TREAT: William H.Macy as Frank Gallagher in Shameless, the US version of the popular British comedy series. HIT AND MISS: Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund in On The Road.
LIFE defines our planet but until recently, its ability to flourish has remained a mystery.
Secrets of Our Living Planet, presented by Chris Packham, discovers the secrets of our most crucial habitats and reveals why they are so special.
The Newcastle Herald and BBC Television have two copies of the four-part DVD series to give away.
To enter, send the word ‘‘PLANET’’, your name, address and daytime number via SMS to 0427842179 oremail [email protected]
THE winners of the Gruen Planet Series 2 DVDs were: R. Thomson, of Waratah West; L. Watson, of Gloucester; J. Hogno, of Seaham; S. Deakin, of New Lambton and B. Bendevski, of Adamstown.
SHAMELESS, US VERSION (MA15+)
Warner Bros Video, 604 minutes
SHOWTIME has stuck with this jarring drama about a down-and-out family on Chicago’s South Side (a direct replica of the original British version of Shameless) and the result is a confident series full of charm, chaos and black comedy.
The show has been signed up for a fourth season, so it’s not too late to invest your time and heart in the series. It certainly looks like it will boost the careers of some of the outstanding young actors in the cast.
William H. Macy revels in the role of Frank Gallagher, a conniving drunk who does little to support his six children. But it is Emmy Rossum, as the oldest Gallagher daughter, Fiona, who comes into her own in this second season. All eyes are on her as she moonlights as a cocktail waitress to support the family and tries to engage in her own adult relationships.
There are no social issues that are taboo on this show: Frank will stoop to any depth to make a buck; recreational drugs are common; adultery gets a look-in; homosexuality is there; crime is an ingredient.
Supporting cast members Jeremy Allen White (as Lip Gallagher, the oldest son), Cameron Moneghan (Ian Gallagher), Emma Kenney (Deb Gallagher) and Joan Cusack (outstanding as Frank’s girlfriend Sheila Jackson) offer quality character performances.
– Jim Kellar
HELL ON WHEELS, SEASON 2 (MA 15+)
Hopscotch, 10 episodes
FOR a TV series about the building of the transcontinental railroad in the US, this show spends a lot of time on the characters and just enough to give you a whiff of the railroad project in season two.
Anson Mount returns to lead the way as handsome hunk Cullen Bohannon, an ex-Confederate soldier who joined Thomas Durant’s railroad company to find the Union soldiers who killed his wife and child. Last season he tracked down and killed nearly all of them, so he’s had a hard time searching for greater purpose to stay with the railroad company.
He’s found a soulmate in Lily (Dominique McElligott), whose husband, a railroad surveyor, was killed by Indians (Native Americans) in the first season. Bohannon and Lily eventually see eye to eye in this second season but it’s never easy.
There’s plenty of Old West fighting and drinking and manning up this year, with Elam Ferguson (played by Common) moving into a position of power as the fix-it for tough problems.
Colm Meaney as the railroad baron Thomas Durant is outstanding again, especially in the face of many difficult challenges.
– Jim Kellar
Universal Sony, 131 minutes
BUCKLE up for a crazy ride in this guns-and-drugs extravaganza that’s pure “old” Hollywood.
Director Oliver Stone does a top-notch job of painting a picture of the pot culture of Southern California. Dealer partners Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) are perfect for the roles, although Blake Lively, as their shared girlfriend, is perhaps the weakest link. For the baddies, Benicio del Toro is the bad enforcer and Selma Hayek is head of the drug cartel.
Laguna Beach is the setting and requires no introduction. It really is the heart of hedonism.
The action is relentless and time flies when you’re having fun.
The double-barrelled ending was a tad far-fetched. But, hey, that’s Hollywood.
– Jim Kellar
ON THE ROAD (MA15+)
IFC Films, 124 minutes
JACK Kerouac’s 1957 novel On The Road came to define the Beat Generation, which he himself named. It is the granddaddy of every road movie and road novel, and its path to the big screen has been a long and fascinating one.
In the 1970s, Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights and a veritable who’s-who have toyed with and given up on the project since. It takes a filmmaker such as Walter Salles to bring a film like this to the screen. Salles’s 2004 The Motorcycle Diaries was a similarly socially and politically-charged road movie, and Salles certainly brings the same passion to his new film, occasionally hitting the mark.
On The Road is a semi-autobiographical account of young writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) who escapes his writer’s block by following pals Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Carlos Marx (Tom Sturridge) from his home in New York to Denver.
The charismatic Dean is married to Marylou (Kristen Stewart) but shacked up with Camille (Kirsten Dunst), though not averse to bringing Sal or Carlos in on the action. Thus begins the first of many trips across the years that keep bringing Sal into Dean’s all-consuming orbit, that along its path brings him into contact with an abandoned wife (Elisabeth Moss), a drug-experimenting writer and his tripped-out wife (Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams) and blues musician Walter (Terrence Howard).
Sometimes a participant, sometimes merely a witness to the car-crash that is Dean’s life, Sal can be found in most scenes with a pencil in hand, scribbling down ideas that will become his novel.
The film’s success turns on the mesmerising quality of the character of Dean Moriarty. Garrett Hedlund is certainly attractive and confident. However, I’m not sure that his well-built shoulders can carry so weighty a film all by himself and, while the story should be Sal’s, Sal is a difficult character to engage with.
Twilight’s Kristen Stewart shows real range as the damaged Marylou. Kirsten Dunst has a more thankless role as the pouty, puffy Camille, and there’s a great cameo by Adams.
Beautiful though it is, and like many a road trip in real life, I enjoyed the scenery but at 140 minutes, I had to ask more than once: “Are we there yet?”
– Cris Kennedy