New TV, documentaries & movies in August

New DVDs for July feature documentaries, with one of the most watched National Geographic shows ever with Morgan Freeman’s ‘The Story of God’, the tragic ALS documentary ‘Gleason’, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘Before the Flood’. New movies include the charming remake of ‘Beauty and the beast’, lively German comedy ‘Toni Erdmann’ and historical drama ‘Alone in Berlin; while new TV includes the final season of ‘Bones’ and new Jude Law Vatican drama ‘The Young Pope’.

The story of God.
“This is an epic new series that explores how religion has shaped the history of the world – and how it continues to mould the lives of every single one of us today, no matter what our faith – or lack of faith – may be. Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman travels to some of the holiest sites in the world – from the Pyramids of Giza and Buddha’s Bodhi Tree to Mayan ruins and Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. He meets people of all faiths and speaks to religious leaders, scientists, historians and archaeologists in an effort to understand how religion evolved and adapted as our society changed and, in turn, how religion transformed the evolution of society. Morgan attempts to shed light on questions that have puzzled, terrified and inspired us from the beginning, including the creation of the universe and the belief that the world will end in apocalypse.” (Syndetics summary)

Gleason.
“Steve Gleason was a star athlete who, tragically, at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s journey to get his relationships in order, provide support to other ALS patients, and adapt to his declining physicality.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Before the flood.
“If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change – would you want to know? Before the Flood features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change, and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news. Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Bones. The final chapter.
“Brennan’s uncanny forensic skills help resolve even grislier cases, including a retirement home murder, a possible death by robot, and the slaying of close friend. Along the way, family tragedy strikes and Booth lands in the crosshairs of a serial killer. The fascinating storylines, heart and humor of these twelve episodes wrap of the final season of this hit series.” (Syndetics summary)

Beauty and the beast.
“The journey of Belle, a bright and independent young woman who takes her father’s place as the prisoner of a beast in his castle. As Belle befriends the castle’s enchanted staff, she and the Beast slowly begin to look beyond their initial reactions to each other and see who they truly are. But back in Belle’s village, her father’s fears for her safety drive him to rally the villagers to free Belle from the castle–a plan that goes awry, with dangerous consequences, when Belle’s would-be suitor Gaston twists the rally into a mob and leads an attack on the castle.” (Syndetics summary)

Toni Erdmann.
“Winfried doesn’t see much of his working daughter Ines. He pays her a surprise visit in Bucharest, where she’s busy as a corporate strategist. The geographical change doesn’t help them to see more eye to eye. Practical joker Winfried annoys his daughter with corny pranks and jabs at her routine lifestyle of meetings and paperwork. Father and daughter reach an impasse, and Winfried agrees to go home to Germany. Enter Toni Erdmann: Winfried’s flashy alter ego.” (Syndetics summary)

Handsome devil.
“Ned, the bullied outsider, and Conor, the new boy and star athlete, are forced to room together at their boarding school. The boys take an instant dislike to each other, and seem destined to remain enemies until an English teacher, Mr. Sherry, begins to drill into them the value of finding one’s own voice. This lesson, however, isn’t appreciated by everyone, particularly rugby coach Pascal, who has his own agenda and harbors some deep suspicions about the boys’ teacher.” (Editorial Reviews Amazon.com)

The young pope. Series 1.
“Lenny Belardo, aka Pius XIII, is the first American Pope in history. Young and charming, his election might seem the result of a simple and effective media strategy by the College of Cardinals. But, as we know, appearances can be deceptive. Especially in the place and among the people who have chosen the great mystery of God as the guiding light of their existence. That place is the Vatican and those people are the leaders of the Catholic Church. And the most mysterious and contradictory figure of all turns out to be Pius XIII himself. Shrewd and naïve, old-fashioned and very modern, doubtful and resolute, ironic, pedantic, hurt and ruthless, Pius XIII tries to walk the long path of human loneliness to find a God for mankind. And for himself.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)


Alone in Berlin.

“How did an ordinary, middle-aged couple become a symbol of defiance against Nazi brutality? This tale of courage unfolds against the tumultuous backdrop of Berlin in 1940. Otto and Anna Quangel are a working class husband and wife doing their best to ride out the war. Their son is killed fighting on the frontlines. They begin pouring their rage and grief into postcards emblazoned with anti-Nazi slogans, risking everything to disseminate their messages of protest across the city.” (Syndetics summary)

Aftermath.
Aftermath tells a story of guilt and revenge when an air traffic controller’s error leads to a catastrophic mid-air collision that causes the death of a construction foreman’s wife and daughter. Starring Hollywood legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, two family’s lives are irrevocably changed by tragedy in this dramatic thriller, proving that vengeance is a journey with no return.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent DVD arrivals

New movies include popular Biographical adaptations ‘Lion’, ‘A United Kingdom’ & ‘Jackie; award winning drama with ‘Manchester by the Sea’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Fences’ & ‘Paterson’ & new critically acclaimed TV with the latest season of ‘Un village français’ & ‘The Americans’.

Lion.
“In LION, five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train travelling away from his home and family. Frightened and bewildered, he ends up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata. Somehow he survives living on the streets, escaping all sorts of terrors and close calls in the process, before ending up in an orphanage that is itself not exactly a safe haven. Eventually Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple, and finds love and security as he grows up in Hobart. Not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents feelings, he suppresses his past, his emotional need for reunification, and his hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his buried yearning. With just a small store of memories and his unwavering determination, Saroo embarks on one of the greatest needle-in-a-haystack quests of modern times.” (Product description, Amazon.co.uk)

A united kingdom.
“Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana causes an international stir when he marries a white woman from London in the late 1940s. When they decided to marry, just as apartheid was being introduced into South Africa, it caused an international uproar. However, their passionate romance triumphed over every obstacle and changed the course of African history.” (Syndetics summary)

Un village français. Vol. 6.
“And so, after years of war, the peace has arrived, and with it comes the court cases, the public hearings that will attribute blame. The divisions that damaged Villeneuve so very much are brought to the surface. Daniel Larcher and Sub-Prefect Servier are first in the dock. And out in the village, people jockey for positions in the new order. We will see characters who disappeared during the war return, we will see characters making deals to avoid execution. The war may be over, but the struggle for dignity continues.” (Syndetics summary)

Jackie.
“A searing and intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. The film places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband’s legacy and the world of a “Camelot” that they created and loved so well.” (Syndetics summary)

Fences.
“In 1950s Pittsburgh, a Black garbage collector named Troy Maxson–bitter that baseball’s color barrier was only broken after his own heyday in the Negro Leagues–is prone to taking out his frustrations on his loved ones.” (Syndetics summary)

Manchester by the sea.
“A man returns to his hometown and faces his past when he unexpectedly becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.” (Syndetics summary)

Moonlight.
“A young black man struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.” (Syndetics summary)\

Paterson.
“Paterson is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey – they share the name. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, observing the city as it drifts across his windshield and overhearing fragments of conversation swirling around him; he writes poetry into a notebook; he walks his dog; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer. He goes home to his wife, Laura. By contrast, Laura’s world is ever changing.” (Syndetics summary)

The Americans. The complete third season.
“Technological advances have escalated Cold War tensions to an all-time high, and undercover KGB operatives Elizabeth and Philip Jennings face the growing threat of discovery. As their assignments grow more deadly, their family is in more danger, and their loyalties are tested like never before.” (Syndetics summary)

Collateral beauty.
“Retreating from life after a tragedy, a man questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.” (Syndetics summary)

Passengers.
“Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are two passengers onboard a spaceship transporting them to a new life on another planet. The trip takes a deadly turn when their hibernation pods mysteriously wake them 90 years before they reach their destination. As Jim and Aurora try to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction, they begin to fall for each other, unable to deny their intense attraction… only to be threatened by the imminent collapse of the ship and the discovery of the truth behind why they woke up.” (Syndetics summary)

The founder.
“Tells the true story of how Ray Kroc, a salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers’ speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. He maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire.” (Syndetics summary)

Settle in for Winter nights with new library DVDs

New DVDs for June include the Tina Fey produced comedy ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, the return of crime favourite ‘Broadchurch’ for a final season and the lads from ‘Trainspotting’, acclaimed drama about an interracial marriage in 1958 Virginia with the Biopic ‘Loving’, the feel-good story of ‘A Street cat named Bob’, the remake of an NZ classic with ‘Pork Pie’, and the final chapter in the story of Marvel superhero Wolverine.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Season one.
“From the executive producers of 30 Rock (Tina Fey and Robert Carlock) comes the “wise, wicked comedy” (Jeff Jensen, EW), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Rescued after fifteen years in an underground doomsday cult, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) decides to rebuild her life in New York City armed with only a fifth-grade education and a firm belief that truly anything is possible. She quickly finds a roommate, Titus Andromedon (Primetime Emmy nominee Tituss Burgess), a job working for a spoiled Manhattan mom, Jacqueline Voorhees (Primetime Emmy nominee Jane Krakowski), and a new beginning. Watch season one of the Primetime Emmy-nominated series on these shiny discs that Kimmy is only now just learning about! That’s all thirteen episodes, back-to-back and uninterrupted, of the show critics rave is “packed liked 30 Rock with surreal zingers” (Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker).” (Editorial Reviews, Amazon.com)

Broadchurch. Series 3.
“Ellie and Hardy are called out to attend to a woman who has reported a serious sexual assault. They take the woman – Trish Winterman – to the SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) where she is examined. There’s no doubt she’s been raped – but where, and when, and by whom? Hardy and Ellie tell Trish that an ISVA, (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) will be in touch soon. This person will help and guide her through the legal and investigative process that will now unfold around her. Working on a clue found at Trish’s house, Hardy and Ellie discover the crime scene and call in SOCO to gather evidence. But it is an unusual and difficult crime scene – will they find anything useful? The initial forensics report confirms Hardy and Ellie’s earlier suspicions – this was not an opportunistic attack, it was planned. Hardy concludes that they have a serious sexual predator at large in the town, someone who may strike again.” (Syndetics summary)

Red Dog : true blue.
“Every legend has a beginning. When eleven year old Mick is shipped off to his grandfather’s cattle station in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, he prepares himself for a life of dull hardship, but instead finds myth, adventure, and a friendship with a scrappy, one-of-a-kind dog that will change his life forever.” (Syndetics summary)

Aquarius.
“Clara, a 65 year old widow and retired music critic, was born into a wealthy and traditional family in Recife, Brazil. She is the last resident of the Aquarius, an original two-story building, built in the 1940s, in the upper-class, seaside Boa Viagem Avenue, Recife. All the neighboring apartments have already been acquired by a company which has other plans for that plot. Clara has pledged to only leave her place upon her death, and will engage in a cold war of sorts with the company. This tension both disturbs Clara and gives her that edge on her daily routine. It also gets her thinking about her loved ones, her past and her future.” (Syndetics summary)

Lovesong.
“Neglected by her husband, Sarah embarks on an impromptu road trip with her young daughter and her best friend, Mindy. Along the way, the dynamic between the two friends intensifies before circumstances force them apart. Years later, Sarah attempts to rebuild their intimate connection in the days before Mindy’s wedding.” (Syndetics summary)

T2 trainspotting.
“First there was an opportunity; then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.” (Syndetics summary)

Pork pie.
“Jon, a charming but out-of-luck novelist, musters the bravery needed to try and win back the love of his life by surprising her at a friend’s wedding. One problem: he’s in Auckland and the wedding is in Wellington. After a failed attempt to make the journey south in his bomby Holden, Jon hitches a ride with Luke, a sparky young dude driving a fancy new (and unbeknownst to Jon, stolen) yellow MINI Cooper….Soon after, undercover vegan-activist, Keira, climbs through the fast food drive-through window into the MINI bound for Wellington and the Blondini gang of three are formed. As they journey south, the most epic road trip of their lives ensues. To add to Jon’s romantic struggles, he and his two new mates become accidental outlaws on-the-run and soon have a frenzy of police and media hot in their pursuit…” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Miss Sloane.
“In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win. But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds that winning may come at too high a price.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

A street cat named Bob.
“Based on the international best selling book. The true feel good story of how James Bowen, a busker and recovering drug addict, had his life transformed when he met a stray ginger cat.” (Description, Mightyape.co.nz)

Loving.
“In 1958, in the state of Virginia, the idea of interracial marriage was not only considered to be immoral to many – it was also illegal. When Richard and Mildred fall in love, they are aware of the eyes staring at them and the words said behind their backs. It is when they get married, however, that words and looks become actions, and the two are arrested. The couple decide to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for their love in this passionate and gripping drama from acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols.” (Syndetics summary)

Logan.
“His Time Has Come. In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
Logan is a 2017 American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. The film is the tenth instalment in the X-Men film series, and the third film focused on Wolverine. This final chapter follows a past-his-prime Logan embarking on a road trip across America for one final mission.” (Description, mightyape.co.nz)

 

New DVDs this month

Some classy crime among the new DVDs as Rowan Atkinson takes on the role of the classic Detective Maigret, the BBC version of Sherlock Holmes returns for another season, and Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano is back for one last season. New movies also include the latest edition of the Star Wars franchise, the old fashioned romantic drama of ‘Allied’, and the acclaimed Ken Loach film ‘I, Daniel Blake’; while new TV includes the 2nd season of the critically acclaimed FX series ‘The Americans’ which has finally been released here.

Maigret.
Maigret sets a trap – Montmartre, Paris. A serial killer is stalking the streets. Five women are dead and the people are afraid to go out after dark. The newspapers are rife with speculation. And Chief Inspector Maigret is without a lead and under great pressure… Maigret’s dead man – One February morning, an agitated man calls the Police judiciary asking for Maigret. He claims he’s being followed by someone trying the kill him. The night, his body is found, his face badly beaten, stabbed to death. Ridden with guilt for not having ‘saved’ his dead man, Maigret is determined to find the murderer.” (Syndetics summary)

Sherlock. Series four.
“Sherlock returns with three brand-new feature length episodes, promising laughter, tears, shocks, surprises and extraordinary cases. The eagerly anticipated fourth series, produced by Hartswood Films, begins with the nation’s favourite detective, the mercurial Sherlock Holmes, back once more on British soil. Meanwhile, Doctor Watson and his wife, Mary, prepare for their biggest ever challenge – becoming parents for the first time. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprise their iconic roles as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in the hit drama written and created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Fantastic beasts and where to find them.
“It opens in 1926 as Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.” (Syndetics summary)

Inspector Montalbano. Volume 7.
“The brooding and moody yet somehow magnificent Luca Zingaretti returns for one final series. This time around, the new Montalbano films will be released in 2 segments Volume 7 will feature 2 films, A Delicate Matter and The Mud Pyramid.” (Syndetics summary)

I, Daniel Blake.
“From acclaimed director Ken Loach comes this astonishing story of triumph and adversity in modern day Britain. Daniel Blake has worked as a joiner for most of his life in Newcastle. Now, for the first time ever, he needs help from the State. He crosses paths with single mother Katie who is battling to keep her two young children fed. Daniel and Katie find themselves in a no-man’s land, striving to pull themselves out of the welfare bureaucracy of modern day Britain. Award winning and critically lauded, I, Daniel Blake is the vital film for our times.”–eOne.

Little men.
“Jake (Theo Taplitz) is a quiet, sensitive middle schooler with dreams of being an artist. He meets the affably brash Tony (Michael Barbieri) at his grandfather’s fu­neral, and the unlikely pair soon hit it off. The budding friendship is put at risk, however, when a rent dispute between Jake’s father, Brian (Greg Kinnear), and Tony’s mother, Leonor (Paulina Garcia), threatens to become contentious.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Rogue One : a Star Wars story.
“In a period of great conflict, a group of unlikely heroes led by Jyn Erso, a daring fugitive, and Cassian Andor, a rebel spy, band together on a desperate mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAllied.
“The story of intelligence officer Max Vatan, who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.” (Syndetics summary)

The Americans. The complete second season.
“Technological advances have escalated Cold War tensions to an all-time high, and undercover KGB operatives Elizabeth and Philip Jennings face the growing threat of discovery. As their assignments grow more deadly, their family is in more danger, and their loyalties are tested like never before.” (Syndetics summary)

Humans. 2.0.
“Humans is set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘synth’–a highly–developed robotic servant eerily similar in appearance to humans. These incredible machines share our homes, our jobs and our lives and so become the objects of our fear, hatred, lust and even love. The Hawkins family struggles to put past events behind them. Their efforts are complicated further when they are unexpectedly drawn into battles being waged by their old conscious synth friends. As their emotional capabilities expand, the synths are pushed to the limit as they confront huge moral questions about their place in the world.” (Syndetics summary)

New DVDs received this month

New DVDs include Bryan Cranston in the autobiographical ‘The Infiltrator’, an adaptation of the hugely popular novel ‘The Girl on the Train’, new seasons of ‘Elementary’ & ‘Wayward Pines’ and a new quirky Italian mystery series.

The infiltrator.
“Bryan Cranston stars in this crime drama based on US Customs official Robert Mazur’s autobiography. The film follows Mazur (Cranston) as he goes undercover to infiltrate the money laundering operations of drug lord Pablo Escobar. Assuming the identity of successful businessman Bob Musella, Mazur promotes himself as the man who can turn dirty cash into clean. By laundering money for the drug cartels he hopes he will be led directly to the most powerful men at the top of the chain. In his new role as an undercover agent, Bob sets up complex networks of investments to protect the drug dealers’ money and as he works his way up Escobar’s organisation he is forced to go to new lengths to protect his cover and continue his mission.” (Product Description, Amazon.co.uk)

The light between oceans.
“As beautiful as it is heart-breaking, the light between oceans features an incredible cast including michael fassbender, alicia vikander and rachel weisz. this breath-taking story is set to remind us all of the infinite power of love, the overwhelming fear of loss and the complexities of human nature that bind the two. when lighthouse keeper tom sherbourne (michael fassbender) and his adored wife isabel (alicia vikander) discover a baby adrift in a boat off the remote coast off western australia, they must make a choice. when they decide to raise the child as their own, the shattering consequences of this choice will change their lives forever.” (Product description, Amazon.co.uk)

Elementary. Fourth season.
“In Elementary: The Fourth Season, Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), re-ignite their unique chemistry – a relationship that allows them to solve an increasingly complex series of crimes in the Big Apple. But the worm in the Apple makes itself known when Sherlock’s father, Morland Holmes (John Noble), arrives in NYC to live full-time. His apparent concern with his son’s increasingly intense behavior and addiction relapse does nothing to temper Sherlock’s suspicions and mistrust regarding his arrival. With new cases materializing and emotional crises building, it’s the most electrifying season of Elementary yet!” (Product description, Amazon.co.uk)

Louder than bombs.
“Three years after her untimely death, an upcoming exhibition celebrating famed war photographer Isabelle Reed brings her eldest son Jonah back to the family home, forcing him to spend more time with his father Gene and withdrawn younger brother Conrad than he has in years. With the three of them under the same roof, Gene tries desperately to connect with his two sons, but they struggle to reconcile their feelings about the woman they remember so differently. A funny and poignant drama starring Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne and Isabelle Huppert.” (Product description, Amazon.co.uk)

The girl on the train.
“Rachel, devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasising about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. The Girl On The Train is a darkly addictive thriller based on the international publishing phenomenon.” (Product Description, Amazon.co.uk)

Blood father.
“After her drug kingpin boyfriend frames her for stealing a fortune in cartel cash, 17 year old LYDIA goes on the run, with only one ally in this whole wide world: her perennial screw-up of a dad, JOHN LINK, who’s been a motorcycle outlaw, and a convict in his time, and now is determined to keep his little girl from harm and, for once in his life, do the right thing…” (Product description, Amazon.co.uk)

Harry & Snowman.
“Dutch immigrant, Harry deLeyer, journeyed to the United States after World War II and developed a transformative relationship with a broken down Amish plow horse he rescued off a slaughter truck bound for the glue factory. Harry paid eighty dollars for the horse and named him Snowman. In less than two years, Harry & Snowman went on to win the triple crown of show jumping, beating the nations blue bloods and they became famous and traveled around the world together. Their chance meeting at a Pennsylvania horse auction saved them both and crafted a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Eighty-six year old Harry tells their Cinderella love story firsthand, as he continues to train on today’s show jumping circuit.” (Syndetics summary)

Murders at Barlume.
Murders at Barlume is a colorful new series of quirky mysteries based on the novels by Marco Malvaldi. Set in the idyllic beach resort town of Pineta on the beautiful Tuscan coast, the show stars Filippo Timi as Massimo Viviani, the recently-divorced owner of the local watering hole, Barlume. Massimo loves puzzles of all kinds, and his sharp mind comes in handy as he frequently finds himself moonlighting as an amateur detective, solving strange crimes along with the gossipy gang of eccentric septuagenarians who frequent his establishment. Filmed on the magical island of Elba, Murders at Barlume is an irreverent mix of twisty mystery, outlandish comedy and Italian charm.” (Editorial Reviews, Amazon.com)

Wayward Pines. The complete second season
“Season two finds the residents of Wayward Pines battling for the survival of the human race against the iron-fisted rule of the First Generation. As the mysteries of the remote town deepen, secrets are unearthed and horrors discovered. Who will survive the civil war in Wayward Pines?” (Syndetics summary)

Staff Pick DVDs – Best of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageOutlander. Season two.

CoverimageLondon has fallen.

Cover imageThe BFG.

cover imageStar wars. The Force awakens.

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

cover imageGreen room.

Cover imageKubo and the two strings.

Cover imageThe jungle book.

Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageHunt for the Wilderpeople.

Cover imageSausage party.

Cover imageTickled.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.

Cover imageThe big short.

Cover imageThe revenant.

Cover imageVictoria.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.

New DVDs for January

This month’s new DVDs feature a doco on The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition in history; new comedy with David Brent & Bridget Jones; real life drama with Captain “Sully” Sullenberger; unconventional parenting with Viggo Mortensen; female investment banking with Anna Gunn; a Detective Superintendent’s journey to exact justice for the victims’ families with Gillian Anderson; and Western action with seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns.

cover imageThe first Monday in May.
“The First Monday in May follows the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition in history, China: Through The Looking Glass – an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. With unprecedented access, filmmaker Andrew Rossi captures the collision of high fashion and celebrity at the Met Gala, one of the biggest global fashion events chaired every year by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. Featuring Rihanna and Jennifer Lawrence as well as fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano.” (Product Description, Amazon.co.uk)

MyLibDVDs3Sully.
“On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.” (Editorial Reviews, amazon.com)

MyLibDVDs4Bridget Jones’s baby.
“After breaking up with Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones’s “happily ever after” hasn’t quite gone according to plan. Fortysomething and single again, she decides to focus on her job as top news producer and surround herself with old friends and new. For once, Bridget has everything completely under control. What could possibly go wrong? Then her love life takes a turn and Bridget meets a dashing American named Jack (Dempsey), the suitor who is everything Mr. Darcy is not. In an unlikely twist she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch…she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby’s father.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageCafé society.
“Woody Allen writes and directs this comedy drama starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Steve Carell. Set in the 1930s, the film follows Bobby (Eisenberg), a young New Yorker who travels to Los Angeles to work for his uncle Phil (Carell), a prominent Hollywood agent. In L.A. Bobby meets and falls for Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Stewart), who, unfortunately, is already taken. Returning home, Bobby gets a job at his gangster brother Ben (Corey Stoll)’s nightclub where he becomes enthralled by New York’s high society. The cast also features Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

MyLibDVDs6Captain Fantastic.
“Unconventional family drama from writer-director Matt Ross. Viggo Mortensen stars as Ben, a father raising his six children Bodevan (George MacKay), Kielyr (Samantha Isler), Vespyr (Annalise Basso), Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), Zaja (Shree Crooks) and Nai (Charlie Shotwell) in the isolated forests of the Pacific Northwest. As a result of their rural location the children have been sheltered from popular culture supplemented with Ben’s rigorous homeschooling which imparts to them a left-leaning education in which Noam Chomsky’s birthday is celebrated as if it’s Christmas. When a tragic event propels the family unit into reality, they find themselves much at odds with their fellow citizens and Ben’s parenting methods are scrutinised. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance By an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Mortensen) and a BAFTA for Best Leading Actor (Mortensen). (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageDavid Brent : life on the road.
“Ricky Gervais writes, directs and stars in this documentary-style comedy, reprising his role as ‘The Office’ character David Brent. Taking place 15 years after the British sitcom, the film follows the former office manager as he takes time off from his day job as a sales rep to tour with his rock band Foregone Conclusion. Leaving behind his job at Slough cleaning products supplier Lavichem, for a holiday at least, Brent takes to the M25 on a self-funded tour, with bandmates who can’t really stand him, to play to disappointing crowds across the country in one last attempt at breaking into show business. Joined on the road by talented young rapper Dom Johnson (Doc Brown), David is followed by cameras, for what he believes will be a successful film, eager to catch up with him since his documentary appearance.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageRams.
“In a secluded valley in Iceland, brothers Gummi and Kiddi live side by side, tending to their prized ancestral sheep. But a long-term grudge means that they haven’t spoken to each other for four decades, passing messages via the sheep dog. When a lethal ovine disease suddenly appears in the valley, the authorities move in to cull all of the livestock. But Gummi and Kiddi don’t give up easily and each brother tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion: Kiddi by using his rifle and Gummi by using his wits. As the authorities close in the brothers will need to come together to save the special breed of sheep passed down for generations – and themselves – from extinction.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageEquity.
“A female investment banker, Anna Gunn, fighting to rise to the top of the corporate ladder at a competitive Wall Street firm, navigates a controversial tech IPO in the post-financial crisis world, where loyalties are suspect, regulations are tight, but pressure to bring in “big money” remains high. Equity is a unique Wall Street drama about women who thrive on competition and ambition to stay equal in the game.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageThe fall. Series 3.
“At the climax of the last series, audiences were left reeling as Spector, critically injured in a devastating ambush, lay bleeding in the arms of Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson. Moments before, the intense and single-minded investigator thought she had her man; now, shocked and desperate, she’s losing him. Bringing a killer to book is going to take much more now than simply catching him. In the emotionally charged aftermath of the shooting, Gibson’s personal journey to exact justice for the victims’ families must begin with the blood-soaked fight to keep Spector alive. As the Fall reaches its inexorable conclusion, it’s clear that the rules of this deadly game of cat and mouse are set to shift once again.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe daughter.
“Christian returns to his family home for his father Henry s wedding to the much younger Anna. While home, Christian reconnects with his childhood friend Oliver, who has stayed in town working at Henry s timber mill and is now out of a job. As Christian gets to know Oliver s wife Charlotte, daughter Hedvig and father Walter, he discovers a secret that could tear Oliver s family apart. As he tries to right the wrongs of the past, his actions threaten to shatter the lives of those he left behind years before.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageThe magnificent seven.
“Director Antoine Fuqua brings his modern vision to a classic story in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ and Columbia Pictures’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. With the sleepy town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople, led by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns – Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

Staff Pick DVDs – Dec/Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More new DVDs this month

Here are some new DVDs in our collection. This month is a bit of everything with Louis Theroux’s humorous look at the mysteries of Scientology; kids hit Finding Dory; new big budget remakes of 80s classic Ghostbusters & the story of Tarzan; critically acclaimed coming-of-age music comedy Sing Street; and the latest entry in the Star Trek franchise. With TV there is the newest season of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander saga; the final episodes of the BBC version of Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell’s Wallander series; and acclaimed new HBO crime series The Night Of.

cover imageMy Scientology movie.
“With a lifetime of experience dealing with eccentric, unpalatable and unexpected human behaviour, the unassuming Theroux won’t take no for an answer when his request to enter the Church of Scientology headquarters is turned down. Inspired by the Church’s alleged techniques, and aided by former Scientology members-turned-whistleblowers, Theroux uses actors to recreate incidents people claim to have experienced as members in an attempt to better understand the way it operates. However, in a bizarre twist, it becomes clear that Louis is not the only one making a documentary… Suffused with a good dose of humour and moments worthy of a Hollywood script, MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE is as outlandish as it is revealing.” (Product Description, Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageFinding Dory.
“When Dory, the forgetful blue tang, suddenly remembers she has a family who may be looking for her, she, Marlin, and Nemo take off on a life-changing quest to find them, with help from Hank, a cantankerous octopus; Bailey, a beluga whale who’s convinced his biological sonar skills are on the fritz; and Destiny, a nearsighted whale shark! Dive into the movie overflowing with unforgettable characters, dazzling animation, and gallons of fun!” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageThe legend of Tarzan.
“It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Margot Robbie) at his side. Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageSwiss army man.
“A wholly original, enormously entertaining, and deeply heartfelt look at what it means to be human, SWISS ARMY MAN is the feature film debut of acclaimed music video directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (collectively known as DANIELS). Bursting with limitless creativity in both form and content, SWISS ARMY MAN goes from the absurd to the emotional to the whimsical to the profound and back again. Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, having given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore; the two become fast friends, and ultimately go on an epic adventure that will bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageGhostbusters.
“Ghostbusters makes its long-awaited return with Director Paul Feig’s unique and hilarious take on the classic, supernatural comedy, led by the freshest minds in comedy today. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. Together they team up to save Manhattan from a sudden invasion of spirits, spooks and slime that engulfs the city.” (Synopsis, amazon.co.uk

cover imageSing Street.
Sing Street takes us back to 1980s Dublin where an economic recession forces Conor out of his comfortable private school and into survival mode at the inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious and über-cool Raphina, and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he’s promised – calling himself “Cosmo” and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the ‘80s, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their hearts into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Sing Street is an electrifying coming-of-age film that will resonate with music fans across the board.” (Product description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageThe night of.
“Eight-part crime drama starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed. New York student Naz (Ahmed) embarks on a wild night out with a mysterious woman after picking her up in his dad’s cab. The next morning he finds her stabbed to death in his bed. With no recollection of the previous night’s events, Naz flees the scene but is quickly brought in by the city’s police and identified as the main suspect for the victim’s murder. After he is denied a legal representative, defence lawyer John Stone (Turturro) steps in to help Naz prove his innocence. As he awaits prosecution on Rikers Island, Naz adapts to the politics of life on the inside while his legal team try to piece together what happened on the night of the crime.” (Product description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageOutlander. Season two.
“Claire and Jamie arrive in France, hell-bent on infiltrating the Jacobite rebellion led by Prince Charles Stuart, and stopping the battle of Culloden. With the help of his cousin Jared, a local wine merchant, Jamie and Claire are thrown into the lavish world of French society, where intrigue and parties are abundant, but political gain proves far less fruitful. Altering the course of history presents challenges that begin to weigh on the very fabric of their relationship. However, armed with the knowledge of what lies ahead, Claire and Jamie must race to prevent a doomed Highland uprising and the extinction of Scottish life as they know it.” (Product description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageWallander. The final chapter.
“All three feature-length episodes from the third series of the BBC crime drama starring Kenneth Branagh as the Swedish detective. Inspector Kurt Wallander (Branagh) and his team at Ystad police station investigate a number of violent and terrifying murders in the beautiful setting of Skane County, Southern Sweden. In this instalment, Wallander must investigate the disappearance of a Swedish citizen while attending a conference in South Africa. After returning home, the detective struggles with the onset of Alzheimer’s whilst trying to solve his final cases.” (Product Description, amazon.co.uk)

cover imageStar trek. Beyond.
“Dispatched on a rescue mission to the farthest reaches of space, the USS Enterprise is ambushed by Krall, a ruthless enemy sworn against the Federation. Crash-landing on an uncharted hostile world, Captain Kirk, Spock, and the crew are separated with no means of escape. Only Jaylah, a rebellious alien warrior, can help them reunite and find a way off the planet in a race against time to stop Krall’s deadly army from triggering all-out galactic war.” (Syndetics summary)