Category: Recent picks

New DVDs for April

New DVDs for April include plenty of book-to-movie adaptations: With the spectacular Sci-Fi epic Ender’s Game from the cult novel by Orson Scott Card, The Patience Stone the best-selling novel by Afghan-born Atiq Rahimi, and the latest entry in The Hobbit trilogy. Also there is plenty of new TV with Masters of Sex recounting the real life story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, and the return of Sherlock Holmes from the dead…

Cover imageEnder’s game.
“Based on the popular series of books by Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game is aimed at the same young adult crowd that gobbled up franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games, but it has plenty to satisfy older audiences too. Ender Wiggin is a pubescent genius selected for training in an elite battle school some 70 years after an apocalyptic global attack by the insectlike Formics that killed tens of millions. The Formics were defeated, but the threat of their return remains and it’s up to children like Ender to become strategic commanders who will take up the mantle of defending Earth. The martial sensibility of a child army is crisp and believable in the scenes of boot camp on space stations and distant planet outposts. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) makes Ender the scrawny, brilliant misfit who really may be a savior to end the Formic threat forever. He’s bullied and alienated, a theme that recurs throughout the story in many ways and comes full circle in the brutal, beautiful finale. His mentor and tormentor is Colonel Graff, the grizzled commander who believes Ender is “the one,” but must hide some essential truths as a measure of control. Harrison Ford makes a bang-up return to stardom as Graff with barely dimmed wattage that pays more than a little homage to Han Solo…” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe patience stone.
“Based on the best-selling novel by Afghan-born Atiq Rahimi (Winner of France s prestigious Prix Goncourt) and co-adapted for the screen by the legendary Jean-Claude Carrière, THE PATIENCE STONE is a bold, powerful and ultimately uplifting story of one woman s resolve to break free from silence and oppression, featuring a breath-taking performance from Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani (Asghar Farhadi s About Elly, Ridley Scott s Body of Lies). In a country torn apart by a war, in Afghanistan or elsewhere, a beautiful young woman is left alone to care for her wounded husband who has been in a coma for the past two weeks. With no improvement in his condition, food and water in short supply and a war raging around her, she begins a heartfelt monologue in the hope that he will awaken and recover. She talks about her childhood, her dreams and frustrations, her loneliness, desires and suffering… For the very first time in her life she is able to confess her deepest feelings, believing he has become her Patience Stone , a magical stone which, according to Persian mythology, will deliver her from all her pain and torment. Poetic and unflinching, THE PATIENCE STONE reveals the complex secrets of one woman s life and love in a violent world of patriarchal confinement, in a story that is both deeply personal and resoundingly universal…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWhat Richard did.
“Richard Karlsen is a charming and talented young man – the undisputed leader of his circle of privileged South-Dublin teenagers. Straight out of school with a long summer and then university ahead of him, Richard’s world seems full of possibility. A new relationship with Lara, whom he meets at a beach party, seems to offer Richard the sort of relationship that he’s always been yearning for. But one night, during a party, Richard does something that destroys it all and shatters the lives of the people closest to him. Winner of numerous international film awards and featuring a breathtaking performance from star on the rise Jack Reynor, WHAT RICHARD DID is a quietly devastating study of a boy confronting the gap between who he thought he was and who he proves to be…” (Publishers description from catalogue)

Cover imageMasters of sex. The complete first season.
“MASTERS OF SEX stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Their research touched off the sexual revolution and took them from a Midwestern teaching hospital to the cover of Time magazine and multiple appearances on Johnny Carson’s couch. He is a brilliant scientist out of touch with his own feelings, and she is a single working mother ahead of her time. The series chronicles their unusual lives, romance, and unlikely pop culture trajectory…” (Publishers description from catalogue)

Cover imageStranger by the lake.
“Summertime in France. At a cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake, Franck falls for the sexy Michel – lust at first sight. Unfortunately for Franck, Michel’s jealous lover is also a regular at the cruising spot, and the two men are unable to act on the obvious spark between them. Retreating to the lake’s shores, Franck befriends an older man, Henri, who does not fit in to the “scene”. Their friendship is not based on sex, but on conversation and shared observation of their world and situation. When Franck witnesses Michel killing his lover, he is shocked, but his lust for this dangerous man overrides any sense of personal safety, and the two men begin a passionate affair. Soon the spot is frequented by a policeman who simply won’t accept that the body they discovered was caused by an accidental drowning…” (Publishers description from catalogue)

Cover imageSherlock. Complete series three.
“Two years after the devastating events of The Reichenbach Fall, Dr John Watson has got on with his life. New horizons and romance beckon in the shape of the beautiful and smart Mary Morstan. But Sherlock Holmes is about to rise from the grave. And even though it’s what his best friend wanted more than anything, for John Watson it might well be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for!’ In three brand new adventures, Sherlock and John face baffling mystery beneath the streets of London – a wedding that’s not quite what it seems and the arrival of the repellent and terrifying blackmailer Charles Augustus Magnussen. Who is the mysterious disappearing man? How can a Royal Guardsman bleed to death in a locked room? And what is the secret that threatens to blow apart everything the reunited friends hold dear? Sherlock is back, but will things ever be the same again?”…” (Publishers description from catalogue)

Cover imageAfternoon delight.
“Jill Soloway directs this comedy drama starring Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple and Josh Radnor. Rachel (Hahn) is a stay-at-home mum trapped in a sexless marriage. After seeking advice from therapist Lenore (Jane Lynch) she visits a strip club hoping to pick up some tips on how to spice up her sex life. When an impromptu lapdance leads to Rachel taking pity on stripper McKenna (Temple), she makes it her duty to point her life in a new direction. As Rachel disguises McKenna as her son’s new nanny, people start to wonder who this woman really is. Will this arrangement make or break Rachel’s marriage?” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe hobbit. The desolation of Smaug.
“The second of three epic instalments in director Peter Jackson’s blockbuster prequel to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Set in Middle-Earth 60 years before events in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, the story follows the adventures of Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who, at the instigation of the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), suddenly finds himself co-opted into joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to help reclaim the lost kingdom of the Lonely Mountain from the clutches of Smaug the dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch). In this film, while Gandalf heads south on his own, Bilbo, Thorin and the Dwarves enter the treacherous Mirkwood Forest on their way to the mountain. When they reach Lake-town Bilbo will have to perform the role he was assigned at the start of the quest – to find a secret door that will lead him to the lair of the dragon.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageFilth.
“Scheming Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), a bigoted and corrupt policeman, is in line for a promotion and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Enlisted to solve a brutal murder and threatened by the aspirations of his colleagues, including Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell), Bruce sets about ensuring their ruin, right under the nose of unwitting Chief Inspector Toal. As he turns his colleagues against one another by stealing their wives and exposing their secrets, Bruce starts to lose himself in a web of deceit that he can no longer control. His past is slowly catching up with him, and a missing wife, a crippling drug habit and suspicious colleagues start to take their toll on his sanity. The question is: can he keep his grip on reality long enough to disentangle himself from the filth?…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageOne chance.
“Biopic starring James Corden as ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ winner Paul Potts. The film charts Potts’ rise to fame, from his humble beginnings as a timid shop assistant to an internationally-renowned opera singer thanks to his success on the 2007 British talent show. Following a string of failed chances, dismissals from his idol Pavarotti and unforeseeable accidents, Paul’s determination and talent enabled him to battle through against the odds and achieve his lifelong dream.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover image20 feet from stardom.
“They are the voices behind the greatest rock, pop and R&B hits of all time, but no one knows their names. Now, in this award-winning documentary, director Morgan Neville shines the spotlight on the untold stories of such legendary background (backup) singers as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, vintage live performances, and interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, and Bette Midler.” (Publishers description from Catalogue)

New DVDs for March

New DVDs for March include the acclaimed documentary Blackfish; the latest entry in the Hunger Games franchise; the return of Thor; White House historical drama The Butler; stylish French ‘zombie’ TV Show The Returned; a biography of popular singer Jeff Buckley; and the new British series Ripper Street

Cover imageBlackfish.
“A mesmerising psychological thriller with a killer whale at its centre, Blackfish is the first film since Grizzly Man to show how nature can get revenge on man when pushed to its limits. Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the mulit-billion dollar sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.” (Publishers Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe hunger games. Catching fire.
“When it comes to blockbuster franchises, the first sequel frequently offers pumped-up versions of the initial thrills–to diminishing results. Catching Fire, however, the second adaptation drawn from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, defies that trend with more finely drawn relationships. Despite her best efforts to feign romance with her co-competitor and to keep posttraumatic stress at bay, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) fears that Katniss’s defiant nature will incite rebellion, so he takes a tip from new gamemaker Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and launches a Quarter Quell in which past champions, such as the hilariously bitter Johanna (Jena Malone) and the deceptively arrogant Finnick (Sam Claflin), will fight to the death. Not all tributes are quite so young, like Mags (Lynn Cohen), a senior citizen who suits up for battle and establishes a touching bond with Finnick (Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer play the craftiest teammates). Until the cliffhanger ending, director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) serves up an array of splendors, from killer baboons to the ever-amazing outfits of Effie and Caesar (Stanley Tucci). Most significantly, the script from cowriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) strengthens the bonds between Katniss and Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who prove themselves more worthy than ever of Katniss’s affections.” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThor. The dark world.
“Action adventure sequel which sees Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the Marvel Comics superhero Thor, based on the mythical Norse God of Thunder. After the events of Marvel Avengers Assemble (2012), Earth and the Nine Realms come under attack from the powerful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and his age-old army that have existed since even before the creation of the universe. With the enemy proving near impossible to defeat, Thor approaches his adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for help, despite his villainous past. Meanwhile, the hero becomes reacquainted with the woman he loves, astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and takes her to Asgard in an attempt to protect her from harm. The cast also includes Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings and Zachary Levi.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe butler.
The Butler tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more. Academy Award® nominated Lee Daniels (Precious) directs and co-wrote the script with Emmy®-award winning Danny Strong (Game Change).” (Publishers description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageFruitvale Station.
“Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station follows the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother (Octavia Spencer), whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to Tatiana (Ariana Neal), their beautiful four year-old daughter. Crossing paths with friends, family, and strangers, Oscar starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easily. His resolve takes a tragic turn, however, when BART officers shoot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day. Oscar’s life and tragic death would shake the Bay Area – and the entire nation – to its very core.” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageGreetings from Tim Buckley.
“In 1991, Jeff Buckley rehearses for his public singing debut at a Brooklyn tribute concert for his father, the late folk singer Tim Buckley. Struggling with the legacy of a man he barely knew, Jeff forms a friendship with an enigmatic young woman and begins to discover the powerful potential of his own musical voice. Filled with stirring musical performances and the memorable songs of a father and son who were each among the most beloved singer/songwriters of their respective generations.” (From Library Catalogue)

Cover imageAlan Partridge: Alpha papa.
“Steve Coogan’s legendary chat show host and broadcaster finally receives the big screen treatment in this comedy directed by Declan Lowney. Occupying a career stasis-defining role as a mid-morning DJ on North Norfolk Digital Radio, Alan Partridge (Coogan)’s hopes for one last shot at the big time suffer a severe setback when it emerges that his employers have been taken over by a giant media conglomerate. Alan soon finds himself back in the spotlight, however, when newly-sacked fellow DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) returns to the studio with a shotgun and begins taking hostages. Called in by the police to act as a hostage negotiator, can Britain’s most famous Toblerone addict turn the tables and finally save the day?” (Library catalogue)

Cover imageFrances Ha.
“Noah Baumbach introduces 27-year-old New Yorker Frances Halliday (Greenberg’s Greta Gerwig) at an optimistic time in her life. Using quick cuts, he focuses primarily on the former Californian’s sisterly relationship with Sophie (Sting’s daughter, Mickey Sumner), with whom she went to Vassar. Then, it all comes crashing down. Frances breaks up with her boyfriend (who has a strange obsession with hairless cats), Sophie gets fancier digs, and Frances’s dance company director suggests that office work may be a better use of her time–though she praises her choreography skills. Worse yet, Sophie’s fiancé soon takes precedence over Frances, who assumed they’d always be the most important person in each other’s lives….Frances will move several more times, and each location will represent another blow to her self-esteem. Baumbach marks these moves with matter-of-fact subtitles listing the addresses, but Frances’s disappointments only serve to make her stronger… Baumbach and cowriter Gerwig have crafted a film with as much offbeat charm and bone-deep empathy as black-and-white progenitors Band of Outsiders and Stranger Than Paradise–a peak for both actress and director.” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageRipper street.
“At first glance, the BBC’s ambitious drama Ripper Street could be mistaken for a British take on something like Deadwood. Yet the creative team behind Ripper Street are wiser than to try that, instead fashioning a taut mix of drama and mystery that more than carves out an identity of its own. Ripper Street is set in 1889, and kicks off half a year after the last unsolved murder conducted by Jack The Ripper. Yet the Ripper’s shadow looms large over East London, and the Whitechapel H division have the uneasy job of policing the district. It is, as you might expect, a dangerous job, one explored over eight episodes of this maiden series for the show. Starring Jerome Flynn and Matthew Macfadyen, Ripper Street balances nicely between a grisly case to solve, and the ongoing development of its key characters, who somewhat inevitably are not short of shades of grey. Granted, there’s a derivative feel to some of the drama, but the historical setting does add a sense that anything could happen here, and the show has its fair share of surprises and twists to keep you guessing. It’s wonderfully realised, with some excellent direction and production design evoking the period. And there’s a little bit more going on under the surface here too than might be immediately obvious.” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe returned.
“The fabulously intriguing French TV Series as seen on Channel 4 – The Returned is a unique, stylish and powerful supernatural drama. It follows the residents of a small French alpine town as they come to terms with a series of mysterious and unbelievable occurrences. As a small group of unknowingly deceased men, women and children return from the dead and attempt to re-join the family and friends they left behind years before, the town begins to experience a series of chilling local murders. Beautifully filmed, expertly plotted, and featuring superbly believable performances and an unforgettably atmospheric soundtrack by cult Scottish group Mogwai, The Returned is the most original and enthralling series in years. “The Returned is probably the most stylish thing you’ll see on television this year.” Four stars from The Daily Telegraph.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWhite elephant.
“From one of Argentina’s most exciting and original directors Pablo Trapero (Carancho, Lion’s Den) and starring Ricardo Darin and Jeremie Renier, White Elephant is a compelling and highly charged film about courage and human triumph. What should have been South America’s largest hospital sits half-finished in the shanty towns of Buenos Aires, home to thousands. Amidst rising tensions between residents, striking labourers and warring drug cartels, two Catholic priests strive to defend the rights of the community while confronting brutal gangs and a church hierarchy skeptical of their unconventional methods. Inspired by the true story of Argentinian priest and activist Father Carlos Mugica, White Elephant traces the moral tightrope these men must walk in their bid to stand up for the victims of a corrupt system. Tense, superbly constructed and ultimately uplifting, White Elephant is a transfixing story of will, violence and survival.” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

New DVDs from February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New DVDs for January

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New DVDs for November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New DVDs for October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Ballet to Danny Boyle – New DVDs this September

The latest new DVDs include: J.J Abrams’ Star Trek sequel ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’; Season 2 of the award winning ‘Homeland’; The Lives Of Others-esque German film ‘Barbara’; the return of Robert Downey Jr. for the final Iron Man film; the West-Virginian rival clan saga of ‘Hatfields & McCoys’; and the disturbing tale of real-life hitman Richard Kuklinski…

Cover imageFirst position.
“As young aspiring ballet dancers approach a competition that could make or break their careers, the emotional stakes are so high that it’s almost cheating to make a movie about them–the documentarians wisely stay out of the way, because how could anyone not get drawn in by these kids? Fourteen-year-old Michaela survived being orphaned in Sierra Leone, where she witnessed horrific atrocities, and now she fights against prejudice and assumptions to become an African-American ballerina. Eleven-year-old Aran is a balletic wunderkind who rides skateboards and plays video games, but his heart belongs to dance. Joan Sebastian, 16 years old, has come to New York from Colombia, where his family’s annual income is a fraction of the scholarship he must win to pursue his career. They and other young dancers are caught between their parents and their instructors, who offer them love and encouragement but demand rigorous, unstinting dedication to one of the most physically challenging and painful art forms ever created. First Position, like the spelling bee documentary Spellbound, combines fascinating portraits of gifted kids with the nail-biting suspense of fierce competition.” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageIron Man. 3.
“The third installment in this trilogy certainly doesn’t rein in the now familiar quirks of its star–has there ever been a costumed hero who spends less time in costume?–but manages to raise the stakes enough to find an engaging balance between character and action Loosely based on the Extremis comic arc by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, the plot finds Tony Stark struggling to adjust to life after the multidimensional events of The Avengers. As he attempts to regain his footing and keep his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), a new threat emerges, in the form of a domineering high-tech terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley, whose stutter-step vocal pattern helps create one of the darndest villains in recent memory). Director Shane Black, who previously worked with Downey in the cult favorite Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, takes an intriguing detective story approach to the material, emphasizing the hero’s deduction skills over extended scenes of CGI combat. When it does come time to armour up, though, the film delivers the goods, most notably in a scene involving a midair rescue that stands as the best action sequence in the entire series.” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageHatfields & McCoys.
“The legendary 19th-century battle between two West Virginia clans that came to define the term feud gets a lengthy and frequently dramatic retelling in Hatfields & McCoys, a six-hour mini-eries driven by leads Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as the warring family patriarchs. Both actors lend considerable gravitas to the sprawling story, which begins with Costner’s Devil Anse Hatfield going AWOL during the Civil War, setting in motion a growing animosity with former friend Randolph McCoy (Paxton) that blossoms into full-blown violence over a property dispute between the families. Bloodshed begets bloodshed, due in part to a series of miscommunications, long-simmering grievances, and acts of outright foolishness, several of which are the work of hot-blooded Hatfield relative Jim Vance (Tom Berenger). What emerges from the final work is a portrait of generational murder as a sort of Biblical virus, with the sins of the fathers wreaking untold havoc on their children, including a pair of young Hatfield-McCoy lovers (Lindsay Pulsipher and Matt Barr) whose romance considerably exacerbates tensions…A major ratings hit and multiple Emmy nominee for The History Channel, which made its dramatic project debut with the miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys is a compelling historical drama for both Western fans and non-genre followers alike.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe iceman.
“The real-life “Iceman,” Richard Kuklinski, was a 6-foot-4-inch (1.95m) 300-pound (135kg) stone-cold killer, a man who eliminated his mob boss’s rivals but also killed for the sake of killing. Yet he also maintained a marriage and family in a small New Jersey town. The Iceman, directed by Ariel Vromen, follows Kuklinski’s grisly life from the ’60s (it opens with the courtship of his future wife, not a murder scene) through his arrest in 1986. Not much is spared along the way: brutal rubouts, Mafia protocol, simple revenge, and Kuklinski’s discovery of a handy way of deep-freezing corpses for future disposal–ergo the titular nickname. Shannon’s simmering presence carries the picture, even when the film tries to supply unneeded psychological underpinnings for his behavior (childhood abuse, an overdeveloped sense of protecting his own family). This is the kind of movie that encourages actors to sink their fangs into the Sopranos-esque sleaze, and Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, and David Schwimmer are more than willing to bite down. By contrast, Winona Ryder comes across as admirably restrained in the role of Kuklinski’s dupe of a wife. The film hits hard, even if it is fatally lacking in nuance–by the looks of things, nuance wasn’t the goal…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageTop of the lake.
“A 12 year old girl, walks chest deep into the freezing waters of a South Island lake in New Zealand. She is five months pregnant and won’t say who the father is. Then she disappears. Robin Griffin is a gutsy but inexperienced detective called in to investigate. But as Robin becomes more and more obsessed with the search for Tui, she slowly begins to realise that finding Tui is tantamount to finding herself – a self she has kept well hidden. Set against one of the most amazing and untouched landscapes left on the planet, Top of the Lake is a powerful and haunting story about our search for happiness where the dream of paradise attracts it dark twin, the fall. Written and Directed by Jane Campion; starring: Elizabeth Moss, Holy Hunter, and Peter Mullan.” (From Amazon.co.uk description)

Cover imageThorne. Sleepyhead & Scaredycat.
“Crime thrillers following DI Tom Thorne, based on the novels by Mark Billingham. Sleepyhead: follows DI Tom Thornes investigation into a mysterious serial killer. His first three victims ended up dead. His fourth was not so fortunate. Alison Willetts is unlucky to be alive. She has survived a stroke, deliberately induced by manipulation of pressure points on the head and neck. She can see, hear and feel, she is aware of everything going on around her, but she is unable to move or communicate. In leaving Alison alive, the police believe the killer’s made his first mistake. Scaredy Cat: is a second DI Tom Thorne thriller, where killing becomes a team sport. The film depicts a vicious, calculated murder. The killer selected his victim at Euston station, followed her home, and strangled her to death in front of her child. At the same time, in the same way, a second body is discovered at the back of Kings Cross. Thorne discovers that this is not a single serial killer he’s up against, but two of them.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageStar trek. Into darkness.
“Director J.J. Abrams recognised the importance of this relationship in his origin-story reboot of the franchise in 2009, and in Star Trek Into Darkness he has made it an even greater touchstone to the roots of Star Trek…The new cast is again inventively reunited, each of them further investing their characters with traits that reveal novel acting choices while staying true to the caricatures that are ingrained in our popular culture. Fortunately, the burdens of the story are well served by some important additions to the cast. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Shakespearean aura, ferociously imperious gaze, and graceful athleticism make him a formidable villain as the mysterious Starfleet operative John Harrison. Harrison has initiated a campaign of terror on Earth before leading the Enterprise to even greater dangers in the enemy territory of Klingon-controlled space. That his background may make dedicated Trekkies/Trekkers gasp is just one acknowledgment of the substantial and ingrained legacy Star Trek has borne. There are many references, nods and winks to those with deep reverence for the folklore…though the fantastical and continually exciting story stands as an expertly crafted tale for complete neophyte” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageBarbara.
“Summer, 1980. Barbara, a doctor, has applied for an exit visa from the GDR (East Germany). Now, as punishment, she has been transferred from Berlin to a small hospital out in the country, far from everything. Jörg, her lover from the West, is already planning her escape. Barbara waits, keeping to herself. The new apartment, the neighbors, summertime, the countryside – none of that means anything to her. Working as a pediatric surgeon under her new boss Andre, she is attentive when it comes to the patients, but quite distanced toward her colleagues. Her future, she feels, will begin later. But Andre confuses her. His confidence in her professional abilities, his caring attitude, his smile. Why does he cover for her when she helps the young runaway Sarah? Does he have an assignment to keep track of her? Is he in love? But as the day of her planned escape quickly approaches, Barbara starts to lose control. Over herself, her plans, over love.” (From Amazon.com description)

Cover imageHomeland. The complete second season.
“Homeland makes its triumphant return after winning six Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress for Claire Danes, Outstanding Lead Actor for Damian Lewis and Outstanding Drama Series. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Lewis) is now a U.S. congressman, and former CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Danes) has returned to civilian life. But when a new and potentially devastating terrorist threat emerges, Brody and Carrie’s lives become intertwined once again and they resume their delicate dance of suspicion, deceit and desire. Delve deeper into the edge-of-your seat suspense and mystery with the thrilling second season of TV’s most acclaimed show. Contains all 12 episodes and prologue to Season 3.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe reluctant fundamentalist.
“An interview between an American journalist and a Pakistani professor forms the spine of Mira Nair’s sociopolitical character study. While working on a piece about the “new militant academia,” Lahore-based Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber) meets with Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed, The Road to Guantánamo) in an attempt to understand how this self-proclaimed “lover of America” could turn against his former homeland. Changez recalls his life in Manhattan, circa 2001, where Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland, cast against his 24 type) hires the Princeton graduate as a financial analyst for a firm that helps companies to become more profitable–by firing workers. During his travels, Changez hits it off with Erica (Kate Hudson, out of her depth), a conceptual artist. Then the Twin Towers fall while he’s in Manila on business, and his faith in the United States dissolves after an unwarranted strip search, followed by further indignities… Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel works best when these characters hash out their differences rather than during the amped-up climax. But it wouldn’t work at all if Changez didn’t register as a plausible human being rather than a stand-in for an entire people.” (From Amazon.com review)

Cover imageTrance.
“Director Danny Boyle secured his place in the filmmaking big leagues with the one-two Oscar punch of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. The berzerk amnesia thriller Trance, however, demonstrates that even with his recent respectability, the cheerfully disreputable energy of his early films (including Shallow Grave and Trainspotting) remains alive and well. While the unstuck-in-time plot offers plenty of entertainment in its own right, the main attraction here is in watching Boyle gleefully go for broke. Based on a TV movie by co-scripter Joe Ahearne, the story follows an art auctioneer (James McAvoy) who suffers a critical bump on the noggin while foiling the attempted theft of a rare painting. As he works with a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to regain the lost sectors of his memory, the would-be robbers show that they still bear one heck of a grudge. Then things get weird. The cerebral, dream-within-dreams structure may share some ground with Christopher Nolan’s Inception, but Boyle’s approach proves to be leagues away from that film’s logical progression. Working again with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, the director delivers a ravishing head rush of a movie, leapfrogging through hairpin twists and character reversals with a goofy, infectious zeal.” (From Amazon.com review)

New DVDs for August

New DVDs for August include the strange-but-true crime doco ‘The Imposter’; Tom Cruise’s new Sci-Fi epic ‘Oblivion’; the new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’; the Zombie Romeo & Juliet of ‘Warm Bodies; & crime solving with ‘The Bletchley Circle’ code breakers.

Cover imageOblivion.
“Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, a futuristic maverick who patrols the wasteland of our planet in 2077, 60 years after an alien invasion by the “scavs” left it a dying cinder. His girlfriend/partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) whispers directives in his ear from their iPad-like headquarters in the clouds, getting her orders from a video-only spectral overlord named Sally (Melissa Leo), who oozes not-quite-right with every politely southern-drawled command. Jack’s job is to zip around repairing security drones and keep safe from scav attacks the enormous fusion converters that are sucking Earth’s last ocean resources dry for the surviving humans who now populate Saturn’s moon Titan… But something’s not quite right in Jack’s perception of things, in spite of the “security memory wipe” both he and Victoria live with… Oblivion takes its time with this absorbing mood-setting background of visually ravishing tableaux. At the halfway mark, it starts throwing around wild twists and turns after Jack investigates the crash landing of a spaceship from Earth’s past.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageThe imposter.
“In 1994, 13 year-old Nicholas Barclay disappears from his home in Texas. Three years later he is found in Spain, disorientated and quivering with fear. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not what it seems. Whilst he bears many of the same distinguishing marks and tattoos, the boy looks decidedly different and now speaks with a strange accent. Why doesn’t the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It’s only when an investigator starts asking questions that this astonishing true story takes an even stranger turn. A worldwide Box Office sensation, The Imposter, is a gripping edge-of-your-seat thriller that proves truth is far stranger than fiction. ‘As gripping as any white-knuckle thriller’ (The Guardian). ‘The most astonishing film you will see this year’ (The Irish Times).” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageOlympus has fallen.
“The techno thriller Olympus Has Fallen doesn’t deviate much from the established lone wolf/terrorist formula, but the White House setting adds a definite kick to the proceedings… Following a tragic prologue set at Camp David, the film wastes little time in getting to the main event, as the president (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff are held hostage by an army of mercenaries. Enter Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a former Secret Service agent with deadly knowledge of the Oval Office’s crawlspaces and ambush spots. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) keeps the proceedings lean and fairly mean, with a sense of geography that allows the audience to clearly see the succession of national landmarks getting blown up real good..The film’s ace in the hole, however, proves to be the amusingly surly Butler, whose habit of issuing oddly specific threats of bodily harm lends an unexpected touch of black comedy to the final act.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageGreat expectations.
“Appreciating that Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is a text that’s been adapted for the screen several times, not least in an acclaimed modern day BBC adaptation, it’s easy to approach Mike Newell’s lavish big screen take on the material with some suspicion. What part of the story, after all, is left to tell? Credit to Newell and his team then that he finds so much to have fun with here, by focusing so tightly on the narrative core. His Great Expectations may be no match for David Lean’s, for example, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. Newell takes a traditional approach to the novel, choosing to tell a classic story straight. His strategy pretty much pays off too, with a substantive cast adding gravitas to an already-impressive production. The likes of Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter and Jeremy Irvine are all on good form, and there are successful appearances from Robbie Coltrane and David Walliams too. The biggest criticism of the film? That it chooses traditional over adventure, but conversely, that’s just the way many are going to like it. This is a well-told take on Great Expectations, with sumptuous production values and plenty to enjoy.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageI give it a year.
“If you’re one of those who sits through the average romantic comedy and instantly tires of the formula, then the makers of I Give It A Year very much have you in mind. For this is a film that starts with the wedding, and then charts how things, bluntly, don’t go to plan in the twelve months that follow. The couple at the heart of the story are played by Rafe Spall and the always-excellent Rose Byrne, and neither of them play characters who come out of this particularly well. If there’s a problem with I Give It A Year, it’s that it’s hard to root for the key duo, no matter how much fun the performances are. However, very much in the film’s favour is the quality of its jokes. Director Dan Mazer has form working on the likes of Borat, and his ability to generate a giggle, whether comfortable or not, is very much to the movie’s credit… I Give It A Year is sometimes a little raw, and certainly not a first date movie. But it is a funny one, and it is a movie that’s willing to take some risks with the genre in which it finds itself. For that, and many other reasons, it deserves real credit.” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageIdentity thief.
“Identity Thief is a hilarious romp/caper featuring the comedic skills of Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) and Jason Bateman (Up in the Air, Arrested Development). Whoever had the casting idea to hire these two as the leads was on to something. While the script for Identity Thief may be a bit weak and predictable, the chemistry of the film’s two stars gives it more than its share of belly laughs. McCarthy stars as Diana, a credit-card scammer, and Bateman is Sandy, a straight-laced executive who becomes a victim of her fraud. Sandy takes it upon himself to track Diana down and bring her to justice. Identity Thief echoes some of the best bits of Midnight Run (and Bateman himself seems to be paying homage to that film’s costar, Charles Grodin). Identity Thief gets its personality and true moments of comedy from the interplay of the odd-couple stars. The supporting cast is strong, including Eric Stonestreet, Amanda Peet, T.I., and Jon Favreau, though they ultimately seem a little superfluous. Which is totally fine, because with the interaction of the two stars, and especially the fearless performance of Melissa McCarthy, Identity Thief will stealthily steal your heart.” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageWarm bodies.
“If true love is meant to be, what does it matter if one is human and the other a zombie? Warm Bodies is a pretty delightful, tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy loosely based on Romeo and Juliet. But the Capulets and Montagues have much more in common than do R, the hipster zombie boy character (played by Nicholas Hoult), and Julie (Teresa Palmer), a girl human. Warm Bodies takes place after the zombie apocalypse (of course), and on the surface it appears to be Twilight for zombie fans. Happily, writer-director Jonathan Levine has taken the concept a step further than the novel by Isaac Marion. As a result, Warm Bodies is just self-aware enough to keep the whole idea from being too precious. The viewer knows that the two young leads were born to be together–if they can work with their hearts and their brains. Complicating matters is the fact that Julie’s dad (John Malkovich, having a wickedly good time) is the boss of all the humans fighting the zombies. Let’s just say Julie definitely has her work cut out for her. Warm Bodies will thrill younger viewers who adore Twilight, but fans of great romantic comedies with a light touch will like it just as much.” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageYou will meet a tall dark stranger.
“It doesn’t take a Nostradamus to see that the interconnected lives in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger are going to be troubled indeed–and yet the clairvoyant hired by newly divorced Helena (Gemma Jones) fails to predict the complications to come. Well, then there wouldn’t be a movie, would there? Helena’s restless old goat of an ex-husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), has taken up with a loud hooker (Lucy Punch, Dinner for Schmucks), who he somehow believes to be his dream girl. Helena’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is enduring her marriage to blocked novelist Roy (Josh Brolin) while growing enchanted by her boss, a gallery owner (Antonio Banderas) with an accent. Meanwhile, Roy is spending too little time writing and too much time mooning over the knockout (Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto) who lives in the apartment across the street. Allen’s morose-go-round spreads itself across this collection of potentially intriguing people, yet the individual scenes feel slack and under-rehearsed, and the London locations are basically irrelevant. And while the cast is stocked with talented players, almost everybody looks slightly miscast, so the film doesn’t seem to have an anchor anywhere. It comes to an interesting ending, but by then Allen’s purpose seems increasingly casual–when what this roundelay really needs is urgency.” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe Bletchley circle : cracking a killer’s code.
“The story of the code breakers of Bletchley Park during World War II has been told many times, and rightly been celebrated. But what happened to the women who worked there once the war was over? That’s the question that the fictional drama series The Bletchley Circle uses as its basis, following a group of women who were instrumental in the war effort, as the head back to civilian life. The Bletchley Circle is keen to make the most of these brilliant women, and it weaves them into a plot that sees them looking to solve a tricky murder case. After all, the murders have some pattern that appears to be linking them, and the women in question certainly have form in cracking such codes. Sure, there’s quite a lot of fictional licence being taken in using them as the setting for what’s effectively a crime show, but by the time the first episode ends, that’ll easily be forgiven. Dripping in period detail–the programme is set in the early 1950s–The Bletchley Circle certainly makes good use of its intriguing premise. There’s really good writing underpinning the three-part drama, and while occasionally things slow down just a little too much, it’s worth sticking with. There’s a lot to enjoy here.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageNo.
“Starring Gael Garcia Bernal (Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien), this is the inspiring, Oscar-nominated true story of the advertising executives who fought a dictator with an advertising campaign. Chile, 1988. International pressure forces dictator General Pinochet to call for a referendum on his presidency. Brash young advertising executive Rene Saavedra (Bernal) spearheads the opposition campaign, but after years of ‘disappearances’ and threats to himself and his colleagues, can they really win the election using happiness? NO is the concluding part of highly acclaimed director Pablo Larrain’s Pinochet trilogy following on from Tony Manero and Post Mortem.” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imagePerformance [A late Quartet].
“By focusing on the dynamics of a string quartet, writer-director Yaron Zilberman’s A Late Quartet ends up playing like a family portrait, with Christopher Walken’s Peter as the father figure. Older than his partners by three decades, he’s been working with them for 25 years, but their future comes into question when he receives a devastating diagnosis. While his motor skills remain intact, Peter decides to play one more concert before bowing out (in flashbacks, opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter plays his late wife). As they prepare for their final season, he continues to teach a class that includes Alexandra (Imogen Poots), the resentful daughter of Juliette (Catherine Keener) and Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), whose relationship has been unraveling for some time…Except for Peter, a role Walken handles with grace, they come across as childish and petulant, which may describe some career musicians, but it’s also off-putting. With a little help from Beethoven’s Opus 131, however, everyone grows up by the end of Zilberman’s well-acted, if uneven film…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

New DVDs for July

Some new DVDs for July include James Franco in ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’, the acclaimed ‘Amour’ from Michael Haneke, the latest season of Breaking Bad, a Diana Vreeland documentary, and the Guillermo del Toro produced horror ‘Mama’.

Cover imageLiberal arts.
“When Jesse [Josh Radnor, also directing], a 35-year-old New York college admissions adviser, is invited to his alma mater to attend his favorite professor’s retirement dinner, he quickly falls back in love with the university life. But when he meets 19-year-old student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene ), the bright, beautiful, book-loving daughter of his professor’s friends, he suddenly finds himself caught in a moral dilemma: does he pursue a relationship with this kindred spirit, or does he break her heart and return to the “real world?” (Adapted from Amazon.com description)

Cover imageOz the great and powerful.
“For sheer visual splendor, Oz the Great and Powerful is hard to beat. Even before the hot-air balloon of carnival magician Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) gets swept up in a tornado and hurled to the Technicolor land of Oz, the sepia tones of Kansas have a lush, almost velvety texture. Once Diggs arrives in Oz he learns of a prophecy that he might be the wizard to free the land from the grips of a tyrannical witch – and from there the movie juggles visual delights with a story that is regrettably half-baked. Franco doesn’t have the theatricality one might want for a carnival huckster but fortunately his low-key performing style helps to ground the bright spectacle in human emotions. The movie is flawed but when Oz the Great and Powerful hits a right note, merging wonder and fear, dazzle and darkness it’s easy to forgive the weaknesses.” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageAmour.
“An elegant elderly couple faces the ultimate challenge in Austrian auteur Michael Haneke’s carefully controlled, emotionally devastating Amour. Retired music professors Anne (Emmanuelle Riva, Hiroshima Mon Amour) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant, The Conformist) enjoy their last good day together when they attend the concert of a former student (pianist Alexandre Tharaud as himself). The next day Anne freezes at the kitchen table for a few minutes after which she goes on as if nothing happened. Georges encourages her to see a doctor who then recommends surgery but the operation fails. She then suffers a second stroke that paralyses her right side. Georges copes the best he can with help from neighbours and home-care workers but Anne rapidly loses the ability to function on her own. Georges’ stoic acceptance elicits praise from onlookers, but Haneke reveals the cracks in his façade: the nightmares, the paranoia (his encounters with a persistent pigeon), and a series of actions that blur the lines between madness and compassion…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageMama.
“Mama, del Toro’s 2013 production, continues this winning storybook streak. Driven by a fiercely against-type performance by Jessica Chastain and an impressive number of uneasy frights. How many times can a little girl ferally scuttling around the edges of the frame be scary? Quite a few, actually. Beginning with a literal “once-upon-a-time,” director-cowriter Andrés Muschietti’s film concerns a pair of young girls left stranded in a creepy cabin in the woods after a family tragedy. When they are miraculously found intact five years later they credit their survival to a mysterious mother figure. As their reluctant new riot girl guardian (Chastain) soon discovers this protective entity has a murderous case of separation anxiety. Muschietti’s project, devised with his sister Barbara, had its genesis as a widely Youtubed three-minute short film, and the elongation seams do occasionally show, particularly in the third act when characters begin appearing for the express purpose of being munched. Still, even if it doesn’t all hang together, Mama has no shortage of champion scary moments expertly designed for maximum freak-out…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe guilt trip.
“After making his reputation as a performer of R-rated material Seth Rogen seems an unlikely match for Barbra Streisand, iconic star of stage and screen, but The Guilt Trip works more often than not. Rogen plays Andy, an organic chemist who has poured his life savings into a nontoxic cleaning solution. While in New Jersey to make a pitch for Scieoclean, a name no one can pronounce, he pays a visit to his mother Joyce (Streisand), who has plenty of friends, but gave up on romance when his father died. Similarly, Andy threw in the towel when his first love fizzled out. In an unguarded moment, she tells her son that she named him after a college sweetheart which makes such an impression that he invites her to accompany him across the country as he attempts to find a buyer for Scieoclean. Little does she know that Andy plans to set up a meeting with her and her old boyfriend in San Francisco, where he hopes she can put her unresolved feelings to rest, leading to a road-trip comedy in which the characters generate a combination of prickly humour and touching moments as they laugh, bicker, meet an attractive admirer, and learn to see each other as fully fledged human beings…” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageBreaking bad. The fifth season.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul return in their Emmy-winning roles of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in the fifth explosive season of Breaking Bad. With Gus Fring dead Walt’s transformation from a well-meaning family man to ruthless drug kingpin is nearly complete. Forming a partnership with Jesse and Mike (Jonathan Banks) Walt proceeds to make a killing in the meth business, until the fruits of his murderous schemes are threatened by a new development in the investigation led by his relentless brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris). Executive produced by Vince Gilligan and Mark Johnson,the fifth season charts the murderous rise of Walter White as he reaches new highs – and new lows…” (Description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageDiana Vreeland: the eye has to travel.
“Diana Vreeland wasn’t just a tastemaker; she created the whole idea of tastemaking. She was the oracle of style, a woman who defined the way we looked at couture. Across a career that spanned half a century, she edited Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, discovered Lauren Bacall (and innumerable others) and was style consultant to Jackie Onassis. This is her philosophy: on life, on fashion and on making it in an industry which so many desire to be part of and so few know how to crack…” (Syndetics summary)

Cover image21 & over.
“On the day before a critical med school interview straight-A college student Jeff Chang gets a surprise visit from his two best buds to celebrate his twenty-first birthday. In no mood to party, Jeff finally agrees to a single drink, which quickly leads to an over the top, out of control night filled with epic beer pong, smoking hot co-eds and one angry buffalo. Can Jeff’s friends get their plastered pal cleaned up in time for his morning appointment?” (From syndetics summary)

Cover imageDeath of a superhero.
“Death of a Superhero is a 2011 Irish drama film based on the New Zealand novel of the same name by Anthony McCarten. Originally planned to be directed by McCarten in New Zealand, the film was shot on location in Ireland throughout 2010 and was directed by Ian FitzGibbon. The film stars Thomas Sangster alongside Andy Serkis. It tells the story of a dying 15-year-old boy who draws comic book stories of an invincible superhero as he struggles with his mortality…” (From Amazon.co.uk description)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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