Staff Picks DVDs – July/August

Some staff picks of new TV shows & movies, from biographical adaptations to indie Sci-Fi.

Cover imageCoherence.
‘Coherence’ proves once again that it’s indie movies with the most interesting Sci-Fi ideas, and not Hollywood blockbusters (even those by Christopher Nolan). Eight friends – all couples- get together to catch up over dinner, at the same time that a comet is passing close to Earth. Strange things begin to happen. To say any more would give away the story, such as it is. Written & directed by James Ward Byrkit with a bunch of mostly unknown actors (Buffy alumnus Nicholas Brendon is the only recognisable face), with an improvised script that is filmed mostly in his living room, the movie is an examination of the nature of reality, quantum physics & Schrödinger’s cat theory. Recommended if you’re a fan of Memento or Primer. If it’s all too confusing after a couple of watches the Director explains it all in a spoiler-heavy interview here. (Mark)

Cover imageGone baby gone.
This is Ben Affleck’s first time as Director. It stars his brother Casey. Gritty story about a Private Detective who is investigating the disappearance of a little girl. There are many twists and turns in this movie. It is a thought provoking story, and not your run-of the mill detective movie. Containing moral dilemmas. There were conversations about it in our house afterwards. It does contain violence, offensive language and drug use. Good movie. This story also stars Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris so a star cast. This is written by the same author (Dennis Lehane) as Mystic River. If you enjoyed this movie we also have the book in the Library. (Brigid)

Cover imageForce majeure.
In the interview related to this film, Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund talked about an article he read. “The posh couple gave a party at their house which has a pool. Their three-year-old son fell in and couldn’t swim. The father was standing there and the mother was shouting ‘Get into the pool. What are you doing?’ He said ‘But my iPhone is in my pocket’”. This episode gives you some ideas about this film; an ideal family holiday in a French ski resort turns into a relationship disaster by a tiny incident (from the husband’s point of view). This could be a comedy because it definitely makes you laugh but could be a horror or a serious human drama. Whatever it may be, it’s utterly unique. (Shinji)

Cover imageFortitude. The complete first season.
UK series with an international cast set in the fictional Arctic Norwegian settlement of Fortitude. Stanley Tucci appears in his first British television role as Detective Chief Inspector Morton from London’s Metropolitan Police, who has flown to Fortitude to assist with the investigation of the violent murder of Charlie Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston), a British scientist who leads the arctic biology department at the Fortitude arctic research facility, who has become embroiled in the possible discovery of a Wholly Mammoth frozen in the Ice. The closed off town seems to have plenty of secrets, with a taciturn local sheriff played by Richard Dormer, and a local developer & Town Governor (Sofie Gråbøl), controlling everything. At first it seems to be a variation of Broadchurch in the Arctic, plenty of people with mysterious pasts and adulterous affairs, but the plot soon shifts into more ‘X-Files’ territory. The disparate tones at play sometimes clash, and the plot initially feels like a conglomeration of various other shows, but it finds its own pace as the story moves forward. Chilly & atmospheric. Worth sticking with. (Mark)

Cover imageChef.
This is an enjoyable story. A very well-known chef in a famous restaurant in Los Angeles is under a lot of stress trying to create wonderful and creative food whilst working under a boss who does not get his style. After accidently sending a rather provocative tweet to a food critic (who had been very critical of his cooking) and it went viral. He is forced to resign and in doing so starts to rediscover his passion for cooking and his love of his son. He goes on a road trip with him. This is a lovely story and funny in parts and is full of lots of South American music. Also stars Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman (as the boss). There is some offensive language in it. (Brigid)

Cover imageThe last diamond.
Master thief Simon has just been released from prison and is on parole, when is friend, Albert, lures him back to his old ways for one more hit – a priceless 137 carat diamond ‘Florentin’, that has just been brought to auction. To steal the diamond the crew of thieves need 2 custom made keys, one of which is in the possession of beautiful auctioneer Julia. An elaborate plan to gain her confidence is put in place, but as Simon begins to develop feelings for her he seeks to move her away from danger. The elaborate heist goes off without a hitch…but then, of course, there is always the double-cross…A pleasant & charming throw back/homage to the traditional heist/caper/romance films of 50s Hollywood. The second half takes a more serious turn, and while not up to the classic standards of Jean-Pierre Melville or Olivier Marchal, its none-the-less an entertaining watch. (Mark)

Cover imageTak3n.
This is the third in the Taken series of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). It is also violent but not quite as violent as the other two. It starts off with Bryan meeting up with his wife.
Then she is murdered. He is framed so he becomes the hunted. Also stars Forrest Whitaker as the investigating Policeman. Lots of action as Bryan tries to hunt the killer and clear his name. Lots of twists. (Brigid)

Cover imageWild.
A true story based on the Best Selling book by Cheryl Strayed, starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. From a journey of self-destruction to one of self-discovery, she sets off ‘on her own’ with zero experience, an oversized however necessary backpack and a survivor or is it survival spirit, to walk the Pacific Crest Trail in a quest to walk herself back to life. A bid to face and forget the self-inflicted poor life choices she had made up unto this point in her life though one would see this “walk back to life” as a poor life choice as well, but as spontaneous and unprepared she was for what was ahead, what was she to lose, it was time to accept and let go of what was.. the great loss of her mother, the irresponsible behaviours, the drugs, the infidelities, the random sexual encounters and embrace a new found freedom for life, and this was how she aimed to do it. A three month journey, amid hunger, dehydration and the terrors and pleasures of the wild, with physical and mental strength as her constant companion. Would this ‘walk back to life’ heal her from the trials and tribulations of her past.. An inspirational true story about loss and Life. 3 ½ stars. (Ethel)

Cover imageOutlander. Season one, Volume one.
Classed as Romance. This is an interesting time shift story. Clare Randall (Beauchamp) is just enjoying a break in the Highlands of Scotland. The Second World War has just finished. Clare was a nurse on the frontlines and her husband Frank was in Intelligence. Frank is about to start a new job at a University as a Historian when they have a break in Inverness. Whilst visiting the Special Druid stones in Inverness Clare goes missing and finds herself travelling back in time to 1743. Just a couple of years before the battle of Culloden. There she has some interesting adventures and is cast into a totally different life. Clare becomes the Sassenach (outsider Celtic derogatory term for an English person). Quite a dilemma for her, as circumstances beyond her control force her to marry the young Scottish Highlander Jaimie Fraser. Passionate love is ignited between her and her new husband. Her original husband has not even been born in that time. There were other dilemmas for her like trying to nurse the people in that era without being able to resort to modern medicine, as it had not been invented yet. The story continues as she is caught up in the political happenings of that time period. It is an intergenerational story. The main characters are very likeable. This is a series made from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. This DVD covers the first part of the first book. There is a second DVD to come to finish the series off. So far there is no confirmed release date for New Zealand which is such a pity as it leaves you with a real cliff-hanger. They are still making series two. Thoroughly enjoyed this first DVD. This is not just a Romance. Lots of blood and guts as well. Brilliant storyline but definitely an R16. There are some passionate love/ sex scenes. You might also want to read the books the library also has them. The first one is Cross stitch (in England) and Outlander (in America) then Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, Fiery cross, A breath of Snow & Ashes, and An Echo in the Bone. Plus the Lord John series as well. Diana Gabaldon is involved in the making of the series and so it keeps true to her books. Well worth a watch. (Brigid)

Cover imageBlackhat.
A nuclear plant in Hong Kong is hacked followed by a stock market manipulation of soy futures. The Chinese government and the FBI determine that the hack was caused by a Remote Access Tool (RAT). A military officer in China’s cyber warfare unit (Leehom Wang) is tasked to find the people responsible for the attacks and enlists the aid of his sister (Tang Wei), a networking engineer. He meets with an FBI Agent (Viola Davis) in Los Angeles and reveals the code in the RAT was written by himself and Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), his college roommate, before Hathaway was sent to prison for an unrelated hack. Hathaway is released from prison, and offered a pardon if he can track down the hacker responsible for the attacks. The trail soon leads from LA, to Hong Kong to Jakarta & Malaysia. A thriller about people watching computer screens & then explaining it to other people is an obvious oxymoron, so Director Michael Mann’s idea of a hacker thriller is an attempt at a kind of digital update of Thief. Helmsworth is pretty much the Val Kilmer character from Heat – someone who can break down firewalls as well as actual walls – & not particularly convincing in the role. A bit of a misfire from Mann, ‘Blackhat’ is still a pretty decent thriller, that moves to a unexpectedly gritty ending. Mann’s sense of lighting & visuals is still amazing, with lots of shots of cities at night, and no one does urban combat scenes like he does. Worth watching for the trademark Mann touches if you are a fan of his work. (Mark)

Cover imageI survived a zombie holocaust.
This is a New Zealand Zombie comedy. It is a story about a B grade Zombie movie set in the wilds of the South Island of New Zealand. When strange Zombie like things start happening for real. It is full of blood and guts and occasional swear words. If you are into Zombie comedy movies that could absolutely never be taken seriously this is for you. Good movie with drinks and chips and your mates. (Brigid)

Cover imageIt follows.
Marketed, perhaps incorrectly, as a horror movie may explain why ‘It Follows’ has a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, but fairly mixed reviews on Amazon. College student Jay begins to think that her new boyfriend, Hugh, is acting strangely after he becomes agitated at a movie theatre when he can see someone that she can’t. On another date they have sex, but afterwards he knocks her out and tapes her to a wheelchair. Once she recovers he tells her that he has infected her with a curse. An entity visible only to those cursed that can – take on any number of appearances including people you know are dead – will pursue Jay at walking pace. If the entity catches her, it will kill her and then pursue the person who passed the curse to her. Hugh implores that Jay sleep with someone else as soon as she can to be rid of the entity. There are real no traditional ‘horror’ tropes in what follows. Despite a very brief scene at the beginning there is no real gore or violence, instead ‘It Follows’ is all about establishing a constant sense of dread & suspense. Nowhere is safe as Jay becomes more scared & traumatised by the apparitions that stalk her. With its artistic direction, acting and narrative style it has the feel of an indie art-house approach to the horror genre. Definitely something that won’t appeal to everyone, but original and interesting. (Mark)

Cover imageThe theory of everything.Cover image
Kingsman. The secret service.
Two films I have seen recently that I think are good are the Stephen Hawking biography ‘The Theory of Everything’, a great sensitive film; and the ‘Kingsman’ spy film adapted from the comic book – putting the fun and spoof back into the spy genre. (Maxine)

Building Up a Festival Mood #NZIFF

Our favourite winter cultural event is just around the corner. The 44th New Zealand Film Festival opens 24 July in Wellington with a pretty good line-up. You may or may not have thought about your plans for this year, but we have a lot of movies previously showcased at the festival in our DVD collection. Borrow them to get into festival mood or to have your own festival on your couch. You can find the titles we have here.

We also asked our cinephile staff to list up their favourite movies from the recent years’ festival. The results are the below. Check them out, too!

Bridget
Only Lovers Left Alive (“completely fabulous”), Snowpiercer, Starred Up, Frank, Locke, Much Ado About Nothing, Jappeloup,
The Past

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Deborah
Barbara, Yves Saint Laurent

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Frith
Syndetics book coverStories We Tell by Sarah Polley.
It was lovely! Beautifully put together archive footage and reenactments, an exploration too of family, remembering and narration.

Helen
My Pick – Under the Skin
The Runners-Up – The Dark Horse, Locke, Maps to the Stars, Nas: Time is Illmatic, Mud, What Maisie Knew, Frances Ha

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Ingrid
cover imageThe Dark Horse
Thoroughly enjoyed it!

John
Particlefever, The Dark Horse, Locke

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Laila
My favourites from last year were Reaching for the Moon and Two Days One Night.

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Mark

cover imageLady from Shanghai – Misunderstood film noir remains an underrated classic in the cannon of writer/director Orson Wells. Less about plot, he concerns himself with the emotional dynamics of character. The story of a dim witted innocent sailor (Wells) caught up in the intrigues of a beautiful femme fatale (a gloriously blonde Rita Hayworth) is almost beside the point. Full of stylish, and innovative cinematography (the aquarium meeting, & specifically the famous ‘Hall-of-mirrors’ shootout’) it’s almost post-modern before anyone invented that term.

cover imageA Hijacking – A companion piece to the recent ‘Captain Phillips’ sees the crew of a Danish tanker hijacked & imprisoned in their ship by Somali pirates. The movie focuses on the ship’s cook, anxious to return to his wife & child, and the arrogant CEO of the shipping company (Søren Malling, The Killing), who believes he can negotiate the Pirates demands down, just as he would in any business deal. A tense duel ensues between ‘Omar’ the negotiator for the Pirates & Malling, as time stretches on & conditions worsen for the trapped crew…

cover imageYou’re Next – Bonkers horror/slasher movie sees a young Aussie woman called Erin accompany her boyfriend to his family reunion at their Missouri vacation house, where his parents have gathered their 4 children & significant others together to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to all is that their neighbors have been brutally attacked by some crossbow wielding psycho’s wearing animal masks, who soon invade their gathering with lethal intent. Who are they & what is their motive? No matter, as also unbeknownst to all, Aussie girl Erin has had a less than ordinary upbringing and is soon bringing the fight to the invaders…Awesome carnage and dark humor ensue.

Monty
cover imageLady from Shanghai
When Orson Welles was still young enough and talented enough to be considered a maverick. Black and white, and nasty perfection.

Syndetics book coverFrank
Fictionalised (and glamorised) version of the Frank story that works in ninety minutes, but maybe only hints at some of the complexity and oddness of the original as told in various stories and podcasts by Jon Ronson. Still great and Michael Fassbender is Frank.

Rachel
Syndetics book coverThe Double – Simon is timid, isolated and powerless. Suddenly his doppelganger appears in his life, doing everything Simon does, but better. Simon is horrified when his double begins to take over his life, in every way… This film has some of the best lighting design I’ve ever seen, and the atmosphere it builds is amazing. I also highly recommend Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine, also an NZIFF selection.

cover imageUnder the Skin – An alien in the body of a human woman comes to Earth to lure Scottish hitchhikers to their deaths. This film is very abstract, I’ve never seen another constructed in this way. You are taken to a new scene, while you are still pondering heavily what just happened for the next few minutes. It also has loads of gorgeous shots of the Scottish moors – worth watching for the visuals alone!

cover imageWhy Don’t You Play in Hell? – This is a totally wacky and fun film about a group of (very) amateur filmmakers, hoping to make the best movie in the world, even if it kills them – which it might! Although depending who you ask, this could also be considered a film about a 10-year rivalry between two yakuza clans over a toothpaste commercial. Either way, it is loads of fun (and gore).

cover imageUpstream Color – A very abstract film about love, fear, orchids… and pigs. Kris’s life is derailed when she is taken hostage by a thief and made to do things she can’t remember. The experience leaves her lost and fearful, but then she meets Jeff, who has had a similar experience. Together, they set out to reclaim their lives and discover what happened to each of them.

cover imageFrances Ha – Frances Ha is a lovely, lovely film about the strength of female friendship. Frances is trying to make her way in the world – she just wants to have an apartment, a job, have fun, but it’s not always simple. However, she will do what it takes to follow her dreams. Directed by Noah Baumbach, a festival favourite who has another film screening at NZIFF this year.

cover imageCutie and the Boxer – A wonderful documentary about a “boxing” painter and his wife, showcasing their lives and work, which you’ve probably never heard of. The film explores how the roles in their 40 year relationship have changed over time, and the ways that this made them stronger together. It is visually stunning, and the work by both artists is beautiful. Very funny too!

Raewyn
2013 – Much ado about nothing, Wadjda

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2014 – Snowpiercer, In order of disappearance, Only lovers left alive

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Shinji
Winter Sleep – In a desolate but stunningly beautiful setting in Cappadocia, human egos and prides confront each other. This Bergman-esque compelling drama won the Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 2014 and deservedly so.
Two Days One Night – A tense redundancy drama features ever wonderful Marion Cotillard. Another impeccable movie by Dardenne brothers; the champion of social realist drama.
Under the Skin – Strange but poetic images and equally weird yet effective music are the driving forces of this unconventional sci-fi thriller. This might open up a new horizon of cinema.
The Past – Despite shooting in foreign soil (France) for the first time, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi once again delivers a remarkable family relationship drama. A masterful work.

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New DVDs for June

As always, a wide variety of DVDs have been added to our collection lately. They include Oscar winner Birdman, and Selma as well as ones based on popular books such as Wild, Fifty Shades of Grey and Still Alice. Movies showcased in last year’s film festival including National Gallery and Force Majeure are also back. Enjoy!

cover image National Gallery.
“Documentary directed by Frederick Wiseman providing the audience with a look inside London’s famous National Gallery. With more than 2000 paintings from the 13th to the 19th century, the National Gallery is the fourth most visited art museum in the world and this documentary gives an insight into the goings-on behind the scenes.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageBirdman, or, (the unexpected virtue of ignorance).
“A black comedy story of an actor famous for portraying an iconic superhero as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageFoxcatcher.
“Based on true events, the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageWild.
“After years of reckless behavior, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed makes a rash decision. Haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi and with absolutely no experience, she sets out to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageLilyhammer. Season 2.
“Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, a former member of New York’s Italian Mafia, is put in the witness protection programme after testifying in a trial in the United States. Tagliano chooses to start his new life as Norwegian-American immigrant Giovanni Henriksen in the town of Lillyhammer, Norway because he was intrigued by television images of the town during the 1994 Winter Olympics! In season 2, Frank is a successful nightclub owner and more recently, a father of two. His adoption of a Norwegian paternal role is riddled with challenges, which he has to juggle while running his criminal operation. To make matters worse, Frank’s entire past threatens to catch up with him, when his former mob associates learn that he is still alive. The problem is, the more attached Frank grows to Lilyhammer, the more he has to lose.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe one I love.
“The highly anticipated debut feature from acclaimed author Charlie McDowell, The One I Love is an original tale that continues to showcase McDowell’s keen observations of human relationships with a distinct and comedic voice. The One I Love centres on Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss), a married couple on the brink of separation. At the urging of their therapist (Ted Danson), they escape to a beautiful vacation house for a weekend getaway in an attempt to salvage what’s left of their relationship. What starts off as a relaxing and tranquil retreat soon spirals into a dizzyingly bizarre experience that forces the couple to reflect upon the complexities of their troubled partnership. Over the course of a few days, Ethan and Sophie work diligently to rediscover their better selves and embrace the unexpected as everything they once thought was real becomes more and more surreal.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageFifty shades of Grey.
“Ana is an inexperienced college student tasked with interviewing enigmatic billionaire Christian Grey. But what starts as business quickly becomes an unconventional romance. Swept up in Christian’s glamorous lifestyle, Ana soon finds another side to him as she discovers his secrets and explores her own dark desires. What results is a thrilling, all-consuming romance as Christian and Ana test the limits they will go to for their relationship.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageMasters of sex. Season two.
“Having been dismissed by Maternity Hospital, Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) needs a place where he and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) can resume their work. But thanks to their study’s controversial topic – sex – they are forced out of two more hospitals before deciding to open their own clinic. With the seeds of the sexual revolution being sown and the simmering civil rights movement exploding around them, the intimate relationship they started under the guise of their research unravels as the result of Masters’ sudden impotence. With the prospect of treating sexual dysfunction becoming increasingly important to their patients and themselves, at home Masters confronts his wife’s growing disaffection and the unexpected return of his estranged brother, while Johnson faces a crisis of her own when the publicity surrounding their work places the custody of her two children in doubt.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageOrange is the new black. Season two.
“A fierce and funny series that follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) when a crime she committed in her past sends her to an all-women’s prison with an unforgettable and irreverent group of fellow inmates.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageStill Alice.
“Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageSelma.
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s historical struggle to secure voting rights for all people. A dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1964.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageCobain : montage of heck.
“This documentary presents an illuminating and honest portrait of the Nirvana frontman that captures the contradictions that made up his character. With unparalleled insight into the world of the late Nirvana frontman, this documentary will forever change the way fans view Kurt Cobain.” (Syndetics summary)

Staff Picks DVDs – June

This month’s picks feature a variety of movies and tv shows, comedy and drama, and loads of exciting new additions to the WCL collection.

Cover imageNightcrawler.
Savage media satire features Jake Gyllenhaal as a sociopathic loner who discovers his true calling. Gyllenhaal, who apparently dropped 30 pounds for the role, plays Louis “Lou” Bloom a small-time thief who comes across an accident one night. Watching a freelance film crew work the scene of a car crash he has an epiphany & soon trades a stolen racing bicycle for a camcorder and a radio scanner. Selling his rough footage to a sleezy news director of a local TV station (Rene Russo) he soon becomes more proficient, trading up for better equipment. But just how far is he willing he go in the competition to get the most exclusive footage? A cadaverous Gyllenhaal is all bulging eyes & homespun philosophies as he manipulates everyone around him in a truly mesmerizing performance. A howling black-hole of a movie…Repulsive yet gripping. (Mark)

Coer imageThe fall. Series 2.
BBC Two’s highest rated drama series, The Fall, returns for Series 2 and doesn’t fail to disappoint. Gillian Anderson returns as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, on the trail of serial murderer Paul Spector played by Jamie Dornan in typical cat and mouse style leading to a dramatic climax where Gibson and Spector come face to face and engage in a not so dramatic, but perhaps emotional show down. These two characters are constantly determined to beat each other at all costs. A personal link from Spector’s past opens up some clues for Gibson but provokes Spector in a way that threatens to jeopardize the whole investigation. Gibson is forced to take ever greater risks and the closer she comes to capturing him, the more Spector trespasses into her private world, delighting in psychological taunting and provoking her. Perhaps what is so gripping about this series is that you get deeper insight into both Spector’s and Gibson’s psyche and some clues about each of their pasts. However still no concrete answers as to how what happened in their pasts that moulded them into the people they have become. What I found disappointing this series incorporated elements and traits of Dornan’s role as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey with the typical blank into Spector’s character. Examples include the charismatic expression and charm that sucks women in and even engaging in a bedroom tie up scene with a twisted version of Ana Steel! Other than that, I think this is a must watch DVD! Another fantastic gripping crime series with a dramatic cliff hanger you will not see coming. (Katie)

Cover imageThe honourable woman.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is Anglo-Israeli Nessa Stein, a newly anointed Baroness who is focused on enabling the Middle-East peace process. After seeing her father assassinated as a child, Nessa Stein has taken over the family company from her brother (Andrew Buchan from Broadchurch) and is determined to affect change via an ambitious project to connect the West Bank with optical fibre cables. When her new business partner dies in an apparent suicide, various conflicts & factions emerge among her business associates and various interested Intelligence agencies – all seeming to link back to her secret kidnapping years before. From writer/director Hugo Blick (The Shadow Line) ‘The Honourable Woman’ is another gripping & compelling mini-series with top-notch production values, fantastic acting (Gyllenhaal is superb) & quality writing. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageThe equalizer.
Starring Denzel Washington and Marton Csorka (the New Zealand actor). Denzel thinks he has left his old life behind him with a new identity. Working in an American equivalent of a ‘Bunnings’ shop. He is dragged into a world of Russian gangs and murder after he meets a young woman who has been abused by the Russian mafia. A very action packed movie. Lots of violence but a good plot line. Martin Csorka plays a very good villain and has come a long way from Leonard in Shortland Street (in the 1990’s) and ‘Shark in the Park’. (Brigid)

Cover imageHomeland. The complete fourth season.
‘Homeland’ reboots itself after a disappointing 3rd season with great results. Carrie is now a CIA Section Chief in Kabul, earning the sobriquet ‘The Drone Queen’ for her series of orchestrated attacks – based on intelligence from a source cultivated by the Pakistan Station Chief, Sandy Bachman. However when a strike goes wrong, seemingly taking out a Wedding party instead of prominent terrorist target Haissam Haqqani the wheels begin to come off. Then Bachman is killed in a riot & things go from bad to worse, as Carrie is recalled to the U.S. to answer questions. Why was the previously reliable intelligence so off? Is there more going on than appears? Carries vows to find out & returns to Islamabad as the new Pakistan Station chief…Season 4 of this popular show returns to the edgy espionage drama that made Season 1 so good and successfully integrates familiar characters into a taut series of episodes with a post-terrorism vibe similar to the later seasons of ’24’. A great comeback for a show that had seemingly lost its way. (Mark)

Cover imageAbout time.
This is a lovely movie. The story is about a young man who is told by his dad at 21 that the men in the family can time travel and go back and sort out problems in their lives. He can go back any time in his life and try and do things differently. Which can be done over and over again until he gets it right. There are strings attached to it though. He learns some real life lessons along the way. This is a wonderful British movie. Stars Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Love Actually) It is well worth a look and is not just a Chick flick. (Brigid)

Cover imageSilicon Valley.
From the mind of Mike Judge (Office Space) comes this hilarious comedy about a bunch of socially inept coders working & living in a start-up incubator run by a self-delusional dot-com millionaire, while trying to navigate their way into the lucrative riches of Silicon Valley success. When super talented programmer Richard (Thomas Middleditch) creates a powerful new compression algorithm he suddenly comes to the attention of the head of Google-like tech company ‘Hooli’, and his rival – an extremely odd billionaire venture capitalist. A satirical send up of the greed driven tech world but also full of charismatic underdog characters, as well as being very funny. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageOnly lovers left alive.
If you’ve ever looked at Tilda Swinton and thought ‘she’d make an awesome vampire’, then this film is for you. Jim Jarmusch of Coffee & Cigarettes fame directs Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in this tale of vampire love. This isn’t a sappy, melodramatic love story akin to Twilight, Jarmusch’s vampires share a love that is dignified, encompassing, and immortal. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ is a heady mixture of the beautiful, the eerie, and the melancholic. Adam (Hiddleston) is a reclusive musician who oozes moody sexuality, while his cosmopolitan lover Eve (Swinton) enjoys the night life of Tangiers. The pair reunites in Detroit, only to be disrupted by Eve’s impish younger sister played by Mia Wasikowska. Style reigns over substance in this film, which is comprised of melancholy vignettes. The scenery, costumes, sets, and excellent soundtrack make ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ a compelling watch, even if the story lacks much action. The soundtrack, mostly songs by SQURL, Jim Jarmusch’s band, is evocative and well worth a listen once the film is over. (Raquel)

Cover imageParks and recreation. Season six.
Perfect comfort viewing for the winter. Great acting, great cast chemistry, great writing. One of those shows that operate at such a high level you think it can’t get any better than it already is. Until it does. This season Leslie faces a recall election and a town merger, Anne & Chris face impending parenthood, Andy lands a dream job in London, Tom ends one business venture & starts another, and the genius of Ron Swanson proves to be a never ending well. Guest stars include: Lucy Lawless, Henry Winkler, Heidi Klum, Kristen Bell and Sam Elliot. (Mark)

Cover imageLucy.
Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman. A woman is accidently caught up in a plot. She is given drugs that make her use 100 percent of her brain. She turns the tide on her captors. She is one smart cookie. (Brigid)

Cover imageWarehouse 13. Season four.
Super fun series returns for a fourth & penultimate season. After the destruction of the Warehouse at the end of Season 3, Artie risk’s the use of a mythical artefact (The Astrolabe – a navigation device that once belonged to Ferdinand Magellan) in an attempt to restore all they’ve lost. But the use of this dangerous artefact unleashes an even greater evil. Guest stars include Brent Spinner as a sinister Monk, and later in the Season ‘Buffy’ alumnus James Masters & Anthony Stewart- Head cross paths. Also features some fun artifacts such as Bobby Jones’ golf clubs, Napoleon Bonaparte’s Violin, Bobby Fischer’s Bag of Marbles, D.B. Cooper’s Ripcord, Hatfield and McCoy Rifles, along with many more. (Mark)

Cover imageBorgen. Season two.
I’ve just binge-watched the second series of ‘Borgen’, after having enjoyed Series 1 a few months ago. The central character, Birgitte Nyborg, is the charismatic first female Prime Minister of Denmark, and the storylines are not just about timely political issues but also explore family and other relationship dynamics and how these are affected by the job. There are other interesting characters, such as her spin doctor Kasper and his complicated relationship with Katrine, an ambitious journalist. It surprised me how a show about Danish politics could be so interesting, dramatic, suspenseful and addictive! Can’t wait to watch the third season. (Sandy)

Cover imageThe missing.
Intense UK mini-series about the disappearance of a 5 year old boy from a small village in France. When Tony and Emily Hughes (James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor) travel to France with their five-year-old son Oliver, their family holiday turns into a nightmare when Oliver disappears while Tony is watching a football match in a crowded local bar. The series begins as a broken & obsessed Nesbitt finally uncovers a new clue in his son’s abduction & returns to France to pursue it. Cleverly structured, the series then plays out in the past and 8 years later simultaneously, so while you are watching events unfolding you are never certain of what exactly happened in the investigation in the past. Examines the corrosive effects of media scrutiny & the ripples of such a trauma on the relationships & lives of all the characters involved. Excellent performances, especially Nesbitt. (Mark)

Cover imageHector and the search for happiness.
I won tickets to the premier of Hector and the search for happiness. It is a really good movie. It was not as funny as Simon Pegg’s other movies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot fuzz and Paul). It had some funny parts but was more serious and thought provoking. (Brigid)

Cover imageWinter sleep.
In an exotic, remote Cappadocia, a wealthy former actor runs a boutique hotel. His beautiful young wife and divorced sister live with him but they are far from confidants. Stuck in heavy snow their hypocritical prides and egos confront each other. The synopsis doesn’t go long, but 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 (the script was almost 200 pages-long), 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. This, winner of Cannes’ Palme D’or in 2014, is a remarkable achievement of cinema. (Shinji)

Cover imageSeeking justice.
This DVD stars Nicholas Cage and is probably one of his lesser known movies. It is an interesting story about a teacher (Cage) whose lovely wife is attacked and he is made an offer by a to get justice by a shadowy vigilante organisation, But there are very big strings attached. Their life is turned upside down. Lots of action. The catch line is ‘Would you cross the line for vengeance?’ It is an interesting story line and well thought out plot. Had me jumping in a few places. (Brigid)

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #8

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have new seasons of the hugely popular ‘Foyle’s War’, the 4th season of the fun ‘Warehouse 13’, new seasons of ‘Haven’, ‘Silk’ and period mystery series ‘The Murdoch mysteries’, as well as the American version of ‘Broadchurch’…

Cover imageHaven. The complete fourth season.
“The thrilling Haven is back and life may never be the same again for the town s supernatural residents… Picking up six months after Audrey s disappearance at the end of Season 3, a lot has changed in Haven with the town in disarray and overrun with paranormal phenomena. With Audrey nowhere to be found Nathan and Duke will have to work together in order to find her and bring the town s afflictions under control before it s too late…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWarehouse 13. Season four.
“At the end of season three of Warehouse 13, the titular structure, an enormous facility in South Dakota also known as “America’s attic” and “the world’s junk drawer,” was blown to smithereens, taking with it the mass of strange and wondrous artifacts that had been housed there. Since these objects are the SyFy series’ raison d’être, something must be done to remedy this disaster–and sure enough, we’re not even finished with the first of the 20 episodes included in the five-disc season-four boxed set before Special Agent in Charge Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek) has managed to turn back time by 24 hours and prevent the explosion. But Warehouse agents aren’t supposed to use artifacts for their own ends–on the contrary, their job is to make sure they stay out of the hands of anyone who seeks to exploit them, whether by design or by accident–and the one he chooses is an astrolabe, a navigation device that once belonged to Ferdinand Magellan and now visits some very bad, season-long mojo on Artie and the others…” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageSilk. Series 3.
“Martha is now an experienced QC at the height of her powers and should be enjoying the high-profile cases and media attention that implies. But as her cases become ever more morally complex Martha questions whether her role as a defence barrister is enough. Her close relationships are put to the test when her ambitious colleague and rival Clive Reader finally becomes QC, challenging her to confront her feelings for him. As Head Clerk Billy Lamb struggles to keep the huge secret he?s been concealing he makes plans to secure the future of Chambers, with or without him. Effective new Practice Manager Harriet has other ideas and wants chambers to prosecute more and defend less potentially isolating Martha. As she struggles with her conscience her faith in the justice system is tested to breaking point. Where does she really belong?…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageFoyle’s War. Series nine, The Cold War files.
“Michael Kitchen returns to the screen as Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle, a man of scrupulous integrity who has survived the First World War, solved crime wherever it led him during the Second World War, and now finds himself called into duty at the risk of a possible Third. The second World War may be over but a new one is beginning, less explosive but no less deadly a Cold War. Foyle finds himself drawn into complex webs of security and counter security where the loyalties of even those closest to him are brought into question as he joins, somewhat unwillingly at first, the ranks of MI5…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageGracepoint.
“When a young boy is found dead on an idyllic beach, a major police investigation gets underway in the small California seaside town where the tragedy occurred. Soon deemed a homicide, the case sparks a media frenzy, which throws the boys family into further turmoil and upends the lives of all of the towns residents. Welcome to ‘Gracepoint’, a new 10-episode event series based on ‘Broadchurch’, the U.Ks critically acclaimed hit crime drama. Gracepoint is an expansion of the original series, introducing new characters, identifying new suspects and threading new storylines through the gripping narrative…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageMayday / created by Ben Court & Caroline Ip.
“Mayday is a gripping new crime-story set against the picture-perfect backdrop of a traditional town, one that is thrown into a sinister and paranoid world as its community discover the gruesome murder of a young girl. When the towns community comes together to celebrate Mayday, the yearly pagan public holiday, the horrific murder will unfold through the eyes of four characters. Each who suspect that the murder of the young-girl was by someone they know and trust; but they must keep silent…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageMurdoch mysteries. Complete series 7.
“As Series Seven of the internationally acclaimed series begins on the first-ever Victoria Day, Murdoch is reunited with his beloved Julia aboard an opulent passenger ship on its maiden voyage. Their time is short-lived, however, when the daughter of the ship’s owner appears to have been pushed overboard. Among the intricate investigations this season, Murdoch must contend with killer spiders, a sea monster, the mysterious death of a cyclist and facing down a zombie army. Sherlock Holmes (Andrew Gower) also returns to assist Murdoch when a nanny disappears and her young charge is convinced the only person who can find her is Sherlock himself…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageAtlantis. The legend begins.
“When Jason set out to find his father, he could never have anticipated where his journey would lead… Far from home and desperate for answers, Jason washes up on the shores of an ancient land. A mysterious place; a world of bull leaping, of snake haired goddesses and of palaces so vast it was said they were built by giants–this is the lost city of Atlantis. But beneath the surface of this enticing place is a dark and simmering past, a complicated web of treachery and deceit, in which Jason himself now seems inexplicably bound. He soon finds himself embroiled in a perilous game of politics and power from which there is no escape. Aided by the studious young Pythagoras and the overweight, overbearing Hercules, Jason embarks on a voyage of discovery, which sees him brush shoulders with Medusa, come face to face with the Minotaur and even do battle with the dead…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThai street food / with David Thompson.
“Squid fishing after midnight in the Gulf of Thailand. Searching for the perfect cut of meat at a Phetchaburi market well before dawn. Finding out the secrets behind that spicy homemade Sriracha sauce and cooking Thailand’s best known street food dishes at scenic sites across the country.Over 13 episodes, renowned chef David Thompson does all of this and much more as he explores Thai Street Food in his own comprehensive, imitable sharing 30 years’ experience the scene.From morning until night, Thompson showcases it all: the markets, curries, lunches, desserts and how Thailand has held onto its traditions while transforming itself into a one of a kind, modern country. It’s a spectacular street savvy feast for the senses…” (Publishers description from Fishpond.co.au)

Cover imageMade in Italy / with Silvia Colloca.
“Silvia Colloca visits three regions of Italy that are close to her heart – Abruzzo, Le Marche and Molise, to re-discover authentic ‘cucina povera’, making healthy, heart-warming food accessible to everyone. Every episode sees Silvia meeting locals, cooking in their kitchens and allowing viewers a peek inside the true Italian secret of la dolce vita. Silvia meets chefs and cooks, who share their culinary delights and takes us back to meet her own family to live, breathe and eat the food culture of everyday Italians.With picture postcard backdrops of piazzas, Roman ruins, villages perched on mountains to the ancient traditions of seaside fishermen, Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca is not just a cooking show; it’s a visual feast for any armchair traveller…” (Publishers description from Fishpond.co.au)

ratings

Check out our latest DVD staff picks

This month’s selection features a number of new releases, as well as some older films we’ve rediscovered and a handful of TV series to keep you occupied.

Cover imageGone girl.
Brilliant adaptation of the popular Gillian Flynn novel (scripted by Flynn herself), directed by David Fincher & featuring Rosamund Pike & Ben Affleck as the perfect couple, Nick and Amy Dunne. When Amy mysteriously vanishes on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary leaving behind what appears to be evidence of a struggle in their living room, the police & media suspect a disappearance of some kind, and everyone is quick to rally round Nick and set up a campaign to bring Amy home. Nick seems a nice guy, but gradually his answers begin to become oddly evasive, and more & more evidence turns up pointing in his direction…There are still probably people who never read the book at the time, so to say anything more would give away the twists in this nasty thriller. Affleck is great as the Nick, managing to tread the fine line between making the character sympathetic & likable, while also coming across as a glib douche, but it’s Rosamund Pike as Amy whose performance sears the screen. At times an indictment of media sensationalism as much as a portrait of the cracks in the personalities of those closest to you, even the one you are married to. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageA most wanted man.
This film comes with at least three very good reasons to view: it was directed by Anton Corbin, the famous photographer, whose film directorial debut was 2008’s Control, the haunting film about Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis; it is an adaptation of the 2008 novel by master of espionage storytelling, John Le Carre: and it was the final performance, before his sad demise, from gifted actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Do these elements work together to create an exceptionally fine film? They definitely do, with Le Carre’s intention to portray the effects the war on terror has on democratic processes honoured in a confident, understated and outstanding contemporary espionage thriller. (John)

Cover imageHelix. Season 1.
There’s trash & then there’s quality trash, and the SyFy channel original show ‘Helix’ is definitely on the right side of the line. The series follows a team of scientists from the CDC who travel to a research facility in the Arctic to investigate a potential outbreak of a mysterious disease. Aided by the claustrophobic setting, the amazing production values & the stiff-upper lipped performance of lead scientist Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) the show offers plenty of creepy suspense. But just when think it’s firmly in the mould of The Thing or the ‘X-Files’ episode Ice, it throws up a bunch of outrageous plot twists, and morphs into a ridiculously over the top conspiracy akin to a ‘Resident Evil’ video game. While the story concludes the show reinvents itself for Season 2, which is even more outlandishly cheesy. File under ‘So bad, it’s good…’…(Mark)

Cover imageNight moves.
A film festival regular Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) once again teams up with writer Jon Raymond (Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy are based on his short stories), and presents another superb minimal drama but in a very different setting. Three environmentalists attempted to blow up the dam, which changed the ecosystem, in rural Portland. Although the mission was accomplished, an ordinary person was killed by accident, and caused them post trauma. It may appear that it’s about eco-terrorism but there is no political statement or judgement. Reichardt, with her well-established no-explanation, anti-climactic style, simply focuses on the psychological waver and the moral dilemma, and brilliantly portrays the sense of anxiety. It’s a slow-burning movie and may not give you a great impact when you watch, but will stay burning inside of you. (Shinji)

Cover imageGood vibrations.
The best true stories are those that would be unbelievable if they were made up, and this bio-pic about a famous Irish record shop is one of those stories. What do you do if you are a music fan in a city ravaged by civil war? Of course……. you open up a record shop in the middle of town and call it Good Vibrations! That is exactly what Terri Hooley did in Belfast in the early ‘70’s and this film tells the story of his crazed venture. Responsible for the success of Irish post-punk band, The Undertones, Hooley’s shop and label traced a wonky path through the 70’s and 80’s and is still there today. A film about obsession and belief in the power of music. (John)

Cover imageA walk among the tombstones.
Based on the 1992 Lawrence Block novel of the same name, ‘A walk among the tombstones’ is the 10th novel in Block’s series about unlicensed New York private-eye Matt Scudder, played in this adaptation by Liam Neeson. The series of books began in the 1976, with Scudder a borderline alcoholic who left the NYPD after a stray bullet in a shootout took a bad ricochet & claimed the life of a young girl, and continued for 16 more novels & one short story collection. By the time of the 10th novel Block’s character is clean & sober but still accepts unofficial jobs from people in trouble, often those who have no recourse from the police & ‘A walk among the Tombstones’ finds him working for a rich drug dealer whose wife was abducted & killed – even though he paid her ransom money. Neeson soon finds connections to other kidnappings & realises a sadistic team of kidnappers are preying on other criminals. While Neeson is an inspired choice for the Scudder character, the adaptation from writer/director Scott Frank (who helmed the underrated Lookout), is more about establishing character & the grimy New York milieu of the books than the kind of action-fest that Neeson has become known for. Gritty & never dull it’s only fault, perhaps, is that being the first in what is obviously aimed as a franchise, the film tends to bog down a bit as it sets up the TJ character, a young street kid who becomes Scudders friend and ally through the rest of the series. All in all a good watch if you are a fan of Blocks novels or Liam Neeson. (Mark)

Cover imageThe lucky one.
This movie is based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. It is a story of a young man in his 20’s back from 3 tours of duty in Iraq. He finds a photo of a woman whilst over there which he believes has been a lucky photo for him. And saved his life. When back in the United States he decides to go in search of her. He finds out her name is Beth and turns up on her doorstep. How he finds the photograph and how it got there is also an interesting part of the story. This movie is definitely a chick flick and a nice romance. Like other books of Nicholas Sparks, it has some twists in it. If you like this you may also like Nights in Rodanthe, The Safe Haven, and Dear John. All based on the books of Nicholas Sparks. Books also available at Wellington City Library. (Brigid)

Cover imageThe keeper of lost causes.
Another great entry in the Scandi-noir genre, based on the first book in Jussi Adler-Olsen ‘Department Q’ series. After choosing to enter a suspect’s home without back-up, an ambush ensues leaving one of his colleagues dead & another paralysed and Danish Police Inspector Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaaes from season 3 of The Killing) finds himself banished to the basement cold case files ‘department’. Told to write pro-forma reports & to close files he soon becomes intrigued by the case of a female politician who disappeared 5 years previously, and with the help of his new Syrian assistant begins to investigate…More dark, brooding Scandinavian noir, elevated by the tight plot & the great chemistry & understated acting of the two leads. Recommended to anyone who enjoyed Scandinavian crime fiction & shows such as The Killing and The Millennium Trilogy. Hopefully the beginning of a new series. (Mark)

Cover imageOmar.
Omar is another gripping drama from Israeli-born, Netherland based Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad. Like his predecessor, universally acclaimed Paradise Now, it depicts the life of young Palestinians under the Israeli occupation, their resistance and a chilling reality they face every day. The film follows young baker, anti-Israel activist Omar who was trapped and became an informer. He tries to do the right thing, not only for him but for friendship and most importantly for his love interest, but everything gradually falls apart. Abu-Assad ingeniously orchestrates the intricate plot and highlights Omar’s dilemma marvellously. Although it’s not action-led movie, the tension is high and stinging twists hold you until the shocking end. Compelling. (Shinji)

Cover imageIn order of disappearance.
The Scandinavian’s seem to have cornered the market on black comedy revenge thrillers (Jackpot, Headhunters) and ‘In order of disappearance’ is another film along similar lines. Stellan Skarsgard is Nils, a taciturn Norwegian snowplough driver who has just received a ‘Citizen of the Year’ award. However soon after he receives news that his son has died of an overdose. Disbelieving the official police verdict Nils soon discovers that his son was innocent of all wrongdoing, and was killed by the henchmen of a local drug dealer known as ‘The Count’. With the police no help, Nils decides to take matters into his own hands, starting at the bottom of the local drug chain & working his way up (hence the title), accidently initiating a drug-war between rival Norwegian & Serbian factions along the way. Very black revenge comedy. With lots of snow. (Mark)

Cover imageBurn after reading.
This is a black comedy starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich. R.16. Lots of violence and bad language, sex scenes. This is a movie about an ex-C.I.A low level agent who is sacked so decides to write his memoirs. The information he has is stolen by bungling instructors from the gym who try and blackmail him. Everything goes from bad to comic and has unbelievable consequences. Not George Clooney’s best work but certainly entertaining in parts. (Brigid)

Cover imageBack in crime.
When French Police Captain Richard Kemp (Jean-Hughes Anglade) investigates the murder of a woman found beside a river he meets beautiful psychologist Hélène (Mélanie Thierry), who discovered the body. He soon links the mystery to a serial killer known as ‘Earwig’ from a time earlier in his police career. But when he is attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead in the same river as the victim, he awakens twenty years in the past – May 1989 – the day before the first murder committed by ‘Earwig’. With an opportunity to prevent the murders ever taking place Kemp decides to investigate the crimes from the past, using his knowledge from the case files in the future. However his investigation soon leads to him becoming the main suspect, as he tries to juggle his foreknowledge of the crimes with the actions of his younger police self and also re-connect with the younger version of Helene. With a couple of exceptions (La Jetee, Camille Rewinds) the French don’t seem to use Time Travel much as a plot device, so this is a bit uneven with some plot contrivances & the odd cheesy moment, but it’s still entertaining enough. (Mark)

Cover imageThe dark horse.
I strongly recommend New Zealand movie ‘The Dark Horse’. This movie is similar style to Once Were Warriors, yet has a happy ending (Yu)

Cover imageA separation.
This film, in Farsi with English subtitles, transfixed me from the beginning. It’s about trust, responsibility, guilt, religion, family and choices in an impossible situation – and so well acted that the characters evoke empathy even while behaving in a questionable manner. Their humanity was what I connected with. It’s easy to see why it won so many awards. (Sandy)

Cover imageJohn Wick.
The son of a Russian gangster (the weasely Alfie Allen) antagonises a man (Keanu Reeves) he meets at a gas station after admiring his car. Later that night he returns to the man’s home with some cohorts where they brutally attack him, kill his dog & steal his car. What they don’t realise, however, is that the man is John Wick, a lethal ex-assassin still grieving over the death of his wife. And if Wick knows how to do one thing, it’s dispense payback…Easily Reeves best role in ages, and this kind of minimalist dialogue/extreme action was always his strong suit (The Matrix, Speed). Directed by two men with previous experience as stunt doubles & co-ordinators, this is the perhaps the best action film from 2014, with the shootout inside a nightclub the closest anyone has come to replicating the Hong Kong movies of John Woo. (Mark)
It is the best movie ever made. So watch it. (Simon)

Cover imagePete Seeger.
The folk revival of the ‘50’s paved the way for the protest movement of the ‘60’s and Pete Seeger, composer of ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ and ‘If I Had A Hammer’ was the guiding hand behind that original folk music revolution. He was a victim of the communist witch hunts of the ‘50’s and banned from US media for 17 years for his views on peace, unionism, civil rights and ecology. Featuring archival footage from the singer’s own home films, this Doco traces the story of one of the most influential artists in recent American history, from his work with Alan Lomax in the late ‘30’s, which began the folk revival, through his post-war activist days, to the recognition of his life as a great patriot by Bill Clinton in the 90’s. The term legend is used very easily, but this man, with his unswerving pacifist ideology, truly deserves the description. (John)

Cover imageThe immigrant.
James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers)’s period drama shows us the dark side of 1920s’ New York, the time people enjoyed hedonism which is often called the jazz age. It’s about a beautiful Polish immigrant and her struggle and determination to turn things around in a new world. It’s a bleak story highlighting her relationship with a pimp who once saved her but evolves fascinatingly, led by poignant performances by two outstanding actors; Marion Cotillard and Gray’s regular Joaquin Phoenix. From the first shot (arriving NY, view of Statue of Liberty) to the moving last scene (the departure by the boat), this beautifully shot film maintains impeccable mood, tone and texture. This is one of Gray’s most rewarding works. (Shinji)

Cover imageBoardwalk empire. The complete fifth season.
Steve Buscemi’s depiction of Atlantic City crime lord, Nucky Thompson may well be the crown of his acting career so far, and for the final season of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ the character of Thompson takes central stage as the directorial style takes a sudden sideways swing away from the dark menace of the previous season, incorporating flashback sequences depicting the early years of the character. This is an unexpected and highly successful dramatic shift that steers another standout HBO series to a very satisfying conclusion. (John)

Cover imagePredestination.
Strange but compelling adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s famous time-travel short story ‘All you zombies’ by Australian brother writer/directors. A bartender (Ethan Hawke) encounters a customer (Sarah Snook) one night who proceeds to tell him the strange story of his life, beginning when he was born a girl. However the bartender has a lot more to add to the story than the customer knows…To say anymore would give away the twists and turns in what might be the ultimate exploration of paradox theory. Slow moving and very talky, it nonetheless rewards purists who like ideas more than the action-fests that most others time-travel movies adhere to. (Mark)

Cover imageThe village. Series one.
Presenting a welcome counterpoint to Downton Abbey, this six part BBC series depicts the working class story of a small Derbyshire village during the days of WW1 through the experiences of one family. Covering the years 1914 to 1920, the story is well researched, brilliantly acted, and presents an engrossing, bleak and historically accurate depiction of the lives of the rural underclass in their day to day struggle to maintain dignified lives. Season 2 has been finished, continuing through the ‘20’s, and the plan is for successive seasons to follow the village through the decades up to the ‘80’s. This production received three BAFTA nominations in the categories of Best Drama Series, Leading Actress and Supporting Actor. (John)

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World War 1 in our DVD collection

World War 1 has been the subject of many documentaries focusing on various military, geographic or sociological aspects, covering the war in its entirety such as the very ambitious and excellent 1960 and 2014 BBC series, or exploring one particular campaign such as Gallipoli. The number of feature films and television drama set during this turning point of human history is even greater, from John Huston’s The African Queen, Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion to the recent The Wipers Time or the screen adaptation of  Sebastian Faulks’ epic love story Birdsong. Here is a selection from our DVD shelves:

Cover imageGallipoli from above: the untold story.
“This one-hour documentary overturns many of the myths about the Gallipoli landing; that the Australians landed at dawn, on the wrong beach, with little knowledge of the Turkish defences and they were led by incompetent British officers. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. The Australians ran their own show, using aerial intelligence, emerging technology and innovative tactics to land 20,000 troops on a heavily defended and precipitous shoreline…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe great war. Volume 1, This may last a long time.
“The complete 1960s BBC documentary series on the Great War, with all 26 episodes. Narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, this series features the best archive footage from one million feet of film and 20,000 photographs collected from 37 individual sources worldwide. There are interviews with war veterans and extracts from diaries, letters and reports from the war…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWorld War I : the centenary collection. Volume 1.
“Featuring Michael Palin in The Last Day of World War One. The First World War helped define us as people and as a nation. With five superb documentaries this collection presents a unique perspective on the Great War as we commemorate its centenary. Presented in a two-disc release, the collection reflects upon, and investigates different aspects of the conflict through breath-taking dramatic reconstructions, historical interpretation and state-of-the-art graphics”…(From syndetics summary)

Cover imageWorld War 1 in colour.
“Up until now, World War 1 had always been seen as a war that happened in black & white, but that was not the reality. It was the first war to see the development of the fighter plane, the introduction of poison gas, the inventions of the tank and the wide use of machine guns and heavy artillery, which caused such mass destruction. Using rare archive footage from sources around the World, including Britain’s own Imperial War Museum, this 6 part series has been painstakingly colourised using the latest computer-aided technology to bring the first world war to colour, as experienced by those who fought and endured it. Narrated by Kenneth Branagh, this landmark series brings a unique perspective to the events of 1914-1918…” (From syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe Crimson field.
“In a British base hospital near the front, a team of doctors, nurses and VADs are working together to heal the bodies and souls of the men in their care. This hospital on the coast of France is a frontier between two worlds: between the trenches and the home front, between the old rules, regulations, hierarchies, class distinctions and a new way of thinking. Written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, Oliver Twist) and starring Oona Chaplin (The Hour), Hermione Norris (Spooks), Suranne Jones (Scott and Bailey), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey), Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave) and Marianne Oldham (WPC 56) this is the story of World War One’s front line medics – their love affairs, professional triumphs, personal tragedies, fears and hopes as they fight for the future…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe red baron.
“Baron Manfred Von Richthofen is the most feared and celebrated pilot of the German Air Force in World War I. To him and his companions, air combats are events of a sporty nature, technical callenge and honourable acting, ignoring the terrible extent of war. But after falling in love with the nurse Kate, Manfred realizes he is only used for propaganda means. Caught between his disgust for the war and the responsibility for his fighter wing, Von Richthofen sets out to fly again…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageAll quiet on the Western Front.
“If a classic movie can be measured by the number of indelible images it burns into the collective imagination, then All Quiet on the Western Front’s status is undisputed. Since its release in 1930 (and Oscar win for best picture), this film’s saga of German boys avidly signing up for World War I battle–and then learning the truth of war–has been acclaimed for its intensity, artistry, and grown-up approach. Erich Maria Remarque’s novel is faithfully followed, but Milestone’s superbly composed frames make it physical. The cast is strong, with little-known Lew Ayres finding stardom in the lead…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe Blue Max.
“The Blue Max is highly unusual among Hollywood films, not just for being a large-scale drama set during the generally cinematically overlooked Great War, but in concentrating upon air combat as seen entirely from the German point of view. The story focuses on a lower-class officer, Bruno Stachel (George Peppard), and his obsessive quest to win a Blue Max, a medal awarded for shooting down 20 enemy aircraft. Around this are built subplots concerning a propaganda campaign by James Mason’s pragmatic general, rivalry with a fellow officer (Jeremy Kemp), and a love affair with a decadent countess (Ursula Andress). Clearly influenced by Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1958), The Blue Max is a cold, cynical drama offering a visually breathtaking portrait of a stultified society tearing itself apart during the final months of the Great War…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageFlyboys.
“World War I aviation action gets an impressive digital upgrade in Flyboys. While earlier films had the advantage of real and genuinely dangerous flight scenes (resulting, in some cases, in fatal accidents during production), Flyboys takes full (and safe) advantage of the digital revolution, with intensely photo-realistic recreations of WWI aircraft, authentic period structures, and CGI environments… many of them virtually indistinguishable from reality… Director Tony Bill manages to keep it all interesting, from the romance between a young American maverick (James Franco) and a pretty French girl (newcomer Jennifer Decker) to the exciting action in the air and an intimidating villain known only as “The Black Falcon,” whose Fokker Dr-1 triplane (one of many in the film) recalls the exploits of German “ace of aces” Manfred von Richtofen, the dreaded “Red Baron” of legend…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageGallipoli.
“Mel Gibson and Mark Lee play two young sprinters who join in the army in search of adventure iconic representatives of the generation of young men that the newly federated Australia pitched into the slaughter of World War I. While Gallipoli does not shirk from the reality they discover, nor does it quite allow the characters’ enthusiasm for the enterprise ever to diminish, all of which helps make the climactic scenes, based on the suicidal assault enacted of the Australian Light Horse at The Nek on August 7th, 1915, among the most moving in modern cinema…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Continue reading “World War 1 in our DVD collection”

Our pick of the new DVDs in March

This month we feature the third season of Golden Globe-winning HBO comedy drama ‘Girls’; the heart warming New Zealand doco ‘Hip hop-eration’ – in which 24 nonagenarians perform in Las Vegas – and film adaptations of best selling novels with Jonas Jonasson’s hilarious Swedish comedy ‘The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window & Disappeared’, Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ & S.J Watson’s ‘Before I Go To Sleep’.

cover imageGone girl.
“On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behaviour have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife? Based on the best-selling book by Gillian Flynn.” (from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageHip 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. Led by their exuberant and ‘I must have been mad’, manager Billie Jordan they learn to throw away their wheelchairs and walking sticks and push their bodies and artificial joints to the absolute limits of old age. “You’re all going …even if it’s in an urn,” she tells them. Their stories are a reminder of our history as a nation and the joy of living life to the fullest.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe equalizer.
“McCall (Denzel Washington) has put his mysterious past behind him and is dedicated to living a new, quiet life. But when he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer.” (from Editorial Reviews, www.amazon.com)

cover imageGet on up : the James Brown story.
“Nobody ever taught him the rules. So he was destined from the start to break them. Based on the incredible life story of the Godfather of Soul, the film will give a fearless look inside the music, moves and moods of James Brown (Chadwick Boseman),taking audiences on the journey from his impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.” (from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageGirls. The complete third season.
“All 12 episodes from the third season of the Golden Globe-winning HBO comedy drama following a group of 20-something women in New York. In this season, Hannah receives some disappointing news regarding her book deal and has a fall out with Adam’s sarcastic sister Caroline (Gaby Hoffmann); Jessa attempts to get over her drug addiction in rehab; Marnie struggles to cope after breaking up with her ex for the second time; and Shoshanna and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) go their separate ways.” (from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageA long way down.
“Adapted from the bestselling novel by Nick Hornby (About A Boy), the heartwarming A Long Way Down follows four strangers who meet by chance on New Year’s Eve when they are each facing the same life changing decision. When Martin (Pierce Brosnan; Mama Mia!), Maureen (Toni Collette; The Way Way Back), J.J. (Aaron Paul; TV’s Breaking Bad) and Jess (Imogen Poots; Filth) find themselves at a desperate crossroads, they form an unlikely friendship in order to help one another weather the difficulties of life.” (from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageVera. Series four.
“The indomitable DCI Vera Stanhope, assisted by her trusted colleague, DS Joe Ashworth, steps up for another series of challenging cases. She investigates the mysterious death of a pensioner on a busy commuter train (On Harbour Street), unearths a thirty year mystery after a brutal murder on the sands of a seaside resort (Protected), unpicks the tragic last months of a failed novelist gunned down on a remote Northumberland moor (The Deer Hunters), and delves into the tangled life of a businessman found floating in the water under the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Death of a Family Man).” (from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageThe hundred year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.
“Swedish adventure comedy based on Jonas Jonasson’s bestselling novel. Despite having reached his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) still has a sharp mind. Keen to avoid the party that his retirement home have organised for him, Allan climbs out of his bedroom window and begins an escapade featuring criminals and a stash of drug money. Allan, however, is not new to adventure – during his lifetime he was involved with many significant events which changed the course of history and became associated with world leaders and other notable figures along the way.” (from Reviews Amazon.co.uk.)

cover imageThe judge.
“David Dobkin directs this Academy Award-nominated comedy drama starring Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr as an estranged father and son. Hotshot lawyer Henry ‘Hank’ Palmer (Downey Jr) receives the devastating news that his mother has died. He returns to his home town in Indiana for her funeral, meaning he must also come face-to-face with his father Judge Joseph ‘Joe’ Palmer (Duvall), with whom he has a troubled relationship. The situation becomes even more difficult when Hank learns that his father is to be put on trial for murder. Hank searches for answers while defending the judge in court against prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton). Through the course of the trial father and son reconnect but can Hank win the case and prevent Joe from going to prison?” (Product Description from Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageBefore I go to sleep.
“Christine (Nicole Kidman, The Others) wakes up next to a man (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech) she does not recognise. Panic stricken, he slowly explains that he is her husband, and that she suffered a terrible accident that has given her amnesia. Every morning, Christine wakes up a stranger, and every night her memories fade into nothing. With the help of Dr Nasch (Mark Strong, The Imitation Game), Christine is trying to regain her memory. That is, until one day, when new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her, and what really happened to her on the day of her accident… (adapted from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imagePeaky Blinders. Season one.
“Peaky Blinders is an epic gangster drama set in the lawless streets of post-war Birmingham on the cusp of the 1920s. Britain in 1919 is a tumultuous mix of despair and hedonism, a nation cleaned out by the extravagances of the Great War. Returning soldiers, newly-minted revolutionaries and criminal gangs all fight for survival in an industrial landscape gripped by economic upheaval. Thomas Shelby and his family run the most feared and powerful local gang, the Peaky Blinders. Named for their practice of sewing razor blades into the peaks of their caps, they make money from illegal betting, protection and the black market. But Tommy’s ambitions go beyond running the streets, and when a crate of guns goes missing from an arms factory, he recognises an opportunity to move up in the world…” (adapted from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageThe fall. Series 2.
“BBC Two’s highest rated drama series in ten years, The Fall, returns for Series 2. Following Series 1’s gripping cliff-hanger, Gillian Anderson returns as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, on the trail of serial murderer Paul Spector played by Jamie Dornan. With Gibson still in pursuit of Spector, a personal link from Spector’s past opens up some clues for Gibson but provokes Spector in a way that threatens to jeopardise the whole investigation. Gibson is forced to take ever greater risks and the closer she comes to capturing him, the more Spector trespasses into her private world, delighting in taunting and provoking her. As the net gradually tightens around him he becomes psychologically ever more dangerous and destructive.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Staff Picks DVDs: The Best of 2014 – Part 2

John’s Picks:
Cover imageTreme. The complete fourth season.
Music and food feature as always and there are some standout performances in this season, especially from aspiring fiddle player Annie. The various story arcs are all brought to satisfying conclusions, but to say more would spoil the enjoyment. If you are a fan you will be keen to watch this. If you haven’t dipped in yet, Season 1 awaits.

Cover imageRectify. Season one.
Multi-layered, enigmatic and engrossing, it tells the story of Daniel Holden, released from death row due to new DNA evidence after serving 19 years for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend. The world has changed a lot in that time and the story arcs are about Daniel’s adjustment, the small town’s reaction to his freedom and, if he didn’t do it, then who did?

Cover imageMasters of sex. The complete first season.
‘Masters of Sex’ is based on Thomas Maier’s biography Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love and, despite the treatment having one or two minor flaws, the story is compelling, the events depicted are historically accurate and it is astonishing to be reminded of how far societal attitudes have changed in just a couple of generations.

Cover imageEuropa report.
This all too rare example of intelligent, low key, indie sci-fi, similar in style to Duncan Jones’ excellent Moon, tells the story of a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, to discover whether life exists on other planets.

Cover imageRay Donovan. Season one.
Similar to the early Sopranos, this is a contemporary crime drama centred on a criminal deeply enmeshed in a suburban family lifestyle. The acting is excellent, depicting characters who are genuinely fleshed out, the production is impeccable and the storyline entertaining and engaging. Miss at your peril.

Cover imageMuscle Shoals.
With lots of stock footage from the times, this documentary traces the history of the now legendary ‘Muscle Shoals sound’ and is a must see for anyone interested in the history of popular music.

Cover imageGood ol’ Freda.
This low key doco tells the story of the early days of The Beatles from a new and totally charming perspective. Freda Kelly, an exceptionally humble woman, now in her 60’s, happened to be the Beatles’ secretary for the ten years of their career, from 1962 until 1972.

Cover imageAll is lost.
Robert Redford gives a remarkable performance in this role that features a lone yachtsman facing a sailor’s worse nightmares. With not a word of dialogue this film manages to grip the viewer from start to finish.

Cover imageMad men. The final season, Part 1.
The final season of this acclaimed series has been released in two halves – so remember they say that anticipation is the greater part of pleasure! The focus is once again squarely on Don Draper as he inexorably moves toward……what?

Cover imageBoardwalk empire. The complete fourth season.
The role of well-mannered hoodlum Nucky Thompson may well eclipse any other film roles Steve Buscemi has been cast in. Season 5 is the last and the show is getting darker as storm clouds gather.

Cover imageMonty Python live (mostly) : one down, five to go.
Subtitled ‘One Down, Four To Go’, this DVD of the Monty Python crew’s final performance in London last year is more than just a bunch of old guys having a get together. It was a huge production, incorporating dancers, an orchestra and AV projections and it is a surprise to see how risqué their humour remains almost half a decade on.

Sandy’s Pick:
Cover imageBoyhood.
‘Boyhood’ was a standout! An unusual concept to film the same actors over 12 years and it paid off – so well-acted, true-to-life and relatable that I felt I knew the family and cared about them.

Maxine’s Picks:
Cover imageSunshine on Leith.
The ‘Paddington’ film was a great unexpected joy as was ‘Sunshine on Leith’.

Cover imagePaddington.

Yu’s Picks:
Cover imageEdge of tomorrow.
“New Special Forces recruit William ‘Bill’ Cage (Cruise) is equipped with a powered exoskeleton and sent on a mission to fight a fierce alien race known as Mimics, who are ultimately unstoppable. Cage soon dies in combat but, caught in a time loop, he finds himself very much alive and once again facing the same battle. This process repeats itself several times but with every fight Cage grows stronger and more adept. He meets tough warrior Rita Vrataski (Blunt) and together they try to bring down the enemy once and for all.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageSnowpiercer.

Cover imageGuardians of the galaxy.
“An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageThe railway man.
This is a movie of the Autobiography by Eric Lomax. Starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. A story of Eric’s Life coming to grips with the tremendous horror and torture he went through at the hands of the Japanese in a prisoner of war camp in Burma. He had to work on the infamous Burma-Siam railway. He had always been a railway fanatic and was an engineer. In the camp he makes himself a receiver radio to hear what is happening in the war so is accused of spying by the Japanese and is tortured. The movie has sadness and horror but great forgiveness and redemption in it. Eric meets his wife (Nicole Kidman) on a train in Britain and they marry quickly afterward.. The horror of his earlier life suddenly hits him and the two of them must journey together to his recovery. Like so many men who came back from the second world war what happened to them and what they faced is kept locked away from their families. There are some very harrowing moments in this movie. It is a very moving movie. Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman at their best. Eric Lomax was an amazing man. He died in 2012.

Cover imageEnough said.
This is a lovely romantic comedy. There is great chemistry between the two main actors who meet at a party. Both are struggling with the empty nest syndrome as their daughters get ready to leave for University, and getting over their divorces. Eva (Julia ) is a therapeutic masseuse who meets Albert (James) a specialist audio visual Librarian at a party. They are getting along well until she unknowingly befriends his ex-wife. It is nice to see gentle romances with characters over 40 in them. This was enjoyed by both my husband and myself so has overall appeal. This was the last movie before James Gandolfini died and he was a brilliant actor. He was so different from Tony Soprano. More cuddly teddy-bear in it than gangster. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was very good as well.

Cover imageBy any means.
This is a new British series. It is a series about a special crime unit set up to catch the criminals who are getting away with their crimes by using the justice system. Their brief is to use any means necessary. They have to think up genius plots to play the criminals at their own game. It has a great cast and has excellent storylines. The series is a bit of a cross between The Professionals, Person of interest, & Hustle. My husband and I really enjoyed this.

Cover imageBelle.
Inspiring story and beautifully done. Costumes are gorgeous and the actress (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is beautiful. Also stars Miranda Richardson, Matthew Goode and Emily Watson. Enjoyed by multiple generations in our house. Well worth a watch. If you enjoy this you may also like Amazing Grace the story of William Wilberforce and his fight for the abolition of slavery in Britain. The library also has copies of this DVD.

Cover imageThe monuments men.
This is an interesting war film directed by and starring George Clooney, set amidst the war torn Europe in the early 1940’s. The British and Americans put together a platoon who will search for the treasures of Europe which Hitler and the Nazi’s had started to steal from all the museums all over Europe. It is believed that Hitler was starting his own museum called The Fuhrer Museum. The soldiers selected for this task all had experience in Museums and restoring art. They were aided by a French Museum worker who was aware of the thefts. It was a race against time to retrieve the art before it was all destroyed. They believed that the art was so important because it showed the achievements of people who have gone. This is an interesting movie and well worth a look. Had war scenes in it but the search was the main point of the film. Does contain some violence.

Cover imageDelivery man.
We really enjoyed this story. It is about a man who is over his head in debts and owing to loan sharks. He discovers that he is father of over 500 children after the fertility bank which he helped out 18 years ago had overused his donation. Over 120 of his children want to find out about him and take a class action against him to get the confidentiality clause removed. He does meet some of them without their knowledge. Funny movie. Definitely an Adult movie. It is an M, suggested 16 and over.

Rachel’s Picks:
Several of my picks are from the 2014 NZ International Film Festival so some aren’t available from our catalogue quite yet, but they will be soon!

Cover imageSnowpiercer.
I had been looking forward to this for a long time, having followed stories of the cancellation of an international release, then the recutting of the film for an American audience. I was extremely pleased to be able to see the original director’s cut, and it was worth the wait. In Snowpiercer the Earth is covered in ice and the entire remaining population lives on a train that travels perpetually around the globe. The train is divided by class, with the richest at the front and poorest in the tail section. Curtis (Chris Evans) is willing to risk everything to lead a revolution from the tail section to win control of the train and shape the future of humanity. This film is visually stunning, intensely contrasting grime with decadence, mesmerising in its surreality and Tilda Swinton’s fantastically acted part reminded me of an even more intense Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter.

Cover imageFrank.
Inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the comic persona of musician & comedian Chris Sievey, Frank follows the sudden rise of a band whose lead singer is perpetually wearing a giant paper mache head. Again with the surreal elements, Frank is very charming and shows how social media can create hype around something that may not even exist.

Cover imageThe double.
Simon James lives a very ordinary life, until one day his doppelganger James Simon turns up and is everything Simon wishes he could be. The Double has the best lighting design I have ever seen on film. Based on The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Cover imageWhiplash.
An incredibly intense film about a jazz drumming student who will do anything it takes to make it to the top. The Oscar wins for J.K. Simmons as Best Supporting Actor and for film editing and sound mixing are well-deserved.

Cover imageInterstellar.
Interstellar takes on a spectacular journey through space and time in the stunning cinematic style of Christopher Nolan.

Cover imageGod help the girl.
A fun musical film featuring the songs from the 2009 concept album “God Help The Girl”, a side project of Belle & Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch. It received funding from a Kickstarter campaign and follows the life of young Eve, recently released from rehab for an eating disorder, as she tries to make it as a singer in Glasgow. Thoroughly enjoyable and amazing costumes throughout!

Cover imageWhite bird in a blizzard.
A great performance by Shailene Woodley (The Fault In Our Stars, in a very different role) about a girl whose mother disappears one day, completely out of the blue. We see how she deals with the consequences of the unknown, and the unresolved mysteries in her life.

Cover imageBirdman, or, (the unexpected virtue of ignorance).
A recent winner of 4 Oscars, Birdman follows the life of a washed-up actor, known for playing superhero Birdman, as he tries to resurrect his acting career through theatre. The categories it won Oscars in were Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Believe the hype, it’s well-deserved.

Cover imageTwo days, one night.
An amazing performance by Marion Cotillard of a woman who has lost her job so that her former co-workers could receive a raise. She convinces her boss to reconsider, and she has one weekend to persuade her co-workers to forgo their bonus and let her keep her job. Harrowing and emotional, this film is an interesting study of the intricacies of people’s lives.

Cover imageThe one I love.
A couple are having some relationship issues, and decide to go on a cottage retreat. But when they get there, the cottage contains secrets that they have only just begun to uncover. Featuring some mind-boggling film trickery, The One I Love will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Staff Picks DVDs: The Best of 2014 – Part 1

Mark’s Picks:
Cover imageCold in July.
Based on the 1989 novel by Joe R. Lansdale, ‘Cold In July’ is set in East Texas, where homeowner Richard Dane (Michael C Hall) shoots and kills a burglar in his house one night. Assured that the man he killed was a wanted felon Richard becomes a small town hero, only to have his life begin to unravel when the dead man’s ex-con father (Sam Shepard) arrives in town and begins to terrorize & threaten his family. However, Richard soon begins to suspect that everything is not as it seems when he sees that the face on the felon’s ‘Wanted poster’ is not actually that of the man he killed…This itself would be enough plot for most movies, but it is just the first 30 minutes of ‘Cold In July’, which starts out in one direction, only to become something else, and then something else again. Influences range from Film-Noir, to Sam Peckinpah, to the 70s novels of James Crumley (The Last Good Kiss) as it all barrels down a Southern highway towards a brutal heart of darkness. Great acting from all three leads (Hall, Shepard & Don Johnson as an over-the-top Private Eye). The best ‘indie’ movie I saw last year. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed last year’s True Detective TV series.

Cover imageHappy Valley.
Voted the best TV show of last year by the Guardian, and rightly so. Shades of Fargo colour this gritty drama set in a rundown West Yorkshire valley. The kidnapping of the daughter of a prominent local businessman spirals out of control, and brings local police sergeant Catherine Cawood (a fantastic performance from Sarah Lancashire) into contact with one of the kidnappers, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), who she believes is responsible for the death of her daughter, and might be the father of her troubled grandson. Full of post-industrial squalor & dysfunctional domestic dramas. Bleak but gripping.

Cover imageThe bridge. The complete series two.
Over a year has passed since Danish and Swedish Detectives Martin & Saga worked together. When an oil tanker veers off course heading for Øresund Bridge, Malmö Coast Guard board crewless ship discovering three Swedish and two Danish youths drugged & chained below deck. What begins as a kidnapping soon takes a ominous turn as it seems the youths were exposed to a deadly toxin. A chilling internet video sees a group of Eco-terrorists take responsibility, but is there more going on than meets the eye. You know there is… Another great entry in the Scandi-Noir cannon that holds up the standard set by the first season.

Cover imageTrue detective.
A cross between the crime novels of James Lee Burke, with their moody Louisiana milieu & woozy existentialism, and the epic cops vs. serial killer madness of James Ellroy’s work. The story begins in 2012 with two ex-Detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) being interviewed about a case from 1995, & then flashes back & forth in time with the original case playing out against the current interviews. Brilliantly structured, it’s just a tour-de-force of acting & storytelling. For once, as good as the hype made it out to be.

Cover imageOrphan black. Series two.
Sarah Manning (a brilliant Tatiana Maslany) is a streetwise con-artist with a dubious past, struggling to regain custody of her daughter. When she witnesses the suicide of another woman, Beth (also Maslany) who appears to be her doppelganger, she sees an opportunity to assume the woman’s identity & drain her bank accounts. But Sarah gets more then she bargained for, discovering that Beth is not just a Police Detective, but is covertly investigating several other young women – all of whom also look like her… A clever & gripping series, which drops you right in the middle of a story where the plot twists come thick and fast. Season 2 gets the nod over Season 1 due to a slightly more consistent tone.

Cover imageBroadchurch.
Grim but gripping English crime drama set in the small town of Broadchurch in south England. When an 11-year schoolboy is found dead on the beach, the case falls to the new outsider D.I. Alec Hardy (David Tennant) who is forced to team up with local police officer Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) who had thought the new promotion was hers.Tennant & Coleman both shine as the unsettling case peels back the hidden layers of a small town idyll. Recommended.

Cover imageAll is lost.
Two films last year experimented with a minimalism that redefined how it is possible to tell a story, and structure a narrative. ‘All is lost’ sees Robert Redford’s unnamed character wake up one morning to find his cabin awash in water as a rogue shipping container has collided with his boat, gashing a large hole in the hull. What follows, largely dialogue free, is a classic tale of man vs. nature.

Cover imageLocke.
‘Locke’ sees Tom Hardy play the title character, the head of a successful construction company about to begin the biggest ‘pour’ in Europe. However he is not going to be on site for the job. Instead he is on the motorway driving from Birmingham down to London. Why he is doing this, the demons from his past that are driving him, and what happens with his personal & professional lives during this journey all unfold over 80 minutes and a series of tense conversations with different people.

Cover imageThe Americans. The complete first season.
On the surface Philip (Matthew Rhys) & Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) are an ordinary suburban couple, who own a Travel Agency & have two children. However in reality they are agents for ‘Directorate S’, the foreign espionage arm of the KGB. When their new neighbour Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) turns out to be an FBI agent, newly promoted to the Counterintelligence Unit they think the game may be up… but it’s only just beginning. Both leads are excellent, especially Russell, and the show benefits from its 1980′s settings where there is relatively little technology at play. Hugely entertaining.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageLondon : the modern Babylon.
Part history, part personal and idiosyncratic journey through London’s turbulent 20th century seen through the eyes of London’s outsiders, unique personalities and artists. Mixes music and footage from different periods into a time travelling, essay of sorts. Well worth the expedition.

Cover image12 years a slave.
Caught this one late and free of the usual glut of amazing reviews, and glowing staff recommendations, still really enjoyed it. Outstanding cinematography, a genuine feeling for the period, and solid, natural performances contribute to an all-round success, that not even a late appearance by Brad Pitt could spoil.

Cover imageTrue detective.
Picks up on all the best parts from great detective/serial killer movies of the past and combines them into one extended prestige TV package. The close buddy relationship of Seven, the cinematography and soundtrack of films like Silence of the Lambs and the obsession and unconventional story-telling of Zodiac. Variously disturbing, nihilistic, multi-part and emotionally munted.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageIda.
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski left his homeland when he was 14. He settled in the UK and worked on documentaries before making critically-acclaimed feature films including My Summer of Love. Ida is his first film shot in Poland and became a big art-house hit. Set in 1962, this simple self-discovery tale (before taking her vows, a Catholic nun visits her aunt she has never met and discovers her past she has never known) touches serious theme such as aftermath of war and the dark history of Polish Jews. However, it also offers alluring sweetness thanks to superb artistry, particularly the exquisite black-and-white images and the unique composition. Bach, Mozart and John Coltrane’s Naima complete its aesthetic. A small masterpiece.

Cover imageUnder the skin.
One of the most promising filmmakers, Jonathan Glazer, made two controversial but acclaimed feature films (Sexy Beast and Birth), and with this unconventional sci-fi thriller, he seems to reach a new height. He had been working in the music video industry (notably ones for Radiohead. Check out The work of director Jonathan Glazer) and it gave him a unique aesthetic foundation. As for this film (a beautiful alien seduces men at night in Glasgow), there are no conventional narratives. Glazer’s exceptional sense of visual images, which is strange but poetic, and equally weird yet wonderfully effective soundtracks by Micachu, hold us throughout, and made it one of the most talked about films in 2014. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but is certainly ambitious and push the boundary work; great to see that one of the most recognisable stars (Scarlett Johansson) takes this challenging role. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe past.
Despite shooting in foreign soil (France) for the first time, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (About Elly, A Separation) once again delivers a first-rate work. It’s another couple, family relationship drama with full of suspense, but multi-layered narrative ingeniously makes what appears to be a straightforward ‘divorce’ story into an increasingly intricate, tense ‘secrets and lies’ drama. The story develops by revealing the past through multiple people’s eyes, while three lead actors exchange terrific performances. Every detail is fastidiously executed including clever sound effect contrasting ‘noise’ and ‘silence’. A master class.

Cover imageA touch of sin.
One of the leading filmmakers of world cinema today, Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke is back to top form with this dynamic work. Mixing excellent artistry with a documentary touch, he often depicts disconsolate young people who are not able to connect to society, and highlights the reality of modern China where massive changes have been going on. This master film also deals with the same theme: the moral and social crisis of today’s China. Ingenious Zhang-ke seamlessly tells four different stories, inspired by shocking real-life events, and portrays the tragedies in ordinary life with an impeccable tension and a superb cinematic aesthetic. Brilliant.

Cover imageStories we tell.
A gifted actress (The Sweet Hereafter, My Life without Me) and a highly individual filmmaker (Away from Her, Take this Waltz), Sarah Polley explores her own family history and reconstructs the life of her mother Diane, who died of cancer when Sarah was 11, and reveals Diane’s painful secret, which in fact concerns Sarah’s identity. Although it’s a very delicate issue to deal with, Polley takes an honest, direct approach with a playful mind. Like many other documentaries, the story basically narrates through old footages and interviews, but she shapes them, with a warm wit, very intriguingly and even experimentally. Truth is stranger than fiction.