Sunday 4 December 2016

Saoirse comes to life in grisly tale of murder

New on netflix

Donal Lynch

Published 27/06/2016 | 02:30

Saoirse Ronan watches from the afterlife the toll her murder takes on her family
Saoirse Ronan watches from the afterlife the toll her murder takes on her family
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The Lovely Bones (2009)

Available from Friday

There were big expectations on this movie, thanks to the massive bestseller that Alice Sebold's source novel became, and the involvement of Peter Jackson, he of Lord of the Rings fame. They seemed like an odd combination, perhaps, but then Jackson came to world attention in the mid-'90s with Heavenly Creatures, a film about teenage girls and fantasy lives and a killing, and he has written his scripts about the afterlife.His efforts here never quite achieve greatness but this film remains compulsively watchable thanks to its smart ensemble cast, 1970s-era production design, hallucinogenic visual effects, and the director's talent for escalating tension with a minimum of viscera. Our own Saoirse Ronan plays a beautiful 14-year-old who is murdered by her reclusive neighbour (a nearly unrecognisable Stanley Tucci). From the safety of the afterlife she tries to reach closure as she watches her father (Mark Wahlberg), mother (Rachel Weisz), rambunctious grandmother (Susan Sarandon, who always lights up the screen), and siblings seek closure.

Marco Polo season 2

10 episodes

Available from Friday

Are you ready for Gabriel Byrne as Pope Gregory X? He's played a priest before but this will be his first pontiff and the role promises to be memorable and will provide perhaps a much-needed fillip to a series that was met with tepid reviews when it finished last time out. Released in December 2014, the final episode of Season 1 ended with Khan's enormous Mongolian army crushing Jia Sadao's troops and overtaking the Chinese city of Xiangyang. Initially, critics responded negatively to the first season, but fans were overwhelmed by its beautiful imagery and depiction of medieval Mongolia and this, along with Gabriel looking regal, may be what tipped Netflix over the edge. It's one of the streaming service's most expensive ever productions. Returning to the series is Italian beefcake Lorenzo Richelmy as the Venetian explorer Marco Polo. Kublai Khan is again played by Benedict Wong and Joan Chen is back as Empress Chabi.

Working Girl (1988)

Available from Friday

Ok so we're not going to lie to you, Melanie Griffith's gratingly 'baby girl' voice does take a lot of getting past. But once you manage that, this film becomes essential viewing and one of the best movies of the 1980s. She plays Tess, a downtrodden Manhattan secretary, who is bullied by her sharp edged boss (Sigourney Weaver on career-best form) and cheated on by her boyfriend. Eventually she concocts a brilliant plan to rise up the ranks at the office, aided and abetted by a gorgeous new suitor (Harrison Ford). The criticism that poor old Melanie got for her body shape and looks after this film came out have a lot to answer for (the way she looks now, for starters) but the film was the best of her career and a feminist morality tale that has stood the test of time like few others. It also features one of the best theme tunes in movie history - Let The River Run by Carly Simon - and Joan Cusack and her epic eyeshadow/hair as our all- time favourite movie zany best friend.

Mean Girls (2004)

Available from Friday

This is one of those films that is so often used as a cultural reference point that you should see it just to see what everyone's on about. Tina Fey adapted the movie from a non-fiction bestseller by Rosalind Wiseman with the not so concise title Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence. Fey made something more succinct and she also plays a tart-tongued teacher in this high camp bitchfest of a movie. There's a little Heathers here, a little Clueless and a dash of Summer Heights High. Lindsay Lohan made her name with this movie and she's very good here at summoning memories of that high school piranha tank.

Catch up now

By Emily Hourican

Shooting For Socrates

Rte Player, ends tonight

Period drama set in Northern Ireland in 1985. The Troubles are at their height, but for much of the population, Catholic and Protestant alike, the prospect of qualifying for the World Cup, set in Mexico, is far more interesting. The film weaves together storylines involving various characters who are invested in the Northern Irish team's fortunes, from squad manager Billy Bingham (played by John Hannah) and the players themselves, to sports reporter Jackie Fullerton (Conleth Hill) and mad-keen supporters such as Arthur (Richard Dormer) and his nine-year-old son Tommy (Art Parkinson). Feel-good stuff. Timely too.

The Thrilla in Manila

Channel 4 On Demand, until July 11

In the wake of Muhammad Ali's death, so many documentaries and interviews were aired that this may well have slipped through the net. If so, take the chance and watch now. Director John Dower has created a superb sporting documentary that reveals plenty about Ali, about boxing and the media, based around what was then the most-hyped fight ever - the third between Ali and Joe Frazier, in 1975, in the Philippines. Usually, anything about Ali was from his perspective, lit by the dazzle of his charisma. Here, Dower shows the great sporting rivalry of Ali and Frazier from Frazier's point of view, beginning with the early days, when the two were friends, with plenty of respect for each other, before they transformed into a bitter rivalry that was to leave both battered. The film shows the way in which Ali sometimes took his attempts to psych opponents out too far, in this case calling Frazier an 'Uncle Tom,' a pawn of the white establishment, and a gorilla.

Hell's Kitchen USA

UTV Player, until July 4

There is nothing new here, but for those of us who can always while away an hour watching Ramsay take those desperate enough to turn to him, to the brink and back, this is entertaining fare.

Podcasts

By Emily Hourican

Newstalk

www.newstalk.com/podcasts

The many hours of talk radio that are produced each day and week contain, happily, many hours of interesting, funny, unusual and important insights. But it is not possible to listen to everything, obviously, and this is where the podcast comes in. Scrolling through just a week's worth of Newstalk's podcasts - the best bits, basically - offers parenting advice from the excellent David Carey, a debate over whether infidelity can rekindle love, analysis over how Hollywood treats the rich on screen, plenty of politics and football, and the issue of plagiarism in music. The podcasts are taken from all of Newstalk's favourite shows, and everything is in bite-sized pieces so you can pick and choose and skip between items easily. Radio as you want it to be.

Storynory

www.storynory.com

The holidays are upon us, and chances are you're going to need this. Storynory is a brilliant podcast, set up by Hugh Fraser and Matthew Lynn, with hundreds of free audio stories for kids. Narrated by Natasha Gostwick and Elizabeth Donnelly, the extensive archive includes a wonderful three-part reading of Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen, a heap of Greek myths and Arthurian legends, Kipling's Just So stories, Aesop's fables, all our favourite fairytales, an operatic adaptation of Hansel and Gretel specifically created for children, and many more. There are also poems, music and original stories created by the Storynory team. Aimed roughly at 10-year-olds, there is plenty here for younger listeners too. Long car journeys will (thankfully!) never be the same.

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