New on netflix: David Brent is still curling toes
David Brent: Life On The Road (2016), Available from Friday
It was unlikely, given the incredible success of The Office, that there wouldn't be a cover version or two to satisfy its monumental fan-base. But then David Brent did always say that he was "a friend first, then a boss and probably an entertainer third".
This film spin-off, which rejoins an older, slightly deflated Brent, now a salesman of sanitary products, as he is about to embark on a self-funded tour with his band, contains the same toe-curling and sphincter-tightening approach to comedy. As one character remarks of Brent's decision to let a camera crew follow him again: "It's worse, because the world's worse." The writing, especially on the songs is brilliant (Ricky Gervais always had a gift for this - who could forget his lyric 'Not die, like Lady Di but die, like when she died' from The Simpsons). Fans of The Office will love this.
Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life
Available from Friday
There was a time when teen movies seemed to get a bit dark. Films like Mean Girls and Thirteen explored the bullying, jealousy and back-biting that characterises the modern adolescence. That title of Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life might lead one to believe that it continues in this angst-y vein but in fact it's a throwback to a warmer John Hughes-type view of adolescence. Based on the best-selling book series by James Patterson, it harks back to films like the Hughes-directed Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The story centres on Rafe (Griffin Gluck), an artistic-minded kid who's forever doodling and drawing in his sketchbook and who, because of his rebellious ways, is entering his third middle school. He immediately runs foul of the school's principal Dwight (Andy Daly of Comedy Central's Review), whose strict "Code of Conduct" contains more rules than Rafe could possibly abide by. The principal confiscates Rafe's sketchbook and the kid begins an elaborate revenge scheme.
The Big Short (2015)
Quentin Crisp once said that the problem with modern movies was that the 'action' sequences invariably involved a character typing, which is inherently less exciting than, say, riding a horse. The Big Short has to make - not only typing - but also complex financial instruments exciting enough to sustain the audience's interest. And miraculously it does this with ease. The screenplay (which won an Oscar) deftly simplifies the factors which led to the 2007 financial crisis and enlightens while entertaining. Often this is done with a wit that Crisp himself would have approved of. For instance Ryan Gosling plays a lizard-eyed banker who enriches himself enormously on the back of other people's misery. Every so often, he says things like "I know this sounds confusing. Here's Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain it to you". Sure enough, the star of The Wolf of Wall Street pops up in a sea of bubbles, sipping champagne, to discuss some obscure economic concept. Besides the always-luscious Gosling and Robbie, there is an all-star cast. One of the best films of the last few years.
5 seasons, available now
It's sort of fitting that Homeland - which is, in essence, a frantic glimpse into the workings of the post-9/11 American "security" state - should air amid the implementation of the White House's deeply controversial executive order on immigration and the ferocious, rousing public outcry against it. The land of the free and the home of the brave has reached the logical next step in 15-plus years of authoritarian impulses, impulses to which the series itself has occasionally succumbed (who could forget the mischievous graffiti in the show last year which read, in Arabic, 'Homeland is racist' - producers had not even bothered to translate it). As the FBI's Ray Conlin (Dominic Fumusa) tells Carrie (Claire Danes) when she inquires, somewhat naively, when we started arresting people for crimes they might commit, "Somewhere between 9/11 and Orlando". Homeland's problem might be that, like political satire, it struggles to keep up with jaw-dropping reality. Which, in a strange way, makes it even more watchable.
Podcasts - Listen at your leisure
You Must Remember This
Karina Longworth's podcast about the secret history of Hollywood is a must for anyone who cares about films or film stars. These are the hidden or forgotten histories, and as startling and fascinating as you would expect from the particular mix of power, money and beauty that was Hollywood in the Golden Age. The new series has just started, called Dead Blondes, based around 11 actresses, all blonde, who died unusual, untimely or otherwise notable deaths, and whose deaths have been at least as iconic as their careers. The series begins with Peg Entwhistle, idol of Bette Davis, who jumped to her death from the famous 50ft Hollywood sign. This will be followed by episodes on Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, natch, as well as one looking at the untimely deaths of all three main actors in Rebel Without A Cause. Each episode is meticulously researched and beautifully presented.
The Hilarious World of Depression
Obviously there is nothing funny about clinical depression, but that doesn't mean to say it can't be laughed at, and who better to do that than a bunch of comedians? The beauty of this podcast is that it laughs, but in a way that is clever, kind, and understanding. The Hilarious World of Depression is a series of honest, open, and, indeed, funny conversations with comedians who have lived, and are living, the reality of depression - a disease that affects millions. Hosted by writer and radio personality John Moe, with guests including comedian and actor Andy Richter, and comedian and screenwriter Jen Kirkman, this is a remarkable way to gain insight, empathy, and a crucial feeling of solidarity. Episodes include Sam Grittner Finds a Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Suicide, and Baron Vaughn and His Inadvisable All-Cheerio Diet.
Sunday Indo Living