Staff Picks DVDs – March/April

Some Staff picks of some of the DVDs that were released over the last couple of months. Lots of French stuff for some reason. Anyway we hope you enjoy these…

Cover imageA girl walks home alone at night.
Receiving a fervent reception at Sundance film festival in 2014, the Iranian-American filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is a scintillating work. Shot in California, but set in a fictional Iranian town and spoken Farsi, it’s often described as ‘the Iranian feminist vampire western’. In the black-and-white, early Jim Jarmusch-like milieu, the beautiful girl with her chador (fabulous presence by Arash Marandi) skateboards at night for the mission of punishing men who abuse women. After she meets the nice boy it becomes more like a boy-meets-girl story but the question, whether she kisses or kills him, remains until the end. Obviously Amirpour is a cinephile. Taking cinematic essences from the likes of David Lynch, Tarantino, Wong Kar-wai, Sergio Leone and Jarmusch, she brilliantly displays her own aesthetic. This is a fresh addition to the history of vampire films. (Shinji)

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.
Winning a Golden Globe for best drama series and named Best Show of The Year by Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly & TV Guide (US), ‘Mr. Robot’ stars Rami Malek as Elliot a socially-awkward cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, who finds himself approached by the enigmatic ‘Mr. Robot’ (Christian Slater), the mysterious head of an underground hacker collective who want to bring down the major corporation that Elliot’s company provides security for. However Elliot is also a very troubled young man with a ‘history’ of breakdowns, is currently undergoing court-mandated therapy, & has recently stopped taking his medication. Substituting his meds with morphine & pills from his drug dealer with benefits, he is growing even more paranoid about the world around him and beginning to wonder if what he thinks is happening is actually real or all just in his mind… While pulling together a bunch of influences from Fight Club & Taxi Driver, to Dexter & The Matrix, ‘Mr. Robot’ pushes zeitgeist buttons on everything from wealth inequality, the power & control of corporations, social media, data breaches & hackers in new & interesting ways. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Malek & Slater. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageThe voices.
I saw a movie called ‘The Voices’ recently that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a black comedy/thriller starring Ryan Reynolds about a man suffering from severe hallucinations who, through some unexpected twists, becomes a serial killer. A very unusual look into the mind of a killer with mental health issues. (Ingrid)

Cover imageEden.
Loosely based on the experience of the director Mia Hansen-Love’s brother, who was the leading DJ of the French house music movement, Eden shows an intriguing insight into the rave culture. Following the DJ Paul for two decades from the early 90s, music is the driving force but it also tells of the painful fact that we can only grow up by failing or losing. Drifty yet stylish, Hansen-Love (Father of My Children, Goodbye First Love) subtly presents us a naïve period of life that everyone goes through; innocent but avoiding facing reality; always wanting more but not knowing what to do, and leaves us in a melancholy mood. Captivating. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe connection.
This 70s French crime drama works as a counterpart to William Friedkin’s classic The French Connection. Jean Dujardin (The Artist, The Wolf of Wall Street) is Pierre Michel, a crusading magistrate reassigned to a Marseille Police department, the city that in the 70’s and early 80’s was the major port for shipments of heroin moving overseas, specifically New York City. Michel attempts to disrupt the organization (a group of Italians, Corsicans, and French who were dubbed ‘The French Connection’), and becomes obsessed with bringing down its leader (in this film) a charismatic gangster called Zampa ( Gilles Lellouche). Gritty & stylish. (Mark)

Cover imageRango.
This isn’t a new film, but I watched ‘Rango’ over the weekend and absolutely loved it!
It’s an animation/comedy/adventure about a wannabe-hero chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) that gets stranded in the desert and accidentally ends up as the new sheriff in a town called ‘Dirt’. It was such a laugh and had some great adult jokes throughout it, so it would appeal to a wide range of ages and would be perfect for family movie night. The animation was amazing, and the movie also broke the fourth wall with ‘Rango’ himself addressing the audience at times, which I found really interesting. (Ingrid)

Cover imageGirlhood.
The up-and-coming French female director Celine Sciamma’s previous work Tomboy, which centres a 10-year-old girl who is confused with her gender, was a little gem, and she is back with a 15-year-old girl. Girlhood tells a story about a black teen girl and her ‘co-gangs’ who come from the lower class of society, and their day by day survivals in the violence abounding environment. It’s a kind of often-told coming of age tale, but exhilarating performances by non-professional casts and graceful camera work prove Sciamma’s exceptional talent as a director. Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ is effectively used here. The scene that the four girls are singing and dancing with the song in the hotel room is gorgeous to watch, and makes this movie even more memorable. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.
The enigmatic French ‘supernatural’ series returns for a second season. Some time has passed since the events of the first season’s finale, and the mountain town is now partially flooded. Most of the population has fled and the army has arrived to investigate what’s going on, while the Returned (and a few living allies) are living in a suburb cut off from the rest of the town by floodwaters. A second batch of older ‘Returned’ have begun to appear, some of whom are directly linked to the original town’s flooding 35 years ago, revealing more secrets about the connections between the characters and the mysterious young boy Victor. While the first episodes of Season 1 hooked you immediately, Season 2 initially seems to be going nowhere with a lots of new characters and nothing much happening, but it’s worth persevering as the last 4 episodes bring plenty of intriguing flashbacks to 35 years ago and brings everything to a conclusion…or does it? (Mark)

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #11

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have the final Season’s of ‘Warehouse 13’, ‘Psych’ & ‘Covert Affairs’; historical drama with ‘Home Fires’ & the return of the ladies from ‘The Paradise’; and plenty of criminal behaviour with seasons 3 & 4 of ‘DCI Banks’, new ITV drama ‘Chasing Shadows’, & the latest Australian crime series with Rebecca Gibney.

Cover imagePsych. The eighth & final season.
“Case-cracking “psychic” detective Shawn Spencer and his best friend Burton “Gus” Guster have their hands full getting to the bottom of crime-filled conundrums around Santa Barbara. From a prestigious paranormal police consultant convention to zombie nightmares, Shawn and Gus need all the help they can get as new hijinks and tests arise for your favorite sleuths in this eighth and final season of Psych. Witness every episode back-to-back and uninterrupted of the final hilarious season featuring a gaggle of guest stars including Mira Sorvino, Tom Arnold, Loretta Devine, and Bruce Campbell.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageA Moody Christmas.
“From the creators of the AFI award-winning Review with Myles Barlow comes A MOODY CHRISTMAS a comedy series that follows the Moody family as they come together to share the universally celebrated holiday. Stuffed full of fun, fights, bad gifts, boring uncles, overbearing in-laws, shocking family secrets and bizarre eccentricities…any family who has experienced the melting pot of Christmas Day will relate! While in theory Christmas is a time for family to share and celebrate, in practice its often a day spent with relatives you hardly know, where dirty laundry is aired, family rifts resurface, strangers are forced to act like family, and celebratory drinks can disintegrate into drunken rows and it all happens at the Moodys!…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageCovert affairs. Season four.
“Danger, scandal and smoking guns are no match for resourceful CIA operative Annie Walker, who proves herself as astute as ever in season four of Covert Affairs. When Annie and Auggie, her blind lover and colleague, mix business with pleasure on a trip to Colombia, they ruffle the feathers of local CIA station chief Calder Michaels, whose seemingly fleeting allegiance has major implications for the future of the Domestic Protection Division. Complicating matters, Arthur reveals a “covert affair” of his own, while Henry’s ulterior motives are brought to light. Venture across South America, Europe, and Asia with Annie in all 16 thrilling episodes, back-to-back and uninterrupted.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageCovert affairs. Season five.
“It’s been several months since the team took down Henry in Hong Kong, and change is afoot. Auggie is back at the DPD, Arthur is offered a job in the private sector working for McQuaid Security, and Joan is returning from maternity leave to find that she’s been passed over for the job of DCS in favor of Calder. And after mysteriously going off the grid for months, Annie has resurfaced, anxious to get back to work at the CIA and harboring a secret that could jeopardize everything. Sent to Chicago to investigate a purported terror plot, she soon discovers that the threat is very real, and much greater than anyone has anticipated.” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageThe syndicate. Series 3.
“All six episodes of the third series of this BBC drama written by Kay Mellor. In this series, the syndicate belongs to the staff working at Hazelwood Manor, a run-down stately home owned by Lord and Lady Hazelwood. When the workers, mother and daughter maids Dawn and Amy Stevenson, cook Julie Travers and her manageress daughter Sarah, gardener Godfrey Watson and handyman Sean McGary, find out that they have won 14 million pounds on the lottery, the tables are turned as the employees suddenly have more money than their employers. Will the members of the syndicate pool their money to save the manor or will other aspirations split the group?” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe Paradise. Series two.
“The ladies of The Paradise are back. The popular series, adapted from the much-loved classic French novel by Emile Zola, follows the smart, ambitious and big-hearted Denise Lovett played by Joanna Vanderham, who arrives in the city to find work. The second series sees The Paradise reopen its doors a year after the dramatic events of Series 1. We see old and new faces battling for control of the business alongside the complicated love triangle of Moray, Denise and Catherine…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWinter. Season 1; + The killing field.
“Detective Sergeant Eve Winter (Rebecca Gibney) is in charge of the task force investigating the murder of 23-year-old mother Karly Johansson in a picturesque fishing town south of Sydney. Eve goes head to head with Jake Harris (Matt Nable), an agent with the Federal police who is investigating the attempted homicide of wild child, Kings Cross girl Indiana Hope, as she suspects the two cases are linked. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Lachlan McKenzie (Peter O’Brien) is running a parallel investigation into his own case – school Counsellor Janet Pagent was found murdered in the same location eight years ago. What is the connection between Indiana and Karly? And how are these two connected to Lachlan’s cold case?” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageChasing shadows.
Chasing Shadows is a thrilling, new four-part ITV drama, set in a missing persons unit that hunts serial killers. Reece Shearsmith plays DS Sean Stone and his partner, Ruth Hattersley is played by Alex Kingston, whilst Noel Clarke takes on the role of DI Carl Prior. Sean’s new caseload is overwhelming – up to 300,000 people go missing in the UK each year–but his brilliant mind turns out to be perfectly adapted to his new role. Sean spots patterns that lead to victims… and their killers. Ruth is the analyst from the Missing Persons Bureau tasked with working alongside Sean. She puts people first, but Sean pushes even her patience to breaking point. DI Prior has ambitions and a clear plan for rising up the ranks. But all this is jeopardised when DS Stone becomes his responsibility.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWarehouse 13. Season five.
“Warehouse 13 may be closing its doors but our team is going out with a bang as they tackle earth-shattering missions with supernatural artifacts, wild paranormal activity and history-changing time travel. But whatever the future holds for the team, one thing is certain: they’ll always be family.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageDCI Banks. Series 3.
“Stephen Tompkinson returns as the tenacious and stubborn Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks in three gripping crime stories based on the novels by award winning writer Peter Robinson. WEDNESDAY’S CHILD: When a mother reports her child as having been abducted by a man and a woman masquerading as social workers. Banks is drawn into a strange and unsettling search for the missing young boy. PIECE OF MY HEART: Following the death of a journalist, Banks and his team discover connections to a suspicious death in the eighties involving the surviving members of a pop band. BAD BOY: A terrible chain of events is set in motion when an old neighbour of Banks’ finds a loaded gun in her daughter’s bedroom.” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageDCI Banks. Series 4.
“English detective, DCI Alan Banks, returns in this fourth series of the popular crime drama based on Peter Robinson’s novels with three new, original stories set against the striking backdrop of rural and urban Yorkshire. In What Will Survive, DCI Banks struggles to cope with the sudden death of his mother, as he investigates the murder of a young Estonian woman and the disappearance of her drug-dependent sister. During the second story, Buried, Banks must navigate difficult emotional territory when the body of an eminent lawyer is washed up in an underground river and he suspects a member of her grieving family is responsible for her death. In Ghosts, when the body of a university student is found dumped in a ravine, his friends claim he was a model undergraduate. But officers Annie and Ken soon discover that he had a double life manufacturing ecstasy. Helen’s world is turned upside down when she realises her former lover, an undercover police officer, is following their main suspect…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageHome fires. Series one.
“Acclaimed actresses Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond lead an impressive ensemble cast in a new six-part drama for ITV. Home Fires follows a group of inspirational women in a rural Cheshire community where the shadow of World War II is casting a dark cloud over their lives. The isolated village couldn’t feel further away from the impending bloodshed and battlefields and yet it is not immune from the effects of war. As the conflict takes hold, and separates the women from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, the women find themselves under increasing and extraordinary pressures in a rapidly fragmenting world.” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

New books on Movies & TV shows

New books on movies and TV shows include very popular Star Wars and Back to the future. Two books about James Bond and Woody Allen offer intriguing reads. If you are a fan of TV shows you won’t be disappointed. Check out comprehensive studies on Mad Men, Poldark and others.

Syndetics book coverThe art of Star Wars the force awakens / written by Phil Szostak ; foreword by Rick Carter.
“Step inside the Lucasfilm art departments for the creation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Exclusive interviews with the entire creative team impart fascinating insights in bringing director J.J. Abrams’s vision to life; unused “blue sky” concept art offers glimpses into roads not traveled. Bursting with hundreds of stunning works of art, including production paintings, concept sketches, storyboards, blueprints, and matte paintings, this visual feast will delight Star Wars fans and cineastes for decades to come.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBond by design / written by Meg Simmonds.
Bond By Design gives an exclusive tour through EON Productions’ James Bond archives – a treasure trove of set, storyboard, vehicle, gadget and costume designs, many of which have never been published before. The book provides a unique, spectacular and fascinating insight into the longest-running film franchise of all time. It reveals the craft behind the creation of famous sets, such as Stromberg’s Atlantis base in The Spy Who Loved Me and Drax’s shuttle launch site in Moonraker, as well as technical drawings of Bond’s gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5. Includes two exclusive, full-colour prints of Bond film designs.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBond vs. Bond : the many faces of 007 / Paul Simpson.
“Who is your favorite Bond? Whether you love Sean Connery, Roger Moore, or even Timothy Dalton, you are going to love Bond vs. Bond . A fully comprehensive guide, Bond vs. Bond compares and contrasts all of the various ways Ian Fleming’s iconic British Secret Service agent, code name 007, has been interpreted through the years, from the books and movies to the guns and gadgets. Spanning from Fleming’s 1953 book Casino Royale to Sam Mendes’ 2012 film Skyfall, Bond vs. Bond features every incarnation of 007. This is definitely a book that no Bond fan should be without!” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBack to the Future : the ultimate visual history / written by Michael Klastorin.
“Great Scott! Go Back to the Future with Doc Brown and Marty McFly in this visually stunning look at the creation of one of the most beloved movie trilogies of all time. Few films have made an impact on popular culture like the Back to the Future trilogy. This deluxe, officially licensed book goes behind the scenes to tell the complete story of the making of these hugely popular movies and how the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown became an international phenomenon. Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History is a stunning journey into the creation of this beloved time-traveling saga.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWoody Allen : a retrospective / Tom Shone.
“Woody Allen is a uniquely innovative performer, writer and director with nearly fifty movies to his credit, from cult slapstick films and romantic comedies to introspective character studies and crime thrillers. In this timely retrospective, Tom Shone reviews Woody Allen’s entire career, providing incisive commentary on his films and shedding light on this uniquely self-deprecating filmmaker, with the help of comments contributed by Allen himself. This is a fitting tribute to one of the masters of modern cinema, published to mark Woody Allen’s eightieth birthday.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWoody : the biography / David Evanier.
“In the first biography of Allen in over twenty years, David Evanier writes about Allen’s private life as well as his very public career. In fresh interviews with collaborators, boyhood pals, family and friends, Evanier fills in fascinating details about where Woody came from, how he got his start, and how he has been able to be moral in his business dealings and make exactly the movies that interest him most with the people who interest him most, from Diane Keaton to Cate Blanchett to Michael Caine. Woody is the biography of an artist who has never lost his passion, talent and capacity to break new artistic ground, who has always been swept up in the creative act of becoming.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe big bad book of Bill Murray : a critical appreciation of the world’s finest actor / by Robert Schnakenberg.
“The man. The movies. The life. The legend. He’s played a deranged groundskeeper, a bellowing lounge singer, a paranormal exterminator, and a grouchy weatherman. He is William James “Bill” Murray, America’s greatest national treasure. Part biography, part critical appreciation, part love letter, and all fun, this enormous full-color volume, packed with color film stills and behind-the-scenes photography, chronicles every Murray performance in loving detail, recounting all the milestones, legendary “Murray stories,” and controversies in the life of this enigmatic performer.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMad men carousel : the complete critical companion / Matt Zoller Seitz ; foreword by Megan Abbott ; illustrations by Max Dalton ; poems by Martha Orton ; with contributions by Deborah Lipp and Roberta Lipp.
Mad Men Carousel is an episode-by-episode guide to all seven seasons of AMC’s Mad Men. This book collects TV and movie critic Matt Zoller Seitz’s celebrated Mad Men recaps –as featured on New York magazine’s Vulture blog–for the first time, including never-before-published essays on the show’s first three seasons. Seitz’s writing digs deep into the show’s themes, performances, and filmmaking, examining complex and sometimes confounding aspects of the series.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe world of Poldark / Emma Marriott.
“Emma Marriott’s The World of Poldark explores the characters, the compelling stories and the era that Winston Graham – and the television series – set out to recreate, the England that Ross Poldark returned to from the American War of Independence. England, and especially Cornwall, was then marked by social unrest and a deep division between rich and poor. It was a place of tin mines and shipwrecks, of new money versus old, of harsh justice and great kindness. And, above all, it was a place that inspired Winston Graham’s beloved novels. The World of Poldark is the ultimate guide to the popular series.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDownton Abbey : a celebration / by Jessica Fellowes ; foreword by Julian Fellowes.
“Downton Abbey set a new standard, and it’s probable that in 20 or 50 years critics will look back and say that this was period drama at its very best, often imitated but never bettered. Alongside are in-depth interviews with the cast, who have worked on the show for six years and know it so well, as well as a complete episode guide for the first five seasons and a teaser for the sixth. Packed full of stunning location shots and stills from all six seasons of the show including exclusive behind-the-scenes photography, this celebratory book is the ultimate gift for Downton Abbey fans the world over.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe world of Vikings / by Justin Pollard ; foreword by Michael Hirst.
“MGM’s hit show Vikings on the History Channel has drawn millions of viewers into the fascinating and bloody world of legendary Norse hero Ragnar Lothbrok, who led Viking warriors to the British Isles and France. Covering the first three seasons of the series, this official companion book delves into the real history as well as the behind-the-scenes stories. This spectacular package is a must for fans of the show and history buffs alike.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBehind the illusion : unlocking the 9 types of magic / Darcy Oake.
“Darcy, a thrilling Canadian illusionist, won the coveted People’s Choice Award in Seattle and performed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood before he was legally of age. Aged 26, he dazzled the nation as a finalist on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent and on ITV special Edge of Reality. In Behind the Illusion, magician Darcy Oake takes you through the nine traditionally accepted forms of magic. He reveals the origins and science behind various illusions, and explains why there is a difference between what the eye sees and what is actually happening on stage; as well as giving famous examples from history, and his own personal twists on them.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStar trek costumes : five decades of fashion from the final frontier / Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann ; introduction by Robert Blackman.
“This deluxe book showcases the unique costumes of the Star Trek saga, taking in fifty years of iconic and hugely influential designs. Drawing on the entire franchise, including all twelve films and six TV series, Star Trek: Costumes explores the creation of some of the most memorable garb in the galaxy, telling the complete story of how Star Trek’s outlandishly chic wardrobe has been expanded in increasingly thrilling ways throughout the years. Star Trek: Costumes is the ultimate way to experience the incredible fashions of the Final Frontier.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThunderbirds : the vault / Marcus Hearn.
“On 30th September 1965, International Rescue successfully completed their first assignment, and the Tracy brothers imprinted themselves on a generation of captivated children. Thirty-two episodes, many repeats, sixty territories, two feature films, three albums, numerous comics, books, toys, videos and DVDs and five decades later, Thunderbirds are still saving the world from the brink of peril. Thunderbirds: The Vault will be the first ever lavishly illustrated, definitive, beautifully packaged, presentation hardback telling the story of this enduring cult phenomenon.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInvestigating Murdoch mysteries : the official companion to the series / Michelle Ricci with Mir Bahmanyar.
“Based on Maureen Jennings’ award-winning novels, at the end of the Victorian era, Toronto-based police detective William Murdoch uses radical forensic techniques, including fingerprinting and trace evidence, to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders. This companion looks at every aspect of all 8 seasons of the show, from the regular characters and their relationships, to the history of the period, including figures Murdoch encounters, the forensic and scientific advances he utilises, and Murdoch’s most notable cases.” (Syndetics summary)

Staff Pick DVDs: The Best of 2015

We’ve got a great range of picks from our staff, from docos to dramas, TV shows to true stories. Enjoy our favourites from 2015!

Shinji’s picks:
Cover imageWinter sleep.
The winner of Cannes’ Palme D’or in 2014, Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep is a 3 hours 16 minutes-long haunting chamber drama. Inspired by Chekov’s short stories, heavy dialogue drives the movie, but Ceylan’s rigorous direction together with superb acting by all actors never fails to keep you riveted. Once a professional photographer, Ceylan sets up a desolate but stunningly beautiful milieu, and the whole movie is like an amazing mix of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. A masterful work.

Cover imageInherent vice.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s (Magnolia, The Master) conjuring hands make this first ever edition of Thomas Pynchon’s novel a visually dazzling, playful off-beat comedy. Set in the hippie culture of LA in 1970, it’s a rather confusing story as a lot of bizarre characters come and go. However, with an impeccable camera movement, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the drug addled detective, is wonderfully amusing, and the soundtrack (Can, Neil Young etc.) and the narration by Joanna Newsom will help it gain ‘cult’ status.

Cover imageThe salt of the earth : a journey with Sebastião Salgado.
Brazilian photographer Sebastiano Salgado has travelled around the world, often in remote, life-is-severely-harsh areas, and witnessed some of the darkest moments of human history; exploitation of labour, starvation, exodus, genocide and so on. His photographs are truly remarkable and even rather disturbing images such as dead bodies on the road show some kind of dignity. Also a conservationist, Salgado has embarked on restoring the forest in Brazil. This extraordinary person’s life and work are reconstructed by Vim Wenders and Sebastiano’s son Julian, in a sensitive, aesthetic way. It’s a visually stunning, compelling portrait.

Cover imageAmy.
She just wanted to be loved by someone she loved but her wish was never fulfilled. A story about someone who died at the age of 27 is naturally sad and this well-constructed documentary gets more painful to watch towards the end. However, the music holds us and in fact, Amy Winehouse was a genius singer. There are some intriguing performances here, notably the cover of her idol Donny Hathaway’s We’re Still Friends (previously unreleased). Hathaway also died young (jumped off from the 15th floor. He was 33) but he achieved something remarkable, whereas the albums Amy left barely show her potential. If she could remain performing in a small jazz club, her life might have not turned out this way. We all may wonder.

Mark’s picks:
Cover imageNightcrawler.
Jake Gyllenhaal as a sociopathic loner who discovers his true calling as a freelance hawker of footage of car accidents & violent crimes to sleazy local news shows to boost their ratings. A cadaverous Gyllenhaal is all bulging eyes & homespun philosophies as he manipulates everyone around him. A scabrous look at the moral corruption that pervades the media world we live in.

StaffPicksDVDs7Humans.
2016 was a good year for intelligent Sci-Fi (Ex-Machina, Coherence) but ‘Humans’ gets the nod, as its longer form gives it more time to explore the issues at play. The Hawkins family acquires a new ‘Synthetic’ helper, who slowly begins to exhibit some odd behaviour. Meanwhile a police unit responsible for robot related crime is tracking a group of ‘free’ robots. Works its central plot around the larger impact of robots upon society as a whole – as people begin to feel displaced. Recommended if you enjoyed the recent Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror.

Cover imageLove & mercy.
Excellent music biopic from director Bill Pohlad on famed ‘Beach Boys’ vocalist Brian Wilson, presented in a parallel narrative covering two specific time periods in Wilson’s life. In the mid-60s young Brian (Paul Dano) begins a slow mental collapse as the voices and sounds in his head begin to take over his life & destroy his creativity. Meanwhile in the 1980s old Brian (John Cusack) is alone and isolated from his family, under the control & guardianship of his corrupt therapist Dr. Landy (played by Paul Giamatti). A fascinating and highly enjoyable film, and a unique way to approach a music biography.

Cover imageMarshland.
Excellent Spanish thriller set in Spain’s deep south in 1980s. The Fascist government has recently been replaced by a new democracy and two ideologically opposed detectives are sent to a small town to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls. Full of brooding suspense and atmosphere, with amazing cinematography of the rural region. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed the first season of True Detective.

Cover imageThe affair. Season one.
An affair between a blue collar teacher & a working class waitress, told from both points of view. With superb acting from the two leads (Domenic West, & Ruth Wilson), ‘The Affair’ is an adult drama that deals with the pressures of marriage and responsibility, as well as the cost of desire and betrayal.

Maxine’s picks:
Cover imageGrantchester. Series 1.
Being a girly romantic I really liked the DVD series 1 of Grantchester with the murder solving vicar played by the drop dead gorgeous James Norton and Robson Green as the detective.

Cover imageNoble.
As for films I loved the true one about an Irish woman who went to Vietnam to save orphaned kids.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
I also liked the latest James Bond’s Spectre and of course Star wars!!!

Janice’s picks:
Cover imageWoman in gold.
A must see, Helen Mirren is amazing!

Cover imageLast cab to Darwin.
Never too late to start living!

Cover imageA royal night out.
Easy going interesting movie. Did the Queen actually have a night out on the town in her younger years??

Katie’s Pick:
Cover imageCinderella.
This is Cinderella as you have never seen it before. The story of Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” is different from its predecessor. Directed by award winning actor, Kenneth Branagh, This version follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James). After Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her ugly-in-nature daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera), and is forced to become their servant, disrespected, covered in ashes and spitefully renamed Cinderella. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her, and she continues to remain positive, determined to honour her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” Ella’s fortunes seem to turn for the better in the form of a dashing stranger named Kit aka The Prince (Richard Madden) and a quirky fairy godmother, (brilliantly played by Helena Bonham Carter) that will change Ella’s life for the better. Overall a fantastic film that can be enjoyed by all ages. Rating: 9/10.

Pru’s pick:
Cover imagePaddington.
The grandkids and I have just watched Paddington. We are aged from 4 up. It was lots of fun and we all loved it.

Brigid’s picks:
Cover imageOutlander. The complete first season.

Cover imageHector and the search for happiness.

Cover imageThe longest ride.

Cover imageThe equalizer.

Cover imageMan up.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Star Wars: the Force Awakens

Monty’s picks:
Cover imageThe jinx : the life and deaths of Robert Durst.

Cover imageParticlefever.

Cover imageInherent vice.

Cover imageSilicon Valley.

Jay’s Picks:
Cover imageEx_machina.

Cover imageThe Martian.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Phoenix
Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Trumbo
Merchants of Doubt

Raissa’s picks:
Cover imageEx_machina.

BestOf2014DVDs5Going clear : Scientology and the prison of belief.

Cover imageThe Martian.

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Victoria
The End of the Tour
The Big Short

Jessica’s picks:
Cover image

Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Mistress America

Bridget’s pick:
Cover imageMad Max. Fury road.

Ingrid’s pick:
Cover imageEx_machina.

Neil’s pick:
Not yet on DVD in NZ:
Fargo – Season 2

Staff Picks DVDs for December

Have a browse of some new Staff Pick DVDs for the end of the year. Watch out for our picks for the Best Library DVDs of 2015 in January!

Cover imageRevenge. The complete fourth and final season.
Emily Thorne’s, (aka Amanda Clarke) cycle of revenge is coming to an end or is it? Season four of Revenge opens six months after the events of the season three finale. Emily is living in Grayson Manor and Victoria is committed to a mental hospital desperately trying to escape. For the past three years, Emily has worked to take down all of the people that played a part in framing her father. She has finally taken down the Grayson’s only to discover that her father is alive. The problem is that Victoria gets to him first and takes her own revenge by feeding him lies about Emily and leaving him in the dark that she is actually his daughter. The question on everyone’s lips is: Will father and daughter reunite? Will David finally see through Victoria’s lies? Can Emily’s soul be saved? and where has David been most of Emily’s life? Watch the gripping and final conclusion to this amazing series, where Victoria and Emily embark on the mother of epic showdowns where countless lives are ruined and destroyed and that finally ends in a bloodbath, where only one victor will remain standing. Overall I thought Season Four was a good finish to the series. I think people who are a fan of the show will be happy with the overall conclusion. (Katie)

StaffPicksDVDs7Bosch. Season one.
One of the original Amazon series pilots that debuted in 2014 was this adaptation of Michael Connelly’s popular series of crime novels featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch. The show adapted Bosch’s character somewhat, and also takes the unusual approach of merging plots from 3 separate Connelly novels (City of Bones, Echo Park, and The Concrete Blonde) into one narrative which, as you might expect, feels a bit forced at times. The first few episodes are pretty rough and some characters aren’t how you imagine them from the books. But it settles down a bit after that and delivers a solid procedural as Bosch (Titus Welliver) investigates the discovery in the woods of the bones of a small boy who was horribly abused and beaten. Meanwhile, creepy serial killer Raynard Waits uses his supposed knowledge of the crime to his own advantage…Unfortunately not as great as it could have been but still worth a watch if you are a fan of the books. The series was renewed for a second season, which will take inspiration from Connelly’s novels Trunk Music, The Drop, and The Last Coyote. (Mark)

Cover imageSan Andreas.
This is an action movie starring The Rock, (Dwayne Johnson). The story is about The Rock who is an ex-army helicopter pilot who has separated from his wife and family. They struggled after the loss of another daughter. The wife has a new partner. Their other daughter has gone up to San Francisco when a huge earthquake hits. A 9.plus. Lots of shaking and special effects. The race is on for Dwayne and his ex-wife to race up and find their daughter from Los Angeles to San Francisco, whilst battling earth’s shakes, Tsunamis. This is a movie where you need to forget reality to watch. The plot does have some resemblance to 2012. Really good though if you enjoy disaster movies and like Dwayne Johnson. (Brigid)

Cover imageKingsman. The secret service.
We recently watched ‘The Kingsman’ with Samuel L Jackson and a very thin Colin Firth. It is a good spoof of the Bond movies. Fantastic scene at the end. Anyone in customer service would probably like some chips for difficult customers. (Pru)

Cover image’71.
Gripping UK thriller set in the time of the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland. The story begins with young British soldier Gary Hook training with his platoon, about to be sent into the ‘deteriorating’ situation in Belfast. Almost as soon as he enters the fray, however, he is separated from his unit during a Belfast riot. Unarmed and injured in hostile territory, he’s got to survive the night and find a way back to his HQ. Those hostile to the British are pursuing him, those sympathetic to his cause are scared to help him because of reprisals, and certain forces on his side are playing both ends against the middle. Who can he trust & how will he survive the night. A gritty, tense, extremely exciting thriller. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageOutlander. Season one, Volume two.
This is the 2nd part of the first series which makes up the entire book of Cross stitch or ‘Outlander’. Diana Gabaldon (author was involved in this series). It is true to the book. The story of Clare and Jaimie’s love and marriage carry on. Clare learns that the expectations on her in the 1740’s marriage are very different from the 1940’s. The series starts with Jamie looking at his life and love for Clare and he soon realises that They need to treat each other differently than his own parents treated each other. Both of them face different consequences of living in a country which is occupied by the British and live through horrific torture common of the time. Jamie has a great sacrifice to make to save Clare. There are some very brutal scenes including rape scenes. Not for the faint hearted and definitely an R.18. Some very dark and haunting parts. Also available in a Complete First Season edition. The second series is out in 2016. (Brigid)

Cover imageLove & mercy.
Excellent music biopic from director Bill Pohlad on famed ‘Beach Boys’ vocalist Brian Wilson, one of the most iconic and apocryphal figures in 20th century popular music scripted by Oren Moverman, who had previously found success with the impressionistic Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. The film, deriving its title from a 1988 song by Wilson, is presented in a parallel narrative covering two specific time periods in Wilson’s life: the 1960s and the 1980s. In the mid-60s young Brian (Paul Dano) begins a slow mental collapse as the voices and sounds in his head begin to take over his life & destroy his creativity. Meanwhile in the 1980s old Brian (John Cusack) is alone and isolated from his family, under the control & guardianship of his corrupt therapist Dr. Landy (played by Paul Giamatti). But he then meets a woman (Elizabeth Banks) at a used car dealership who begins to change his life. The more knowledge you have of The Beach Boys and Wilson the more you will enjoy this film, but its structure is deliberately set up so that even if you know little about the man or his music it’s still a fascinating and highly enjoyable film, and a unique way to approach this type of story. (Mark)

Cover imageDeathgasm.
Deathgasm is a newly-released kiwi heavy metal comedy-horror directed by Jason Lei Howden. The story centres on teenage metalhead Brodie and his misfit mates who unintentionally summon an ancient demon after discovering a satantic riff from hell! Chaos ensues and with the help of his bandmates and love interest Medina, Brodie must defeat the evil and end the demonic zombie apocalypse. Can he win the girl? Will they even survive?? Jam-packed full of great laughs and a fantastic soundtrack featuring Wellington’s own ‘Bulletbelt’, ‘Razorwyre’ and ‘Beastwars’ – this hilarious splatter-fest is awesome fun and well worth checking out! (Theresa)

Cover imageMarshland.
Excellent Spanish thriller directed by Alberto Rodríguez, that won ten Goya Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor (Javier Gutiérrez). Set in Spain’s deep south in 1980, as the Fascist government has recently been replaced by a new democracy, two ideologically opposed detectives are sent to a small town to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls during the town’s annual festivities. With the discovery of more missing girls the film soon evokes comparison to the Korean classic Memories of Murder & also to Season 1 of True Detective, though the film began shooting at the same time as that show. Full of brooding suspense and atmosphere with amazing cinematography of the rural region – including some amazing aerial shots that show the scope of the natural environment. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed the first season of ‘True Detective’. (Mark)

Cover imageInside out.
Produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures. ‘Inside Out’ is set in the mind of a young girl, Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias), where five personified emotions—Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling)—try to lead her through life as her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) move the family to a new city. Overall a cute movie that provides a very funny interpretation of what happens in the human mind when emotions set in, what roles each our emotions play in our personalities, how we communicate and form relationships with people. Some very funny moments in the film, especially when Anger loses his temper, Disgust’s sarcastic and cynical behaviour and finding what role, (Spoiler: Very important role), Sadness plays. Rated: 8/10. (Katie)

Cover imageEx_machina.
Intelligent sci-fi flick which marks the directorial debut by 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Sunshine writer Alex Garland, Young programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a competition at his bosses company to take part in the experiment. When he arrives at the remote facility he meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the eccentric tech genius behind the world biggest search engine. He learns that Nathan’s next project is the creation of an Artificial intelligence, and that he has been brought there to evaluate the human qualities of a female A.I called ‘Ava’ (Alicia Vikander). The scenes shift from room to room as the tension ratchets up between the characters, even though they are never all together in the same place. Intelligent & tense, exploring similar themes to other recent UK shows such as Black Mirror & Humans.(Mark)

Cover imageNot suitable for children.
This is a darkly funny story about a young Australian man in his 20’sish who is busy living the party/ music lifestyle when he discovers that he has testicular cancer. He cannot store his fertility so has a month to find someone willing to have a child with him. Here comes the soul-searching challenge for him. It is a very unusual story. In parts it was very funny and thought provoking. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of testicular cancer in the world. But Testicular cancer is also one of the more survivable cancers. This movie is worth a watch. Contains sex scenes. (Brigid)

Cover imageThe affair. Season one.
A man (Domenic West) and a woman (Ruth Wilson) are being separately interviewed in a police interrogation room. Someone is dead, though no details are given. Slowly the policeman draws from them the details of how they first met and began an affair some years previously… Noah (West) is an ostensibly happily married man with a wife (Maura Tierney) & 4 children, a blue collar New York city schoolteacher who has published one novel some years previously to little acclaim. However he is stuck on his second book and resents the wealth of his in-laws who support his lifestyle and children. While vising at their house in the resort town of Montauk on Long Island, he meets waitress Alison (Wilson) who is stuck in a disintegrating marriage to Cole (Joshua Jackson), the leading son of a prominent local family, and locked in an endless cycle of grief over the loss of a child. The story of ‘The Affair’ is told separately, complete with deliberately distinct memory biases, from Noah’s and Alison’s perspective – with the ensuing police investigation explored in brief future scenes at the end of most episodes. With superb acting from the two leads, ‘The Affair’ is an adult drama that deals with the pressures of marriage and responsibility, and the cost of desire and betrayal. Season Two will expand the shows ‘perspectives’ to include those of the betrayed spouses Tierney & Jackson. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageThe Fisher king.
The DVD that I recently watched was an old one of Robin Williams’s called ‘The Fisher King’. Great, funny and poignant. (Maxine)

Cover imageMan up.
This is the latest from Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Paul, Hector & the search for Happiness) fame. It is a comedy. Story is about Jack who is in his 40’s recently divorced has a date with a young woman whom he thinks has been arranged for him by a match-maker friend. The woman he meets (36 year old Nancy) ends up there by a big mix-up. But pretends to be who he thinks she is. This is a really funny relationship comedy. Worth a watch. (Brigid)

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #10

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have the latest season’s of dramas ‘The Good Wife’, ‘House of Cards’, and turn-of-the-century Toronto ‘Murdoch mysteries’; as well as two adaptations of novels by popular romance novelist Rosamunde Pilcher.

Cover imageThe good wife. The sixth season.
“Alicia Florrick ( Julianna Margulies) stood by her husband (Chris Noth) on his tumultuous path to the governor’s office, but now she’s entering the world of politics on her own terms by running for state’s attorney. As Election Day approaches, Alicia must balance the demands of her firm and campaign as she supports her partner Cary (Matt Czuchry) during shocking developments that could end his career… and life as he knows it. Julianna Margulies returns in the role that earned her two Primetime Emmy Awards*, and stars with Archie Panjabi, Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming and a roster of stellar guests in Season Six of the gripping series that is critically lauded as “…TV’s best drama” (Slate)…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageMurdoch mysteries. Complete series 8.
“In Season 8 of this delightful detective show, joy and heartbreak await Detective William Murdoch and his friends in turn-of-the-century Toronto. After his brutal beating by the dockyard gang, Inspector Brackenreid’s future remains uncertain. Constable Crabtree faces life-altering changes, including a new romance, while Dr. Emily Grace and Dr. Julia Ogden join the women’s suffrage movement. And in the show’s 100th episode, wedding bells ring as Murdoch and Julia finally walk down the aisle. Along the way, Murdoch encounters notables like W.C. Fields, Thomas Edison, and President Theodore Roosevelt. Guest stars include Peter Keleghan (The Newsroom), Patrick McKenna (The Red Green Show), and Peter Outerbridge (Orphan Black), the original Detective Murdoch from the TV movies that preceded the series…” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageHouse of cards. The complete third season.
“All 13 episodes from the third season of the award-winning political drama starring Kevin Spacey. Based on the novel by Michael Dobbs and the subsequent BBC adaptation of the book, the show follows Francis Underwood (Spacey), a politician whose sense of ambition is matched and encouraged by his wife Claire (Robin Wright). Armed with an arsenal of political secrets to equal anyone in Washington, Francis is more than willing to scheme and blackmail his way to the top. In this season, Francis’s approval ratings plummet, a devastating hurricane hits the East Coast and Claire makes plans to run for Ambassador to the U.N…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe other wife.
“Rupert Everett and John Hannah star in this two-part drama based on the novel by Rosamunde Pilcher. When Rebecca Kendall (Natalia Worner) waves goodbye to her husband Robert (Hannah) as he departs on one of his regular business trips to Canada she feels a twinge of uneasiness for the first time. What Rebecca does not know is that her devoted husband has been leading a double life for the last five years with another wife and child in Canada. When Robert’s plane crashes en route back to England both of his families seek comfort in the fact that their finances were well protected. As Robert’s brother Martin (Everett) reveals however, his late brother had invested all of his money into a Canadian goldmine, there is very little left for the wives to fight over…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageUnknown heart.
“Carolina Vera and Gedeon Burkhard star in Giles Foster’s adaptation of the novel by Rosamunde Pilcher. When Elizabeth Lancaster (Vera), a terminally ill 40-year-old heiress to her family’s cider farm, gets a phone call from the hospital with the news of the heart transplant she has been waiting for, she feels like all her dreams have come true. After the operation Elizabeth is unable to connect to her family and instead finds herself drawn to a place she has never known: the home of the woman whose heart now beats in her chest. As she meets her donor’s widow, Andrew Shaw (Burkhard) she immediately feels an unexplainable connection and the tormented pair begin a passionate affair. Will their love be enough to keep them together or will more hearts be broken along the way?…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Staff Picks DVDs – September/October

A great selection of recent material has been highlighted by our staff this time around, including fantastic TV shows and film festival favourites.

Cover imageInherent vice.
Thomas Pynchon’s novel is adapted to the big screen for the first time by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, The Master). It will surely excite some people, and the result is a quirky, plot-careless affair but a visually dazzling, playful off-beat comedy. Set in the hippie culture LA in 1970, it’s a rather confusing detective story as a lot of bizarre characters come and go. However, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the drug addled yet wonderfully amusing detective, is leading the charge all the way, and masterful camera movements with fabulous close-ups make it a great pleasure to watch. The soundtrack (Can, Neil Young etc.), which well represents the milieu of the era, and the narration by Joanna Newsom, who also appears in the film, will help it gain ‘cult’ status. A conjuring work. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe spoils of Babylon.
So bad it’s good! An A-grade cast presents a B-grade ‘Dallas-meets-Thunderbirds’ production that is a real hoot. It’s tacky, it’s totally unrealistic and completely unbelievable. If you love backgrounds on a loop, and mannequin acting you’ll love this forbidden love story. (Belinda)

Cover imageThe guest.
From the writer/director team that created the hugely entertaining You’re Next, comes this homage to 80s slasher flicks. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), sporting a perfect American accent, plays ex-soldier David. One day he knocks at the door of the Peterson family and informs the mother that he was a close friend of the son she recently lost in combat. Still traumatised by grief she willingly invites him in. Soon he is sleeping in her dead son’s room and gradually begins to insinuate himself into the lives of her husband, younger son and daughter Anna (Maika Monroe, It Follows). Soon things begin to go right for the family as David charms everyone with his polite manners & helpful attitude, but as some sudden deaths plague the small town Anna begins to suspect that there may be more to David than it appears…Chilly yet also deliberately cheesy in parts it’s a great take off of 80s ‘straight-to-video’ schlockers with an over the top last third & a John Carpenter Halloween homage finale, complete with dry ice & cheesy synth music. (Mark)

Cover ImageNoble.
This is an amazing true story of an Irish lady who grew up in the slums of Ireland. A drunken father, a mother who died young with several siblings, all put away into homes. In her later years heads off to Vietnam and helps the children with no homes or families, to give them a better life. Her dream is to succeed and prove to the authorities that she can and will. (Janice)

Cover imageMammon. The complete season one.
While it is stated as being ‘Season One’, this is in fact a self contained 6 episode mini-series. Beginning at the height of the financial crisis, doggedly ethical journalist Peter Verås (Jon Øigarden) discovers a complex financial fraud implicating Norway’s elite politicians & businessmen, with his own brother at the centre. Refusing to compromise Peter publishes the story, with the outcome culminating in his brothers suicide. Ostracised by his peers he is relegated to the sports desk, his reputation & career shattered. However fast-forward 5 years later, and he receives a mysterious briefcase on the anniversary of his brothers death that propels him into a labyrinthine conspiracy of which his brothers suicide was just one facet…Complex (perhaps overly so), it tries a bit too hard at times to be a Norwegian take on the ‘Millennium’ trilogy, and throws a lot of plot elements into the mix (not all of which are believable), but it is none-the-less another exciting & entertaining entry in the Scandi-Noir cannon. (Mark)

Cover imageZ nation. Season 1.
Fun with zombies! Three years after a zombie apocalypse has killed off most of the Earth’s population a rag-tag group of survivors have a mission to get Murphy, a convict who survived eight zombie bites after being injected with an experimental vaccine, from New York to the last known medical lab in California. Let’s just say the trip doesn’t go smoothly. Once the story is established, it starts to get very funny and we’re introduced to a variety of zombie types. A bit b-grade in parts, but it’s funny so who cares, and it’s faster moving than the Walking Dead. (Belinda)

Cover imageWhile we’re young.
Another charming art-oriented comedy by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale) centres a middle-aged documentary filmmaker (played by Ben Stiller) whose career and marriage are at a dead end. He and his wife (Naomi Watts) seem to regain their buoyancy and mojo after befriending young artistic couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) but their close friendship soon sours. The middle-age anxiety, longing for youth and the generation gap are depicted comically, and at times it’s like a Woody Allen movie. However, cynical and sensitive Baumbach subtly contrasts the fearlessness of youth with the wisdom of age, leaving a bittersweet aroma. With the ingenious script and the wonderful ensemble cast, it’s a lovely chamber work. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe longest ride.
This is the movie of the book by Nicholas Sparks. It is a lovely story of a young man Luke (this is Scott Eastwood – Clint’s son) whose passion is rodeo and staying on the bull the longest. He meets a lovely young woman Sophia and starts a romance. At the same time their paths are crossed by an elderly man Ira in a rest home (played by the delightful Alan Alda of MASH fame). Their ups and downs of romance are intertwined with the story of the elderly gentleman’s life with his wife. Also intertwined is the Rodeo rides and art galleries. Conflict between careers. There are some good twists and it is a delightful story. A chick flick to be enjoyed by males too. The library also has the book and Audio book. (Brigid)

StaffPicksDVDs7Humans.
A remake of the Scandinavian series ‘Real Humans’ sees a parallel future where household robots (Synths) have become the new must have gadget for menial tasks & caregiver roles. After his busy wife begins to spend more time at work, Joe Hawkins decides to buy a synth (Gemma Chan) to help around the house, and give him more time to spend with her when she is home. However his wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson) soon feels displaced, as the new synth becomes an integral part of the family, especially for their youngest child who names her Anita, after a friend who moved away. However, unbeknownst to the Hawkins family, Anita is not a ‘normal’ synth at all, and slowly she begins to exhibit some odd behaviour. Meanwhile a police unit responsible for robot related crime is tracking a group of ‘free’ robots…’Humans’ works its central plot around the larger impact of robots upon society as a whole – as people begin to feel angry at their futures, displaced at jobs and in the home – and while it features some tropes of the SF genre that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica, or Ex Machina to name a few influences, it is still a very entertaining series that raises some interesting issues around the insidiousness of technological advancements. Some critics say that it is not as good as the Swedish original (as yet not released in this country), but it’s definitely recommended if you enjoyed the recent Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror, as it explores similar themes.
(Mark)

 

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Latest Film and Television book arrivals

Terry Gilliam. What’s inside his head? Find out by reading his book. Explore the TV revolution by reading Taschen’s favorite TV shows. Journey inside North Korea with The director is the commander. Plus, many other great new arrivals!

Syndetics book coverGilliamesque : my me, me, me memoir / Terry Gilliam and Ben Thompson.
“From his no-frills childhood in the icy wastes of Minnesota, to some of the hottest water Hollywood had to offer, via the cutting edge of ’60s and ’70s counter-culture in New York, LA and London, Terry Gilliam’s life has been as vivid and unorthodox as one of his films. Telling his story for the first time, the director of Brazil, 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – not to mention co-founder of Monty Python’s Flying Circus – recalls his life so far. Packed with never-before-seen artwork, photographs and commentary, Gilliamesque blends the visual and the verbal with scabrous wit and fascinating insights.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTaschen’s favorite TV shows : the top shows of the last 25 years / Jürgen Müller (ed.).
“In the last decade, shows like Breaking Bad, Borgen and Mad Men have toppled cinema from its leading position in the popular culture universe and ushered in a whole new level of small screen excellence and appreciation. Networks such as HBO, AMC, and ABC have launched a new era of cinematic narrative, while cable TV networks, DVDs, and the Internet have brought about new, flexible ways of watching and engaging. Global fan communities devour episode after episode, independently of programs and broadcasting schedules, and probe the multiple levels of meaning in their favorite series in blogs, fan groups and online forums. Alongside a wealth of stills, this overview of the TV revolution presents the most important and successful series of recent years, from David Lynch’s groundbreaking masterpiece Twin Peaks to current highlights like Game of Thrones, Girls and House of Cards. Learn something new about your favorite shows, and about those you’re still to discover.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWomen I’ve undressed / Orry-Kelly.
“Orry-Kelly created magic on screen, from Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon to Some Like It Hot. He won three Oscars for costume design. He dressed all the biggest stars, from Bette Davis to Marilyn Monroe. He was an Australian. Yet few know who Orry-Kelly really was – until now. Discovered in a pillowcase, Orry-Kelly’s long-lost memoirs reveal a wildly talented and cheeky rascal who lived a big life, on and off the set. Sharing digs in New York with another aspiring actor, Cary Grant, and partying hard in between auditions, he ekes out a living painting murals for speakeasies before graduating to designing stage sets and costumes. When The Kid from Kiama finally arrives in Hollywood, it’s clear his adventures have only just begun. Fearless, funny and outspoken, Orry-Kelly lived life to the full.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe science of TV’s The big bang theory : explanations even Penny would understand / Dave H. Zobel.
“The highest-rated scripted show on TV, The Big Bang Theory (CBS) often features Sheldon, Howard, Leonard and Raj wisecracking about scientific principles as if the rest of us should know exactly what they’re talking about. The Science of TV’S The Big Bang Theory lets all of us in on the punchline by breaking down the show’s scientific conversations. Covering every angle, author Dave Zobel maintains a humorous and informative approach and gives readers enough knowledge to make them welcome on Sheldon’s couch.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe director is the commander / Anna Broinowski.
“Looking for respite from her crumbling marriage and determined to stop a coal seam gas mine near her Sydney home, filmmaker Anna Broinowski finds wisdom and inspiration in the strangest of places: North Korea. Guided by the late Dear Leader Kim Jong Il’s manifesto The Cinema and Directing, Broinowski, in a world first, travels to Pyongyang to collaborate with North Korea’s top directors, composers and movie stars to make a powerful anti-fracking propaganda film. The Director is the Commander centres around the bizarre twenty-one day shoot Broinowski did in North Korea to make her documentary, Aim High in Creation! Funny, multi-layered and utterly compelling, The Director is the Commander is a gripping account of an extraordinary journey inside a nation we can usually only see from the outside looking in.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMany more lives of the Batman / edited by Roberta Pearson, William Uricchio, Will Brooker.
“The Many Lives of the Batman (1991) was a pioneer within cultural and comic book scholarship. This fresh new sequel retains the best of the original chapters but also includes images, new chapters and new contributions from the Batman writers and editors. Spanning 75 years and multiple incarnations, this is the definitive history of Batman.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpecial effects make-up artist / Jonathan Craig and Bridget Light.
“Movies are full of amazingly odd creatures, from aliens to zombies, but what goes into creating them? Many of these bizarre creatures are brought to life with make-up and prosthetics. Find out what’s involved in being a special effects make-up artist, the tools and skills you need, and the difficulties of bringing imaginary creatures to life.” (Syndetics summary)

TV series exclusives: The WCL Ratings Project #9

With this month’s update of new DVDs enabled by our Ratings Project we have US medical comedy ‘Royal Pains’, new seasons of the popular US crime shows ‘Blue Bloods’ & ‘White Collar’, and the latest episodes of glamorous lady detective, The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher…

Cover imageRoyal pains. Season one.
“Now it can be told: the mega-rich get sick and hurt too. It’s just that their illnesses, injuries, and conditions are a lot weirder and more exotic than those suffered by mere mortals. At least that’s the message delivered in Royal Pains, USA Network’s medical-comedy series offered here with all 12 first-season episodes (plus bonus features) on three discs. Mark Feuerstein plays Hank Lawson, a Manhattan physician who unfairly loses his hospital job, and soon thereafter his gold-digging fiancée, when a powerful trustee dies on his watch. Enter younger brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo), a nerdy accountant and shameless social climber, who enlists Hank to help him crash a fancy soiree in the Hamptons; Hank saves the life of a partygoer, which leads to more and more work, and all of a sudden he’s a “concierge” doc at the service of people whose wealth is matched only by their vanity and acquisitiveness…” (Abridged from Amazon.com review)

Cover imageRoyal pains. Season two.
“Spend your summer with Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein): where the tides are high, bank account balances are higher and the patients are just high maintenance. Because of his strong convictions and straight-shooting style, the “concierge doctor’s” practice is growing… and with the return of his estranged father (special guest star Henry Winkler), so is his family. With puzzling cases involving a faithful cop with an STD, a winemaker with a troubled palate and a reality show where all the contestants are stricken ill, Hank needs his own innovative talents and the support of his fast-talking brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) more than ever. Featuring all 18 episodes from the acclaimed second season and special guest stars that include Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Erinn Hayes (Parenthood), Peter Jacobson (House, M.D.), Michael Rapaport (True Romance) and Bill Bellamy (The Brothers), Royal Pains is the smart and original comedy that Entertainment Weekly hails as “whimsical fun.”…” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageWhite collar. The complete fourth season.
“Matt Bomer excels again as charming con man Neal Caffrey in another engaging season of crime solving and high-stakes heists! Facing the uncertain future of his partnership with FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), Neal sheds his tracking anklet and disappears into thin air. But the Feds aren’t done with him and Neal is hardly ready for retirement. Back in action, Neal ponders the future as Season Four delves deeper into the stunning secrets of his mysterious past. Packed with seduction, intrigue, and more of everything you love about TV’s sexiest show, White Collar will have you glued to the edge of your seat. Let the games begin!…” (Product description from Amazon.com)

Cover imageWhite collar. The complete fifth season.
“In season five, $1.8 million in gold coins is missing, an elusive precious diamond is about to be found, and Neal Caffrey has a new handler, and a new love interest. But all is fair in love and crime, and the closer Neal gets to the mysterious Rebecca Lowe, the greater the danger for everyone in his life…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageWhite collar. The complete sixth season.
“Experience the thrills, one last time, with Season 6 of television’s slickest, most seductive crime drama – White Collar. The tension has never been greater as Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) re-teams with FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) in their most ambitious sting operation yet – infiltrating a sophisticated gang of deadly thieves. With Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen) pregnant, Neal desperate for his freedom and amidst pressure from Mozzie (Willie Garson) for Neal to cut ties with the FBI, the scheme unfolds, culminating in the series’ most shocking plot twist of all. Also, only on DVD, join the cast and crew as they discuss their favourite moments from the show’s six seasons in the moving retrospective White Collar: Case Closed…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageBlue bloods. The fourth season.
“The Reagan family dynamics continue to shift as they deal with everything from gambling and drugs to kidnapping and murder: Jamie (Will Estes) wrestles with his feelings for his new partner; Erin and Jack work to figure out their personal relationship; and Danny and Frank clash over an internal investigation of Danny’s techniques. As the Reagans faces off against the FBI, the mob, and other officers who don’t follow their ethical code, the family bond will both serve and protect them…” (From Syndetics summary)

RatingsProjectDVDs7Miss Fisher’s murder mysteries. Series 3, Volume 1.
“The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher continues to solve crimes with the help of her household cohorts, all the while delighting in her playful partnership with the suave and dedicated Detective Jack Robinson. When Phryne’s estranged father, Lord Henry George Fisher, arrives unannounced in Australia after selling up the family estate in England, he does his best to ingratiate himself with Dot, Bert, Cec and Mr Butler, though his roguish charm is lost on his own daughter. When Phryne recalls a secret encounter that she witnessed during the War, between her father and the cousin from whom the Fishers inherited their title, she begins to suspect that her ancestor is still alive and could be out to exact his revenge…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageMiss Fisher’s murder mysteries. Series 3, Volume 2.
“In the third series of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, stylish lady detective the honourable Miss Phryne Fisher continues her unconventional antics, solving crimes with the help of her ensemble of household cohorts and the suave, dedicated detective Jack Robinson, with whom she shares a playful partnership. In the second volume of Series Three, Phryne’s Aunt Prudence takes on more than she bargained for when she opens her home to psychiatrist and natural healer, Hayden Samuels. And when Phryne hosts a tennis tournament to raise money for female tennis players, the practice partner of a rising tennis star is fatally bitten by a funnel-web spider, sparking a murder investigation that reveals Phryne’s hidden fear. Includes episodes 5 – 8 from Series 3…” (Product description from Amazon.co.uk)

Staff Picks DVDs – July/August

Some staff picks of new TV shows & movies, from biographical adaptations to indie Sci-Fi.

Cover imageCoherence.
‘Coherence’ proves once again that it’s indie movies with the most interesting Sci-Fi ideas, and not Hollywood blockbusters (even those by Christopher Nolan). Eight friends – all couples- get together to catch up over dinner, at the same time that a comet is passing close to Earth. Strange things begin to happen. To say any more would give away the story, such as it is. Written & directed by James Ward Byrkit with a bunch of mostly unknown actors (Buffy alumnus Nicholas Brendon is the only recognisable face), with an improvised script that is filmed mostly in his living room, the movie is an examination of the nature of reality, quantum physics & Schrödinger’s cat theory. Recommended if you’re a fan of Memento or Primer. If it’s all too confusing after a couple of watches the Director explains it all in a spoiler-heavy interview here. (Mark)

Cover imageGone baby gone.
This is Ben Affleck’s first time as Director. It stars his brother Casey. Gritty story about a Private Detective who is investigating the disappearance of a little girl. There are many twists and turns in this movie. It is a thought provoking story, and not your run-of the mill detective movie. Containing moral dilemmas. There were conversations about it in our house afterwards. It does contain violence, offensive language and drug use. Good movie. This story also stars Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris so a star cast. This is written by the same author (Dennis Lehane) as Mystic River. If you enjoyed this movie we also have the book in the Library. (Brigid)

Cover imageForce majeure.
In the interview related to this film, Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund talked about an article he read. “The posh couple gave a party at their house which has a pool. Their three-year-old son fell in and couldn’t swim. The father was standing there and the mother was shouting ‘Get into the pool. What are you doing?’ He said ‘But my iPhone is in my pocket’”. This episode gives you some ideas about this film; an ideal family holiday in a French ski resort turns into a relationship disaster by a tiny incident (from the husband’s point of view). This could be a comedy because it definitely makes you laugh but could be a horror or a serious human drama. Whatever it may be, it’s utterly unique. (Shinji)

Cover imageFortitude. The complete first season.
UK series with an international cast set in the fictional Arctic Norwegian settlement of Fortitude. Stanley Tucci appears in his first British television role as Detective Chief Inspector Morton from London’s Metropolitan Police, who has flown to Fortitude to assist with the investigation of the violent murder of Charlie Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston), a British scientist who leads the arctic biology department at the Fortitude arctic research facility, who has become embroiled in the possible discovery of a Wholly Mammoth frozen in the Ice. The closed off town seems to have plenty of secrets, with a taciturn local sheriff played by Richard Dormer, and a local developer & Town Governor (Sofie Gråbøl), controlling everything. At first it seems to be a variation of Broadchurch in the Arctic, plenty of people with mysterious pasts and adulterous affairs, but the plot soon shifts into more ‘X-Files’ territory. The disparate tones at play sometimes clash, and the plot initially feels like a conglomeration of various other shows, but it finds its own pace as the story moves forward. Chilly & atmospheric. Worth sticking with. (Mark)

Cover imageChef.
This is an enjoyable story. A very well-known chef in a famous restaurant in Los Angeles is under a lot of stress trying to create wonderful and creative food whilst working under a boss who does not get his style. After accidently sending a rather provocative tweet to a food critic (who had been very critical of his cooking) and it went viral. He is forced to resign and in doing so starts to rediscover his passion for cooking and his love of his son. He goes on a road trip with him. This is a lovely story and funny in parts and is full of lots of South American music. Also stars Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman (as the boss). There is some offensive language in it. (Brigid)

Cover imageThe last diamond.
Master thief Simon has just been released from prison and is on parole, when is friend, Albert, lures him back to his old ways for one more hit – a priceless 137 carat diamond ‘Florentin’, that has just been brought to auction. To steal the diamond the crew of thieves need 2 custom made keys, one of which is in the possession of beautiful auctioneer Julia. An elaborate plan to gain her confidence is put in place, but as Simon begins to develop feelings for her he seeks to move her away from danger. The elaborate heist goes off without a hitch…but then, of course, there is always the double-cross…A pleasant & charming throw back/homage to the traditional heist/caper/romance films of 50s Hollywood. The second half takes a more serious turn, and while not up to the classic standards of Jean-Pierre Melville or Olivier Marchal, its none-the-less an entertaining watch. (Mark)

Cover imageTak3n.
This is the third in the Taken series of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). It is also violent but not quite as violent as the other two. It starts off with Bryan meeting up with his wife.
Then she is murdered. He is framed so he becomes the hunted. Also stars Forrest Whitaker as the investigating Policeman. Lots of action as Bryan tries to hunt the killer and clear his name. Lots of twists. (Brigid)

Cover imageWild.
A true story based on the Best Selling book by Cheryl Strayed, starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. From a journey of self-destruction to one of self-discovery, she sets off ‘on her own’ with zero experience, an oversized however necessary backpack and a survivor or is it survival spirit, to walk the Pacific Crest Trail in a quest to walk herself back to life. A bid to face and forget the self-inflicted poor life choices she had made up unto this point in her life though one would see this “walk back to life” as a poor life choice as well, but as spontaneous and unprepared she was for what was ahead, what was she to lose, it was time to accept and let go of what was.. the great loss of her mother, the irresponsible behaviours, the drugs, the infidelities, the random sexual encounters and embrace a new found freedom for life, and this was how she aimed to do it. A three month journey, amid hunger, dehydration and the terrors and pleasures of the wild, with physical and mental strength as her constant companion. Would this ‘walk back to life’ heal her from the trials and tribulations of her past.. An inspirational true story about loss and Life. 3 ½ stars. (Ethel)

Cover imageOutlander. Season one, Volume one.
Classed as Romance. This is an interesting time shift story. Clare Randall (Beauchamp) is just enjoying a break in the Highlands of Scotland. The Second World War has just finished. Clare was a nurse on the frontlines and her husband Frank was in Intelligence. Frank is about to start a new job at a University as a Historian when they have a break in Inverness. Whilst visiting the Special Druid stones in Inverness Clare goes missing and finds herself travelling back in time to 1743. Just a couple of years before the battle of Culloden. There she has some interesting adventures and is cast into a totally different life. Clare becomes the Sassenach (outsider Celtic derogatory term for an English person). Quite a dilemma for her, as circumstances beyond her control force her to marry the young Scottish Highlander Jaimie Fraser. Passionate love is ignited between her and her new husband. Her original husband has not even been born in that time. There were other dilemmas for her like trying to nurse the people in that era without being able to resort to modern medicine, as it had not been invented yet. The story continues as she is caught up in the political happenings of that time period. It is an intergenerational story. The main characters are very likeable. This is a series made from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. This DVD covers the first part of the first book. There is a second DVD to come to finish the series off. So far there is no confirmed release date for New Zealand which is such a pity as it leaves you with a real cliff-hanger. They are still making series two. Thoroughly enjoyed this first DVD. This is not just a Romance. Lots of blood and guts as well. Brilliant storyline but definitely an R16. There are some passionate love/ sex scenes. You might also want to read the books the library also has them. The first one is Cross stitch (in England) and Outlander (in America) then Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, Fiery cross, A breath of Snow & Ashes, and An Echo in the Bone. Plus the Lord John series as well. Diana Gabaldon is involved in the making of the series and so it keeps true to her books. Well worth a watch. (Brigid)

Cover imageBlackhat.
A nuclear plant in Hong Kong is hacked followed by a stock market manipulation of soy futures. The Chinese government and the FBI determine that the hack was caused by a Remote Access Tool (RAT). A military officer in China’s cyber warfare unit (Leehom Wang) is tasked to find the people responsible for the attacks and enlists the aid of his sister (Tang Wei), a networking engineer. He meets with an FBI Agent (Viola Davis) in Los Angeles and reveals the code in the RAT was written by himself and Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), his college roommate, before Hathaway was sent to prison for an unrelated hack. Hathaway is released from prison, and offered a pardon if he can track down the hacker responsible for the attacks. The trail soon leads from LA, to Hong Kong to Jakarta & Malaysia. A thriller about people watching computer screens & then explaining it to other people is an obvious oxymoron, so Director Michael Mann’s idea of a hacker thriller is an attempt at a kind of digital update of Thief. Helmsworth is pretty much the Val Kilmer character from Heat – someone who can break down firewalls as well as actual walls – & not particularly convincing in the role. A bit of a misfire from Mann, ‘Blackhat’ is still a pretty decent thriller, that moves to a unexpectedly gritty ending. Mann’s sense of lighting & visuals is still amazing, with lots of shots of cities at night, and no one does urban combat scenes like he does. Worth watching for the trademark Mann touches if you are a fan of his work. (Mark)

Cover imageI survived a zombie holocaust.
This is a New Zealand Zombie comedy. It is a story about a B grade Zombie movie set in the wilds of the South Island of New Zealand. When strange Zombie like things start happening for real. It is full of blood and guts and occasional swear words. If you are into Zombie comedy movies that could absolutely never be taken seriously this is for you. Good movie with drinks and chips and your mates. (Brigid)

Cover imageIt follows.
Marketed, perhaps incorrectly, as a horror movie may explain why ‘It Follows’ has a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, but fairly mixed reviews on Amazon. College student Jay begins to think that her new boyfriend, Hugh, is acting strangely after he becomes agitated at a movie theatre when he can see someone that she can’t. On another date they have sex, but afterwards he knocks her out and tapes her to a wheelchair. Once she recovers he tells her that he has infected her with a curse. An entity visible only to those cursed that can – take on any number of appearances including people you know are dead – will pursue Jay at walking pace. If the entity catches her, it will kill her and then pursue the person who passed the curse to her. Hugh implores that Jay sleep with someone else as soon as she can to be rid of the entity. There are real no traditional ‘horror’ tropes in what follows. Despite a very brief scene at the beginning there is no real gore or violence, instead ‘It Follows’ is all about establishing a constant sense of dread & suspense. Nowhere is safe as Jay becomes more scared & traumatised by the apparitions that stalk her. With its artistic direction, acting and narrative style it has the feel of an indie art-house approach to the horror genre. Definitely something that won’t appeal to everyone, but original and interesting. (Mark)

Cover imageThe theory of everything.Cover image
Kingsman. The secret service.
Two films I have seen recently that I think are good are the Stephen Hawking biography ‘The Theory of Everything’, a great sensitive film; and the ‘Kingsman’ spy film adapted from the comic book – putting the fun and spoof back into the spy genre. (Maxine)