Friday 22 September 2017

New on netflix: Real-life whodunit - the trial of Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox, Available from Friday

Amanda Knox during her first murder trial
Amanda Knox during her first murder trial
Mike Colter stars as superhero Luke Cage
Hugh Laurie with Tom Hiddlestone in The Night Manager.
'Professional sex nerd': Sandra Daughery

Donal Lynch

Oh God how we loved Foxy Knoxy. She had it all. The loathsome American entitlement of a Ryan Lochte, the looks of a movie star and the drama of a particularly good instalment of Banged Up Abroad.

The murder case against her also seemed to go on for eons, which meant there was plenty of time for wild conspiracy theories and recaps of the case against her. It was alleged that while on a study year abroad she and another student, Raffaele Sollecito, brutally murdered their English housemate Meredith Kercher. She was convicted of murder in 2009 but then acquitted in a new trial which re-examined the whole case. Eventually she and Sollecito were definitively cleared of involvement in the murder of Kercher. It may have been that the blanket media coverage of the trials spurred an interest in journalism because after returning to the US Knox became a freelance journalist. Making a documentary about all of this is a canny move for the streaming service. Between breakout podcast Serial, Netflix's wildly successful documentary series Making a Murderer, and hit TV shows that present a dramatised take on real events like The People vs OJ Simpson, it seems safe to say that the true crime genre is experiencing a renaissance in popular culture not seen in quite some time.

Audrie and Daisy

Available now

So this is pretty dark stuff. It's an account of a number of high school sexual assaults and the whole culture of sexting, sexism and youthful excess that swirls around these terrible crimes. A number of the assaults relate to a girl called Audrie Pott. She had been an object of attention for a clique of football players almost from puberty. As the boys explain in their police interviews, they had a private online account for sharing nude photos of their female peers, many of whom posed for them willingly. But Pott didn't want to play along. So when she got drunk at a party one night, they stripped her, raped her, drew all over her naked body, and then shared the pictures. Years later, talking about the incident on camera, they own up to every bit of this, yet still seem unsure about exactly what they did wrong. Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (who previously collaborated on the doc The Island President) tell these stories with a combination of new interviews, official police footage, news reports, and animation. Very weirdly the assailants were reportedly required to speak to Cohen and Shenk as part of their plea agreements. This is tough but rewarding viewing.

Marvel's Luke Cage

10 episodes, Available from Friday

Mike Colter stars as superhero Luke Cage

From Netflix and Marvel's dimly lit vision of the sprawling New York City streets emerges Luke Cage, another superhero story of recrimination and payback, this time with the Wu-Tang Clan providing the soundtrack. Viewers who push all of the adaptation anxiety and fear of CGI-driven nonsense to one side for a moment will find a corker of a show that mixes Tarantino-esque blaxploitation with the intensity of gang warfare to great success. Most stories in the Marvel stable have been told from the perspective of white people, and in Luke Cage, we finally get a story from a black man's point of view and the opportunity isn't squandered.

Iliza Schlesinger: Confirmed Kills

Available now

For years American comedians joked ad nauseum about race. Now some of the more prominent ones - Amy Schumer and Iliza Schlesinger included - have taken to making what seem like racist comments but are really just the comedians assuming a village idiot racist persona. Not surprisingly this has confused a lot of people and led to accusations of actual racism. Besides that there would be the question, in Schlesinger's case, of how she thought that 2016 was the moment to joke about Jennifer Lopez making big arses "cool"? It seems quite dated. Still the New York-born comedian has enough energy to command the stage and at times her zingers are jaw dropping. This is her third standup special available on Netflix.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

The Night Manager

RTE Player, until Oct 8th, episode 1

Hugh Laurie with Tom Hiddlestone in The Night Manager.

The BBC's very successful adaptation of John le Carre's The Night Manager, one of the best things on TV this year, is now showing on RTE, with a chance to catch up on Player. Tom Hiddleston is mysterious and Bond-like as Jonathan Pine, night manager of the Nefertiti hotel in Cairo, and exactly the kind of Englishman all spy stories need. Blond, charming, with nerves of steel and ice in his veins. Circumstances throw him into the path of arms dealer Richard Roper, "the worst man in the world," brilliantly played against type by Hugh Laurie, and his entourage of Boys' Own adventurers. Pine joins the band of merry men, where he also encounters Roper's American girlfriend, Jed, and offers to work undercover for Angela Birr, head of a British intelligence agency that seems to operate alongside, but with more integrity than, MI6. Gripping from the get-go.

Billy Connolly's Big Send-Off

UTV Player, until October 11, episodes 1&2

The Glaswegian comedian, aged 71 and "not very well" chose to make a two-part documentary about death and dying in the aftermath of one terrible week, where he started on Monday with a hearing aid, and by Wednesday had a diagnosis of prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease. Although Connolly's cancer, happily, is considered non-fatal, a week like that would concentrate anyone's mind on what Peter Pan called "an awfully great adventure". And so he starts with a funeral directors' exhibition, where one stand offers posthumous dissolution by fungi ("I would say, distance yourself from this" is Connolly's verdict). Then comes a trip to the necropolis of Colma in California, where the population is 1,500 living and 1.5 million dead, along with drive-thru funerals, pet cemeteries, and various cultural explorations of death. Much of the documentary is concerned with the business of death but the most moving moments come, naturally, when Connolly gets beyond this to the more spiritual side of the final reckoning.


Emily Hourican

Not Now, Cato

This eclectic and amusing podcast is interview-based, with host Adrian Carty, a producer, editor, writer and artist, interviewing various dynamic folk from the world of business startups, media, funding and technology, working in Ireland and internationally, usually over an hour. Some - like Grainne Humphreys, director of the Dublin International Film Festival, or rugby international turned tech investor Jamie Heaslip - will be reasonably familiar. Others will not. But all will be interesting and articulate, with personal stories and spot-on suggestions to share. Check out Ed Guiney of Element Pictures who talks about Room, his friendship with Lenny Abrahamson, film production and more.

Sex Nerd Sandra

SN Sandra Daugher.jpg
'Professional sex nerd': Sandra Daughery

Yes, seriously, and why not? We have podcasts for home improvement tips, health and fitness tips, make-up tips and far more. We have places to go and ask for advice on children, spots, rising damp - it's time our sex lives got a look in. Sex Nerd Sandra is hosted by Sandra Daugherty (above), who describes herself as "a professional sex nerd that other people call an expert in the field of human sexuality." Her show is funny, light-hearted, open and very informative, and has been downloaded over 14 million times in five years. With over 200 episodes, Sandra must have covered just about every tip, technique and bit of titillation going, along with plenty of science, and even more laughs. Just recently, she has covered cougar sex, stripping, sex slang, multiple orgasms, friends with benefits, phone sex and what she calls "sex prep." Yes, even with sex, you gotta do your course work.

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