A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith.
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.
The Muppets (Cert U, 98 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Family/Musical/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £17.99/3 Movie DVD Collection £23.99/Blu-ray £21.99).
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and the voices of Peter Linz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz.
In Smalltown, population 102, a Muppet called Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) lives with his human brother Gary (Jason Segel), who is about to celebrate 10 years with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams). They head off to Los Angeles where Walter discovers that scheming oil man Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to bulldoze the Muppet Theatre and drill for the black gold that lies beneath. The only way to thwart Richman is to rally the troops. So Walter galvanises Kermit (Steve Whitmire), Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson), Fozzie Bear (Jacobson again), Gonzo (Dave Goelz) and the gang into organising a televised appeal supported by celebrity guests including Whoopi Goldberg and Selena Gomez. The Muppets is a perfect family film with broad humour to appeal to all ages, interspersed with delightful Oscar-winning ditties written by Bret McKenzie from Flight Of The Conchords including the exuberant Life's A Happy Song. The script, co-written by leading man Segel and Nicholas Stoller, strikes the perfect balance between affection and irreverence, knowingly tipping the wink to leaps in plot logic. When one character reveals that the only way to save the iconic Muppet Theatre from demolition is to raise 10 million dollars in two weeks, Waldorf turns to the camera and quips, "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were reciting an important plot point!" Segel and Adams embrace the ridiculousness of the premise with gusto, such as when Kermit initially refuses to spearhead the telethon and Mary despairs, "This is going to be a really short movie!" Blissfully, it's not. A three-disc DVD comprising The Muppets, Muppets Treasure Island and Muppets Wizard Of Oz is also available.
Rating: **** J Edgar (Cert 15, 131 mins, Warner Home Video, Drama/Historical/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99) Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Dame Judi Dench, Jeffrey Donovan, Ed Westwick, Josh Lucas.
J Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio), the controversial director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, clings to power. He dictates his memoirs to Agent Smith (Ed Westwick) and drifts back in time in hazy reminiscences to the 1919 bombings which sent shockwaves through Washington DC. With assistant director Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) at his side, Hoover becomes embroiled in the ill-fated search for the missing infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh (Josh Lucas) and clashes with Robert F Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan). Away from the corridors of power, Hoover strives tirelessly to impress his domineering mother, Anna Marie (Dame Judi Dench), who instructs him to hold firm when others doubt him. However, power comes at a price. J Edgar is a meticulous and elegiac portrait of a man, whose professional travails were almost as fascinating as the swirl of rumours surrounding his close relationship with Tolson. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for Milk, underpins his history lesson with a tender and chaste romance between the two men. The love story culminates in a kiss in a hotel room and an unconventional declaration of feelings. Admittedly, Clint Eastwood's film is overlong at 131 minutes and the ageing make-up used to transform DiCaprio into a liver-spotted septuagenarian isn't convincing. However, his lead performance is electrifying and Hammer cuts a fine figure as the loyal protege. Dench offers sterling support, sending a chill down the spine as she pointedly makes clear her views on homosexuality to her boy: "I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son."
Rating: **** Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Cert 12, 124 mins, Warner Home Video, Drama, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99) Starring: Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright.
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) remembers September 11 - "the worst day" - when he lost his father Thomas (Tom Hanks), shattering the happy home of his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock). When his father was alive, they used to play a scavenger hunt game called Reconnaissance Expedition on the streets of New York City. An old key found in a smashed vase sparks Oskar's imagination and the youngster becomes convinced that Thomas had left him a clue to a new game. A late-night encounter with a mute elderly man (Max von Sydow) who rents a room in his grandmother's apartment provides Oskar with an unlikely accomplice for the search. Their odyssey criss-crosses Manhattan's boroughs including a memorable visit to despondent wife Abbey Black (Viola Davis), who tells the boy, "Finding the lock that key fits would be a miracle." Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's second novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close revisits the deadliest act of terrorism committed on American soil through the eyes of a boy. The resolution to Oskar's search feels contrived, almost preposterous, but the excellent casting and flashes of Stephen Daldry's directorial brio counterbalance our incredulity. The film is anchored by a mesmerising performance from newcomer Horn, who is the emotional heart of the piece. The scene in which he argues with his mother and snaps, "I wish it were you in the building instead of him," is deeply upsetting. Hanks is glimpsed in flashback and Bullock impresses in her few scenes, but von Sydow dominates the screen, conveying heartbreaking emotion through his eyes and gestures.