WCL staff recommend these DVDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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)

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”

Staff Pick DVDs – Best of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageOutlander. Season two.

CoverimageLondon has fallen.

Cover imageThe BFG.

cover imageStar wars. The Force awakens.

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

cover imageGreen room.

Cover imageKubo and the two strings.

Cover imageThe jungle book.

Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageHunt for the Wilderpeople.

Cover imageSausage party.

Cover imageTickled.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.

Cover imageThe big short.

Cover imageThe revenant.

Cover imageVictoria.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.

Staff Picks DVDs for October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staff Picks: Film & Television on DVD

Many of our staff are avid cinephiles – here are their latest film and TV recommendations…

Cover imageDrive.
Everything about Drive screams stylism from the Scorpion jacket that Ryan Goslings lead character wears, to the fonts in the opening credits, the synthy 80’s soundtrack, the neon streets and the minimalist dialogue. Gosling plays ‘The Driver’ a stunt-man by day, who moonlights by night as a getaway driver for various criminal enterprises. Drawn to his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) & her young son, things become complicated when her husband returns from jail owing protection money from his time inside. Wary of threats to Mulligan & her son Driver agrees to help her husband in a heist to pay back the money, but things take a turn for the worse… Adapted from the James Sallis Neo-Noir novel, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and Gosling apparently pared down the originally sparse script even further, eschewing dialogue and exposition for moody atmosphere. In spite of its title ‘Drive’ isn’t really an action movie, and there really isn’t even that much driving. It’s more of a slow character study interspersed with some admittedly pretty full-on violence, a kind of European ‘art-house’ take on an American action movie, similar in some ways to Joe Wright’s Hanna. How much you enjoy it probably depends on how much you appreciate it for its style. Not the action movie that it may seem to be but worth watching. (Mark)

Cover imageThe war you don’t see. A film by John Pilger
You have to be in the mood for a John Pilger doco; he pulls no punches and always manages to drag the skulduggery and corruption that invariably underlies powerful elites into the light for censorious inspection. ‘The War You Don’t See’ is no exception, the theme for this film being the role the media plays in the perpetuation of the war machine. It is chilling to understand the colossal scale of civilian casualties that are regularly downgraded in importance to the point that they don’t rate as news at all. Pilger ruthlessly interviews, among others, the head of BBC News regarding the irresponsibility of the mainstream media’s biased reporting, meanwhile, and a DVD extra features an in depth and revealing interview with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange prior to his arrest. (John)

Cover imageThe protectors. Series 1.
Danish TV must be pretty good judging by exports like The Killing & now The Protectors. The show follows 3 Police Officers, Jasmina, Rasmus, & Jonas who apply to join PET (the Danish Secret Service) where they become bodyguards. While you get involved in the private lives of all the characters, Cecilie Stenspil’s Jasmina draws the most focus as the team’s female agent, and as a non Danish native struggling with her family’s expectations & the often volatile ethnic tensions at play in Denmark. The ‘Missions’ themselves range from protecting important members of Government and VIPs from stalkers, to domestic hate groups and foreign terrorists. While its story and structure is not as original as The Killing, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable mix of 24 styled action and focused character development. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageUpside down: the Creation Records story.
Gripping may be an odd adjective to use to describe the story of the evolution of a record label — nevertheless, the description holds. This is a fascinating piece of pop culture history that tells the story of Alan McGee, a drug fuelled visionary, and Creation Records, the label he ran from 1983-1999. The label pretty much created the shoegaze genre, featuring artists such as The Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver, and was then inspired by the Manchester acid-house scene and experienced huge success with Primal Scream before finally going down in a blaze of glory with the overwhelming success of Oasis. An engrossing story and some very cool music. (John)

Cover imageGame of thrones. The complete first season.
Adapted from the first installment of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice & Fire ‘Game Of Thrones’ succeeds on multiple levels. The story begins with Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark, who is called upon by his old friend the King to assume the position of the King’s Hand after the mysterious death of the previous Hand. Reluctant to abandon his family & position he nevertheless is drawn into service, but that is just the beginning of his problems as various factions vie for power in the Kings court, and across the sea an exiled Prince trades his sister for an alliance that could help him regain the Throne. The quality of the show’s production values is evident everywhere, as the world of Westeros looks amazing in every detail. Most of the trappings that cause non-fantasy fans to avoid this kind of thing are absent, at least for now, with the characters speaking in fairly modern terms, with mysterious creatures & dragons merely hinted at. More than anything the first season resembles a political drama along the lines of The Tudors, or Rome, but being HBO there is, of course, plenty of violence & sex along the way. The acting is also uniformly good, with Sean Bean a standout as the noble Stark struggling with the double-dealings of Court intrigue. Lena Heady is also excellent as the manipulative Queen Cersei, and Peter Dinklage steels every scene as the droll imp Tyrion. Recommended, even if Fantasy-fiction is not your thing at all. (Mark)

Cover imageRed Dog.
And the Oscar … should have gone to “Red Dog” who roamed the mines of Australia for many years. Based on a combination of fact and “a good old yarn” this story is funny, sad, outrageous and much more. Have a hanky ready for both tears and laughter!! (Liz)

Cover imageMidnight in Paris.
Owen Wilson is a disillusioned Hollywood screen writer, & would be novelist, on holiday in Paris with his shallow girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) & her crass parents. While they shop, he revels in the history of Paris in the magical 1920’s, the jazz-age of his literary idols. Sure enough, a magical old fashioned car soon transports him back to his favourite era where he meets Hemingway (who offers to show his novel to Gertrude Stein), the Fitzgerald’s, Dali, and others, falling for Picasso’s lover. Able to return to his favourite time each night at midnight he revels in the array of famous people he meets yet also begins to discover that every generation has its ideal golden age to which they would like to return. Gentle charming fantasy that won Allen an Oscar for the screenplay. Wilson is surprisingly good as the lead, and the supporting cast shines with Kathy Baker great as Gertrude Stein & Corey Stall hilarious as an intense Hemingway. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageAlan Partridge. Mid morning matters.
For many fans Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge and the success of the character has been both a curse and a blessing for the hugely talented British comedian. After an eight year break, the sad, infuriating and incredibly funny character was reawakened for a series of 12 x eleven minute web-only episodes and this DVD features those pieces edited into 6 x TV episodes. All the action takes place at the broadcast desk of Radio Norwich, where Partridge hosts a daily chat show called ‘Mid-Morning Matters’ aided by ‘Sidekick Simon’. This is a return as humorous and sadly poignant as a fan could hope for. (John)

Cover imageContagion.
In ‘Contagion’ Steven Soderbergh takes on pandemics the same way Traffic took on the drug trade in this multi character thriller. The movie begins with Gwyneth Paltrow who returns from a business trip to Hong Kong infected with a virus that she spreads to everyone she comes into contact with. The film slowly builds up the pandemic’s effects as hospitals are overwhelmed & the virus draws the attention of the CDC (Kate Winslet, Lawrence Fishburn) & the WHO (Marion Cotillard), who attempt to follow proper protocols to cope with the rapidly escalating worldwide virus & the gradual breakdown of society. Meanwhile Paltrow’s husband (Matt Damon) who remains unaffected tries to take care of his grown daughter, and a muck-raking blogger (Jude Law) files stories that the Government is lying about the virus & offers a homeopathic remedy. Slow moving, ‘Contagion’ isn’t a disaster/action ‘thriller’ in the same sense as say, Outbreak, which covered similar material, but more of a cerebral documentary styled look at how humanity would cope with a virus that kills millions. Not to everyone’s taste, but worth a watch. (Mark)

Kaikohe demolition.
An oldie but a goody, released in 2004 this light hearted documentary captures the humour and warmth of the people of the small Northland community of Kaikohe. The highlight of the Easter Calendar is “The demolition derby” where they crank up the old car wrecks that are no longer ‘legally road worthy’ and make them ‘derby worthy’ enough to compete in the Easter derby. Everything’s above board (sort of) however, if the tyres have no tread, no probs, get out the chainsaw and make some by cutting horizontal lines across the tyres, there are many many tricks of the derby trade (that was just one). Then the spirited locals give us a look see into their very own slice of heaven, the ‘Ngawha hot springs’. After the shakes, the rattles and rolls of the derby, it’s time to relax and soak up all its therapeutic healing properties to treat those bumps and bruises caused by their insatiable appetite to crash and bang. Have a laugh and a korero with the boys…a time to reflect and unwind. ‘Bliss’. (Ethel)

Librarians’ Choice: Best Of 2011 – DVD’s

Shinji’s Picks:

Cover imageCertified copy.
On the surface (set in gorgeous looking Tuscany, not Iran, and using professional actors, including world cinema muse, Juliette Binoche), this is a very commercial and unusual film from the Iranian maestro, Abbas Kiarostami. However, once the story unfolds, we are taken into the labyrinth he always presents us with. We go thorough an intellectual journey with a man (William Shimell) and a woman (Juliette Binoche) who appear to be strangers but before we know it, they seem to become a long-time married couple. Kiarostami bewitches us by challenging what is genuine or fake, and we may feel that we are playing hide and seek with the characters. A magical Kiarostami tour.

Cover imageMeek’s cutoff.
After the consecutive success of Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, the indie queen, Kelly Reichardt, gained a bigger budget and tackled the historical genre. But thankfully, she has no intentions of going to Hollywood. This pre-history tale of the American West is even more minimal than previous ones, and the storytelling is made up of small details and a few indirect narratives. Uniquely, this harsh but intimate, beautifully-shot film is told mainly from the woman’s perspective, and as the story develops, the movie centres on one of the settlers’ wives (Michelle Williams). This may be the world’s first feminine Western?

Mark’s Picks:

Cover imageThe killing. The complete series one.
Compared by many to The Wire the show is perhaps not quite at that level, as there a number of slightly dodgy plot twists employed to flesh the story out to 20 episodes. However where it excels is in the crushing details of the human toll on those involved – absent from so many hour-long Police procedural shows – offering a kind of novelistic take on the grief of the Danish family shattered by the loss of their daughter, and the punishing weight of the investigation on the main character. Grim & intensely gripping, despite some implausible twists. (Mark)

Cover ImageThe hour.
Comparisons to ‘Mad Men’ were made when ‘The Hour’ debuted, though this is really just due to the fact that it is a period based show, and a better point of reference would probably the David Strathairn helmed Good Night and Good Luck. ‘The Hour’ is set in 1956 focusing on the creation & launch of a ‘new’ kind of news show. At the forefront is the tangled triangle of acerbic reporter Freddy (Ben Whishaw), privileged newsreader Hector (Dominc West) and Bel (Romola Garai) the show’s female producer. In the background are the eruption of the Suez crisis, Russians in Hungary, and the mysterious death of a college Professor who is linked to a childhood friend of Freddy’s and a conspiracy involving MI6. It presents an intriguing mix of espionage, romance & drama tackling issues such as class conflict, the role of woman in the workplace, governmental control, duty & sexual politics. Quite talky and slow at times & the mix of different genres & conflicts sometimes comes off awkwardly, so it’s perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but recommended if you enjoy character focused & well rendered period drama.

Wendy’s Pick:

Cover imageWater for elephants.
Fantastic movie depicting the hard lives of circus folk plus their love for the animals. If you enjoy romance with a bit of action plus animals, then this is the movie for you.

Diane’s Pick:

Cover imageThe thick of it. Series three.
A very funny, and very potty-mouthed, BBC TV series about spin doctoring in British politics.

Pru’s Pick:

Cover imageThe killing. The complete series one.
A great show is ‘The Killing’. You will need to reserve it and start watching as soon as you get it as there are 6 discs. Even the husband who doesn’t like subtitles – “why would you read a film?” – didn’t fall asleep. It is a gritty Danish TV series which Americans have now copied (not too bad a copy either).

John’s Picks:

Cover imageNever let me go.
An adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel in which he explores similar themes to his previous work, The Remains of the Day, i.e. to what extremes people will go in the name of duty. Set within an alternate reality 80’s Britain, this is a mysterious and strangely chilling film.

Cover imageThe social network.
Like it or not Facebook is a phenomena and has a history worth exploring. Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires, aided by a great soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails and superbly shot and edited, David Fincher’s follow up to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is surprisingly gripping from start to finish. NB. The same team are behind the US remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’.

Cover imageSource code.
Despite director Duncan Jones keeping it a secret that he is David Bowie’s son, he still made it to the big time. 2009’s excellent Continue reading “Librarians’ Choice: Best Of 2011 – DVD’s”

Staff Picks : Film & Television on DVD

Many of our staff are avid cinephiles – here are their latest film and TV recommendations…

Cover imageThe killing. The complete series one.
Danish TV series ‘Forbrydelsen’ which translates literally as ‘The Crime’, became a huge hit in its homeland as well as in the UK where it screened earlier this year, going on to win the 2011 Bafta for best ‘International’ production. Focusing on the murder investigation of a young Danish girl, the show spans 20 episodes, each a day in the timeline of the investigation. As the show begins Inspector Sarah Lund is on her last day with the Copenhagen Police, about to move to Sweden with her fiancé. Ensnared in the investigation she is forced to partner with her replacement, the brash and impulsive Inspector Meyer, as the murder takes on more & more complex layers. Compared by many to The Wire the show is perhaps not quite at that level, as there a number of slightly dodgy plot twists that are employed to flesh the story out to 20 episodes. Where it excels, is in the crushing details of the human toll on those involved, absent from so many hour-long Police procedural shows, offering a kind of novelistic take on the grief of the Danish family shattered by the loss of their daughter, and the punishing weight of the investigation on the main character. Grim & intensely gripping, despite some implausible twists. Recommended to anyone who’s a fan of the current wealth of Scandinavian crime fiction, such as Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo or Arnaldur Indriðason. Recently remade in America on AMC under the same title, and with a second series of the Danish series completed & a 3rd apparently under production. (Mark)

Cover imageFair game.
Political drama based around the events surrounding the outing of American intelligence operative Valerie Plame, played by Naomi Watts. Plame’s husband, Ex US–Ambassador Joe Wilson (played by Sean Penn) is sent to Niger on a fact finding mission to disprove an Iraqi purchase of yellowcake uranium. He negates the intelligence, yet later when The President confirms the veracity of Iraq’s WMDs, Wilson writes an op-ed piece in the Washington Post refuting this. Soon after the attention is turned on Wilson when his wife is outed as a long term CIA operative, thus ending her career. The movie then follows the aftermath of these events as their lives & marriage begin to collapse under the ensuing media fallout. Based on Plame’s book Fair Game, and her husbands book The Politics Of Truth. Helmed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) the focus of the later half of the film tends to shift away from the political to the personal and while, due to the nature of the film’s topic, arguments abound as to its factual accuracy and representation, it’s still an interesting watch. (Mark)

Cover imageSource code.
This Sci-Fi thriller sees Jake Gyllenhaal play a soldier who awakens in a strange capsule after a mission goes awry. His only contact with the outside is a video feed from a stony faced Vera Farmiga, who it gradually emerges is his handler in his current mission – to test new technology that allows him to go back in time (for 8-minute long chunks) & occupy the body of a civilian, in the hopes that he can pinpoint the bomber of an commuter train, and thus avert further terrorist acts. Continually thrust into the body of the train passenger he is forced to relive the 8 minutes preceding the explosions over & over while trying to piece together who on the train could be the bomber. ‘Source Code’ is an intriguing 2nd effort from Duncan Jones, after 2009’s Moon, that blends elements from Sci-Fi, Hollywood thrillers, drama & romance. And while it never quite lives up to its initial premise – due to all the juggling between the films mix of genres – it’s still an exciting & entertaining watch, treading similar themes as the Denzel Washington helmed Déjà vu or 12 Monkeys, ending up as a kind of a Sci-Fi take on Groundhog Day or Run Lola Run. (Mark)

Cover imageWhite material.
A truly original film maker, Claire Denis was born in Paris but spent a chunk of time in French African colonies in her childhood, and has often returned there for her movies. For this movie, she revisited this source material with a prominent actress along for the ride (Isabelle Huppert) and has created another powerful movie. Without doubt Denis is one of the most outstanding film makers today, but her movies are neither blockbusters nor typical French art house movies. Her films typically depict people on the edge and the racial tensions between European and African has been a theme in her movies from time to time. The plot of this movie is simple (it’s actually one of the easiest of her movies to follow) but has probably the toughest subject matter. Set in an unnamed French-speaking African country, Maria (Huppert) desperately tries to save her coffee plantation despite the civil war that has broken out around her. She and her family are the only ‘whites’ left and their lives become endangered. The film may raise some questions with viewers… Why don’t they leave? Is this political? Denis, as usual, doesn’t explain or judge. With a constantly moving camera, she just captures the moments of the falling apart. Huppert’s amazing presence is the centre of this harsh, high-tension drama, and made this yet another memorable addition to her long and outstanding career. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe state within.
Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies) plays the British Ambassador to the US in this 6 part UK Mini-Series that, while set in the U.S, features a mostly British cast and very British sensibilities. After a terrorist bombing brings down a plane bound for London, Isaacs finds himself embroiled in a series of political conspiracies, while at the same time a former British soldier is on Death Row in Florida awaiting execution. A myriad of plot strands are all cleverly handled, and there is a great supporting cast with Sharon Gless as the Secretary of Defence, and Lennie James as the soldier on Death Row. Recommended if you enjoyed the UK version of State Of Play. (Mark)

Cover imageThe thick of it. The complete first series.
Hugely entertaining, viciously satiric and full of what is possibly the most swearing in any TV show ever made, ‘The Thick of it’ is the brainchild of writer-director Armando Iannucci and the basis for the 2009 move In the Loop. It focuses on an obscure UK Government Dept. – the Ministry for Social Affairs and Citizenship (DoSAC) – in which epic policy gaffe’s, budget & political crises’, & general incompetence are the byword of the day. With each successive blunder bringing them into the firing range of the PM’s Director of Communications – spin-doctor and hatchet man Malcolm Tucker, whose ferocity & foul mouthed tirades are feared by all. Filmed in fly-on-the-wall doco style it makes The Office seem like a kindergarten, featuring a great ensemble cast, with standout performances from Chris Langham as the hapless Minister Hugh, and Peter Capaldi as the outrageously sweary Tucker. This DVD actually comprises all the episodes of season one & two, with Season three also recently released locally (Mark)

He’d been hassled, threatened, abused, even shot at…but he was, without a doubt, the most laughed at! This ‘part Maori, part Scottish’ irreplaceable William James Te Wehi Taitoko, or easier to pronounce Billy T. James, was and still is our most loved Entertainer of all time. This feature length biopic made for TV’s Sunday Theatre gives us a look into Billy’s private life, and the love of his life, his wife Lynn played by Morgana O’Reilly. ‘A love story among changing cultures in the 70’s and 80’s’. Billy was criticized for the way he portrayed Maori for a laugh. When questioned about the racist humour, as some saw it to be, his response was, “we’re laughing at him laughing at ourselves, that’s not racist, that’s people laughing”. Thank goodness that’s how the majority of NZ saw it too, having a laugh at ourselves. Even on his death bed he was making jokes, he saw a laugh in every, and in any situation; nothing was sacred. I wasn’t sure how I was going to take to some guy playing Billy who wasn’t Billy, but have to say Tainui Tukiwaho did an exceptional job playing Billy especially in the stand-up comedy scenes. It must have been quite an intimidating experience for him taking on this role. In a recent interview about this role, Tainui said it was exciting filming a piece of history and he felt honoured to have had the privilege to walk in this legend’s shoes, even just for a little while. And while we’re on a roll to commemorate, celebrate and remember Billy twenty years after his death ‘Te Movie’ will be out on DVD soon so of course I’ll have to compliment this review/opinion/recommendation with that one as well otherwise it would be like the All Blacks without the haka! And at the risk of being like the RWC, all flash haka’d out, we may be Billy T’d out as well, so watch this space anyway. Love the 70’s & 80’s soundtrack as well! (Ethel)

Staff picks : Film & Television on DVD

Many of our staff are avid cinephiles – here are their latest film and TV recommendations…

Cover imageThe Lincoln lawyer.
After a series of forgettable rom-com’s and pseudo-action movies Matthew McConaughey finally finds a decent role in this adaptation of the Michael Connelly novel, playing Mickey Haller, a lawyer who operates his practice out of a chauffeured Lincoln town car. When he lands the case of a rich real estate heir (Ryan Phillippe) accused of brutally assaulting an escort, he thinks he’s finally hit the money jackpot. In previous roles McConaughey’s charisma usually comes across as glib & facile but in the slightly soiled Haller character he finds a perfect fit for his smooth shtick, as he hustles clients, cuts deals, & manipulates opposing counsel. What follows is an old fashioned legal thriller, full of twists and turns as McConaughey begins to realize that his client is not all he seems to be and that he may be the one being manipulated. Full marks go to all the supporting cast (which includes Marisa Tomei as his ex-wife and fellow lawyer, & William H. Macy as his investigator) all of whom invest their characters with a real vitality. (Mark)

Cover imageJohn Cassavetes: the collection.
John Cassavetes’ first and all improvised movie, Shadows, was made in the same year (1959) Jean-Luc Godard shot Breathless. Both films were equally fresh, bold and ahead of their time. While Godart became one of the biggest names in the movie history, Cassavetes remained an indie iconoclast. However, despite being largely ignored by Hollywood, Cassavetes was undoubtedly a most influential American filmmaker. In Cassavetes’ movies, characters are so real. They talk and move just as they feel, and sometimes even go out of the screen or get too close to the camera (becoming out of focus) – as if the rectangular frame is nonexistent. Cassavetes directed spontaneously in a cinéma vérité style to capture the real feelings of people, and his movies are made up of a sequence of live moments, not of planned and composed scenes. His influences are now mostly seen outside America, and two outstanding Romanian films, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days are great examples. He had a little commercial success (‘Gloria’ is the most notable one) in his later career, but the films in this collection, which he made while facing huge financial difficulties, are treasures that enlarged movies’ horizons. (Shinji)

Cover imageInside job.
Directed by Charles Ferguson, and narrated by Matt Damon, ‘Inside Job’ is a fascinating breakdown of the chaos surrounding the global financial crisis. Beginning with the collapse of Iceland’s banks, Ferguson & Damon trace the history of vigorously pursued financial deregulation, the rise of derivatives trading, and the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, all of which led ultimately to the collapse of several major US financial institutions in 2008, and an unparalleled economic crisis. A lot of complicated financial dealing is explained clearly, and the film has a definite bipartisan feel, as both the Republican & Democratic parties are taken to task for contributing to the deregulation of Wall Street. The film also looks at the impacts on America and the unrealized flow-on effects the crisis would have on the rest of the world, apportions blame to several major Wall Street firms who made huge amounts of money while fuelling the crisis, and examines the overlooked relationship between big business & financial economists. Highly recommended viewing. (Mark)

Cover image The almighty Johnsons.
Life can be tough when your mother is a tree! This is the life of the Johnson Brothers, part Kiwi blokes, part Norse Gods. They have some supernatural powers, but to regain the rest they start a quest to find “The One”. The characters are funny, rude, sad, hopeful, weird and, at times, hopeless. This is a fabulous series and I’m looking forward to series two. (Liz)

Cover imageUnknown .
Based on the fairly obscure short novel Out of my head by French writer Didier van Cauwelaert, ‘Unknown’ stars current B-Movie go-to guy Liam Neeson. Neeson plays Martin Harris, a botanist in Berlin with his wife (Mad Men’s January Jones) to present a paper at a conference. Realising he has left an important bag at the airport he quickly grabs a cab to retrieve it, only to be involved in a traffic accident that leaves him waking from a coma three days later. Attempting to return to his hotel & his wife he finds that not only does his wife claim not to recognise him, but there is another man with her who states that it is he who is in fact ‘Martin Harris’, her husband….The film’s central premise is nothing really original, reminiscent of a lot of the stories of 1940’s pulp fiction writer Cornell Woolrich not to mention the ‘identity/What is really real’ themes of numerous Philip K. Dick short stories & novels; however that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film isn’t enjoyable. Director, Jaume Collet-Serra, is clearly aiming for a slick Euro-thriller take on the 1950s Hollywood films of Alfred Hitchcock, with Neeson in the Jimmy Stewart ‘everyman role’, and he almost pulls it off. Diane Kruger offers some good support as the Gypsy cab driver who helps Neeson out and there are quite a few deft moments that see it rise above the usual thrillers. Neeson is always excellent, but if you’re expecting another variation on Taken the movie is definitely more suspense than action. Overall, better than expected. (Mark)

cover imageHoney .
This is a magical little gem. Set in a beautiful mountain forest in Turkey, it is a story about a young boy, Yusuf, focusing on the relationship with his beloved beekeeper father. Surrounded by magnificent nature, the movie unfolds Yusuf’s rural life quietly and intimately. There are enough dramas in the story, but the film gives the impression that nothing much will happen, because it is depicted in a very subtle way without any frills (and no music as well). Every scene is shot meticulously and with great delicacy. It reminds me of the beautiful European movies I saw in the ’80s such as ‘The Tree of Wooden Clogs’ or ‘Hohenfeuer’. The budding director Semih Kaplanoglu has only 5 movies under his belt so far but has already collected more than 40 awards, and this exquisite movie won the Golden Bear (Best Film) of the Berlin International Film Festival in 2010. It was well-deserved. (Shinji)

Cover imageBored to death. The complete first season.
Jason Schwartzman plays a very nebbish New York magazine writer/novelist who is stuck on his 2nd novel. Depressed after his girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby) leaves him – because he spends too much time smoking pot & drinking wine – he comes across an old copy of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. After immersing himself in the book he decides to place an add on Craigslist advertising himself as an unlicensed Private Investigator, as a way of getting over his doldrums. Soon he’s taking on cases that range from unfaithful boyfriends, to blackmail & missing skateboards, aided by his best friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis) – a cartoonist henpecked by his demanding girlfriend – and his boss George (Ted Danson) – the marijuana obsessed editor of an ‘Esquire’ like magazine. It’s one of those ‘love it or hate it’ shows, as the kind of humour that follows is probably not to everyone’s taste, a kind of sly take on male self-absorption filtered through Raymond Chandler pastiches, but there are some very funny moments and Ted Danson is hilarious… (Mark)

Cover imageThe limits of control.
Jim Jarmusch has a great sense of music. His choices of music for his movies are always intriguing – Tom Waits for Down by Law, Neil Young for ‘Dead Man’, and Broken Flowers made the Ethiopian jazz legend Mulatu Astatke an unexpected star – and for this film, he used Japanese noise-oriented rock band Boris and Sunn 0))). With their dark, ominous sound, a mystery hit-man (Isaach de Bankolé) embarks on a mysterious mission. His mission is never explained to the viewer, only that he needs to use his imagination to accomplish it. He travels in Spain, from Madrid to Seville to Almeria, and meets odd messengers, played by unique actors including Tilda Swinton and John Hurt, one after another. This repetition is musical, I thought. Every character plays variations of the motif, like Ravel’s ‘Bolero’. A beautiful cinema photography by Christopher Doyle is worthy of special mention. Doyle often works with Wong Kar-wai (another filmmaker who has great sense of music) and contributed marvellously for In the Mood for Love and 2046. In the end, the mission is accomplished abruptly (because he used his imagination) and it may puzzle you, but viewers must use their imagination too. For me this is a movie of variations, and Jarmusch shows that artistic expression can be limitless. It’s very Jim Jarmusch after all. (Shinji)

Cover imageStrike back.
Based on the novel by Chris Ryan, Strike Back begins on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq with an SAS Hostage Rescue unit led by Sergeant John Porter (Richard Armitage from Spooks) and Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln from ‘The Walking Dead’) sent to rescue a kidnapped British businessman. During the mission Porter disarms (instead of kills) an Iranian boy wearing a suicide bomb vest, but as the mission ends two of his team are shot and killed, and one is left in a coma. The boy is believed to be the killer, and in the ensuing investigation Porter is blamed and receives a dishonorable discharge. Seven years later, Porter – now estranged from his family – is working as a Security Guard, when the kidnapping of a British journalist gives him an unexpected chance to return to Iraq and discover what really happened 7 years ago. The Six episodes are edited into 3 separate ‘missions’, the Iraq story followed by a mission in Zimbabwe, to break an ex-soldier out of prison after he attempts to assassinate President Mugabe; & the last in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where a computer hacker is responsible for the deaths of American troops by altering missile guidance control systems. High production values (filmed in South Africa) and solid acting from the leads Armitage and Collinson compensate for the sometimes wooden dialogue. More action-focused, with less character development than similar shows such as 24 or Spooks, it nonetheless fills the gap for action fans until the nest season of ‘Spooks’ airs. (Mark)

Staff picks : Film & Television on DVD

Many of our staff are avid cinephiles – here are their latest film and TV recommendations…

Amazon dvd cover. UK Version. The American
George Clooney gives a nuanced performance as the titular character in this adaptation by Anton Corbijn of the novel ‘A very private gentleman’ by Martin Booth. He plays a hit-man who hides out in an Italian town after an attempt on his life, spending his time customizing a gun for another colleague. His boss advises him to lay low, but he gradually begins to fall for a local prostitute he begins seeing. Slow moving with great visuals, it’s definitely not an ‘action’ film, as the movie has a distinctly European feel – almost at times verging on a parody. The motivations of other characters – such as who & why someone is trying to kill Clooney’s character – are only obliquely hinted at, and the whole film seems more of a mood piece/character study. However, it still manages to sustain a palpable degree of tension until it unravels in the third act – which becomes a bit predictable, as Corbijn goes for the ‘anti-Hollywood’ ending, which in itself has become a bit of a cliché. Still, it’s enjoyable enough if you’re after something a bit different. (Mark)

DVD cover Bhowani junction
It is a wonder that the classic films of the forties and fifties have not been adopted as a tool for ‘Social Improvement’ by the political right. After watching this movie you will never again watch a DVD in your pyjamas – lounging or otherwise – and will never let war or revolution see you anything less than immaculately groomed and clad in a crisp white shirt and classic skirt or trousers. Women will not let the cat see them without full make-up, nor men without a close shave and heavily Brycreemed hair. The strict dress and social codes are the complete antithesis of grunge and “anything goes” attitudes of today. It is all rather refreshing. Although this film is very dated it does deal with an interesting time in history – that of imminent Indian Independence – and interesting social issues such as the plight of the Anglo-Indians and the difficulty of cross-cultural relationships. Ava Gardner is captivating as Victoria Jones, a young woman searching for identity in the new India and Stewart Granger equally so as Captain Rodney Savage searching for his. There is plenty of action, light and colour and plenty of glorious India. All in all a good watch and warmly recommended. (Sue)

DVD cover The killer inside me.
Flawed but interesting stab at adapting crime writer Jim Thompson’s seminal novel ‘The Killer Inside Me’ by Michael Winterbottom. Set in small town American South circa the 1950’s, Casey Affleck takes the lead role of Lou Ford, a seemingly polite well adjusted Deputy Sheriff engaged to a local schoolteacher (Kate Hudson). However, a meeting with a prostitute (Jessica Alba) that he is supposed to run out of town provides a catalyst for his re-emerging pathology, and he gradually begins to orchestrate a murderous scheme to gain revenge on a local businessman that he blames for the death of his step-brother. The novel, like a lot of Thompson’s work, is a first person narrative in which the reader gradually becomes aware that the likeable narrator is not all he/she appears to be – and is often completely unhinged – but by then the character has engendered enough sympathy or empathy that you keep reading, no matter how weird & disturbing things get. Thompson’s novels were controversial for their time, and violent, but being published in the 1950’s the majority of the violence and general depravity was implied. Winterbottom, however, decides to push the violence to the forefront of the story, to the extent that it feels exploitative, and specifically during the lengthy drawn out beating of Alba’s character, truly repellent. None of which adds to the viewer’s engagement with the lead character. Affleck also seems too physically slight for the role, his accent off, lacking any of the ‘good old boy’ southern charm of the book’s narrator. But that seems like what Winterbottom was after, a bunch of choices that defy whatever conventional wisdom exists in the making of a ‘post-modern’ neo-noir such as this The overall result is that while some of it works, some of it doesn’t, and it tends to end up in the ‘fascinating but repellent’ category of films. Worth watching if you’re a Thompson fan, or just intrigued, but be warned, the sadomasochistic violence is pretty extreme in parts. (Mark)

DVD cover Somewhere.
A celebrity director makes a movie about a celebrity’s life. This probably makes your expectation high but Sophia Coppola is not a usual director. A bit like ‘Lost in Translation’ it’s a story about a big movie star, who appears to have everything but in fact has nothing, and restores himself after spending a chunk of time with his daughter for the first time. However, in this movie, there is no drama or structure which mainstream movies usually offer. It is subtle and slow-going, and driven by the mood rather than the storyline. This has created some criticism such as ‘nothing happens’, but being stereotypical is the last thing you can expect from Sophia Coppola. She is obviously visual focused and true to her cinematic instinct. She knows what she wants, and that’s why she employed the cinematographer Harris Savides who is known for his works on Gus Van Sant’s ‘Elephant’ and ‘Last Days’. With his camera, she just lets the movie go as if it’s floating clouds in the sky. So, this is a unique, let-it-be movie. Chill out and enjoy. (Shinji)

DVD cover Primer.
‘Primer’ caused a stir when it first came out, winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Made for only $7000, the film focus on 2 young entrepreneurial inventors who work out of a garage. When an experiment goes awry they discover that its side effect has given them the ability to travel back in time several hours, and begin to experiment with their new found technology, initially using it to make a fortune on the stock market. What follows is literally impossible to explain, let alone understand, as ‘Primer’ makes David Lynch seem linear by comparison. But that’s part of its low budget charm. As the inventors discover how to extend the length of time they can travel back to, various future/alternate ‘versions’ of themselves begin doing things that seem to have no explanation…or do they. It’s all completely mind-bending, but fascinating to watch unfold. Recommended if you’re a fan of films like ‘Lost Highway’, ‘Donnie Darko’, ‘Memento’, or ‘Moon’. (Mark)

Cover imageMatariki.
“Contains violence, drug use and offensive language” …not an appealing intro I thought into a movie titled ‘Matariki’ that is, as I know it to be. An abandoned car, a brutally beaten Rugby League star, a dysfunctional couple having a baby, a loner and his beloved dog, and two runaway teenagers. A chain of events and lives although apart are stories moving together to reach a common goal or means to an end. Saying goodbye and starting again. ‘Matariki is when the Maori New Year starts. Planting begins for the new season, a new beginning. It’s a very special time of the year. The film brings together these characters, all looking for a way forward. With new beginnings there has to be goodbyes. We have the Pakeha wife of the beaten Rugby League star who fears his Maori family, Maori custom and protocol will over rule her wishes as his wife. How can there be a compromise and a way forward? The runaways, what are they looking for, where are they going to? And the dysfunctional couple after having their baby, what future does ‘Matariki’ (as she is beautifully named) have? ‘The violence in the film I found very hard to watch, and then there were the heart felt scenes, the most affecting ‘saying goodbye to a brother, a son, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a husband’. Getting past the violence, drug use and offensive language, I thought this was another well made, on a shoe string budget ‘only in New Zealand’ movie. Lastly a few words from the co-writer/director Michael Bennett which pretty much sums up the substance of the film “You can chose to look down at the concrete under your feet, or you can chose to look up at the stars!” (Ethel)

DVD cover Tangled.
Rapunzel with attitude! This will appeal to children and adults alike. The animation is stunning. All the characters have personality to burn and Maximus the horse alone would be worth watching. (Liz)

DVD cover Parks and recreation. Season one.
Quirky comedy from the creators of ‘The Office’ (the US version). Saturday Night Live comedienne Amy Poehler (‘Baby Mama’) stars as a Leslie Knope, a naïve small town Government employee determined to turn a giant ‘pit’ into a new public park. The ‘mockumentary’ style makes it seem a bit derivative at first, but over the course of the season it develops its own style & characters and gets better as it goes along. The supporting characters are all pretty funny, especially Aziz Ansari, as her slack colleague, and Nick Offerman as her deadpan boss, who doesn’t believe in ‘government’ of any kind. (Mark)

DVD cover Let me in.
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) take the two leading roles in this remake of the Swedish film ‘Let the right one in’. Helmed by Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield’) ‘Let Me In’ relocates the action to middle-America in the 80’s, essentially structuring the story of the lonely & bullied Owen (who thinks he has found a friend in his mysterious new neighbour Abby, only to discover she is a vampire frozen in time as a 12 year old girl) essentially same way as the original Swedish movie. Remakes tend to suck as a rule, and it’s hard not to compare the two, but taken on its own merit it’s a pretty good movie – probably more enjoyable if you haven’t seen the original. It’s the small touches that differentiate it from the Swedish film: the unnecessary use of CGI when Abby transforms into a vampire, the less naturalistic leads, the heavier score, more of a focus on the ‘police procedural’ aspect). So while some things don’t work as well, others do work (such as the way the camera never quite focuses on Owen’s mother) and the US version has some nice touches. All in all it lacks the subtlety of the Swedish movie, but that was probably to be expected, and at the end of the day it retains the emotional heart of the original: a belief that friendship can sometime be more important than anything else. (Mark).

Cover imageThe insatiable moon.
This is the film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Mike Riddell about real people and events. Arthur, (Rawiri Paratene) of Whale rider fame, who believes he is the second son of God, and his mentally challenged loyal friends live in a boarding house in posh Ponsonby, managed by Bob (Greg Johnson), who although foul-mouthed and gruff, genuinely loves and cares for them. With threats to close the boarding house down Arthur puts his heavenly credentials into action, only to have his own personal decline into madness realized, and is soon admitted into the psychiatric ward. The film is light-hearted and funny, another New Zealand film made on a shoestring budget with a brilliant cast of NZ talent, kudos to the men who play the ‘undesirable, mentally challenged’ boarders, and Ian Mune as the street bum alcoholic Norm. It’s about people with mental health problems, the discrimination they often face, and what is acceptable to/in society. With strong messages told with great compassion, humanity and humour, there are powerful and thought provoking scenes and performances throughout the movie. A line from the film I found endearing: Norm is asked “What does he think of Arthur?” …his reply “He’s the second Son of God, …or as mad as a chook!” The soundtrack’s heavenly as well. (Ethel)