New on netflix: Baz Luhrmann's hip hop musical on Netflix
The Little Prince Available now
One might tire of Pixar's life affirming messages but sometimes the animation behemoth manages to warm even the most cynical hearts. The Little Prince, a beautifully animated 3-D adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's beloved 1943 novella, is a light-hearted journey of following dreams and finding life's true loves. It's a sugary confection that will obviously give a rush to its target audience of children, but won't give adults too much tooth decay.
Mackenzie Foy voices the not-so-imaginatively named Little Girl, a gap-toothed sprog who lives under the thumb of a well-meaning but overbearing single mother (Rachel McAdams). The mother's careful "life plan" is abandoned when the girl befriends an eccentric aviator neighbour whose airplane is in disrepair but whose storytelling skills are second to none. This character is voiced by Jeff Bridges, who relays a fable that involves the titular Prince, an interplanetary journey and a shrewd fox.
You might be reminded of films such as Labyrinth and even The English Patient, but mostly the audience is invited to celebrate the distilled wonder of youth and the sparkle of life's beautiful imponderables. Also, anything that keeps children quiet like this film does, is a winner.
Available from Tuesday
Colm Toibin's most powerful novels have a quietly intense, almost short story quality that might make them difficult to translate to the screen. Here Nick Hornby sprinkles his magic over the Irish author's coming-of-age saga, and the result is a powerfully understated film that was a huge success at the box office and on the festival and awards circuits. Saoirse Ronan puts aside that awfully affected Dublin accent to become a young woman who moves from rural Ireland to urban America in search of a job and love. Having made the epic journey she ends up living in a boarding house (run by clucking matriarch Julie Walters, bringing much-needed light relief) and takes up with a twinkly Italian-American boy. The central dilemma in the film comes when she returns to Ireland and finds herself being wooed by a tall drink of water from the local village (Domhnall Gleeson). This might be the one flaw in the film (would it really be such a difficult decision?) but the fabulous performances, stunning cinematography and curiously zeitgeist-y feel to the immigrant love story make this well worth a look if you missed it in the cinema.
The Get Down
Available from Friday; six episodes
According to reports, Netflix has put in excess of $130m into Baz Luhrmann's homage to the music scene in late 1970s New York. Set in the South Bronx in 1977, this epic 12-part musical (with original tracks by rap legend Nas) follows the rise of disco and hip hop, and the club scene that gave us Biggie, Madonna, Grace Jones and others. The first six episodes will be available at the end of this week, but the second half of the series won't be out until next year. Of course, Luhrmann being Luhrmann, there's a musical battle where DJs and MCs face off, and there's love on the dance floor, where music thumps and you get your hands up in the air for the moment only a great track can bring. It sounds cheesy. But, like hip hop itself, it triumphs against the odds.
Emily Blunt stars as the head of an FBI response team charged with resolving a high-stakes conflict between rival Mexican drug gangs. She soon finds herself caught up in moral and legal grey areas. The performances are excellent, Blunt is superb, and the ensemble cast presents subtle characters with depth and precision. The storyline is complex and the motivations of the characters reveal themselves slowly; too late in some instances. Still, it's enjoyable overall and Blunt was robbed of an Oscar.
Catch up now
UTV Player, Until August 17
Six-part drama series set in the 1980s and loosely based on the memoirs of Jacqueline Gold, who set up the Ann Summers shops. Originally - and in this series - Ann Summers was more of a Tupperware party type idea (get a group of women together in someone's house, get them a little bit drunk, then show them all sorts of irresistible items such as vibrators and crotchless knickers). Here, heroine Stephanie (Sophie Rundle, pictured below) calls it a job "in sales" as she tells her mother, although her first reaction is: "I can't even touch the stuff, never mind sell it!"
Her husband forbids it, then loses his job at the factory (It's 1982 and job losses are general across the UK), so she sneaks off to earn them some money anyway, persuading the woman she cleans for, Pauline (Penelope Wilton), to host the first party, and best friend Nita (Angela Griffin) to get involved. There's lots of snow-washed denim, bad perms, casual machismo and economic depression, along with a spot of slow-dawning sexual awakening and independence.
Channel4 On Demand, until August 31
There is a tiny hint of freak show to this, which can make it uncomfortable viewing, but for most of us, that will be outweighed by the sheer fascination of watching kids - in this case 8-12 year-olds - with the kind of mental agility, recall and problem solving abilities that any adult would be awed by. Starting with a group of 16, the kids battle it out through a variety of rounds, including one impossible-seeming attempt to memorise the entire rail network of the UK in an hour, until only two remain to go head-to-head in the final. And, of course, the real fascination is in the family dynamics. Who are the pushy parents, and have they any idea how badly they come across? Who are the kids who crack under pressure? The ones who enjoy the attention and come out smiling from hideously difficult tasks?
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin started her career in law before switching to writing - specifically writing about the art and science of happiness. Her conviction is that it is possible to improve our ability to be happy and her various best-selling books, Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, prove that she is able to convince others of this fundamental point.
Each week, she discusses the forming of good habits with her sister Elizabeth Craft in a podcast that mixes materials in a lively and interesting way. For example, a 15-word telegram from General Eisenhower is used to put forth the case for brevity, while the art of decluttering becomes an example of how to pare back unnecessary consumption. There are tips on job interviews, parenting and being on time, with one-off guests including Moby and Rob Lowe.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company
This is for fans of Horrible Histories and Book-A-Minute classics, and of course The Bard. Started in 1981 as a basic pass-the-hat type performance, The Reduced Shakespeare Company have gradated to well-loved stage shows on Broadway and the West End, along with TV specials and a host of radio shows. The first three shows, including The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), were London's longest-running comedies.
The podcasts unite actors, directors and comedians such as Scott Bakula, JK Simmons, Anne Heche and Eric Stonestreet, to talk theatre and all things Shakespeare, tackling topics such as parody, the challenges of directing Richard III, and political correctness. Pretty much all of human life, or at least the theatrical side of it.
Sunday Indo Living