DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 2nd February 2009

DVD Picks 02-02-09


John Adams (HBO): Based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography of the second president of the United States, this HBO miniseries arrives on DVD in the UK after winning several awards and garnering considerable critical acclaim.

For those unfamiliar with the title character, he was one of the key figures in the creation of the United States and its struggle for independence from Great Britain.

An impressive cast features Paul Giamatti as John AdamsLaura Linney as his wife AbigailStephen Dillane as Thomas JeffersonDavid Morse as George WashingtonTom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin and Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton.

The seven episodes chronicle the key chapters of Adams’ life, which span the first fifty years of the United States:

  1. Join or Die: The first episode deals with the Boston Massacre and Adams defending British troops because of his belief in a fair trial for everyone. We also see his cousin Sam Adams (Danny Huston) and his involvement in the “Sons of Liberty,” a group opposed to British rule. It also shows the tensions over the Coercive Acts and Adams’ election to the First Continental Congress.
  2. Independence: The second episode covers the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the disputes among the members of the Second Continental Congress towards declaring independence from Great Britain. Adams is depicted as the lead advocate for independence despite all the danger that entails.
  3. Don’t Tread On Me: The third episode sees Adams travel to Europe during the War of Independence to seek alliances with foreign nations hostile to Britain. He meets up with Benjamin Franklin in the court of Louis XVI and then goes on to the Dutch Republic to obtain financial support for the Revolution.
  4. Reunion: The fourth episode shows Adams being notified of the end of the Revolutionary War before he is sent to Paris to negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783. While there, he spends time with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and reunites with Abigail. After being appointed the first United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom he relocates to the British Court of St. James’s but is poorly received by the British. He then returns to Massachusetts for the first presidential election which sees George Washington become the first President of the United States and Adams first Vice President.
  5. Unite or Die:  The fifth episode explores Adams as Vice-President, presiding over the Senate and the strains within George Washington‘s cabinet members, especially Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, the struggle to enact the Jay Treaty with Britain and his inauguration as the second president.
  6. Unnecessary War: The sixth episode explores Adams’s term as president and the bitter rift between the Hamilton-led Federalists and Jefferson-led Republicans. Adams’s neutrality alienates both factions and his shaky relationship with his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, is damaged after a breakdown in relations with the French and the signing the Alien and Sedition Acts. Adams disowns his son Charles, who soon dies as an alcoholic vagrant. He eventually prevents a war with France, but loses the election of 1800 to Jefferson and retires back home to Massachusetts.
  7. Peacefield: The concluding episode examines the last years of his life in retirement which include the tragic deaths of his daughter to cancer and his wife to typhoid fever. However, Adams does live long enough to see his son, John Quincy, elected president. Adams and Jefferson are reconciled through correspondence towards the end of their lives, and both die mere hours apart, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.   

A hugely ambitious project, this miniseries offers us a fascinating insight into the early years of the United States as seen through the lens of one of the key founding fathers.

Director Tom Hooper (who was also behind HBO’s ‘Elizabeth I’) and writer Kirk Ellis have done an amazing job of distilling McCullough’s 700-page book into seven epiosdes that are rich with drama and detail.

Technically, it is first rate with some marvellous cinematography by Tak Fujimoto capturing the candle lit interiors and and outdoor landscapes superbly well.

The sets and locations are also extremely impressive, making clever use of CGI which is nicely woven into the action without ever being distracting.

It was filmed in the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area in Virginia and Hungary for the European locations and also features 125 speaking roles, so it is mounted on a scale unusual even for an HBO project.

However, unlike some historical dramas it goes beyond the settings and costumes to grapple with the underlying themes and and issues at stake in the birth of the United States of America.

Part of what makes the series so attractive is the extraordinary nature of Adams’ life – one that encompassed so many crucial events in a remarkable period of history.

He personally embodied many of the ideals upon which the nation was founded and also had a remarkably strong relationship with Abigail, his feisty wife of 54 years.

Given the importance of the War of Independence you might wonder why it has been so poorly represented on screen but perhaps the shadow of the disastrous Revolution (1985) still hangs over anyone that attempts to pitch a project set in the era.

A good deal of credit then must go to producer Tom Hanks and HBO for attempting such a bold and sweeping project, with a reported budget of $100 million.

It has paid off with plaudits and swept the board at the 2008 Emmy Awards with 17 nominations and 13 wins including, ‘Outstanding Actor’, ‘Outstanding Actress’ and ‘Outstanding Mini-series’ and also won four awards at the 2009 Golden Globes.

This 3-disc, 7 part mini series clocks in at 501 minutes and comes with the following extras:

  • David McCullough – Painting with Words: Explore the artistry of this two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and his approach to writing history.
  • Making of John Adams: A behind the scenes feature with the cast and crew as they talk about bringing the book to screen, and including an on-set and location tour.
  • On Screen Historical Guide: An on screen guide which pops up historically relevant information about John Adams and his time period during each of the 7 episodes.

Overall it is a landmark piece of television and one of the best DVD releases to come out this year.

Appaloosa (EIV): Based on the 2005 novel by Robert B. Parker, this superb western centres around a lawman named Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), two friends who are hired to defend a lawless 1880s town from a murderous rancher (Jeremy Irons). Their efforts are disrupted and friendship tested by the arrival of a woman (Renée Zellweger).

Although it followed the fate of most westerns by dying at the UK box office, is a rich and highly accomplished film, well worth seeking out on DVD.

The extras on the disc include:

  • Commentary by Ed Harris and Screenwriter-Producer Robert Knott
  • Bringing the characters of Appaloosa to life
  • Historic accuracy of Appaloosa
  • The Town of Appaloosa
  • Dean Semler’s return to the Western
  • Deleted scenes


Alfresco: The Complete Series (Network)
Category 6: Day of Destruction (Brightspark)
Death Race (Universal)
Faintheart (Vertigo Films)
Fear(s) of the Dark (Metrodome)
Igor (Mometnum)
Immortal Beloved (Icon)
JCVD (Revolver)
Life – Season 1 (Universal Playback)
Paris (Optimum)
Quo Vadis (Warner)
Redbelt (Sony)
Roadkill 2 (Fox)
RocknRolla (Warner)
Step Brothers (Sony)
The Accidental Husband (Momentum)
The Black Balloon (Icon)
The Chaser (Metrodome)
The Cosby Show – Season 4 (Universal Playback)
Trip to Asia: The Quest for Harmony (Axiom Films)
Unrelated (New Wave Films)

> Buy John Adams and Appaloosa 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 30th January)
DVD & Blu-ray

The Best DVDs of 2008

Best DVDs of 2008


Every year I usually compile a list of the best films but since I started doing regular DVD roundups it was clear that there was a lot of re-issues and special editions of films worth compiling in an end of year list.

This is my selection of the best films to come out on DVD during 2008 and all of these titles are ones that I would recommend to buy or put in your online rental queue.

When you click on the title of each entry it will take you to my original post on it or the entry in Amazon where you can buy the DVD.







Best DVD releases of 2008








N.B. As I’m based in the UK, all of these DVDs are UK titles but if you live in a different region of the world check out or your local Amazon site and they should have an equivalent version of the film.

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check

> Check out the best selling DVDs at Play
> Amazon US pick their best DVDs of 2008 (these are Region 1 DVDs)

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 15th-29th December 2008


Man on Wire DVD coverMan on Wire (Icon): In what is quite a barren Christmas period for notable DVDs, there is only one that truly stands out which is this stunning documentary by director James Marsh,who made Wisconsin Death Trip

It chronicles Frenchman Philippe Petit, who on August 7th 1974 gave an incredible high-wire performance by walking between between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center eight times in one hour.

The act itself almost defies belief but what the film does brilliantly is capture the tension, beauty and brilliance of Petit’s highly illegal operation. 

Born out of a dream and an idea, Petit and his team of accomplices spent eight months planning the execution of their ‘coup’ down to the most intricate detail.

Like a team of bank robbers planning their most ambitious heist, the tasks they faced seemed virtually impossible: they would have to bypass the WTC’s security; smuggle the wire and rigging equipment into the towers; suspend the wire between the towers; secure the wire at the correct tension to withstand the winds and the swaying of the buildings; to rig it secretly by night – all without being caught.

Then there would be the walk itself.

One of the finest documentaries to come out in the last few years, the DVD has the following extras:

  • Audio commentary from James Marsh (director) and Simon Chinn (producer)
  • Interview with Phillipe Petit
  • Unseen footage

 * Listen to an interview we did with Philippe Petit about the film *

Man on Wire is released on Friday 26th December



Friday 26th December 

Battle of Wits (Metrodome)
Lipstick Jungle – Season 1 (Universal Playback)
Mum & Dad (Revolver Entertainment)
Steep (Metrodome)
The Love Guru (Paramount)
The Strangers (Universal)

Monday 29th December 

Babylon A.D. (Fox)
Bangkok Dangerous (EIV)
Ben X (Momentum)
Cass (Optimum)
Death Note: L – Change the World (4 Digital Asia)
Doctor Who: Battlefield 2 (2Entertain)
Hellsing Ultimate Volume 2 (Manga)
Make it Happen (Optimum)
Naruto The Movie 2 : Legend of the Stone of Gelel (Manga)


> Buy Man on Wire 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 12th December)

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 24th November 2008


WALL-E (Disney): The new film from Pixar starts far into the future with the last robot on earth, a trash collector called WALL-E, being visited by another robot called EVE. When they come across plant life it triggers a response from the rest of mankind, who for centuries have existed on a giant mothership faraway.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (who also made Finding Nemo in 2003), this magical tale contains some of the most stunning visuals yet seen in animated films. Added to that is a surprisingly moving love story between two very different robots and a narrative filled with interesting themes such as: the environment, our relationship with technology and even obesity.

The extras on this impressive two-disc set are:

Disc 1

  • ‘Presto’: Theatrical short that was seen in cinemas (5.30)
  • BURN-E: An exclusive short about a minor character in the film.
  • ‘Up’ Teaser for the new Pixar film
  • Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From The Sound Up featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Stanton
  • Deleted scenes
  • Easter Eggs

Disc 2

  • Deleted scenes
  • The Imperfect Lens making of featurette
  • Captain’s Log featurette
  • Notes on a Score featurette
  • Life of a Shot featurette
  • Robo-Everything featurette
  • WALL-E & EVE featurette
  • Buy-n-Large Industrial Shorts (x5)
  • WALL-E trailers
  • Poster gallery
  • The Pixar Story documentary*
All in all it is a highly impressive DVD package and one of the essential films of the year. 
L’Argent (Eureka): A UK DVD release of Marcel L’Herbier’s classic film as part of their Masters of Cinema Series. Adapted from Émile Zola‘s novel of the same name, Marcel L’Herbier’s L’Argent [Money] is a notable film of late-silent era cinema. Filmed in part on location at the Paris stock exchange, it explores a world of intrigue, greed, decadence, and ultimately corruption and scandal when business dealings and amorous deceit combine. (Particularly relevant for the current financial climate!).

Never before released on home video in the UK, The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the UK edition of a restoration that won the prestigious Best Silent Film DVD award at the 2008 Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, Bologna, Italy.

A raft of special features on the two-disc edition include:

  • A pristine transfer from a fine grain print struck from the original negative, featuring the director’s cut fought for by L’Herbier over many years, the film speed as projected in the late 1920s, and the entirety of each frame fully displayed
  • New and improved English subtitles
  • Newly improvised musical accompaniment by French composer and pianist Jean-François Zygel, who also provides a video introduction to the film and a documentary about accompanying silent cinema
  • About L’Argent (Autour de L’Argent) (1928) – Jean Dréville’s 40 minute “making of” documentary
  • Archival footage of star Brigitte Helm (fresh from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) arriving in Paris for the shooting of L’Herbier’s film
  • Archival screen tests of the L’Argent actors
  • Marcel L’Herbier: Poet of the Silent Art (Marcel L’Herbier: Poete de L’Art Silencieux) (2007) – a 54 minute documentary profiling the director
  • A demonstration of L’Herbier’s innovative sound techniques, which used 78rpm records during key scenes of L’Argent
  • A lavish 80-page perfectly-bound booklet with archival publicity stills, a long essay by noted professor of French film Richard Abel (French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929; French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology, 1907-1939; The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914), newly translated interviews with L’Herbier, and newly translated extracts from the director’s biography.

The film might seem a distant arthouse oddity but given the paucity of decent DVD releases this week, it is well worth buying.



ER Season 13 (Warner)
Lead Balloon – Series 2 (2 Entertain)
Mamma Mia! (Universal)
Merlin – Volume 1 (2 Entertain)
Mister Maker – Let’s Make It! (2 Entertain)
Oasis of Fear (Shameless)
Ray Winstone’s Football Blinders and Blunders (4DVD)
Roary the Racing Car: Stars ‘n’ Cars (2 Entertain)
Seed (Metrodome)
Survivors – Series 1 to 3 (2 Entertain)
The Armstrong and Miller Show (2 Entertain)
The Discovery of Heaven (Eureka)
The X-Files: I Want To Believe (Fox)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – 10th Anniversary (Universal)
World War II – Behind Closed Doors (BBC)


> Buy WALL-E and L’Argent on DVD 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 21st November)

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 10th November 2008


Savage Grace (Revolver Entertainment): Directed by Tom Kalin, this is the true story of the life and death of Barbara Daly Baekeland (Julianne Moore), the socialite who married above her class to Brooks Baekeland (Stephen Dillane), the heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. It explores the tensions in their marriage and Barabara’s unusually close relationship to their only son Tony (Eddie Redmayne), who is a failure in his father’s eyes. Based on the book by Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson, the film impressively peels back the layers of a sordid true life episode amongst American high society. Moore is excellent in the title role and although the film won’t be to everyone’s tastes, there is much here to admire. This edition is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen but the only extra is a 16-minute making of featurette. [Cert 15]

Black God White Devil (Mr Bongo Films): A very interesting 1964 Brazilian film directed and written by Glauber Rocha, which tells the story of a peasant farmer (Geraldo Del Rey) who kills his tyrannical boss before going on the run with his wife.  A kind of Brazilian spaghetti western, it helped start the Cinema Novo movement, which addressed the socio-political problems of 1960s Brazil.

The great Luis Buñuel described the film as: 

The most beautiful thing I have seen in more than a decade, filled with savage poetry.

An important re-issue of an overlooked film. 

The Mist (2 Disc Edition) (Momentum): Writer-director Frank Darabont‘s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novella of the same name is perhaps one of the darkest horror films released in recent memory. But instead of the cheap sadism and gore that has unfortunately dominated the genre recently, we have a thoughtful examination of what happens to society under extreme pressure. Set in King’s usual location of Maine, it explores what happens to a local artist (Thomas Jane) who becomes trapped in his local supermarket after a mysterious mist descends upon the town. A siege mentality then takes hold of the people inside, with fear and paranoia erupting amongst them on what they should do. Although not a flawless film, there is much to chew on with a haunting sense of despair running through the film and some convincing performances from Jane, Marcia Gay HardenToby Jones and Andre Braugher.

The 2 disc edition is the one to go for as it features an alternate cut of the film in black and white (which is how Darabont actually intended to shoot it) as well as the following extras:

Disc 1

  • Feature Commentary by Writer/Director Frank Darabont
  • A conversation with Stephen King
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
  • Drew Struzan: An Appreciation of an Artist
  • Behind the scenes Webisodes
  • Trailer Gallery

Disc 2

  • B&W Feature
  • Director Introduction
  • When Darkness Came – Making of the Mist
  • Taming the Beast: The Making of scene 35
  • Monsters Among Us: The Creature FX of  The Mist
  • The Horror of It All: The Visual FX of The Mist

Although a horror, it functions as a highly effective parable of post-9/11 America and features some jump-out-of-the-seat moments and a memorable climax. [Cert 15]   



Baraka: Remastered – 2 Disc Special Edition (Second Sight)
Donkey Punch (Optimum)
Elf Bowling – The Movie: The Great North Pole Elf Strike (Lionsgate)
Family Guy – Series 7 (Fox)
Fighters / Real Money (2 disc set) (Second Run)
Frankie Boyle Live (4DVD)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2 Disc Edition) (Paramount)
National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (Fremantle)
Neighbours – The Iconic Episodes (Shock/Fremantle)
Prisoner Cell Block H Vol.1 (Shock/Fremantle)
Russell Brand’s Ponderland – Series 1 (Universal)
Souls at Sea (Eureka)
Space Camp (Fremantle)
Speed Racer (Warner)
The Black Shield Of Falworth (Eureka)
The Flamingo Kid (Fremantle)
The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Complete First Series (BBC)
Tinker Bell (Disney)
Ugly Betty – Season 2 (Disney)
Viva La Diva – Darcey Bussell and Katherine Jenkins (Warner Music)
War Requiem: 20th Anniversary Edition (Second Sight)
Who’s Harry Crumb? (Sony)


> Buy Savage Grace and Black God White Devil and The Mist on DVD 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 7th November)