Category: DVD lists

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)

Staff Picks DVDs for October

Featuring rom-coms, thrillers, recent film festival entries, highly regarded tv series and a film by a blacklisted director, this month’s picks should contain something for everyone.

Cover image10 Cloverfield Lane.
Tense thriller that takes place in the ‘Cloverfield’ universe but is not a sequel to that film from 2008. The film opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in a car leaving her boyfriend. When the car is hit in an accident she crashes and blacks out, only to wake up in a bunker chained to the wall. She soon discovers that she was pulled from the car wreck by Howard (John Goodman), a survivalist who has built a shelter meant to withstand any apocalyptic event. He tells her that the world is in chaos above ground due to some sort of chemical or nuclear attack, and that he has saved her and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the other bunker-mate. Certain things happen to lead credence to his story, and the three settle in to their confined surroundings. After a while however she begins to think that Howard might not have been entirely truthful about who he is & why he made the bunker in the first place…Fantastically claustrophobic, and full of plot twists, the film proves that you can still make edgy entertaining films with just small locations and a minimum of players. Some may feel the end sequence a little over the top, but it doesn’t really take away from what has come before. (Mark)

Cover imageMahana.
Adapted from Witi Ihimaera’s novel, Bulibasha and set in Gisborne in the 1950’s, Mahana tells a beautifully, haunting and tragic story of two warring families, The Mahanas and the Poatas, who are forever at each throats and competing for work, sport and engaging in the odd thrilling car chase. However the dynamic shifts when Simeon, idealistic, optimistic and bent on change, starts to question family expectations; uncover hidden secrets and even starts to make peace with sworn enemies, which threatens the tyrannical rule of patriarch Tamihana (a fine performance by Temuera Morrison), who rules the Mahana whanau with an iron and militant fist; and who will not be challenged in anyway. So a battle of wills irrupts between grandfather and grandson, where on the odd occasion the unquiet spirit of Jake the Muss is awakened. Overall I thought the film was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes, especially with regard to the on-going, but silent struggle that the grandmother, Ramona, (Nancy Brunning) goes through until the truth is finally revealed near the end. Both Temuera Morrison and Nancy Brunning owned and brought justice to the roles of the grandparents, Tamihana and Ramona. This film does indeed does justice to Ihimaera’s novel and beautifully showcases Aotearoa in its essence and culture. (Katie)

Cover imageParks and recreation. Season seven, the farewell season.
While the last season is perhaps not as consistent as what has come before, and perhaps a bit rushed in places given the need to round out the characters arcs and relationships, it is still a great wrap up to what was one of the most consistently funny comedy shows on TV. The show may be over but the wisdom of Ron Swanson will live forever. (Mark)

Cover image2 guns.
This is an action/thriller starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. This is a movie where the 2 men go undercover to try and get into a Mexican drug Lord’s cartel. Unbeknown to the other they both work for different crime fighting organisations (Denzel for the DEA) and Mark for (Naval Intelligence). They both get disowned by their own agencies and have everyone after them. Great pace and lots of action. Keeps you guessing. Not as violent as ‘Man on Fire’. (Brigid)

Cover imageBosch. Season two.
Season 2 of the adaptation of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series if a lot more consistent than the first season. All the rough edges have been smoothed over, all the actors now seem far more comfortable in their characters, the writing is a lot more consistent, and the changes in some of the characters in updating the show to a more modern period seem less jarring. Season 2 takes inspiration from Connelly’s novels Trunk Music, The Drop, and The Last Coyote, and while the plot line of ‘The Last Coyote’ is the most truncated and differs from the book, the rest of the story draws enough of Connelly’s plotlines to satisfy fans of the books. Renewed for a third season which will supposedly adapt Connelly’s novel The Black Echo and elements of A Darkness More Than Night. (Mark)

Cover imageLove, Rosie.
‘Love Rosie’ tells the story over the course of twelve years, through letters, emails and instant messaging about the ever changing relationship between the two main characters Rosie Dunne and Alex Stewart. The question that will hang on your lips throughout the film is are they always meant to be more than friends or will they risk everything including their friendship on love? This question can only be answered by watching the film. This movie is an enjoyable romantic comedy that is suitable for a girls night in. It has everything you can expect: laughter, tears and a little romance. I’m not usually a fan of chick flick movies, but I think this has been a great chick flick and romantic comedy movie I have seen since Love Actually. (Katie)

Cover imageOccupied. Series 1.
Excellent new Norwegian TV series, apparently the most expensive (and most watched) in the history of Norwegian television. Based on an idea by popular Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo the show is 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. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover image45 years.
A letter arrives a week before Geoff and Kate’s 45th wedding anniversary party and makes their long, harmonious marriage no longer the same. The England’s latest auteur, Andrew Haigh’s third feature ’45 years’ is a low-keyed, chamber piece but deeply affecting. It’s a simple setting drama like his breakthrough film Weekend, which portraits the devastating love affair of two young men, and subtly yet sharply exposes how fragile our love and relationships are. The film is shot in order from the first scene, and natural, wonderfully nuanced performances by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay make every detail meaningful. They reach the height at the ending scene with the memorable song ‘Smoke gets in your Eyes’. A quiet triumph. (Shinji)

Cover imageKill your friends.
Mostly good adaptation of John Niven’s hilariously nihilistic satire set amongst dodgy A&R record men at the height of UK ‘Britpop’ madness. A&R man Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is slashing and burning his way through the music business, a world where ‘no one knows anything’ and where careers are made and broken by chance and the fickle tastes of the general public. Fuelled by greed, ambition and inhuman quantities of drugs, Stelfox searches for his next hit record, but a couple of bad missteps make it look like his career is all but done. Just how far will he go to get to the top…Stelfox is surely one of the most appalling Fictional creations ever put on paper, yet his narration makes the novels sordid nastiness so funny that you can’t help laughing. This, however, is a more difficult task to put over on film and while some of it works, other scenes could perhaps have used more of Hoult’s narration to undercut all the grim bits that hew a little too close to American Psycho. (Mark)

Cover imageLondon has fallen.
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman This movie is a sequel to Olympus has fallen. Many World Leaders have gathered in London for a Meeting and the Terrorists start to attack. Lots of explosions. If you enjoyed ‘Olympus has Fallen’ you should enjoy this one too. (Brigid)

CoverOrphan black. Series four.
After the somewhat convoluted third season ‘Orphan Black’ decided to do a bit of a ‘back to basics’ reset for the series, so the fourth season goes back to the beginning and follows the story of Beth, whose suicide set the whole story in motion for Sarah in Season one. Definitely an improvement over the previous season, which had gotten a little caught up in the complications of its mythology. (Mark)

Cover imageWhen Marnie was there.
This movie was screened at last week at the Thursday Night Film screening at the Central Library. This film tells the story of Anna, an introverted orphaned girl and a bit of a lost soul, who feels abandoned, unwanted and unlovable. However, while on holiday, a chance encounter with a mysterious blonde girl, Marnie, who in many ways is a reflection of Anna, changes Anna’s life forever. As the summer progresses, Anna spends more time with Marnie, and eventually Anna learns the truth about her family and foster care, which allows her to open up to possibilities all around her, mainly meaningful relationships with friends and her surrogate family. This film is hauntingly beautiful and truly captures the essence and beauty, you would in find in most Japanese animated films produced by the Company, Studio Ghibli, who also brought such Japanese animated films to life, such as Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. Overall a great film that young girls will enjoy, that explores the true meaning of friendship and finding yourself. (Katie)

Cover imageThe nice guys.
Engagingly funny crime flick written & directed by buddy-movie maestro Shane Black. Set in Los Angeles in the late 70s, the film opens with a boy witnesses fading porn star Misty Mountains die in a car crash. Later that week, down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is approached by the aunt of Misty Mountains who claims to have seen her niece alive. March is sceptical of her claim, but realizes that a missing girl named Amelia is somehow involved. However, Amelia does not wish to be found and hires enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to intimidate March into staying away from her. Later that night, Healy is attacked at his home by two thugs who attempt to interrogate him about Amelia’s whereabouts. After escaping he then teams up with a reluctant March to find Amelia before the thugs do. Gosling & Crowe make a good pairing, and while it is not as sharp or consistent as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, nevertheless it’s an enjoyable melange of Black’s favourite techniques, dialogue and style. (Mark)

Cover imageA pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence.
Swedish one-of-a-kind auteur, Roy Andersson has a huge studio in Stockholm to build every kind of set for his works. It’s his holy ground where he established his idiosyncratic style; every scene is a single shot from a fixed camera position, meticulously composed painting-like milieu, deadpan style acting by non-professional actors, and so on. This latest work, the final chapter of ‘the living trilogy’, which explores what it means to be a human being, is no exception. It’s an utterly unique, absurd black comedy, which is dominated by a strange milky white colour, and slightly darker and heavier than its predecessors (Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living). This peculiar taste may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but no one makes films like Roy Andersson. That’s for sure. (Shinji)

Cover imageMidnight special.
A great little ‘Sci-Fi’ movie from writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud). The story revolves around Roy (Nichols regular Michael Shannon) and his biological son who are on the run from a cult that he has kidnapped the boy from, and also from some Government agencies who have an interest in the mysterious powers the boy apparently has. Shannon and his friend hook up with the boy’s biological mother (Kirsten Dunst) and together the four of them try to get the boy to a special place he feels he needs to go to to discover his purpose while trying to evade the forces after them. Endlessly intriguing, at times ‘Midnight Special’ feels somewhat retro, a homage to early Speilberg or Stephen King, and proves you need few CGI effects to create a modern ‘Sci-Fi’ film, just some good old fashioned character based story telling. (Mark)

Cover imageThe lady in the van.
Very unusual movie about an incident in the Author Alan Bennet’s life. He meets an eccentric lady (Maggie Smith) who lives in an old Van and moves from place to place in her Van. It is very sensitive in parts. ‘The Lady in the Van’ decides to live in his driveway for a period of time. It is a story about their interaction. Not a Comedy. (Brigid)

Cover imageBeauty and the beast.
A Walt Disney movie about a tough no nonsense heroine, named Belle (French word for Beauty), who offers herself in exchange for her father, who has been imprisoned by the Beast, and discovers that her captor is an enchanted prince in disguise. While the situation is anything than ideal, this Beauty and the Beast must learn, in very Pride and Prejudice-like to overcome their pride and stubbornness, in the hopes of falling in love and breaking the beast’s enchantment. This film is beautifully constructed and made! Filled with lots of quirky characters, in the form of Lumiere (a candle stick), Cogsworth (a cynical clock), Mrs Potts (a mother-hen teapot) and many musical numbers. A film that the entire family can enjoy – especially on a Saturday night! (Katie)

Cover imageTehran taxi.
In 2010, Iranian master director Jafar Panahi (This is not a Film, Crimson Gold) was baselessly convicted of crimes against national security and banned from making films. However, he is somehow still making films and ‘Tehran Taxi’ is his third feature since his conviction. This time, the director himself drives a taxi through the city of Tehran and picks up various passengers. At first, this simple set-up gives an impression similar to documentary shot by iPhone, but Pnahi’s ingenious hands turn 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. This film won the Golden Bear (best film) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015, and Panahi’s niece, who appears in the film and is adorable, received the honour on his behalf because he has been banned from travelling. A genius work. (Shinji)

Cover imageEye in the sky.
Extremely tense ‘real-time’ thriller about a drone mission. Helen Mirren, a UK-based Colonel is in command of a top-secret drone operation to capture a high level English target in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel, Powell discovers the targets are planning a suicide bombing and the mission escalates from “capture” to “kill.” But as an American pilot (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone, triggering an international dispute reaching the highest levels of US and British government as to the moral & political implications of ‘collateral damage’. Gripping, intelligent film-making that is entertaining without shying away from posing some difficult questions. Features one of the last performances from the greatly missed Alan Rickman. (Mark)

Cover imageINXS : never tear us apart.
“I was standing. You were there. Two worlds collided and they can never tear us apart.” It’s amazing how sixteen simple worlds can have such a huge impact and really touch your soul. While it’s been two years exactly since this mini-series aired on television in New Zealand, in my opinion it’s still a goodie and is worth watching, especially as the 16th of August is band member’s (and unofficial leader of the band), Tim Farris’ birthday and INXS is hosting an event called Platinum Award Success… in Sydney that marks their achievement, success and contribution to the Australian and international music industry! “Never Tear Us Apart” is a two-part, 4 hour television event that tells the uncensored story of Australia’s most successful 80’s Rock band – INXS. It’s a story of mateship, success and excess. It’s the ultimate sex, drugs and rock’n’roll story that ends in tragedy. This movie portrays an honest and raw account of the rise and fall of one of my favourite bands, who decided to take an innovative approach to breaking the international music market overseas which paid off, at the price of alienating the Australian music industry. In watching this movie, you will get insight and details of their personal lives, their rise to fame from Australian pubs to stadiums around the world- Wembley as a major impact of their career! Features famous chart breaking songs such as New Sensation, Original Sin, What You Need, Need You Tonight and the chilling, heart breaking love ballad: Never Tear Us Apart. Also shows some archived footage of the original concerts and earlier tracks of their greatest hits – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!, near the end you will here an earlier recording that Michael Hutchence made of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. Overall this mini-series is in a word –AWESOME! Luke Arnold owned the role of Michael Hutchence and pretty much stole the limelight. This miniseries made me laugh, made me cry and entertained me from start to finish. (Katie)

Cover imageWhat we did on our holiday.
Starring David Tennant, Billy Connelly Rosamond Pike, Annette Crosby and Celia Imrie. This was a really good movie. Watched it with three generations and they all enjoyed it. The story starts with a family which is going through a separation process and they are going back to Scotland to see their Father (Billy Connelly)/Grandfather. Who is having a big 75th birthday which is possibly his last. They are trying to keep the separation from the rest of the family but the process is rocky. They give the kids a list of lies they have to tell. Some very moving and funny parts to this movie as the young children have to cope with the eccentric extended family. Really worth a watch. It is a Comedy and very funny in parts. (Brigid)

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)

Sound & Vision: $2 DVDs

Some of our DVDs have been stickered with a pink strip. What does this mean? This means they are half-price. Among them, there are real treasures including masterpieces by great filmmakers, and box sets of great TV shows. You have to come in to the library to check out these titles, as they do not display on the catalogue, so each month we will highlight some examples from the collection. Up this month is…

cover imageThe adventures of Antoíne Doínel [videorecording].
“Five films featuring the enthusiastic, melancholic, and hopelessly romantic trouble maker Antoine Doinel, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud. The films take Doinel from his troubled childhood through myriad frustrations and romantic entanglements, from his stormy teens through marriage, children, divorce, and adulthood. Directed by Francois Truffaut.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

cover imageEarly summer [videorecording].
“Details the conflicting senses of obligation and individualism faced by a young daughter as her boss and family try to arrange her marriage. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

cover imageNight moves [videorecording] / Warner Bros. presents a Robert M. Sherman production ; directed by Arthur Penn.
“L.A. detective Harry Moseby has problems. Missing persons and bedroom stakeouts are no match for his glory days as a pro-football player. His wife is having a not-so-secret affair. And while sorting things out, he takes on the case of a runaway teenager that may be a lot more than he can handle.” (drawn from Container)

cover imageThief [videorecording].
“Becoming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him. Directed by Michael Mann.” (drawn from Container)

cover imageZ [videorecording].
“When a liberal politician is murdered during a peace demonstration, certain high-powered right wing figures make a concerted effort to not only conceal their involvement but ultimately cover up the murder in a cunning conspiracy. Jean-Louis Trintignant stars as the investigating magistrate who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, indict the assassins and ultimately deliver justice and restore hope to the people.” (drawn from Container)

cover imageThe roof [videorecording] = Il tetto / directed by Vittorio De Sica.
“This enchanting tale chronicles the struggles of a newlywed couple trying to find a home in crowded post-war Rome. After a failed attempt to live with the husband’s family, they are temporarily forced to separate with the husband sleeping in a toolshed and the wife with a friend. Finally their family and friends band together to construct a small dwelling for them but with only one night to complete it, as the police cannot evict them once the roof is erected.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

cover imageTwo-lane blacktop [videorecording] / presented by Universal ; a Michael S. Laughlin production.
“The Driver and The Mechanic are two car freaks driving a 1955 Chevy throughout the southwestern U.S. looking for other cars to race. They are totally dedicated to The Car and converse with each other only when necessary. At a gas station, The Driver and The Mechanic, along with a girl who has ingratiated herself into their world, meet G.T.O., a middle-aged man who fabricates stories about his exploits. It is decided to have a race to Washington, D.C., where the winner will get the loser’s car. Along the way, the race and the highway metaphorically depict the lives of these contestants as they struggle to their destination.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe magnificent Ambersons [videorecording] / an RKO Radio picture ; a Mercury production by Orson Welles.
“The story of the decline of a once powerful and wealthy midwestern family as the twentieth century begins.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

cover imageNew York, New York [videorecording] / a Robert Chartoff-Irwin Winkler production.
“An egotistical saxophone player and a young singer meet on V-J Day and embark upon a strained and rocky romance, even as their careers begin a long uphill climb. Directed by Martin Scorsese.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

cover imageBright lights, big city [videorecording] / directed by James Bridges.
“Jamie Conway is an aspiring writer who moves from Kansas to Manhattan. When Jamie hits the club scene to enliven his nights and deaden his pain, he takes it to the limit and his relationships come under threat.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Staff Pick DVDs: The Best of 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

StaffPicksDVDs7Humans.
2016 was a good year for intelligent Sci-Fi (Ex-Machina, Coherence) but ‘Humans’ gets the nod, as its longer form gives it more time to explore the issues at play. The Hawkins family acquires a new ‘Synthetic’ helper, who slowly begins to exhibit some odd behaviour. Meanwhile a police unit responsible for robot related crime is tracking a group of ‘free’ robots. Works its central plot around the larger impact of robots upon society as a whole – as people begin to feel displaced. Recommended if you enjoyed the recent Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover imageHector and the search for happiness.

Cover imageThe longest ride.

Cover imageThe equalizer.

Cover imageMan up.

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

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

Cover imageParticlefever.

Cover imageInherent vice.

Cover imageSilicon Valley.

Jay’s Picks:
Cover imageEx_machina.

Cover imageThe Martian.

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

Raissa’s picks:
Cover imageEx_machina.

BestOf2014DVDs5Going clear : Scientology and the prison of belief.

Cover imageThe Martian.

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

Jessica’s picks:
Cover image

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

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

Ingrid’s pick:
Cover imageEx_machina.

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

Staff Picks DVDs for December

Have a browse of some new Staff Pick DVDs for the end of the year. Watch out for our picks for the Best Library DVDs of 2015 in January!

Cover imageRevenge. The complete fourth and final season.
Emily Thorne’s, (aka Amanda Clarke) cycle of revenge is coming to an end or is it? Season four of Revenge opens six months after the events of the season three finale. Emily is living in Grayson Manor and Victoria is committed to a mental hospital desperately trying to escape. For the past three years, Emily has worked to take down all of the people that played a part in framing her father. She has finally taken down the Grayson’s only to discover that her father is alive. The problem is that Victoria gets to him first and takes her own revenge by feeding him lies about Emily and leaving him in the dark that she is actually his daughter. The question on everyone’s lips is: Will father and daughter reunite? Will David finally see through Victoria’s lies? Can Emily’s soul be saved? and where has David been most of Emily’s life? Watch the gripping and final conclusion to this amazing series, where Victoria and Emily embark on the mother of epic showdowns where countless lives are ruined and destroyed and that finally ends in a bloodbath, where only one victor will remain standing. Overall I thought Season Four was a good finish to the series. I think people who are a fan of the show will be happy with the overall conclusion. (Katie)

StaffPicksDVDs7Bosch. Season one.
One of the original Amazon series pilots that debuted in 2014 was this adaptation of Michael Connelly’s popular series of crime novels featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch. The show adapted Bosch’s character somewhat, and also takes the unusual approach of merging plots from 3 separate Connelly novels (City of Bones, Echo Park, and The Concrete Blonde) into one narrative which, as you might expect, feels a bit forced at times. The first few episodes are pretty rough and some characters aren’t how you imagine them from the books. But it settles down a bit after that and delivers a solid procedural as Bosch (Titus Welliver) investigates the discovery in the woods of the bones of a small boy who was horribly abused and beaten. Meanwhile, creepy serial killer Raynard Waits uses his supposed knowledge of the crime to his own advantage…Unfortunately not as great as it could have been but still worth a watch if you are a fan of the books. The series was renewed for a second season, which will take inspiration from Connelly’s novels Trunk Music, The Drop, and The Last Coyote. (Mark)

Cover imageSan Andreas.
This is an action movie starring The Rock, (Dwayne Johnson). The story is about The Rock who is an ex-army helicopter pilot who has separated from his wife and family. They struggled after the loss of another daughter. The wife has a new partner. Their other daughter has gone up to San Francisco when a huge earthquake hits. A 9.plus. Lots of shaking and special effects. The race is on for Dwayne and his ex-wife to race up and find their daughter from Los Angeles to San Francisco, whilst battling earth’s shakes, Tsunamis. This is a movie where you need to forget reality to watch. The plot does have some resemblance to 2012. Really good though if you enjoy disaster movies and like Dwayne Johnson. (Brigid)

Cover imageKingsman. The secret service.
We recently watched ‘The Kingsman’ with Samuel L Jackson and a very thin Colin Firth. It is a good spoof of the Bond movies. Fantastic scene at the end. Anyone in customer service would probably like some chips for difficult customers. (Pru)

Cover image’71.
Gripping UK thriller set in the time of the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland. The story begins with young British soldier Gary Hook training with his platoon, about to be sent into the ‘deteriorating’ situation in Belfast. Almost as soon as he enters the fray, however, he is separated from his unit during a Belfast riot. Unarmed and injured in hostile territory, he’s got to survive the night and find a way back to his HQ. Those hostile to the British are pursuing him, those sympathetic to his cause are scared to help him because of reprisals, and certain forces on his side are playing both ends against the middle. Who can he trust & how will he survive the night. A gritty, tense, extremely exciting thriller. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageOutlander. Season one, Volume two.
This is the 2nd part of the first series which makes up the entire book of Cross stitch or ‘Outlander’. Diana Gabaldon (author was involved in this series). It is true to the book. The story of Clare and Jaimie’s love and marriage carry on. Clare learns that the expectations on her in the 1740’s marriage are very different from the 1940’s. The series starts with Jamie looking at his life and love for Clare and he soon realises that They need to treat each other differently than his own parents treated each other. Both of them face different consequences of living in a country which is occupied by the British and live through horrific torture common of the time. Jamie has a great sacrifice to make to save Clare. There are some very brutal scenes including rape scenes. Not for the faint hearted and definitely an R.18. Some very dark and haunting parts. Also available in a Complete First Season edition. The second series is out in 2016. (Brigid)

Cover imageLove & mercy.
Excellent music biopic from director Bill Pohlad on famed ‘Beach Boys’ vocalist Brian Wilson, one of the most iconic and apocryphal figures in 20th century popular music scripted by Oren Moverman, who had previously found success with the impressionistic Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. The film, deriving its title from a 1988 song by Wilson, is presented in a parallel narrative covering two specific time periods in Wilson’s life: the 1960s and the 1980s. In the mid-60s young Brian (Paul Dano) begins a slow mental collapse as the voices and sounds in his head begin to take over his life & destroy his creativity. Meanwhile in the 1980s old Brian (John Cusack) is alone and isolated from his family, under the control & guardianship of his corrupt therapist Dr. Landy (played by Paul Giamatti). But he then meets a woman (Elizabeth Banks) at a used car dealership who begins to change his life. The more knowledge you have of The Beach Boys and Wilson the more you will enjoy this film, but its structure is deliberately set up so that even if you know little about the man or his music it’s still a fascinating and highly enjoyable film, and a unique way to approach this type of story. (Mark)

Cover imageDeathgasm.
Deathgasm is a newly-released kiwi heavy metal comedy-horror directed by Jason Lei Howden. The story centres on teenage metalhead Brodie and his misfit mates who unintentionally summon an ancient demon after discovering a satantic riff from hell! Chaos ensues and with the help of his bandmates and love interest Medina, Brodie must defeat the evil and end the demonic zombie apocalypse. Can he win the girl? Will they even survive?? Jam-packed full of great laughs and a fantastic soundtrack featuring Wellington’s own ‘Bulletbelt’, ‘Razorwyre’ and ‘Beastwars’ – this hilarious splatter-fest is awesome fun and well worth checking out! (Theresa)

Cover imageMarshland.
Excellent Spanish thriller directed by Alberto Rodríguez, that won ten Goya Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor (Javier Gutiérrez). Set in Spain’s deep south in 1980, as the Fascist government has recently been replaced by a new democracy, two ideologically opposed detectives are sent to a small town to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls during the town’s annual festivities. With the discovery of more missing girls the film soon evokes comparison to the Korean classic Memories of Murder & also to Season 1 of True Detective, though the film began shooting at the same time as that show. Full of brooding suspense and atmosphere with amazing cinematography of the rural region – including some amazing aerial shots that show the scope of the natural environment. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed the first season of ‘True Detective’. (Mark)

Cover imageInside out.
Produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures. ‘Inside Out’ is set in the mind of a young girl, Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias), where five personified emotions—Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling)—try to lead her through life as her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) move the family to a new city. Overall a cute movie that provides a very funny interpretation of what happens in the human mind when emotions set in, what roles each our emotions play in our personalities, how we communicate and form relationships with people. Some very funny moments in the film, especially when Anger loses his temper, Disgust’s sarcastic and cynical behaviour and finding what role, (Spoiler: Very important role), Sadness plays. Rated: 8/10. (Katie)

Cover imageEx_machina.
Intelligent sci-fi flick which marks the directorial debut by 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Sunshine writer Alex Garland, Young programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a competition at his bosses company to take part in the experiment. When he arrives at the remote facility he meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the eccentric tech genius behind the world biggest search engine. He learns that Nathan’s next project is the creation of an Artificial intelligence, and that he has been brought there to evaluate the human qualities of a female A.I called ‘Ava’ (Alicia Vikander). The scenes shift from room to room as the tension ratchets up between the characters, even though they are never all together in the same place. Intelligent & tense, exploring similar themes to other recent UK shows such as Black Mirror & Humans.(Mark)

Cover imageNot suitable for children.
This is a darkly funny story about a young Australian man in his 20’sish who is busy living the party/ music lifestyle when he discovers that he has testicular cancer. He cannot store his fertility so has a month to find someone willing to have a child with him. Here comes the soul-searching challenge for him. It is a very unusual story. In parts it was very funny and thought provoking. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of testicular cancer in the world. But Testicular cancer is also one of the more survivable cancers. This movie is worth a watch. Contains sex scenes. (Brigid)

Cover imageThe affair. Season one.
A man (Domenic West) and a woman (Ruth Wilson) are being separately interviewed in a police interrogation room. Someone is dead, though no details are given. Slowly the policeman draws from them the details of how they first met and began an affair some years previously… Noah (West) is an ostensibly happily married man with a wife (Maura Tierney) & 4 children, a blue collar New York city schoolteacher who has published one novel some years previously to little acclaim. However he is stuck on his second book and resents the wealth of his in-laws who support his lifestyle and children. While vising at their house in the resort town of Montauk on Long Island, he meets waitress Alison (Wilson) who is stuck in a disintegrating marriage to Cole (Joshua Jackson), the leading son of a prominent local family, and locked in an endless cycle of grief over the loss of a child. The story of ‘The Affair’ is told separately, complete with deliberately distinct memory biases, from Noah’s and Alison’s perspective – with the ensuing police investigation explored in brief future scenes at the end of most episodes. With superb acting from the two leads, ‘The Affair’ is an adult drama that deals with the pressures of marriage and responsibility, and the cost of desire and betrayal. Season Two will expand the shows ‘perspectives’ to include those of the betrayed spouses Tierney & Jackson. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageThe Fisher king.
The DVD that I recently watched was an old one of Robin Williams’s called ‘The Fisher King’. Great, funny and poignant. (Maxine)

Cover imageMan up.
This is the latest from Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Paul, Hector & the search for Happiness) fame. It is a comedy. Story is about Jack who is in his 40’s recently divorced has a date with a young woman whom he thinks has been arranged for him by a match-maker friend. The woman he meets (36 year old Nancy) ends up there by a big mix-up. But pretends to be who he thinks she is. This is a really funny relationship comedy. Worth a watch. (Brigid)


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