A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith.
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.
A Monster In Paris (Cert U, 90 mins, Entertainment One UK, Animation/Romance/Musical/Comedy/Action, also available to buy DVD £15.99/3D Blu-ray £19.99).
Featuring the voices of: Adam Goldberg, Jay Harrington, Vanessa Paradis, Sean Lennon, Danny Huston.
Cinema projectionist Emile (voiced by Jay Harrington) and truck driver Raoul (Adam Goldberg) fool around with test tubes of strange liquid inside a gargantuan greenhouse. There is a massive explosion and the resulting cloud of gases causes a flea to mutate to hulking proportions. The insect bounds across the city and finds an unlikely ally and musical companion in cabaret chanteuse Lucille (Vanessa Paradis), at the L'Oiseau Rare nightclub. Together, Lucille and the heavily disguised insect, who is christened Franc (Sean Lennon), become the talk of the French capital. When bumbling police commissioner Maynott (Danny Huston), who hopes to win Lucille's affections, discovers his rival is not even human, he decides to secure his re-election by slaying the beast. A Monster In Paris is a computer-animated fable that teaches us to never judge a wingless, blood-sucking parasite by its spiny legs or hairy abdomen. Bibo Bergeron's film puts a colourful, Gallic spin on the classic fairytale of Beauty And The Beast, using the power of song to bring together two characters who are a world (and species) apart. It is an effervescent and mildly entertaining confection that makes good use of the 3D format - available exclusively on Blu-ray - in the action sequences. Characters' back stories are overlooked for the sake of expediency and a little more meat on some of their computer-generated bones would certainly help. Vocal performances are solid and the film sparks to life when Franc grabs a guitar to provide musical accompaniment for Lucille's toe-tapping ditties.
Rating: *** Big Miracle (Cert PG, 102 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Ahmaogak Sweeney, Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, Dermot Mulroney, Tim Blake Nelson, Stephen Root, Kathy Baker, John Michael Higgins.
TV journalist Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) is approaching the end of his stay in Barrow, Alaska, when he spies a whale in the ice and discovers that a small family is trapped far from open water. The animals' one and only air hole is slowly freezing over so Adam hurriedly broadcasts a news item. His old flame Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), who is now a vociferous Greenpeace activist, sees the report and rushes to the scene. Annoyingly for her, Adam seems rather smitten with ambitious Los Angeles reporter Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell), who has arrived in Alaska to cover the story. Amid the bickering, Adam and co concoct a rescue plan, calling upon Governor Haskell (Stephen Root), oil tycoon JW McGraw (Ted Danson) and helicopter pilot Colonel Scott Boyer (Dermot Mulroney) to rally to their desperate cause. Based on the true story of Operation Breakthrough, which captured the imagination of television news stations around the globe, Big Miracle is wholesome entertainment for young and old, guaranteed to warm the cockles despite the endless miles of on-screen snow. Ken Kwapis's film doesn't try anything original or innovative but effectively recounts this amazing story against barren Alaskan locales. Environmental concerns are addressed in a forthright manner, reminding us that we have a collective responsibility to respect and protect the creatures that share our irreparably plundered planet. Jack Amiel and Michael Begler's script adheres largely to fact, relying on Krasinski, Barrymore and Bell to add the flecks of romance and humour to stave off the chill from the elements.
Rating: *** W.E. (Cert 15, 114 mins, Studio Canal, Romance/Drama, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99) Starring: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D'Arcy, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, James Fox, Judy Parfitt, Laurence Fox, Natalie Dormer.
In 1998 Manhattan, Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) is trapped in an abusive marriage to husband William (Richard Coyle). She becomes obsessed with a Sotheby's auction of precious trinkets from the Windsor estate belonging to Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and her royal suitor Edward (James D'Arcy). Wally becomes a regular visitor to the pre-auction showcase, seeking sanctuary in flashbacks to Wallis's trials and tribulations. The abused wife imagines Edward's pleas to his parents (James Fox, Judy Parfitt) and stammering brother Bertie (Laurence Fox) - "I will always love her. All I can ask is that you do the same" - and the paparazzi swarm that engulfed the couple's every move. "You have no idea how hard it is to live out the greatest romance of the century," laments Wallis to one confidante. Back at the auction, Russian security guard Evgeni (Oscar Isaac) catches Wally's eye, offering an escape from her violent and loveless relationship. Co-written by Alek Keshishian, W.E. explores the tumultuous romance that rocked the British monarchy to its foundations. Madonna's second feature behind the camera is peppered with flickers of directorial flair, including a stunning tracking shot of umbrellas in the rain cocooning Cornish from a sudden downpour. However, Madonna's obvious affinity with Simpson - a strong American woman, whose private affairs were splashed across the front pages of the voracious British media - clouds her judgment. The script is a mess and 1990s sequences feel laboured. By contrast, Riseborough and Cornish deliver tour-de-force performances and costumes and art direction are impressive - just what you would expect from a material girl.
Rating: ** Goon (Cert 15, 88 mins, Entertainment One UK, Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber, Marc-Andre Grondin, Kim Coates, David Paetkau, Eugene Levy, Ellen David.
Dim-witted yet lovable Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) works as a bouncer in Orangetown, Massachusetts, to the despair of his Jewish parents (Eugene Levy, Ellen David). At an ice hockey match, a fellow spectator makes a homophobic jibe about Doug's gay brother, Ira (David Paetkau), and the bouncer shows his displeasure with his fists. The coach of the local team is impressed with Doug's fighting skills and best friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) encourages him to try out as an enforcer, who protects team-mates using any part of his battered body. After just one season on the ice, Doug transfers to the Halifax Highlanders in Nova Scotia, where coach Ronnie Hortense (Kim Coates) asks him to protect out-of-form scorer Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) against bullying rival Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber). Adapted from the book by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith, Goon is an endearing celebration of an underdog who found his calling by flooring his opponents. Michael Dowse's film is a pleasant surprise: a macho comedy awash with fisticuffs that slap shots into our affections. Scott strikes a balance between naivete and brutish physicality, and he catalyses warm screen chemistry with Alison Pill as the bad girl, who finds redemption in Doug's doe eyes. "You make me want to stop sleeping with a bunch of guys!" she coos. Scriptwriters Baruchel and Evan Goldberg sketch characters with warmth and gift the ensemble cast with sparkling one-liners, which zing through the air like pucks. The plot stays on its feet, despite a couple of wobbly moments, culminating in a blood-spattered championship showdown.