Category: Recent picks

New DVDs from February

New DVDs for February include the latest season of Game Of Thrones; critically acclaimed new shows such as Elementary, The Americans & Boss; new movies from Richard Curtis & Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón; and modern adaptations of classics, with an update of Henry James & Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare.

Cover imageThe house I live in.
“As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage up on future generations of Americans. In forty years, the War on Drugs has accounted for more than 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever before. Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs. From the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America s longest war – a definitive portrait revealing its profound human rights implications. Beyond simple misguided policy, the film examines how political and economic corruption have fueled the war for 40 years, despite persistent evidence of its moral, economic, and practical failures.” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageRed. 2.
“A very safe sequel bet with a cast of friendly, recognizable, and bankable stars, Red 2 is a breezy romp of global espionage and superhero superspies. In round two, former secret agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is drawn out of retirement (again) by his former cohort Marvin (John Malkovich, acting Malkovich-crazy and loving it) to service a plot that involves a Cold War-era nuclear bomb hidden in Russia and the international effort to retrieve it. Frank is now romantically partnered with RED’s sweet Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker, also a comic delight), who wants to follow him into the fray and turns out to be pretty good at the dangerous game of spycraft. Also returning from not really being retired are the icy MI-6 assassin Victoria (Helen Mirren) and the lusty Russian spy chief Ivan (Brian Cox). Their priceless scene together captures a bucolic picnic where automatic weapons and silk stockings are the main course. Everyone’s motives are purposely muddled, but they all put aside personal grudges and professional kill orders to join forces against the doomsday device. The mechanics of story don’t much matter when the purpose is zingy one-liners and the comic timing is spot on.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageDetachment.
“Still best known for American History X, a film he tried to have his name removed from, director Tony Kaye’s work has remained consistent and interesting ever since. It’s been a lot lower profile too. Detachment is a case in point. Whereas American films about teachers taking on an unruly class in a trouble school generally end with either Oscar nominations or a hit single, Detachment is a lot more serious, and consequently more interesting, about its work. It follows a brilliant teacher, played by Adrien Brody, who goes from school to school as a substitute, rather than committing and getting attached to the one place. That inevitably changes, but the film’s viewpoint on life doesn’t. There’s no gloss here, rather a superbly acted, down to earth drama, that has as much to say about the school system it’s portraying as it does its individual characters. It’s a shame that Detachment got such a low-key cinema release, something reflected in the straightforward disc debut too. There are a few extras here, but nothing that adds a great deal to the package. That’s a pity too, as the film is superb, courageous, and quite brilliantly acted. Brody is as good here as he was in his Oscar-winning turn in The Pianist, and Detachment deserves all the exposure it can get.” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageGame of thrones. The complete third season.
“In the third season of the hit HBO original series based on the bestselling book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. This epic drama is set in the grounded fantasy continent of Westeros, where ambitious men and women of both honor and ill-repute live in a land where summers and winters can last years. In Season 3, family and loyalty will be the overarching themes, and many critical plot points from the first two seasons will come to a violent head, with several major characters meeting cruel fates. While a primary focus continues to be on King’s Landing, where the Lannisters barely held onto power after a savage naval onslaught from Stannis Baratheon, stirrings in the North threaten to alter the overall balance of power in Westeros. Robb Stark, King of the North, will face a major calamity in his efforts to build on his victories over the Lannisters in Season 2, while further north, Mance Rayder (new character) and his huge army of wildlings begin an inexorable march south to scale the Wall. Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen – reunited with her three deadly, fast-maturing dragons – attempts to raise an army of slaves to sail with her from Essos to Westeros, in hopes of eventually overthrowing the Iron Throne.” (From Amazon.co.uk description)

Cover imageBoss. Season one.
“One look at Kelsey Grammer’s glowering, defiant mug on the cover of the Boss: Season One boxed set (with eight episodes spread out over three discs) is all you need to recognize that this is a far cry indeed from his happy days on Frasier and Cheers. Grammer’s Thomas Kane, the mayor of Chicago, is a ruthless, old school pol in the tradition of that city’s Richard J. Daley; “Kane is the city,” as one of his cronies puts it, and by the end of the season, anyone who tries to cross him will have been brought to his knees–sometimes literally–or worse. But Kane is not a man without problems. He’s got a wife (Connie Nielsen) he barely talks to and never sleeps with, an estranged daughter (Hannah Ware) whom he and his wife shunned because her drug problems were a political liability, a host of enemies plotting his downfall, and, worst of all, a condition known as Lewy body, a fatal, untreatable form of dementia that is steadily robbing him of his mental acuity and physical wherewithal. There’s an element of soap opera in all of this; simply keeping track of the sexual escapades of Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner), a duplicitous young Kane protégé, may require a scorecard (nudity and profanity are also abundant). But the political maneuverings are even more compelling, as we see just how treacherous, scandalous, and even murderous Kane and everyone else who lusts for power can be. It’s not a pretty sight.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageAbout time.
“At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers he can travel in time. The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life—so he decides to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend. Sadly, that turns out not to be as easy as you might think. Moving from the Cornwall coast to London to train as a lawyer, Tim finally meets the beautiful but insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams). They fall in love, then an unfortunate time-travel incident means he’s never met her at all. So they meet for the first time again—and again—but finally, after a lot of cunning time traveling, he wins her heart. Tim then uses his power to create the perfect romantic proposal, to save his wedding from the worst best-man speeches and to save his best friend from professional disaster. But as his unusual life progresses, Tim finds out that his unique gift can’t save him from the sorrows and ups and downs that affect all families, everywhere. There are great limits to what time travel can achieve, and it can be dangerous, too.” (Adapted from Amazon.com description)

Cover imageElementary. The first season.
“Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is a recovering addict who meets Joan Watson (Lucy Lui) as his ‘sober companion’. Initially their relationship is strictly professional, and somewhat frosty, but they grow to understand and work with one another, eventually forming a friendship and partnership. Together they assist Captain Gregson and Detective Bell of the NYPD, where Holmes’ observational abilities and deductive talent unravel a series of complicated cases. Alongside his police work, Sherlock struggles with a past he left behind in London involving an ex-girlfriend Irene Adler, a ‘nemesis’ in Moriarty, and an absent father.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageGravity.
“Dr. Ryan Stone is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky. On a seemingly routine spacewalk, the shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left, and the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageWhat Maisie knew.
“Based on a contemporary interpretation of the classic Henry James novel, and set in present day New York City, the story centres on Maisie, an unwitting six-year-old girl enmeshed in the bitter divorce of her mother, a rock and roll icon, and her father, a charming but distracted art dealer. Darkly comic and emotionally compelling, What Maisie Knew is an evocative portrayal of the chaos and complexity of a modern marriage.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe Americans. The complete first season.
“Secrets can be deadly in this suspenseful thriller about undercover Russian spies in 1980s Washington D.C. Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings seem to be a typical suburban couple, but they’re actually lethal KGB agents plotting to bring down America. As the Cold War escalates, Philip and Elizabeth must take extreme measures to continue their mission to keep their true identities hidden. But when an FBI agent movies in across the street, they become ensnared in a pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageWolf children / a Studio Chizu film.
“Hana was a student before she was a mother. Then she met a man, who turned out to be a wolf, and together they built a family. Hana loved her mate fiercely, but fate took him from her, leaving her alone with two unusual kids she didn’t know how to raise. This is a mother’s journey. Teach your children to chase their dreams – and smile through the tears as they disappear into the world in search of who they will become. Hana wasn’t always a mother, but it was always what she was meant to be.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageMuch ado about nothing.
“Joss Whedon’s sexy and contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s classic comedy about the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a sensual, tragic and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.” (From Syndetics summary)

New DVDs for January

New DVDs for January include the third instalment in Vin Diesel’s Chronicles of Riddick; the American feature debut of Park Chan-wook (of Oldboy fame); new Norwegian TV show Hellfjord; the award winning & critically acclaimed Blue Jasmine; and the new documentary on reclusive author J.D Salinger…

Cover imageStoker.
“Stoker is a masterful psychodrama that teems with unsettling vibrations that hark directly back to Alfred Hitchcock, but also to the wave of contemporary cinema that has been surging in South Korea for the past decade. It is the first American feature by the auteur Park Chan-wook, whose widely seen trilogy of “revenge” films, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance, paved the way for the meticulous craftsmanship of Stoker. The inspiration for Wentworth Miller’s haunting script was Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, though Stoker makes for an altogether creepier tale of a mysterious uncle, his melancholy niece, and the deadly interplay of family secrets slowly revealed. Park’s delicate weaving of style transforms the material into a narrative symphony, with thematic elements conveyed in the smallest details of composition, art direction, and graceful cinematography. Mia Wasikowska is India Stoker, the teenage niece who just lost her father to a violent auto accident. It’s a complete surprise to India and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) when his handsome younger brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) shows up at the brooding family mansion (itself a character that is integral to the story). Charlie’s enigmatic smirk signals both calm and danger, and his presence is a catalyst that ratchets up the emotional turmoil India and Evelyn are already experiencing. India senses the danger even as she is drawn to Charlie, and her mother’s repressed sexuality turns into a bonfire under his mysterious charm. He tempts and teases them both in an expertly choreographed dance of menace that fuels the rage building in India and puts further pressure on her mother’s cataclysmic despair. To say that there are plot twists is an understatement for a movie whose elegant creativity is the biggest twist of all.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageRiddick.
“Pitch Black, the first collaboration between writer-director David Twohy and Vin Diesel, stands as a model genre movie, presenting an ingeniously taut narrative while also giving Diesel ample room to develop an antihero for the ages. The success of that film led to the unexpectedly baroque The Chronicles of Riddick, which greatly expanded the scope, but to somewhat diminished effect. The duo’s third go-around wisely returns to the roots of the character, delivering a small-scale, gleefully vulgar film that occasionally resembles a berserk sci-fi version of Man vs. Wild. Featuring some way-cool critters and no shortage of gallows humor, it knows exactly what it is: half B-movie, half awesome ’70s van art. Quickly dispensing with the ornate mythology of the last installment (respect to Karl Urban for returning, however briefly), the story finds Riddick left for dead, on a planet where absolutely everything wants to eat him. As he begins his quest to dominate the local flora and fauna, matters are complicated by the appearance of two teams of bounty hunters (including Katee Sackhoff and the gargantuan Dave Bautista) searching for his chromed dome. Twohy keeps things mean and reasonably lean throughout, giving the squabbling mercenaries some enjoyably hissable personality traits while hurtling toward an intense siege finale.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Syndetics book coverHellfjord.
Hellfjord is the story of urban police officer Salmander, a second generation Pakistani immigrant, who after accidentally killing his police horse in front of thousands of children gets promptly dismissed from the police force. But due to a loophole in his civil service contract, he must serve out a 3-month notice period. His captain banishes him to Hellfjord a tiny fishing community in the far north of Norway. On arrival, things just go from bad to worse for Salmander. Hellfjord is populated by simple-minded people with an average age of 67, only interested in keeping to themselves. But when Salmander scratches the surface, he discovers a secret that will turn Hellfjord upside down. Maybe even inside out.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe to do list.
“A winning lead performance by Aubrey Plaza and a script that doesn’t treat its characters or its audience like morons help buoy director-writer Maggie Carey’s The To Do List. The setting is mid-’90s Boise, Idaho, where Plaza’s Brandy Klark is a model student at her high school: senior valedictorian, perfect grades, headed to Georgetown in the fall. She’s also a bitchy, bossy busybody and, worst of all, a virgin. Weary of the nonstop torrent of teasing her “condition” has inspired on the part of her classmates, friends, and older sister (Rachel Bilson), Brandy revises her to-do list until it consists solely of sexual acts, many of which she can’t even define (most are also far too raunchy to print on a family website–what the movie lacks in nudity, it more than makes up for in profane language), that she plans to engage in before heading off to college. Her summer job as a lifeguard trainee at the local public pool provides plenty of candidates to help her on her quest; although she fully expects to be deflowered by the studly, guitar-playing Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), she’s only too eager to use Cameron (Johnny Simmons), the one guy who actually cares about her, and various others to check off the other items on her list. Brandy approaches all of this as if it were a science project, with a combination of innocence and aggressiveness that results in multiple awkward situations. But this girl is no doormat; she’s a doofus, but a smart one, and she handles all the hazing and humiliation with admirable aplomb. And therein lies the film’s principal appeal. The script, while often amusing, doesn’t condescend, and it even offers some genuine, if obvious, insight into high schoolers and the many problems and pressures they face. Heck, even Brandy’s parents are treated with some dignity.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageBlue Jasmine.
“After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again.
Jasmine arrives in San Francisco in a fragile mental state, her head reeling from the cocktail of anti-depressants she’s on. While still able to project her aristocratic bearing, Jasmine is emotionally precarious and lacks any practical ability to support herself. She disapproves of Ginger’s boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), who she considers another “loser” like Ginger’s ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). Ginger, recognizing but not fully understanding her sister’s psychological instability, suggests that she pursue interior design, a career she correctly intuits that Jasmine won’t feel is beneath her. In the meantime, Jasmine begrudgingly accepts work as the receptionist in a dentist’s office, where she attracts the unwanted attentions of her boss, Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg). Feeling that her sister might be right about her poor taste in men, Ginger starts seeing Al (Louis C.K.), a sound engineer whom she considers as a step up from Chili. Jasmine sees a potential lifeline when she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a diplomat who is quickly smitten with her beauty, sophistication and style. Jasmine’s flaw is that she derives her worth from the way she’s perceived by others, while she herself is blind to what is going around her. Delicately portrayed by a regal Cate Blanchett, Jasmine earns our compassion because she is the unwitting instrument of her own downfall.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)

Cover imageBad education. Series one.
Bad Education, written by and starring Jack Whitehall, follows Alfie Wickers the worst teacher to ever (dis)grace the British Education System, and a bigger kid than the pupils he teaches. Abbey Grove School is populated by some of the weirdest teachers you could ever meet: Fraser (Mathew Horne) the hair-brained Headmaster who longs to be down with the kids, Miss Gulliver (Sarah Solemani) the biology teacher with a heart of gold but perhaps a dash too much openness and honesty, Miss Mollinson (Leila Hoffman) the happily swinging Head of Maths who won’t let her hip-replacement get in the way and Deputy Headmistress Miss Pickwell (Michelle Gomez) who displays all the charm and sensitivity of a Third Reich Dominatrix. Alfie’s class is Form K, a bunch of misfits that have been written off by the rest of the school, but Alfie can’t help but see a bit of himself in them. This is about a class of kids and their teacher’s quest to get through life and get the best results with the minimum amount of effort possible. Sadly it’s not an equation that always adds up. From disastrous parents’ evenings to cringe-worthy sex-education lessons to life-threatening self-defence classes to school elections full of dirty tricks and a school trip to see a rhino-pig; Bad Education is school life as you’ve never seen it before.” (From Amazon.co.uk description)

Cover imageThe hobbit : an unexpected journey.
“It took some time for Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson to return to Middle Earth, but the wait was very much worth it. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey starts off by playing strongly to its links to the previous adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, before setting off on an adventure of its own. The first of three films based on The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey isn’t a fast film to get going, but it does spent quality time introducing its key characters. Most moviegoers are more than familiar with Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf of course, but the collection of dwarves and Martin Freeman’s take on Bilbo Baggins are all brought together, and the adventure ensues. It’s a journey that’s punctuated by terrifically orchestrated action sequences, a swirling score, and lavish production design. Furthermore, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has one or two real standout moments contained within its running time, not least when we finally get reunited with Gollum. The sequence where Bilbo Baggins and Gollum come face to face is as good as anything Jackson put on screen in the Lord Of The Rings films.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe human scale.
“50 % of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050 this will increase to 80%. Life in a mega city is both enchanting and problematic. Today we face peak oil, climate change, loneliness and severe health issues due to our way of life. But why? The Danish architect and professor Jan Gehl has studied human behavior in cities through 40 years. He has documented how modern cities repel human interaction, and argues that we can build cities in a way, which takes human needs for inclusion and intimacy into account. The Human Scale meets thinkers, architects and urban planners across the globe. It questions our assumptions about modernity, exploring what happens when we put people into the center of our planning.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageSalinger.
Salinger is a 2013 feature length documentary looking into the private world of J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger features interviews with 150 subjects including Salinger’s friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle who have never spoken on the record before as well as previously unseen film footage, photographs and other material. The film is the first work to get beyond the Catcher in the Rye author’s meti­culously built up wall: his childhood, painstaking work methods, marriages, private world and the secrets he left behind after his death in 2010.” (From Syndetics Summary)

New DVDs for November

New DVDs for November include new TV Shows Arrow, Scandal, Major Crimes, Alphas along with the second season of popular Danish show Borgen; while films include big budget epics like World War Z and Man of Steel, and nuanced character dramas such as Mud, Disconnect and Tiny Furniture.

Cover imageArrow. The complete first season.
“After being marooned for five years on a remote island, billionaire Oliver Queen returns home with a mysterious agenda and a lethal set of new skills that he uses in a war on crime in this hard-hitting action series. After suffering unimaginable ordeals on the island, the Oliver returns to Starling City a new man — determined to right the wrongs of his father and sworn to bring justice to those who’ve corrupted his city. But Oliver finds his crusade complicated by his friends and family. Overjoyed by his miraculous return, the Queen family nevertheless still trades on secrets that conflict with the Arrow’s agenda. Oliver’s return also affects his best friend, Tommy Merlyn, who will ultimately travel down a dark path; and the love of his life, Laurel Lance, who must somehow forgive Oliver before she can ever love him again. A dark and dangerous crime procedural with edge, intrigue and action, Oliver’s story will be told from three perspectives: the Queen family, Oliver’s harrowing ordeal on the island and the Arrow’s adventures in Starling City.” (From Amazon.com description)

Cover imageMan of steel.
Man of Steel, producer Christopher Nolan’s attempt to give the hero a Dark Knight retrofit succeeds in giving the character a fresh start, courtesy of both a gargantuan sense of scale, and Henry Cavill’s winningly unironic central performance. Devotees of Christopher Reeve’s legendary mild-mannered portrayal may find themselves missing the sequences of quiet time from the previous films (the steadily escalating plot spares little time for cats stuck in trees), but this still manages to uphold the gee-whiz qualities that made people buy the comics in the first place. For all of the stunning bangs and gigantic sonic booms, its greatest achievement may be in making Superman’s fundamental squareness feel like a virtue again. Nolan and director Zack Snyder (Watchmen) have kept the basic elements of the origin story–infant survivor of an alien world comes to Earth, crash lands in Kansas, grows up big and really, really strong–while putting a spin on virtually all of the details. Bumps aside, however, this still stands as a tremendous first step in a new direction, with a final line that suggests even better things may be in store.” (Adapted from Amazon.com description)

cover imageWorld War Z.
“Few monsters lend themselves better to allegory than the zombie. World War Z, the mega-scale adaptation of Max Brooks’s richly detailed faux-historical novel, presents a zombie apocalypse on a ginormous level never seen before on film. Somehow, however, the sheer size of the scenario, coupled with a distinct lack of visceral explicitness, ends up blunting much of the metaphoric impact. Director Marc Forster and his team of screenwriters (including J. Michael Straczynski and Lost‘s Damon Lindelof) have kept the basic gist of the source material, in which an unexplained outbreak results in a rapidly growing army of the undead. Unlike the novel’s sprawling collection of unrelated narrators, however, the film streamlines the plot, following a retired United Nations Investigator (Brad Pitt) who must leave his family behind in order to seek out the origins of the outbreak. While the introduction of a central character does help connect some of Brooks’s cooler ideas, it also has the curious effect of narrowing the global scale of the crisis. By the time of the third act, in which Pitt finds himself under siege in a confined space, the once epic scope has decelerated into something virtually indistinguishable from any other zombie movie. Even if it’s not a genre changer, though, World War Z still has plenty to distinguish itself.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageMajor crimes. The complete first season.
“Viewers bereft at the demise of The Closer will find plenty to like about Major Crimes, another top-notch cop drama from TNT. A significant number of the cast members from the earlier show are back, but there are notable changes as well, most notably the replacement of Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda Johnson by Captain Sharon Raydor (Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell). Hers is not an easy transition. Coming from the Los Angeles Police Department’s dreaded “Force Investigation Division,” Raydor, who also appeared in various Closer episodes, is distrusted and outright disliked by most of her new colleagues, especially old-school lieutenant Louie Provenza. This internecine conflict is a distraction, to say the least, as Raydor is obliged to spend much of the season trying to win the others over, all while working some nasty murder cases (involving kidnapping, gunrunning, human trafficking, military veterans-turned-robbers, a serial rapist, and other unsavory business). What’s more, there’s the bigger issue of the justice system itself: with the city of Los Angeles having major money problems, the police are not-so-gently encouraged to cut deals with criminals so as to preclude expensive trials, a mandate that does not sit well with the rank and file.” (From Amazon.com description)

Cover imageMud.
“Matthew McConaughey’s career trajectory has followed some strange currents, ranging from “next big dramatic thing” to “romantic comedy fixture” to, most recently, “killing supporting actor.” One of the beauties of the superb Mud is how it allows the actor to tap into every aspect of his persona, creating a figure who drifts between hero and rogue with mesmerizing irregularity. His presence, along with a slew of talented character actors (including Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, and the great Joe Don Baker), help make this movie feel somehow both lived-in and mythic. Set deep within the Arkansas delta, the story follows two boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) exploring an island in the Mississippi river while searching for a rumored abandoned boat. Once there, they find Mud (McConaughey), a hermit who claims to be hiding out until he can be reunited with the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon). As the pair help Mud repair his boat and plan his escape, they begin to receive unsettling hints that there may be much more to the story. Writer-director Jeff Nichols, whose earlier Take Shelter offered up a terrific blend of the mystical and mundane, proves to be equally surefooted here, delivering a clear-eyed boy’s adventure story with some tantalizing hints ofh Southern Gothic creeping in around the edges.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Covers imageAlphas. Season one.
“Strong casting helps to set apart the science fiction series Alphas, about a crime-solving group of highly gifted individuals, from a slew of familiar pop culture antecedents, which in turn buoys the chances for a follow-up to this first-season set. The show’s core premise feels as if it was produced directly from a development session–it’s X-Men and Heroes meets the CSI franchise–but the presence of film actor David Strathairn as the Alphas’ neurologist mentor helps to anchor the series in a plausibly dramatic foundation. Ryan Cartwright, as a high-functioning autistic youth who can produce and process electronic communication with his mind, and Laura Mennell, whose psychic powers can bend others to her will, also lend considerable credence to the material, and it’s to the credit of series cocreator Zak Penn (screenwriter, X-Men: The Last Stand and The Incredible Hulk) that the effects of wielding such abilities, which are often debilitating in a variety of ways, are given equal screen time. Such elements help to retain interest in the show when episodes drift towards formulaic superhero/crime tropes, and undoubtedly helped revive network interest in a second season.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageDeath in paradise / created by Robert Thorogood.
“A warm, light-hearted eight-part detective series set against a stunning Caribbean island backdrop. Sent to the tiny island of Saint-Marie to solve an impossible murder, quintessentially British cop Richard Poole is a total fish out of water, he hates sun, sea and sand. Awaiting Richard is a ramshackle station and a very different type of policing. His new partner, DS Camille Bordey is instinctive, feisty and brilliant, and the rest of the team certainly have their own unique way of doing things. Though Richard would never admit it, they make the perfect team. With a new mind-boggling mystery to solve every episode, Death in Paradise will intrigue and tantalise.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageTiny furniture.
“22-year-old Aura (Lena Dunham) returns home from university to her artist mother’s Tribeca loft with: a useless film theory degree, 357 hits on her YouTube page, a boyfriend who’s left her to find himself, a dying hamster and her tail between her legs. Luckily, her train wreck childhood best friend never left home, the restaurant down the block is hiring and ill-advised romantic options options lurk around every corner. Aura quickly careens into her old/new life. Surrounded on all sides by what she could become, Aura just wants someone to tell her who she is. Lena Dunham wrote, directed and stars in this knockout existential comedy, presenting a wildly imaginative take on romantic humiliation and post-university confusion. Tiny Furniture was shot in Dunham’s family home, starring Dunham’s mother (photographer Laurie Simmons) and her precocious sister Grace as Nadine.’ (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageBorgen. Season two.Borgen. Season 2
“Birgitte Nyborg has been Denmark s Prime Minister for two years–years that have taken their toll on her private life. She must now balance her role of PM with that of divorcée and single-mother. Politically, she has succeeded in earning the respect of both her political allies and enemies, but tensions between parties are mounting. Denmark s participation in international wars as well as certain central domestic policy issues are driving a wedge through the parliament and Birgitte is increasingly finding herself having to make shaky compromises. Season two sees the return of journalist Katrine Fønsmark who, having moved to the Ekspres, finds herself being morally and ethically challenged by the ruthless editor-in-chief, Michael Laugesen. Meanwhile, Kasper Juul, who continues to work as Birgitte Nyborg s spin doctor, struggles to suppress his inner demons as his past threatens to intrude on his relationship with new girlfriend, Lotte.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageScandal. The complete first season.
“When trouble rears its ugly head, headline-making, life-ruining trouble, there’s only one person to call: the legendary Olivia Pope. With her steadfast rule of always trusting her gut, Olivia leads an expert team of crisis management consultants skilled at making even the most sordid, salacious scandals disappear. But as these self-proclaimed “gladiators in suits” begin to reveal the cracks in their armor, will the masters of damage control be able to control the damage in their own personal lives?” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageDisconnect.
“A couple is drawn into a dangerous situation when their secrets are exposed online. A widowed ex-cop struggles to raise a mischievous son who cyber-bullies a classmate. An ambitious journalist sees a career-making story in a teen that performs on an adult-only site. They are strangers, neighbors and colleagues and their stories collide in this riveting dramatic thriller about ordinary people struggling to connect in today’s wired world.” (From Syndetics summary)

New DVDs for October

New DVDs for October include an adaptation of Pete Dexter’s novel ‘The Paperboy’; environmental photographer James Balog’s documentary on the Arctic melt; Baz Luhrmann’s over-the-top envisioning of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel ‘The Great Gatsby’; the TV debut of Kerry Greenwood’s 1920′s heroine Phryne Fisher; and the new Robert Redford thriller…

Cover singerThe paperboy.
“Directed by Oscar nominee, Lee Daniels (Precious), The Paperboy follows two brothers: Ward (Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike), a reporter for the esteemed daily newspaper, The Miami Times, and Jack (Zac Efron, The Lucky One), a recent college dropout. When Ward shows up with his writing partner, Yardley (David Oyelowo, Lincoln), to investigate a story, Ward asks Jack to accompany them as their driver. Ward is in town because a local woman named Charlotte (Nicole Kidman, Stoker) has convinced them that Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack, Grosse Point Blank), an unsavory alligator hunter from the backwoods, was wrongly convicted at a trial that took place near their hometown. As the investigation unravels, it becomes clear that these brothers are on a journey that is filled with betrayal. The only thing that remains constant is that there is this strange, beautiful woman who falls in love with killers and her passion could be everyone’s downfall.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageChasing ice.
“In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk. Chasing Ice is the story of one man s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the worlds changing glaciers… It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe great Gatsby.
“Baz Luhrmann writes, directs and produces this adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. Set in the 1920s, the story follows aspiring writer Nick Carraway (Maguire) as he moves to New York and becomes intrigued by his neighbour Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio)’s lavish lifestyle and mysterious past. As Nick finds himself caught up in the world of the wealthy, he witnesses romantic entanglement and betrayal. Gatsby’s true nature is slowly exposed and his involvement with old flame Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan) ultimately leads to tragedy. The soundtrack was overseen by Jay-Z and features music from, amongst others, Beyoncé, André 3000, Will.i.am, Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine, as well as Jay-Z himself.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageMiss Fisher’s mystery mysteries. The complete series 1.
“Get ready to immerse yourself in the opulent, exciting world of Australias leading lady detective Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) in ‘Miss Fisher’s Mystery Mysteries’. Phryne (pronounced Fry-nee) is a glamorous and thoroughly modern woman of the 1920s. Our lady sleuth sashays through the back lanes and jazz clubs of Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl handled pistol and her dagger sharp wit. Leaving a trail of admirers in her wake, our heroine makes sure she enjoys every moment of her lucky life. But behind the faade of elegance and charm are the scars of the past which drive Phryne to find justice for those who cant help themselves and to pursue the truth of her own dark history. Also stars Nathan Page, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Ashleigh Cummings and Miriam Margolyes. Based on the novels of Australian author Kerry Greenwood.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe odd life of Timothy Green.
“To purge their grief at failing to conceive, Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim (Joel Edgerton, Animal Kingdom) write down all the attributes they wish for in a child, put them in a box, and bury them in the garden. That night, a boy smeared with dirt, with leaves sprouting from his legs, appears in their house and says his name is Timothy. Thus begins a fable that’s sort of about uniqueness and conformity, as Timothy’s magical nature proceeds to hearten the lives of everyone he encounters–including a young girl with her own secret, the stern woman who owns their town’s pencil factory (Dianne Wiest), and Jim’s gruff, emotionally distant dad (David Morse, The Green Mile). What the movie is really about is Cindy and Jim learning to be better parents by working through their own childhood issues (Cindy always felt overshadowed by her sister; Jim felt abandoned by his father)…The actors are charming, the movie’s visual gloss is very pretty, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green somehow maintains just enough awareness of life’s difficulties to keep from being unbearably cloying.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe loneliest planet.
“Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal, Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Motorcycle Diaries) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg, Campfire, Yossi & Jagger) are young, in love and engaged to be married. The summer before their wedding, while backpacking in the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia, they hire a local guide to lead them on a camping trek. Venturing into the stunning wilderness, the trio’s peaceful adventure takes a dark turn as a subtle rift opens between Alex and Nica, quickly widening until it threatens to undo everything the couple believed about each other and themselves. Along with their ever-present guide, the young travelers find themselves journeying not only into a landscape that’s both overwhelmingly open and frighteningly closed, but also into the farthest depths of their own understanding. A unique examination of the parameters of love, THE LONELIEST PLANET is a tale of betrayal, identity, failure, and the ambiguities of forgiveness.” (From Amazon.com description)

Cover imageHyde Park on Hudson.
“In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Academy Award nominee Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) host the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson, in upstate New York – the first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the Royals are desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR’s domestic establishment, as wife, mother, and mistresses all conspire to make the royal weekend an unforgettable one. Seen through the eyes of Daisy (Academy Award nominee Laura Linney), Franklin’s neighbor and intimate, the weekend will produce not only a special relationship between two great nations, but, for Daisy–and through her, for us all–a deeper understanding of the mysteries of love and friendship.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe call.
“Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin star in this thriller in which a woman races against time to prevent a serial killer from taking another victim. Emergency services telephone operator Jordan Turner (Berry) answers a call from teenager Leah Templeton (Evie Thompson), who is trying to evade the clutches of a murdererous man (Michael Eklund). When their conversation is disconnected, Jordan calls Leah back but the ring of the phone alerts the killer to the girl’s whereabouts and he subsequently takes her life. Six months later, Jordan is still struggling to come to terms with what happened but soon finds herself facing a similar situation, with the killer this time after another teenage girl, Casey Welson (Breslin). Can Jordan save Casey from meeting the same fate as the previous caller?” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe company you keep.
“Robert Redford brings his weathered but still shimmering charisma to The Company You Keep. Redford (who also directed) plays Nick Sloan, a ’60s radical gone underground after being accused of murder. When his identity is revealed by cynical muckraking reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), Sloan vanishes again. But this time, something makes Shepard think that Sloan isn’t seeking a new identity… he’s seeking to prove his innocence. The Company You Keep is ridiculously star studded–the supporting cast includes older superstars like Julie Christie and Nick Nolte; established character actors like Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Root, and Brendan Gleeson; and rising younger actors like Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick, and Brit Marling. Mostly these are brief appearances, almost cameos, though Susan Sarandon makes her one scene, as another former radical who’s turning herself in, shine…The movie aspires to be a thinking person’s thriller, but there’s no suspense; no one will actually think that Redford might be guilty, or that LaBeouf won’t turn out to have a heart after all.’ (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

New DVDs in June, featuring Cumberbatch, Hitchcock, Pukekohe & costume drama

Need some new viewing material? New to our DVD shelves in June are the new biopics of Alfred Hitchcock & Abraham Lincoln; tsunami drama ‘The Impossible’; adaptations of classics from Tolstoy & Ford Maddox Ford; and the screenwriting debut of British rapper Ben Drew… Plus, Benedict Cumberbatch in historical drama “Parade’s End”. Have a browse!

Cover imageLincoln.
“As with the great John Ford (Young Mr. Lincoln) before him, it would be out of character for Steven Spielberg to construct a conventional, cradle-to-grave portrait of a historical figure. In drawing from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, the director instead depicts a career-defining moment in the career of Abraham Lincoln (an uncharacteristically restrained Daniel Day-Lewis). With the Civil War raging, and the death toll rising, the president focuses his energies on passage of the 13th Amendment. Even those sympathetic to the cause question his timing, but Lincoln doesn’t see the two issues as separate, and the situation turns personal when his son, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), chooses to enlist rather than to study law. While still mourning the loss of one son, Mary (Sally Field) can’t bear to lose another. Playwright Tony Kushner, who adapted the screenplay, takes a page from the procedural handbook in tracing Lincoln’s steps to win over enough representatives to abolish slavery, while simultaneously bringing a larger-than-life leader down to a more manageable size…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe impossible.
“There’s little point pretending that The Impossible is an easy film to watch. It simply isn’t. As haunting a piece of cinema as you’re likely to see with a 12 certificate attached, it’s the story of a family who take a holiday to Thailand. Headed up by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, said family’s life is turned upside down by the horrific tsunami that devastated the region back in 2004. Punches simply aren’t pulled here. Based on true events, The Impossible has changed some of the details, but not lessened any of the impact. The tsunami itself is stunningly realised on screen, but it’s the drama afterwards, and the tragedy, that sticks heavily in the mind. It’s not a relentlessly downbeat film, with some extraordinary things to relate about the human spirit, but it is one that’s inevitably very emotional… It’s not the kind of film for a Friday night in front of the telly, but it is one that demands to be seen…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThis is 40.
“Director Judd Apatow gets the Zeitgeist just right in the low-key but truly funny comedy This Is 40. This Is 40 is billed as a “sort-of sequel” to Knocked Up and Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann star in both as a happily married couple. In This Is 40, both Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) turn 40, which sets off a small but irreversible midlife crisis for both. Luckily, the two have a pretty privileged and happy life. It’s as though they don’t even truly know how to have a midlife crisis, yet it’s somehow expected. There are a lot of genuine laughs in This Is 40, many bordering on bad taste–but still hilarious. Pete’s struggle with hemorrhoids is one of those movie jokes you know you shouldn’t laugh at, but you do. The answer to the question “Will Pete and Debbie and their family still be cool as they get older?” is probably never at issue, but watching the two actors, who have tremendous chemistry, bounce off each other during their birthday week really is funny. Adding to the merriment is the stellar supporting cast, including Megan Fox, Graham Parker (yes, the rocker), Lena Dunham (Girls), Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, and Albert Brooks, who truly elevate This Is 40 to a genius ensemble experience. If This Is 40, sign us up now!…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageSightseers.
“Contentious? Definitely. Suitably for a family audience? Most definitely not. One of the funniest, most violent and well rounded British movies of recent times? Very much so. For his third film behind the camera, Sightseers, director Ben Wheatley brings together Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who developed the two lead characters and script, and sends them on a sightseeing holiday around Britain. It’s a trip taking in seemingly tacky, yet genuinely interesting looking attractions that the two middle-aged lovebirds visit, yet there soon comes something of a twist. For as the holiday progresses, so does the bodycount, as Oram’s Chris finds ways of dealing with the people who tend to get on his nerves. Litterbugs, snobs, Daily Mail readers: they all find their way into the annoyances of Chris…. It’s a frequently hilarious film, yet not afraid to shock, so as not to lessen the impact of the violent acts contained within it…. Highly recommended…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageill manors.
“He may be better known in some quarters as hip-hop musician Plan B, but Ben Drew opened up a fresh career for himself as a movie director with his confident debut, Ill Manors. Drew also wrote the script for this crime drama, which follows the lives of eight characters across seven days in a violence-infested London. That’s a lot to balance for an established director, which makes Drew’s achievement with Ill Manors all the more impressive. He juggles intertwining stories with real confidence, and finds interesting angles on themes that have been explored many times before in cinema. It’s not an easy film to watch at times, mainly because of its refusal to flinch, but it is a very impressive one….A strong debut from a real talent…’ (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imagePolisse.
“A sprawling blend of no-nonsense police work and gallows humor, this commendably messy drama captures the cop’s lot in life with a flair and intelligence that recalls the best television procedurals, to say nothing of the legendary novels of Joseph Wambaugh. Based on actual case files, the film follows the squad members of the Parisian Child Protection Unit as they attempt to balance out the grim realities of their job with the fractal implosions of their personal lives. As their case files boil over with heartbreaking instances of abducted infants and neglectful parents (and worse), matters are further complicated by the appearance of a naive photographer assigned by the higher-ups to put a positive gloss on things. Director-cowriter-performer Maïwenn, a Luc Besson protégé (she was the blue Babar-ish opera singer in The Fifth Element), does a terrific job at keeping her narrative’s various plates in the air, shifting from the horrifically matter-of-fact to the organically goofy with aplomb….The last few moments may teeter into sobby melodrama, but for viewers with strong constitutions, the film’s overall balancing act is really something to see. Fans of The Wire, get in line…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageParade’s end.
“A triumphant adaptation of a surprisingly little-known text, the BBC’s sumptuous staging of Parade’s End, the work of Ford Madox Ford, rightly earned no shortage of plaudits on its first transmission. Many of those were aimed in the direction of Sherlock star Benedict Cumbertbatch, who takes one of the leading roles, yet this first rate Edwardian-set period drama has plenty else about it, too…. The story itself sees Cumberbatch as the aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, married to Hall’s Sylvia. Their life as they know it, already threatened by the shadow of World War I, faces further disruption when a young suffragette by the name of Adelaide arrives. From there, a perhaps inevitable love triangle develops, one that’s played out tremendously well. Parade’s End certainly proves to be gripping drama…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageAnna Karenina.
“By filming Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel as a series of theater pieces that play out across stages and catwalks, Joe Wright extracts Anna Karenina from the dusty pages of history. In her third collaboration with the filmmaker, Keira Knightley portrays the St. Petersburg aristocrat as a woman who loves her son, Sergei, more than her husband, Alexei Karenin (Jude Law). On a trip to Moscow, she meets Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), whose Snidely Whiplash mustache spells trouble, even as his sky-blue eyes prove impossible to resist. Wright contrasts their passionate union with the less cataclysmic concerns of Anna’s sister-in-law, Dolly (Boardwalk Empire’s Kelly Macdonald), whose capacity for forgiveness puts Alexei to shame, and Levin (Harry Potter’s Domhnall Gleeson), who never gives up on Dolly’s sister, Kitty (Alicia Vikander), even after she rejects him in hopes of a more glamorous future. When the affair between Anna and Vronsky becomes public, Tolstoy’s antiheroine risks losing everything, but as readers know: she just can’t help herself…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageHitchcock.
“When it was first announced that Anthony Hopkins was to take on the role of Alfred Hitchcock in a movie co-starring Helen Mirren, the immediate assumption was that awards, somewhere down the line, would follow. They didn’t, though, and Hitchcock got lost in the midst of a busy Oscar race. Rediscovering it on disc, however, and there’s no shortage of things to like in director Sacha Gervasi’s interesting, diverting film.
Hitchcock centres its story around the making of the director’s masterpiece, Psycho, and it’s through this that Gervasi touches on the many qualities and frailties behind Alfred Hitchcock’s public persona. The film explores, too, his marriage to his wife Alma, played by Mirren, and where she fits into the Psycho jigsaw. Hers is not an insignificant contribution. In truth, Hitchcock is an uneven film, and a surprisingly unambitious one in terms of the story that it wants to tell. But it does still have plenty going for it, not least the strength of its acting ensemble. Hopkins is excellent in the title role, and Helen Mirren too emerges with a lot of credit…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageSafe haven.
“Romantic drama following the fortunes of a guarded young woman who unexpectedly finds love in a North Carolina town. Katie Feldman (Julianne Hough) stands out on arrival in Southport. Beautiful but highly reserved, she makes it clear that she expects to have little involvement in the social life of the town and its inhabitants. However, an unforeseen chain of events brings Katie close to Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower who runs a store while also attempting to bring up his young children. As she inexorably falls in love with Alex and the children Katie begins to let down her guard, but doing so threatens to raise the dark secret she has been protecting. Will she find a way to reconcile the trauma of her past with the possibility of a brighter future?…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageShadow dancer.
“Single mother Collette McVeigh is a Republican living in Belfast with her mother and hardliner IRA brothers. When she is arrested for her part in an aborted IRA bomb plot in London, an MI5 officer (Mac) offers her a choice: lose everything and go to prison for 25 years or return to Belfast to spy on her own family. With her son’s life in her hands, Collette chooses to place her trust in Mac and return home, but when her brothers’ secret operation is ambushed, suspicions of an informant are raised and Collette finds both herself, and her family, in grave danger…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageMt. Zion.
“Turei is a young man with a big dream; a dream that goes beyond the paddocks of Pukekohe and a life of spud-picking with his whanau. When it’s announced that his idol Bob Marley is looking for a support act for his 1979 Auckland show, Turei sees his chance. Together with his brother Hone and best mates Reggie and Pou they audition for a shot at being the opening band. But Turei’s ambition challenges the traditions and values of his upbringing and sets him at odds with his father, a true man of the land…” (From Syndetics summary)

New DVDs for May

New DVDs for May include an array of critics favourites from the new version of ‘Les Misérables’, Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Beasts of the southern wild’, & ‘The Master; to Hollywood blockbusters like ‘The Hobbit’ & ‘Gangster Squad’…

Cover imageLes misérables.
“Les Misérables is a deeply powerful film that’s rich with raw feeling, the grittiness of life in 19th-century France, and the conflict between right, wrong, and the concept of redemption.
Les Misérables takes viewers on an emotionally exhausting journey as it follows ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) after his release from prison. Valjean breaks parole, but he is granted a second chance by a kind bishop. He then moves from place to place throughout France, trying to live an honest life while ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) hunts him relentlessly. Valjean meets the broken-spirited Fantine (Anne Hathaway), promises to care for her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) as Fantine is about to die, and finds his own life completely changed as a result of that promise. Like the stage play, the film is dark, gritty, and passionate, but it enhances the sense of place in early- to mid-1800s France as a staged version simply cannot…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe hobbit : an unexpected journey.
“It took some time for Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson to return to Middle Earth, but the wait was very much worth it. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey starts off by playing strongly to its links to the previous adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, before setting off on an adventure of its own. The first of three films based on The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey isn’t a fast film to get going, but it does spent quality time introducing its key characters. Most moviegoers are more than familiar with Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf of course, but the collection of dwarves and Martin Freeman’s take on Bilbo Baggins are all brought together, and the adventure ensues. It’s a journey that’s punctuated by terrifically orchestrated action sequences, a swirling score, and lavish production design…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageCeleste and Jesse forever.
“Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are high school sweethearts who married young and are now at a crossroads at the age of thirty. While Celeste is a success in business, Jesse is unemployed and adrift. Celeste thinks that if they divorce now they could still remain friends. Jesse passively accepts the decision even though he is still in love with her. As reality sets in, Celeste slowly and painfully realizes she has been cavalier about their relationship, but her timing with Jesse is less than fortuitous…” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageQuartet.
“Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman has never been one to zig when he can zag. Not only did he wait until he was in his mid-70s to direct his first feature film, but his crowd-pleasing adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s 1999 play is a thoroughly British affair. Set at one of England’s most scenic estates, the fictional Beecham House for Retired Musicians, Quartet centres on four opera singers. Cecily (Pauline Collins), Wilfred (Billy Connolly), and Reginald (Tom Courtenay) are busy preparing for the annual Verdi Gala when word spreads about a famous new resident. After Reggie catches sight of the elegant figure, his excitement about the benefit gives way to sorrow: it’s his ex-wife, Jean (Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith)… If Quartet doesn’t offer many significant surprises, Hoffman skillfully honours the humour, the romance, and the wall-to-wall music of Harwood’s warm-hearted script…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageTo Rome with love.
“To Rome With Love sees Woody Allen back in front of the camera for the first time since 2006′s underwhelming Scoop, heading up one of the collection of stories that make up the film. For the movie brings together a collection of four unconnected narratives taking place in the city of Rome, with Allen playing a frustrated opera director who’s always on the hunt for new talent. He finds some too, with a little help from a shower. Elsewhere, Roberto Benigni’s Leopoldo gets a brief brush with fame, a young couple find themselves parted, while Jesse Eisenberg’s Jack finds the predictions of Alec Baldwin’s John close to the mark. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, though. At its best, From Rome With Love is witty, breezy and just a little bit bonkers…It might not be a vintage Woody Allen feature, but it’s still with more merits than you may have been led to believe…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageVEEP. The complete first season.
“Julia Louis-Dreyfus won an Emmy for her leading role in the droll series Veep–and it’s well deserved. It’s as if every role Louis-Dreyfus had was helping to hone her for this role–Elaine in Seinfeld, Christine in The New Adventures of Old Christine. Veep is an HBO dramedy that shows what The West Wing might have been like if created by Larry David. Louis-Dreyfus is U.S. Sen. Selina Meyer, a rising star in her political party, which has high hopes for her to run for president one day. Then suddenly she is tapped to become vice president. As shown by series creator Armando Iannucci (In the Loop), the role of U.S. vice president is the highest-level bird in a gilded cage of American politics. Meyer has very little power, a lot of visibility, a ton of appearances to make, and not much to do…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageGangster squad.
“The turf explored in Gangster Squad may not be entirely accurate to historical truth, but it sure looks like the world of the movie mobster: the basics are instantly recognizable if you’ve seen L.A. Confidential and The Untouchables. Take a post-World War II Los Angeles, plunge it in noir, drop a ruthless gangster into the mix, and let loose an extralegal squad of cops to break the mob’s rule. The crime kingpin in question is Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), and his LAPD adversaries include a detective so square his fedora appears permanently affixed to his skull (Josh Brolin) and a ladies’ man (Ryan Gosling) whose dalliance with Cohen’s escort (Emma Stone) might not be the best idea for a smooth relationship. Their squad includes stalwart character actors such as Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, and an especially droll Robert Patrick. With all this talent on display, the movie must surely have some bang in its Tommy gun–but alas, director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) has opted for a peculiarly lighthearted, bantering tone for much of the action…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageGrimm. Season one.
“The classic Grimms’ fairytales come to life like never before in this “dark and imaginative” (Mike Ayers, CNN.com Entertainment) series from the producers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) discovers he’s descended from a long line of “Grimms,” who are charged with keeping balance between humanity and the creatures of myth. With newly awoken abilities to detect the evil lurking among us, Nick struggles to keep his old life separate and safe as he becomes ever more entrenched in the ancient rivalries of the Grimm world. Now, watch back-to-back and uninterrupted all 22 Season One episodes of this uniquely evocative series that critics rave “offers genuine scares” (Michelle Tauber, People)…” (From Amazon.comdescription)

Cover imageThe man from Beijing.
“A mass murder, a female judge and diary entries from ages ago judge Brigitta Roslin has to make a dangerous journey before she discovers the background of this crime. Police believe a madman was behind the brutal act. Not only Brigitta Roslin s parents are among the dead; almost all the victims were related to her. Brigitta soon becomes convinced that the police are on the wrong track, and she starts to investigate on her own. Her search for the murderer of her entire family leads Brigitta to China, where she is confronted with the gruesome machinations of a millionaire businessman. The two-part thriller is based on the internationally bestselling novel by Henning Mankell (the Inspector Wallander series)…” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageBeasts of the southern wild.
“The devastated landscape of the Louisiana bayou becomes a primordial world in the eyes of 6-year-old Hushpuppy (the fierce and magnetic Quvenzhané Wallis). Hushpuppy’s father Wink (Dwight Henry), emotionally unstable and increasingly ill, fights to maintain their ramshackle home, along with the rest of the precarious community of the area known as the Bathtub–but a Katrina-esque storm leaves the Bathtub flooded, driving Wink to desperate lengths. Faced with the loss of everything she knows, Hushpuppy decides her only hope is to find her mother, but her only clue is a winking light in the distance. Beasts of the Southern Wild tells its story entirely from the 6-year-old girl’s perspective; the actions and emotions of adults take on a mythic scope, as does the damaged environment in which she lives…but the story gradually emerges, rising to a potent end. Viewers who take the time to sink into its mysteries will be rewarded…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageLife of Pi.
“There are only so many filmmakers fearless or foolhardy enough to tackle a challenging novel, like Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, but adaptation specialist Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) was well positioned to take it on. As a structuring device, he uses an interview between a journalist (Rafe Spall) and Pi Patel (The Namesake’s Irrfan Khan), a Montreal immigrant with an unusual back story. As he tells the writer, his parents oversaw a zoo in French-Indian Pondicherry, and he found himself drawn to the Bengal tiger, Richard Parker–the name resulted from a clerical error–but his father (Adil Hussain) warned him to stay away. On his own, Pi became entranced by Islam, Hinduism, and Catholicism, which comes in handy when his family relocates to Canada by freighter and a brutal storm–as believably horrific as anything in Titanic–leaves Pi (now played by Suraj Sharma) stranded in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and the tiger…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe master.
“Gaunt, tightly wound, and eerily reminiscent of Montgomery Clift, Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, an ex-naval officer suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Since World War II, he’s had difficulty holding down a job due to his hot temper and affinity for paint thinner-spiked potions, but the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman in a more subtle, but equally skillful turn) finds him irresistible as a project, a surrogate son–maybe even the shadow self that he normally keeps hidden (Dodd shares Quell’s propensity for the occasional splenetic outburst). Lancaster welcomes him to join the Cause, a movement that recalls Scientology by way of Freud, since he focuses on the elimination of past trauma through a pseudo-psychoanalytic exercise called processing…The lack of clear-cut conclusions will leave some viewers cold, but you’ve never seen a performance–simultaneously riveting and repellent–like Phoenix’s before…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

New DVDs for April

New DVDs for May include the new Ken Loach, ‘The Angel’s Share’; comedies ‘Butter’ & ‘Pitch Perfect’; the new Clint Eastwood; meta literary drama ‘The Words’; an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s cult novel ‘On the Road’; & the acclaimed account of Polio victim Mark O’Brien’s experiences with a sex surrogate in ‘The Sessions’…

Cover imageThe angels’ share.
“Considering Loach has a reputation for bleak, brilliant dramas, some might be surprised to see the light comic touch he’s applied to this winning mix of comedy and drama. That said, it still has a fair amount to say. The Angel’s Share initially starts on a sombre note, as it’s not long before we meet the main characters in a courtroom. Here, they’re being sentenced for a series of offences, and young father Robbie is only saved from prison by the fact that his girlfriend is shortly to give birth. But from these foundations comes a triumph of a film, as community service brings whiskey into Robbie’s life. The Angel’s Share also certainly makes a few points as it tells its story, and there’s a political subtext here. Yet Loach injects warmth and humour into the film, and his young, inexperienced cast prove really rather special, too. Tonally, The Angel’s Share shifts around a little, and it does have a change of direction that’s likely to be divisive. Yet it’s a smart, enjoyable film…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageButter.
“Butter is a quirky film that sort of works as a straight-up comedy, and sort of works as the satire it seems intended to be. Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrell play Iowans Laura and Bob, whose lives have centered on the very Midwestern phenomenon of butter sculpture. Bob’s been having an affair with a cheeky stripper, Brooke (Olivia Wilde), who’s dying to figure out a way to go public with her affections for Laura’s husband. Enter the annual butter-sculpting contest. Bob’s decided to retire; Laura wants to carry on his tradition; Brooke wants to show up to cause emotional carnage. Then Destiny arrives. Destiny (Yara Shahidi) is an orphaned African-American girl and the foster child of well-meaning Ethan and Julie (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone) and who has an almost unbelievable gift for, you guessed it, butter sculpture. What happens at the contest and in the small Iowa suburb is both a fascinating look at people’s unusual obsessions and a satire of those obsessions…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imagePitch perfect.
“Set appealingly on a college campus, with charming actors and a very funny script that will entertain fans, truly, from 10 to 90. The plot in Pitch Perfect follows the character of college freshman Beca (a delightful Anna Kendrick) as she decides to join her school’s a cappella women’s singing group. (Unlike on Glee, where the glee club is populated with outcasts, college a cappella groups are prestigious–and hard to get into.) Fellow singers include Brittany Snow as Chloe and Alexis Knapp as Stacie, a student who’s hilariously slutty and innocent at the same time. The faculty coordinator is Anna Camp, so memorable in The Help, and here both earnest and a bit naive. There’s also a potential love story between Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin), a member of the male group at the same school. And the script, by sometime 30 Rock writer Kay Cannon, is witty, wry, and just silly enough…Pitch Perfect is a surprisingly fresh and smart take on young adulthood, with a soundtrack that will have you cheering…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageAges of love.
“Sexy, romantic, adventurous and very funny, AGES OF LOVE examines three different couples united in their quest for love. “Youth” tells of Roberto, a young and ambitious lawyer who is going to marry Sara. His whole life is perfectly planned out. During a expropriation which he is in charge of, he meets Micol, a gorgeous and provocative young woman from a small village in Tuscany. And this is when things start to get complicated… In “Maturity” we meet Fabio, a famous anchorman, has been the perfect husband for twenty five years. At a party one night, he meets Eliana, a femme fatale full of surprises. This one-night stand proves to be more than what he bargained for when she refuses to leave… “Beyond” introduces us to Adrian, an American art history professor who moved to Rome after his divorce. He is friends with Augusto, the building’s concierge, whose ebullient daughter Viola is about to disrupt his peaceful existence and relight his fire…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageOn the road
“Set in the late 1940s and based on the novel of the same name by Jack Kerouac, On the Road is the story of young writer Sal Paradise’s journey–a journey back and forth across America in search of freedom, self-expression, and self-discovery. Feeling lost after his father’s death, Sal (Sam Riley) is intrigued by the free-spirited Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and impulsively joins him on a cross-country drive. With a criminal past and a hankering for independence, sex, music, drugs, and traveling the open road, Dean possesses complete disregard for the law, social niceties, the feelings of the women in his life, and anything but the present moment. Sal finds his initial trip with his new friend exciting and energizing. History repeats itself, as it is apt to do, and the friends make several more trips across the country together. But even as they revel in their unique relationship and the liberty of traveling, the inevitability of change will eventually affect Sal and Dean’s friendship as well as their relationships with their families and friends…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe sessions.
“In adapting the remembrances of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone), who spent most of his life in an iron lung, Australian filmmaker and fellow polio survivor Ben Lewin recounts his alternately sad and funny attempts to lose his virginity (O’Brien previously appeared as himself in Jessica Yu’s documentary Breathing Lessons). By 1988, the 36-year-old Berkeley writer had forged friendships with women, but romantic relationships eluded him. In discussing the matter with his therapist, she suggests Cheryl Cohen Greene (Helen Hunt), a wife, mother, and sexual surrogate. It’s a viable solution, but as a devout Catholic, Mark is uncomfortable with the idea of extramarital relations, so he shares his concerns with an open-minded priest (William H. Macy). With an absence of pity and an abundance of wit, Lewin documents Mark’s journey though this physical, emotional, and spiritual minefield, which takes a toll on Cheryl as well… If Hunt received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her performance, which involves a fair amount of nudity, the Academy failed to recognize Hawkes, a regrettable omission as this fine actor succeeds in creating a fully rounded human being…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageTrouble with the curve.
“The biggest surprise behind Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood’s first time in front of the camera since Gran Torino (and his first appearance in a film he hasn’t directed since 1993′s In the Line of Fire), is how resolutely unsurprising it is, telling its story with an unfashionably retro simplicity… Pulling a 180 from the methods espoused in Moneyball, Randy Brown’s script follows Gus (Eastwood), a cantankerous talent scout for the Atlanta Braves whose old-school ethics are on the outs. While on what may be his last recruiting trip, Gus is reunited with his estranged daughter (Amy Adams), an upwardly mobile attorney still smarting from her father’s distancing techniques. First-time director Robert Lorenz wisely places his actors front and center, with the sparkling Adams, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard, and the great John Goodman all delivering terrifically tuned performances. Ultimately, though, Trouble with the Curve rises and falls with Eastwood, who keeps the material from drifting into cornball territory by sheer force of will…(From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageWild Bill.
“Out on parole after 8 years inside Bill Hayward returns home to find his now 11 and 15 year old sons abandoned by their mother and fending for themselves. Unwilling to play Dad, an uncaring Bill is determined to move on. Although Dean the older boy has found a job and is doing his best to be a father to his younger brother Jimmy, the arrival of Bill has brought them to the attention of social services. With the danger of being put into care looming, Dean forces his feckless Dad to stay by threatening to grass him up for dealing. If there’s one thing Bill doesn’t want it’s to go back to prison. He reluctantly agrees to stay for a week to help fool social services that the boys are being cared for. Having never really grown up himself Bill quickly connects with Jimmy and through this new bond starts to realize what he’s been missing. He has a family, a place in the world. He is a father. However, their happy family set up is short lived when Jimmy gets into trouble with Bill’s dangerous old cohorts. To sort it out would breach the terms of his license and risk sending him back to Jail…’ (From Amazon.co.uk description)

Cover imageThe words.
“In the framing device, bestselling author Clay Hammond (a very good Dennis Quaid) reads passages from his novel, The Words, about Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a struggling writer whose fiancée, Dora (Zoë Saldana), sticks by him during the years he spends toiling away on his first book. Though he isn’t without ability, he can’t find a taker, so he gets a mailroom job with a publishing house. While honeymooning in Paris, Dora buys him a vintage satchel in which he finds an unsigned manuscript. After she breaks into tears at the beauty of the prose–thinking she’s finally gotten a true glimpse of his talent–he publishes The Window Tears under his own name, and it becomes a literary phenomenon, but then a shadowy figure starts following him around. The Old Man (Jeremy Irons) turns out to have ties to the text, which centers on a young American (Ben Barnes) stationed in France during World War II, who loses his heart to literature and love (Nora Arnezeder) in ways both wonderful and terrible. The three story strands…couldn’t be timelier in light of the plagiarism scandals that have been rocking the publishing world…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageFresh meat.
“When the Tan gang’s prison breakout goes violently wrong, they need a hideout in a hurry. Picking the McMansion of a middle-class Maori family probably seemed like a safe bet. But how were the Tans to know that this particular family have reintroduced some very old-fashioned cuisine to their dining table? Will the Tans escape the trap, or is there gangster in the casserole tonight?…” (Syndetics summary)

New DVDs for March

New DVDs for March include Season 2 of the epic Fantasy series ‘Game of Thrones’; Brad Pitts George V. Higgins adaptation ‘Killing Them Softly’; acclaimed music documentary ‘Searching For Sugarman’; the feel-good French smash ‘The intouchables’; & Ben Affleck’s Oscar Best Picture winner ‘Argo’….

Cover imageHit & run.
“Charles Bronson is a former bank robber wheelman who ratted out his gang and is living under the assumed name in the Federal Witness Protection Program. He goes by Charlie, and played by the goofy, buffed-out Dax Shepard he makes a charming everyman hero in the amusing and adventurous action comedy Hit & Run. Shepard also wrote the script and codirected what was obviously a labor of love (his real-life partner Kristen Bell plays his onscreen girlfriend), and he shows some genuine chops as a wrangler of rapid-fire witty dialogue as well as car-chase action choreography. Charlie’s brainy girlfriend Annie teaches at the local college and knows nothing about his past life…When Annie needs to get to Los Angeles for an important job interview, Charlie uncovers the muscle car he’s been hiding in the barn and offers to get her there in a flash, even though it may mean uncovering his secret life in the process…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageKilling them softly.
“There’s plenty of grit, street life, gangland lingo, and nuts-and-bolts criminal insiderism, but the overall tone is more akin to a David Mamet play than a rollicking Hollywood shoot-’em-up. The movie is an adaptation of the fine George V. Higgins novel Cogan’s Trade, and it nicely transposes the tone and delivery of Higgins’s spare prose into a visual style that keeps a long, lingering gaze on its unlovable bad guys. It also holds an attentive ear to the rhythm and pattern of their speech, turning the extended stretches of dialogue into unique tableaux of stylish exchanges between hit men, lowlife punks, and middle management gangsters… Brad Pitt is a sleek and enigmatic presence as Jackie Cogan, a professional killer who’s as exasperated by the stupidity around him as he is obsessed with the details of doing his job right. After an odd couple of hapless losers (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, who are a hoot) hit a mob-run card game, Jackie is called in to clean up the mess…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageAfter the wedding.
“Equal parts weepy drama and soap opera, After the Wedding is a beautifully filmed story centering on Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale), a Danish man working at a orphanage in Bombay. Just when funds have run desperately low, Jorgen (Rolf Lassgård)–a wealthy benefactor–promises to donate millions of dollars to the orphanage. But there’s a catch. Jacob must collect the funds himself in Copenhagen… and attend the wedding of the eccentric millionaire’s daughter. But once Jacob meets the benefactor’s wife Helene (played by a radiant Sidse Babett Knudsen), it’s obvious to the viewer that the two have a complicated history. It’s also likely that her daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) most probably is theirs. So why did Jorgen invite Jacob to Anna’s wedding? Does he know Jacob is Anna’s father? Is something nefarious in the works? The thought-provoking film was Denmark’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2007 Academy Awards…The relationships here are messy and often uncomfortable. But they also ring true to life…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe intouchables.
“Driss (Omar Sy), a Senegalese man living in a Paris slum, applies for a job as caretaker to a wealthy quadriplegic, but all he wants is to get his paper stamped so he can get benefits. Despite his lack of qualifications, he lands the job because of his attitude: Philippe (François Cluzet), the quadriplegic, wants a caretaker who will look at him without pity. As Driss reluctantly learns to move, feed, and clean Philippe, the two men discover a blunt but vital humour that not only bridges the cultural and class divide between them, but gives Philippe a renewed joy in life. It’s easy to see what made Untouchable such a massive success in France; the movie has the sweet sincerity and uplifting conclusion that make for a classic feel-good experience. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable, and Sy–who won the French equivalent of the Oscar for his role–is a dynamic and charismatic performer, while Cluzet’s understated performance conveys Philippe’s frustrations. The movie doesn’t dig too deeply into the struggles of life as a quadriplegic or the struggles of life among the inner-city poor, so when Untouchable ends it’s not likely to leave a lasting impression, but that doesn’t get in the way of its immediate charm and warmth…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageArgo.
“Based on real events, the dramatic thriller Argo chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis, focusing on the little-known role that the CIA and Hollywood played–information that was not declassified until many years after the event. On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, the Canadian and American governments ask the CIA to intervene. The CIA turns to their top “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez, to come up with a plan to get the six Americans safely out of the country. A plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

cover imageGame of thrones. The complete second season.
“Based on A Clash of Kings, the second novel in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, season two of Game of Thrones admirably encapsulates the sprawling War of the Five Kings, which pits the malevolent Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) against a host of contenders for the throne of the late King Robert (Mark Addy), including his brothers Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Renly (Gethin Anthony). Further complicating matters is the appointment of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) as Hand of the King to Joffrey, which sets off an intense behind-the-scenes power struggle with his siblings, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who carry on an incestuous affair. Meanwhile, there’s also the issue of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her three dragons; Daenerys spends much of season two making her way across the Red Waste in order to launch her own plan of conquest. These central conflicts are supported by a host of secondary storylines… That Game of Thrones manages to not only weave together all of these myriad threads but also make them compelling and fully realized is among the keys to the show’s astonishing popularity, as are the performances, which, along with the direction and writing, help to make the series the best costume fantasy drama ever produced on television…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageSavages.
“A frenzied ground bloom flower of a novel, Don Winslow’s Savages is an ultra-black amorality tale that’s saved from nihilism by some unexpectedly lovely character notes and the sheer rocketing force of the prose. This cinematic adaptation (directed by Oliver Stone, who knows a thing or two about raising a ruckus himself) captures much of the propulsive energy of its source material but can’t quite get a handle on the human element. Kicking off with a grisly demonstration of how not to handle power tools, the story follows lifelong friends Ben (Aaron Johnson), Chon (Taylor Kitsch), and O (Blake Lively), who benevolently run a top-tier marijuana enterprise in Southern California under the protection of a crooked cop (John Travolta). Once the quality of their product attracts the Mexican cartel, however, the not-so-heroic trio find themselves forced to confront the dirtier aspects of their business. Stone, in his first film since 2010′s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, keeps his more excessive tendencies in check for much of the running time, with his trademark kinetic style serving to support rather than overwhelm the already-lurid plot…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageSearching for Sugar Man.
“Rodriguez, outside of a circle of pre-existing fans, might not be the most famous musician on the planet. But he makes a fascinating subject for the documentary Searching For Sugar Man. Put together in part by the producer of the excellent Man On Wire, Searching For Sugar Man centres around a flop album released by Rodriguez, which went on to build an audience over the decades that followed. But what happened to Rodriguez himself? That’s where the film comes in, and it’s an engaging tale it has to tell. It’s a terrific documentary, this. Touching, mysterious and centred on a genuinely intriguing subject matter, there’s a lot to grab your interest here. After all, is Rodriguez a myth, the film asks? If not, is he aware of the impact his music has had? The film plays its cards very close to its chest, and is all the better for it. There’s material beyond the film to be found on the disc, and it digs deeper in the story as part and parcel of that. So you get an interesting commentary track, as well as a making of piece as well…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageTaken. 2.
“Coming at a time when the action genre was dominated by shaky-cam Bourne editing shenanigans, 2008′s Taken registered as a pleasantly streamlined surprise: a straight-ahead thriller where the clean, clear style both matched and accentuated Liam Neeson’s ruthless-blunt-object force. Strangely, the sequel feels much more in line with producer Luc (The Transporter, Colombiana) Besson’s other franchises–noisy, chaotically slammed together, and in dazed thrall to its own flash. (If there’s an opportunity for a swooping helicopter shot or a fruit-cart collision, this sucker’s going to go for two.) However, even if it can’t match the impact of its predecessor, the sight of Neeson in righteous revenge mode still carries some considerably addictive juice. Set several years after the events of the first installment, the story finds Neeson’s black-ops professional losing ground with his beloved daughter (Maggie Grace), while forming a tentative rapprochement with his ex-wife (the always welcome Famke Janssen). During a working vacation in Istanbul, their family ties are sorely testing by the appearance of an army of villains with a particular score to settle…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageBully.
“From Sundance Award-winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, comes a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary following five kids and families over the course of a school year. Offering insight into different facets of America’s bullying crisis, the stories include two families who have lost children to suicide and a mother awaiting the fate of her 14-year-old daughter, who has been incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus. With an intimate and often shocking glimpse into homes, classrooms, cafeterias and principals’ offices, this is a powerful and inspiring film that every educator, parent and teenager should see…” (From Amazon.com description)

New DVDs for February

New DVDs for February include adaptations of Duncan Sarkies’ ‘Two Little Boys’ & Don DeLillos’ ‘Cosmopolis’; the true stories that inspired Jack Black’s ‘Bernie’ & the feel-good ‘The Sapphires’; & new UK  TV shows ‘The Jury’, ‘Pramface’ & ‘Silk’…

Cover imageCosmopolis.
“The union of director David Cronenberg and Twilight star Robert Pattinson is hardly a predictable one, but the pair prove quite the combination with Cosmopolis. A drama set across 24 hours in New York City, the film sees Pattinson as Eric, a rich asset manager on a trip across Manhattan in a luxury limousine. But it’s no ordinary trip: with Manhattan preparing for the visit of the President of the United States, things soon start to go very, very wrong for Eric. Cronenberg wrote the script as well as directing here, and Cosmopolis is a challenging, slow film, that treats its audience with intelligence. Pattinson works hard in the lead role, with considerable success, and the supporting players, including Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton are excellent, too. Cosmopolis may not be as accessible as Cronenberg’s films that more immediately preceded it, but it’s a film with real substance to it, from a genuinely great director…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageBernie.
“.. “What you’re fixin’ to see is a true story”… sets the perfect down-home tone for the charming, if occasionally gruesome story of an East Texas funeral director named Bernie Tiede, whose sociable selflessness, empathetic demeanor, and guileless personality won him the friendship of the whole town of Carthage, especially the little old ladies. He even captivated the good graces of the meanest and richest old lady of them all, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), eventually becoming her business manager and constant companion. But even with the patience of Job and the compassion of Jesus, eventually Bernie couldn’t take it anymore and in a fit of pique shot her in the back four times then dumped her body in a freezer. That synopsis hardly seems the stuff of a lighthearted comedy that energizes a large ensemble of endearing characters. But in the hands of director Richard Linklater (who cowrote the script with Skip Hollandsworth, who originally reported the story for Texas Monthly magazine), the tale is simultaneously knee-slappingly funny and head-shakingly poignant…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imagePramface.
“Meet Jamie, 16, and Laura, 18. They are two teenagers who after one too many drinks, some deceptive party lighting and an available bedroom find they have one very big complication on their hands. Laura is pregnant. Only problem is, she’s meant to be heading off to university and Jamie is way too young to be considering raising a kid. Prior to this, the extent of his responsibilities was doing his homework and managing his pocket money. Pramface brings humour and heart to a tricky subject, as it follows these two unexpected parents-to-be as they try, and frequently fail, to negotiate family, sex and what happens once nine months is up…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe Sapphires.
“The Sapphires is an inspirational tale set in the heady days of the late 60s when four young, talented singers from a remote Aboriginal mission are discovered and guided by an unlikely manager. Starring AFI award-winner Deborah Mailman (Offspring), platinum selling artist Jessica Mauboy and Bridesmaids’ Chris O’Dowd, this feel-good hit is based on the successful Australian stage musical and inspired by a remarkable true story. Plucked from obscurity and branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes. The Sapphires grasp the opporturnity of a lifetime when invited to entertain American troops in Vietnam. Their journey of discovery offers them not only the chance to show off their musical skills, but find love and togetherness and grow as women…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageSilk. [Series 1].
“Single, attractive, thirty something Martha Costello is a brilliant, passionate defence barister with the unwavering belief that all are innocent until proven guilty. Martha is about to apply to become Queen’s Counsel; she is applying for ‘Silk’, but she’s not the only one at her chambers– Clive Reader is charming, ruthless and dangerous, and knows how to play the game– Only one of them will be made QC and Senior Clerk, Billy Lamb, is the man with everyone’s lives and careers in his hands. Martha’s conscience and faith in the criminal justice system are tested to breaking point as she deals with clients who are good, bad and downright evil…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageSleep tight.
“Spanish psychological horror from director Jaume Balagueró. The film follows César (Luis Tosar), the concierge to the residents at a wealthy apartment building. César seems extraordinarily helpful and polite and is consequently adored by the residents, but little do they know that he is in fact a man so incapable of happiness and human feeling that he makes it his goal in life to make others as miserable as he is. He focuses much of his attention on Clara (Martra Etura), a beautiful young woman whose vivacity and spontaneous sense of happiness make her his opposite in almost every way. With his usual blend of underhand tricks, which include sneaking into her apartment to rig unpleasant surprises and even hiding beneath her bed, César begins to unnerve Clara. When her boyfriend Marcos (Alberto San Juan) unexpectedly returns the situation quickly escalates towards a point of no return…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageAfterschool.
“A disturbing and completely compelling story dealing with teen suicide and the fascination we have for voyeurism, at the expense of common decency. Robert is a young student at an elite boarding school on America’s East Coast. Robert is a loner whose world revolves around porn sites and surfing the net. As part of a film study course, Robert accidentally films the deaths of twin sisters, an apparent joint suicide. Robert has every opportunity to help, to intervene, but calmly films on– Everyone is outrages– his scandalous behaviour causes almost as much shock as the girls’ deaths. However, the film strangely immortalizes the girls– as students, teachers and the girls’ parents struggle to come to terms with the tragedy…’ (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageTwo little boys.
“The film follows Nige and his best mate Deano’s riotous misadventures as they struggle with their imploding friendship which has been put under pressure by an unfortunate incident involving a hot meat pie, a ginger cat and the untimely death of a Scandinavian soccer star. Nige chucks the dead body in a nearby roadworks hole and runs to Deano for help. Trouble is, Deano’s not really the guy you should turn to in a crisis…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe jury.
“Written by Peter Morgan (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen), The Jury is a compelling, character based drama series which focuses on the everyday people who find themselves at the centre of one of the most controversial criminal re-trials of their time. Focusing on the retrial of a man sentenced for the murder of three women–all killed following internet dates. A key piece of evidence was deliberately ignored by the CPS, possibly because the police were under pressure for a quick conviction and blackmail was being used over a senior person involved with the investigation who was having an affair. Ultimately, we will see the man acquitted but it will be an “imperfect, messy, human triumph for the jury by acquitting the man”. Gripping, dark and emotionally charged as jurors are forced to face their prejudices as they come to grips with the complexities and unwanted attention of being a key player in such a high profile Old Bailey trial…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

New DVDs for January

New DVDs for January include new TV shows from Ashley Judd as an ex-spy searching for her missing son, Lena Dunham with her acclaimed NYC sitcom ‘Girls’ & Poppy Montgomery as a Police Detective with perfect recall. Also out this month, the acclaimed Ralph Fiennes Shakespeare update ‘Coriolanus’; ‘Hope Springs’ with Meryl Streep & Tommy Lee Jones as an aging married couple attempting to reconnect with each other; & Steve Carell & Keira Knightley seek a friend for the end of the world…

Cover imageMissing. The complete first season.
“How far would you go to save the person you love most in the world? Emmy Award nominee* Ashley Judd stars in Missing, ABC’s riveting new series, bursting with international intrigue and thrilling twists and turns. Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd) learns that her son, Michael, has disappeared while studying abroad, and it’s a race against time when she travels to Europe to track him down. It soon becomes clear that Becca is no ordinary woman, but a former CIA agent deactivated after the devastating death of her husband, Paul Winstone (Sean Bean). If she wants to find her son alive, Becca will have to rely on old friends, as well as old enemies, ex-lovers, and spies, and will be forced to reopen old wounds. Her resourcefulness, skill, and determination will be put to the test – but a mother’s love knows no limits. ABC’s action-packed drama grabs you from the very first minute and never lets go. Relive Becca’s search through the streets of Europe, complete with exclusive bonus features that take you even deeper into her journey.” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe devil’s double.
“Summoned from the frontline to Saddam Hussein’s palace, Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) is thrust into the highest echelons of the “royal family” when he’s ordered to become the ‘fiday’ – or body double – to Saddam’s son, the notorious “Black Prince” Uday Hussein (also Dominic Cooper), a reckless, sadistic party-boy with a rabid hunger for sex and brutality. With his and his family’s lives at stake, Latif must surrender his former self forever as he learns to walk, talk and act like Uday. But nothing could have prepared him for the horror of the Black Prince’s psychotic, drug-addled life of fast cars, easy women and impulsive violence. With one wrong move costing him his life, Latif forges an intimate bond with Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), Uday’s seductive mistress who’s haunted by her own secrets. But as war looms with Kuwait and Uday’s depraved gangster regime threatens to destroy them all, Latif realises that escape from the devil‘s den will only come at the highest possible cost. Featuring a riveting double performance by Dominic Cooper (An Education, Mamma Mia) in the roles of Latif Yahia and Uday Hussein, The Devil’s Double is a dynamic, chilling adaptation of Latif Yahia’s autobiographical novel, charting one man’s defiant struggle to survive a viper’s pit of corruption and brutality…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageCoriolanus.
“Fiennes’s bullet-headed, battle-scarred General Caius Martius may be willing to put his life on the line for his people, but he has no interest in actually listening to their concerns, a development that anticipates the Occupy movement. As Rome’s food supply dwindles and rioting begins, Martius suspends civil liberties, and heads off to battle against a man he both despises and admires, Volscian leader Aufidius (Gerald Butler). In the script by Gladiator’s John Logan, automatic weaponry replaces swords, contributing to an especially visceral Shakespearean adaptation (Hurt Locker cinematographer Barry Ackroyd’s handheld camera work reinforces the rough-hewn quality). At home, Martius’s wary wife (Jessica Chastain) and proud mother (Vanessa Redgrave) fear for his life, while his most ardent supporter, Senator Menenius (Brian Cox, excellent), defends him against his detractors, like Tribune Sicinius (James Nesbitt). Though successful on the battlefield, the political neophyte–now known as Coriolanus–soon finds himself an exile, eventually aligning with Aufidius, but what looks like a turncoat move proves more complicated…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageHysteria.
“What do women want? Well, science may debate that for years, but Hysteria provides a very entertaining answer in the form of a historical romp through early psychology. Based on the story of a young British doctor who essentially invented the first vibrator, Hysteria handles its offbeat subject matter lightly and amusingly. And its cast is splendid. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Felicity Jones play Victorian-era sisters, Charlotte and Emily, daughters of the prominent physician Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce). Into their lives comes an ambitious, thoughtful young doctor, Mortimer Granville (played by the dreamy Hugh Dancy). Dr. Granville’s life work has become focused on women’s issues, including the all-encompassing diagnosis “hysteria,” for which he is experimenting with therapeutic “pelvic massage” treatments. When he comes to Dr. Dalrymple for mentoring and approval of his rather unorthodox treatments, the doctor’s two daughters vie for his romantic affections. In lesser hands, this film could have been a Victorian-era 40-Year-Old Virgin or The (Sexual) Hangover, but director Tanya Wexler keeps the action crisp, light, and focused. Hysteria is a great date movie or a splendid escape for history, and hysteria, lovers…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageSmash. Season one.
“Emmy Awardr winner Debra Messing (Will & Grace), Academy Awardr winner Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor), Megan Hilty (Broadway’s Wicked) and American Idol’s Katharine McPhee star in the groundbreaking, critically acclaimed series Smash. Talented newcomer Karen Cartwright (McPhee) is up for the role of a lifetime in a new Broadway musical based on the iconic Marilyn Monroe. The only thing standing in her way is Ivy Lynn (Hilty), a seasoned theater veteran who is determined to land the part herself and will stop at nothing to realize her own dreams of fame. Also starring Tonyr Award winner Christian Borle (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher) and Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean).” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageHope springs.
“Kay and Arnold are a middle-aged couple who have been married for 30 years and now are sleeping in separate rooms and barely interact in any meaningful loving way. Finally, Kay has had enough and finds a book by Dr. Feld which inspires her to sign them up for the doctor’s intense week-long marriage counseling session. What follows is an insightful experience as Dr. Feld manages to help the couple understand how they have emotionally drifted apart and what they can do to reignite their passion.” (From syndetics summary)

Cover imageYoung Montalbano. Volume 1
“Before Detective Salvo Montalbano became the seasoned and mature chief detective we already know, he was just Salvo, new to Vigata and new to being a police chief. He didn’t always live in that glorious house by the sea, or have Deputy Chief Mimi Augello as a best friend, or Fazio as a loyal assistant. He didn’t always go out with the beautiful Genoese architect, Livia Burlando. Perhaps the only constants have been his unbridled quest for good food and the inability of his overly enthusiastic deputy, Catarella, to pronounce anyone s name correctly. In this prequel series to Detective Montalbano, watch the genesis of the friendships, the rivalries and the romance as the players arrive to take their places in the beautiful Sicilian town of Vigata. In the crucible of solving crimes together among the unforgettable people of Vigata, they become a team. Savor these stories that set the stage for the group s transformation from rookie cops to the experienced crime-solving ensemble we ve come to know and love…” (Adapted from Amazon.com description)

Cover imageFlipped.
“Even if you’re not a child of the early ’60s, Flipped’s tale will resonate with your heart. Director Rob Reiner treats viewers to a sweet but honest glimpse into the lives of a young girl and boy during the early 1960s as they maneuver through first crushes and heartbreak. Reiner once again shows he understands how to put together a compelling, yet simple, human story. We meet Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) on the day Bryce’s family moves across the street from Juli’s. Told by “flipping” between Juli and Bryce’s voices, a tale of early childhood love emerges. Juli loves Bryce’s baby blues from the first moment she sees them and she just knows he’s holding onto her first kiss. Bryce thinks Juli, who raises chickens and loves the neighborhood sycamore tree, is weird. The story doesn’t merely flip between the two stories, though. In 1963, the year eighth grade comes around, Juli begins to wonder if there’s any substance behind those baby blues… just as Bryce starts to see Juli’s eccentricities as endearing instead of embarrassing. Sweetly reminiscent without a saccharine aftertaste…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageUnforgettable. The complete first season.
“Poppy Montgomery is an NYPD detective with a flawless memory. Carrie Wells (Montgomery) has a medical condition known as hyperthymesia, which allows her to remember everything – except for what happened the day that her sister was murdered. Carrie’s ex-boyfriend, Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), invites her to join him on the force, where he believes her gift will come in handy, but will it allow her to get to the bottom of what happened to her sister?’ (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageSeeking a friend for the end of the world.
“A sweet and subtle love story, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World begins when Dodge (Steve Carell) watches his wife run away from him because she’s just learned that an asteroid is going to destroy the Earth. Dodge finds himself unmoored in a world that’s lost its bearings in a much bigger way; some people surrender to hedonism, some cling to the mundane patterns of their lives, and others just kill themselves. Then Dodge is given one last chance at meaning in his life: a neighbor named Penny (Keira Knightley) reveals that she’s failed to give him some of his misdirected mail… including a letter from his cherished high school sweetheart, who reveals he was the love of her life. As civilization falls apart around them, Dodge and Penny set off on a road trip to reunite Penny with her family and Dodge with his lost love. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World could have been broad and goofy, but instead the movie takes the scenario seriously (without, mind you, losing its sense of humor). Dodge and Penny discover that their lives, disconnected from a possible future, aren’t what they were, and the result is both comic and surprisingly heartfelt…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageGirls. The complete first season.
“Lena Dunham mocks the idea of being a voice to a generation, but there’s no question she’s captured something ineffably of the moment in her sitcom Girls. Dunham writes and directs most episodes and stars as Hannah, a smart but self-flagellating writer floundering in the urban wilds of New York City. Both an homage and a counterpoint to Sex in the City, Girls has its own quartet: Hannah, who’s just been financially cut off by her parents; Marnie (Allison Williams), lovely but uptight, who’s bored by her too devoted boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott); Jessa (Jemima Kirke), a transplant from England who keeps her true feelings hidden under a cool surface; and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), a hapless chatterbox who’s ashamed that she’s still a virgin. All of these girls, grappling with adult life, can be funny, irritating, embarrassing, and richly sympathetic–sometimes at the same time.
Girls doesn’t tackle themes per episode; instead, it’s a series of moments, vividly observed and often joltingly funny social interaction and sexual relationships (some graphically depicted, with all the freedom that cable television allows). Dunham doesn’t explain everything all at once, but gives only glimpses into the characters in each episode…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageCheerful weather for the wedding.
“On a crisp December morning in 1932, bride-to-be Dolly (Felicity Jones) hides in her bedroom as her many family members arrive for the wedding with all of the cheerfulness, chaos and grievances that go with such occasions. But trouble soon appears with the arrival of Joseph (Luke Treadaway), Dolly’s lover from the previous summer, who, to her mother’s (Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey) exasperation, throws Dolly’s feelings into turmoil. With lavish costumes and beautiful English countryside, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is a joy from start to finish in the grand tradition of English period comedy-dramas, filled with light-hearted humour and steamy romance.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)


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