A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray The Dictator (The Extended Cut) (Cert 15, 93 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £27.99) Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Sir Ben Kingsley, Adeel Akhtar, John C Reilly, Kevin Corrigan, Kathryn Hahn.
Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is tyrannical ruler of the African state of Wadiya. During a visit to "the Devil's nest" of America to address the United Nations, Aladeen is usurped by his duplicitous brother Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley) and cast adrift on the streets, without his trademark beard or any form of identification. Zoey (Anna Faris), the tomboyish manager of a vegan feminist non-profit co-operative, takes pity on Aladeen, who she accepts as an immigrant called Allison Burgers. Sparks of romance are continually extinguished by Aladeen's bigotry. "I love it when a woman goes to school," he sniggers to Zoey, who boasts a college education. "It's like seeing a monkey on roller skates - it seems important to them, but it's so adorable for us." Eventually, Zoey discovers the truth about Allison and the fledgling romance is tested to the limit. The Dictator is a gleefully bad taste fish-out-of-water comedy, which kicks sand in the eye of political correctness. No subject is off limits for the scriptwriters - the September 11 attacks, rape, sexual equality, Judaism - who trample merrily over social taboos, hitting more targets than they miss as the titular despot runs amok in the capitalist playground of New York City. Larry Charles's film delights and disturbs, careening from razor sharp satire to a Monty Python-esque birthing scene, shot through the dilating cervix of an expectant mother (Kathryn Hahn). Judged on the number of belly laughs The Dictator packs into 93 minutes, and ignoring the occasional lulls, it's a rousing success.
Rating: **** The Angels' Share (Cert 18, 101 mins, Entertainment One, Comedy/Drama, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Paul Brannigan, Gary Maitland, William Ruane, Jasmine Riggins, John Henshaw, Roger Allam.
Robbie (Paul Brannigan) and fellow community service reprobates Albert (Gary Maitland), Rhino (William Ruane) and Mo (Jasmin Riggins) hatch a hare-brained plan to steal four bottles of the most expensive whisky in the world, rumoured to be worth £1 million at auction. The wastrels already have an eager buyer lined up - connoisseur Thaddeus (Roger Allam) - who will pay handsomely for the intoxicating nectar, which he will then sell on to his wealthy clients. All Robbie and his pals have to do is keep their illegal plan secret from their community service supervisor (John Henshaw) and avoid detection at the highland distillery, where the whisky is under 24-hour guard. Taking its title from the 2% of alcohol that evaporates through an oak cask during the ageing process, The Angels' Share is one of director Ken Loach's most upbeat, crowd-pleasing slices of life. The emphasis in this bittersweet modern-day fable is on the sweet, so it's no surprise that earlier this year the esteemed jury in Cannes awarded the feature their coveted prize. Loach distils excellent performances from his ensemble cast and screenwriter Paul Laverty underscores touching sentiment with raw emotion and earthy humour, such as when the lads don kilts for their adventure up north and the traditional attire does not agree with Albert. "My meat and two veg are taking a hammering here!" he complains bitterly as the heat and his sporran take their toll. Cheers!
Rating: **** The Cabin In The Woods (Cert 15, 91 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Horror/Thriller/Comedy/Romance/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Brian White.
Bookish college student Dana (Kristen Connolly) is looking forward to a jaunt into the great outdoors with blonde friend Jules (Anna Hutchison) and her jock boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth), and bong-smoking slacker Marty (Fran Kranz). Curt invites along his shy and sensitive buddy Holden (Jesse Williams), principally as a date for Dana, and the five thrill-seekers head into the mountains to a remote log cabin. Meanwhile, deep within an underground bunker, scientists Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) stare at CCTV screens, which seem to be following the progress of the students towards a grisly fate. The Cabin In The Woods attempts to reinvigorate the horror genre with this slick tale of college kids in peril that is three parts bonkers to one part twisted genius. For the opening five minutes, making sense of the madness in Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's hare-brained method takes up most of our attention, which is no bad thing given how thinly characters are sketched. There are some big laughs and lashings of gore, including a possessed zombie appendage that lends a hand at a crucial juncture. The young cast embrace their genre archetypes, screaming or disrobing on cue, while Kranz plays his stoner with aplomb. A big reveal in the closing minutes is a humdinger, including a cameo from a big name Hollywood star. For all of its audacity and deliciously off-kilter humour, the various elements don't gel seamlessly and once the writers' grand plan is laid out before us, we feel slightly underwhelmed.
Rating: *** The Raid (Cert 18, 96 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Satrya, Iang Darmawan.
Rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is part of an ill-prepared Swat team charged with infiltrating a 15-storey apartment block, which doubles as the headquarters of notorious drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy) and his sadistic henchmen Andi (Doni Alamsyah) and Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian). Led by Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) and Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), the cops have one simple and admittedly difficult objective: fight their way to the top floor and destroy Tama's criminal network. En route, they must fight machete-wielding and gun-toting residents who have been promised a princely sum to slay the cops outside their front doors. The Raid is a blitzkrieg of severed appendages and broken bones, which threatens to overdose even the greediest adrenaline junkie on blood-spurting, visceral thrills. Welsh-born writer-director Gareth Evans and Indonesia's most daring fight choreographers and stunt performers pull out all the stops to deliver an orgy of carnage and fractured limbs. Performances are perfunctory amid the bravura skirmishes, led by the charismatic Uwais, who throws himself into the melee, including one jaw-dropping leap out of a window which sees him use the disoriented bad guy in his arms to soften the bone-shattering impact with the concrete floor. Evans hangs his outrageous, death-defying action on a gossamer-thin plot, orchestrating brawls at breakneck speed. Violence is so graphic, occasionally we have to look away: not least when a thug tries to flush Rama out of hiding by forcing a machete through a hollow partition and the blade slices into the cop's face. Turning the other cheek at this point is not an option.
Rating: *** How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Cert 15, 92 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Action/Thriller/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Dolores Heredia, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Peter Stormare.
Veteran thief Driver (Gibson) crashes a getaway car containing millions of dollars pilfered from short-tempered mobster Frank (Peter Stormare) on the Mexican side of the border, where the local cops pocket the cash and throw Driver into El Pueblito - a petri dish of festering human life. A tender bond develops between Driver, a 10-year-old urchin (Kevin Hernandez) and the boy's ballsy mother (Dolores Heredia). It transpires the tyke has the same rare blood type as cartel boss Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), who runs operations inside the prison, and is therefore a viable liver donor. Needless to say, Driver isn't thrilled about anyone removing organs from his pint-sized sidekick and he dares to stand up to Javi and his goons with explosive consequences. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a grimy and darkly comic thriller that upends our preconceptions. Gibson embraces the twisted humour in his droll running commentary that addresses us as "boys and girls" and passes scathing judgment on everyone he meets. The actor puts aside off-screen personal traumas to play his grizzled gringo with roguish charm. We're almost won over. Adrian Grunberg's directorial debut has its moments, including some uproarious one-liners and a breathless adrenaline-fuelled shootout. The fractious relationship between Driver and the boy provides a hook for the energetic set pieces but Grunberg struggles to mesh the gore, including an exploding eyeball, and macabre humour.