Outlander (♦♦♦♦): Claire Beauchamp, a British combat nurse in WWII, is in the Scottish Highlands, six months after the end of the war, on a second honeymoon with husband Frank Randall. Frank is researching his genealogy, and this trip proves an excuse to find out more about one of his ancestors.
The night of Samhain, Claire and Frank witness a druid ritual in the site of an ancient circle of stones rumored to have magical powers. The morning after, Claire touches the large stone at the center of the circle, and is transported to the year 1743, when Scottish Highlanders are organizing the second Jacobite rebellion to depose King George II of England and replace him with Prince Charles, son of James Stuart, rightful heir to the throne of England.
Among the Highlanders, Claire is seen with a mixture of admiration and suspicion, the former due to her skills as a healer, the latter mostly because she cannot truly explain her purpose among them. When she makes a powerful enemy in the despotic captain of the British troops, her husband's ancestor, she will be forced to marry spirited highlander Jamie Fraser, who has a price on his head.
Season 1 of Starz TV show Outlander, an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's series, is really good. The second Jacobite insurrection plays a key role in the story. The period after 1743 and its players are brought to life in all its glory. I found the time-travel angle more believable than the way Susanna Kearsley depicted it in The Rose Garden; I even accepted it as something plausible.
Despite being a historical drama with a good dose of romance—women are most likely the target audience—, there is plenty of gore and violence (amputations, floggings, attempted rape) not for the faint of heart. The love scenes are done very well, and Caitriona Balfe, Claire, has incandescent chemistry with both leading men, particularly with Sam Heughan, the actor who plays Jamie.
Magnificent photography of the Scottish Highlands, fleshed out characters that one cares for, solid acting, rich historical details, great costume designs, and traditional folktales, make the Outlander series a must-see.
Café Society (♦♦♦♦): Brooklyn native Bobby Dorfman travels to Los Angeles in 1930s, looking for work. His uncle manages a stars’ agency. Bobby’s uncle hires him to run errands for the agency. Meanwhile, Bobby falls in love with a young secretary named Vonnie, but the romance is doomed to fail when Vonnie leaves him for an older, recently separated married man who happens to be Bobby’s uncle. Disillusioned, Bobby goes back to New York, where he settles down and co-manages the glamorous Café Society, a nightclub that becomes the place to see and be seen at.
Café Society is written and directed by Woody Allen, and it has the light touch, though slightly (just slightly) less charm than Midnight in Paris. It has that dreamy quality of Midnight in Paris, just a bit earthier, with fresh dialogs, gorgeous music, lots of 1930s Hollywood name-dropping courtesy of a movies exec and his young trophy wife, and great laugh out loud moments poking fun at the differences between the Christian and Jewish faiths, and NY City's underbelly.
The ensemble cast makes this screenplay jewel come alive. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, who are on a roll lately with very good performances under their belts—Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman, and Stewart as Valentine in The Clouds of Sils Maria)—, are particularly noteworthy.
Nerve (♦♦♦½): What starts as a seemingly innocent internet dare game, derives into an adrenaline fueled experience that may put the lives of some teenagers at risk over the course of a night around NY City.