New DVDs for May include the acclaimed Bio-pics Saving Mr. Banks with Tom Hanks & Emma Thompson, and Philomena with Judi Dench & Steve Coogan; adaptations of popular YA novels with The Book Thief & The Spectacular Now, and the short-story collection The Turning by Tim Winton; new Foreign hits with French romantic-comedy Populaire & exciting Danish thriller A Hijacking; Academy Award-nominated drama with August: Osage County; and the return of cult-TV favourite Veronica Mars.
Saving Mr. Banks.
“Saving Mr. Banks is a fascinating look at the circuitous “collaborative” process Walt Disney, his creative team, and author P.L. Travers engaged in in bringing the character Mary Poppins to life on the big screen in the early 1960s. This touching, funny film is really two stories nicely tied up in one appealing package. The first story is of P.L. Travers’s childhood in Australia in the early 1900s. This story starts out idyllically enough, emphasizing her father’s immense love for his children and his uncanny ability to make everything fun and exciting, but it’s one that has a darker side that ends up shaping the adult that Travers eventually becomes. The other story is of the adult P.L. Travers. A proper Englishwoman completely set in her ways, she grudgingly embarks on a trip from England to Los Angeles to discuss the possibility of turning her highly successful book Mary Poppins into a Disney motion picture. Walt Disney has a vested personal interest in the project, but Travers and the Disney team clash on virtually every level and their interactions run the gamut from perplexing to infuriating and downright funny. The juxtaposition of the two stories is quite masterful, with the stories continually intertwining and each shedding light on the other to create a cohesive film that is highly engaging and emotionally poignant.” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)
The book thief.
“Skillfully pared down from Markus Zusak’s celebrated young adult novel, The Book Thief presents a somewhat sanitized glimpse of Nazi Germany and the war from the uniquely innocent view of an adolescent girl. At first the perspective seems to be from the narrator, a bored, yet amused voice we learn is Death, presumably taking a brief holiday to comment on the experience of young Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) and the evolving disruptions around her. After Liesel is separated from her brother and mother in sharp and unsettling fashion, she lands at the home of protective, penurious foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in a small village somewhere in the picturesque German countryside. When she’s teased at school for being illiterate, the kindly Hans makes a fun project of teaching her to read. Rosa is a persnickety presence for both of them, but it’s mainly a façade as the couple embrace Liesel tighter even as the situation around them grows more dire. At a Nazi book burning a horrified Liesel surreptitiously snatches a random volume from the flames. The wife of the local Bürgermeister is the only one who notices, and she compassionately allows Liesel to visit her dead son’s library, where she soon earns the movie’s title moniker. Liesel’s newfound love of literature begins informing her actions as more is revealed about the Hubermanns and the toll of wartime village life becomes more desperate.” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)
“In 1958, the young Rose Pamphyle dreams on leaving the small village in the countryside of France where she lives with her grumpy father Jean Pamphyle, who is a widower that runs a store and wishes that Rose get married to the son of the local mechanic. Rose learns by herself how to type using only two fingers and when she sees an advertisement for a secretary for the insurance agent Louis Échard in Lisieux, Lower Normandy, she immediately travels to city. Rose has a bad interview but she impresses Louis typing at very high speed. Louis decides to hire her for a short period of experience and Rose shows that she is a clumsy secretary. But Louis is a former sportsman and he decides to train Rose how to type correctly to dispute a speed typing competition. He brings Rose to his home and she learns how to play piano to help her typing with Louis’s childhood friend Marie Taylor that is married with the American Bob Taylor. She becomes close to his friends and family. Rose becomes the fastest typist in France and now she needs to train to compete in the world title in USA. But Louis, who has fallen in love with her, believes that he is not enough to help her and decides to sacrifice his love to make Rose’s dream come true.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)
August: Osage County.
“Academy Award-nominated drama directed by John Wells. Members of the Weston family reunite at their family home in Osage County, Oklahoma when their troubled poet father Beverly (Sam Shepard) goes missing. It isn’t long before they find that he has commited suicide and the rest of the family then come to pay their last regards at the funeral. Leaving his outspoken and drug-addicted wife Violet (Meryl Streep) behind, the rest of the family feel obligated to stay with her while she grieves for her husband. But living in such close proximity is a test for any grown family, and it isn’t long before cracks in their relationships begin to appear. The ensemble cast includes Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch. Both Streep and Roberts received Oscar nominations for their performances in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, respectively.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)
“The cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbour when it is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Amongst the men on board are the ship’s cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk, Borgen) and the engineer Jan (Roland Møller), who along with the rest of the seamen are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company (Søren Malling The Killing, Borgen) and the Somali pirates. ‘A brilliant piece of scary, authentic-looking realism… Lindholm keeps the tension going and never descends into crude melodrama. As a psychological drama, this is surely one of the best of the year’ – Evening Standard.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)
The spectacular now.
“Based on the beloved book by Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now is the story of Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior and self-proclaimed “life of the party,” who unexpectedly falls in love with “nice girl” Aimee Fineky (Shailene Woodley). While Aimee dreams of the future, Sutter lives in the now, and yet somehow, they’re drawn together. What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp- eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth. Costarring Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)
“On the eve of graduating law school, Veronica Mars has put Neptune and her amateur sleuthing days behind her. While interviewing at high-end New York law firms, Veronica Mars gets a call from her ex-boyfriend Logan who has been accused of murder. Veronica heads back to Neptune just to help Logan find an attorney, but when things don’t seem right with how Logan’s case is perceived and handled, Veronica finds herself being pulled back into a life she thought she had left behind.” (Publishers description from Syndetics summary)
“Judi Dench stars in the story of Philomena Lee, mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock and given up for adoption. Nearly 50 years later, Philomena meets Martin Sixsmith, a former BBC reporter looking for his next big story. Together, they embark on a journey to locate her long lost son. As the pieces of the puzzle come together, the unlikely travel companions form a comic and heartwarming friendship. Based on the 2009 investigative book by Martin Sixsmith.” (Publishers description from Syndetics summary)
“Sophie, a young foreign exchange student, arrives to stay with a family in up-state New York, taking piano lessons from the father, Keith. But soon Sophie’s longing for excitement and Keith’s growing disenchantment with family life begin to take on a romantic aspect which threatens Keith’s comfortable suburban existence. An intimate and intelligent romantic drama starring Felicity Jones (Like Crazy Chalet Girl) and Guy Pearce (Prometheus, Lawless, The Hurt Locker). Directed by Drake Doremus (Like Crazy).” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)
“‘The turning’ is a unique cinema event. Each of the seventeen directors reinterpret a chapter of the hauntingly beautiful short story collection by author Tim Winton. The linking and overlapping stories explore the extraordinary turning points in ordinary peoples lives in a stunning portrait of a small coastal community. As characters face second thoughts and regret, relationships irretrievably alter, resolves are made or broken, and lives change direction forever.” (Container description from Syndetics summary)
“Chloe Grace Moretz and Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore star in this exhilarating reimagining of Stephen King’s iconic best seller. After merciless taunting from classmates and abuse at the hand of her religious fanatic mother (Moore), Carrie’s (Mortez) anger – and her telekinetic powers – are unleashed. And when a prom prank goes horribly wrong, events spiral out of control until the terrifying conclusion of this powerful, pulse-quickening horror story.” (Publishers description from Amazon.com)