UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 29th March 2010

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DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

2012 (Sony Pictures): Roland Emmerich’s latest big-budget blockbuster sees an ancient Mayan prophecy come true as Earth’s techtonic plates unleash global destruction after a solar flare. An alarmed US government scientist (Chiwetel Ojiofor) discovers the disaster; a limousine driver (John Cusack) struggles to protect his family amidst the chaos; the US president (Danny Glover) tries to be stoic; the chief of staff (Oliver Platt) enacts a secret plan and various other characters all respond differently to the coming apocalypse.

Although the film isn’t in any danger of winning any awards for acting or screenwriting, the set pieces are impressively rendered and the sheer scale of CGI destruction is a sight to behold, even if there are too many ”just in the nick of time’ escapes.

The transfer to Blu-ray is excellent and although sometimes high definition can spotlight weak visual effects, here they stand up very well indeed with tsunamis, earthquakes and collapsing buildings and all manner of destruction coming across in pristine detail.

The extras are fairly extensive too, the most notable being the BD-Live™ enabled movieIQ, which allows you to access updated information on the film’s cast, crew, production and soundtrack while watching the film. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]

Blu-ray Special Features

  • movieIQ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie
  • Interactive Mayan Calendar – Enter a date to reveal your horoscope and personality profile! Delve even further into the secrets by watching Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar
  • Picture-In-Picture: Roland’s Vision-Includes Pre-Visualization, storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with filmmakers, cast and crew
  • Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Designing The End Of The World
  • Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic
  • Science Behind The Destruction
  • The End Of The World: The Actor’s Perspective

DVD Special Features

  • Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic

Stargate (Optimum): The other Roland Emmerich release of the week is his 1994 sci-fi adventure about an academic (James Spader) and a military unit (headed by Kurt Russell) who venture through a teleportation gateway to another planet.

The third collaboration between director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin – they had worked Moon 44 (1990) and Universal Soldier (1992) – was on a bigger budget and they crafted something more entertaining and polished. Here you can see the roots of the mega sci-fi success they would have with Independence Day (1996) – although we’ll politely ignore Godzilla (1998).

Stargate was one of the first Lionsgate Blu-ray releases back in August 2006, but that had hardly any extras and the audio was only lossy DTS High Resolution. This version has both the theatrical and the extended cuts of the movie, and four hours of extras, including three new featurettes, a trivia track, and a gag reel. [Buy the Blu-ray]

The Informant (Warner Home Video): Steven Soderbergh’s latest film bears some resemblance to Erin Brockovich (2000), an entertaining exposé of real life corporate chicanery concerning a biochemist (Matt Damon) who in 1992, became an informant for the FBI after his company got involved in price fixing.

What makes it unusual is the breezy comic tone and the extraordinary behaviour of the central character (who seems to be an undiagnosed manic depressive). Much of the comedy comes from the continual frustration of the FBI with their star witness who often tells the truth, but unfortunately mixes it with lies. It got a rather muted reception on the festival circuit last year, but Damon shows great comic timing in the central role, whilst Marvin Hamlisch’s score and the distinctive visuals (shot by Soderbergh under his regular pseudonym Peter Andrews), all add to the mix. [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]

Homicide – Life On the Street: The Complete Series (Fremantle Home Entertainment): Fans of The Wire can now enjoy the first TV series that was inspired by the reportage of David Simon, as this box set includes all 122 episodes spread over 33 discs. A dark and realistic crime series that ran from 1993-1999, it was adapted from Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the non-fiction book based on his experiences with a Baltimore Police Department homicide unit.

The action centres on the homicide division of an inner-city Baltimore police station, with a large and fluid cast passing through the precinct’s door during the series’ seven seasons on the air. Simon was a consultant and producer on the series and although not as good as The Wire, it is still one of the landmark US TV shows of the 90s. [Buy the DVD]

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ALSO OUT

Bunny and the Bull (Optimum) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Cracks (Optimum) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Planet 51 (EV) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
South Park: Series 13 (Paramount) [Buy the Blu-ray]
The House of the Devil (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Lionsgate UK) [Buy the Blu-ray | Buy the DVD]
Catweazle: The Complete Series
(Network) [Buy the DVD]
Extreme Prejudice (Optimum) [Buy the DVD]
Glorious 39 (Momentum Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
Godzilla (Sony Pictures) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Holly (Soda Pictures)
Impact (Sony Pictures) [Buy the DVD]
Jason and the Argonauts (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [Buy the DVD]
Johnny Handsome (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy the DVD]
Seraphine (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy the DVD]

The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 26th March including The Blind Side and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

UK Cinema Releases: Friday 26th March 2010

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NATIONAL RELEASES

The Blind Side (Warner Bros.): Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar for her role in this true life drama based on Michael Lewis’ best-seller The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a troubled teenager living on the streets when he is taken in by a conservative suburban family, led by the feisty Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock), who help him mature into a talented NFL player.

Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) it is an uplifting tale with Bullock on solid form, although it at times it struggles to avoid sports-movie clichés and overachieved in getting nominated for Best Picture. Warner Bros will be expecting a decent bounce from the Oscar win but US sports films usually struggle to do serious business in Europe. [Odeon West End & Nationwide / 12A]

Nanny Mcphee & The Big Bang (Universal): The sequel to the 2005 fantasy film sees Emma Thompson reprise the title role as the nanny tames an unruly household and seems to change as the children start behaving themselves.

In this film a mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has to deal with her tempestuous offspring, an up-to-no-good brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans) and an absent husband (Ewan McGregor), who’s away fighting in World War II. Like the first film, it has a certain goofy charm but lacks a real spark of magic even though Universal will be expecting solid business from mostly family audiences. [Odeon West End & Nationwide / U]

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ALSO OUT

Perrier’s Bounty (Optimum Releasing): An Irish crime thriller about a loser (Cillian Murphy) who owes a €1,000 to a loan shark (Brendan Gleeson). A decent supporting cast includes Jim Broadbent and Jodie Whittaker, although this looks like it is going to struggle to make an impact at the multiplexes. [Cineworld Haymarket, Vue Fulham & Nationwide / 15]

Lourdes (Artificial Eye): A drama about a wheelchair-bound woman (Sylvie Testud) who travels to the Catholic shrine of Lourdes, directed by Jessica Hausner. [Chelsea Cinema, Curzons Richmond & Soho, Renoir & Key Cities / U]

In The Land Of The Free (Mob Film Co/Roddick Foundation): A documentary about the imprisonment of Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King, three black men from rural Louisiana who were held in solitary confinement in the biggest prison in the U.S., an 18,000-acre former slave plantation known as Angola. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Ritzy & Key Cities / 15]

Lion’s Den (Axiom Films): An Argentinian drama, directed by Pablo Trapero, about a pregnant student (Martina Gusman) sent to a special prison to await trial for a suspected murder.  [Curzon Soho, Odeon Panton St. & Key Cities]

Nightwatching (Axiom Films): Martin Freeman stars as Rembrandt in Peter Greenaway’s exploration of the painter’s great work, The Night Watch. [ICA Cinema & Key Cities]

No One Knows About Persian Cats (Network Releasing): A docu-drama about a group of twentysomething Iranian rock musicians trying to get permission to play a gig in London. [Cine Lumiere, Curzon Soho, Gate, Ritzy & Key Cities / 12A]

Shank (Revolver Entertainment): Another British crime drama about unruly teenagers. [Nationwide / 15]

Storm (Soda Pictures): A drama about a war crimes trial at The Hague focusing on a prosecutor (Kerry Fox) and the Serbian commander who may be responsible for murder in the former Yugoslavia. [Key Cities / 15]

> DVD and Blu-ray Picks for Monday 22nd March including Dumbo, Twin Peaks and Fish Tank
> Get local cinema showtimes for your area via Google Movies