DVD Review - March 31

DVD Review - March 31

DVD Review - March 31

First published in DVD Reviews

A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.

By Damon Smith.

New to rent on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Puss In Boots (Cert U, 90 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, Animation/Action/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £27.99/3D Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £29.99).

Featuring the voices of: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Constance Marie, Guillermo del Toro.

As a youngster, Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) is abandoned at an orphanage where kind Imelda (Constance Marie) raises the kitten as her own. Initially picked on by the boys, Puss learns to fight to survive and he helps protect fellow outcast Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Many years later, the surrogate brothers join forces with sexy pickpocket Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to steal magic beans currently in the possession of murderous outlaws Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris). These beans are rumoured to grow a beanstalk that leads to the giant's castle and the greatest treasure of all: the Golden Goose. However, old rivalries between Puss and Humpty jeopardise the daring enterprise. Puss In Boots is a computer-animated prequel to the Shrek films that traces the formative years of the sword-fighting feline before he crossed paths with the pungent ogre. Director Chris Miller maintains a brisk pace and his colourful film is littered with neat flourishes, such as a saloon customer who avoids expository dialogue with the aid of tattoos on various parts of his body, or the strays in the Cat Cantina who form a makeshift orchestra for the dance showdown. Banderas purrs every line with unconcealed delight and he sparks fiery on-screen chemistry with Hayek's feline fatale. Galifianakis milks laughs and sympathy for his ovoid oddball. The climactic ascent of the beanstalk ensures a slam-bang finale, suggesting there is plenty of life in the swashbuckling furball. Puss In Boots is the cat's meow. One version of the Blu-ray includes the film in 3D format.

Rating: **** 50/50 (Cert 15, 96 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99) Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Dallas Bryce Howard, Anjelica Huston, Philip Baker Hall, Matt Frewer, Serge Houde.

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works behind the scenes at Seattle Public Radio with best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), who makes public his dislike for Adam's artist girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard). A doctor's appointment to determine the reasons for Adam's acute back pain reveals the quietly spoken 27-year-old has a tumour that must be treated immediately. His chances of survival are 50%. Rachael fails to offer emotional support so Kyle steps in, ferrying his pal to appointments where Adam meets fellow patients Alan (Philip Baker Hall) and Mitch (Matt Frewer). Adam also encounters inexperienced psychologist Katherine McCay (Anna Kendrick), who has been assigned to help him work through his maelstrom of emotions. Buoyed by the support of the people he loves and a rescue greyhound called Skeletor, Adam weathers the onslaught on his body, determined to see his 28th birthday. Loosely based on the real-life experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser, who faced a cancer diagnosis aged 24 and underwent surgery to remove a tumour from his spine, 50/50 unearths moments of heartbreaking emotion amid the hilarious vulgarity. Gordon-Levitt delivers a magnificent performance as a nice guy, who finds courage at his lowest ebb. Rogen confidently pockets the big laughs but reveals his character's heart too and Kendrick continues her meteoric rise with a nuanced and warmly endearing turn as the medical professional, who has as much to learn as the people in her care. Director Jonathan Levine stylishly melds a buddy comedy and romance with Adam's battle against the disease, sidestepping mawkish sentiment to cut as close to the bone as possible, and leave us choking back tears.

Rating: **** Happy Feet Two (Cert U, 95 mins, Warner Home Video, Animation/Family/Musical/Romance/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99/3D Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £29.99) Featuring the voices of: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Pink, Sofia Vergara, Ava Acres, Hank Azaria, Common, Richard Carter, Hugo Weaving, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon.

Mumble the penguin (voiced by Elijah Wood) has raised a son called Erik (Ava Acres) with his wife Gloria (Pink). Like his father, Erik is struggling to find his rhythm in Emperor-Land and he searches for answers with best friends Boadicea and Atticus in the company of wise-cracking Ramon (Robin Williams). Mumble chases after the little ones and returns home to discover a giant iceberg has slammed into their home, trapping all of the Emperor penguins. Noah The Elder (Hugo Weaving) attempts to keep calm with the help of trusted penguins like Seymour (Common) but the situation is dire. With time running out, Mumble compels Ramon to marshal the Adelie penguins and an elephant seal called Bryan (Richard Carter) to help with the rescue effort. Happy Feet Two trades heavily on the charm of the original film, hoping that our affection for Mumble and his feathered friends will blind us to the chasms in the script. Regrettably, not even Williams's verbal gymnastics can conceal those flaws and Miller's film coasts along gently, clumsily bringing together all of the characters for the grandstand finale. The sequel opens with a mash-up of Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" and brother Michael's catchy "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)", and is punctuated by a series of musical numbers culminating in a rousing rendition of "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie. While the soundtrack to Miller's film hits the high notes, the script is frequently off-key, heavy-handedly dealing with issues of parenting and friendship then ladling on the sickly sentiment. One version of the Blu-ray includes the film in 3D format.

Rating: *** The Thing (Cert 15, 98 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Horror/Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/2 Movie DVD Box Set £22.99/Blu-ray £24.99/2 Movie Blu-ray Box Set £29.99) Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jorgen Langhelle, Kim Bubbs, Trond Espen Seim.

Medical officer Dr Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and research assistant Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) invite palaeontologist Dr Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to join them at a dig close to the South Pole. She joins the expedition under station commander Edvard Wolner (Trond Espen Seim), who reveals a crash-landed alien craft and the corpse of a creature entombed in the ice. Halvorson resolves to harvest a DNA sample of the creature, which subsequently goes on the rampage. "This thing can and probably has replicated a person," warns Kate, looking nervously at helicopter pilot Sam Carter (Joel Edgerton), co-pilot Derek Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), French geologist Juliette (Kim Bubbs) and Norwegian dog keeper Lars (Jorgen Langhelle). Paranoia turns the team members against one another and Kate dons a flamethrower to fight the otherworldly terror with fire. The Thing is a competent prequel to John Carpenter's seminal science-fiction horror, fusing 21st century make-up and digital effects with a storyline that dovetails neatly with the blood-soaked 1982 expedition. Dutch filmmaker Matthijs Van Heijningen Jr confidently orchestrates the set pieces but there's no palpable suspense. Winstead is a plucky heroine cast in the mould of Ripley from the Alien films but she's two-dimensional like the other denizens of the base, not least Ulrich as the pantomime villain. The prequel has a higher body count and lashings of gore but lacks visual invention and skin-crawling scares that distinguished the earlier picture. Crucially, we second-guess screenwriter Eric Heisserer, correctly anticipating the twists and turns before the inevitable final showdown. A two-disc set comprising the 1982 version of The Thing and this remake is also available.

Rating: *** Justice (Cert 15, 100 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, Thriller/Action, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Jennifer Carpenter, Harold Perrineau, Xander Berkeley, Jason Davis.

New Orleans high school teacher Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage) is devastated when his beautiful musician wife, Laura (January Jones), is robbed and sexually assaulted on her way home from rehearsal. In the hospital waiting room, Will is approached by an enigmatic stranger called Simon (Guy Pearce), who offers to save the couple from a distressing court trial by doling out tough justice to the rapist. All Will has to do is to agree to return the favour at some point in the future. Six months after entering the pact, Simon contacts Will to collect the debt by asking the teacher to kill a paedophile (Jason Davis). When Will refuses, Simon ups the stakes, jeopardising the teacher's relationship with his suspicious wife and best friend Jimmy (Harold Perrineau). Justice is an incendiary tale of revenge, directed with workmanlike efficiency by Roger Donaldson, who makes good use of the New Orleans locations to paint the city as a miasma of bright lights and noise. While we sympathise with Cage's husband, we don't share his sense of indignation, and screen chemistry with Jones is a tad chilly. Pearce is a far better actor than he's permitted to demonstrate here, rarely allowing emotion to register on his chiseled features. The more convoluted the narrative becomes, twisting and turning as hunters become the hunted, the quicker our interest wanes. Screenwriter Robert Tannen grafts decent action sequences onto his compelling main plot but for all of the fire and brimstone spouted by the characters as they wrestle with their consciences, we're largely unmoved.

Rating: ** The Awakening (Cert PG, 102 mins, Studio Canal, Thriller/Horror/Romance, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £22.99) Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Lucy Cohu, John Shrapnel, Joseph Mawle.

Renowned author Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) leads the crusade against bogus psychics and mediums who are swindling innocent people out of their savings. She is approached by history teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West), who fears the corridors of his school are haunted. Florence travels to the countryside just as term is ending, where she meets the school's matron Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) and handyman Edward Judd (Joseph Mawle), who clearly bears a grudge against Robert. The adults are joined by pupil Tom (Isaac Hempstead Wright), whose parents are away in India so the poor lad is forced to spend the holidays in the dorms. Florence sets up her usual array of cameras and scientific experiments to determine if there is any genuine psychic activity. In the course of her investigation, Florence experiences disturbing visions and she begins to wonder if all the supernatural mumbo jumbo might actually be true. The Awakening lacks shocks and scares and the mood is unsettling rather than creepy or deeply disturbing. Performances are solid, galvanised by a suitably nervous supporting turn from the imperious Staunton, but there is little here we haven't seen or jumped at before. First-time feature director Nick Murphy, who co-wrote the script with Stephen Volk, generates a modicum of tension within the confines of his sprawling location and cinematographer Eduard Grau seduces our eyes. However, the script's pacing is pedestrian and the revelations of the final 10 minutes strain credibility, reaching breaking point with a finale that is physically impossible given the information at our disposal.

Rating: *** Also released The Big Year (Cert PG, 96 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Comedy/Drama, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99 - see below) Oslo, August 31st (Cert 15, 90 mins, Soda Pictures Ltd, Drama, also available to buy DVD £17.99 - see below) Ra.One (Cert 12, 149 mins, Eros International, Bollywood/Sci-Fi/Action, also available to buy DVD £14.99/Blu-ray £22.99 - see below) Wuthering Heights (Cert 15, 125 mins, Artificial Eye, Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below) New to buy on DVD/Blu-Ray Kidnap And Ransom - Series Two (Cert 15, 135 mins, Fremantle Home Entertainment, DVD £14.99, Thriller/Drama/Action) Seasoned hostage negotiator Dominic King (Trevor Eve) faces his most precarious assignment yet, attempting to resolve a siege aboard a bus in the second series of the gripping ITV1 drama. Haunted by his failure to rescue a hostage from a violent gang, Dominic travels to India where he and associate Angela (Helen Baxendale) successfully secure the release of Mehta family. However, police gatecrash the handover and the captors storm a nearby tourist bus, taking hostage everyone aboard including Florence Holland (Kimberley Nixon), the resourceful daughter of a high-ranking British politician (Owen Teale).

Top Gear: The Great Adventures - Volume 5 (Cert PG, 170 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £15.99, Special Interest) Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May put the pedal to the metal in two special editions of the popular motoring programme. Firstly, the speedy trio visits Mumbai, Jaipur and Delhi to promote three old-fashioned British cars by taking part in various madcap challenges including pitting these vehicles against the perilous terrain of the Himalayas. Then Jeremy, Richard and James jump behind the wheels of three supercars - the Lamborghini Aventador, the Noble M600 and the McLaren MP4-12C - to test their speed on the Nardo Ring and draw envious glances on the streets of Rome.

The Big Year (Cert PG, 96 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Comedy/Drama) David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) directs this gentle comedy following the exploits of a group of birdwatchers. Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), Brad Harris (Jack Black) and Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson) are three friendly rivals, each of whom has arrived at a crossroads. All are facing crises, which could shape the course of their lives. Tired of responsibilities and their respective obligations, Stu, Brad and Kenny dedicate an entire year to following their dreams, embarking on an epic, cross-country journey that brings them into contact with colourful and alluring women such as Annie (Anjelica Huston), Ellie (Rashida Jones) and Jessica (Rosamund Pike).

Wuthering Heights (Cert 15, 125 mins, Artificial Eye, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Drama/Romance) Acclaimed British director Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) breathes new life into Emily Bronte's classic, remaining faithful to the gritty and bleak source novel as young lovers battle against the prejudices of the era to find their way back to one another. Yorkshire hill farmer Mr Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) visits Liverpool and discovers a young black boy called Heathcliff (Solomon Glave) living on the streets. The landowner takes pity on the lad and returns home to the isolated Yorkshire moors where he integrates the youngster into his family, much to the chagrin of his own son, Hindley (Lee Shaw). Heathcliff forges an obsessive relationship with the farmer's daughter, Cathy (Shannon Beer). As Heathcliff and Cathy enter adulthood (now played by James Howson and Kaya Scodelario), their attraction is still tangible, sparking a chain of events that leaves devastation in their wake.

Ra.One (Cert 12, 149 mins, Eros International, DVD £14.99/Blu-ray £22.99, Bollywood/Sci-Fi/Action) Video game designer Shekhar Subramanium (Shah Rukh Khan) is struggling to connect to his son Prateet (Armaan Verma) to the despair of his wife, Sonia (Kareena Kapoor). Despite all of his best efforts to relate to the youngster, Shekhar fails to impress the boy, until he designs the ultimate game that takes the world by storm. Suddenly, Shekhar is the coolest father on the planet and the family comes together in his hour of triumph. However, the game and its hero, Ra.One (Arjun Rampal), start to take over the lives of the Subramaniums, plunging the entire family into an adventure beyond their wildest imaginations. Faced with a fantastical world that he designed, Shekhar takes on an alter ego, G.One, to manoeuvre through the game and ensure that he remains close to the people he loves.

The Chemical Brothers: Don't Think (Cert PG, 88 mins, EMI UK, DVD £21.99/Special Edition Expanded DVD £42.99/Blu-ray £28.99, Documentary/Musical) This energetic concert film captures the excitement of a Chemical Brothers concert, directed by Adam Smith, who has been collaborating for many years with group members Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons on the visuals used in their live shows. Twenty cameras at the Fujirock festival in Japan relay the entire performance, from the first electronic pulses of fingers on keyboards to the deafening roar of the 50,000-strong crowd after an electrifying encore. The film unfolds from myriad perspectives, offering a fan's eye view of the action of stage, with occasional moments of magical realism as members of the crowd explore the festival's unique setting in a darkened wood halfway up the side of a mountain. All versions of the film include a separate CD of the concert, plus a special edition DVD including never-before-seen behind the scenes footage and an interview with director Smith in exclusive packaging is also available.

Dirk Gently (Cert 12, 229 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Comedy/Drama) Based on the book Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, the comedy drama mini-series stars Stephen Mangan as the eponymous sleuth, whose unconventional approach to crime-solving sometimes makes him a laughing stock. With the help of his trusty sidekick Richard Macduff (Darren Boyd), Gently sets out to solve a series of murders but unthinkably, he becomes the prime suspect for the slayings.

Oslo, August 31st (Cert 15, 90 mins, Soda Pictures Ltd, DVD £17.99, Drama) Norwegian director Joachim Trier explores the perils of modern living in his second feature, based on the novel by Pierre Drieu la Rochelle. Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) is a recovering heroin addict, whose year-long drug rehabilitation at a facility in the countryside is nearing its completion. Unbeknown to his counsellors, Anders attempts suicide shortly before he is granted time away from the facility to attend a job interview. He takes advantage of this freedom to reconnect with people he hasn't seen for months. It soon becomes clear to Anders that he has let a lot of his friends and family down and he has squandered countless opportunities. As day becomes night, the emotionally scarred thirty-something must lay the ghosts of the past to rest in order to see a brighter future when dawn breaks.

Kill Keith (Cert 15, 90 mins, Metrodome Distribution, DVD £15.99, Horror/Comedy) Top-rated breakfast television show Crack Of Dawn has been fronted for years by presenters Cliff (David Easter) and Dawn (Susannah Fielding). When Cliff announces that he is stepping down from his role in the spotlight, producers draw up a shortlist of potential replacements, among them Tony Blackburn, Keith Chegwin, Russell Grant and Joe Pasquale. One by one, these household names are found murdered, leaving just Cheggers as the target for a deranged and celebrity-obsessed 'cereal' killer in a spoof horror directed by Andy Thompson.

Desi Boyz (Cert 12, 116 mins, Eros International, DVD £14.99/Blu-ray £22.99, Bollywood/Drama) Two friends radically alter the course of their lives to deal with the global financial crisis in Rohit Dhawan's Bollywood drama. Investment banker Nick Mathur (John Abraham) has an expensive apartment in London, which he shares with his beautiful and devoted fiancee, Radhika (Deepika Padukone). Nick always has money to burn so the dire headlines about financial turmoil don't trouble him, nor slacker best friend Jerry Patel (Akshay Kumar), who doesn't need a job when he can rely on Nick to pay his way. Then the recession bites at Nick's company and unexpectedly he is downsized and flung out into the overcrowded job market. The city slicker has to dust himself off in order to get a foothold on the first rung of the career ladder again. Meanwhile, Jerry discovers that if he doesn't find employment, social services will take his young nephew Veer (Omi Vaidya) into care.

Mausam (Cert 12, 160 mins, Eros International, DVD £14.99, Bollywood/Drama/Romance) Pankaj Kapoor writes and directs this sweeping Bollywood romance about soulmates torn apart by religious conflict and political hostilities. Punjabi boy Harry (Shahid Kapoor) and Kashmir refugee Aayat (Sonam Kapoor) meet as adolescents in a small village of Punjab. The seeds of attraction blossom into first love but then Aayat is spirited away by her family while Harry pursues his dreams as a Punjabi Air Force Captain, always believing that one day he will be reunited with his beloved. For many years, they are kept apart and then a mission brings Harry to Kashmir where he is drawn back into the path of Aayat and can finally discover whether they are destined to be together.

Archer - The Complete Season Two (Cert 18, 340 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Animation/Comedy/Action/Romance) A further 13 episodes of the raunchy animated series following the missions of suave master spy Sterling Archer (voiced by H Jon Benjamin), whose exploits would leave even James Bond shaken and disturbed. This series, Archer faces the prospect of terminal illness and searches for his father's true identity. Meanwhile, his boss Malory (Jessica Walter) at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) continues to dispatch Archer around the globe, clashing with enemy agents and the nymphomaniac daughter of a Swiss billionaire.

Khushiyaan - Moments Of Happiness (Cert U, 130 mins, Eros International, DVD £9.99, Bollywood/Drama) Raj (Jasbir Jassi) has made numerous sacrifices to clamber up the career ladder in New York City where he is a successful architect. He has a beautiful wife, Juhi (Tisca Chopra), who works as a corporate headhunter, and an adorable six-year-old son, Neal (Shrey Bawa). However, professional triumphs have come at a cost - Raj has almost severed ties with his ageing father (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), whom he greatly admires. In order to make peace, Raj leaves behind his high-flying life in the city to travel back to his small village in the Punjab. There, the architect reconnects with his roots and learns that you should always put family first.

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