DVD Review - February 9

DVD Review - February 9

DVD Review - February 9

First published in NewsXtra

The inside word on what your favourite celebs are up to.

By Damon Smith

New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray

Hotel Transylvania (Cert U, 87 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Animation/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/3D Blu-ray £29.99) Featuring the voices of: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Adam Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Cee Lo Green, Jon Lovitz.

Built in the late 19th century, Hotel Transylvania is the five-star home of Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). Creatures of the night flock to the hotel every year to celebrate Mavis's birthday. Frankenstein's monster (Kevin James) and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher) excitedly check in along with Griffin The Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray The Mummy (Cee Lo Green), and Wayne Werewolf (Steve Buscemi) and his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon). A wayward backpacker called Jonathan (Adam Samberg) stumbles upon the establishment and Dracula hides the new arrival in a storeroom, explaining to the human interloper that his clientele won't kill Jonathan "as long as they think you're a monster". So Dracula applies some grey make-up to transform the teenage tourist into Johnny-stein, who just happens to kindle Mavis's first 'zing' of true love. Hotel Transylvania gives a family-friendly, computer-animated makeover to Bram Stoker's bloodsucking anti-hero. Set in a leafy corner of Romania, Genndy Tartakovsky's lively romp is extremely colourful and fast-paced, and the friction between Dracula and his inquisitive daughter sparks an occasional smart one-liner ("You're barely out of your training fangs!") However, there's a paucity of originality in the script and characterisation is reduced to bestowing each monster with a single quirk. Vocal performances are solid if unremarkable and, disappointingly, director Tartakovsky doesn't tailor any of the scenes to the 3D format, which is available exclusively on Blu-ray.

Rating: *** Taken 2 (Cert 15, 94 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Action/Thriller/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Taken Double Pack DVD Box Set £22.99/Blu-ray £24.99/Taken Double Pack Blu-ray Box Set £29.99) Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, Luke Grimes.

Former CIA field operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is understandably protective of his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who he rescued from Albanian kidnappers and returned safely to her mother, Lenore (Famke Janssen). He's less than thrilled to discover Kim has a boyfriend (Luke Grimes) but promises that he won't run any background checks. When Lenore's current partner storms out, Bryan invites his ex-wife and daughter to join him in Turkey. Little does the former agent realise that Murad (Rade Serbedzija), the father of one of the Albanian brutes he killed in the first film, has amassed a small army to abduct and torture Bryan and his loved ones. Taken 2 is a testosterone-fuelled blast that doesn't take itself seriously, from the protracted set-up about Kim's inability to parallel park to her transformation into a gun-toting chip off the old block. "Try to blend in!" Bryan tells his daughter to hoots of derision as she races across Turkish rooftops, tossing grenades hither and thither without any consideration for the safety of passing tourists. Neeson growls his lines with suitable menace, physically suffering for his lowbrow art. Janssen is the token two-dimensional love interest and Grace embraces the madness in the script. Olivier Megaton's sequel delivers more slam-bang thrills than the first instalment, embracing the preposterousness of a centrepiece car sequence which sees Kim, who has failed her driving test, perform high-speed manoeuvres through the winding streets of bustling Istanbul. A glittering career beckons as a movie stuntwoman. A two-disc box set comprising Taken and the sequel is also available.

Rating: *** Anna Karenina (Cert 12, 124 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Romance/Drama, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Emily Watson.

Socialite Anna (Keira Knightley) travels from St Petersburg to Moscow to provide emotional support to her sister-in-law Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), who has just discovered an affair between her husband Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) and the family governess. En route, Anna meets Countess Vronskaya (Olivia Williams) and her son, dashing cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who is wooing Dolly's 18-year-old sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander). At the latter's debutante ball, Anna shamelessly dances with Count Vronsky, sowing the seeds of her downfall and the despair of her politically influential husband, Alexei (Jude Law). Anna Karenina is a big, expensive bauble: pristine, polished and admirable but structurally brittle and completely hollow. Knightley pouts with intent as she pursues Taylor-Johnson's man-in-uniform with lust-fuelled fury. Their solitary sex scene is shot like a perfume advertisement - snappily edited glimpses of flesh on flesh, writhing in ecstasy. Law is more restrained, successfully internalising his character's emotions. Director Joe Wright upends this emotionally cold adaptation of Tolstoy with grand, eye-catching flourishes. Aping the stylistic vision, though none of the heartbreak of Baz Luhrmann, the British film-maker sets the adultery and deception on a snow-laden theatre stage with moveable sets. All of the technical virtuosity is choreographed with split-second precision that verges on breathtaking. Oscar-nominated costumes and art direction are ravishing, and Seamus McGarvey's nominated cinematography shimmers with rich colour. However, such fastidiousness snuffs out any faint flickers of emotion and disjoints the narrative, repeatedly drawing attention to the ambitions of the man in the director's chair.

Rating: ** Untouchable (Cert 15, 112 mins, Entertainment In Video, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Gregoire Oestermann.

Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is a wealthy aristocrat who suffers terrible injuries in a paragliding accident. He roams his sprawling Parisian mansion in a wheelchair and requires constant care to accomplish everyday tasks. Uncouth ex-con Driss (Omar Sy), who has only applied for a job as a live-in career to get a signature on his benefits card, appeals greatly to Philippe and he hires the former jailbird. Driss takes up residence in an opulent guest room and quickly clashes with personal assistant Yvonne (Anne Le Ny). "I bet you won't last two weeks," she predicts. Against the odds, Driss forges a tender bond across the class divide, helping Philippe to teach his brattish daughter Elisa (Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi) some manners and to re-connect with the outside world. Loosely based on a true story, Untouchable is a crowd-pleasing comedy, which smashed box office records in France. Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache's film boasts some uproarious interludes, including a badly behaved night at the opera, and is anchored by a stellar performance from Sy as the jailbird who encourages his stuffy employer to trade Vivaldi for Earth, Wind & Fire. For all its endearing qualities - and there are many - the picture trades heavily in racial stereotypes and when the laughter subsides, you're left to contemplate whether the writer-directors are guilty of crude insensitivity or flagrant racism. At the very moment you expect Untouchable to deliver its big wallop, the film opts for a smaller payoff. The reluctance to indulge in shameless sentimentality, which distinguishes the film, also diminishes it.

Rating: *** The Knot (Cert 15, 88 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £15.99) Starring: Matthew McNulty, Talulah Riley, Noel Clarke, Mena Suvari, Jason Maza, Brett Goldstein, Davie Fairbanks, Rhoda Montemayor, Susannah Fielding, Louise Dylan.

Jeremy (Matthew McNulty) wakes from his stag do with a transvestite in his bed and scant memory of the night before. Best man Peter (Noel Clarke) and buddies Ralphus (Jason Maza), Albert (Brett Goldstein) and Jack (Davie Fairbanks) muddle through the fog of their hangovers to reach the church on time. Meanwhile, blushing bride Alexandra (Talulah Riley) wakes nervously from her hen night, which ended with sex-crazed Anisha (Rhoda Montemayor) bedding the male stripper. Fellow bridesmaids Sarah (Mena Suvari), Julie (Susannah Fielding) and Helen (Louise Dylan) attempt to keep Alex sane, while Peter reminds his posse to enjoy their final day together: "We were The Beatles and Alex has come along and taken our Lennon," he jokes. Walking down the aisle is a precarious business in Jesse Lawrence's effervescent rom-com, co-written by Doug Camino. It's a pity The Knot says "I do" one month after The Wedding Video hit the home formats because both films are similar in style and tone, witnessing the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that befall an expectant bride and groom in the run up to the big day. Lawrence's frothy confection delivers a few giggles, interspersed with some predictable gross-out moments, such as Peter accidentally dropping the rings into a pungent, unflushed toilet. Imagine a one-night stand between Bridesmaids and The Hangover, but without the uproarious belly laughs, and The Knot will meet your meagre expectations.

Rating: ** Also released Chained (Cert 18, 90 mins, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below) Death Race: Inferno (Cert 16, 106 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £14.99/Blu-ray £17.99 - see below) Grave Encounters 2 (Cert 18, 95 mins, Metrodome Distribution, Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below) A Thousand Kisses Deep (Cert 15, 80 mins, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, Drama/Thriller/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99 - see below) New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray Girls - The Complete First Season (Cert 15, 270 mins, Warner Home Video/HBO, DVD £24.99/Blu-ray £29.99, Comedy/Drama/Romance) Created actress Lena Dunham, Girls is an award-winning comedy drama chronicling the trials and tribulations of a group of twenty-something women living in New York. Struggling writer Hannah (Dunham) lives in Brooklyn, relying on the support of her parents to ensure she can pay the rent. When that financial safety is taken away, Hannah searches for quick solutions while dealing with problems at work and relationship woes with her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver). Meanwhile, her good friends Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Marnie (Allison Williams) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) have their own issues. The two-disc set includes all 10 episodes.

Above Suspicion 4: Silent Scream (Cert 15, 168 mins, Acorn Media, DVD £17.99/The Complete Above Suspicion DVD Box Set £39.99, Thriller) DC Anna Travis (Kelly Reilly) returns to prove her worth in a serpentine case torn from the pages of the novels by Lynda La Plante. When a famous young actress is murdered, Anna is part of the investigating team led by DCI Langton (Ciaran Hinds), who is still smarting from his failure to secure a high-profile promotion. Frustrated by Langton's mood swings and baffled by the complexities of the case, Travis digs deep to unmask the perpetrator. A four-disc box set comprising all four Above Suspicion storylines is also available.

Death Race: Inferno (Cert 16, 106 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £14.99/Blu-ray £17.99, Action/Thriller) Roel Reine directs the third instalment in the Death Race series, which resets the automobile carnage to South Africa. At the end of the second film, driver Carl Lucas (Luke Goss), aka Frankenstein, apparently died. It transpires that he survived and is now just one race away from earning his freedom. British billionaire Niles York (Dougray Scott), who just acquired the rights to the Death Race series, informs the drivers that he is relocating the battles to the merciless Kalahari Desert. In this hostile environment, Lucas is told that he must lose his forthcoming races or he will be tortured along with his beautiful girlfriend Katrina (Tanit Phoenix). With so much at stake, Lucas plots to outmanoeuvre the men and women in charge to stay alive.

Chained (Cert 18, 90 mins, Anchor Bay Entertainment, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Horror/Thriller) A trained killer wrestles with his gruesome destiny in Jennifer Lynch's taut thriller. When he was nine-years-old, Tim (Eamon Farren) was kidnapped with his mother (Julia Ormond) by sadistic serial killer Bob (Vincent D'Onofrio), who posed as a taxi driver to hunt and capture his unsuspecting victims. Years pass and Tim is kept on a chain by his abductor, forced to watch the rape and murder of countless women. A strong bond forms between Bob and his teenage hostage - so much so, the killer grooms Tim to become his heir. When the time comes for the emotionally damaged protege to follow in the blood-spattered footsteps of Bob, he deliberates freedom from the psychopath's clutches.

Borgen - The Complete Second Series (Cert 15, 580 mins, Arrow Films, DVD £29.99/Complete DVD Box Set £49.99/Blu-ray £34.99/Complete Blu-ray Box Set £54.99, Thriller/Drama) Two years is a very long time in Danish politics in the second series of the acclaimed drama. Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is serving as prime minister and must contend with manifold problems in her professional and personal lives. At home, she has split from her husband Philip (Mikael Birkkjaer) and feels pangs of jealousy that he is moving on while she is stuck in a rut. Overseas, Birgitte must make critical decisions regarding the fate of Danish soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, which could become the defining moment of her second term in charge. A six-disc box set comprising both series is also available.

A Thousand Kisses Deep (Cert 15, 80 mins, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, DVD £15.99, Drama/Thriller/Romance) Sharing its title with a Leonard Cohen song, Dana Lustig's intriguing drama plays with space and time as a young woman becomes ensnared in overlapping versions of her past. On her way home from work, Mia (Jodie Whittaker) is shocked when the old woman who lives upstairs jumps from her bedroom window on to the pavement below. Around the woman's broken, lifeless body, belongings are scattered to the wind, including a photograph of Mia with her former lover Ludwig (Dougray Scott). Naturally, Mia is unnerved by the discovery and she seeks out the building's caretaker Max (David Warner) and begs him to let her into the deceased woman's flat. Max tries to dissuade Mia, clearly knowing more than he is letting on, but he eventually relents and he lets the young woman into the flat. Mia is disturbed because the deceased woman's apartment is strangely familiar. As memories crash around her, Mia ricochets back and forth in time, on a collision course with Ludwig, the man she loves but also fears.

Midsomer Murders - Series 15: Death And The Divas (Cert 12, 88 mins, Acorn Media, DVD £17.99, Drama/Thriller) DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and his trusty assistant DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) unravel murder most horrid in another instalment of the enduring ITV1 drama. A journalist dies in suspicious circumstances and the method of killing closely resembles a bloody scene from a 1960s horror film - the very same picture that is about to open the annual Midsomer Langley Film Festival. Since one of the villagers starred in the film, they become the prime suspect. But there are lots of dark secrets to be uncovered in the picture postcard community.

Private Practice - The Complete Fifth Season (Cert 15, 907 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £22.99, Drama/Romance) Talented surgeon Dr Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) struggles to fall pregnant and seriously considers adoption in the spin-off from acclaimed medical series Grey's Anatomy. Meanwhile, Pete (Tim Daly) suffers a heart attack, which puts his life into sharp relief and jeopardises his relationship with psychiatrist Violet (Amy Brenneman). Elsewhere, Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) becomes addicted to drugs and the staff rally to support her in her hour of need. The six-disc set includes all 22 episodes.

The Joy Of Six (Cert 15, 80 mins, Soda Pictures, DVD £15.99, Drama) British film-makers showcase their talents behind and in front of the cameras in this compilation of six short films, which run the gamut of drama, thriller and black comedy. Director Douglas Hart explores the relationship between a father and son in Long Distance Relationship, which stars Peter Mullan, and director Will Jewell elicits strong performances from Luke Treadaway, James Lance and Tim Healy in his film Man In Fear, about a bloodied man who walks into a police station and asks to be locked up. A Gun For George, directed by and starring Matthew Holness, journeys inside the mind of a forgotten author, while actor Romola Garai sits in the director's chair for Scrubber, which focusses on a young mother seeking escape. The Ellington Kid, directed by Dan Sully, unfolds in a south London kebab shop, and Dame Judi Dench, Penny Rider, Philip Jackson and Tom Hiddleston discover the perils and pleasures of social networking in Chris Foggin's Friend Request Pending.

Grave Encounters 2 (Cert 18, 95 mins, Metrodome Distribution, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Horror/Thriller) Film student Alex Wright (Richard Harmon) is obsessed with the 2011 film Grave Encounters and is convinced that on-screen fiction is too convincing to be anything other than fact. So he calls together a small group of friends and heads to the same derelict psychiatric hospital where the movie was shot to make his own found-footage horror. In these spooky surroundings, fact and fiction become horribly blurred in Alex's addled mind and the students face intense, genuine terror in front of the camera.

Love Me (Cert 15, 97 mins, Anchor Bay Entertainment, DVD £9.99/Blu-ray £12.99, Thriller) Sixteen-year-old Sylvia Potter (Lindsey Shaw) works as a projectionist at her local cinema. All of those flickering images of buff big-screen heroes have warped her perception of Mr Right so her best friend Harry (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), who is smitten with Sylvia, sadly doesn't stand a chance. Instead, she lusts after Lucas Green (Jamie Johnston), a charming and handsome student from a nearby preparatory school. Lucas seems to be perfect, then police point the finger of suspicion at him for the disappearance and suspected murder of local girl Melissa Kennedy. Sylvia is thrown into turmoil and questions whether Lucas really is too good to be true or the police are pursuing the wrong suspect.

Chakravyuh (Cert 15, 160 mins, Eros International, DVD £12.99, Drama) Adil (Arjun Rampal) and Kabir (Abhay Deol) are best friends who have always put complete faith in their bond of trust. Their ideals are severely tested when they are drawn into the escalating conflict sparked by Naxalites - Marxist groups which operate throughout India and use violence to influence social and political change. These defiant protesters curry favour with the common people by criticising the Indian government for shamefully neglecting the poor in order to care for the rich. Adil and Kabir are caught on opposite sides of the argument and struggle to find common ground to repair their fractured relationship.

Jersey Shore - Season Five (Uncensored) (Cert 15, 462 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, DVD £17.99, Documentary/Drama) Eleven more episodes of MTV's fly-on-the-wall docu-drama which surveys the emotional highs and lows of eight hedonistic housemates. This series, the action returns from the balmy climes of Florence to Seaside Heights in New Jersey, where Vinny's decision to leave the house inspires a few painful home truths. Snooki's relationship with Jionni comes under intense scrutiny, Deena survives a near-death experience with a shark during a fishing trip and Mike instigates a vicious rumour about a fellow housemate's sister.

Mother's Milk (Cert 15, 98 mins, Guerilla Films, Drama, also available to buy DVD £7.99) Gerald Fox writes and directs this adaptation of Edward St Aubyn's award-winning novel about a family in turmoil one long, hot summer. Eleanor Melrose (Margaret Tyzack) is the matriarch of a large clan and has suffered a stroke. She decides to put her affairs in order and bequeaths her beautiful house in Provence not to her loved ones but to a New Age Foundation run by an Irish charlatan. Eleanor's son Patrick (Jack Davenport) is incensed and he increasingly turns to drink while his long-suffering wife, Mary (Annabel Mullion), helps him come to terms with Eleanor's impending death. Family friend Kettle (Diana Quick) pokes her nose in where it is not wanted. Meanwhile, Patrick and Mary's eight-year-old son Robert (Thomas Underhill) has a completely different perspective on events as the summer draws to an end and the time to say farewell beckons.

DVD and Blu-ray retail top 10 1 (-) The Sweeney 2 (1) Dredd 3 (-) The Possession 4 (2) Lawless 5 (-) Merlin - Series 5 6 (-) Monster High: Friday Night Frights/Why Do Ghouls Fall In Love?

7 (3) The Hunger Games 8 (-) 21 Jump Street 9 (5) The Dark Knight Rises 10 (8) Avengers Assemble Chart supplied by www.hmv.com DVD rental top 10 1 (-) Rock Of Ages 2 (1) The Bourne Legacy 3 (2) Ted 4 (4) The Amazing Spider-Man 5 (3) The Sweeney 6 (9) Men In Black 3 7 (-) Contraband 8 (10) Prometheus 9 (-) The Expendables 2 10 (6) Dark Shadows Chart supplied by www.blockbuster.co.uk

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