Saturday 21 July 2018

New on Netflix: Ricky and friends return to comedy... sort of

Special Correspondents Available from April 29

Some big names starring in Special Correspondents, including America Ferrera, Kelly Macdonald Ricky Gervais, Vera Farmiga, Mimi Kuzyk, Eric Bana, Kevin Pollak and Raul Castillo.
Some big names starring in Special Correspondents, including America Ferrera, Kelly Macdonald Ricky Gervais, Vera Farmiga, Mimi Kuzyk, Eric Bana, Kevin Pollak and Raul Castillo.
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

After the slightly baffling success of Derek (man with previous record of using the word 'mong' creates 'ironic' comedy show about man with learning difficulties) and the Golden Globes, where his jokes sounded just a hair too spiteful, Ricky Gervais is back trying to match the mammoth success of The Office.

And this time he's got Eric Bana - who we last remember continuing to have sex despite a holocaust flashback in Munich - to provide the, er, acting.

It's a sort of Shattered Glass kind of set-up with a Survivor twist, and jokes: Gervais plays a sound engineer who teams up with a radio journalist (Bana) to fake a report from the front line of a war in Ecuador.But when they're believed to be missing in the country, they end up having to actually go to Ecuador so their deception isn't discovered.

In addition to Gervais and Bana as the two leads, the rest of the cast includes Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Vera Farmiga (The Departed), Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Raúl Castillo (Cold Weather), and Benjamin Bratt (Modern Family).

Not a comedian amongst them, which doesn't necessarily bode well, and the trailer certainly isn't as hilarious as one might hope, but the combination of Ricky and his all-star cast makes this worth a look - if only to see what people are giving out about.

Team Foxcatcher

Available from April 29

A new trailer for Team Foxcatcher, a documentary about millionaire wrestling sponsor John du Pont, proves yet again that truth is stranger than fiction and, often, documentaries can be more bizarre than dramatisations.

This piece, which caused something of a buzz at Tribeca Film Festival before coming to Netflix, recounts the relationship between du Pont, who sponsored and created a training camp for Olympic athletes, and Dave Schultz, a star wrestler whom he befriended and eventually murdered. If you feel like you've heard the story before, it's because you probably remember Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller's 2014 adaptation of the same tale. Unlike that movie, however, Team Foxcatcher shows the story through voiceover and home-made films from Nancy Schultz, who lived with her family at du Pont's Foxcatcher Farms facility (and was played by Sienna Miller in the fictionalised version).

Through found footage and interviews, the film shows du Pont's rising paranoia and insecurity, which culminated in Schultz's murder and a two-day stand-off with police.

Nancy Schultz has recently said that even after du Pont was locked up for the murder, his obsession with Schultz and his family continued and stateside this documentary has already generated quite a buzz.

Begin Again

Available from April 27

You know that feeling when you're gormlessly scrolling through the suggestions reel and everything looks a bit bargain bin?

Well, this might work for one of those moments. It sort of slipped under the radar a bit when it came out but it's actually quite good and the reviews were positive.

Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) is a formerly successful record label executive living in New York City who is estranged from his wife Miriam and struggling to keep up with the changing music industry. After being fired from his job, he goes on a drunken escapade which leads him to a bar in a grungy corner of Manhattan where he encounters Gretta James (Keira Knightley).

Gretta is a young and strong-willed songwriter who has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend and songwriting partner Dave Kohl (Adam Levine), a newly minted musician who had an affair with one of his producers' assistants.

Entranced by Gretta's music, Dan offers her a chance to sing to his former record label, and although she initially refuses she reconsiders the offer and agrees. Ruffalo and Knightley have incredible chemistry in this and he did his small bit to get 'America to Feel' The Bern this week. And Glen Hansard is on the soundtrack. So give it a whirl.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

Panti: The Queen of Ireland

RTE PLayer, until April 27th

Documentary directed by Conor Horgan, who had been filming 'accidental activist' Rory O'Neill, and his more fabulous alter-ego Panti Bliss, on and off for over five years, long before the rising tide that would lead to the gay marriage referendum.

Footage of a young Rory in wellies and a tutu back in Ballinrobe, the small Co Mayo town where he grew up, is contrasted with his triumphant return, unlikely hero of the town, so many years later. The documentary is beautifully-shot, funny, moving and fascinating. It both captures a seminal moment in our history, and propels it.

Home Fires

UTV Player, until May 3rd, series two, episode one

World War Two drama with Francesca Annis, Leanne Best and Samantha Bond, set in a small English village where the usual tangle of allegiances and hierarchies are muddled by the outbreak of war and the disappearance of menfolk.

Originally inspired by Jambusters by Julie Summers, here, Britain is facing the threat of imminent invasion. As the Battle of Britain looms, the villagers of Great Paxford are struggling on despite the fear and suspicion that threatens to overwhelm them. Series two is progressing on UTV, here is a last chance to view it from the start.

An Klondike

TG4 Player, until May 1, Season one, episode one

With nine nominations and four awards (including for Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Writing) at the recent IFTAs, this is really not to be missed. The first episode is only available for another week, so get cracking. A four-part Western, made in Ireland and set in the Yukon, this tells the story of the Connolly brothers; three Irish emigrants who get caught up in the Gold Rush of the 1890s in the hope of striking it rich. Created and directed by Dathaí Keane, with Owen McDonnell, Dara Devaney and Sean T Ó Meallaigh.


Emily Hourican

Selected Shorts

A big favourite, this, particularly among short story lovers. Selected Shorts is a weekly public radio show recorded live at the New York City stage show at the Peter Sharp Theater on Broadway, and broadcast on over 150 stations to about 300,000 listeners. Each week has its own theme, with several stories presented each time, always fiction - sometimes classic, sometimes new - and always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television. One recent winner was Cynthia Nixon (Miranda from Sex and the City) introducing readings from three chapters of Alice in Wonderland, to mark the 150th anniversary of the book. Highly enjoyable. Or the Sex, Death and Money episode, which included Kathleen Chalfant reading from Anne Enright's Until the Girl Died, and Amir Arison reading The Silk Handkerchief by Sait Faik Abasiyanik.

60 Second Science

For geeks and wannabes alike, this lasts just one minute, and is a great way to get familiar with the newest developments in science, via a series of quick reports and insightful commentaries. Did you know that wolves howl in local accents, depending on where they live? That singing with a choir lowers stress in cancer patients?

Or that we could use lasers to hide the Earth, in case of prying aliens? There is research into suicide rates based on gun availability, and the sad story of baby whales pecked to death by gulls.

All these topics, and far more, are covered in a way that is instantly accessible, memorable, and - best of all - fun. Complicated things are made easy (ish) and serious things made entertaining.

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