November’s newest DVDs

This Is Us S2 DVD cover

New DVDs added in November include the sequel to drug war thriller Sicario; spy drama with Beirut; the real-life story of Mary Shelley, and the creation of her immortal monster, and the poignant drama of a woman in her eighties planning a gruelling climbing trip the Scottish Highlands. New TV includes the 2nd seasons of This is Us & The Expanse, and the gripping re-imagining of the iconic Australian novel Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Sicario. Day of the soldado.
“In the drug war, there are no rules, and as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border, federal agent Matt Graver calls on the mysterious Alejandro, whose family was murdered by a cartel kingpin. Alejandro kidnaps the kingpins daughter to inflame the conflict. But when the girl is seen as collateral damage, her fate will come between the two men.” (Syndetics summary)

Mary Shelley.
“The real-life story of Mary Shelley, and the creation of her immortal monster, is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father in eighteenth-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world, when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley. So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork, Frankenstein.” (Syndetics summary)

The spy who dumped me.
“Audrey and Morgan are two fairly ordinary 30-year-old women who live in Los Angeles. They are best friends, and they always stick together, so when Audrey discovers her ex-boyfriend is an international spy, Morgan joins her on an unlikely adventure. Together, the two of them must try to save him from assassins and help to save the world from a dangerous threat. As they travel around the globe with killers hot on their heels, they will discover hidden reserves of strength and cleverness that neither one of them knew they had.” (Syndetics summary)

Edie.
“Edith Moore (Edie) is a bitter, gruff woman in her eighties. In the months following her husband George’s death, Edie’s strained relationship with her daughter Nancy begins to worsen. The question over Edie’s future looms large; while Edie tries hard to convince Nancy she can manage fine by herself, Nancy is making plans for her mother to move into a retirement home. Edie feels like it is the beginning of the end. It seems she will die with all the regrets of her past intact and one regret haunts her most of all. When Edie was married, her father planned a climbing trip for them in the Scottish Highlands. Edie yearned to go, but her husband George, a difficult and controlling man, made her stay at home, nearly thirty years later, Edie decides to make the trip herself alone.” (Syndetics summary)

Picnic at Hanging Rock.
“A gripping re-imagining of the iconic Australian novel that plunges us into the mysterious disappearances of three schoolgirls and their governess on Valentine’s Day, 1900. Exploring the event’s far-reaching impact on the students and staff of Appleyard College and its enigmatic headmistress, theories soon abound, paranoia sets in and long-held secrets surface, as the Rock exerts its strange power and the dark stain of the unsolved mystery continues to spread.” (Syndetics summary)

This is us. The complete second season.
“Chronicles the Pearson family across the decades, from Jack and Rebecca as young parents in the 1980s to their 37 year old kids Kevin, Kate and Randall searching for love and fulfilment in the present day. This grounded, life affirming drama reveals how the tiniest events in people’s lives impact who they become, and how the connections they share with each other can transcend time, distance, and even death.” (Syndetics summary)

The expanse. Season two.
“A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt.” (Syndetics summary)

Beirut.
“Caught in the crossfires of civil war, CIA operatives must send a former US diplomat to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind.” (Syndetics summary)

Remembering Nicolas Roeg and Bernardo Bertolucci

The world has lost two of the outstanding filmmakers of our time; Nicolas Roeg and Bernardo Bertolucci.

Nicolas Roeg died on 23 November aged 90. He made his name as a cinematographer (Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, Francois Trufaut’s Fahrenheit 451 etc.) before turning into a director. In the 70s, he was the most acclaimed British auteur with a unique visionary style, leaving highly influential works such as Walkabout (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973) and The Man who Fell to Earth (1976).

 

 

 

 

One of the most provocative and influential directors of our time Bernardo Bertolucci died on 26 November aged 77. He was still in his 20s when The Conformist (1970) was hailed as a revolutionary work. He also worked outside of Italy, and enjoyed huge commercial successes with the controversial erotic drama The Last Tango in Paris (1972) and The Last Emperor (1987), which won 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture and the Best Director.

 

 

 

 

All covers are used with permission.

Staff Pick DVDs – Aug/Sep

A collection of new Staff Pick DVDs & TV Shows. From indie Sci-Fi, to Art intrigue, coming-of-age drama, and savage political satire.

Breath.
Australian writer Tim Winton is regarded by many as one of the finest writers in the world at this moment in time. His collection of coming of age short stories The Turning has already been adapted into a very fine celluloid feature. This latest film adaptation Breath is another coming of age story which was recently one of the highlights of the 2018 NZIFF and it has now been released on DVD. The book and film are about two teenagers on the cusp of adulthood learning about life, death and love through their shared passion for surfing and their occasionally troubled friendship. The surfing scenes are superbly done, and short of donning a wet suit and going out into the ocean yourself the experience and emotion of interacting with this primal force of nature is brilliantly portrayed and realised. The lead performances by the boy actors has a depth, maturity and believability than many actors strive for all their career and the cinematography is of the highest order. All in all it amounts to a thoughtful, nuanced and well-crafted movie. (Neil J)

Waru.
This is a New Zealand DVD. It is 8 (waru) stories that is told by 8 different Maori female directors. It is set in the same moment in time around the time of a Tangi of a young boy who was killed by a caregiver. Very different stories but connected and very poignant. Very sad and powerful. Briar Grace-Smith, Casey Kaa, Ainsley Gardiner, Katie Wolfe, Renae Maihi, Chelsea Cohen, Paula Jones, Awanui Simich-Pene, and Josephine Stewart Te Whiu. All names to keep an eye out for. (Brigid)

Rampage.
In recent years Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has almost become his own movie genre. And Rampage is perhaps one of the finest examples of what he does best and why he is so popular. It’s a monster movie with The Rock playing a tough but kind wisecracking primatologist looking after his best mate who just happens to be an albino Gorilla recently infected by a dangerous pathogen. Its big, it’s silly, there’s lots of banging and smashing, it makes no sense at all but boy is it fun. If you are looking for a funny, action packed popcorn blockbuster that is just about pitch perfect then Rampage could be the ideal movie. (Neil J)

Peter Rabbit.
A lovely movie very loosely based on Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Old Macgregor dies and leaves his farm to a young great nephew (Domnall Gleeson- this Irish actor plays famous Englishman a lot) who finds out that not only has he inherited a farm but some very naughty and active mischievous rabbits. Lovely story told with both actors and animated cartoon characters. I found it funny in parts and enjoyed it. Very little kids might need parental guidance when watching it. Rose Byrne plays Beatrix Potter. Sam Neill is Old MacGregor. (Brigid)

Sweet country.
Set in the Outback in the 1920s, an aboriginal worker shot a white farmer. Although it was self-defence and the white farmer was a vicious racist, a massive manhunt was undertaken. This may sound like a typical western story, but this second feature by the Australian auteur Warwick Thornton, who impressed us with his debut Samson and Delilah; a compelling love story of the aboriginal teens, offers a much deeper, poignant drama exposing the dark side of the Australian history. It’s a harsh, devastating story with the colonialist psyche, but taking the majestic scenery as a part of narrative, Thornton manages to deliver lyrical, mesmerising moments. This is a remarkable work by a highly individual filmmaker, and although it doesn’t make you happy, it gives you a profound affection, which only great films can offer. (Shinji)

The death of Stalin.
Caustic, pitch black humour of the highest calibre is delivered in Armando Iannucci latest comedy. Set around the events and chaos surrounding the death of Stalin this star studded movie was so controversial that the Russian government banned it. Its wicked, hilarious, merciless and definitely not for the faint hearted. However if you enjoy satire of the very darkest and blackest in nature then this movie is a must watch. And the ever wonderful Jason Isaacs is mercurial as Field Marshal Zhukov. (Neil J)

Riviera. The complete season one.
There is a lot of money up on the screen in this Art based drama set amongst the Riviera’s rich set. After just a year of marriage to billionaire philanthropist, art collector, and Banker Constantine Clios (Anthony LaPaglia), the immaculate life of ex-Art Curator Georgina (Julia Stiles) is blown apart when her husband is killed in an explosion aboard the yacht of a Russian oligarch. Believing there to be more to the tragedy, she sets out to uncover what happened. Dark truths about Constantine’s dealings emerge, as she begins to realise who she was really married to, but just how far will she go to find out the truth… Stiles is excellent in this stylish but overblown drama. A good escapist watch, reminiscent somewhat of the potboiler novels that were popular in the 70s & 80s by writers such as Sidney Sheldon. (Mark)

The endless.
Two brothers return to the cult they fled from years ago to discover that the group’s beliefs may be more sane than they once thought. Endless is an independent, science fiction, thriller, horror cross genre movie that has as its literary DNA the writings of H P Lovecraft. (Though the film has a contemporary American setting). It’s well-made, well filmed and obviously done on an independent film budget. What makes it really worth watching is the mind bending storyline that deals with concepts of time, memory and space in an often genuinely creepy fashion . This is very much an underground cult film but if you like thought provoking, original and clever movies of the cult variety then this movie comes highly recommended. (Neil J)

A quiet place.
This is a thriller set on earth after Aliens come through and destroy most of the humankind. The Aliens have acute hearing but no sight so the remaining Human kind have to live their lives in silence. The moment they make a sound the Aliens appear and eat them. The story revolves around a young family who have to carry on their lives out on a farm, around these devastating turn of events It is a really good thriller. Lots of suspenseful parts. It stars Husband and wife team Emily Blunt and John Krasinski as the screen couple. Brilliant story and great acting. Contains violence. This movie is classed as both a thriller and a horror. (Brigid)

Faces places.
From the opening credit, it’s a delightful affair. A legend of French new wave cinema, 88 year old Agnes Varda teams up with a photographer and muralist JR, who is 55 years her junior, hit the road on a tour of rural France. On the way, they learn the histories of communities, some of which are long abandoned, and of people they encounter, and bring new lives to them with gigantic mural photos. It’s a celebration of people and places as well as creativity. This odd couple makes a great team and their friendship, curiosity and vision make it wonderfully charming. At the end of the film, another French new wave giant Jean-Luc Godard makes a cameo in his peculiar way and adds the unique dimension and the depth. Young at heart. (Shinji)

The man who invented Christmas.
This is a movie about the life of Charles Dickens and the events leading up to the writing of A Christmas Carol. It showed well what 19th Century life in England was like. It had dark parts and gave a real insight into the workings of his mind. Creepy in parts. Good character acting although hard at times to work out when he was imagining and what was real. (Brigid)

Manifesto.
Transformed to a feature film from an art installation, German artist and filmmaker Julian Rosenfeldt’s Manifesto is an intelligent, elaborate work. All dialogues in the film are excerpted from published artistic and political manifestos such as communism, futurism, dadaism, situationism, and pop art, and these historical statements are delivered by the 13 fictional characters; from a homeless man to a choreographer to a punk rocker, all performed by Cate Blanchett who displays an astonishing virtuosity. It still gives an impression of the visual art rather than the feature film, but under Rosenfeldt, Berlin’s outstanding talents come together here, including Christoph Krauss who provides magnificent cinematography and two prominent musicians; Nils Frahm and Ben Lukas Boysen who create impressive soundtracks. Germany’s got talent. (Shinji)

Goodbye Christopher Robin.
This movie is the story of the life of A.A. Milne around the time of his writing Winnie the Pooh. It shows his life from coming home from the first world war with PTSD. And his writing block after seeing the horrors he had seen. The sanctuary he sought in the country with his wife and son Chris. It is a lovely movie but shows the reality he was living. Brilliant actor Domhall Gleeson plays A.A.Milne. The story goes through the life of the child Christopher. This movie showed the beautiful relationship between A.A. Milne and his son and the creation of Winnie and the other animals. A really good watch. (Brigid)

New DVDs for August

This month’s new DVDs include some blockbuster Marvel action with the new Avengers movie, acclaimed animation from Wes Anderson, coming of age drama from Tim Winton, savage political satire from Armando Iannucci, and clever silent thrills from husband and wife team John Krasinski & Emily Blunt.

Avengers. Infinity war
“As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality.” (Catalogue)

Isle of dogs
“When all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi embarks on an epic journey in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots.” (Catalogue)

Mum. Series one & series two
Mum is a family comedy seen through the eyes of Cathy, a mother in her late fifties who finds herself at a milestone in life after the death of her husband. In series one, over the course of one year, starting with the funeral in January and ending on New Year’s Eve, Cathy sees her family pull around her and friendships deepen as hope glimmers on the horizon. In series two, from Cathy’s birthday to Fireworks night, we follow a year of her life as she moves closer and closer to Michael.” (Catalogue)

Occupied. Series 2.
“Six months after the first season concluded, the Russian occupation still holds Norway in a firm grip. Set in the near future, Norway is occupied by Russia on behalf of the European Union, due to the fact that the newly elected environmentally-friendly Norwegian government has stopped the all important oil and gas production in the North Sea…” (Catalogue)

Breath.
“Set in mid-70s coastal Australia. Two teenage boys, hungry for discovery, form an unlikely friendship with a mysterious older adventurer who pushes them to take risks that will have a lasting and profound impact on their lives.” (Catalogue)

A quiet place
“A family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threaten their survival.” (Catalogue)

The death of Stalin.
“When the tyrannical ruler Stalin dies, his hapless inner circle scrambles to come up with the next evolution of the revolution, but it’s clear everyone is really out for themselves. Proof that comedy, like politics, is all in the execution.” (Catalogue)

Love, Simon
“Everyone deserves a great love story, but for seventeen year old Simon Spier, it’s a little more complicated. He hasn’t told his family or friends that he’s gay, and he doesn’t know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life changing.” (Catalogue)

The endless
“This mind-bending thriller follows two brothers who receive a cryptic video message inspiring them to revisit the UFO death cult they escaped a decade earlier. Hoping to find the closure that they couldn’t as young men, they’re forced to reconsider the cult’s beliefs when confronted with unexplainable phenomena surrounding the camp. As the members prepare for the coming of a mysterious event, the brothers race to unravel the seemingly impossible truth before their lives become permanently entangled with the cult.” (Catalogue)

New DVDs in our collection

Plenty of great DVD choices this month from comedy gold, to cold war tensions, to true life stories and coming of age drama.

Detectorists. Series three.
“Having returned from Africa, Andy and Becky (Rachael Stirling) have moved in temporarily with her mother (Diana Rigg) with all the challenges that come with the territory. Lance is trying to kick-start his relationship with Toni (Rebecca Callard), but her living on a barge makes him queasy and his daughter staying at the flat leaves it all rather precarious with none of this being helped by the re-appearance of his ex-wife. Meanwhile Lance and Andy’s search for gold continues as they face enemies old and new. This delightful comedy continues to unearth the hidden depths of those who call themselves detectorists.” (Syndetics Summary)

Film stars don’t die in Liverpool
“Based on Peter Turner’s memoir, the film follows the playful but passionate relationship between Turner (Bell) and the eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Bening) in 1978 Liverpool. What starts as a vibrant affair between a legendary femme fatale and her young lover quickly grows into a deeper relationship, with Turner being the person Gloria turns to for comfort. Their passion and lust for life is tested to the limits by events beyond their control.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

The mercy.
“The incredible true story of Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) an amateur sailor who competed in the 1968 Sunday times Golden Globe Race in the hope of becoming the first person in history to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe without stopping. With an unfinished boat and his business and house on the line, Donald leaves his wife, Clare (Rachel Weisz) and their children behind, hesitantly embarking on an adventure on his boat the Teignmouth Electron.” (Catalogue)

Game night
“A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves trying to solve a murder mystery.” (Catalogue)

Lady Bird
“Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is a high school senior from the “wrong side of the tracks.” She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. Lady Bird follows the title character’s senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college.” (Catalogue)

Vikings. Season 5, Volume 1
“This season is full of startling alliances and unbelievable betrayals as the Vikings fight to rule the world. Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) joins the cast in season five as Bishop Heahmund along with series regulars Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), Gustaf Skarsgård (Floki), Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn) and Alex Høgh Andersen (Ivar the Boneless).” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Ready player one
“Set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse, but the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

The Americans. The complete fifth season.
“Danger, disillusionment, and betrayal reach an all-time high in the suspense-laced fifth season of The Americans. KGB agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings’ unwavering dedication to their work comes at even more of a personal cost than before. And as Paige is drawn deeper into the reality of her parents’ secret job, she realizes she will never have a normal life. Meanwhile, as Cold War tensions continue to escalate, Philip and Elizabeth are suspicious of Stan’s new romance, and they become more acutely aware of the vast disparity between American abundance and Russian scarcity.” (Catalogue)

City of ghosts
“A documentary that follows the efforts of “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently,” a handful of anonymous activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. With deeply personal access, this is the story of a brave group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.” (Catalogue)

A new batch of Staff Pick DVDs

The Good Place cover

Peruse the latest selections from library staff, from superheroes to sci-fi to coming of age drama, and crime told backwards.

The shape of water.
The Shape of Water takes its initial inspiration from the 1954 B movie Creature from the Black Lagoon, but this is definitely not a cash in sequel to an old monster movie. Instead it is a cleverly constructed complex film which straddles effortlessly multiple genres including romance, cold war thriller, body horror and a straight down the line cult Guillermo Del Toro movie. It is obviously a project the director had a great deal of affection for and it looks great in a shabby downbeat Americana way, and Sally Hawkins in the lead puts in a storming performance. Arguably Guillermo Del Toro’s best movie so far and since he directed Pan’s Labyrinth that is praise of the highest order. (Neil J)

Justice League.
Move over Avengers! There’s a new team of superheroes in town. The world of DC comics and superheroes collides when a great a great evil in the form of Stepphenwolf wants to unleash hell on earth and the heroes, (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg), must come together – and put aside their differences to save the day. Overall a different but satisfying take on all the DC superheroes, with a well balanced mix of action, adventure, comedy and serious moments. The Flash, in particular is hilarious with his one liners, ladies will drool and fall in love with Aquaman and Superman, especially when Aquaman shows his “sensitive side” and as always the heroes saving the day “superhero” style from start to finish. (Katie)

Rellik.
‘Rellik’ (‘killer’) is a story told backwards for the first 5 episodes, with the final episode reverting to normal forward progression starting from where the first episode left off. This, understandably, makes for a confusing watch initially as it needs a fair bit of concentration, and thus the show’s reviews were somewhat polarized. It’s hard to say in the end if the backwards narrative is just a stylistic gimmick or if it really adds anything to the story which is a shame, as it is a quite good slice of gritty UK crime. The 2 leads (Jodi Balfour and Richard Dormer) are both excellent, with Dormer as Met detective, Gabriel Markham at the centre of an obsessive hunt for a serial killer who left a mark on him both physically and mentally. Worth persevering with. (Mark)

Downsizing.
Could this be a solution to the problem of overpopulation and climate change? American auteur Alexander Payne’s (Nebraska, The Descendants) new film is a futuristic fable where people can choose to be shrunk to one-fourteenth of their size and live in a miniature ‘self-sustainable’ heavenly community called ‘Leisureland’. Featuring Matt Damon as an ordinary Omaha resident who takes this experimental opportunity, it offers a unique mixture of sci-fi comedy, political satire, and a cross-cultural love story. Apparently Payne had been thinking about this project for quite some time. Although not everything worked out perfectly, it’s certainly intriguing. (Shinji)

The disaster artist.
The Disaster Artist is much like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood insofar as it is a clever, well made, superbly acted and thoroughly entertaining film about one of the worst films ever made – Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has been dubbed the Citizen Kane of bad movies and since its release in 2003 has gained a fanatical cult following who like to dress up, shout out lines from the film and have a liking for throwing plastic cutlery. The original film was supposedly meant as a serious movie but the outright strange storytelling and truly bizarre acting have lead it to being regarded retrospectively by the director as a black comedy. The Disaster Artist is about the making of the film and the dreams, friendships and dramas surrounding its creation. The Disaster Artist is fine movie about a terrible movie. Just don’t shout SPOON. (Neil J)

Doctor Doctor. Series 2.
Hugh Knight, (Rodger Corser), the heart surgeon/heartthrob turned country doctor you love to either hate or… just plain love is back! And as usual breaking more hearts than fixing them. But things take a dramatic turn for Hugh when his teenage son/foster brother decides to marry his high school sweetheart; Hugh having to donate a kidney to save his dad; his American and troubled ex-wife turning up, having a near death experience to make him realise what/who is important in his life and the icing on the cake – he is in love with his boss, Penny and has various opportunities to finally make his move! The question is will they finally get together or will Hugh stuff it up with his playboy antics? Overall this series is in one word… FANTASTIC! An entertaining TV series and Aussie drama from start to finish! I especially loved the Mustang car race scene with ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ by Jet playing in the background. Look forward to the third season. (Katie)

Hard sun. [Season 1].
Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) are detectives who, while investigating a murder in the inner city, stumble upon proof that the world faces certain destruction – in five years. They find themselves pursued by MI5, trying to silence them in order to keep secret the truth, and they must use every bit of their ingenuity to protect themselves and those they love. The relationship of the two leads plays against type, as they both try to secure the upper hand with each other and with ruthless Security Services Officer Nikki Amuka-Bird, which is a positive as the latest offering from the pen of Neil Cross (Luther) seems to falter a bit in the telling, as if Cross wasn’t really sure how he wanted the story to play out. Intriguing and gripping in places, clichéd and muddled in others. Still worth a look, as Cross apparently has ideas for further seasons. (Mark)

Twin Peaks: a limited event series.
After 25 years, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s ground-breaking series is back. Most of the beloved characters are also back but this time, a lot of events unfold outside Twin Peaks while time is back and forth. With numerous additional characters, some of whom are played by prominent names including Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, Amanda Seyfried and Harry Dean Stanton, it’s a much larger scaled extraordinary journey which offers everything Lynch has made for cinema. At times, it’s almost impossible to comprehend and mysteries bring more mysteries but he never forgets humour. This marathon epic can be challenging and demanding to consume, but will be remembered as a landmark work by the one-and-only filmmaker. (Shinji)

The Good Place. The complete first season.
From producer/screenwriter Michael Schur (The Office, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) The Good Place addresses the age old question of what actually happens when you die? For Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) she finds the afterlife is a shiny happy friendly neighbourhood of frozen yogurt shops, amazingly accomplished people and pre-determined soulmates, all run by the super nice immortal architect Michael (Ted Danson). However the only problem is that she is the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop, and is in fact a very bad person, who scammed old people for a living and generally lived a completely reprehensible life. As she struggles to hide her true self from all around her and cope with her ‘soulmate’, university ethics professor Chidi, her true nature starts to affect the cosmic balance at play… To say any more would give away some of the plotlines of this hugely enjoyable series. Great performances from Bell and Danson. A great antidote to the Winter blues. Recommended. (Mark)

The greatest showman.
This movie just filled me with a sense of the wonders of humanity, and the songs! Well a musical isn’t a musical without good songs. If you are looking for some new additions to your sing-a-long playlist then this is the movie for you! I recommend a double check out, both the soundtrack and the movie. You won’t be sorry! (Jess)

Electric dreams. Season one.
Anthology collection of 10 stand-alone episodes based on Philip K. Dick’s work, written by British and American writers and set in both the UK & the US. This bunch of Dick’s short stories were written in the early to mid 1950’s, so all have undergone some degree of tinkering – from large to small – to reimagine their themes within a modern day context. Executive produced by Ronald D. Moore and Bryan Cranston there is certainly a high degree or production values up on the screen, as well as some quality acting (including Cranston himself), the problem perhaps lies in the fact that so many of Dick’s short stories have already been adapted into films (Screamers, Paycheck, Imposter, Minority Report, Next, The Adjustment Bureau, Total Recall) that those that are left are more straightforward in nature, lacking the same level of layers or ideas. Having said that there are some nice adaptations here, even the one that are more heavily reworked like Safe & Sound or Real Life work in themes common to Dick’s oeuvre. Definitely worth a watch if you are a fan of the author, and also if you fancy something along the lines of Black Mirror but not as grim. (Mark)

Lady Bird.
Known as a comedic actress (Frances Ha, Maggie’s Plan etc.), Greta Gerwig also seems to be a natural director. Her debut feature Lady Bird is a likable little gem. Set in her hometown, Sacramento, California in 2002, it follows 17-year-old Christine ‘Lady Bird’ (brilliant performance by the Irish star Saoirse Ronan) who is eager for an escape to a big city on the East Coast after graduating from a Catholic school, against her mother’s wishes. It may sound like another often-told adolescent drama but this is something special thanks to Gerwig’s smart screenplay and unique aesthetic. With the mother-daughter relationship as its core, she crafts a beautifully layered story. It’s sweet, funny and affecting. (Shinji)

Bluffing and blockbusters: New DVDs

Black Panther cover image

New DVDs include the blockbuster smash Black Panther; autumnal British comedy Finding Your Feet, and the true story of an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game.

Black Panther
“King T’Challa returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from divisions within his own country. When two enemies conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must join forces with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Wakandan Special Forces, to prevent Wakanda from being drawn into a world war.” (Catalogue)

Molly’s game
“The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.” (Catalogue)

Finding your feet
“On the eve of retirement, a judgmental middle-class snob discovers her husband has been having an affair with her best friend and is forced into exile with her bohemian sister who lives on an impoverished inner-city council estate.” (Catalogue)

The 15:17 to Paris
“In the early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris—an attempt prevented by three courageous young Americans traveling through Europe. The film follows the course of the friends’ lives, from the struggles of childhood through finding their footing in life, to the series of unlikely events leading up to the attack. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Rex
“Based on the true life story of a young Marine Corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. When she is assigned to clean up the K9 unit after a disciplinary hearing, Leavey identifies with a particularly aggressive dog, Rex, and is given the chance to train him. Over the course of their service, Megan and Rex completed more than 100 missions until an IED explosion injures them, putting their fate in jeopardy.” (Catalogue)

New movies and TV on DVD

Phantom Thread

New movies on DVD include: the critically acclaimed and Academy Award winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; period drama Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis’s final role before retiring; biographical features from Boston, and NZ; journalistic drama surrounding the release of the Pentagon Papers; and acclaimed indie feature The Florida Project. New TV includes the return of legendary TV show Twin Peaks; the latest season of The Americans & the final visit to Un village français.

Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
“After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby, the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon, an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.” (Syndetics summary)

Phantom thread.
“Set in the glamour of the 1950’s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by the scariest curse of all … love.” (Syndetics summary)

Stronger.
“Inspired by the true story. Jeff Bauman, a working-class Bostonian, was at the 2013 marathon when the bomb blast occurred and he tragically lost both of his legs. After regaining consciousness, Jeff was able to help law enforcement identify one of the bombers, but his own battle had just begun. Jeff’s deeply personal journey tests a family’s bond and defines a community’s pride as he overcomes adversity to become the living embodiment of ”Boston Strong.”” (Syndetics summary)

No ordinary Sheila.
“If you haven’t already heard of Sheila Natusch, prepare to be inspired. The story of this writer, illustrator, natural historian and outdoors adventurer is a beautiful journey through a unique life, made with love by her cousin and long-time Kiwi filmmaker, Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand). Featuring unique historical footage of the lower South Island in the 1930s and 40s, No Ordinary Sheila offers a fascinating glimpse into Sheila’s life, including her childhood on rugged Stewart Island and her education at Otago University, where she became friends with Janet Frame. From there she moved to Wellington for work at the National Library and Correspondence School, and finally found her true vocation as a professional writer and illustrator with her groundbreaking history and natural history books, including Animals of New Zealand. Sheila’s unquenchable spirit, feisty wit and never-give-up attitude are by turns funny, touching and inspiring…” (Container)

The man who invented Christmas.
“The journey that led to Charles Dickens’ creation of A Christmas Carol, ‘a timeless tale that would redefine the holiday.'” (Syndetics summary)

The post.
“This historical drama is based on the events surrounding the release of the Pentagon Papers, documents which detailed the history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam. The story centers on Kay Graham, the first female newspaper publisher in the country (specifically of the Washington Post), as well as her tough editor, Ben Bradlee. The two become involved in an unprecedented power struggle between journalists and the government, exposing a cover-up that has spanned four different American presidencies.” (Syndetics summary)

Twin Peaks : a limited event series.
“A surreal cult favourite about the investigation into the murder of a high-school homecoming queen in a Pacific Northwest lumber town. Co-created by filmmaker David Lynch, who also directed two episodes, the drama is a mysterious and mystical (when it wasn’t merely murky) excursion into the dark side of human nature, rife with sex, violence, dream sequences and a gallery of bizarre characters. It was risky and provocative, but not everyone’s cup of damn fine coffee and it was gone in a year. New mysteries unfold 25 years after the shocking death of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in a quaint northwestern town.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Un village français. Vol. 7.
“This is it. After the longest war in history, some resolution. And some flash forward sequences that will complete the story.” (Syndetics summary)

The Florida project.
“Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six year old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.” (Syndetics summary)

The shape of water.
“An otherworldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War-era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda discover a secret classified experiment.” (Container)

13 reasons why. Season 1.
Thirteen Reasons Why, based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, follows teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) –his classmate and crush–who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life…” (Mightyape.co.nz)

The Americans. The complete fourth season.
“The stakes have never been higher for KGB operatives Philip and Elizabeth Jennings than in this pulse pounding fourth season. Still grieving the death of her mother, Elizabeth berates Paige for telling her pastor about her parents’ covert profession. A deadly bioweapon threatens Gabriel’s life, and the couple shatters the lives of loved ones when Martha is told Clark’s true identity and Elizabeth betrays her friend Young-Hee.” (Syndetics summary)

The greatest showman.
“An original musical screenplay brings to life the story of P.T. Barnum and his creation of “the greatest show on Earth”. Rising from nothing, P.T. sets out to make a better life for his family. His creativity and drive take him on an fantastic journey beyond what he or anyone else could have imagined. In the end he creates a magical experience that will be enjoyed and celebrated by generations to come.” (Syndetics summary)

Snuggle up with these new DVDs on cold days

Borg vs. McEnroe

New DVDs include the return of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan for another trip, this time to Spain; the Borg/McEnroe tennis rivalry which came to a head during the 1980 Wimbledon final; LGBT dramas Call Me By Your Name and God’s Own Country; the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman in Wonder; and the acclaimed TV adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

The trip to Spain : the 6-part series.
“From acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom comes the follow up to the BAFTA winning first series The Trip and The Trip to Italy. Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are back. Six meals in six different places on a road trip through Spain from the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean coast, visiting Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, Rioja, Castile La Mancha and ending in Andalucia. Included are all six episodes from the Sky television series with a full course of deleted scenes.” (Syndetics summary)

Borg vs McEnroe.
“Borg/McEnroe tells the story of the epic rivalry between Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg and his greatest adversary, the brash American John McEnroe, which came to a head during the 1980 Wimbledon Championships.” (Syndetics summary)

Les hommes de l’ombre. Season 3.
“Six months before the Presidential elections, the leader of the extreme right party who is ahead in the opinion polls, is assassinated before the eyes of Simon Kapita, President Marjories closest advisor. This attack creates disruption in the political spectrum and presages a bloody race for the Elyse. Throughout the final months of his Presidency, both right and left wing parties are involved in political manoeuvring, backstabbing and betrayals, while in his private life, his relationship with Elisabeth is tearing apart and becomes the target of the tabloids. For Simon Kapita, this last campaign becomes the one of all dangers..” (Syndetics summary)

Call me by your name.
“It’s the summer of 1983 in Italy, and Elio, a precocious 17-year-old, spends his days in his family’s villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading and flirting with his friend Marzia. One day, Oliver, a charming American scholar arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father, an eminent professor. Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.” (Syndetics summary)

God’s own country.
“Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.” (Syndetics summary)

Only the brave.
“Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is the heroic story of one unit of local firefighters that through hope, determination, sacrifice, and the drive to protect families, communities, and our country become one of the most elite firefighting teams in the country. As most of us run from danger, they run toward it–they watch over our lives, our homes, everything we hold dear, as they forge a unique brotherhood that comes into focus with one fateful fire.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Wonder.
“Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extra­ordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Peaky Blinders. Season four.
“Thomas Shelby heads up one of Birmingham’s most feared criminal organisations. But when he sees an opportunity to move up in the world, it becomes clear that his ambition knows no bounds.” (Syndetics summary)

The handmaid’s tale. Season one.
“A religion-based autocracy has taken over most of the United States, renaming the country Gilead. In this country women are second-class citizens. Anyone trying to escape is punished. One such person is June, who is captured while trying to escape with her husband and child and is sentenced to be a handmaid, bearing children for childless government officials. As a handmaid, June is renamed Offred.” (Syndetics summary)

Star Wars. The last Jedi.
“The Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure. Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.” (Syndetics summary)

The killing of a sacred deer.
“Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon presiding over a spotless household with his ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two exemplary children, 12-year-old Bob (Sunny Suljic) and 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen who Steven has covertly taken under his wing. As Martin begins insinuating himself into the family’s life in ever-more unsettling displays, the full scope of his intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter the Murphy family’s domes­tic bliss.” (Mightyape.co.nz)

Staff pick DVDs for the year so far

Loving Vincent

Plenty of gritty police drama in this lot of Staff Pick DVDs for the first few months of the year. Also featured is the adaptation of James Corey’s Expanse novels, a unique film that uses thousands of original oil paintings based on Vincent Van Gogh’s works to create an animated feature about the artist, the Italian social critique Perfect Strangers, and historical drama from books by Peter Ackroyd & Thomas Cullinan.

The expanse. Season one.
It has vastly superior production standards, it looks fabulous and is way better acted, but for many reasons ‘The Expanse’ reminds me of Babylon 5 . They both take a little while to get going but they eventually lead somewhere and once they get there they both deal with really intriguing ideas, they both contain a big secret plot device not immediately apparent for the outset and perhaps most noticeable they both contain complex Chandleresque characters. If these elements appeal to you then ‘The Expanse’ is well worth checking out. [Based on the novels by James Corey]. (Neil J.)

The sinner. Season one.
‘The Sinner’ follows a young mother (Jessica Biel) who, while on a day trip with her husband and son to a public beach, stabs a man to death has no idea why. She confesses immediately and is charged with murder, but dogged investigator (Bill Pullman) finds himself obsessed with uncovering the woman’s buried motive, and together they travel a harrowing journey into the depths of her psyche and the violent secrets hidden in her past. The story is tense and intriguing, a different and surprising take on a crime story. Biel is excellent. Based on a novel by a little translated German female crime writer. (Mark)

Baywatch.
If you were a fan of Baywatch back in the 90s and you miss that level of action and cheese you will not be disappointed! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron are a ridiculously hilarious combination of abs and humour that will have you shaking your head with laughter. This movie is exactly what it claims to be utterly outrageous and funny. (Jess)

Loving Vincent.
Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s ‘Loving Vincent’ is clearly a labour of love a seven year labour of love at that. The film is unique in that it uses thousands of original oil paintings based on Vincent Van Gogh’s works to create an animated feature about the artist. The film skilfully avoids just being a swirling, visually stunning piece of Vincent Van Gogh eye candy (which it is). By examining different perspectives on Vincent’s life from his close friends, family and colleagues and the many questions surrounding his death. (Neil J.)

Bosch. Season three.
The 3rd season of this American police-procedural adapts Michael Connelly’s novels The Black Echo and elements of A Darkness More Than Night. The story involves multiple plot lines as Bosch is involved in the upcoming trial of a wealthy movie director accused of murdering a woman during sex, as well as investigating the death of a homeless Military Vet that takes on a greater complexity. In his personal life his daughter is now living with him and, having solved his mother’s murder in the preceding season, he now struggles to contain the anger that has always fuelled him. The added characterisation of the supporting cast has strengthened the show beyond the tropes of the first season, and while there may be nothing that is really innovative about the show, or the plots, it is all so expertly acted and written (helmed by Eric Overmyer — who worked on the final two seasons of The Wire and then co-created Tremé) that it sets a new benchmark in TV Cop shows. (Mark)

The Andromeda strain.
Just recently the very welcome rerelease on DVD of the 1971 alien virus Robert Wise, Michael Crichton science fiction classic The Andromeda strain occurred. Despite its age and slightly corny 70’s fashion sense this film remains a flawlessly acted, brilliantly scripted, chillingly realised and thoroughly engaging work. And what’s more there isn’t a CGI effect anywhere to be seen as they were at that point just a glint in George Lucas’s eyes. (Neil J.)

Line of duty. Series four.
If ‘Bosch’ is currently the best US Police-procedural on TV, then ‘Line of Duty’ is certainly the best English one. An anti-corruption drama it follows the exploits of AC-12, a unit that investigates suspicious activities within the Police itself. In a career-defining case, DCI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton), is under intense pressure from her superiors to apprehend a serial murderer after months of fruitless investigation. When a young man is charged doubts around his guilt lead the chief forensic investigator to AC-12. Is Roz ignoring forensic evidence that might prove the young man’s innocence? As AC-12 pile on pressure from the outside, Roz is forced to act to stop her life from unravelling, but just how far will she go? Totally gripping crime drama, with Newton in top form. Highly recommended. [Note: Season 1 of this show was released in NZ, and we were able to have Season 4 cross-rated from Australia due to its lower classification Rating. However Seasons 2-3 have not been distributed for release in this country]. (Mark)

Murder on the Orient Express.
Kenneth Branagh’s recent remake of Murder on the Orient express had many admirers and made a ton of money (and is available to borrow here). However for me the 1974 Sidney Lumet version (recently rereleased ) is the definitive celluloid adaptation of this much loved classic. It features a truly Stella cast including amongst others Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery it positively glitters with Hollywood glamour. It’s a warm, friendly, comforting, old fashioned kind of a film that reminds me of lazy Boxing day afternoons with my family. (Neil J.)

Perfect strangers.
Sharing cell phone messages and calls with others doesn’t sound like a good idea but at the eclipse night, seven friends (three couples and a man whose new partner is not able to attend) agree to do it over the course of dinner party, because they are long-time best friends and have nothing to hide. Italian director Paolo Genovese’s loquacious ensemble comedy is a study of morality in the iPhone era. Inevitably their ‘secrets and lies’ are revealed one after another and their relationships are severely tested. Genovese’s clever plot, together with fantastic performances by all actors, makes it a funny yet touching, wonderfully entertaining drama. Brilliant. (Shinji)

The tunnel. Series 2, Sabotage.
The Anglo-French adaption of the Danish/Swedish series ‘The Bridge’ was the first series in British and French television to be bilingual, a collaboration of British broadcaster Sky and French broadcaster Canal+. The first season (essentially a remake of the Swedish/Danish production) is still enjoyable, if you have watched the original, due to the quality of the production and the talent of the 2 leads, Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy as British and French police detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann.
Season 2 of ‘The Tunnel’ however is where the series diverges with a completely different storyline. Following the events of the first series, Karl & Elise are reunited to investigate the kidnapping of a small child from the Channel Tunnel train, which soon evolves into a domestic terrorist investigation after a planes autopilot system is hacked, forcing it to crash into the English Channel, killing all on board. The 3rd and final series of the show has just been completed. An overlooked show, perhaps due to the ‘remake’ nature of the first season which can’t really compete with the Swedish/Danish tour-de-force, but this is quality TV and deserves to be judged on its own merits. Recommended. (Mark)

The Limehouse Golem.
There is no sign of restraint in Juan Carlos Medina’s adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s fantastic book Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem. This is a lurid, melodramatic and gory retelling of this Victorian, gothic, murder, mystery tale. If however you are a fan of the theatrical bloody period piece epitomised by some of the best Hammer Horror films, or enjoyed the more recent Crimson Peak then there is much to be enjoyed here in this Grand Guignol over the top production. (Neil J.)

The beguiled.
During the American Civil War, a wounded Union Army corporal is brought to the seminary for young ladies in the enemy territory Virginia, leading to sexual tension and crushes. Sofia Coppola’s latest work is a Civil War setting period drama based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, and it’s a subtle study of shifting the power balance in a closed environment. Although it’s bleak and rather atmospheric, Coppola still offers her characteristic aesthetic; gorgeous – if Vogue featured ‘Southern Gothic’ it would be like this – production design, costume and camerawork elegantly using both natural and artificial lights, with a starry cast (Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell). This is Coppola’s most low-key work but it proves that she is one of the best American auteurs today. (Shinji)

Cardinal. The complete first season.
Another strong police-procedural, this one differentiated by its setting of Algonquin Bay in rural Ontario, Canada. This six episode Canadian TV crime drama is an adaptation of Giles Blunt’s award winning novel Forty Words for Sorrow, the first entry in his series about Police Detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme. Demoted Detective John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) is brought back into Homicide when the hunch he wouldn’t let go is proven correct, and a young Native American girl is found encased in ice. Now, as he relentlessly tracks a serial killer who preys on missing young people he must keep a watchful eye on his new partner, Detective Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse), who he believes may have a secret agenda that leads back to one of his past cases, while coping with his wife being institutionalised after a bi-polar episode. Atmospheric, intense and intriguing. Definitely something different. Recommended. (Mark)