Category: Recent picks

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)

New books on TV and Movies

From HBO’s Game of Thrones to the legendary film stars. Enjoy a wide range of sellection.

Syndetics book coverInside HBO’s Game of thrones / Bryan Cogman ; preface by George R. R. Martin ; foreword by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss.“HBO’s Game of Thrones reigns as cable’s highest-rated series. This official companion book gives fans new ways to enter this fictional world and discover more about the beloved (and reviled) characters and the electrifying plotlines. Hundreds of set photos, production and costume designs, storyboards, and insider stories reveal how the show’s creators translated George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series into the world of Westeros. Featuring interviews with key actors and crew members that capture the best scripted and unscripted moments from the first two seasons, as well as a preface by George R. R. Martin, this special volume, bound in a lavishly debossed padded cover, offers exclusive access to this unprecedented television series.”(Syndetics Summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Doctor’s monsters : meanings of the monstrous in Doctor Who / Graham Sleight.
“Doctor Who has been on global television screens for nearly fifty years, and many of its most memorable protagonists have been its monsters, The Daleks, Cybermen, Slitheen, the Sonterans, Ood, Wiirrn, and others. Entertainingly and provocatively written, and introduced by Who scriptwriter Paul Cornell, The Doctor’s Monsters takes a new look at these and many other creatures, and asks what inspired them and what lies behind them.”(Syndetics Summary)

Syndetics book coverThe science fiction universe– and beyond : Syfy Channel book of sci-fi / introduction by Thomas P Vitale ; text by Michael Mallory.“Travel where no man has gone before with this comprehensive journey through the universe of science fiction film and television! From the wildly imaginative European masterpieces of the silent era to compelling, character-based weekly television series like Twilight Zone, X-Files, and Battlestar Galactica, to the CGI-realized world of Avatar, science fiction film and television has pushed the boundaries of the visually and dramatically fantastic for more than a century. The Science Fiction Universe… and Beyond offers a breadth of knowledge, insight, and passion to the spellbinding and entertaining realm of close encounters, black holes, time travel, distant planets, impossible quests, alternate realities, futuristic technology, spaceships, extraordinary monsters, and incredibly imagined worlds” (adapted from Book Cover)

Syndetics book coverThe Top gear years / Jeremy Clarkson.
“We now know all about — the world according to Clarkson. In a series of bestselling books, Jeremy has revealed it to be a puzzling, frustrating place where all too often the lunatics seem to be running the asylum. But in The Top Gear Years, we get something rather different.” (Syndetics Summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rough guide to 21st century cinema / by Adam Smith.
“Celebrate the centurys’ finest movies in The Rough Guide to 21st Century Cinema, a lavishly illustrated homage to the world’s best movies of this new era of cinema. The best 101 films: a run down of the finest films of the millenium from Hollywood blockbusters to indie gems. The hottest stars: features on the up and coming actors and actresses who have made a mark. The winning genres: best-in-class features on drama, comedy, horror, sci-fi, animation, documentary, superhero movies and all the genre-mash ups in between. The unsung heroes: the finest talent behind the camera, including directors, cinematographers, set designers and special effects specialists. The Rough Guide to 21st Century Cinema is the essential companion to movies of the moment.” (Syndetics Summary)

Syndetics book coverBritish crime film : subverting the social order / Barry Forshaw.“British Crime Film is a celebratory and comprehensive social history of this idiosyncratic genre. Barry Forshaw focuses on the strategies used to address more radical notions than those presented in mainstream product, exploring such themes as the treatment of sex and violence, corporate crime and the maverick criminal. Covering every major – and most minor – British crime films up to and including the twenty-first century, Forshaw contextualises the films within the crime fiction that inspired them. He explores new developments including British urban crime movies and the wave of new crime/horror hybrids such as Kill List, and predicts what the future holds for the genre.”(adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)

Syndetics book coverAudrey : the 60s / David Wills and Stephen Schmidt.“Audrey Hepburn charmed cinema audiences in the 1950s as a new type of screen presence – gamine, doe-eyed and refreshingly casual. By the 1960s she had metamorphosed to become a trendsetting sophisticate, achieving unrivalled status as an actress, model, movie star and champion for underprivileged children worldwide. Curator and archivist David Wills has amassed one of the world’s largest private collections of original Audrey Hepburn photography. Now, in Audrey: The 60s, he has gathered a spectacular selection of work from her key photographers – much of it digitally restored from original negatives and transparencies – to create a truly breath-taking portfolio of images which pays homage to the most beloved and enduring style icon of the decade that changed everything.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)

Syndetics book coverElizabeth Taylor / Susan Smith.
“Elizabeth Taylor was one of the major film stars of the twentieth century, embodying all the glamour and allure of Hollywood stardom. Yet her achievements as an actress have often been overshadowed by her beauty
and tumultuous life off-screen. To redress this imbalance, Susan Smith offers an illuminating study of Elizabeth Taylor’s work in film, exploring her fascinating trajectory from child to adult star. Smith reveals the influence that Taylor’s early work exerted over her later career and the ways in which her on-screen identity is profoundly rooted in her association with animals and nature.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)

New DVDs for November

New DVDs for November include plenty of new TV shows, with the real-world Fantasy mash-up of ‘Once Upon A Time’; the new series from the creator of ‘Heroes’ featuring Keifer Sutherland; the first season of ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ based on the series of popular mysteries by Tess Gerritsen; surveillance themed crime-drama ‘Person of Interest’ from Jonathan Nolan, brother of Director Christopher Nolan; and the return of Kenneth Branagh as Henning Mankell’s ‘Wallander’. Also we bring the action with recent blockbusters ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ & ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, and for the more literary minded we have the lavish adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’s bestseller ‘Birdsong’ and Kenneth Lonergan’s ensemble drama ‘Margaret’ with Anna Paquin in the lead role…

Cover imageBirdsong.
“Busy screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Hour, The Iron Lady) adapts Sebastian Faulks’s 1993 bestseller…Costume-drama veteran Eddie Redmayne (The Pillars of the Earth) plays Stephen Wraysford, a British textile man based in Amiens in 1910. While staying with Isabelle (Clémence Poésy, In Bruges) and her controlling husband, Stephen falls in love with his hostess, but her marriage and stepchildren stand in the way. The story continues to proceed along two tracks: Stephen’s time with Isabelle and her sympathetic sister, Jeanne (Marie-Josée Croze), and his time as an imperiled lieutenant in the trenches of World War I…as memories of Amiens spur him on. Flashbacks reveal that Isabelle eventually returned his affection, except the course of their relationship did not run smoothly. By the end, he’s lost most of the things he once desired, but an alternative path lies ahead. In this sense, Birdsong bears some comparison with Atonement and Downton Abbey, though the downbeat nature of the material won’t be to all tastes…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageMargaret.
“A film whose initial release was held up for five years, thanks to a series of legal wrangles, the eventual cinematic debut of Margaret was, perhaps inevitably, strangely muted. Margaret is an ensemble drama, the catalyst for which is a bus crash. The crash is witnessed by Anna Paquin’s Lisa, and it forces her to question whether it was really an accident. Things spiral from there, affecting more than just Lisa herself, and drawing the film’s large cast together. Margaret is an involving, intelligent and absorbing piece of cinema, that if anything feels a little bit short. Running to well over two hours, there’s nonetheless still a sense that one or two of the story fragments are missing. But still, there’s plenty here to feast on. Furthermore, there are interesting themes that Lonergan’s film isn’t shy about exploring, and there’s a good deal to dissect once the credits roll. Don’t be put off by the relatively low-key DVD release, then. Margaret is a gem, the kind of film that’ll be discovered for some time to come…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageWallander. 3.
“The British television series Wallander boasts eerily beautiful scenery, intricate plotting, and, above all, Branagh, who delivers a masterpiece of interior acting. The less he lets slip, the more fascinating the character somehow becomes. Based on Henning Mankell’s novels, the series follows the downbeat adventures of Kurt Wallander, a world-weary police detective who operates in the Swedish town of Ystad. An Event in Autumn, the first installment in this third collection, finds Wallander attempting to construct something like a normal life, moving in to a cottage in the country with his girlfriend and her son. Fate soon comes knocking, however, as a gruesome discovery in his garden leads to the uncovering of a murderous legacy. Based on the second novel in Mankell’s series, The Dogs of Riga finds the inspector traveling to Latvia, after a murder at sea entraps him in a deadly case of police corruption on unfamiliar ground…This collection finishes up in fine style with Before the Frost, an exploration of belief and religious mania that ranks among the top episodes in the entire series…(Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageTouch. The complete first season.
“At the story’s centre is Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland), a widower and single father, haunted by an inability to connect to his emotionally challenged 11-year-old son, Jake (David Mazouz). Caring, intelligent and thoughtful, Martin has tried everything to reach his son. But Jake never speaks, shows little emotion and never allows himself to be touched by anyone, including Martin. Jake is obsessed with numbers–writing long strings of them in his ever-present notebooks–and with discarded cell phones. Social worker Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) believes that Jake’s needs are too serious for Martin to handle…However, everything changes after Martin meets Arthur Teller (Danny Glover), a professor and an expert on children who possess special gifts when it comes to numbers. Martin learns that Jake possesses an extraordinary gift–the ability to perceive the seemingly hidden patterns that connect every life on the planet…As he puts the pieces together, he helps people across the world connect as their lives intersect according to the patterns Jake has foreseen…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)

Cover imageRizzoli & Isles. The complete first season.
“Angie Harmon has never been better, as the tough Boston detective Jane Rizzoli. Her partner in crime (solving) is the equally impressive Sasha Alexander as Dr. Maura Isles, the by-the-books medical examiner who always has Rizzoli’s back, but is often appalled at the cop’s hard-charging tough-Boston-girl approach. Rizzoli & Isles is based on the series of popular mysteries by Tess Gerritsen, and adapted faithfully and engagingly for TV viewers. One thing that sets Rizzoli & Isles apart from the average police procedural is its crisp direction and subtle writing; even the most die-hard cop-show viewer will be engaged and surprised by the plots’ twists and turns…The key in any double-starring series is chemistry, and Harmon and Alexander have it in spades–their sparring and intellectual one-upmanship are completely believable. The cases in season one are varied, though focus mostly on serial killers, with one particularly gripping case flashing back to the notorious Boston Strangler case…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imagePerson of interest. The complete first season.
“Series creator Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher) lays out the premise at a furious clip: an eccentric tech genius (Lost’s Michael Emerson) enlists a shadowy soldier-of-fortune (Jim Caviezel) to help with his pet project–a machine with seemingly endless surveillance capabilities. Utilizing the device’s ability to identify threats before they happen, they set out to right future wrongs, attracting the attention of a dogged New York cop (Taraji P. Henson) in the process. Were Person of Interest content to remain at the level of weekly procedural, it would be a very good one, with every installment boasting well-choreographed fight scenes, Emerson’s impeccably weird comedy timing, and a thorny morality that keeps the methods of the protagonists edging into the black…Thankfully, however, Nolan and co. also show an ability to play the long game, cannily inserting flashbacks that hint at a bigger mystery, introducing a strangely empathetic recurring supervillain, and laying out minor plot elements that pay off big further down the line…(Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageFriends with kids.
“It’s a stroke of good fortune that Friends with Kids features a hefty portion of the same cast that made Bridesmaids such a hit. The stars of Friends with Kids are Jennifer Westfeldt (who also wrote and directed) and Adam Scott as Julie and Jason, BFFs who are strictly platonic but decide to have a child together out of mutual need, convenience, and familiarity. Their married friends have all brought kids into the world with mixed results, and they feel a little left out. Neither wants the burden of marriage and both profess to have no romantic inclination toward the other.. Concurrently with their parenting, each one is also playing the same old dating game that ranges from simple hookups to what looks like true love when Julie meets Kurt (Edward Burns) and Jason meets Mary Jane (Megan Fox). That’s when the emotions start getting complicated and both realize that they may not have thought through their child-rearing plan or their honest feelings for each other thoroughly enough…(Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe comeback. The complete first only season.
“How wickedly ironic–and delicious–that Lisa Kudrow’s single season of The Comeback provided the talented actress with enough meat for her to be nominated for an Emmy–after the show was canceled by HBO. Kudrow went for the Anti-Phoebe role after the demise of Friends, demonstrating her spectacular acting chops and range of comic abilities. The show centered on Kudrow’s playing an actress, once the ingénue of the moment, trying ever more desperately to get back into the limelight. The vehicle of choice: a reality “series” that follows Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish into scenarios with the deck more than stacked against her. Kudrow’s acid delivery and willingness to show Valerie’s raw pain, ambition, and obsequiousness make for engrossing and poignant, if squirm-inducing, viewing… The series, though short-lived demonstrates why Kudrow is one of our most talented actresses; here’s hoping for a succession of more Comebacks…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageSyndetics book coverThe amazing Spider-man.
“The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero…” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageSnow White & the huntsman.
“Definitely not your average retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman is a dark, action-fantasy film that’s based more on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale than the well-known Disney version of the story. It features intriguing concepts, impressive special effects, and some disappointingly lackluster acting. The essence of the “Snow White” story is preserved in this recounting: the queen’s beautiful daughter Snow White, who is heir to the throne, is displaced and persecuted by an evil stepmother after her mother dies. Here, the evil stepmother Ravenna possesses a disturbing power to maintain her own perpetual youth by stealing youthfulness from the hearts of the young and beautiful, but her magic mirror warns that Snow White’s innocence and purity as she comes of age will destroy Ravenna’s chance at immortality. When Snow White escapes from the castle prison, Ravenna hires a downtrodden Huntsman to bring her back so that Ravenna can steal her youth and achieve personal immortality…This film is full of fascinating imagery that’s brought to life through powerful special effects, great costuming, and captivating cinematography…” (From Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageAttack the block.
“Full of gory practical effects and fluent pop-cultural references, Attack the Block–an alien invasion scenario squeezed into a single apartment building–belongs to the same species of British genre comedy as Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Director Joe Cornish takes some clever routes around the limitations of his budget, filming on location in London’s Heygate Estate (itself a once utopian science-fiction experiment) and mining the freshness of his young cast’s authentic street slang. When the aliens arrive (they simply drop, during a frosty Bonfire Night, out of the shining pepper of the stars) ..the block’s defence is up to a group of teenage hoods, lead by the imposing Moses (John Boyega) and reluctantly helped by middle-class neighbour Sam (Jodie Whittaker). Armed with fireworks and mounted on muscle bikes, they launch an entertaining and Spielbergian resistance through the block’s labyrinth of corridors and walkways…More alien to each other than the beasts on their tail, the survival of these divided class members hangs on the recognition that they have a stake in each other…(From Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageOnce upon a time. The complete first season.
“Immerse yourself in the magic and mystery of Storybrooke – a sleepy little town where every fairytale character you’ve ever known is frozen in time and trapped between two worlds, victims of an evil curse. On her 28th birthday, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) meets Henry (Jared Gilmore), the son she gave up for adoption 10 years ago. Henry believes Emma is the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), prophesied to break a powerful curse. Unconvinced, Emma returns Henry to Storybrooke, where she encounters the enigmatic Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) and clashes with mayor Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla) – the boy’s adoptive mother – who Henry insists is none other than the Evil Queen!…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)

New DVDs for October

Some new DVDs for October include the family friendly ‘Big Miracle’; ‘The Five-Year Engagement’ from the producers of ‘Bridesmaids’; ‘Dark Shadows’ with Johnny Depp; some spooky horror with ‘The Innkeepers’; and the chocolate themed French rom-com ‘Romantics Anonymous’…

Cover imageDark shadows.
“In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy… until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe five-year engagement.
“Planning a wedding is no easy task, and finding the perfect moment for the big occasion is nothing short of impossible, but Violet (Emily Blunt) and Tom (Jason Segel) have no idea of the challenges ahead of them when they decide to get married. This slapstick comedy plays like the art of awkward: Violet, Tom, their friends, and families all have huge propensities for saying and doing the absolutely worst, most awkward thing in any given situation. From a bungled marriage proposal to a multimedia presentation about Tom’s ex-girlfriends at the couple’s engagement party, and an inappropriate hookup between Violet’s sister Susie (Alison Brie) and Tom’s good friend Alex (Chris Pratt), the impending nuptials promise nothing but trouble for everyone but viewers in the mood to laugh. Rising chef Tom sacrifices a job he loves in San Francisco, along with the promise of swift promotion, to follow academic Violet to a teaching fellowship in Michigan. The only job Tom can find there is in a sandwich shop, and the move puts their wedding plans on hold… Eventually, the strain takes a huge toll on their relationships with one another, their friends, coworkers, and families. But one thing is certain, director Nicholas Stoller makes sure that their journey is just as funny as it is sad…(Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageMirror, mirror.
“In “Mirror Mirror” two 14-year-old girls discover they can see through identical mirrors 100 years apart and that they can travel to each other’s time. At first this is a source of wonder and delight but the two girls, Jo and Louisa, quickly discover they must solve an enormous problem. A canister of toxic gas threatens Jo’s friends. The girls must somehow find a way to alter the past so they can avoid a catastrophe in the present. While they struggle through the layers of space and time, Jo discovers the young Nicholas, Tsarevich of all the Russians, living in Louisa’s time. Captivated by each other, Nicholas and Jo work together to save their friends and to find a way of spanning time so they can remain together.”…(Syndetics summary)

Cover imageBig miracle.
“The oil business, politics, Inuit customs, and animal preservation normally don’t mix, especially when the press gets involved. But a funny thing happens when Alaska television reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) discovers a trio of gray whales trapped in the ice near the small town of Point Barrow. Adam’s report gets national exposure, and his ex-girlfriend and Greenpeace worker Rachel (Drew Barrymore) hears the story, begins lobbying politicians to save the whales, and hops a plane for Alaska. The story reaches the local Inupiat people and millions of Americans, including oil tycoon J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson), presidential aide Kelly Meyers (Vinessa Shaw), Marine colonel Scott Boyer (Dermot Mulroney), and Los Angeles reporter Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell). Each gets involved in the fight for their own distinct reason…The group forms an unlikely alliance and pools their resources in an effort to save the three gray whales, but the experience leaves each of them unexpectedly changed…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe kid with a bike.
“The Dardennes create tension out of human drama and draw believable, excellent performances from their entire cast. Cyril, almost 12, has only one plan: to find the father who left him temporarily in a children s home. By chance he meets Samantha, who runs a hairdressing salon and agrees to let him stay with her at weekends. Cyril doesn t recognize the love Samantha feels for him, a love he desperately needs to calm his rage. This affecting and gripping drama is one of the finest films from the directors of ‘The Child’ , ‘Rosetta’ & ‘The Silence of Lorna’…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe source.
“In a remote and primitive patriarchal village between the North of Africa and the Middle East, the land has dried and the women traditionally bring water from a distant fountain to their houses while the idle husbands drink tea in the bar. The educated Leïla, who is the wife of the local teacher Sami, begins a sex strike movement among the women, supported by the elder Vieux Fusil (meaning old flintlock), to force the men to bring water to the village. Overcoming the wrath of the village elders and an unexpected visit from an old flame, Leila brings the colourful local traditions face-to-face with the modern world. Fun, lively and unforgettable, this is an entertaining journey through the African mountains to the heart of one vibrant community…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe innkeepers.
“At a time when the horror genre seems to consist solely of cheap jump scares and MacGyverish torture contraptions, writer-director-editor Ti West’s The House of the Devil proved a pleasant anomaly: a slow-building ’70s throwback which understood that the process of getting spooked is at least half the fun. The Innkeepers, West’s follow-up, winningly continues the retro streak, doling out the murk and gloom by steadily escalating degrees, anchored by Sara Paxton’s wonderfully appealing mope of a lead performance. Kicking off with a knowingly chintzy Internet gag, the story follows a pair of bored clerks (Paxton and Pat Healy) working at a rickety Victorian inn during its last few days of business. Taking advantage of the lack of guests, the not-so-dynamic duo begin investigating the building’s reputation for housing things that go bump in the night. After a boozy psychic (Kelly McGillis) checks in, however, the once-quaint creaks and moans become terrifyingly tangible…(Adapted from Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe Raven.
“Baltimore 1849. While investigating a horrific double murder, police detective Emmett Fields makes a startling discovery: the killer’s methods mirror the twisted writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Suspecting Poe at first, Fields ultimately enlists his help to stop future attacks. But in this deadly game of cat and mouse, the stakes are raised with each gruesome slaying as the pair races to catch a madman before he brings every one of Poe’s shocking stories to chilling life, and death.” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imagePrometheus.
“Yes, folks, Prometheus is a prequel, in a sideways sort of fashion, to Scott’s 1979 Alien original–or at least it’s a long-distant stage setter for that story. This one begins with a space mission that could reveal the extraterrestrial roots of Earth, although what’s buried out on the planet turns out to be much more complicated than expected. In the midst of suspenseful episodes (and a few contrived plot turns), Prometheus reaches for Big Answers to Big Questions, in a grand old sci-fi tradition. This lends the movie a hint of metaphysical energy, even if Scott’s reach extends well, well beyond his grasp. The hokier moments are carried off with brio by Michael Fassbender (the robot on board), Charlize Theron, and Idris Elba, and then you’ve got Noomi Rapace entering the badass hall of fame for a long, oh-no-they-didn’t sequence involving radical surgery, which might just induce the vapours in a few viewers. Even if Prometheus has its holes, the sheer size of the thing is exciting to be around. Because this movie is gigantic…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageRock of ages.
“Anyone with great affection for ’80s big-hair bands (Journey, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, and the rest) will be doing a lot of head-bopping to Rock of Ages, the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. Director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) has assembled a winning cast to tell the story of an aging rock legend, Stacee Jaxx (played with deadpan aplomb by Tom Cruise), against the I-wanna-be-a-star yearnings of a newbie, Sherrie (Julianne Hough). There’s not much of a plot, but the music is really the star, as well as the great supporting roles played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (Patricia, a belter with style), Paul Giamatti (Paul, a jaundiced rock promoter apparently intent on quashing everyone’s dreams), Mary J. Blige (Justice, the owner of a strip club), and Alec Baldwin, whose Dennis is a rawk-on club owner and head-banger from way back. Everyone in the cast looks like they’re having a blast, and that feeling is contagious, especially if you love the music. Some parts of Rock of Ages don’t seem to know if they are supposed to be played in earnest or ironically, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. And Cruise, though his part is small, seems to be channeling late-era Axl Rose in a performance that’s a little unnerving, yet hilarious. Rock of Ages appeals to the rocker in us all. Don’t stop believin’…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover image Vera. Series one.
“Few would suggest that television is crying out for a new detective to solve the crimes of Britain, and thus the original announcement of Vera hardly set tongues wagging. But this is a show that has a special weapon in its midst, namely Brenda Blethyn. Blethyn is a terrific actress, and here, in the title role, she gets to play an obsessive murder detective. Vera is based on the novels of Ann Cleeves, and in truth, the stories themselves are hardly radical additions to the genre. But they are intriguing ones, and the cases in this maiden series are significantly lifted by Blethyn’s investment in the title character. Vera, inevitably, doesn’t have life very easy. And working in tandem with Sergeant Joe Ashworth, she battles not only the crime in front of her, but the challenges in her own life. Boasting good quality production values, a strong cast, and cases that hold the attention, Vera is a fine piece of television drama. But the main reason to watch it? That’d be its exceptional leading lady. Just watching Blethyn take on such a meaty role is worth the time and financial investment in itself…’ (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageRomantics anonymous.
“Jean-Rene is the boss of a chocolate factory and Angelique is a talented chocolate maker. They are both emotionally challenged people. Drawn together through a shared passion for chocolate, Jean-Rene and Angelique fall in love, but neither is able to express how they feel. Sadly, their crippling shyness is driving them apart. But eventually, they manage to overcome their lack of self-confidence, and risk baring their true feelings.” (Syndetics Summary)

New DVDs for September

Some new DVDs to hit our shelves include the latest season of the Private Eye send-up ‘Bored To Death’; the latest Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation; Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Potter role; Lasse Hallström’s adaptation of Paul Torday’s novel, ‘Salmon Fishing in Yemen’; Joss Whedon’s Marvel super-hero epic; and the much touted Emmy winning ‘Homeland’…

Cover imageHomeland. The complete first season.
“Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a CIA Agent battling her own demons becomes convinced that the intelligence that led to the rescue of Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a US soldier who had been missing and presumed dead for eight years was a set-up, and may be connected to an al-Qaeda plot to be carried out on American soil. Already on thin ice with the CIA, and now assigned to a desk job after an incident in Iraq, Carrie is forced to break protocol in order to prove her theory that Brody was “turned” during his many years in captivity and is now working for al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, Brody receives a hero’s welcome at home, and attempts to reconnect with his family whom he hasn’t seen in eight years…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageBored to death. The complete second season.
“Bored to Death fuses the anxieties of literary life with a pastiche of detective stories in eight tidy episodes. Floundering writer Jonathan Ames (played by Jason Schwartzman and named after series creator and main writer Jonathan Ames) now not only has his sideline as an unlicensed private detective, but also starts teaching a creative writing class (and starts flirting with one of his students). His best friend, frustrated cartoonist Ray (Zach Galifianakis), has a burst of self-esteem when his self-published comic book (about a well-endowed superhero named after himself) grows bizarrely popular, leading him to think he might be able to get back together with his ex (Heather Burns, Miss Congeniality). But this season really takes off when Jonathan’s mentor, magazine editor George (Ted Danson), gets diagnosed with prostate cancer. Somehow, this heavy topic gives the show just the hint of gravity it needs to maintain its balance, and gives Danson the opportunity to take his marvelous portrait of pot-smoking self-absorption in new and delightful directions..” (From Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe Fades. Series one.
“A teenage boy named Paul is haunted by apocalyptic dreams that nobody can explain. As if that weren’t terrifying enough, he begins to see spirits of the dead, known as The Fades, all around him. The Fades can’t be seen, smelt, heard or touched by other humans. When an embittered and vengeful Fade, Polus, finds a way to be human again, it’s up to Paul to stop him – and all of the dead – from breaking back into the world and destroying the human race…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageSalmon fishing in The Yemen.
“Lasse Hallström’s breezy adaptation of Paul Torday’s satiric novel, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, features dedicated anglers and arid Middle Eastern vistas, but it’s a screwball comedy at heart (with Morocco standing in for Yemen). Bridget (Kristin Scott Thomas), the prime minister’s steamroller of a press secretary, sets the story in motion when she reads about a fabulously wealthy sheik (Amr Waked) who longs to bring fly-fishing to the desert. She believes that cooperation with his country would be good for Britain’s image, while the sheik has more altruistic goals in mind. This leads her to mild-mannered fisheries expert Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor, effectively cast against type), who feels certain the endeavor is pure fantasy until hyper-efficient Harriet (Emily Blunt), the sheik’s land agent, brings him some surprising data about the region. Though Fred’s marriage has been running on fumes, Harriet has been seeing a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Initially, the two are all business as they devise a plan involving a system of dams, but their feelings for each other gradually rise to the surface…” (Adapted from Amazon.com)

Cover imageEpisodes. [Season 1].
“Matt LeBlanc plays a deliciously outrageous version of himself in this laugh-out-loud comedy from creators David Crane (Friends) and Jeffrey Klarik (Mad About You). Episodes offers a peek behind the curtain at the insanity of Hollywood. You’ll never watch TV the same way again. Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Grieg) are a happily married English couple, who are also the successful creators of a hit British TV show. Their life seems complete. That is until a hugely powerful and charismatic US network president persuades them to move to LA to remake their show for American television. He’s full of praise and promises “not to change a thing”. However, things begin to unravel as soon as Sean and Beverly arrive in LA. They discover that the network president has never even seen their show. To make matters worse, he insists that they replace their brilliant lead actor (Richard Griffiths), an erudite Royal Shakespeare veteran with… Matt LeBlanc! Sean and Beverly are appalled. But the decision is out of their hands. Matt comes on board, and soon Sean and Beverly find themselves in a complicated triangle which threatens to destroy not just their TV show but also their marriage.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe best exotic Marigold Hotel.
“Some of the finest actors in England lend their formidable talents to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a charming fish-out-of-water yarn. The Brits, who include Evelyn (Judi Dench), Muriel (Maggie Smith), Douglas (Bill Nighy), and Graham (Tom Wilkinson), are planning retirement in a less expensive country. After “thorough research on the Internet,” the group chooses what looks to be a grand, peaceful retreat, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It turns out that the bloom is off this marigold–it’s shabby, antiquated, and as chaotic as the city in India, Jaipur, where it is set. Who can adapt to this very different retirement experience, and who founders? That question lies at the heart of the plot of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The cast is uniformly superb, as the retirees bond and bicker and fall out and then try to encourage one another. And Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) shines as Sonny, the barely-holding-it-together Marigold Hotel manager…At its heart, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, deftly directed by John Madden, is an uplifting journey, allowing the viewer to feel what the retirees are discovering on the screen…” (Adapted from Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe lucky one.
“U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive – a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Learning her name is Beth and where she lives, he shows up at her door, and ends up taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Despite her initial mistrust and the complications in her life, a romance develops between them, giving Logan hope that Beth could be much more than his good luck charm…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe woman in black.
“Fans of classically structured haunted house/ghost stories will relish the skillfully unnerving chain of events in The Woman in Black, whether or not they’re fans of Harry Potter. The good new is that Daniel Radcliffe leaves Harry behind for good in his first post-Potter role. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor tasked with resolving the affairs of a recently deceased woman and her brooding estate in the gloom of the remote Victorian England-era village of Crythin Gifford. The mood is melancholic all around, starting with Kipps himself, who lost his wife to childbirth a few years earlier. His employer has had just about enough of his moping about and gives him the assignment as a last resort to save his job. When he arrives in the small village, the icy response he receives does not bode well for successful completion of his mission. All the townspeople want him gone, and possibly for good reason. Many of their children have died mysteriously gruesome deaths that they blame on the titular black-clad woman whose own child was tragically sucked to his death in the muck surrounding her seaside mansion. This new stranger who wants to unearth the deadly secrets trapped in the decrepit old house is a threat they cannot abide, and sure enough the deaths keep on coming as he delves deeper into the dark recesses of the house and the history of its ghostly occupant…” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe duel.
“In Anton Chekhov’s The Duel, escalating animosity between two men with opposing philosophies of life is played out against the backdrop of a decaying seaside resort along the Black Sea coast. Laevsky is a dissaipated romantic given to gambling and flirtation. He has run off to the sea with the beautiful, emotionally empty, Nadya, another man’s wife. Laevsky has now grown tired of her, but two obstacles block his route to escape: he is broke, and he faces the absolute enmity of Von Koren, an arrogant zoologist and former friend who can no longer tolerate Laevsky’s irresponsibility. Soon Laevsky confronts Von Koren, accusing him of meddling in his affairs, but Von Koren maneuvers a criticism Lavesky makes of their mutual friend. Dr. Samoylenko, into a challenge to a duel. Utterly discombobulated and honor bound, Lavesky agrees to this absurdity-a duel it shall be! A duel as comically inadvertent as it is inevitable…” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageA dangerous method.
“With a lucid analyst’s eye, director David Cronenberg turns his steady gaze toward a trio of brilliant people in the early, and somehow defining, years of the 20th century. In Zurich, a young psychoanalyst named Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on an intellectually gifted but deeply neurotic young woman, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), as a patient. Through the course of a lengthy analysis, their relationship takes a turn for intimacy, despite professional policy against such encounters. Meanwhile, Jung is entwined in another important relationship, with psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), whose enthusiasm about Jung being the golden boy of the science will eventually dim. What’s bracing in Cronenberg’s keen reading of this situation, based on Christopher Hampton’s script, is that no aspect of this situation is more important than any other; the sexual tumbling between Jung and Spielrein might provide a few hotsy moments, but the careful lines traced between Freud’s pragmatic wisdom and Jung’s idealistic ventures into the mystic are equally significant…” (Adapted from Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe avengers.
“Blasphemy? Perhaps. But the best thing about what may be the most rousing and well-crafted superhero movie since The Dark Knight is not the boffo action scenes that culminate in a New York City-destroying finale that rivals Michael Bay’s obliteration of the Chicago skyline in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. No, the real appeal of The Avengers comes from the quiet moments among a group of decidedly unquiet humans, extra-humans, mutants, and demigods. In no particular order those are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), S.H.I.E.L.D. world-government commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and indispensable functionary Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). That’s a superstar lineup both in and out of character, and The Avengers brilliantly integrates the cast of ensemble egos into a story that snaps and crackles–not to mention smashes, trashes, and destroys–at breakneck pace, never sacrificing visual dazzle or hard-earned story dynamics…Yet it’s the deeply personal conversations and confrontations among the very reluctant team of Avengers that makes the movie pop. Full of humor, snappy dialogue, and little asides that include inside jokes, eye rolls, and personal grudge matches, the script makes these superhumans real beings with sincere passion or feelings of disillusionment…That spirit of fun and pure adventure makes The Avengers the greatest kind of escapist Hollywood fantasy $250 million can buy. A blockbuster in the most literal sense…(Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageSam Hunt: purple balloon and other stories : a film about Sam Hunt.
For forty years Sam Hunt has been a force in New Zealand poetry and culture. He is a storyteller who has spent his life struggling with his, often very public, demons. In that journey he has gone from outcast to icon, he has crossed paths with outlaws, Prime Ministers, literary and artistic giants and the public. This doucmentary explores how Sam reflects the New Zealand landscape – literary and physical. The film examines what has made him a great poet and an enigma. Sam is undoubtedly our best known poet, by far the best exponent of performance poetry and one of the most recognisable Kiwis alive today. In the words of the later Peter Smart: “Sam Hunt is important to us because he is that extraordinary, rare person – someone who is prepared to illustrate with his life the value of poetry and the making of poems…” (Syndetics Summary)

Cover imageMIB3: Men in black 3.
“In Men in Black 3, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back… in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K’s life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him — secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind…” (Description from Amazon.com)

All About Great Movies

Have an insight into great movies such as Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ and Orson Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane’ which have recently been voted as the top and second respectively in the ‘Sight & Sound’ magazine’s Greatest Films all time poll.

Syndetics book coverVertigo / Charles Barr.
“Vertigo (1958) is widely regarded as not only one of Hitchcock’s best films, but one of the greatest films of world cinema. Made at the time when the old studio system was breaking up, it functions both as an embodiment of the supremely seductive visual pleasures that ‘classical Hollywood’ could offer and – with the help of an elaborate plot twist – as a laying bare of their dangerous dark side. Although it can be seen as Hitchcock’s most personal film, Charles Barr argues that, like Citizen Kane, Vertigo is at the same time a triumph not so much of individual authorship as of creative collaboration. He highlights the crucial role of screenwriters Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor and, by a combination of textual and contextual analysis, explores the reasons why Vertigo continues to inspire such fascination.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)

Syndetics book coverCitizen Kane / Laura Mulvey.
“Mulvey provides an accessible account of previous scholarship on the 1941 Orson Welles classic, as well as a psychoanalytic reading of the film that sees Kane as “suspended between a pre-Oedipal love for his mother and rivalry with his father and the post-Oedipal world in which he should take his place.” She explores Welles’s anti-fascist politics in terms of the film’s implicit critique of conservative media magnate William Randolph Hearst. The book concludes with a scene-by-scene analysis of the film’s narrative and dramatic structure.” (adapted from CHOICE summary)

Syndetics book coverMetropolis / Thomas Elsaesser.
“Metropolis is a monumental work. On its release in 1925, after sixteen months’ filming, it was Germany’s most expensive feature film, a canvas for director Fritz Lang’s increasingly extravagant ambitions. Lang, inspired by the skyline of New York, created a whole new vision of cities. One of the greatest works of science fiction, the film also tells human stories about love and family. Thomas Elsaesser explores the cultural phenomenon of Metropolis: its different versions (there is no definitive one), its changing meanings, and its role as a database of twentieth-century imagery and ideologies.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)

Syndetics book coverSingin’ in the rain / Peter Wollen.
“Wollen situates Arthur Freed’s Singin’ in the Rain (1952) within a history of American dance, the evolution of the Freed unit at MGM, and post-WW II investigations by the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee (“a plot to blacklist Kathy Selden launched by an informer”). His analysis of the title number makes astute observations about the use of sound and Kelly’s ecstatic descent into the pleasures of infantilism as he splashes about in puddles.” (adapted from CHOICE summary)

Syndetics book coverSnow White and the seven dwarfs / Eric Smoodin.
“In 1937, when Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the film became an immediate, international sensation. Years earlier, when Disney decided to produce Snow White, his first animated feature-length film, even he couldn’t have imagined the hundreds of artists required, the cost involved, or the necessary technological innovations. But all of this effort resulted in a film experience like no other. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs now stands as one of the most important of all Hollywood films, and its influence on movies. Based on extensive research in materials from the period of the film’s production and distribution, Eric Smoodin’s study presents a careful history of the events that led up to Snow White, the trajectory of Disney’s career that made this extraordinary project a logical next step, the reception of the film in the US and around the world, and its impact on so many aspects of contemporary culture.(adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)

Syndetics book coverDon’t look now / Mark Sanderson.
“Don’t Look Now, released in 1973, confirmed director Nicolas Roeg as one of the most stylish and innovative British directors of the postwar period. Adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier, it is both a complex study of how people come to terms with grief and a chilling tale of murder set among the canals and churches of Venice. Featuring telling performances by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as the couple whose daughter has tragically died, Don’t Look Now depicts the way in which the macabre and the everyday are intertwined. The book includes an exclusive and in-depth interview with Roeg as well as rare and unpublished comments from Christie.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk. summary)

Syndetics book coverThe science of Avatar / Stephen Baxter.
“James Cameron’s Avatar is the biggest movie of all time. Now the movie’s legendary director has leant his support to an exploration of the world of Pandora with bestselling science-fiction author Stephen Baxter. From journeys into deep space to anti-gravity unobtanium, from Pandora’s extraordinary flora and fauna to transferring consciousness, Baxter and Cameron reveal that we are often closer to world of Avatar than we might imagine. Stephen Baxter is the master of `what-if?’ science fiction. In THE SCIENCE OF AVATAR he’s written a book that will appeal to fans of both science-fiction and popular science. THE SCIENCE OF AVATAR will offer fans the unique opportunity to explore the spectacular world of Pandora, from the creator himself.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)


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