Staff pick DVDs for the year so far

Loving Vincent

Plenty of gritty police drama in this lot of Staff Pick DVDs for the first few months of the year. Also featured is the adaptation of James Corey’s Expanse novels, a unique film that uses thousands of original oil paintings based on Vincent Van Gogh’s works to create an animated feature about the artist, the Italian social critique Perfect Strangers, and historical drama from books by Peter Ackroyd & Thomas Cullinan.

The expanse. Season one.
It has vastly superior production standards, it looks fabulous and is way better acted, but for many reasons ‘The Expanse’ reminds me of Babylon 5 . They both take a little while to get going but they eventually lead somewhere and once they get there they both deal with really intriguing ideas, they both contain a big secret plot device not immediately apparent for the outset and perhaps most noticeable they both contain complex Chandleresque characters. If these elements appeal to you then ‘The Expanse’ is well worth checking out. [Based on the novels by James Corey]. (Neil J.)

The sinner. Season one.
‘The Sinner’ follows a young mother (Jessica Biel) who, while on a day trip with her husband and son to a public beach, stabs a man to death has no idea why. She confesses immediately and is charged with murder, but dogged investigator (Bill Pullman) finds himself obsessed with uncovering the woman’s buried motive, and together they travel a harrowing journey into the depths of her psyche and the violent secrets hidden in her past. The story is tense and intriguing, a different and surprising take on a crime story. Biel is excellent. Based on a novel by a little translated German female crime writer. (Mark)

Baywatch.
If you were a fan of Baywatch back in the 90s and you miss that level of action and cheese you will not be disappointed! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron are a ridiculously hilarious combination of abs and humour that will have you shaking your head with laughter. This movie is exactly what it claims to be utterly outrageous and funny. (Jess)

Loving Vincent.
Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s ‘Loving Vincent’ is clearly a labour of love a seven year labour of love at that. The film is unique in that it uses thousands of original oil paintings based on Vincent Van Gogh’s works to create an animated feature about the artist. The film skilfully avoids just being a swirling, visually stunning piece of Vincent Van Gogh eye candy (which it is). By examining different perspectives on Vincent’s life from his close friends, family and colleagues and the many questions surrounding his death. (Neil J.)

Bosch. Season three.
The 3rd season of this American police-procedural adapts Michael Connelly’s novels The Black Echo and elements of A Darkness More Than Night. The story involves multiple plot lines as Bosch is involved in the upcoming trial of a wealthy movie director accused of murdering a woman during sex, as well as investigating the death of a homeless Military Vet that takes on a greater complexity. In his personal life his daughter is now living with him and, having solved his mother’s murder in the preceding season, he now struggles to contain the anger that has always fuelled him. The added characterisation of the supporting cast has strengthened the show beyond the tropes of the first season, and while there may be nothing that is really innovative about the show, or the plots, it is all so expertly acted and written (helmed by Eric Overmyer — who worked on the final two seasons of The Wire and then co-created Tremé) that it sets a new benchmark in TV Cop shows. (Mark)

The Andromeda strain.
Just recently the very welcome rerelease on DVD of the 1971 alien virus Robert Wise, Michael Crichton science fiction classic The Andromeda strain occurred. Despite its age and slightly corny 70’s fashion sense this film remains a flawlessly acted, brilliantly scripted, chillingly realised and thoroughly engaging work. And what’s more there isn’t a CGI effect anywhere to be seen as they were at that point just a glint in George Lucas’s eyes. (Neil J.)

Line of duty. Series four.
If ‘Bosch’ is currently the best US Police-procedural on TV, then ‘Line of Duty’ is certainly the best English one. An anti-corruption drama it follows the exploits of AC-12, a unit that investigates suspicious activities within the Police itself. In a career-defining case, DCI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton), is under intense pressure from her superiors to apprehend a serial murderer after months of fruitless investigation. When a young man is charged doubts around his guilt lead the chief forensic investigator to AC-12. Is Roz ignoring forensic evidence that might prove the young man’s innocence? As AC-12 pile on pressure from the outside, Roz is forced to act to stop her life from unravelling, but just how far will she go? Totally gripping crime drama, with Newton in top form. Highly recommended. [Note: Season 1 of this show was released in NZ, and we were able to have Season 4 cross-rated from Australia due to its lower classification Rating. However Seasons 2-3 have not been distributed for release in this country]. (Mark)

Murder on the Orient Express.
Kenneth Branagh’s recent remake of Murder on the Orient express had many admirers and made a ton of money (and is available to borrow here). However for me the 1974 Sidney Lumet version (recently rereleased ) is the definitive celluloid adaptation of this much loved classic. It features a truly Stella cast including amongst others Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery it positively glitters with Hollywood glamour. It’s a warm, friendly, comforting, old fashioned kind of a film that reminds me of lazy Boxing day afternoons with my family. (Neil J.)

Perfect strangers.
Sharing cell phone messages and calls with others doesn’t sound like a good idea but at the eclipse night, seven friends (three couples and a man whose new partner is not able to attend) agree to do it over the course of dinner party, because they are long-time best friends and have nothing to hide. Italian director Paolo Genovese’s loquacious ensemble comedy is a study of morality in the iPhone era. Inevitably their ‘secrets and lies’ are revealed one after another and their relationships are severely tested. Genovese’s clever plot, together with fantastic performances by all actors, makes it a funny yet touching, wonderfully entertaining drama. Brilliant. (Shinji)

The tunnel. Series 2, Sabotage.
The Anglo-French adaption of the Danish/Swedish series ‘The Bridge’ was the first series in British and French television to be bilingual, a collaboration of British broadcaster Sky and French broadcaster Canal+. The first season (essentially a remake of the Swedish/Danish production) is still enjoyable, if you have watched the original, due to the quality of the production and the talent of the 2 leads, Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy as British and French police detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann.
Season 2 of ‘The Tunnel’ however is where the series diverges with a completely different storyline. Following the events of the first series, Karl & Elise are reunited to investigate the kidnapping of a small child from the Channel Tunnel train, which soon evolves into a domestic terrorist investigation after a planes autopilot system is hacked, forcing it to crash into the English Channel, killing all on board. The 3rd and final series of the show has just been completed. An overlooked show, perhaps due to the ‘remake’ nature of the first season which can’t really compete with the Swedish/Danish tour-de-force, but this is quality TV and deserves to be judged on its own merits. Recommended. (Mark)

The Limehouse Golem.
There is no sign of restraint in Juan Carlos Medina’s adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s fantastic book Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem. This is a lurid, melodramatic and gory retelling of this Victorian, gothic, murder, mystery tale. If however you are a fan of the theatrical bloody period piece epitomised by some of the best Hammer Horror films, or enjoyed the more recent Crimson Peak then there is much to be enjoyed here in this Grand Guignol over the top production. (Neil J.)

The beguiled.
During the American Civil War, a wounded Union Army corporal is brought to the seminary for young ladies in the enemy territory Virginia, leading to sexual tension and crushes. Sofia Coppola’s latest work is a Civil War setting period drama based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, and it’s a subtle study of shifting the power balance in a closed environment. Although it’s bleak and rather atmospheric, Coppola still offers her characteristic aesthetic; gorgeous – if Vogue featured ‘Southern Gothic’ it would be like this – production design, costume and camerawork elegantly using both natural and artificial lights, with a starry cast (Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell). This is Coppola’s most low-key work but it proves that she is one of the best American auteurs today. (Shinji)

Cardinal. The complete first season.
Another strong police-procedural, this one differentiated by its setting of Algonquin Bay in rural Ontario, Canada. This six episode Canadian TV crime drama is an adaptation of Giles Blunt’s award winning novel Forty Words for Sorrow, the first entry in his series about Police Detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme. Demoted Detective John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) is brought back into Homicide when the hunch he wouldn’t let go is proven correct, and a young Native American girl is found encased in ice. Now, as he relentlessly tracks a serial killer who preys on missing young people he must keep a watchful eye on his new partner, Detective Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse), who he believes may have a secret agenda that leads back to one of his past cases, while coping with his wife being institutionalised after a bi-polar episode. Atmospheric, intense and intriguing. Definitely something different. Recommended. (Mark)

Let’s Boogie: Dance movies

NZ Dance Week is coming up (April 21 – 29) and Central Library is offering some evening events to celebrate it. For more details about the events, see our NZDW blog post. To get you in the mood, check out these DVDs and get ready to boogie!


La la land.
“Mia, an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and Sebastian, a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Billy Elliot.
“Set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984/’85 miner’s strikes. Billy’s journey takes him out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Hip hop-eration.
“These senior citizens may each be almost a century young, but for Kara, (94) Maynie, (95) and Terri (93), the journey to Las Vegas and the World Hip Hop Dance Championships is just the beginning of a life’s journey. Along with twenty-four other nonagenarians they defy the odds and hip-hop their way into the hearts and minds of thousands of young fans from around the world. Along the way we hear how these extraordinary characters contributed to New Zealand as we know it. Their stories are a reminder of our history as a nation and the joy of living life to the fullest.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPina.
“A film about the life and work of Pina Bausch, dancer and choreographer, who died in 2009 which features some of her greatest choreographies as performed by her Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The red shoes.
“Film of the ballet based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of a young girl who cannot stop thinking about her red dancing shoes. In this modern version, Vicky Page finds herself caught between simple human passion and artistic devotion to the ballet.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSwing time.
“Fred Astaire plays a gambler intent on raising $25,000 in New York in order to marry his fiance back home. Romantic complications occur when he meets dancing teacher, Ginger Rogers.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The dancer
“French singer/actress Soko and Lily-Rose Depp lead a star-studded cast in Stephanie Di Giustos spectacularly mounted screen biography, inspired by the true story of two rival pioneers of modern dance and theatrical performance in late 19th-century Paris. Nothing in her background destined Loe Fuller (Soko) to become the toast of the Belle Epoque cabarets or to perform at the Paris Opera. However, meeting with Isadora Duncan (Depp) a beautiful young prodigy hungry for glory that threatened everything.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Shall we dance?.
A funny comedy set in Japan about a middle aged discontented workaholic who find his passion – and himself in ballroom dancing. A hilarious and highly recommended film! (Katie)

Footloose.
“A city boy comes to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Black swan.
In order for prima ballerina, Nina to embrace her dark side for her role as the white and black swan in Swan Lake, she loses grip on reality, as well as herself. Overall a gripping film that will have you on edge from start to finish and visualises the dark side of dance and ballet. It is also nice to see a darker and provocative side of Natalie Portman and is a welcome change from the sweet, innocent girly roles she has previously played. (Katie)

Strictly ballroom.
Things get messy in the world of Australian ballroom dancing – and dance politics when a championship ballroom dancer and his ugly duckling dance partner decide to compete together and break all the rules in dancing. Directed by Baz Luhrmann and part of “the red curtain trilogy”*, Strictly Ballroom is a great film with awesome dance moves, a killer soundtrack and a true celebration of dancing. [*The Red Curtain Trilogy has been described by Luhrmann as following a specific filmmaking technique, not necessarily a trilogy in the traditional sense. The Red Curtain Trilogy is the title given to the first three films directed by Baz Luhrmann: Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge]. (Katie)

NZDW 2018 - Dance movies

Who’s reading what at the Fringe Festival?

Fringe Fest programmesJust in case you hadn’t spotted the bright pink posters and brochures all over the city, we feel it’s our duty to let you know the NZ Fringe Festival is taking place all over Wellington right now until March 24th. It’s an exciting time for the Wellington arts and culture scene, and features all sorts of events and performances, from theater, music and dance, to spoken word poetry, Snapchat storytelling and improv comedy. There are over 130 shows in this year’s Fringe program (whaaat! That’s so many!) and shows to suit all tastes. We thought we would speak to a handful of the talented people involved in the festival and delve into the things they’ve been reading, watching and listening to between rehearsals.

Jennifer O'SullivanJennifer O’Sullivan is an improviser and producer making things happen around the city, including the NZ Improv Festival – mark 20-27 October 2018 in your diaries now!

“I’m re-reading Terry Pratchett at the moment. I started re-reading the Tiffany Aching books, which are my favourite ones, then I thought, I’ll go read some of the other ones! So I’ve read The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, now I’m reading Mort. I’m also listening to Harry Potter on audiobook, which is really great, and I listen to a lot of podcasts as well. I’ve been watching Jane the Virgin, it’s fantastic prep for the soap opera actually, because it’s all tele-novella drama. I’ve been watching Star Trek Voyager, which is the only older Star Trek which has grabbed me immediately. It must be something to do with Captain Janeway.”

Check out Jen’s Fringe show Awkward Threesome (until 16th March), her guest spot in Ramshackle & Kitsch (Sunday 18th March), her hosting of Flustercluck (Saturday 24th), and Mirror Miramar, a 10 hour improvised soap opera set in a library, where Jen plays librarian-slash-Meals on Wheels deliverer Lillian Redwood. We can’t wait for that one!

Matt PowellMatt Powell is an improviser and software developer, “which is odd” he says. He is performing in and producing three shows for Fringe – Just Duet (which has unfortunately already finished its run), Awkward Threesome, along with Jen O’Sullivan, and the marathon improv event Mirror Miramar.

“Right now I am re-reading William Gibson‘s The Peripheral, which is a very cool novel about augmented reality and causality and time travel and crime. It’s very interesting science fiction. I have recently binge watched all of Queer Eye and seen Black Panther multiple times, both of those are very highly recommended for anyone with eyes and a nervous system. I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks while I’m writing software, I have a big playlist full of them. Podcast-wise, I’m really enjoying Punch Up the Jam where two comedians-slash-Vine stars take a well-loved piece of music, dissect it and figure out how to make it better. A good episode to start with is “Welcome To The Jungle”, the Guns N’ Roses song, or Ludacris “What’s Your Fantasy”.”

Eamonn MarraEamonn Marra is a writer, comedian and storyteller. His Fringe show is called 2,000 Feet Above Worry Level and each night he will be reading a selection of stories from his new book. Check it out at BATS until Saturday 17 March.

“I just finished Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam. I saw him in the Writers’ Festival, that was a really great session. I was about halfway through his book when I went, and finished the rest of it quite fast after that. I looked at my bookshelf the day before the Ockhams were announced and thought, I should start reading Brannavan’s book, got it off the shelf, and then the next morning and it was shortlisted for the Ockhams. I’m just about to start The New Animals by Pip Adam, which has also been shortlisted, and I read Baby when it first came out, so I’m really excited about those. I’ve been listening to a lot of Mitski, which is also the music before and after my show. When I was finishing my masters all I did was listen to Mitski’s Puberty 2 for eight hours a day, because that was the only music I could write to. I’ve been listening to that again to get back into the headspace. I watched Search Party – I haven’t seen the second season yet – and I rewatched the movie Creep the other day, which is really cool, and I saw Black Panther.”

Staff Picks DVDs: The best of 2017

A round-up of our favourite library DVDs from last year (plus a couple from early this year that made the cut). We hope you find something new, or something you missed from last year.

Mark’s Picks:
Billions. Season two.
Billions sees Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Paul Giamatti as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhodes, determined to bring him down. Season 2 begins with Bobby attempting to rebuild Axe Capital after the events of Season 1. Meanwhile Rhodes is under scrutiny from the Attorney General for his previous investigation into Axelrod’s business dealings. Each manoeuvre’s to gain the upper hand and destroy the other amidst a background of inside deals, political gameplay, money, and influence. Season 2 is all about short stocks and long cons, but who is playing who? Machiavellian brinkmanship taken to it’s end point with millions of dollars, reputations and careers to be won or lost.

Homeland. The complete sixth season.
Homeland is back for another season taking place several months after Season 5. The season features the results of a presidential election of a female candidate, and takes place between Election Day and inauguration day, as CIA operatives Saul Berenson and Dar Adal begin to suspect that the new President Elect has an anti-intelligence bias and that Carrie may be helping shape her policy. A more personal season as the attacks on Carrie become more insidious, the show also follows an eerie parallel to the current US political climate, and a fascinating look at the topical political manipulation via Social Media platforms.

Trapped. The complete series one.
A ferry carrying 300 passengers from Denmark pulls into an Icelandic town’s small port, just as a heavy snow storm begins. Then a mutilated and dismembered body washes on the shore, an unidentifiable man murdered only hours ago. The local police chief, Andri, realizes a killer has descended into his town.The local police are told to wait until a crack police team can arrive from the capital city of Reykjavik to do the investigations, but then the corpse goes missing and dead bodies start to turn up – all linked to a mysterious fire that destroyed an abandoned factory & killed a local teenage girl 15 years previously… More great Scandi-Noir.

Salamander.
Sixty-six safes belonging to high-level members of industry, finance, the military, the magistracy, politics, & unions are robbed during a spectacular and heist on an influential private Bank in Brussels. Soon an unparalleled blackmail scheme is underway to destroy the country’s entire political system. Doggedly honest Euro-cop Inspector Paul Gerardi catches a rumour of the bank robbery from an informant, and when his informant later turns up dead from an apparent ‘suicide’ he knows he is onto something big. He has to stay one step ahead of people from his own Government out to silence him, and protect his family from a mysterious group called Salamander whose origins lie in a botched operation during WW11. Excellent self-contained Belgian series grips over 12 episodes.

Christine’s Pick:
Wonder Woman.
I don’t go to the cinema much any more, but as a 70s kids who spent a fair chunk of her time spinning on the spot and leaping off her bed wearing a cardboard headband and bracelets, Wonder Woman had an irresistible appeal. My memories of the Lynda Carter era were hazy enough to avoid any real comparison, however, so nostalgia remains untainted by the absolute freaking awesomeness of the newest incarnation.

Neil J’s Picks:
Maudie.
Sally Hawkins extraordinary portrayal of the arthritic Nova Scotian housekeeper Maud Lewis who becomes in the face of fierce adversity a much loved and celebrated artist is sublime, touching ,harrowing and heart-warming all at once . The films sense of brutal occasionally uplifting realism and its depiction of Maud Lewis’s inner spirit that somehow manages to rise above it all is vividly and startlingly realised. This film shows beyond any doubt that Sally Hawkins is one of the finest actresses in film today.

Blade runner 2049.
I suspect it will take several years before Blade Runner 2049 can be viewed in its true light. Until then I think it can still safely be said that it is a startling, visually masterful and striking vision of a future that deals with complex and profound ideas and that it also contains career best performances from some of its cast. An astonishing work that I am sure will be regarded as a future classic.

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

Guardians of the galaxy. Vol. 2.
A technicolour explosion in a glitter factory. The cinematic equivalent of a long soak in a huge luxurious bubble bath, sound tracked by an ace, superb. guilty pleasure music mainly “from the 1970s” with wise cracking, funny well rounded characters you love or loathe. Basically just a jolly fun retro romp. In a sharp, well-paced, slick, action packed science fiction story. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is everything you want it to be and totally lives up to its predecessor. So get out the popcorn, turn off the lights settle down on the sofa you are in for a real treat. (Neil J) Continue reading “Staff Picks DVDs: The best of 2017”

Our favourite DVDs in the final leg of 2017

Our last lot of Staff Picks DVDs for the year has plenty to keep you entertained over the Christmas period. Our picks feature blockbuster visuals with ‘Atomic Blonde’, ‘Baby Driver’ & ‘Valerian and the city of a thousand planets’; foreign drama with ‘Land Of Mine’ & ‘Things to Come’; noir-ish crime with ‘Wind River’ & ‘A Conspiracy of Faith’; and quality foreign television shows with ‘Trapped’, ‘The Frozen Dead’ & ‘Salamander’.

A conspiracy of faith.
Another solid entry in the Department Q series from the novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, that is setting Danish Box Office records. An old note is found in a bottle in Jutland which has been in the sea a long time, but its suspicious nature leads it to land on the desk of Department Q. The note is hard to decipher, but analysis seems to suggest it is a note from a kidnapped child who went missing 14 years before. Carl & Assad track the missing child to a remote Religious community, and with the disappearance of another pair of siblings realise they are tracking a killer who targets the faith of others. Intense, gripping and dark. Recommended for fans of the Sandi-noir genre. (Mark)

Valerian and the city of a thousand planets.
I loved the Fifth Element Luc Besson’s previous Science Fiction mega blockbuster science fiction movie I loved its quirky, idiosyncratic, humorous distinctly non Hollywood style. And like that movie Valerian and the city of a thousand planets is chock full of bonkers, wildly inventive, weird candy coloured neon eye popping visual effects. Besson has stated it’s his labour of love movie and it shows. On its release it got very mixed reviews and fared poorly at the box office largely due to its weak script and the lack of chemistry between the lead actors. For me though it has a very 30s/40s Flash Gordon serial style and feel and at its core is basically an innocent, good natured, action packed romp with a truly unique French comic book sensibility and stunning stylish visuals. (Neil J)

The wrong girl. Season one.
Probably one of the funniest Aussie comedies to date! The Wrong Girl is Bridget Jones’ Diary for Aussie TV! Poor Lily Woodward is approaching 30 and can’t seem to catch a break whether it is climbing up the career ladder, finding Mr. Right and is the epitome of a walking disaster. My favourite moment is her mad dash across Melbourne to intercept a hate email slamming the new hot chef on her TV segment that she sent to her boss in the heat of ‘burn out’ moment – Hilarious! Further complications arise when she has to ‘make nice’ and work with the chef, Jack and ends up falling in love with him! Another moment is when she talking to her best friend about how she feels about Jack… while the microphone is on, hence all her work colleagues know! Haha! Lily is adorable, lovable and relatable to women. She is the type of character that women feel better about themselves. So if you are interested in drama-based show with spice of a comedy, but which highly focuses on emotions and emotional conflict, this show is for you! (Katie)

Atomic Blonde.
From director David Leitch (John Wick) based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City this action spy-thriller is set in Berlin in 1989 against the backdrop of the rising chaos that preceded the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Charlize Theron is a lethal MI6 agent sent on a covert mission to recover a microfilmed list with the identities of all Western agents operating in Berlin. Theron is nothing short of fantastic and the gritty action sequences rival anything from the Jason Bourne series. Super stylish fun. (Mark)

Baby driver.
Edgar Wrights slick, smart and incredibly cool film Baby driver watches in a way like one of car chases that are central to its plot. One moment it’s the still before the storm the next full pedal to the metal adrenalin .It also sports an ace soundtrack that is central to the storyline. In many ways it’s also a homage to films like ‘Vanishing point’ or Walter Hill’s 1978 film The Driver both well worth checking out but that for me and a lot of other people is in itself no bad thing. (Neil J)

Things to come.
A leading young French auteur Mia Hansen-Love has dealt with ‘devastating loss’ in a variety of stages of life – loss of a father (Father of my Children), first love (Goodbye first Love), creative young days (Eden) – in her works. It continues in her latest effort and a 50-something female philosophy teacher is the subject this time. Nathalie (played by delightful Isabelle Huppert) has what appears to be a good life which suddenly becomes turmoil; her long-time husband leaves her for a younger woman, she is confronted with professional setbacks and her mother’s death. Showing her fine aesthetic and intelligence, Hansen-Love tackles this potentially melodramatic material in a modest manner, just subtly constructing small moments of everyday life, and thanks to its light tempo and Huppert’s effortless performance, it appears that almost nothing happens while everything happens. In fact, in her film’s ‘loss’ is the starting point of ‘new hope’, and this film ends with the lovely scene; Nathalie cradles her new born grandchildren, accompanied by The Fleetwoods’ ‘Unchained Melody’. Life goes on. (Shinji)

The frozen dead.
Adaptation of French crime writer Bernard Minier’s debut novel, which became a bestseller, the first in his Commandant Servaz series. A thoroughbred horse is found hanging from a cable car station in a Pyrenees town, St Martin de Comminges. The horse belongs to Eric Lombard, one of the richest men in France and so Commandant Martin Servaz is sent from Toulouse to investigate. He is not happy to be there, and things gets progressively worse as the dead horse is just the beginning in a complex set of crimes that lead back to a mysterious mass suicide in the towns past and one of his former colleagues, a murderer now housed in a local asylum for the criminally insane near the town. Servaz is perhaps a bit too much of a typical hard drinking, ruffled middle aged cop with a messy personal life, but the story is a tense and the location atmospheric. Shades of Hannibal Lector echo in the shows manipulative villain. Worth a watch. (Mark)

Broadchurch. Series 3.
UK crime/drama, Broadchurch ends with a bang with the third and final season! Three years has passed since the last season of Broadchurch. The peace and tranquillity of the town is disrupted once again when a gruesome crime, (Sexual assault) has been committed. Once again Hardy and Miller, (David Tennant and Olivia Coleman), are on the case, where they will both be tested, professionally, personally and emotionally. This season was heart-breaking. It will leave you emotionally wrecked and paint a vivid picture of modern masculinity gone wrong. However there were humorous moments in the form of playful banter between Hardy and Miller. As always their partnership, banter and bickering, mainly on Hardy’s part, is funny, entertaining and the embodiment of mutual trust and respect. It was nice to see a different of Hardy in this series. Normally portrayed as an emotionally unavailable, rigid, by-the-book police detective, you get see a loving, empathetic and emotional side. I loved the moments where he takes the “initiative” of “instructing” teenage boys on how to treat young women after they ‘disrespected’ his teenage daughter and comforting Miller when they finally catch the culprit, gently telling her that the rapist is an aberration and does not represent all men. Overall this season was a great to finish an entertaining and gripping crime series. (Katie)

Continue reading “Our favourite DVDs in the final leg of 2017”

WCL staff recommend these DVDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month

A wide range of movies & TV shows curated by our avid AV fans on staff for the first half of the year. We hope you find something new to enjoy.

Beauty and the beast.
Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, recognising the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. Overall it was an interesting revamp of the original animated 1992 classic. I found there was more depth to the characters: Belle and the beast, and perhaps more of a back story as to how their background, experiences and personalities shaped the people that they came to be. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble, and generous. This movie is a must see and has been worth the long wait. A film that the entire family can enjoy on a night out on the town– especially on a Saturday night! 9/10 all the way! (Katie)

The girl on the train.
Rachel (Emily Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasising about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Solid adaptation of Paula Hawkins novel which, given it largely consisted of the main characters internal monologue, must have proven difficult to adapt. The location is changed to the States like High Fidelity, and like a spate of recent adaptations would probably have benefitted from being a BBC or ITV mini-series rather than a feature film. Probably, as with Gone Girl, more enjoyable if you haven’t yet read the book, but if you have it’s still an entertaining watch. (Mark)

I, Daniel Blake.
Always defending the socially vulnerable, Ken Loach’s career has spanned five decades and at the age of 80, he delivers one of his finest works. Obviously he is furious about the British welfare state and the heartless bureaucracy but with as little drama as possible, masterfully depicts the struggles of widowed carpenter Daniel Blake who has suffered a heart attack and a young single mother of two Katie. With the help of the excellent screenplay by his long-time collaborator Paul Laverty, there are lovely moments of humour and warmth in this harsh social realism drama and makes it even more memorable. A small triumph. (Shinji)

Finding Dory.
This movie is in a word, FANTASTIC! Finding Dory reunites the friendly but forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, along with her friends, Marlin and Nemo on an epic quest to find Dory’s family. The questions that hangs on everyone’s lips are what does she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak whale? Even the Pixar short film, Piper that was released alongside Finding Dory is beautiful and heart-warming. Two movies for the price of one, you can’t go wrong. Overall, I loved the film! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you want to watch it over and over again. It is truly unforgettable. A well-deserved 9/10. (Katie)

Sully.
Clint Eastwood helms this adaptation of the events of January 15, 2009, the Miracle on the Hudson, when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. It would be easy to downplay this as ‘solid’ or ‘straight-forward’ but after a recent span of bloated and overly arty biographical adaptations this 96 minutes is a perfect example of solid Hollywood film-making. If it seems underplayed or lacks that ‘larger than life’ factor of most biopics it’s a deliberate move, the no-nonsense storytelling a perfect match for the cool, collected nature of its subject. (Mark)

Captain Fantastic.
Ben, a father of 6, is raising his kids “off grid” and teaching them how to survive in the wild as well as feeding their amazing minds with his own home schooling techniques. Each child is unique and the viewer sees how Ben has tailored their learning to incorporate each one as well as “the whole”. When tragedy strikes he is forced to take them away from their known environment into the frightening modern world. The children’s grandparents disagree with the way he is raising his children and arguments ensue and lead him to question his beliefs. This movie made me laugh and cry and gave insights into modern child rearing and how it can be scary no matter where you bring your children up. 5 out of 5 stars. (Raewyn)

The man from U.N.C.L.E..
Set in the 60’s and at the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. So in typical Superhero style, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the bad guys in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, Gabby (Alicia Vikander), whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe. In typical Ritchie fashion, there is plenty of fast moving (and perhaps violent) action sequences, memorable one liners, cameos by very famous actors and sporting figures (infamous cameo from David Beckham! – Whoohoo!), plenty of twists and turns that you don’t see coming. Overall a great film filled with action, comedy, romance and suspense. (Katie)

Arrival.
When mysterious spacecraft’s touch down across the globe, an elite team, led by expert codebreaker Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As various countries respond differently to the situation an ‘attack’ on the new invaders seems immanent, as Banks and the team (Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker) race against time to crack a way of communicating with the aliens to learn just what their purpose in coming to Earth is. Marketed as a sci-fi film, it’s more philosophical in nature, similar to Jodie Foster’s ‘Contact’, Solaris or the recent wave of films like Ex-Machina or Coherence that focus more on the cerebral rather than spectacle. Perhaps not for everyone, but definitely different than the usual Hollywood approach. (Mark)

Indignation.
This directorial debut of James Schamus, who is well known as a producer particularly for Ang Lee’s works, is a faithful adaptation of Philip Roth’s late novel of the same title. Set in the 50s, it’s a bitter coming of age tale about the intelligent but complex Jewish student Marcus (Logan Lerman). Schamus transformed it into a solid, sophisticated work which features some impressive acting, including a16-minute-long verbal spar scene between Dean and Marcus. Apparently Roth was pleased with the film. It’s a relief for the director and the audience alike. (Shinji) Continue reading “Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month”

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #13

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

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

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

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Season one.
“Rescued after fifteen years in an underground doomsday cult, Kimmy decides to rebuild her life in New York City armed with only a fifth-grade education and a firm belief that truly anything is possible. She quickly finds a roommate, Titus Andromedon, a job working for a spoiled Manhattan mom, Jacqueline Voorhees, and a new beginning.” (Syndetics Summary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Staff picks from the recent film festivals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staff Pick DVDs – Best of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageOutlander. Season two.

CoverimageLondon has fallen.

Cover imageThe BFG.

cover imageStar wars. The Force awakens.

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

cover imageGreen room.

Cover imageKubo and the two strings.

Cover imageThe jungle book.

Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageHunt for the Wilderpeople.

Cover imageSausage party.

Cover imageTickled.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.

Cover imageThe big short.

Cover imageThe revenant.

Cover imageVictoria.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.