A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith.
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.
The Artist (Cert PG, 96 mins, Entertainment In Video, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £24.99/Blu-ray £29.99).
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, Penelope Miller, John Goodman.
Handsome and romantically unattached screen idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) sets hearts aflutter. His films are greeted with rapturous applause and female fans clamour for his autograph. On the set of his latest production, George meets aspiring starlet Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) and he is smitten, adding the beauty spot to her face that becomes her trademark. With the advent of sound, George's fortunes wane and Peppy's star ascends into the stratosphere to the delight of cigar-smoking studio boss, Zimmer (John Goodman). Fame is fickle and George and his trusty manservant Clifton (James Cromwell) fall on painfully hard times, with no obvious end to their misery. The Artist is a gorgeous black and white silent, which collected five Oscars earlier this year including Best Picture and Best Director. Stripped bare of expository dialogue, expensive set pieces and digital trickery, Michel Hazanavicius's love letter to the moving image is tender, romantic and incredibly funny, reminding us that the beating heart of any film is human emotion. Here, a single lingering glance, underscored by composer Ludovic Bource's grand orchestration, speaks louder and clearer than reams of impassioned and heartfelt confession. Dujardin is a debonair and charismatic leading man and there is simmering screen chemistry with the luminous Bejo. George's performing dog scene-steals with tail-wagging gusto, proving that man's best friend is also his fiercest competition for the limelight. Hazanavicius replicates film-making techniques of the past to create a warm, witty and swoonsome love story that will charm and beguile modern viewers with elan.
Rating: **** Chronicle (Cert 15, 80 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/Extended Edition Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan, Ashley Hinshaw, Michael Kelly, Bo Petersen.
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is powerless to help his bed-ridden mother (Bo Petersen) fight the terminal illness that has stripped away her dignity. He suffers in silence, weathering the beatings from his alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and persistent bullying at school. Late one night, Andrew, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and high school golden boy Steve (Michael B Jordan) discover a strange artefact in a crater. Soon after, they are blessed with powers of flight, telekinesis and invulnerability. At first, the students employ the new-found abilities for laddish amusement. However, once Andrew's deep-seated rage takes control of his powers, it's only a matter of time before darkness envelops him. Chronicle is an impressive sci-fi thriller, which imagines the catastrophic consequences for three friends when they are gifted incredible mental and physical skills. Director Josh Trank opens through the lens of an old-fashioned video camera that Andrew has just purchased, establishing a verite stylistic conceit, which works extremely well for the final showdown when the film cuts quickly between Andrew's video recording, mobile phones, CCTV and police helicopter surveillance. Visual effects are largely polished although some do not meld seamlessly with the live action. Max Landis's script wrong-foots us on several occasions, not least when a pivotal character is dispatched relatively early into proceedings. Performances from the largely unknown cast are uniformly strong, led by DeHaan as the dutiful son, who learns to his cost that with great power comes great irresponsibility. One version of the Blu-ray includes an Extended Version of the film, which incorporates five minutes of previously unseen footage.
Rating: *** Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Cert PG, 90 mins, Warner Home Video, Action/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99/3D Blu-ray £29.99) Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Michael Caine, Luis Guzman, Kristin Davis.
Truculent 17-year-old Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) breaks a coded distress signal emanating from the South Pacific with the help of his Navy vet stepfather, Hank (Dwayne Johnson). The message seems to confirm the existence of the mysterious island from Jules Verne's 1874 book and Hank accompanies Sean to the co-ordinates to prove Vernian fantasy has no grounding in fact. In New Guinea, they charter a helicopter belonging to wisecracking pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his sassy daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens). The motley crew fly into the eye of a hurricane and are spewed out onto sandy shores where Sean's gung-ho grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine) guides the newcomers through jungles teeming with danger before a volcanic eruption threatens to plunge the land mass into the churning waters. Directed with vim by Brad Peyton, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is an old-fashioned, gung-ho adventure, which continues the story of characters from the 2008 romp Journey To The Center Of The Earth. Peyton's film unfolds at a cracking pace including an airborne chase on giant bees and an encounter with a fiercely protective mother lizard. The cast embraces the preposterousness, no one with more winks than Johnson and his "popping pecs". Hutcherson and Hudgens conduct a sweet, chaste romance in the lulls between each computer-generated storm, while Caine barely breaks a sweat as the cantankerous old-timer with a twinkle in his eye. Screenwriters Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn shamelessly peddle cliches as the narrative glue between impressively staged set pieces. One version of the Blu-ray includes the 3D version of the film.
Rating: *** Martha Marcy May Marlene (Cert 15, 97 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Drama/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet.
Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is an emotionally damaged young woman, who thinks she has found sanctuary with Patrick (John Hawkes) and his flock in the Catskills Mountains. Instead, she is indoctrinated into a cult that sexually abuses the female members and breaks into homes, stealing food and money from the unsuspecting owners. After two years of captivity, Martha decides to break free of her emotional shackles and she flees the compound, calling her estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and architect brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy) for help. They spirit her to their plush home and Martha nervously re-assimilates into her new surroundings putting a strain on the relationship between Lucy and Ted. Just as Martha begins to relax, she senses that the cult may be watching her, preparing to take her back into the fold, with force if necessary. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a riveting low budget thriller about an outcast struggling to wriggle free of the clutches of an abusive community that does not take kindly to defectors. Olsen delivers a mesmerising lead performance that deserved inclusion on this year's Oscars shortlist, taking us inside the troubled mind of a fallen disciple, who is riven by paranoia. Writer-director Sean Durkin orchestrates one moment of pure, unvarnished terror when the cult breaks into a home to steal valuables, unaware the owner is upstairs. The knot of tension in our stomachs gradually tightens, and is almost unbearable by the unsettling and ambiguous closing frames. Like the heroine, we're relieved to escape.