Some new DVDs to hit our shelves include the latest season of the Private Eye send-up ‘Bored To Death’; Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Potter role; Lasse Hallström’s adaptation of Paul Torday’s novel, ‘Salmon Fishing in Yemen’; and Joss Whedon’s Marvel super-hero epic
Homeland. The complete first season.
“Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a CIA Agent battling her own demons becomes convinced that the intelligence that led to the rescue of Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a US soldier who had been missing and presumed dead for eight years was a set-up, and may be connected to an al-Qaeda plot to be carried out on American soil. Already on thin ice with the CIA, and now assigned to a desk job after an incident in Iraq, Carrie is forced to break protocol in order to prove her theory that Brody was “turned” during his many years in captivity and is now working for al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, Brody receives a hero’s welcome at home, and attempts to reconnect with his family whom he hasn’t seen in eight years…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)
Bored to death. The complete second season.
“Bored to Death fuses the anxieties of literary life with a pastiche of detective stories in eight tidy episodes. Floundering writer Jonathan Ames (played by Jason Schwartzman and named after series creator and main writer Jonathan Ames) now not only has his sideline as an unlicensed private detective, but also starts teaching a creative writing class (and starts flirting with one of his students). His best friend, frustrated cartoonist Ray (Zach Galifianakis), has a burst of self-esteem when his self-published comic book (about a well-endowed superhero named after himself) grows bizarrely popular, leading him to think he might be able to get back together with his ex (Heather Burns, Miss Congeniality). But this season really takes off when Jonathan’s mentor, magazine editor George (Ted Danson), gets diagnosed with prostate cancer. Somehow, this heavy topic gives the show just the hint of gravity it needs to maintain its balance, and gives Danson the opportunity to take his marvelous portrait of pot-smoking self-absorption in new and delightful directions..” (From Amazon.com)
The Fades. Series one.
“A teenage boy named Paul is haunted by apocalyptic dreams that nobody can explain. As if that weren’t terrifying enough, he begins to see spirits of the dead, known as The Fades, all around him. The Fades can’t be seen, smelt, heard or touched by other humans. When an embittered and vengeful Fade, Polus, finds a way to be human again, it’s up to Paul to stop him – and all of the dead – from breaking back into the world and destroying the human race…” (Syndetics summary)
Salmon fishing in The Yemen.
“Lasse Hallström’s breezy adaptation of Paul Torday’s satiric novel, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, features dedicated anglers and arid Middle Eastern vistas, but it’s a screwball comedy at heart (with Morocco standing in for Yemen). Bridget (Kristin Scott Thomas), the prime minister’s steamroller of a press secretary, sets the story in motion when she reads about a fabulously wealthy sheik (Amr Waked) who longs to bring fly-fishing to the desert. She believes that cooperation with his country would be good for Britain’s image, while the sheik has more altruistic goals in mind. This leads her to mild-mannered fisheries expert Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor, effectively cast against type), who feels certain the endeavor is pure fantasy until hyper-efficient Harriet (Emily Blunt), the sheik’s land agent, brings him some surprising data about the region. Though Fred’s marriage has been running on fumes, Harriet has been seeing a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Initially, the two are all business as they devise a plan involving a system of dams, but their feelings for each other gradually rise to the surface…” (Adapted from Amazon.com)
The best exotic Marigold Hotel.
“Some of the finest actors in England lend their formidable talents to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a charming fish-out-of-water yarn. The Brits, who include Evelyn (Judi Dench), Muriel (Maggie Smith), Douglas (Bill Nighy), and Graham (Tom Wilkinson), are planning retirement in a less expensive country. After “thorough research on the Internet,” the group chooses what looks to be a grand, peaceful retreat, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It turns out that the bloom is off this marigold–it’s shabby, antiquated, and as chaotic as the city in India, Jaipur, where it is set. Who can adapt to this very different retirement experience, and who founders? That question lies at the heart of the plot of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The cast is uniformly superb, as the retirees bond and bicker and fall out and then try to encourage one another. And Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) shines as Sonny, the barely-holding-it-together Marigold Hotel manager…At its heart, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, deftly directed by John Madden, is an uplifting journey, allowing the viewer to feel what the retirees are discovering on the screen…” (Adapted from Amazon.com)
The woman in black.
“Fans of classically structured haunted house/ghost stories will relish the skillfully unnerving chain of events in The Woman in Black, whether or not they’re fans of Harry Potter. The good new is that Daniel Radcliffe leaves Harry behind for good in his first post-Potter role. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor tasked with resolving the affairs of a recently deceased woman and her brooding estate in the gloom of the remote Victorian England-era village of Crythin Gifford. The mood is melancholic all around, starting with Kipps himself, who lost his wife to childbirth a few years earlier. His employer has had just about enough of his moping about and gives him the assignment as a last resort to save his job. When he arrives in the small village, the icy response he receives does not bode well for successful completion of his mission. All the townspeople want him gone, and possibly for good reason. Many of their children have died mysteriously gruesome deaths that they blame on the titular black-clad woman whose own child was tragically sucked to his death in the muck surrounding her seaside mansion. This new stranger who wants to unearth the deadly secrets trapped in the decrepit old house is a threat they cannot abide, and sure enough the deaths keep on coming as he delves deeper into the dark recesses of the house and the history of its ghostly occupant…” (From Amazon.com review)
“In Anton Chekhov’s The Duel, escalating animosity between two men with opposing philosophies of life is played out against the backdrop of a decaying seaside resort along the Black Sea coast. Laevsky is a dissaipated romantic given to gambling and flirtation. He has run off to the sea with the beautiful, emotionally empty, Nadya, another man’s wife. Laevsky has now grown tired of her, but two obstacles block his route to escape: he is broke, and he faces the absolute enmity of Von Koren, an arrogant zoologist and former friend who can no longer tolerate Laevsky’s irresponsibility. Soon Laevsky confronts Von Koren, accusing him of meddling in his affairs, but Von Koren maneuvers a criticism Lavesky makes of their mutual friend. Dr. Samoylenko, into a challenge to a duel. Utterly discombobulated and honor bound, Lavesky agrees to this absurdity-a duel it shall be! A duel as comically inadvertent as it is inevitable…” (Description from Amazon.com)
A dangerous method.
“With a lucid analyst’s eye, director David Cronenberg turns his steady gaze toward a trio of brilliant people in the early, and somehow defining, years of the 20th century. In Zurich, a young psychoanalyst named Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on an intellectually gifted but deeply neurotic young woman, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), as a patient. Through the course of a lengthy analysis, their relationship takes a turn for intimacy, despite professional policy against such encounters. Meanwhile, Jung is entwined in another important relationship, with psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), whose enthusiasm about Jung being the golden boy of the science will eventually dim. What’s bracing in Cronenberg’s keen reading of this situation, based on Christopher Hampton’s script, is that no aspect of this situation is more important than any other; the sexual tumbling between Jung and Spielrein might provide a few hotsy moments, but the careful lines traced between Freud’s pragmatic wisdom and Jung’s idealistic ventures into the mystic are equally significant…” (Adapted from Amazon.com)
“Blasphemy? Perhaps. But the best thing about what may be the most rousing and well-crafted superhero movie since The Dark Knight is not the boffo action scenes that culminate in a New York City-destroying finale that rivals Michael Bay’s obliteration of the Chicago skyline in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. No, the real appeal of The Avengers comes from the quiet moments among a group of decidedly unquiet humans, extra-humans, mutants, and demigods. In no particular order those are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), S.H.I.E.L.D. world-government commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and indispensable functionary Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). That’s a superstar lineup both in and out of character, and The Avengers brilliantly integrates the cast of ensemble egos into a story that snaps and crackles–not to mention smashes, trashes, and destroys–at breakneck pace, never sacrificing visual dazzle or hard-earned story dynamics…Yet it’s the deeply personal conversations and confrontations among the very reluctant team of Avengers that makes the movie pop. Full of humor, snappy dialogue, and little asides that include inside jokes, eye rolls, and personal grudge matches, the script makes these superhumans real beings with sincere passion or feelings of disillusionment…That spirit of fun and pure adventure makes The Avengers the greatest kind of escapist Hollywood fantasy $250 million can buy. A blockbuster in the most literal sense…(Adapted from Amazon.com review)
Sam Hunt: purple balloon and other stories : a film about Sam Hunt.
For forty years Sam Hunt has been a force in New Zealand poetry and culture. He is a storyteller who has spent his life struggling with his, often very public, demons. In that journey he has gone from outcast to icon, he has crossed paths with outlaws, Prime Ministers, literary and artistic giants and the public. This doucmentary explores how Sam reflects the New Zealand landscape – literary and physical. The film examines what has made him a great poet and an enigma. Sam is undoubtedly our best known poet, by far the best exponent of performance poetry and one of the most recognisable Kiwis alive today. In the words of the later Peter Smart: “Sam Hunt is important to us because he is that extraordinary, rare person – someone who is prepared to illustrate with his life the value of poetry and the making of poems…” (Syndetics Summary)
Vertigo / Charles Barr.
“Vertigo (1958) is widely regarded as not only one of Hitchcock’s best films, but one of the greatest films of world cinema. Made at the time when the old studio system was breaking up, it functions both as an embodiment of the supremely seductive visual pleasures that ‘classical Hollywood’ could offer and – with the help of an elaborate plot twist – as a laying bare of their dangerous dark side. Although it can be seen as Hitchcock’s most personal film, Charles Barr argues that, like Citizen Kane, Vertigo is at the same time a triumph not so much of individual authorship as of creative collaboration. He highlights the crucial role of screenwriters Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor and, by a combination of textual and contextual analysis, explores the reasons why Vertigo continues to inspire such fascination.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)
Citizen Kane / Laura Mulvey.
“Mulvey provides an accessible account of previous scholarship on the 1941 Orson Welles classic, as well as a psychoanalytic reading of the film that sees Kane as “suspended between a pre-Oedipal love for his mother and rivalry with his father and the post-Oedipal world in which he should take his place.” She explores Welles’s anti-fascist politics in terms of the film’s implicit critique of conservative media magnate William Randolph Hearst. The book concludes with a scene-by-scene analysis of the film’s narrative and dramatic structure.” (adapted from CHOICE summary)
Metropolis / Thomas Elsaesser.
“Metropolis is a monumental work. On its release in 1925, after sixteen months’ filming, it was Germany’s most expensive feature film, a canvas for director Fritz Lang’s increasingly extravagant ambitions. Lang, inspired by the skyline of New York, created a whole new vision of cities. One of the greatest works of science fiction, the film also tells human stories about love and family. Thomas Elsaesser explores the cultural phenomenon of Metropolis: its different versions (there is no definitive one), its changing meanings, and its role as a database of twentieth-century imagery and ideologies.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)