The biggest meme generator of 2018, the return of a beloved sitcom favourite and a new Lightbox Original are just some of the new titles coming to Lightbox this month. Sam Brooks and Alex Casey run down the highlights.
A Star is Born (movie drops 6 Feb)
I’ll tell you something, girl, A Star is Born has infected every corner of life. I think about a different scene every day, I sing that damn song every morning in the shower, I watch this excruciating clip of Bradley Cooper doing an impromptu performance in Vegas every hour, on the hour. Some may question how a thrice rebooted film featuring Steve from All About Steve smashing up drugs with a cowboy boot managed to enchant the entire world. The answer, of course, is Lady Gaga. because Lady Gaga is always the answer. Watch it and then watch it again. / Alex Casey
Will and Grace (S1 of the reboot drops 6 Feb)
Yes, it’s that Will and Grace. No, it’s not a reboot. Yes, it’s the same cast. Yes, it’s still essential sitcom television.
The three-camera sitcom might’ve gone out of style with terrestrial television, but if any show makes a good enough argument for retaining the style, it’s Will and Grace. There’s a certain wackiness that a live studio audience affords you – you sure as hell couldn’t do an episode where the protagonist almost drowns in her artificial intelligence shower on Louie – and Will and Grace gives you that in spades.
What it also gives you is four actors who understand this genre and their characters like old clothes from the back of the closet they’re fitting right back into. It’s comfort television, but with a gentle push towards progressivism and the good feeling of just loving those around you. And, god, sometimes that’s what you need from whatever screen you happen to be pointed at. / Sam Brooks
Dynamo: Magician Impossible (S1-4 drops Feb 11)
Oh, so you have some doubts about bearing witness to literally the greatest living magician of our time? Hmm, weird but OK. The hoodie-wearing bad boy from Bradford couldn’t be further from the sequinned, top hat touting magicians of yore, and that’s what makes his incredible feats all the more unbelievable. Watch as he shocks and amazes humble civilians alongside a bevvy of his celebrity friends, and then spend the rest of the night on Reddit trying to figure out how the hell he did it. But don’t take my word for it, here’s a pretty good sell from the man himself last year:
“Everybody just wants to feel that sense of wonder, you know? It’s harking back to that feeling of wanting to feel young again, because when we are children we don’t know how the world works and we haven’t been hit with that scepticism and responsibilities you get later. Magic shows that we all love the sense of wonder and that we are really all the same. It shows us that we’re all just human, it takes away people’s egos. And life’s better when there are no big egos to spoil it.” / AC
Xena: Warrior Princess (S1-3 drops 15 Feb)
“In time of ancient Gods, Warlords and Kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle. The power. The passion. The danger. Her courage will change the world.”
So speaks the opening narration of Xena: Warrior Princess, the iconic Lucy Lawless series from the nineties. And honestly, in these troubled times of 2019, we are a people in turmoil. And we cry out for a hero. That hero? Xena.
I was obsessed with this show as a dewy-eyed kid, and watched nearly all of it again as a less dewy-eyed adult, and it held up. There’s a cheesiness to the entire affair, as Xena somehow manages to fight her way through many different civilizations and their mythologies, conflating them all into one vaguely directional journey across… Europe? Asia? Who can say. It’s more than kept together by Lucy Lawless’ star-making performance, and the barely veiled homoerotic subtext beneath the whole thing – it’s about as fun as genre TV gets, and I’ll be glad to wander my way through it for a third time. / SB
Hell Fest (movie drops Feb 13)
Well, this looks like an actual living nightmare come true and I simply cannot wait to watch it. We’ve all had that moment in a haunted house, or a corn maze, or a ghost train, where you just couldn’t help but think that it would be a great place for a serial killer to strike. Hell Fest takes that gorgeous kernel of fear, and pops it into a big buttery bowl of terror. “Feel like spending time in an insane amusement park while watching characters worth rooting for get picked off by the world’s most patient serial killer?” asked The Hollywood Insider, “then Hell Fest delivers.” / AC
Wildlife (movie drops 13 Feb)
Look at those two: Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. If you’re not already wanting to watch the film based on those two, you need to re-evaluate your taste. They’re two of our best young-ish actors, y’all.
If you’re somehow not convinced by that, I’ll continue. Wildlife is directed by Paul Dano (the dude from There Will Be Blood) and written by him and his partner Zoe Kazan (who wrote the excellent Ruby Sparks) and follows a slowly disintegrating marriage in the 60s in Florida. It’s got tear-stained adultery, chastened looks and glances, and a whole lot of people being quite rightly sad. I caught it at the film festival last year and I cannot fathom why Carey Mulligan’s tremendous performance got slept on by awards bodies across the world, and I implore you not to sleep on it as well. / SB
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High Road (Lightbox Original Series, S2)
High Road has had a tremendous run since 2013, when audiences across the world were introduced to the somewhat loveable, totally nuts Terry Huffer, an ex rockstar who DJs from his caravan in Piha. Since then the web-series has made its way up from Vimeo to Lightbox, where the second full season will debut as a fancy dancy Lightbox Original. It comes from the mind of Justin Harwood (of noted Kiwi band The Chills) and features an all-star cast of your faves: Mark Mitchinson, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Luanne Gordon, Danielle Mason, Andre King, and if you start watching the first season right now, there’s a certain famous British star who makes a cameo.
(Spoiler: it’s Emma Thompson.) / SB
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