Staff Pick DVDs – Christmas Movies

Here are some recent Christmas themed staff picks & some older favourites to get into the spirit of the season!

cover imageA magic Christmas.
Jack is a struggling baker who decides to take his family away to the mountain holiday park he went to for his family vacations. His teenagers were hard to get away from their phones so he thought a technology free holiday would be good for the whole family. When he gets there he discovers that his old neighbour in the holiday park has arrived as well. His neighbour is a millionaire and the competitive streak between them rears its head. This a lovely light movie and good fun for the whole family. (Brigid)

Syndetics book coverThe holiday tree.
This movie is a lovely one for watching after putting up your Christmas tree with others.
The story is about a family who have owned a Christmas tree farm for over a century. The adult children find out that their parents are about to loose the farm so they drop their lives in the big city and come home to help fight for the business. It is a lovely happy story. (Brigid)

Cover imageThe Muppet Christmas carol.
This is the traditional Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens told by The Muppets. All though it is very true to the book it also has more warmth than other versions. There is singing through out it as well. Songs written by Paul Williams. Michael Caine stars as Ebenezeer Scrooge (not only does he commit all the cold callous crimes in the normal version but according to Miss Piggy (Mrs. Crochet) he also has bad fashion style! If you grew up with The Muppets then all your favourite characters are there, Fozzy Bear, Gonzo, Kermit and Miss Piggy, The two hecklers, Rizzo The Rat, Jim The Eagle, as well as Human actors. This is a lovely production and family friendly. This is one of the best versions of The Christmas Carol. Rizzy the Rat and Gonzo narrate a vast cast of interesting characters. Michael Caine is a delight as Ebenezer Scrooge. Lovely singing and a real delight for the whole family. (Brigid)

Cover imageBlack Adder, remastered.
This is a totally different and back to front version of the Christmas Carol. Worth a watch and very funny in parts. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry are good in cameo parts as well. (Brigid)

Amazon cover linkLove actually
One of my favourite movies of all time and a DVD you must watch over Christmas. Love Actually follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England. Definitely a 5 star rating and librarian’s choice! (Katie)

Cover imageThe holiday.
When Two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) are troubled with guy-problems, they decide to swap homes in each other’s countries over the Christmas holidays, where they each meet a local guy (Jude Law and Jack Black) and fall in love. overall a heart-warming Christmas movies combined with comedy, romance and good old Christmas cheer. (Katie)

Cover imageDie hard.
In the mood for some action over Christmas, then check out an oldie but a goodie in the form of Die Hard 1 and 2. When terrorists decide to create havoc on Christmas eve, it is up to John McClane to save the day Yippi-kay-ay style. (Katie)

Cover imageThe Grinch.
Fancy something kid friendly? Check out The Grinch. Based on the beloved children’s tale by Dr. Seuss, the reclusive green Grinch (Jim Carrey) decides to ruin Christmas for the cheery citizens of Whoville by sneaking into town to swipe… More everything holiday-related from the Whos. However, the bitter grump finds a hitch in his plans when he encounters the endearing Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen). Great for kids who love humour and Dr. Seuss. (Katie)

Cover imageChristmas at Downton Abbey.
The series maybe over, but feel free to relive the magic of Downton Abbey, where in 1919, Downton Abbey is hosting a lavish Christmas party, yet despite being the season of goodwill, tensions are rife and Bates’ arrest has cast a shadow over the festivities. The question on everyone’s lips is will Bates get out of prison?, Who is Rosamund’s mysterious new suitor and will Mary and Matthew finally get together. (Katie)

Cover imageFour holidays.
Vince Vaughn, and Reece Witherspoon star in this quirky comedy. It is about a young couple who try to get away from their families at Christmas. They are both from blended families and being with family would mean having to go to 4 separate holiday functions. They plan to go away to the islands but the plane is cancelled and they are interviewed at the airport and so spotted by their families and forced to go and spend time with all four sets of parents. Where they learn lots about each other. This causes all kinds of soul searching and questions of themselves. It is rated M. (Brigid)

Cover imageMiracle on 34th Street.
This is a lovely story about Kris Kringle. There are several different versions. One was made in the 1930’s with Maureen O ‘Hara and the second was a remake in the 1990’s. Both versions are lovely. Both have a little girl who is being raised to not believe in Father Christmas when he comes in to their lives and brings magic into it. There is a big court case to prove whether or not there is a Santa Claus. Both versions are lovely and worth watching. (Brigid)
The holiday season is in full swing when a cultured gentleman with twinkling eyes, an ample belly and a snowy beard is hired as Macy’s department store Santa. He claims his name is Kris Kringle and soon fills everyone with Christmas spirit… except for his boss, Doris Walker, who’s raising her daughter to not believe in Santa. But when Kringle is declared insane put on trial, everyone’s faith is put to the test as young and old alike face the age-old question: Do you believe in Santa Claus? (Katie)

Cover imageIt’s a wonderful life.
This is an old classic by Frank Capra. It stars James Stewart and Donna Reed. In this story George Bailey (Stewart) plays the part of a very generous man who is desperate and about to commit suicide when things in his life go terribly wrong. He is rescued by his Guardian angel who shows him the impact he has had on everyone around him and what would have happened to the community if he had not been there to help. It is a feel good movie and is set around Christmas. It is really lovely. It is rated PG. (Brigid)

Cover imageHome alone.
One of my favourite movies from childhood. After the McCallister’s mistakenly leave for the airport without youngest son, 8-year-old Kevin, (Macaulay Culkin) uses being ‘home alone’ to his advantage, by doing all his favourite things, eating his favourite food and finally being ‘the man of the house.’ But his excitement sours when he realizes that two con men (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) plan to rob the McCallister residence, and that he alone must protect the family home. A Die Hard movie for kids! (Katie)

Some other Christmas movies from our catalogue:
Amazon cover linkTim Burton’s The nightmare before Christmas (1993).
Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, is bored with doing the same thing every year for Halloween. One day he stumbles into Christmas Town, and is so taken with the idea of Christmas that he tries to get the resident bats, ghouls, and goblins of Halloween town to help him put on Christmas instead of Halloween – but alas, they can’t get it quite right. Sally, Jack, skeletal reindeer, gorgeous stop-motion animation from Tim Burton – perhaps not quite traditional Christmas fare, but still a wonderful watch.

Amazon cover linkGremlins (1984).
Well, we seem to have given up on traditional holiday movies, but who can go past Gremlins? This is another movie set at Christmas, and if you like mild horror and hilarity, and enjoy Christmas, this one’s for you:
“Billy Peltzer’s father buys him a new cuddly pet. But heed these three warnings: Don’t ever get him wet. Keep him away from bright light. And the most important thing, the one thing you must never forget: no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs… never, never feed him after midnight!” (Library Catalogue)

Amazon cover linkHoliday Inn (1942)
A musical affair with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and music by Irving Berlin. A song-and-dance man leaves show business and opens up an inn in Connecticut with his former partner. Believe it or not, the song “White Christmas” was written for this film. Another classic Christmas movie, complete with lots of crooning. Watch and enjoy!

Amazon cover linkThe Polar Express (2004)
Some have found the animation a little jarring, but this is just so Christmassy we don’t believe you can go past it! An adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express.
“Santa Claus does not exist. Or does he? For one doubting boy (voice of Daryl Sabara and Tom Hanks), an astonishing event occurs. Late on Christmas Eve night, he lies in bed hoping to hear the sound of reindeer bells from Santa’s sleigh. When to his surprise, a steam engine’s roar and whistle can be heard outside his window. The conductor (voice of Tom Hanks) invites him on board to take an extraordinary journey to the North Pole with many other pajama-clad children. There, he receives an extraordinary gift only those who still believe in Santa can experience.” (Library Catalogue)
Based on the beloved book by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express is about a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. During his adventure he learns about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. (Katie)

So – a few of our favourites. Browse more Christmas movies on our catalogue!

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #10

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have the latest season’s of dramas ‘The Good Wife’, ‘House of Cards’, and turn-of-the-century Toronto ‘Murdoch mysteries’; as well as two adaptations of novels by popular romance novelist Rosamunde Pilcher.

Cover imageThe good wife. The sixth season.
“Alicia Florrick ( Julianna Margulies) stood by her husband (Chris Noth) on his tumultuous path to the governor’s office, but now she’s entering the world of politics on her own terms by running for state’s attorney. As Election Day approaches, Alicia must balance the demands of her firm and campaign as she supports her partner Cary (Matt Czuchry) during shocking developments that could end his career… and life as he knows it. Julianna Margulies returns in the role that earned her two Primetime Emmy Awards*, and stars with Archie Panjabi, Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming and a roster of stellar guests in Season Six of the gripping series that is critically lauded as “…TV’s best drama” (Slate)…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageMurdoch mysteries. Complete series 8.
“In Season 8 of this delightful detective show, joy and heartbreak await Detective William Murdoch and his friends in turn-of-the-century Toronto. After his brutal beating by the dockyard gang, Inspector Brackenreid’s future remains uncertain. Constable Crabtree faces life-altering changes, including a new romance, while Dr. Emily Grace and Dr. Julia Ogden join the women’s suffrage movement. And in the show’s 100th episode, wedding bells ring as Murdoch and Julia finally walk down the aisle. Along the way, Murdoch encounters notables like W.C. Fields, Thomas Edison, and President Theodore Roosevelt. Guest stars include Peter Keleghan (The Newsroom), Patrick McKenna (The Red Green Show), and Peter Outerbridge (Orphan Black), the original Detective Murdoch from the TV movies that preceded the series…” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageHouse of cards. The complete third season.
“All 13 episodes from the third season of the award-winning political drama starring Kevin Spacey. Based on the novel by Michael Dobbs and the subsequent BBC adaptation of the book, the show follows Francis Underwood (Spacey), a politician whose sense of ambition is matched and encouraged by his wife Claire (Robin Wright). Armed with an arsenal of political secrets to equal anyone in Washington, Francis is more than willing to scheme and blackmail his way to the top. In this season, Francis’s approval ratings plummet, a devastating hurricane hits the East Coast and Claire makes plans to run for Ambassador to the U.N…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe other wife.
“Rupert Everett and John Hannah star in this two-part drama based on the novel by Rosamunde Pilcher. When Rebecca Kendall (Natalia Worner) waves goodbye to her husband Robert (Hannah) as he departs on one of his regular business trips to Canada she feels a twinge of uneasiness for the first time. What Rebecca does not know is that her devoted husband has been leading a double life for the last five years with another wife and child in Canada. When Robert’s plane crashes en route back to England both of his families seek comfort in the fact that their finances were well protected. As Robert’s brother Martin (Everett) reveals however, his late brother had invested all of his money into a Canadian goldmine, there is very little left for the wives to fight over…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageUnknown heart.
“Carolina Vera and Gedeon Burkhard star in Giles Foster’s adaptation of the novel by Rosamunde Pilcher. When Elizabeth Lancaster (Vera), a terminally ill 40-year-old heiress to her family’s cider farm, gets a phone call from the hospital with the news of the heart transplant she has been waiting for, she feels like all her dreams have come true. After the operation Elizabeth is unable to connect to her family and instead finds herself drawn to a place she has never known: the home of the woman whose heart now beats in her chest. As she meets her donor’s widow, Andrew Shaw (Burkhard) she immediately feels an unexplainable connection and the tormented pair begin a passionate affair. Will their love be enough to keep them together or will more hearts be broken along the way?…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Staff Picks DVDs – September/October

A great selection of recent material has been highlighted by our staff this time around, including fantastic TV shows and film festival favourites.

Cover imageInherent vice.
Thomas Pynchon’s novel is adapted to the big screen for the first time by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, The Master). It will surely excite some people, and the result is a quirky, plot-careless affair but a visually dazzling, playful off-beat comedy. Set in the hippie culture LA in 1970, it’s a rather confusing detective story as a lot of bizarre characters come and go. However, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the drug addled yet wonderfully amusing detective, is leading the charge all the way, and masterful camera movements with fabulous close-ups make it a great pleasure to watch. The soundtrack (Can, Neil Young etc.), which well represents the milieu of the era, and the narration by Joanna Newsom, who also appears in the film, will help it gain ‘cult’ status. A conjuring work. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe spoils of Babylon.
So bad it’s good! An A-grade cast presents a B-grade ‘Dallas-meets-Thunderbirds’ production that is a real hoot. It’s tacky, it’s totally unrealistic and completely unbelievable. If you love backgrounds on a loop, and mannequin acting you’ll love this forbidden love story. (Belinda)

Cover imageThe guest.
From the writer/director team that created the hugely entertaining You’re Next, comes this homage to 80s slasher flicks. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), sporting a perfect American accent, plays ex-soldier David. One day he knocks at the door of the Peterson family and informs the mother that he was a close friend of the son she recently lost in combat. Still traumatised by grief she willingly invites him in. Soon he is sleeping in her dead son’s room and gradually begins to insinuate himself into the lives of her husband, younger son and daughter Anna (Maika Monroe, It Follows). Soon things begin to go right for the family as David charms everyone with his polite manners & helpful attitude, but as some sudden deaths plague the small town Anna begins to suspect that there may be more to David than it appears…Chilly yet also deliberately cheesy in parts it’s a great take off of 80s ‘straight-to-video’ schlockers with an over the top last third & a John Carpenter Halloween homage finale, complete with dry ice & cheesy synth music. (Mark)

Cover ImageNoble.
This is an amazing true story of an Irish lady who grew up in the slums of Ireland. A drunken father, a mother who died young with several siblings, all put away into homes. In her later years heads off to Vietnam and helps the children with no homes or families, to give them a better life. Her dream is to succeed and prove to the authorities that she can and will. (Janice)

Cover imageMammon. The complete season one.
While it is stated as being ‘Season One’, this is in fact a self contained 6 episode mini-series. Beginning at the height of the financial crisis, doggedly ethical journalist Peter Verås (Jon Øigarden) discovers a complex financial fraud implicating Norway’s elite politicians & businessmen, with his own brother at the centre. Refusing to compromise Peter publishes the story, with the outcome culminating in his brothers suicide. Ostracised by his peers he is relegated to the sports desk, his reputation & career shattered. However fast-forward 5 years later, and he receives a mysterious briefcase on the anniversary of his brothers death that propels him into a labyrinthine conspiracy of which his brothers suicide was just one facet…Complex (perhaps overly so), it tries a bit too hard at times to be a Norwegian take on the ‘Millennium’ trilogy, and throws a lot of plot elements into the mix (not all of which are believable), but it is none-the-less another exciting & entertaining entry in the Scandi-Noir cannon. (Mark)

Cover imageZ nation. Season 1.
Fun with zombies! Three years after a zombie apocalypse has killed off most of the Earth’s population a rag-tag group of survivors have a mission to get Murphy, a convict who survived eight zombie bites after being injected with an experimental vaccine, from New York to the last known medical lab in California. Let’s just say the trip doesn’t go smoothly. Once the story is established, it starts to get very funny and we’re introduced to a variety of zombie types. A bit b-grade in parts, but it’s funny so who cares, and it’s faster moving than the Walking Dead. (Belinda)

Cover imageWhile we’re young.
Another charming art-oriented comedy by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale) centres a middle-aged documentary filmmaker (played by Ben Stiller) whose career and marriage are at a dead end. He and his wife (Naomi Watts) seem to regain their buoyancy and mojo after befriending young artistic couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) but their close friendship soon sours. The middle-age anxiety, longing for youth and the generation gap are depicted comically, and at times it’s like a Woody Allen movie. However, cynical and sensitive Baumbach subtly contrasts the fearlessness of youth with the wisdom of age, leaving a bittersweet aroma. With the ingenious script and the wonderful ensemble cast, it’s a lovely chamber work. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe longest ride.
This is the movie of the book by Nicholas Sparks. It is a lovely story of a young man Luke (this is Scott Eastwood – Clint’s son) whose passion is rodeo and staying on the bull the longest. He meets a lovely young woman Sophia and starts a romance. At the same time their paths are crossed by an elderly man Ira in a rest home (played by the delightful Alan Alda of MASH fame). Their ups and downs of romance are intertwined with the story of the elderly gentleman’s life with his wife. Also intertwined is the Rodeo rides and art galleries. Conflict between careers. There are some good twists and it is a delightful story. A chick flick to be enjoyed by males too. The library also has the book and Audio book. (Brigid)

StaffPicksDVDs7Humans.
A remake of the Scandinavian series ‘Real Humans’ sees a parallel future where household robots (Synths) have become the new must have gadget for menial tasks & caregiver roles. After his busy wife begins to spend more time at work, Joe Hawkins decides to buy a synth (Gemma Chan) to help around the house, and give him more time to spend with her when she is home. However his wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson) soon feels displaced, as the new synth becomes an integral part of the family, especially for their youngest child who names her Anita, after a friend who moved away. However, unbeknownst to the Hawkins family, Anita is not a ‘normal’ synth at all, and slowly she begins to exhibit some odd behaviour. Meanwhile a police unit responsible for robot related crime is tracking a group of ‘free’ robots…’Humans’ works its central plot around the larger impact of robots upon society as a whole – as people begin to feel angry at their futures, displaced at jobs and in the home – and while it features some tropes of the SF genre that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica, or Ex Machina to name a few influences, it is still a very entertaining series that raises some interesting issues around the insidiousness of technological advancements. Some critics say that it is not as good as the Swedish original (as yet not released in this country), but it’s definitely recommended if you enjoyed the recent Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror, as it explores similar themes.
(Mark)

 

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New DVDs in October

Some movies showcased in this year’s international film festival have already arrived at the library. They are A Most Violent Year, Inherent Vice and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. From last year’s festival, two fantastic documentaries (Dior and I, The Salt of the Earth) and the acclaimed Russian film Leviathan are also available now. Finally, check out the new series of popular TV programmes such as Orphan Black and The Walking Dead.

cover imageMad Max. Fury road.
“A return to the world of the Road Warrior, Max Rockatansky. Haunted by his turbulent past, he believes the best way to survive is to wander alone. Nevertheless, he becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by an elite Imperator, Furiosa. They are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe, from whom something irreplaceable has been taken. Enraged, the Warlord with his gangs pursues the rebels ruthlessly in the high-octane Road War that follows.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageOrphan black. Series three.
“Two-time Critics Choice Award-winner Tatiana Maslany returns in the pulse-racing third season of Orphan Black. After the shocking discovery of Project Castor, Sarah and her sister clones are left to battle the top-secret military project producing these lethal male clones. At the same time, Sarah tries to track down her missing twin Helena and an ailing Cosima searches for the key to the synthetic sequences that may keep them all alive. But how far are they willing to go to protect each other and their families, and who can they really trust? Orphan Black is back with more adrenaline-charged action, intrigue and suspense than ever before!” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageDior and I.
“A thrilling behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons’s highly anticipated first Haute Couture collection as Christian Dior’s new Artistic Director. Beautifully melding the everyday, pressure-filled components of fashion with an elegant reverence for the history of Dior, Tcheng’s colorful homage is nothing short of magical.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe walking dead. The complete fifth season.
“Season 5 of The Walking Dead picks up shortly after Season 4 left off, and we follow the people of Terminus as they attempt to find a cure in Washington, D.C. As they begin to lose comrades, the fate of the group becomes unclear. Even more so when they gain new locales and, with them, new conflicts.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageLeviathan.
“Kolya lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya and his son Roma. The town’s corrupt mayor is determined to take away his business, his house, and his land.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imagePitch perfect. 2.
“The Barden Bellas are back to pitch slap the world. It’s been three years since the Bellas brought their signature vocals, style and attitude to become the first all-female group to win a national title. But when they get banned after a scandal that threatens to derail their last year at Barden, the three-time defending champs worry that this time they’ve lost their harmony for good. The Bellas must fight for their right to win the World Championships of A Cappella in Copenhagen.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageTestament of youth.
“1914. Vera – youthful, free-minded and irrepressible, is determined to sit exams for Oxford, against her conservative parents’ wishes. She is encouraged and inspired by her brother and friends, particularly the brilliant Roland Leighton. Her hopes for Oxford with Roland turn to dust as war is declared and all the young men enlist. Vera gives up her dreams of writing to become a nurse, and as those closest to her perish on the frontlines, she experiences the futility of war… a powerful story of love, war, loss and remembrance.” (Container)

cover imageGeorge Gently. Series 7.
“Inspector George Gently in these feature-length mysteries set in the North East of England during the social upheaval of the 1960s. These episodes follow Gently and his partner as they solve four grisly murders.” (Syndetics summary)

film21159A most violent year.
“The tale of an immigrant and his family trying to live the American Dream and expand their business amidst rampant violence, urban decay, and corrupt city officials during one of the most dangerous years in the city’s history.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe salt of the earth : a journey with Sebastião Salgado.
“For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageBetter call Saul. Season one
“From the creators of Breaking Bad comes the critically acclaimed prequel to one of TV’s most successful shows, a dramedy of cinematic quality full of complex, witty dark humor. Set six years before Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) became Walter White’s lawyer, he is known as Jimmy McGill, a small-time lawyer searching for his destiny and more immediately hustling to make ends meet.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageA girl walks home alone at night.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is set in the fictitious locale of Bad City, a stunningly crafted black-and-white world riddled with random events and flawed people that takes its visual cues from Sin City (2005) and the early films of Jim Jarmusch. Sheila Vand stars as The Girl, a sassy loner who roams the streets on a skateboard she stole from a kid. The unsuspecting object of her affections is Arash, a handsome James Dean-type who is dealing with his own family issues. In the off-kilter world they inhabit, a touching and unconventional relationship develops.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageAvengers. Age of Ultron.
“When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth₂s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe falling.
“Lydia and Abbie are best friends experiencing a sexual awakening at an English girls’ school. Following a tragedy, a mysterious fainting epidemic threatens the stability of all involved.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageInherent vice.
“Private eye Doc Sportello’s ex-old lady shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend whom she just happens to be in love with, and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap that billionaire and throw him in a loony bin.” (Syndetics summary)

Our pick of the new DVDs in August

Some new DVDs for September include the next entry in the ‘Divergent’ franchise, Noah Baumbach’s new indie comedy ‘While We’re Young’, Steven Soderbergh’s period medical show ‘The Knick’, critically acclaimed UK drama ‘Still Life’, and spooky new TV thriller series ‘Wayward Pines’.

cover imageInsurgent.
“Insurgent, the next gripping action-adventure in the blockbuster Divergent franchise, raises the stakes for Tris as she searches for allies and answers in the dystopian ruins of a futuristic Chicago. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are now fugitives on the run, hunted by Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris, with Four at her side, faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world…”
(adapted from Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageWhile we’re young.
“Noah Baumbach writes and directs this comedy starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a childless married couple living in New York who befriend a younger and more exciting couple. Fed up of their friends who pressure them into beginning a family of their own, documentary film-maker Josh (Stiller) and wife Cornelia (Watts) meet hipster couple Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) and start to enjoy the new and refreshing experiences that come with the territory. However, are Jamie and Darby’s motivations for spending time with the older couple as harmless as they seem?” (Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageSomeone you love.
“World famous singer-songwriter Thomas Jacob is based in Los Angeles. He is a very successful man who has burned a lot of bridges. He lives and breathes music and very little else. When Thomas travels back to Denmark to record a new album with his regular producer, Molly Moe, his grown-up daughter, Julie, shows up with his 11 year-old grandson, Noa, whom Thomas has never met. Soon – and much against his will – Thomas is forced to take care of Noa. Against all odds the two of them slowly begin to connect through music. Then disaster strikes forcing Thomas to realize, that he now has to make a choice that will change his life forever.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageTrash.
“When two trash-picking boys from Rio’s slums find a wallet in amongst the daily detritus of their local dump, little do they imagine that their lives are about to change forever. But when the local police show up, offering a handsome reward for the wallet’s return, the boys realise that what they’ve found must be important. Based on Andy Mulligan’s best-selling novel, Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen, Wagner Moura and Selton Mello star in this thrilling adventure directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Richard Curtis.” (Rewiews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageAlex of Venice.
“In Chris Messina’s directorial debut, a workaholic attorney, Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is forced to reinvent her life after her husband (Chris Messina) suddenly leaves. While juggling a career case, a young son, and a father (Don Johnson) struggling with the effects of aging, Alex discovers both a vulnerability and inner strength she had not yet tapped into, all while holding her family together.” (Editorial reviews, Amazon.com)

cover imageCake.
“Claire Simmons (Jennifer Aniston) is in pain. Her physical pain is evident in the scars that line her body and the way she carries herself, wincing with each tentative step. She’s no good at hiding her emotional pain either. Blunt to the point of searing insult, Claire’s anger seethes out of her with nearly every interaction. She has driven away her husband, her friends – even her chronic-pain support group has kicked her out. The only one left in Claire’s otherwise solitary existence is her housekeeper-cum-caretaker, Silvana (Academy Award nominee Adriana Barraza), who barely tolerates her boss’ need for liquor and prescription pills. But the suicide of Nina (Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick), one of Claire’s fellow chronic-pain group members, prompts another fixation. In pursuing questions about the death of a woman she barely knew, Claire explores the boundaries between life and death, abandonment and heartbreak, danger and salvation. As she inserts herself into the lives of Nina’s husband (Sam Worthington) and the son Nina left behind, Claire just might find salvation.” (Editorial reviews, Amazon.com)

cover imageThe knick. The complete first season.
“Set in downtown New York in 1900 – The Knick is a groundbreaking new scripted drama from Oscar and Emmy-winning director Steven Soderbergh starring Oscar nominee Clive Owen, who also received a Golden Globe nomination for this series. The Knick centers on the Knickerbocker Hospital (dubbed The Knick), which faces a major upheaval due to poor finances and an exodus of wealthy patients. The one remaining star is Dr. Thackery (played by Clive Owen) who along with the hospital staff of surgeons, nurses and other personnel must struggle to keep both themselves and the hospital going.” (Editorial reviews, Amazon.com)

cover imageStill life.
“A poignant tale of life, love and the afterlife, Still Life is a tender and witty new drama from Uberto Pasolini, the Oscar-nominated producer of The Full Monty, starring Eddie Marsan (Tyrannosaur, Happy-Go-Lucky) and Golden Globe winner Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey). Meticulous and organised to the point of obsession, John May (Marsan) is a council worker charged with finding the next of kin of those who have died alone. When his department is downsized and he is given his final case, John finds himself on a liberating journey of self-discovery that will make him question everything and start living life at last.” (Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageHemlock Grove. Season 1 / created by Brian McGreevy & Lee Shipman.
“From executive producer Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) comes the darkly poetic, moving and terrifying hit US series Hemlock Grove. Set deep in the heart of Pennsylvania, a gruesome murder sends shockwaves through the eccentric residents of the mysterious suburb. Whispers follow Roman Godfrey, (Bill Skarsgård), the brooding scion of an aristocratic family headed by the beautiful but formidable Olivia Godfrey (Famke Janssen, X-Men), and Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron), an enigmatic teenager from the gypsy community who lingers on the edges of the Grove. As the mystery unfolds, the residents are led into the darkest shadows and deepest secrets of the town, their families and themselves where they must confront unspeakable truths and discover why Hemlock Grove is not all that it appears.” (Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageMaggie.
“As a viral pandemic spreads across America, Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) searches for his runaway daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) and finds her in the quarantine wing of a hospital. Wade brings his daughter back home to his family for the short time before the teenager begins a painful metamorphosis. Determined to hold onto his precious daughter as long as he can and refusing to hand her over to the local police Wade edges ever closer to a time where he will have to take matters into his own hands.” (Reviews, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageWayward Pines.
“Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, ID, on a mission to find two missing federal agents. But instead of answers, Ethan’s investigation only turns up more questions. What’s wrong with Wayward Pines? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the life he knew, from the husband and father he was, until he must face the terrifying reality that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.” (Syndetics summary)

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #9

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have US medical comedy ‘Royal Pains’, new seasons of the popular US crime shows ‘Blue Bloods’ & ‘White Collar’, and the latest episodes of glamorous lady detective, The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher…

Cover imageRoyal pains. Season one.
“Now it can be told: the mega-rich get sick and hurt too. It’s just that their illnesses, injuries, and conditions are a lot weirder and more exotic than those suffered by mere mortals. At least that’s the message delivered in Royal Pains, USA Network’s medical-comedy series offered here with all 12 first-season episodes (plus bonus features) on three discs. Mark Feuerstein plays Hank Lawson, a Manhattan physician who unfairly loses his hospital job, and soon thereafter his gold-digging fiancée, when a powerful trustee dies on his watch. Enter younger brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo), a nerdy accountant and shameless social climber, who enlists Hank to help him crash a fancy soiree in the Hamptons; Hank saves the life of a partygoer, which leads to more and more work, and all of a sudden he’s a “concierge” doc at the service of people whose wealth is matched only by their vanity and acquisitiveness…” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageRoyal pains. Season two.
“Spend your summer with Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein): where the tides are high, bank account balances are higher and the patients are just high maintenance. Because of his strong convictions and straight-shooting style, the “concierge doctor’s” practice is growing… and with the return of his estranged father (special guest star Henry Winkler), so is his family. With puzzling cases involving a faithful cop with an STD, a winemaker with a troubled palate and a reality show where all the contestants are stricken ill, Hank needs his own innovative talents and the support of his fast-talking brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) more than ever. Featuring all 18 episodes from the acclaimed second season and special guest stars that include Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Erinn Hayes (Parenthood), Peter Jacobson (House, M.D.), Michael Rapaport (True Romance) and Bill Bellamy (The Brothers), Royal Pains is the smart and original comedy that Entertainment Weekly hails as “whimsical fun.”…” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageWhite collar. The complete fourth season.
“Matt Bomer excels again as charming con man Neal Caffrey in another engaging season of crime solving and high-stakes heists! Facing the uncertain future of his partnership with FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), Neal sheds his tracking anklet and disappears into thin air. But the Feds aren’t done with him and Neal is hardly ready for retirement. Back in action, Neal ponders the future as Season Four delves deeper into the stunning secrets of his mysterious past. Packed with seduction, intrigue, and more of everything you love about TV’s sexiest show, White Collar will have you glued to the edge of your seat. Let the games begin!…” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageWhite collar. The complete fifth season.
“In season five, $1.8 million in gold coins is missing, an elusive precious diamond is about to be found, and Neal Caffrey has a new handler, and a new love interest. But all is fair in love and crime, and the closer Neal gets to the mysterious Rebecca Lowe, the greater the danger for everyone in his life…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageWhite collar. The complete sixth season.
“Experience the thrills, one last time, with Season 6 of television’s slickest, most seductive crime drama – White Collar. The tension has never been greater as Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) re-teams with FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) in their most ambitious sting operation yet – infiltrating a sophisticated gang of deadly thieves. With Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen) pregnant, Neal desperate for his freedom and amidst pressure from Mozzie (Willie Garson) for Neal to cut ties with the FBI, the scheme unfolds, culminating in the series’ most shocking plot twist of all. Also, only on DVD, join the cast and crew as they discuss their favourite moments from the show’s six seasons in the moving retrospective White Collar: Case Closed…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageBlue bloods. The fourth season.
“The Reagan family dynamics continue to shift as they deal with everything from gambling and drugs to kidnapping and murder: Jamie (Will Estes) wrestles with his feelings for his new partner; Erin and Jack work to figure out their personal relationship; and Danny and Frank clash over an internal investigation of Danny’s techniques. As the Reagans faces off against the FBI, the mob, and other officers who don’t follow their ethical code, the family bond will both serve and protect them…” (From Syndetics summary)

RatingsProjectDVDs7Miss Fisher’s murder mysteries. Series 3, Volume 1.
“The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher continues to solve crimes with the help of her household cohorts, all the while delighting in her playful partnership with the suave and dedicated Detective Jack Robinson. When Phryne’s estranged father, Lord Henry George Fisher, arrives unannounced in Australia after selling up the family estate in England, he does his best to ingratiate himself with Dot, Bert, Cec and Mr Butler, though his roguish charm is lost on his own daughter. When Phryne recalls a secret encounter that she witnessed during the War, between her father and the cousin from whom the Fishers inherited their title, she begins to suspect that her ancestor is still alive and could be out to exact his revenge…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageMiss Fisher’s murder mysteries. Series 3, Volume 2.
“In the third series of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, stylish lady detective the honourable Miss Phryne Fisher continues her unconventional antics, solving crimes with the help of her ensemble of household cohorts and the suave, dedicated detective Jack Robinson, with whom she shares a playful partnership. In the second volume of Series Three, Phryne’s Aunt Prudence takes on more than she bargained for when she opens her home to psychiatrist and natural healer, Hayden Samuels. And when Phryne hosts a tennis tournament to raise money for female tennis players, the practice partner of a rising tennis star is fatally bitten by a funnel-web spider, sparking a murder investigation that reveals Phryne’s hidden fear. Includes episodes 5 – 8 from Series 3…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

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)