A round-up of our favourite library DVDs from last year (plus a couple from early this year that made the cut). We hope you find something new, or something you missed from last year.
Billions. Season two.
Billions sees Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Paul Giamatti as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhodes, determined to bring him down. Season 2 begins with Bobby attempting to rebuild Axe Capital after the events of Season 1. Meanwhile Rhodes is under scrutiny from the Attorney General for his previous investigation into Axelrod’s business dealings. Each manoeuvre’s to gain the upper hand and destroy the other amidst a background of inside deals, political gameplay, money, and influence. Season 2 is all about short stocks and long cons, but who is playing who? Machiavellian brinkmanship taken to it’s end point with millions of dollars, reputations and careers to be won or lost.
Homeland. The complete sixth season.
Homeland is back for another season taking place several months after Season 5. The season features the results of a presidential election of a female candidate, and takes place between Election Day and inauguration day, as CIA operatives Saul Berenson and Dar Adal begin to suspect that the new President Elect has an anti-intelligence bias and that Carrie may be helping shape her policy. A more personal season as the attacks on Carrie become more insidious, the show also follows an eerie parallel to the current US political climate, and a fascinating look at the topical political manipulation via Social Media platforms.
Trapped. The complete series one.
A ferry carrying 300 passengers from Denmark pulls into an Icelandic town’s small port, just as a heavy snow storm begins. Then a mutilated and dismembered body washes on the shore, an unidentifiable man murdered only hours ago. The local police chief, Andri, realizes a killer has descended into his town.The local police are told to wait until a crack police team can arrive from the capital city of Reykjavik to do the investigations, but then the corpse goes missing and dead bodies start to turn up – all linked to a mysterious fire that destroyed an abandoned factory & killed a local teenage girl 15 years previously… More great Scandi-Noir.
Sixty-six safes belonging to high-level members of industry, finance, the military, the magistracy, politics, & unions are robbed during a spectacular and heist on an influential private Bank in Brussels. Soon an unparalleled blackmail scheme is underway to destroy the country’s entire political system. Doggedly honest Euro-cop Inspector Paul Gerardi catches a rumour of the bank robbery from an informant, and when his informant later turns up dead from an apparent ‘suicide’ he knows he is onto something big. He has to stay one step ahead of people from his own Government out to silence him, and protect his family from a mysterious group called Salamander whose origins lie in a botched operation during WW11. Excellent self-contained Belgian series grips over 12 episodes.
I don’t go to the cinema much any more, but as a 70s kids who spent a fair chunk of her time spinning on the spot and leaping off her bed wearing a cardboard headband and bracelets, Wonder Woman had an irresistible appeal. My memories of the Lynda Carter era were hazy enough to avoid any real comparison, however, so nostalgia remains untainted by the absolute freaking awesomeness of the newest incarnation.
Neil J’s Picks:
Sally Hawkins extraordinary portrayal of the arthritic Nova Scotian housekeeper Maud Lewis who becomes in the face of fierce adversity a much loved and celebrated artist is sublime, touching ,harrowing and heart-warming all at once . The films sense of brutal occasionally uplifting realism and its depiction of Maud Lewis’s inner spirit that somehow manages to rise above it all is vividly and startlingly realised. This film shows beyond any doubt that Sally Hawkins is one of the finest actresses in film today.
Blade runner 2049.
I suspect it will take several years before Blade Runner 2049 can be viewed in its true light. Until then I think it can still safely be said that it is a startling, visually masterful and striking vision of a future that deals with complex and profound ideas and that it also contains career best performances from some of its cast. An astonishing work that I am sure will be regarded as a future classic.
The red turtle.
A shipwrecked sailor has to survive on a desert island and comes across a red turtle that changes his life. This studio Ghibli co production is as you we have come to expect an exquisitely animated and very beautiful film in places it’s like watching a dream. The story is deceptively simple with the narrative instead driven by the visuals. In tone it’s like an adult version of the studio Ghibli classic Ponyo. If you are enjoying the new golden age of animated film we are in then this is a must. (Neil J)
Guardians of the galaxy. Vol. 2.
A technicolour explosion in a glitter factory. The cinematic equivalent of a long soak in a huge luxurious bubble bath, sound tracked by an ace, superb. guilty pleasure music mainly “from the 1970s” with wise cracking, funny well rounded characters you love or loathe. Basically just a jolly fun retro romp. In a sharp, well-paced, slick, action packed science fiction story. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is everything you want it to be and totally lives up to its predecessor. So get out the popcorn, turn off the lights settle down on the sofa you are in for a real treat. (Neil J)
Great to see a proper serious woman super hero for a change and long overdue. By far and away the best DC superhero movie so far.
A young American woman found murdered in the bleak snow blasted landscape of an Indian reservation in Wyoming is the premise to this murder mystery. The film is chilling in both visuals and in tone and like the fantastic Coen’s film Fargo the landscape and atmosphere of the location are treated as an extra character. The film is occasionally brutal, well-acted with a cleverly crafted deceptively simple script that makes for a compelling and riveting watch. (Neil J)
The Doctor Blake mysteries. Season 4.
Doctor Blake returns with more mysteries to solve and comes to face to face with his past when his long lost wife turns up, as well as an army mate with a score to settle that could put Blake and the people he cares about in harm’s way. Overall a fantastic series!
Doctor Doctor. Series 1.
Move over, Chris Warner, there’s a new Doctor Love in the Australian outback in the form of Dr. Hugh Knight (Rodger Corser), a heart surgeon who breaks more hearts than fixing them. He soon finds himself back in his home town – a place he never wanted to go back to – as small town doctor after his party boy lifestyle becomes too much for his colleagues and patients. It could be the worst year of his life or just what the doctor ordered. Overall this is one of the funniest medical drama’s – or perhaps comedy in this case – I have ever come across. Rodger Corser is brilliant as Hugh Knight. Women will either love him or hate him. Highlights include playful banter between Hugh and his rigid, serious boss, Penny, (Despite being polar opposites, sparks fly between them, hinting at a possible romance.), Hugh performing heart surgery on a pig and a few more other dramas that unfold throughout the series. Highly recommended!
Big little lies.
How far will you go to live the perfect lie? That is what Celeste, Madeline and Jane try to achieve throughout the series, until one night of murder and mayhem at a school gala changes everything and their perfect lies threatens to implode. This is by far on of the most entertaining and interesting series. The most of the women are various, bullying and competitive, when it comes to issues such as being a stay at home /working Mum, how much money you have/earn, how bright/perfect your kids are, cliques and so on. But at the same time they are all uniquely flawed, imperfect and fighting personal battles and learn the hard way that there is no such thing as a perfect life. Another highly recommended series!
The white princess.
“Love to the death!” That’s exactly what Princess Elizabeth of York aka Lizzie (Jodie Cormer), does in the chilling sequel to The White Queen. After the death of her Uncle aka lover Richard III., Lizzie is forced to marry King Henry Tudor and act as a pawn for her mother, The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville to get back the throne for the house of York . But Lizzie is able to rise to the challenges and ‘play the game’ her way by becoming Queen, earning the love, loyalty and respect of the people, court, and even her husband. However complications unfold when Lizzie falls in love with her husband, her long lost (supposedly dead) brother, Richard returns to reclaim the throne, a terrible war threatens to disturb the peace and marriage that Lizzie and Henry fought so hard for, and an even terrible curse threatens the future of Lizzie’s sons. Sadly at the conclusion of the series, Lizzie learns the hard way what it means to be queen by making hard choices and sacrifices to ensure peace continues and she and her husband continue their reign. This series was perhaps not as good as its predecessor, but overall was very entertaining and ended on a satisfying note. Highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of Tudor history.
Tender yet intense – Kirstin Stewart gives a mesmerising performance as the personal assistant to a celebrity fashion model in this unique paranormal mystery. Having the great service from his muse, French auteur Olivier Assayas masterfully balances a psychological thriller and a character study, making it his most intriguing work since Irma Vep.
A quiet, zen-like movie about a bus driver and a poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey. Just following his everyday orbit and routine with his wife and their super charming dog for a week, Jim Jarmusch subtly studies the ordinary life; each day is the same and different. With offbeat humour, it also reminds us that love is not only giving to but, more importantly, accepting others. Graceful.
In this exquisite coming of age tale which is uniquely divided into three chapters, the newcomer Berry Jenkins shows his enormous talent and fine aesthetic, and beautifully portrays a sensitive black boy who is struggling to find his place. This may be the most unusual Oscar winner – non-white, small art-house movie dealing with a sexual minority – but will be long remembered for its quality.
Slightly bizarre, certainly unique and definitely wonderful- the German filmmaker Maren Ade’s father-daughter relationship drama offers a delightful cinematic experience like no other. It takes a while for the narrative to get going but evolves fantastically with plenty of surprises after the prankster father visits his all-business daughter, and bring out a deep melancholic emotion from the comedy. Enthralling.
I am not your Negro.
Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished work that was supposed to tell his story of America through three leaders of civil rights movement; Madgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, all of whom were murdered by their 40s. Deftly weaving together Baldwins’ thoughts and the chilling history, Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck turns it into an insightful, multi-layered cinema essay. Astonishing.
I, Daniel Blake.
Obviously he is furious about the British welfare state and the heartless bureaucracy, but with as little drama as possible Ken Loach masterfully depicts the struggles of widowed carpenter Daniel Blake who has suffered a heart attack and a young single mother of two Katie. Loach’s career has spanned five decades and at the age of 80, he delivers one of his finest works. A small triumph.
Grace and Frankie. Season two.
Grace and Frankie are women of a certain age whose husbands are work colleagues. Seemingly out of the blue, Robert and Saul announce that they are in love with each other and want to get married. The storylines are about their lives from this point on and there is plenty of angst, drama, tears and laughter among the four leads and their grown children. The acting is great and I especially love the chemistry between the uptight, vain Grace and Frankie, who is an artistic free spirit. I binge-watched Season 1 over a few days and am now enjoying the second season of this great show. Highly recommended!
This is a story about a very good entrepreneur who has a really lively business until his young daughter dies. He buries himself so far down in his grief that no one can find him. It is the story of how far his friends will go to try and find their friend and colleague. Wonderful cast of Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, and many other wonderful actors.
Fantastic beasts and where to find them.
Set 50 years before the Harry Potters in New York.
A rehash of the original television series. But it is quite funny.