Wednesday 18 January 2017

New on netflix: Volcanic landscapes and explosive polemics

Into the Inferno Available from Friday

Donal Lynch

Published 24/10/2016 | 02:30

Werner Herzog in Into the Inferno
Werner Herzog in Into the Inferno
Jude Law and Matt Damon star in The Talented Mr. Ripley
Ava DuVernay who directs the powerful prison documentary 13th
Ruth Wilson stars in I Am the Pretty Young Thing That Lives in the House
Emma Donoghue
Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour

"The sun dimmeth, the land sinketh, gusheth forth steam and gutting fire," growls legendary German director Werner Herzog, quoting Scandinavian poetry and reminding us that he has one of the great narrative voices out there. Herzog teams up with "volcanologist" (yes, it's a thing) Clive Oppenheimer, who he first met while filming Encounters at the End of the World, for this new Netflix documentary about volcanoes.

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Herzog and Oppenheimer travel to Indonesia, Ethiopia, Iceland, and even North Korea to explore the geological phenomena, learn about human belief systems surrounding volcanoes, and stand perilously close to open pits of fiery lava. Herzog has long been fascinated by volcanoes. His 1977 documentary La Soufriere examined the last inhabitants of Guadeloupe, where a volcanic eruption forced an evacuation. Meanwhile, Herzog's new scripted thriller, Salt and Fire, revolves around the dastardly plot surrounding a supervolcano. While reviews for Salt and Fire have been mixed so far, Into the Inferno, has gotten raves Stateside. In terms of spectacular photography this should tide you over until the next BBC Nature series.

I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

Available from Friday

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They're playing Psycho with a live score at the National Concert Hall on Bank Holiday Monday - in case anyone wants to get up from their screens - but meanwhile here is Anthony Perkins's son Osgood with some more creepy fare for Halloween. The scary atmosphere is ratcheted up right from the start. We hear a disembodied voice, almost in darkness. We learn the voice belongs to Lily (Ruth Wilson), the young nurse at the centre at the tale. "Three days ago I turned 28 years old," she says in voiceover, as she's seen entering the haunted house that is going to be her home for a year. "I will never be 29 years old." A Golden Globe-winning Brit, Wilson handles her debut leading role with class, and the spooky minimalist feel to this film is striking. But it must also be said that she has a heavy burden to bear because this unabashed festival material is rather light on plot. Still, the film weaves a kind of claustrophobic intrigue which may work well, given the weekend it's in.


Available now

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Ava DuVernay was finishing up her acclaimed civil rights drama Selma when she got a call from a Netflix bigwig: Would DuVernay be interested in making a documentary? The topic would be totally up to her. DuVernay, who had previously directed two docs, didn't need to think for too long: "I knew I wanted to do something about prisons." Named after the 13th Constitutional Amendment, which abolished slavery except as "punishment for crime", this documentary uses archived footage and expert commentary to make the case that slavery hasn't really disappeared from the US - it's evolved into a modern factory of mass incarceration, one in which many prisons are run by for-profit companies and prisoners can be paid a pittance to work for corporations. (It was thought that this would be one of the themes of the US election but nobody, bar Sanders, really focused on it.) This film may push the problem back up the agenda. It is a powerful polemic with some jaw-dropping moments and there is already Oscar buzz around it.

The Talented Mr Ripley

Available now


The fascination at Jude Law's suddenly thicker head of hair this week made us nostalgic for a simpler time for the actor. Back in the day nobody played upper crust spoiled brats quite like Law (he did another great one in Wilde as Bosie) and he is incredible here as Dickie, an entitled trust fund wastrel living la dolce vita in Italy with Gwyneth Paltrow and sundry Italian lasses falling in love with him. He ends up getting befriended and stalked by an unnervingly pasty and probably mentally ill underdog, played by Matt Damon, who tags along in Dickie's fantasy gap year. Sumptuous photography, great performances and an incredible soundtrack - Sinead O'Connor's voice soars over the opening credits - combine to make this one of the best films of the 1990s.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

National Treasure

Channel4 On Demand, until November 11, episodes 1-4

Not hard to see the topicality of this - one reviewer described "a dark Yewtree-shaped shadow" hanging over it. Robbie Coltrane stars as Paul Finchley, a successful, much-loved TV comedian who, as the four-part series begins, is about to present a lifetime achievement award to his long-standing comedy partner. Greeted by resounding applause, he later says: "That's the Stalin thing, isn't it? No one wants to be the first to stop clapping the old guard." Except that pretty soon the applause stops dead. Finchley is accused of raping a 15-year-old girl several years earlier and, when the press gets wind of the story - as it instantly does - and splashes it big, more and more women begin to come forward. Standing by her husband despite a lifetime of cheating and porn use is Julie Walters, who manages to convey a remarkable amount of distress using nothing more than her voice and the occasional clenching of her jaw. Standing alongside if not quite by Finchley too is his daughter, Dee, played by Andrea Riseborough, who has plenty of her own troubles, including addiction. Coltrane is highly impressive as a man who is complex, dislikeable in very many ways, but not necessarily the monster he has been painted. National Treasure has already been hailed by many viewers as the best drama of 2016.

The Works Presents: Emma Donoghue

RTE Player, until October 30


So far, in this second season, John Kelly has spoken to artists Tracey Emin and Alice Maher, Kevin Rowland, frontman of Dexys Midnight Runners, as well as writer Emma Donoghue (above). Each episode is characterised by Kelly's ability to ask the right questions, and listen carefully to the answers. Here he travels to Nice to meet Emma Donoghue, and talk about the many genres - novels, plays, film - she now works across, as well as her latest book, The Wonder, a haunting story about post-Famine Ireland. She also talks about inspiration, and entry into the golden world of Hollywood.


Emily Hourican

The Vogue Podcast

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Hosted by the larger-than-two-lives Andre Leon Talley, the Vogue Podcast launched late last year, kicking off with a wide-ranging interview with editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (above) and bringing a monthly mix of hot topics, people making headlines, and snippets from the magazine. Predictably, lots of fashion and beauty - including chat with "makeup's new It girl" Isamaya Ffrench, who went from doing kids' face-painting at parties to backstage at Fashion Week and Rihanna videos in "one brushstroke" - but also celebs including Kendall Jenner on how she got her break in modelling, and fascinating old-school jet-setters like Texan socialite Lynn Wyatt, a world-class collector of couture, who has an arsenal of stories about Coco Chanel and Grace Kelly. Smart and articulate enough to cross boundaries, moving easily from fashion into the "real" world.

NPR Politics Podcast

Now more than ever is the time for NPR Politics - "where NPR's political reporters talk to you like they talk to each other" - which is just what we want. Weekly round-ups and snappy takes on breaking news of the day. Recently, this means episodes devoted to the accusations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump, the latest Wikileaks emails from the Clinton campaign, Trump's relationship with Russia, and a look at White House rules for replacing candidates, brought to us by the people who know, including podcast host and White House correspondent Tamara Keith, campaign reporters Sam Sanders and Sarah McCammon, and political editor Domenico Montanaro, along with drop-in experts.

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