weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith.
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (Cert 12, 125 mins, Warner Home Video, Action/Drama/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/2-Film DVD Collection £22.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £26.99/2-Film Blu-ray Collection £29.99).
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Paul Anderson.
Newspapers are full of shocking headlines about anarchist bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna, the overdose of a Chinese opium dealer and the death of an American steel magnate. Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) deduces these events are linked to Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) and the sleuth persuades sidekick Dr John Watson (Jude Law) to join him on one final globe-trotting adventure. En route, the pair encounter Gypsy fortune teller Sim (Noomi Rapace) and Sherlock's brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry). A bruising battle of wits with Moriarty becomes personal when the diabolical professor promises to make Watson and his new wife (Kelly Reilly) suffer for Holmes's meddling. Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows is a sporadically entertaining jaunt. Downey Jr and Law ease back into familiar roles as the quixotic genius and his strait-laced foil, Rapace is suitably feisty in her first English-speaking role and Harris chews on every syllable with menacing intent. There are some sparkling comic interludes, such as when Holmes explains his aversion to horseback travel: "Why would I want something bobbing about between my legs with a mind of its own?!" Fry is a delight as pompous, pontificating Mycroft, including a hysterical sequence reminiscent of Austin Powers, which sees Sherlock's sibling wander naked about his home, sparing his blushes (and ours) with strategically placed furnishings. The dense narrative taxes what Hercule Poirot referred to as the "little grey cells", connecting minuscule clues in Sherlock's mind through high-speed flashbacks. Sinewy plot strands will probably tie younger viewers in knots. A two-disc set comprising Sherlock Holmes and the sequel is also available.
Rating: *** Shame (Cert 18, 96 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, Drama, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a handsome thirtysomething office worker who is never short of bedfellows, including one of the secretaries (Nicole Beharie). Anonymous pick-ups temporarily sate his cravings for physical pleasure but at night he hungrily scours adult sites on the internet. He even indulges his fantasies on his work PC and one morning his boss David (James Badge Dale) calls Brandon into his office to warn, "Your hard drive's filthy". Brandon's routine of soulless couplings and seedy hook-ups is thrown into disarray by the arrival of his younger sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who is carving out a career as a singer. Shame pulls no punches in its depiction of Brandon's base desires. Fassbender rises to the challenge magnificently - no pun intended - portraying his office drone as an empty husk, miserably alone in a city that never sleeps. Mulligan is equally mesmerising, nabbing the film's best moment when Sissy performs in a bar and the camera lingers on her face as she sings a heartbreaking rendition of New York, New York. Littered with graphic scenes of sex and full-frontal male nudity that fully justify the 18 certificate, Shame is neither erotic nor arousing. Quite the opposite - this piercing study of human behaviour is clinical and non-judgmental, laying bare the flawed characters as they stumble towards the brink of self-destruction without any indication that the director or his co-writer Abi Morgan will pull them back from the abyss. Cinema through Steve McQueen's lens is never cute or fluffy but nor is real life.
Rating: **** Underworld: Awakening (Cert 18, 85 mins, Entertainment In Video, Action/Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Underworld Collection DVD Box Set £34.99/3D Blu-ray £24.99/Underworld Collection Blu-ray Box Set £44.99) Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Theo James, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Kris Holden-Ried, Charles Dance.
Governments around the world learn of the existence of Vampires and Lycans, and the bitter war that has raged unseen for centuries. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is captured in the subsequent melee and she is cryogenically imprisoned until 12-year-old Eve (India Eisley) rouses her from her icy slumber. Mother and child escape and evil medic Dr Lane (Stephen Rea) despatches his lupine henchman Quint (Kris Holden-Ried) to recapture the girl. Selene and Eve seek sanctuary in an underground vampire coven ruled by Thomas (Charles Dance) and his son David (Theo James), where they prepare for a titanic showdown aided by sympathetic police detective Sebastian (Michael Ealy). Underworld: Awakening is, ironically, a soporific affair that should thrust a final stake through the franchise's barely beating heart. Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein's film touches briefly upon themes of scientific meddling, genocide and inheritance but it would be folly to regard Awakening as anything more than a miasma of pyrotechnics. Beckinsale looks sexy and mean as she discharges guns while performing gymnastic feats in a costume that should chafe in all of the wrong places. Rea forgets to deliver a performance and the visual effects team blitzkriegs our weary senses with werewolves that lack realistic movement. The Swedish directors keep the blood flowing in the orgiastic fight sequences, replete with slow-motion acrobatics and hyperkinetic editing. Alas, the step on Beckinsale's kick-ass leather boots has more depth than most of the characters in the film's ramshackle script. The 3D version of the film is available exclusively on Blu-ray. A four-disc set comprising Underworld and the three sequels is also available.
Rating: ** The Sitter (Cert 15, 78 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Jonah Hill, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Max Records, Erin Daniels, Sam Rockwell.
A college student discovers that babysitting isn't the breeze he thought it would be in this foul-mouthed comedy from director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness). Noah (Jonah Hill) lives with his mother at home, where he struggles to find purpose. He is forcibly persuaded to babysit for next-door neighbour Mrs Pedulla (Erin Daniels), leaving him in charge of her three dysfunctional kids: wild child Blithe (Landry Bender), adopted son Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) and the enigmatic Slater (Max Records). Soon after, Noah's girlfriend Marisa (Ari Graynor) telephones with the promise of a night to remember if he will agree to bring her some drugs to the party she is attending. So Noah bundles the children into Mrs Pedulla's mini-van and heads into the night to buy a stash from dealer Karl (Sam Rockwell). A simple transaction escalates into a nightmare that Noah will never forget. What goes up must come down and after the ecstasy of an Oscar nomination for Moneyball as Best Supporting Actor, leading man Hill hits terra firma with an almighty bang in this ham-fisted comedy. It's difficult to find anything to like about The Sitter, even the central character, who is insipidly nice and caring in a world that treats him like a doormat. The life lessons come thick and fast for Noah and his tyke trio, running the gamut of race, sexual orientation and self-belief. All very noble, but when these lessons are delivered in such a sluggish and humourless fashion, we quickly tune out.
Rating: * Also released The Divide (Cert 18, 107 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £12.99 - see below) Hadewijch (Cert 12, 101 mins, Drakes Avenue Pictures, Drama, also available to buy DVD £15.99 - see below) Snow Flower And The Secret Fan (Cert 12, 100 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £12.99 - see below) New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray The Divide (Cert 18, 107 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, DVD £12.99, Action/Thriller) The future is far from bright in this post-apocalyptic horror directed by Xavier Gens. A nuclear device detonates on Manhattan, reducing the island to rubble. As survivors scurry for refuge from the blast and the radioactive fallout, janitor Mickey (Michael Biehn) reluctantly welcomes strangers into his underground bunker - among them are Adrien (Ashton Holmes), Delvin (Courtney B Vance), Eva (Lauren German), Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) and Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette). Gripped by fear, the survivors bicker about the best course of action while Mickey attempts to assert his control as the owner of the facility. However, matters take a turn for the worst when a rescue team dressed in biohazard suits drags away one of the group and the survivors retaliate by killing their supposed saviours. In response, the men in suits seal tight the bunker from the outside, trapping Mickey and co below ground where tempers explode.
Snow Flower And The Secret Fan (Cert 12, 100 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £12.99, Drama/Romance) Wayne Wang directs this lavish historical drama based on the novel by Lisa See set in 19th century China. Lily (Li Bingbing) and Snow Flower (Jun Gianna) are close friends who grow up in the Hunan province at a time when women are treated as property by their husbands. Snow Flower comes from a wealthy family while Lily's parents are lowly, yet both young women dream of bright futures. Against the odds, Lily marries well and she becomes Lady Lu, one of the most influential women in the region, providing three strapping sons and a daughter for her husband. Alas, Snow Flower is not so fortunate and she marries an abusive butcher, who doles out fierce beatings with horrifying regularity.
Silent Witness - Series Fifteen (Cert 15, 708 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £24.99, Thriller/Drama) Three-disc set of two-part investigations from the popular BBC One crime series, which recently drew hundreds of complaints from viewers for the disturbing violence in one storyline. This series, Dr Leo Dalton (William Gaminara), Dr Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward), and Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) probe multiple murders at a farmhouse, re-open a cold case of sexual abuse and journey into the disturbing underworld of teenage sex trafficking. The DVD includes Death Has No Dominion, Domestic, Paradise Lost, Redhill, Fear and And Then I Fell In Love.
Hadewijch (Cert 12, 101 mins, Drakes Avenue Pictures, DVD £15.99, Drama) Religious fervour propels a young woman down a path to self-destruction in Bruno Dumont's haunting drama. Hadewijch (Julie Sokolowski) is evicted from her picturesque countryside convent by the Mother Superior (Brigitte Mayeux-Clergot), who fears that Hadewijch's unswerving devotion to God is unhealthy. The young woman reverts to her birth name, Celine, and meets a handsome Muslim called Yassine (Yassine Salim), who in turn introduces her to his radicalised brother, Nassir (Karl Sarafidis). The older Muslim exploits Celine's love for Jesus to involve her in a sickening terrorist attack on the Paris Metro.