DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 9th February 2009

UK DVD Picks 09-02-09


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 GodfatherGoodfellas 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:

  • Trailer
  • 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)
Angel (Lionsgate)
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)
Taken (Fox)
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)


> Buy GomorrahI’ve Loved You So Long and Burn After Reading at Amazon UK
> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 6th February)
Festivals Reviews

Venice 2008 Reactions: Burn After Reading

The Venice Film Festival kicked off last night with the new Coen Brothers film Burn After Reading.

It is a comedy about two Washington gym employees (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) who stumble across a disk of sensitive material written by a disaffected CIA analyst (John Malkovich).

The supporting cast includes George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins and J.K. Simmons.

After the Oscar winning triumph of No Country For Old Men, have the Coens created another modern classic?

Here is a summary of the critical reaction from the festival, which is fairly mixed:

Todd McCarthy of Variety is distinctly unimpressed:

After their triumphant dramatic success with “No Country for Old Men,” the Coen brothers revert to sophomoric snarky mode…

…the short, snappy picture tries to mate sex farce with a satire of a paranoid political thriller, with arch and ungainly results.

A seriously talented cast has been asked to act like cartoon characters in this tale of desperation, mutual suspicion and vigorous musical beds, all in the name of laughs that only sporadically ensue.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter is more positive:

It takes awhile to adjust to the rhythms and subversive humor of “Burn” because this is really an anti-spy thriller in which nothing is at stake, no one acts with intelligence and everything ends badly.

As a follow-up to last year’s multiple-Oscar winner “No Country for Old Men,” Joel and Ethan Coen clearly are in a prankish mood, knocking out a minor piece of silliness with all the trappings of an A-list studio movie.

Those who relish this movie might treat it as the second coming of “The Big Lebowski”; those who don’t might wonder at a story in which no character has a level head.

David Gritten of The Daily Telegraph is even more enthused:

The end result will probably not mean a return night out to the Academy Awards for anyone involved, yet Burn After Reading is a terrific entertainment: fast-paced, inventive and relentlessly amusing.

The Coens have taken a sledgehammmer to the notion, advanced in film after film, that espionage is a business pursued by grim-faced people blessed with total competence.

Andrew Pulver of The Guardian also admires the film with a couple of reservations:

Burn After Reading is a tightly wound, slickly plotted spy comedy that couldn’t be in bigger contrast to the Coens’ last film, the bloodsoaked, brooding No Country for Old Men.

Burn, in comparison, is bit of a bantamweight: fast moving, lots of attitude, and uncorking a killer punch when it can.

Burn After Reading may also go down as arguably the Coens’ happiest engagement with the demands of the Hollywood A-list – but this bit of career development may also be contributing to a diminishing of their particular film-making strengths. Or perhaps they are simply evolving.

Richard Corliss of Time bravely admits to being baffled by the film:

The ultimate question, from this admirer of virtually all the brothers’ work, from the early Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing to their previous Clooney collaborations O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty, is a plaintive “What the heck kind of film is this?”

… The movie’s glacial affectlessness, its remove from all these subpar schemers, left me cold and perplexed.

…Either the Coens failed, or I didn’t figure out what they’re attempting.

Burn After Reading is a movie about stupidity that left me feeling stupid.

Wendy Ide of The Times liked the details but felt it needed more warmth:

The attention to detail is impeccable: the Coens can even raise a laugh with something as simple as a well-placed photograph of Vladimir Putin…

If the film does lack something, it’s warmth. The affection you felt from the Coens for the misguided fools in Fargo or Raising Arizona is lacking here for everyone except Jenkins’ hapless and hopelessly love sick gym manager.

And while the film carries the audience with its entertaining, if somewhat ludicrous, blend of high level espionage and ab-toning exercises, it would perhaps be more rewarding if we could like the characters as well as laugh at them.

Dave Calhoun of Time Out praises it as both goofy and insightful:

Unwittingly, the Coens have delivered the most convincing argument I’ve heard yet against 9/11 being a US government conspiracy – and there are a lot more laughs here than in your average neocon documentary.

All in all, it’s a treat to see such a good cast messing around with comedy material that’s both goofy and insightful.

Burn After Reading will have its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on September 5th before opening in the US on September 12th and coming out here in the UK on October 17th.

> Burn After Reading at the IMDb
> Find out more about The Coen Brothers at Wikipedia
> Check out the trailer for Burn After Reading


Trailer: Burn After Reading

Here is the first trailer for Burn After Reading, which is the new film from The Coen Brothers starring Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, George Clooney and Tilda Swinton.

The story is about the memoir of an ousted CIA official (John Malkovich) that falls into the hands of two gym employees (Pitt and McDormand) who then try to exploit their find.

You can download the HD trailer via iTunes by clicking here.

It is due for release in the US on September 12th and in the UK on October 17th.

> Official site at Working Title
> Burn After Reading at the IMDb
> More on the Coen Brothers at Wikipedia