New on netflix: Tangerines or Black, it's time to add TV colour
The Blacklist, Season 3, Available Now
Published 05/09/2016 | 02:30
To the uninitiated you might say that Raymond 'Red' Reddington is a bit like Breaking Bad's Walter White.
He was once a good man, a patriot who fell down on his luck. Then he broke bad, becoming a high-profile criminal. He eventually voluntarily surrendered to the FBI after eluding capture for decades. He tells the FBI that he has a list of the most dangerous criminals in the world that he has compiled over the years and is willing to inform on their operations in exchange for immunity. However, he insists on working exclusively with a rookie FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Even though Red (James Spader) now helps the FBI snare shadowy monsters like himself, the feds suspect he's running a long con. The Blacklist represents a provocative post-Breaking Bad artistic endeavour. And like that series, it plays to our cynicism about "heroism" and turns redemption into a paranoid conspiracy thriller.
Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3, and Jaws: The Revenge
If you haven't revisited Jaws recently, consider this a golden opportunity. And if you've somehow managed to not see it, consider this the moment you finally ran out of excuses. Steven Spielberg's third feature (after the TV movie Duel and the much underrated Sugarland Express) is still a masterpiece, still one of the best movies ever made, and quite possibly still the finest example of a brilliant filmmaker being handed lemons (an awful source novel for one thing) and making lemonade. It's required viewing. And re-viewing. The sequels are not, but they do deserve a glance. Jaws 2 is a decent enough thriller, an alright killer shark movie that lives in the shadow of the best killer shark movie of all time. Jaws 3 essentially has the same plot as Jurassic World and it's yuck, full of shots composed for the 3D theatrical release that look exceedingly ridiculous on home televisions. The upside it that it's is almost bad enough to enjoy.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Steven Spielberg's 1998 World War II drama has its detractors (the bits where it moves suddenly into the present are jarring), but this remains one of the best movies of its kind. War movies are, by default, action movies and that doesn't mean they are always inherently thrilling. Spielberg makes the gruesome poetic, by piling on horror after horror, focusing on the pain of every wound, the suddenness and brutality of so many deaths, and the crippling fear that can overcome even the bravest man. Even when Saving Private Ryan enters a more typical WWII men-on-a-mission formula after the opening half hour, the focus remains on the ground. And, like Jaws, it's pretty much a must see.
This day-in-the-life portrait of two transgender prostitutes is an energetic, funny and superbly-acted tour de force of low-budget film making, with surprises and invention emanating from every frame. Incredibly this movie was shot entirely on an iPhone. The stars of this vibrant, surreal LA street documentary are Sin-Dee and Alexandra, two hookers who recklessly roam a seedy area off and on Santa Monica Boulevard. Both women are loud, dysfunctional and not exactly heart-warming types, but director Sean Baker never lets us forget that they're human, flaws and all. It's clear that he loves his characters, and we laugh at some of their pathetic predicaments, even as we feel sadness that a hostile society has put them in this position in the first place. The two ladies never become caricatures and the beautifully saturated colours of the iPhone lend a strange pathos to proceedings: The camera work is dazzling and makes us feel that we are right there with them. To focus on that technical achievement is to distract from the people, places, and emotions it captures so brilliantly. This is unlike anything else out there at the moment and in a more equitable world this would certainly take its rightful place in the canon of much-love yuletide comedies.
Catch up now
Channel4 On Demand, until September 29, episodes 1-5
The response to Channel4's new 'dating' show - I use the term advisedly - from reviewers was a pretty unanimously weary sigh of "how low can they go?" The words 'exploitation' and 'bottom of the barrel' were used, rather often. So, if you missed it, and want to know what all the fuss was about, here's your chance. The concept is simple and, apparently, is an attempt to return us to a less civilised time when a mate was chosen based on 'primal instinct' rather than, say, love of early-period David Bowie. To accomplish this, the dater is confronted with six naked candidates of the opposite sex (unless they are bi-sexual, in which case it's three and three) standing in coloured boxes. All that is revealed of the candidates is their naked bodies, starting from the waist, gradually moving up to reveal stomach, chest, shoulders and so on, with faces coming last, and only then if the dater has deemed the bodies worth pursuing. So really, they are choosing based on their response to buttocks, penises, breasts and so on. Before the dater makes their final choice, they have to get naked too. Meanwhile presenter Anna Richardson (left), drops a few pseudo-scientific 'facts' about the laws of attraction. The real worry? Where do we go from here . . . ?
Ellie Simmonds - Swimming With Dolphins
UTV Player, until September 27
With the Rio Paralympics starting in three days, this is a perfect moment for this documentary following Ellie Simmonds, 21-year-old British gold medallist Paralympian swimmer, as she travels to South Africa to fulfil a lifelong ambition - overcome her fear of the open sea, and swim with dolphins. It is of course a story about courage and determination, qualities Simmonds has in abundance. She was born with achondroplasia, a common cause of dwarfism, and won two gold medals for Team GB when she was just 13, at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Pulse Of The Planet
Part-hypnotic relaxation, part-audio portrait of the natural world, these two-minute daily podcasts are the perfect compliment to any kind of day. Created by the Pulse of the Planet radio series, the podcasts offer sound portraits of planet Earth, using the rhythms of nature as well as the latest cultural and scientific findings worldwide, and mixing interview with natural sound. One recent episode includes the sound of narwhales 'tusking', which involves two narwhales rubbing the eight-foot long tusks that protrude from the centre of their foreheads together, while host Jim Metzner discusses the likely reasons behind the practice. There is also more in-depth content, including a long examination of what to do and not do following an oil spill, and an attempt to translate emotions directly into sound.
Shrink Rap Radio
David Van Nuys (below), otherwise known as "Dr Dave", may be the original, and is still among the best, of podcast psychologists. The tagline for Shrink Rap Radio reads "All the psychology you need to know and just enough to make you dangerous", while content covers the kind of topics that get bandied about in the media without enough scholarly insight behind them. For example, 'narcissist' is one of the buzz-words of the moment, but what exactly is a narcissist? And how dangerous are they? Dr Dave tackles the question with help from psychiatrist Dr Len Cruz, co-founder of the Asheville Jung Center and co-editor of A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump. Other hot topics? Addiction, depression, parent-teen control battles, and far more.
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