Saturday 24 August 2019

New on netflix: Fantasy, nostalgia and a dollop of festive cheer

Trollhunters, Season 1 Available from Friday

Animated fun with Trollhunters
Animated fun with Trollhunters
Winona Ryder stars in Stranger Things
Macaulay Culkin is left Home Alone in this Christmas classic
An intimate journey of a 37-year-old Cristina and her lover Bruce
The Late Late Toy Show host Ryan Tubridy fooling around. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

As the recent furore about RTE cancelling its home produced children's programming demonstrated, there is always a sense with kids TV that they don't make 'em like they used to.

Or perhaps it's as Fran Lebowitz once said: "Things didn't get worse, you just got old." If you yearn to recapture some of that halcyon Saturday morning magic this might be a good place to start. It comes from Guillermo del Toro (he of Pan's Labyrinth fame) and is a fantasy series that draws heavily on Nordic myth and legend. It depicts trolls as hulking and yet adorable creatures, birthed seemingly from the earth itself, shoulders erupting in sprouts of grass or smoothly carved from dark obsidian. It's in the visualisation of the trolls' subterranean world, a crystalline kingdom that draws upon every vivid shade the animators' palettes had available that makes this so special. The storytelling is as deft and imaginative as you would expect from del Toro. The adult curmudgeon in me still thinks it doesn't quite measure up to the live action wonders of Fraggle Rock and/or Labyrinth but I have to admit this is something that you will enjoy with or without kids.


SN Cristina.jpg
An intimate journey of a 37-year-old Cristina and her lover Bruce

Available now

This is a short (only 40-minutes) but undeniably moving documentary about one woman's struggle with multiple bouts of cancer. It tracks the life of 37-year-old Cristina, as fate brings to her life both a new love and an unbeatable challenge. Determined to pass on a message of hope and a 'live in the now' mentality, Cristina's second cancer takes a toll on her ailing body, however her love for her partner Bruce only grows. Bruce stands by her side while juggling work and financial strains. The point of the film seems to be that through the hardship of the cancer she is brought closer to Bruce, and it begs the question whether she would have wanted things to be different. Her illuminating answers are captured by veteran filmmaker Michele Ohayon (who once worked for and with Angelina Jolie on a tribute to the actress) on camera. It's not what you would call a happy ending but Cristina provides deep insight into the life of an amazing woman, a symbol of love and the will to live.

Home Alone

Macaulay Culkin is left Home Alone in this Christmas classic

Available now

There's a good smattering of Christmas fare on Netflix - including All I Want For Christmas (a bland offering from 1991) and Deck The Halls (only if you enjoy groan-worthy jokes and Danny DeVito) but if you do want some festive cheer from the streaming service there is really no getting past Home Alone. Watching it again through adult eyes it does occur to you that however bumbling the two burglars were their mission is still to kill a child in his own home. The whole thing is also lent an extra pathos when you remember that after this Macaulay Culkin's next moves were "young friend of Michael Jackson", troubled teen and finally washed up druggy mess. Still, he was perfectly cast here and it's best to just sit back and let the nostalgia wash over you.

Stranger Things

Winona Ryder stars in Stranger Things

8 episodes

Any hard feelings Netflix may have been dealing with over Monday's Golden Globe nominations were surely put to rest by the Screen Actors Guild on Thursday. Our favourite streaming service garnered a whopping 17 SAG nominations, with an impressive three of those going to Stranger Things, which has been one of the hits of the year. It marks Winona Ryder's move in to a mom role (she still has that unsettling fragility however) and has the warmth of a Spielberg movie with various 1980s horror films also writ large in the writers' minds. Set in a middle-American town in 1983, it stars four boys, who are bullied at school. The awful spectre of Vietnam and the threat of the Cold War hangs in the air. The boys find a lost girl who refers to herself only as Eleven. The girl is in a state of catatonic terror at first and seems to have been the subject of some kind of scientific experiment overseen by a haughty scientist (Matthew Modine). What follows always seems a little inevitable but it's satisfying all the same and you can't take your eyes off Winona. The second series is due out some time in 2017.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

The Late Late Toy Show

RTE Player, until January 2

The Late Late Toy Show host Ryan Tubridy fooling around. Photo: Steve Humphreys

I know it's not the same as watching on the night itself - complete with roaring fire, well-scrubbed kids in PJs, and live Twitter feed ricocheting between hilarity and ooh-la-la outrage - but for those of us unfortunate enough to have missed the real deal, there is still plenty of fun to be had with a catch-up. From the jungle-tastic opening, through the many toy demos, song-and-dance numbers, and audience sing-alongs, this is vintage Toy Show stuff. Tubridy is a genial and often witty host, but the real stars are the kids. The kind of single-minded toy-related obsession they display, coupled with inimitable cuteness and the odd flash of sass, is irresistible.

Adapting A Classic: We're Going On A Bear Hunt

Channel 4 On Demand

Before the animated version of the classic children's story is screened on December 24 - definitely not one to miss - watch this five-minute look at the whats, whys and hows of the animation process, including interviews with author Michael Rosen and a series of very enthusiastic animators, who are mad keen to share a few of their secrets, and a lot of their excitement.

What Would Holly Do?

RTE Player, until December 2017

Not strictly a catch-up, as these mini-broadcasts are only available online, but fun and useful vignettes nonetheless. Bearing the same resemblance to full-length lifestyle programmes as a canape does to dinner, these are bite-sized and carefully-distilled.

From how to do the perfect party makeup, to girls' nights in complete with home-made face masks and day-to-night looks, model and influencer Holly Carpenter guides viewers through various rituals and dispenses good, clear makeup advice.

She is an engaging presenter, natural and assured, and her interaction with her mother, Jane, who joins her for some of the episodes, is very endearing.


Emily Hourican

Radio Headspace

For those perhaps toying with the idea of mindfulness but not fully there yet, and for the rest of us who are beginning to lose ourselves in the pre-Christmas madness, this podcast is a chance to pause, draw breath and take stock. Created by the cheery English blokes behind the mega-best-selling Headspace app, which offers guided meditations, the podcast is more a series of reflections, on change, fear, kindness, stress and far more, including simply how to be. Thoughtful, sane, relaxing without making a song and dance about things.

The Guardian Children's Books Podcast

Wondering what to buy them for stocking fillers? Books, obviously! In which case, you need this - a podcast about, by and for young readers that will guide you where you need to go. Cecelia Ahern talks about her YA novel, Flawed, Jeff Kinney of the Wimpy Kid books admits to always having writer's block, and Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers discuss Imaginary Fred. And if this doesn't a) make your mind up that books really are the best gift, and b) steer you in the right direction to acquire those books, then really, there is no helping you.

Interfaith Voices

This is a weekly radio show in which a mixed panel of religious people - many disciplines, many viewpoints - discuss the issues that affect us. Presented by nun-turned-radio host Maureen Fiedler, it is neither preachy nor passive, but wonderfully challenging and intelligent.

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