community & criminal factions all provide enough backdrop & character arcs for Banshee Season Two, Three & Four.
For more Cinemax see also The Knick Season 1 & Season 2, and the upcoming release of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast. (Mark)

Latest Staff Picks DVDs

Some staff DVD picks for June with a bit of everything from financial dramas, mysteries, foreign thrillers, and book adaptations…

Cover imageThe bridge. The complete series three.
Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) returns in the third season of The Bridge investigating a series of strangely posed murders all seemingly linked to a right wing vlogger. Assigned a new Danish partner, Henrik (Thure Lindhardt), whose private life seems murky, she also has to deal with the sudden appearance in her life of her estranged mother. While the plot of the third season of the super popular Danish/Swedish crime show is as convoluted as previous seasons, it is perhaps somewhat pulpier and not as consistent. However on the other hand, Saga’s new work partner is more enigmatic and interesting than Martin (now in jail following the events in Season 2) and his backstory plays out quite cleverly throughout the episodes, paving the way for perhaps the next season. As for Saga, Sofia Helin’s performance continues to amaze, with the return of her mother and some more of her history revealed she is able to shape her character with a deeper emotional palette. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageWinter. Season 1 ; + The killing field.
The peace of small town, Rocky Point, a beautiful seaside fishing town off Sydney, is disturbed when a young mother, Karly Johansson is found murdered and it’s up to Detective Sergeant Eve Winter (Rebecca Gibney) and her taskforce to solve the case. While there, she reunites with Detective Sergeant Lachlan McKenzie (Peter O’Brien), who has feelings towards Eve. Lachlan suspects that Karly’s murder has a connection to a murder case 8 years ago where another woman was found dead. The key solving the case lies with unlocking the memory of Karly’s best friend/foster sister, Indiana Hope, (Sara West), a troubled former prostitute and a key witness that could bring down an underground drug and human trafficking ring. As the season unfolds, everyone’s pasts are revealed. You also find out that there is more to Karly, or should I say her family, than meets the eye. As for the true identity of the killer, well you won’t see it coming. Overall I enjoyed this series. Once the first episode locks you in, you have to watch it to the very end to get an understanding of how everything connects, who done it and why. If you are a fan of crime series like Broadchurch, The Killing and The Bridge, then Winter is a must see series. Also check out the telemovie ‘The Killing Field’, that sets the whole series in motion. (Katie)

StaffPicksDVDs399 homes.
Well acted but depressing drama focusing on the speculative property market that arose as part of the 2008 financial crisis. Andrew Garfield plays a single father evicted from his family home along with his mother by ruthless local property kingpin (Michael Shannon). Forced into living in a motel, Garfield’s character needs money & is forced to parlay his construction skills into doing odd jobs for Shannon. Soon, rising in the ranks, he is leading Shannon’s eviction crew and spiralling into a moral abyss of hard cash & speculation, centring on a massive land deal that can only be secured if they acquire the titular ’99 homes’. Shannon is great. Much to admire here, but hard to enjoy. (Mark)

Cover imageWitnesses.
‘Witnesses’ is a 6 part French thriller made for TV in the Scandinavian Noir style, set in Le Treport, Normandy. It has been likened to The Bridge and The Killing. Although people have said it was grisly, I didn’t find it so, and in fact it was less grim and creepy than some of the Scandi thrillers. The main character of Sandra Winckler is an interesting woman, as is Paul Maisonneuve a suave retired cop who is hauled out of retirement to solve the case, (which turns out to be two cases). The tension between the two leads dates back to when Paul was training new recruits including Sandra. Le Treport is bleak and atmospheric. ‘Witnesses’ is stylish and well worth a look. Hopefully there will be Series 2. (Marilyn)

Cover imageThe lobster.
We don’t usually post negative reviews on this site, as we are here to recommend movies that you will actually like. However this is a wildly diverging film which has as many 1 star reviews as 5 stars on Amazon, so here are 2 different takes on this film for you to decide…
The first English language feature from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) is a satire on modern relationships. In this dystopian future people live in The City where if they suddenly find themselves single they are taken to The Hotel, where they must find a romantic partner in forty-five days or be transformed into an animal of their choice. Guests at the hotel can gain extra days by hunting and capturing any of the non-conformist ‘loners’ who live in the forest. David (Colin Farrell) arrives at the hotel after his wife has left him, but soon falls in with the Loners, who are led by the sadistic Léa Seydoux. Amongst the Loners he meets the quirky Rachel Weisz, but the Loners have many rules, one of which being that you can never fall in love…Not really a ‘comedy’ or ‘romance’ as such, but there are many hilariously deadpan moments. Definitely not for everyone. (Mark)
We recently watched the Lobster. It is a dog. We were completely sucked in by the blurb on the case. The cast of Colin Farrell and Rachael Weisz looked promising but alas it is total rubbish. We watched to the bitter end hoping something would happen but nothing does. I think they were trying to be quirky but it is just weird nothingness. (Pru)

Cover imageCarol.
In the painting of Edward Hopper’s like milieu, Douglas Sirk-esque gorgeous melodrama unfolds. Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s love story of two women (The Price of Salt published in 1952) is a tender, immaculately executed drama. Under Haynes’ direction, the milieu of the era is exquisitely recreated and every element shapes the film; cinematography, art design, wardrobe, music (particularly ‘No Other Love’ sung by Jo Stafford), contribute marvellously to this story of two women’s forbidden but distained encounter. Obviously it’s about the rich, unhappily married woman Carol (played by stunning Cate Blanchett) but it is told from the young Therese’s point of view, and we also witness Therese’s growth, from the weak-minded girl to the woman who has her own identity. This process is superbly performed by Rooney Mara. It’s a beauty of underplayed moments. Divine. (Shinji)

Cover imageUnforgotten. Series one.
Classy UK crime drama sees the excellent Nicola Walker (Spooks) as a DCI in charge of investigating the cold case of a young man’s body discovered in a derelict building. The key to this series is the focus on the step by step, painstaking investigative methods used by the squad to identify the body, discovered to be that of a homeless boy murdered in 1976 when the building was a hostel, and the focus on the realistic characters involved, from the grieving mother to the suspects the case throws up. Everyone, from the victim to the suspects is portrayed as a complex character, neither all good or all bad, and the shows quiet rhythm gradually peels away the psychological damage that festers in the past. (Mark)

Cover imageOur zoo.
This DVD series is highly recommended. Our Zoo is a six part series that is based on the true story about George Mottershead, his dreams of creating a cage-free zoo, his family, of both humans and animals, and how their lives changed when they embarked on the creation of Chester Zoo, despite opposition from the local community. Overall, a fantastic and heartwarming series that the whole family can watch together and enjoy, especially during winter. Moments of highlights include Mottershead saving a camel, parrot and a monkey from certain doom AKA being put down, a flock of Humboldt penguins being lead to on foot to the zoo after the van breaks down and the birth of two bear cubs. It’s a shame that this programme wasn’t renewed for another season. (Katie)

Cover imageThe invitation.
Excellent low-key indie thriller sees the protagonist Will (Logan Marshall-Green), still mired in grief after the loss of his young son young son in a tragic accident, attend a dinner party at his old house with a group of old friends, hosted by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new partner David (Michiel Huisman from ‘Game of Thrones’), who have returned to town after being away for some time. As the night progresses, Will begins to suspect that things are not as they seem, but is his disquiet and burgeoning paranoia just a reflection of his unresolved grief and anger that his ex-wife seems to have moved past their son’s death, or is something else going on…’The Invitation’ shows just what you can do with a bunch of relatively unfamiliar actors, a tense script, and a small location. (Mark)

Cover imageThe assassin.
Taiwanese master director Hou Hsiao-Hsien tackles a wuxia (martial hero) film for the first time in his long career but it’s not a usual film of its kind. ‘The Assassin’ is a sublime, breathtakingly beautiful film in which every scene is a work of art. The story is told in typical Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s ‘read between the lines’ style and it’s a little difficult to understand the relationships among the characters. It may be better to go into the film with some prior knowledge of the plot. Hsieo-Hsien has a no-rehearsal policy and waits for actors to be ready for the scene. Amazingly, he sticks with this policy in this film which includes action scenes and that requires intense but subtle nuanced acting (the only exception was the dance sequence to allow actors to memorize the choreography). It took seven years for him to complete but his perseverance paid off. This meticulously crafted film should be watched on a big screen to appreciate every detail. Regardless, it’s bliss. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe absent one.
The next instalment in the on-going series of adaptations of Danish crime writer Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q novels, follows on from 2014’s The keeper of lost causes. When the policeman father of twins murdered 20 years ago approaches Carl Mørck he turns him away, however when he commits suicide shortly after he becomes obsessed with the exacting justice. His investigation leads away from the then young man originally convicted and towards a group of young students from a nearby boarding school. ‘The Absent One’ has every trope we’ve now come to expect from our Scandi-noir: socially awkward detectives in long raincoats, corrupt rich people, lurid crimes, kinky sex, and dollops of brutal violence and it’s a testament to the talents of the actors involved, the tight screenplay & high production values, that it is all still so gripping. (Mark)

StaffPicksDVDs4Grantchester. Series 2.
This series had me on edge from start to finish. An unspeakable crime, the death of a pregnant 15 year old girl, has been committed that shakes the local community to its core and where no one is unable to find peace. Worse, this is a crime that threatens to tear crime fighting partners, Geordie and Sidney, apart. Poor Sidney suffers a crisis of faith, hence leading to more drinking and smoking as usual, and Geordie finds that there is a huge price to pay for doing his job and has to reassess what is defined as justice. The questions remains on everyone’s lips – both characters and audience, What is defined as justice? Does the cycle of hate, vengeance and taking life end? And will all parties, both guilty and innocent find peace? Sadly, you won’t get any spoilers out of this review, except to say that if you thought Season One was good, then Season Two is even better. This is the best British detective series I have seen since Sherlock Holmes. (Katie)

Cover imageThe night manager. The complete series.
Fairly faithful British-American television miniseries adaptation of the 1993 novel of the same name by John le Carré, adapted to the present day starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, and Olivia Colman. Hiddleston is the titular ‘Night-Manager’, a loner and former soldier who crosses paths with the beautiful mistress of a powerful man in the Cairo hotel where he works. After she passes some documents to him for safe keeping, he in turn passes them onto a contact in the British Embassy & thus on to British Intelligence. A leak ensues, and blaming himself after she is killed, he drifts through several courtiers, eventually ending up 4 years later in a small hotel in Zurich. One night he learns a guest is coming to stay, an English arms dealer (Laurie) whom he believes was one of the people responsible for the death of the woman years ago. Seeing a chance for revenge he re-instigates a contact at British Intelligence (Coleman) and thus begins a plan to infiltrate Laurie’s organisation. Shades of 007 abound in this stylish global thriller. Excellent cast, particularly Coleman, and Laurie who is excellent as the morally bankrupt Dicky Ropher. No surprise that Hiddleston is being tipped as the next Bond. (Mark)

Cover imageMaleficent.
This is Sleeping Beauty as you have never seen it before. The story of Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” is different from its predecessor. But more importantly this story focuses on the evil fairy/villain in the original story, Maleficent. In this version, Maleficent, (Angelina Jolie), who was originally a good fairy and protector of the fairy lands called the Moors, becomes a vengeful, bad fairy, (or ‘turns to the dark side’ in tradition Darth Vader style), after she is betrayed by King Stefan. To pay him back, she curses his daughter, the infant princess Aurora to a ‘sleep like death’ which she can only awaken from by ‘true love’s kiss’. However things become complicated when Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well. To add more complication to the mix, Maleficent, acting as a surrogate mother, becomes fond of Aurora! Throughout the film, Maleficent experiences conflict, similar to iconic Star Wars villain, Darth Vader, whether being trapped in the dark side is permanent or whether there is still good in her… and she will save the day. Overall I found the film very entertaining and without question, does it’s predecessor justice. Lots of things you can expect from a Disney movie: Excitement, adventure, action and… a happy ending! I rate this movie: 7/10 (Katie)

Cover imageThe big short.
Based on the book of the same name by journalist Michael Lewis, the doc-style film follows eccentric financial analyst Michael Burry (Christian Bale) as he uncovers an impending crash in the housing market and puts together a plan to profit from it. As Burry’s predictions are spread by those who believe he is crazy, a small number of people, including Jarred Bennett (Ryan Gosling), Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) and Mark Baum (Steve Carell), begin to follow his lead. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Bale), winning for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also won the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Fascinating and hugely entertaining ‘The Big Short’ is also an incredibly unconventional, using fourth wall techniques where the actors speak to the screen to facilitate plot points, and cut-away’s to other celebrities and actresses (not in the actual film) who explain the complexities behind subprime mortgages and collateralized debt. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageSpotlight.
This one of the most heart breaking and shocking of all movies I have ever seen. However it is a movie worth seeing that really opens your eyes and will shake you to the core. Spotlight is based on the true story of how in 2001, a team of investigative journalists from the Boston Globe uncovered and published a massive scandal of child molestation, spanning over 20 years where unfrocked priests were molesting children in the poorer areas of Boston. As if perverting the course of justice for these children weren’t enough, the reporters uncover further scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese, where, (MASSIVE SPOILER), not only were they were aware the abuse, they moved the offending priests to other parishes leading more children being abused, as well as dishing out cash payments to the families in exchange for their silence. However in true vigilante style, the reporters make it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church and publish it to raise public awareness within the community of an ongoing universal problem/issue. (Katie)

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #12

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have the 3rd season of popular Australian historical drama ‘A Place To Call Home’; the last of our seasons of quirky US crime show ‘Psych’; the sequel to the health documentary ‘Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead’; the latest season of ‘Parenthood’; and the last 2 seasons of the ever popular Brenda Blethyn as DCI Stanhope in ‘Vera’…

Cover imageA place to call home. Season 3.
“A Place to Call Home is a sweeping romantic drama set in 1950s rural Australia following the lives of nurse Sarah Adams and the Blighs, a wealthy and complicated Pastoralist family living in Inverness, New South Wales. As Australia faces internal and external threats to its way of life so too do the people of Inverness, and previous alliances and relationships are tested: Sarah’s dilemma between her feelings for George and her duty to her husband Rene is exacerbated by a heart breaking secret; James and Olivia’s relationship is under pressure by the desire for physical fulfilment, while the true parentage of Baby George is threatened with exposure; Elizabeth Bligh’s decision to leave Ash Park to explore a life of her own proves more difficult than she thought and the difference between Anna and Gino’s fairytale romance and the reality of married life threatens to tear them apart. This DVD set contains all 10 episodes of series 3 and a bonus alternative series two finale…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imagePsych. The complete sixth season.
“The world’s most dynamic and oddball, detective duo get more than they bargained for when they take on con-artists, masked vigilantes and Darth Vader collectibles in the wild sixth season of Psych. Fake “psychic detective” Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his best bud, Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill), go undercover, behind the scenes and over the top to solve some of the most off the wall crimes imaginable. But how long can these super sleuths keep their psychic secret safe? Guest starring William Shatner, Cary Elwes, Molly Ringwald and Danny Glover, relive the laughs, thrills and mind-boggling mysteries uninterrupted and back-to-back in all 16 episodes of the totally unique and unpredictable series that will keep you guessing just whodunit…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageVera. Series five.
“Mulit-award winning actress Brenda Blethyn returns as DCI Stanhope in the critically acclaimed crime drama, Vera. The indomitable DCI Vera Stanhope returns to face a number of daunting cases. Aided by troubled new recruit DS Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty), they investigate a deadly blaze at a coastal caravan park, unearth a thirty-year-old mystery in an old mining community, delve into the tragic last months of a young man found floating in a farm slurry pit and uncover a life of secrets and lies when a well-loved family man plummets to his death from a multi-storey car park. Each enthralling episode is set against the breathtaking Northumberland countryside and is enhanced by the captivating performance of Brenda Blethyn as this shambolic yet brilliant detective…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageRectify. Season three.
“In season three of Rectify, once again a convicted murderer, Daniel (Aden Young, Mao’s Last Dancer) must cope with probation officer meetings, while Janet (J. Smith Cameron, True Blood) prepares for his looming banishment and Amantha (Abigail Spencer, True Detective) tries to build a life around something other than her brother’s innocence. Even DA Sondra Person (Sharon Conley, The Good Lie) harbors lingering doubts about Daniel’s guilt – until George Melton’s corpse turns up, raising new and troubling questions about the night Hanna died. Ultimately, Daniel takes his first tentative steps towards fully embracing his complicated new freedom, leaving in his wake a family struggling to find their way forward and a community that still wonders if justice was truly served…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe Moodys.
“From the creators of the AFI award-winning Review with Myles Barlow and following the success of A Moody Christmas, this new series sees Dan (Ian Meadows) and Cora (Jane Harber) return home to Australia to set up house together. Now they are back Down Under, everything in their lives is topsy turvy. As they struggle to make ends meet, the Moody family home is up for sale; Sean’s funeral fireworks business is going great guns’ literally; Maree and Kevin test the freewheeling lifestyle of the grey nomads; Bridget and Roger find out if there’s friendship after divorce; and Uncle Terry is in a tangled love affair with Yvonne (Sacha Horler), a one-woman force of nature…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageFat, sick & nearly dead. 2.
“The second documentary reconnects Joe with his followers from the first film to catch viewers up on how the impact of juicing has changed their lives. With help from friends, family and the medical community, he not only shows viewers were he is now, but also continues to educate viewers about the critical role that family and community support play in maintaining this healthy lifestyle…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageParenthood. Season 5.
“As Kristina and Adam reevaluate their lives after her fight against cancer, Sarah finds a career she loves and a possible new romance. Crosby and Jasmine adapt to life as a family with an infant in the house, while Camille and Zeek decide what their “Act 3″ is going to be now that they have an empty nest. And though most challenges bring the relations closer together, Joel and Julia find their marriage crumbling apart in ways they never expected…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imagePsych. The complete seventh season.
“Killer secrets are kept, broken and dramatically revealed in the seventh sensational season of Psych. Its business as unusual for “psychic” crime fighter Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and best pal Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill) as they track down Bigfoot, go undercover as wacky radio DJs, and solve the ultimate murder mystery. And, Gus finally gets the girl. Catch every episode back-to-back and uninterrupted of the laugh-out-loud whodunit series…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover iamgeVera. Series six.
Set amid the wild beauty of the Northumberland landscape, DCI Vera Stanhope investigates chilling crimes only she can solve. In the sixth series, Vera and her team are called into action to tackle a number of challenging cases; from unravelling the mystery of a woman found murdered on the bleak Northumberland moors (Dark Road), piecing together the tragic downfall of a young man whose body is discovered hidden in a cave (Tuesdays Child), solving a mysterious double murder in a remote country house (The Moth Catcher), to delving into a dark secret at the heart of a struggling fishing community (The Sea Glass), each enthralling story is enhanced by captivating performances, beautifully shot landscapes and high production values…” (From Syndetics summary)

Staff Picks DVDs – March/April

Some Staff picks of some of the DVDs that were released over the last couple of months. Lots of French stuff for some reason. Anyway we hope you enjoy these…

Cover imageA girl walks home alone at night.
Receiving a fervent reception at Sundance film festival in 2014, the Iranian-American filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is a scintillating work. Shot in California, but set in a fictional Iranian town and spoken Farsi, it’s often described as ‘the Iranian feminist vampire western’. In the black-and-white, early Jim Jarmusch-like milieu, the beautiful girl with her chador (fabulous presence by Arash Marandi) skateboards at night for the mission of punishing men who abuse women. After she meets the nice boy it becomes more like a boy-meets-girl story but the question, whether she kisses or kills him, remains until the end. Obviously Amirpour is a cinephile. Taking cinematic essences from the likes of David Lynch, Tarantino, Wong Kar-wai, Sergio Leone and Jarmusch, she brilliantly displays her own aesthetic. This is a fresh addition to the history of vampire films. (Shinji)

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.
Winning a Golden Globe for best drama series and named Best Show of The Year by Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly & TV Guide (US), ‘Mr. Robot’ stars Rami Malek as Elliot a socially-awkward cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, who finds himself approached by the enigmatic ‘Mr. Robot’ (Christian Slater), the mysterious head of an underground hacker collective who want to bring down the major corporation that Elliot’s company provides security for. However Elliot is also a very troubled young man with a ‘history’ of breakdowns, is currently undergoing court-mandated therapy, & has recently stopped taking his medication. Substituting his meds with morphine & pills from his drug dealer with benefits, he is growing even more paranoid about the world around him and beginning to wonder if what he thinks is happening is actually real or all just in his mind… While pulling together a bunch of influences from Fight Club & Taxi Driver, to Dexter & The Matrix, ‘Mr. Robot’ pushes zeitgeist buttons on everything from wealth inequality, the power & control of corporations, social media, data breaches & hackers in new & interesting ways. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Malek & Slater. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageThe voices.
I saw a movie called ‘The Voices’ recently that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a black comedy/thriller starring Ryan Reynolds about a man suffering from severe hallucinations who, through some unexpected twists, becomes a serial killer. A very unusual look into the mind of a killer with mental health issues. (Ingrid)

Cover imageEden.
Loosely based on the experience of the director Mia Hansen-Love’s brother, who was the leading DJ of the French house music movement, Eden shows an intriguing insight into the rave culture. Following the DJ Paul for two decades from the early 90s, music is the driving force but it also tells of the painful fact that we can only grow up by failing or losing. Drifty yet stylish, Hansen-Love (Father of My Children, Goodbye First Love) subtly presents us a naïve period of life that everyone goes through; innocent but avoiding facing reality; always wanting more but not knowing what to do, and leaves us in a melancholy mood. Captivating. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe connection.
This 70s French crime drama works as a counterpart to William Friedkin’s classic The French Connection. Jean Dujardin (The Artist, The Wolf of Wall Street) is Pierre Michel, a crusading magistrate reassigned to a Marseille Police department, the city that in the 70’s and early 80’s was the major port for shipments of heroin moving overseas, specifically New York City. Michel attempts to disrupt the organization (a group of Italians, Corsicans, and French who were dubbed ‘The French Connection’), and becomes obsessed with bringing down its leader (in this film) a charismatic gangster called Zampa ( Gilles Lellouche). Gritty & stylish. (Mark)

Cover imageRango.
This isn’t a new film, but I watched ‘Rango’ over the weekend and absolutely loved it!
It’s an animation/comedy/adventure about a wannabe-hero chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) that gets stranded in the desert and accidentally ends up as the new sheriff in a town called ‘Dirt’. It was such a laugh and had some great adult jokes throughout it, so it would appeal to a wide range of ages and would be perfect for family movie night. The animation was amazing, and the movie also broke the fourth wall with ‘Rango’ himself addressing the audience at times, which I found really interesting. (Ingrid)

Cover imageGirlhood.
The up-and-coming French female director Celine Sciamma’s previous work Tomboy, which centres a 10-year-old girl who is confused with her gender, was a little gem, and she is back with a 15-year-old girl. Girlhood tells a story about a black teen girl and her ‘co-gangs’ who come from the lower class of society, and their day by day survivals in the violence abounding environment. It’s a kind of often-told coming of age tale, but exhilarating performances by non-professional casts and graceful camera work prove Sciamma’s exceptional talent as a director. Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ is effectively used here. The scene that the four girls are singing and dancing with the song in the hotel room is gorgeous to watch, and makes this movie even more memorable. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.
The enigmatic French ‘supernatural’ series returns for a second season. Some time has passed since the events of the first season’s finale, and the mountain town is now partially flooded. Most of the population has fled and the army has arrived to investigate what’s going on, while the Returned (and a few living allies) are living in a suburb cut off from the rest of the town by floodwaters. A second batch of older ‘Returned’ have begun to appear, some of whom are directly linked to the original town’s flooding 35 years ago, revealing more secrets about the connections between the characters and the mysterious young boy Victor. While the first episodes of Season 1 hooked you immediately, Season 2 initially seems to be going nowhere with a lots of new characters and nothing much happening, but it’s worth persevering as the last 4 episodes bring plenty of intriguing flashbacks to 35 years ago and brings everything to a conclusion…or does it? (Mark)

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #11

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have the final Season’s of ‘Warehouse 13’, ‘Psych’ & ‘Covert Affairs’; historical drama with ‘Home Fires’ & the return of the ladies from ‘The Paradise’; and plenty of criminal behaviour with seasons 3 & 4 of ‘DCI Banks’, new ITV drama ‘Chasing Shadows’, & the latest Australian crime series with Rebecca Gibney.

Cover imagePsych. The eighth & final season.
“Case-cracking “psychic” detective Shawn Spencer and his best friend Burton “Gus” Guster have their hands full getting to the bottom of crime-filled conundrums around Santa Barbara. From a prestigious paranormal police consultant convention to zombie nightmares, Shawn and Gus need all the help they can get as new hijinks and tests arise for your favorite sleuths in this eighth and final season of Psych. Witness every episode back-to-back and uninterrupted of the final hilarious season featuring a gaggle of guest stars including Mira Sorvino, Tom Arnold, Loretta Devine, and Bruce Campbell.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageA Moody Christmas.
“From the creators of the AFI award-winning Review with Myles Barlow comes A MOODY CHRISTMAS a comedy series that follows the Moody family as they come together to share the universally celebrated holiday. Stuffed full of fun, fights, bad gifts, boring uncles, overbearing in-laws, shocking family secrets and bizarre eccentricities…any family who has experienced the melting pot of Christmas Day will relate! While in theory Christmas is a time for family to share and celebrate, in practice its often a day spent with relatives you hardly know, where dirty laundry is aired, family rifts resurface, strangers are forced to act like family, and celebratory drinks can disintegrate into drunken rows and it all happens at the Moodys!…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageCovert affairs. Season four.
“Danger, scandal and smoking guns are no match for resourceful CIA operative Annie Walker, who proves herself as astute as ever in season four of Covert Affairs. When Annie and Auggie, her blind lover and colleague, mix business with pleasure on a trip to Colombia, they ruffle the feathers of local CIA station chief Calder Michaels, whose seemingly fleeting allegiance has major implications for the future of the Domestic Protection Division. Complicating matters, Arthur reveals a “covert affair” of his own, while Henry’s ulterior motives are brought to light. Venture across South America, Europe, and Asia with Annie in all 16 thrilling episodes, back-to-back and uninterrupted.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageCovert affairs. Season five.
“It’s been several months since the team took down Henry in Hong Kong, and change is afoot. Auggie is back at the DPD, Arthur is offered a job in the private sector working for McQuaid Security, and Joan is returning from maternity leave to find that she’s been passed over for the job of DCS in favor of Calder. And after mysteriously going off the grid for months, Annie has resurfaced, anxious to get back to work at the CIA and harboring a secret that could jeopardize everything. Sent to Chicago to investigate a purported terror plot, she soon discovers that the threat is very real, and much greater than anyone has anticipated.” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe syndicate. Series 3.
“All six episodes of the third series of this BBC drama written by Kay Mellor. In this series, the syndicate belongs to the staff working at Hazelwood Manor, a run-down stately home owned by Lord and Lady Hazelwood. When the workers, mother and daughter maids Dawn and Amy Stevenson, cook Julie Travers and her manageress daughter Sarah, gardener Godfrey Watson and handyman Sean McGary, find out that they have won 14 million pounds on the lottery, the tables are turned as the employees suddenly have more money than their employers. Will the members of the syndicate pool their money to save the manor or will other aspirations split the group?” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe Paradise. Series two.
“The ladies of The Paradise are back. The popular series, adapted from the much-loved classic French novel by Emile Zola, follows the smart, ambitious and big-hearted Denise Lovett played by Joanna Vanderham, who arrives in the city to find work. The second series sees The Paradise reopen its doors a year after the dramatic events of Series 1. We see old and new faces battling for control of the business alongside the complicated love triangle of Moray, Denise and Catherine…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWinter. Season 1; + The killing field.
“Detective Sergeant Eve Winter (Rebecca Gibney) is in charge of the task force investigating the murder of 23-year-old mother Karly Johansson in a picturesque fishing town south of Sydney. Eve goes head to head with Jake Harris (Matt Nable), an agent with the Federal police who is investigating the attempted homicide of wild child, Kings Cross girl Indiana Hope, as she suspects the two cases are linked. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Lachlan McKenzie (Peter O’Brien) is running a parallel investigation into his own case – school Counsellor Janet Pagent was found murdered in the same location eight years ago. What is the connection between Indiana and Karly? And how are these two connected to Lachlan’s cold case?” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageChasing shadows.
Chasing Shadows is a thrilling, new four-part ITV drama, set in a missing persons unit that hunts serial killers. Reece Shearsmith plays DS Sean Stone and his partner, Ruth Hattersley is played by Alex Kingston, whilst Noel Clarke takes on the role of DI Carl Prior. Sean’s new caseload is overwhelming – up to 300,000 people go missing in the UK each year–but his brilliant mind turns out to be perfectly adapted to his new role. Sean spots patterns that lead to victims… and their killers. Ruth is the analyst from the Missing Persons Bureau tasked with working alongside Sean. She puts people first, but Sean pushes even her patience to breaking point. DI Prior has ambitions and a clear plan for rising up the ranks. But all this is jeopardised when DS Stone becomes his responsibility.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWarehouse 13. Season five.
“Warehouse 13 may be closing its doors but our team is going out with a bang as they tackle earth-shattering missions with supernatural artifacts, wild paranormal activity and history-changing time travel. But whatever the future holds for the team, one thing is certain: they’ll always be family.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageDCI Banks. Series 3.
“Stephen Tompkinson returns as the tenacious and stubborn Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks in three gripping crime stories based on the novels by award winning writer Peter Robinson. WEDNESDAY’S CHILD: When a mother reports her child as having been abducted by a man and a woman masquerading as social workers. Banks is drawn into a strange and unsettling search for the missing young boy. PIECE OF MY HEART: Following the death of a journalist, Banks and his team discover connections to a suspicious death in the eighties involving the surviving members of a pop band. BAD BOY: A terrible chain of events is set in motion when an old neighbour of Banks’ finds a loaded gun in her daughter’s bedroom.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageDCI Banks. Series 4.
“English detective, DCI Alan Banks, returns in this fourth series of the popular crime drama based on Peter Robinson’s novels with three new, original stories set against the striking backdrop of rural and urban Yorkshire. In What Will Survive, DCI Banks struggles to cope with the sudden death of his mother, as he investigates the murder of a young Estonian woman and the disappearance of her drug-dependent sister. During the second story, Buried, Banks must navigate difficult emotional territory when the body of an eminent lawyer is washed up in an underground river and he suspects a member of her grieving family is responsible for her death. In Ghosts, when the body of a university student is found dumped in a ravine, his friends claim he was a model undergraduate. But officers Annie and Ken soon discover that he had a double life manufacturing ecstasy. Helen’s world is turned upside down when she realises her former lover, an undercover police officer, is following their main suspect…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageHome fires. Series one.
“Acclaimed actresses Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond lead an impressive ensemble cast in a new six-part drama for ITV. Home Fires follows a group of inspirational women in a rural Cheshire community where the shadow of World War II is casting a dark cloud over their lives. The isolated village couldn’t feel further away from the impending bloodshed and battlefields and yet it is not immune from the effects of war. As the conflict takes hold, and separates the women from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, the women find themselves under increasing and extraordinary pressures in a rapidly fragmenting world.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)