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)

How films can lead you to comics

There’s nothing like a good explore of the library collection, but where to start? Recently a list of recommendations landed in Central’s graphic novel collection featuring movies as a jumping off point into some great graphic stories.

So lets dive in… with the very atmospheric Blade Runner 2049. There are tie-ins with tone, style, setting, the question of android ‘vs’ human, ethics, them ‘vs’ us, detective skills and unexpected empathy.


Chris Robertson and Robert Adler are part of a team that has created a six part sequence Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep: Dust to dust exploring the birth of the android hunters, a part of the Blade Runner universe.

Do androids dream of electric sheep? : dust to dust [1] / Roberson, Chris
“Who hunted androids before Dick Deckard? Taking place immediately after World War Terminus ends, the problems with artificial–androids–become apparent. The government decides they must become targets, hunted down, but who will do the dirty work? Two men are assigned: Malcolm Reed, a “special” human with the power to feel others’ emotions, and Charlie Victor. Meanwhile Samantha Wu, a Stanford biologist, fights to save the last of the living animals.” (Catalogue)

Trifecta : Judge Dredd / Ewing, Al
“Judge Dredd / created by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra — The simping detective / created by Simon Spurrier & Frazer Irving — Low life / created by Rob Williams & Henry Flint.” (Catalogue)
Compared to le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by some reviewers, this is a presentation of Judge Dredd’s world with machinations from clones, corporations and deeds gone wrong. Enjoy!

Pluto : Urasawa X Tezuka. 001 / Urasawa, Naoki
“In a distant future where sentient humanoid robots pass for human, someone or some thing is out to destroy the seven great robots of the world. Europol’s top detective Gesicht is assigned to investigate these mysterious robot serial murders—the only catch is that he himself is one of the seven targets.” (Catalogue)

Tokyo ghost. Volume one, The atomic garden / Remender, Rick
“The Isles of Los Angles 2089–Humanity is addicted to technology. Getting a virtual buzz is the only thing left to live for, and gangsters run it all. And who do these gangsters turn to when they need their rule enforced? Constables Led Dent and Debbie Decay are about to be given a job that will force them out of the familiar squalor of LA and into the last tech-less country on Earth: The Garden Nation of Tokyo.” (Catalogue)

Descender. Book one: Tin stars / Lemire, Jeff
“Young Robot boy TIM-21 and his companions struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey, Descender pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling epic. Collecting issues #1-6 of Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Trillium) and Dustin Nguyen’s (Little Gotham) critically acclaimed, bestselling new science fiction series” (Catalogue)

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)

New books about movies

Ink and Paint

New books on movies feature a variety of fascinating books including All the things I lost in the flood; the comprehensive collection of Laurie Anderson’s works, and the unique movie guide by Gordy LaSure (a.k.a Richard Ayoade). Check them out!

Syndetics book coverAll the things I lost in the flood : essays on pictures, language, and code / Laurie Anderson.
“Laurie Anderson is one of the most revered artists working today, and she is as prolific as she is inventive. She is a musician, performance artist, composer, fiction writer, and filmmaker. A few years ago, Anderson began poring through her extensive archive of nearly forty years of work and she brings together the most comprehensive collection of her artwork to date.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInk & paint : the women of Walt Disney’s animation / by Mindy Johnson.
“In this glossy volume, featuring never-before-seen photos, artwork, and detailed accounts, the process, techniques, and contributions of the women – and men – who defined the Walt Disney Studio’s legendary Ink & Paint Department over the years are carefully explored, preserved, and shared for future generations.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJim Henson’s the Dark crystal : the ultimate visual history / Caseen Gaines ; foreword by Cheryl Henson ; introduction by Brian and Wendy Froud.
Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History is the definitive collection of rare artwork, interviews, and on-set photos from the beloved Jim Henson fantasy classic. This deluxe coffee-table book contains an in-depth look at the day-to-day production of the film and showcases a huge range of incredible visuals, including candid set photography, previously unseen concept art, storyboards, production notes, and more.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe grip of film / by Gordy LaSure (a.k.a. Richard Ayoade)
“Gordy LaSure’s passionate about film. He eats film, he drinks film, and sometimes he’ll even watch a film. But most of all he loves talking to people about film: whether a comely student with low confidence and a father complex, a Studio ‘development’ exec who doesn’t trust his own judgement, or the countless people Gordy LaSure’s encountered in his capacity as the web moderator on an Excessive Sweating Discussion Forum. Gordy LaSure’s always talking about films and how they’d be a shit ton better if only people would pull their asses out of their ears and listen to Gordy LaSure.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom the third eye : the Evergreen review film reader / edited by Ed Halter and Barney Rosset ; additional research by Matt Peterson.
“For the first time ever, Evergreen Review’s important contributions to film culture are available in one volume. The book presents writing on the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Passolini, Ousmane Sembene, Andy Warhol and others. Offering incisive essays and interviews from the late 1950’s to early 1970’s, From The Third Eye explores politics and revolution in cinema, underground and experimental film, pornography and censorship and the rise of independent films against the dominance of Hollywood.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSense of occasion / Harold Prince.
Sense of Occasion gives an insider’s recollection of the making of such landmark musicals as West Side Story , Fiddler on the Roof , Cabaret , Company , Follies , Sweeney Todd , Evita , and Phantom of the Opera , with Prince’s perceptive comments about his mentor George Abbott and his many celebrated collaborators, including Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, John Kander, Boris Aronson, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Throughout, he offers insights into the way business is conducted on Broadway, drawing sharp contrasts between past and present.” (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)

New movies and shows for you to enjoy!

These new DVDs have a biographical theme with TV show The Durrells, Goodbye Christopher Robin (about children’s author A. A. Milne), Battle of the sexes (featuring the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King and ex-men’s-champ Bobby Riggs) & A Quiet Passion (Emily Dickinson); NZ tinged Hollywood blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok; acclaimed animation with My Life as a Zucchini; and the latest season of historical romance Outlander.

The Durrells. Series two.
“The Durrells sees impoverished but sparky widow Louisa Durrell make the radical decision to seek out a new destiny for her family when her options in late 1930’s England seem to be limited to struggling on or marrying a wealthy but dreary older man. Concerned that the lives of her four ‘children’, ranging in age from 11 to 21, are heading down the wrong track, she relocates her reluctant brood to a dilapidated house in the Greek sun.” (Syndetics summary)

Justice League.
“Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes it may already be too late to save the planet form an assault of catastrophic proportions.” (Syndetics summary)

Thor. Ragnarok.
“Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela.” (Syndetics summary)

My life as a Zucchini.
“After losing his mother, a young boy is sent to a foster home with other orphans his age where he begins to learn the meaning of trust and true love.” (Syndetics summary)

A quiet passion.
“The story of poet Emily Dickinson, whose genius, wit, intellectual independence, and pathos only came to be recognized after her death.” (Syndetics summary)

Battle of the sexes.
“In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King and ex-men’s-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world. As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles.” (Syndetics summary)

Goodbye Christopher Robin.
“A rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne, and his nanny Olive, Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family?” (Syndetics summary)

Madame.
“Adding a little spice to a waning marriage, Anne and Bob, a wealthy and well-connected American couple, move into a manor house in romantic Paris. While preparing a particularly luxurious dinner for sophisticated international friends, our hostess discovers there are 13 guests. Panic-stricken, Anne insists her loyal maid Maria disguise herself as a mysterious Spanish noble woman to even out the numbers. But a little too much wine and some playful chat lead Maria to accidentally endear herself to a dandy British art broker. Their budding romance will have Anne chasing her maid around Paris and finally plotting to destroy this most unexpected and joyous love affair.” (Syndetics summary)

Detroit.
“Amidst the chaos of the Detroit Rebellion, with the city under curfew and as the Michigan National Guard patrolled the streets, three young African American men were murdered at the Algiers Motel.” (Syndetics summary)

Outlander. Season three.
“The third season picks up right after Claire (Caitriona Balfe) travels through the stones to return to her life in 1948. Now pregnant with Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) child, she struggles with the fallout of her sudden reappearance and its effect on her marriage to her first husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies). Meanwhile, in the 18th century, Jamie suffers from the aftermath of his doomed last stand at the historic battle of Culloden, as well as the loss of Claire. As the years pass, Jamie and Claire attempt to make a life apart from one another, each haunted by the memory of their lost love. The budding possibility that Claire can return to Jamie in the past breathes new hope into Claire’s heart… as well as new doubt. Separated by continents and centuries, Claire and Jamie must find their way back to each other. As always, adversity, mystery, and adventure await them on the path to reunion. And the question remains: When they find each other, will they be the same people who parted at the standing stones, all those years ago?” (Syndetics summary)

Stranger than fiction: New DVDs

Image from mightyape.co.nz

New DVDs this month include the stranger-than-fiction true story of James Bond actor George Lazenby, an adaptation of the popular Harry Hole novels by Jo Nesbo, acclaimed NZ film Waru and historical drama with Lady Macbeth from the novella by Nikolai Leskov.

Becoming Bond.
“The stranger-than-fiction true story of George Lazenby, a poor Australian car mechanic who, through an unbelievable set of circumstances, landed the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), despite having never acted a day in his life. Then after being offered the next seven Bond films and a one million signing bonus, he turned it all down …” (Syndetics summary)

Brigsby Bear.
“Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children’s TV show that James has carried with him into adulthood. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself.” (Syndetics summary)

The snowman.
“When an elite crime squad’s lead detective investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit, the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall.” (Syndetics summary)

Lady Macbeth.
“Rural England, 1865. Katherine is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family are cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.” (Syndetics summary)

Waru.
“Eight female Maori directors have each contributed a ten minute vignette, presented as a continuous shot in real time, that unfolds around the tangi (funeral) of a small boy (Waru) who died at the hands of his caregiver. The vignettes are all subtly interlinked and each follow one of eight female Maori lead characters during the same moment in time as they come to terms with Waru’s death and try to find a way forward in their community. In Maori, waru means eight.” (Syndetics summary)

The dinner.
“It is a dark psychological thriller about a fierce showdown between two couples during the course of an ornately prepared meal at a fancy restaurant. When Stan Lohman, a popular congressman running for governor, invites his troubled younger brother Paul and his wife Claire to join him and his wife Katelyn for dinner at one of the town’s most fashionable restaurants, the stage is set for a tense night.” (Syndetics summary)

Maps, Middle-Earth & Miss D: New film and TV books

Cover from Syndetics

Take a journey through your favourite movies with the gorgeously illustrated Cinemaps: an atlas of great movies. New books on movies and TV shows also feature the intriguing Movie Geek and The Girl in the Show. Check them out!

Syndetics book coverCinemaps : an atlas of great movies / maps by Andrew DeGraff ; essays by A. D. Jameson.
“This beautifully illustrated atlas of beloved movies is an essential reference for cinephiles, fans of great films, and anyone who loves the art of mapmaking. Acclaimed artist Andrew DeGraff has created beautiful hand-painted maps of all your favorite films, from King Kong and North by Northwest to The Princess Bride , Fargo , Pulp Fiction , even The Breakfast Club –with the routes of major characters charted in meticulous cartographic detail.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMovie geek : the Den of Geek! guide to the movieverse / Simon Brew with Ryan Lambie & Louisa Mellor ; foreword by Mark Kermode.
“Movie Geek is a nerdy dive into popular movies, brought to you by the hugely popular entertainment and pop culture fan website Den Of Geek. Discover hidden stories behind movies you love (and, er, don’t love so much), and find out just why the most dangerous place to be is in a Tom Hanks film.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe girl in the show : three generations of comedy, culture, and feminism / Anna Fields.
“For fans of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer–and every other “funny woman”–comes a candid feminist comedy manifesto exploring the sisterhood between women’s comedy and women’s liberation. At its heart, The Girl in the Show captures the urgency of our continued struggle towards equality, allowing the reader to both revel in–and rebel against–our collective ideas of “women’s comedy.”” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverI’ll have what she’s having : how Nora Ephron’s three iconic films saved the romantic comedy / Erin Carlson.
“A backstage look at the making of Nora Ephron’s revered trilogy– When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle –which brought romantic comedies back to the fore, and an intimate portrait of the beloved writer/director who inspired a generation of Hollywood women, from Mindy Kaling to Lena Dunham. In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMiss D & me : life with the invincible Bette Davis / Kathryn Sermak with Danelle Morton.
“For ten years Kathryn Sermak was at Bette Davis’s side–first as an employee, and then as her closest friend–and in Miss D and Me she tells the story of the great star’s harrowing but inspiring final years, a story fans have been waiting decades to hear. Miss D and Me is a window into the world of the unique and formidable Bette Davis, told by the person who perhaps knew her best of all.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMiddle-Earth from script to screen : building the world of The lord of the rings & The hobbit / foreword by Peter Jackson ; written by Daniel Falconer – additional writing by KM Rice.
“For the first time ever, the epic, in-depth story of the creation of one of the most famous fantasy worlds ever imagined–an illustrious compendium that reveals the breathtaking craftsmanship, artistry, and technology behind the magical Middle-earth of the blockbuster film franchises, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStar Trek beyond : the makeup artistry of Joel Harlow / Joe Nazzaro.
“With the release of Star Trek Beyond in 2016, viewers were given a spectacular visual treat as a whole host of new aliens made their appearance for the first time in the rebooted franchise. At the heart of the process of bringing these breathtaking intergalactic species to life was Academy Award-winning make-up artist Joel Harlow. Star Trek Beyond – The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow presents the extraordinary work done by Harlow and his crew. Featuring fascinating pencil sketches, stunning concept art and beautiful photography, this visually arresting book gives fans a unique in-depth look into the remarkable work that went into this immensely popular movie.” (Syndetics summary)