New on netflix: Sly packs an emotional punch in Rocky return
Creed - Available from Tuesday
Forty years after he first made his name and career playing Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone's comeback performance saw him play an older, frailer and slightly more thoughtful Italian Stallion.
The surgery-ravaged action star plays the corner man for a younger boxer who is the illegitimate, African-American son of his old adversary, Apollo Creed. Director Ryan Coogler's warmly reviewed debut feature, Fruitvale Station (2013), dealt with the real-life police killing of an unarmed black man in San Francisco, but in keeping with Stallone's wholesome formula for the Rocky movies, there's no racial angle here, just a lot of father issues. Michael B Jordan, who played the victim in Fruitvale Station, lends some menace as Adonis Creed, and Stallone, despite (or maybe because of) his somewhat garbled delivery, delivers a few touching moments. He was nominated for best supporting actor for this performance, and although he didn't win he can be proud of a movie which somehow lends pathos to the usual barrage of sports movie cliches.
Don't trust the B - in Apartment 23
Available now - 7 episodes
This series is certainly a winner on the enticing title front, and in a nice surprise it actually delivers on that promise. It centres around June (Dreama Walker), who arrives from Indiana only to find her big new job has evaporated in the wake of a Bernie Madoff-like scandal at the company that hired her. With no job and no apartment, she starts looking for a place to live, and knocks on the door of one Chloe (Krysten Ritter). Chloe's a scam artist who acts so crazy that her flatmates leave without their deposit or assorted other valuables. The pervert in the apartment next door speeds up their departure with some well-timed lechery. But nice, wholesome June can't say she wasn't warned. The woman down the hall delivers the line we've been waiting for: "Don't trust the b---- in apartment 23." There's something a bit unpolished about this series but that's part of its charm. The jokes are dirty and often funny. And for those who still hark back to the Dawson's Creek days, James Van Der Beek is the love interest here.
At times baffling, at times blackly funny, this Colin Farrell vehicle did amazingly well on the festival circuit last year and won warm praise for its Dublin-born star. Farrell plays David, a man who discovers that wife has left and who is summarily escorted to a hotel. The hotel manager reveals that singles have 45 days to find a partner, or they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing. David chooses a lobster, due to their life cycle and his love of the sea. The hotel has many rules and rituals: masturbation is banned, but sexual stimulation by the hotel maid is mandatory, and guests attend dances and watch propaganda extolling the many advantages of partnership. This part of the film seemed like a witty commentary on the absurdity of modern romance and the overstimulation of modern life, but the film then descends into a deeply strange sequence in the woods where David hooks up with a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz). I got a bit lost from there on in but still overall a good film.
Mothers and Daughters
This film has been compared to a Lifetime movie but it's actually a fair bit less sentimental. It was released on Mother's Day in the US and features a galaxy of stars (including Mira Sorvino, Sharon Stone, Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon) in a veritable smorgasbord of loosely connected stories about love and loss. The strength of this film lies in the many strong performances, particularly from Sarandon. The problem is that we don't spend long enough with each thread to develop a real sense of connection with them. Still worth a look.
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Face To Face: Fellini and Visconti
TG4 Player, until August 25
TG4's Face to Face series is a simple but clever idea: documentaries recreating famous rivalries. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, a variety of world leaders; all retold using archive and source material. This particular episode tells the story of the two greatest names in Italian cinema, Federico Fellini (left) and Luchino Visconti, who detested each other for over 20 years and regularly 'stole' actors, technicians and musicians from each other. Visconti was a Marxist aristocrat from Milan who effortlessly attracted critical approval, while Fellini, from a middle-class family in Rimini, despite his remarkable talent, had to fight hard to be taken seriously. Between them, the pair created the greatest neo-realist films of Italian cinema, and both suffered right-hemisphere strokes in later life, but in between, the rivalry was bitter, and much stoked by their hangers-on. Except for actor Marcello Mastroianni, ever the gentleman, who diplomatically said "Visconti is the professor everyone dreams of and Fellini, the ideal friend."
Son of a B****
Channel4 OnDemand, episodes 1-13
Brazilian black-ish comedy-drama that deserves more notice, about a professional football referee, Juarez, whose world is falling apart, largely due to his own corruption, personal and professional. He cheated on his wife, and gave her an STD, so she is now divorcing him, and planning to marry her divorce lawyer. Then he began trying to cheat age with performance-enhancing drugs, which haven't helped his mood. The judge hearing the custody side of his divorce case suggests that the outcome will rest on the the results of the cup final, at which Juarez is doing the honours. "Don't disappoint me," he says as Juarez leaves the court. The real point of difference here though is that the second half of each episode is given over to a football match, recreated in all its drama and glory, with Juarez shown making decisions scrutinised by commentators, players, managers.
Note To Self
The theme here is 'question everything,' and each week host Manoush Zomorodi tackles a specific topic, including whether your phone is watching you, whether technology can improve the work-life balance for working mothers, how culture influences technology, and international tech etiquette. Zomorodi is joined by experts as chatty and well-informed as she is, with each podcast roughly 20 minutes long, meaning you can get your fix on the way to work, the shops or the gym. Some particular highlights have been stand-up comedian Phoebe Robinson talking about finding digital feminism, an analysis of the seduction techniques of online shopping, the realities of virtual reality, and a great episode on the efficacy, or otherwise, of tools (meditation apps, trans-cranial direct current stimulation and so on) that claim to change the brain.
Geek's Guide To The Galaxy
With over 15,000 regular listeners, and over 2 million total downloads, Geek's Guide is clearly doing something right. Hosted by author David Barr Kirtley, the show is shaped around conversations about fantasy and sci-fi in books, movies, games, and comics. Guests have included a who's who of fantasy and sci-fi writing, including George R R Martin, Philip Pullman, Margaret Atwood, Chuck Palahniuk and Ursula K Le Guin, and filmmakers such as David Cronenberg. Under discussion, recently, have been Star Trek: Beyond, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones (starring Emilia Clarke, right), and post-Apocalyptic fiction. Despite the fact that this is ostensibly fantasy, there is often more political and social sense spoken here than in many current affairs shows.
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