Gomorrah (Optimum): One of the outstanding films of last year was this dark exploration of crime in modern day Italy directed by Matteo Garrone. The narrative was based on true life stories from Roberto Saviano’s bestselling book about the Comorrah, a criminal organisation centred around southern Italy (especially Naples and Caserta).
There is a 13-year-old boy (Salvatore Abruzzese) who falls in with a criminal gang; a messenger (Gianfelice Imparato) who pays the families of prisoners; a young graduate (Carmine Paternoster) who gets involved in toxic waste management; a tailor (Salvatore Cantalupo) who wants to break free of local suppliers and two wannabe gangsters (Marco Macor and Ciro Petrone) who find a stash of weapons and want to act like Scarface.
It is impeccably cast and the ensemble acting was terrific, but the film also creates a hellishly believable modern landscape far removed from that of mob movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas or The Sopranos.
This was a world riddled with poverty, tension and despair where crime infects everyone like a rampant virus. It paints a devastating picture not only of modern Italy, but also how the tentacles of the Comorrah spread out to the wider world.
The film scooped the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, where it deservedly screened to critical acclaim. Although at times it was an uncomfortable and brutal film to watch, it remains one of the most powerful and haunting crime films of the last decade.
It is available on 2-Disc DVD and Blu-ray Disc and the extras on both include:
- Interview with Roberto Saviano
- Interview with Toni Servillo, Salvatore Cantalupo, Gianfelice Imparato
- Deleted Scenes
- Gomorrah – 5 Stories: Making Of featurette
On DVD the film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with stereo and 5.1 surround audio and English subtitles. On Blu-ray the film is presented in 1080P 2.35:1 widescreen with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and optional English subtitles.
* Listen to our interview with Matteo Garrone about Gomorrah *
I’ve Loved You So Long (Lionsgate): An intelligent and beautifully crafted portrayal of family love which revolved around two sisters named Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), who reconnect with one another after a prolonged absence.
To say too much about the plot would spoil the cleverly constructed narrative which gradually reveals their past and the reasons as to why they have been separated for so long.
Writer and director Philippe Claudel was better known as a novelist in his native France and this also shares many of the pleasures of well written fiction: nuanced characters, slow burning emotions and a real sense of the complexities of human relationships.
This is a film in which a lot of characters spend a lot of time in rooms talking about themselves, but at the same time manages to burrow deeply into the tangled emotions of it’s protagonist.
Much of the power comes from two marvellous central performances and Scott Thomas proved what a captivating screen presence in what is arguably the performance of her career so far.
It is available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc and the extras on both include:
- Interview with Philippe Claudel
- Deleted Scenes
- Deleted Scenes with Audio Commentary
Burn After Reading (Universal): After the Oscar winning triumph of No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers return to more comic ground with this tale of a demoted CIA agent (John Malkovich) who loses the manuscript to his memoirs and then gets blackmailed by two clueless gym workers (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt).
George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins and J.K. Simmons round out an impressive cast but this is actually a very quirky and mannered comedy. Critical reaction was mixed when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival and there is no doubt that some will find it a chilly, even condescending, film with its characters nearly all appearing to be either stupid, vain or clueless.
Despite some critics disliking it, I found much of it a welcome satire on the unapologetic idiocy of the Bush era, with some excellent comic performances. Universal will be hoping for a repeat of the US box office performance, in which the starry cast helped sell what is actually quite an uncommercial film in many respects.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray, it comes with the following extras:
- Finding the Burn – The Making of Burn After Reading
- DC Insiders Run Amuck – An all-star cast creates the world of Washington, DC, insiders all trying to get ahead or find true love
- Welcome Back, George – This comedy piece features Mr. Clooney as he returns for his third collaboration with Ethan and Joel
Against the Dark aka Late Night (Sony)
Are You Ready for Love? (Sony)
Bad Girls: The Musical (2Entertain)
Beehive: Series 1 (C4 DVD)
Death Defying Acts (Lionsgate)
Death Note – Volume 4 (Manga)
Hit and Run (Fox)
Merlin – Volume 2 (2 Entertain)
Moscow Zero (Sony)
Nights in Rodanthe (Warner)
Open Season 2 (Sony)
Plus One: Series 1 (C4 DVD)
Star Fleet: The Complete Series (Fremantle)
Strictly Come Dancing: The Best of 2008 (2Entertain)
The Escapist (Vertigo Films)
The Gigolos (BFI)
The Heart of the Earth (Metrodome)
The House Bunny (Sony)
The Hunting Party (Momentum)
The Joy of Sex Education (BFI)
The New Pink Panther Show – Season 1 (Fox)
The Pink Panther and Friends Triple Pack (Fox)
The Secret Life of Elephants (2Entertain)
The Wackness (Revolver)
They Wait (Metrodome)
Thick as Thieves: The Complete Series (Network)
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