Saturday 1 October 2016

New on Netflix: Kick back, relax and relive glory days of the 1980s

Donal Lynch

Published 11/07/2016 | 02:30

Kirsten Dunst in Fargo.
Kirsten Dunst in Fargo.
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.
Lena Dunham

Fargo, season 2 From July 13, 10 episodes The second season of this Emmy-winning series has a new cast and mystery, and it promises to be even more fun and darkly strange than the first one was.

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Series creator Noah Hawley, who based the show on the great Coen brothers' film, has set the new season in 1979. While there was a hint last year of a prologue in the 1970s, you won't have to know anything about Season 1, or even to have seen the source movie, to enjoy this series. Setting the story in the last year of Jimmy Carter's administration and using vintage video footage of his famous "malaise" speech in the opening-credits sequence, Hawley slowly builds the unsettling atmosphere for the rest of the season. We follows the lives of a young couple-Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) and Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons)-as they attempt to cover up the hit-and-run and murder of Rye Gerhardt, the son of Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart), matriarch of the Gerhardt crime family. As a group, the characters are spitting anger and, like Howard Beal in Network, they aren't going to take it anymore. At the same time there is the distinctly chipper Scandinavian reserve that fans of the movie will remember. Stiff upper lips overcome flagrant displays of emotionalism, and violence is an ever present threat.

The Invitation

Available now

After the success of Girlfight and the less-than-impressive Aeon Flux, Karyn Kusama this time makes her foray into horror, with this effort which won acclaim on the festival circuit and warm reviews. The Invitation follows a grieving former dad, Will (Logan Marshall-Green), who attends an ill-fated dinner party where the doors are locked and there's no mobile phone service. That get-together is at the remotely located house Will used to inhabit with his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) - who still lives there - and their young son, who does not. Kusama starts the night off rather gruesomely: On the way over, Will and his new girlfriend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), run over a fox with their car, forcing Will to finish the animal off with a blow to the head. From that we know that he'll grab the nettle, but not whether we can trust his judgement. It's true that the build-up dawdles longer than it should, but the payoff comes with a satisfying thud.

Stranger Things

Available from July 15

You could say July is 80s month on Netflix - we have Labyrinth coming next week. But before that we have Stranger Things to enjoy, which not only stars one of the 1980s' most loved starlets - Winona Ryder - but utilises many other tropes from the decade that style forgot. The tone, set design, music (The Bangles!), hair (high and feathery) and clothes (ripped denim) are sure to transport you back in time. The plot follows the actions of four nerdy, school boys. Their world changes forever when a young boy vanishes into thin air. This is a blend of teen drama and palatable horror and might be worth a look for those curious to see how Winona is holding up.

Mommie Dearest

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Available now

Faye Dunaway apparently has refused to speak about this film in recent years, she apparently resented the camp classic it became. This is a great shame, because, along with Network, her portrayal of movie legend Joan Crawford is one of the highlights of her career. Yes the plot jumps all over the place and the scenes often seem disjointed but the performances by Dunaway and Mara Hobel as Crawford's long-suffering daughter, Christina, are pitch perfect and this movie is much more than kitschy fun. The famous wire hanger scene served as the inspiration for a thousand drag performances but more powerful still are the scenes where Crawford confronts the board of Pepsico and the moment when she is asked to leave the studio. It's also a portrait of a halcyon Hollywood - everyone smoking - women having "sense shaken into them" - and probably one of the best offerings on the streaming service right now.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

My Afghanistan

RTE Player, Until July 19

Following the first major withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, Danish journalist Nagieb Khaja provided camera phones to six rural Afghans living in areas off-limits to foreign reporters and asked them to document their daily lives. The results - skilfully edited and mixed with footage shot by Khaja - gives a fascinating picture of an otherwise unseen world. There is, alas, plenty of sectarian violence - children seeking shelter from fire fights, a farmer lamenting the destruction of his 400-year-old fruit trees, the obvious uncertainty around the lives of women and girls - but the hard-to-watch is mixed with more entertaining footage, including the efforts of one young man to establish himself in business, selling hair care products door-to-door. The six participants are surprisingly frank and at home in front of the camera, showing the realities of their existence with rare candour. A chance to see a wholly different side to the story.

The Border

Channel4 On Demand, episodes 1-6

This six-part Polish thriller - the first episode was shown on Channel4, the complete set is now On Demand - is a tough, sometimes hard-to-take look at xenophobia and misogyny in Poland and Ukraine, complete with terrorist attacks, human traffickers and refugees hunted by wolves. Sounds extreme, until you realise that it is not. Set around a semi-military squad that targets Ukrainian gangs trafficking Eastern European migrants into Poland, The Border manages to neither demonise or sanctify migrants, treading an even and compelling dramatic line between the two. Instead of an easy morality, the series focuses on the rival groups fighting over the migrants; on one side the traders who see vulnerable humans as cash opportunities, and on the other, the unwilling host country for whom they are both a political problem and a propaganda opportunity. The action takes place in the densely wooded area along the Polish-Ukranian border.

Podcasts

Emily Hourican

The Naked Scientists

www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts

The Naked Scientists describe themselves as "a media-savvy group of physicians and researchers … who strip science down to its bare essentials and promote it to the general public." In practice, Chris Smith, Victoria Gill, Connie Orbach et al are an enthusiastic and likeable bunch who have put together a far-reaching website where you will find the answers to questions such as Do Women Have Better Memories Than Men?, alongside the evidence, such as it is, for telepathy. The podcasts cover the same kind of ground, everything from Can Toads Predict Earthquakes to Do Planes Change The Weather and Have STIs Led To Monogamy? Topics are clearly explained, backed up with the latest evidence.

Women Of The Hour With Lena Dunham

www.soundcloud.com/womenofthehour

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Thanks to Girls, recently renewed for a seventh season on HBO, and the autobiographical Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham (above) has proved herself the voice of a generation, and does so here again with these chatty, warm podcasts, that aim "to celebrate the women who blow my mind". With trademark Dunham honesty - a little uncomfortable at times for the less 'sharing' generations - she talks about friendship, vulnerability, work, death, her relationship with her body, love and sex, and pretty much everything else in between. Joining her are a variety of pals, including comedian Amy Sedaris, designer Todd Oldham, actor Emma Stone and Girls co-star Jemima Kirke. Light on editing, sometimes over the top, it nonetheless manages to be authentic and entertaining.

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