DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 12th July 2010



Green Zone (Universal): When director Paul Greengrass re-teamed with Matt Damon for this Iraq War drama there were high hopes that it would repeat the box office success of the Bourne films and the critical acclaim of Bloody Sunday and United 93.

Originally based on based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book ‘Imperial Life in the Emerald City’, it follows a ‘WMD hunter’ (played by Damon) as he begins to suspect something is wrong with the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

People Miller comes across in his search for the truth involve: the newly arrived US Administrator of Iraq (Greg Kinnear); a CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson); a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan); a local Iraqi (Khalid Abdalla); and a special forces Major (Jason Isaacs).

Although I have more than a few reservations with the historical approach to the material, there is no doubt that Greengrass is a master at creating suspense and a vivid sense of realism.

The production design is particularly impressive and Baghdad circa 2003 is recreated with some excellent use of sets and CGI, whilst Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography pulls us right into the frenetic world of political and military intrigue.

Presumably worried that audiences would reject the fiercely critical tone of the film towards the US government, Universal tried to market this as ‘Bourne in Iraq’.

This was a strategy doomed to failure as when mainstream American audiences finally did see it, as they continued their ongoing rejection of films about the Iraq debacle.

There is still a lot to commend Green Zone and despite being a costly production that reportedly lost a lot of money, it may be a film that earns slow burning respect over time.

The Blu-ray comes with the following extras:

  • Deleted scenes – Play with Video Commentary by Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
  • Deleted scenes – Play without Video Commentary
  • Matt Damon: Ready for Action
  • Inside the Green Zone
  • Feature commentary with Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
  • My Scenes
  • D-BOX
  • U-Control – Video Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
  • U-Control – Picture in Picture
  • BD Live / pocket BLU App / social BLU App

DVD Beaver report that the Blu-ray image is not as sharp as some might expect, but that this is intentional:

[The image] isn’t going to turn you on your ear with deft detail and magnificent sharpness. Not supposed to. What it does do is support Greengrass’ visual intentions in crafting the film. Earthy browns are prominent and the dusty desert achieves it’s lifeless, clandestine, dim aura. When colors shine the infrequency exports a brilliance by comparison. has a genuineness about it that gives me the feeling it is supporting the film appropriately.

> Buy Green Zone on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Read my original review of Green Zone


Bubba Ho-Tep (Anchor Bay): This bizarre cult gem from 2002 is well worth a look on Blu-ray, especially if you are fan of genuine cult cinema. Directed by Don Coscarelli, the story features Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell), a man claiming to be John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) and a rogue Egyptian mummy in a Texas nursing home.

Although the scenario is off-the-wall, it is a refreshing change from the po-faced horror remakes of recent times and Campbell actually gives a very funny performance as ‘The King’.

Coscarelli is probably best known for his work on the Phantasm films and he reunited with some of the crew that worked on those films. This has some of the sensibility of those films and is probably best enjoyed late at night and in the right frame of mind.

The image on the Blu-ray actually highlights the low budget nature of the film but that isn’t too much of the problem given the overall design (this isn’t exactly a David Lean-style epic).

The extras are the same as the DVD and include:

  • Exclusive introduction by Bruce Campbell
  • Audio commentary by director Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • Audio commentary by “The King”
  • Optional 5.1 and DTS audio
  • Joe R. Lansdale reads from his original short story “Bubba Ho-Tep”
  • Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • “The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep” featurette
  • “To Make a Mummy” – make-up and effects featurette
  • “Fit for a King” – Elvis costume featurette
  • “Rock Like an Egyptian” – featurette on the music of “Bubba Ho-Tep”
  • Music video
  • “The King and I” – an in-depth excavation with Don Coscarelli;
  • UK Premiere Q&A with Don Coscarelli
  • “Bruce Talks Bubba” – an interview with Bruce Campbell
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Photo gallery
  • TV spot
  • Cast and crew biographies
  • Character biographies

> Buy Bubba Ho-Tep on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Bubba Ho-Tep at the IMDb


Baseline (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Chasing Amy (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Clerks (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray]
Leap Year (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Lourdes (Artificial Eye) [Blu-ray / DVD]
The Storm Warriors (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Valentine’s Day (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Youth in Revolt (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 12th March 2010



Green Zone (Universal): The latest thriller from director Paul Greengrass is set in post-invasion Iraq during 2003 and follows a US officer (Matt Damon) assigned to hunt down the Weapons of Mass Destruction the Bush administration believed Saddam Hussein had hidden. As the weapons fail to turn up he begins to suspect something is wrong and doubt the premise upon which the war was fought.

In his search he comes across the newly arrived US Administrator of Iraq (Greg Kinnear); a CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson); a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan); a local Iraqi (Khalid Abdalla); and a special forces Major (Jason Isaacs). Although a pulsating and technically brilliant thriller, the political subtext of the film is somewhat undermined by changing of names and details for legal reasons. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / 15] (Previews from March 10th)

* Read my full thoughts on Green Zone here *

Shutter Island (Paramount): Director Martin Scorcese follows The Departed (2006) with an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel about a US Marshall (Leonardo DiCaprio) sent to investigate strange goings on at a secure psychiatric hospital off the coast of Massachusetts. Haunted by his past, he finds it difficult to trust the chief psychiatrist (Ben Kingsley) and slowly begins to suspect that something is afoot.

Although the performances are all solid and the technical aspects first rate, the underlying premise of the story feels an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Appropriately it references Hitchcock a lot (especially Vertigo), but never reaches the heights of Scorcese’s finest work, even if that is far better than most living directors. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 15]

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (Entertainment): A US remake of the Japanese film Hachikō Monogatari directed by Lasse Hallström (who also made My Life As A Dog) starring Richard Gere as a college professor who has a special bond with an abandoned dog he takes into his home.

It went straight to DVD in the US but UK distributor Entertainment will be hoping that dog lovers and those looking for lighter fare this week will check it out. [Nationwide / U]



The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Momentum Pictures): Based on the first of a series of best-selling Swedish novels by the late Stieg Larsson, this sees a journalist (Michael Nyqvist) and a teenage hacker (Noomi Rapace) team up to solve a suspected murder, which could be part of a wider conspiracy.

The books have become a sensation around the globe, selling over 21 million copies worldwide. The fact that the film is in Swedish, will inevitably mean reduced earnings but could still do decent arthouse and crossover business for Momentum. The inevitable Hollywood remake is already in the works and that probably will make more of an impact at the global box office. [Curzon Mayfair, Vue West End & Nationwide / 18]

The Kreutzer Sonata (Axiom Films): Following on from ivansxtc (2002) director Bernard Rose has done another re-imagining of a Tolstoy story exploring the darker side of Hollywood. The second of a planned trilogy, this sees a wealthy philanthropist (Danny Huston), who meets a beautiful and talented pianist (Elisabeth Röhm). [Key Cities / 18] (Scotland from March 26th)

The Ape (ICA Films): A Swedish noir film about an unsympathetic man who wakes up in a bathroom covered in blood and slowly realise what horrific circumstances brought him there. [ICA Cinema]

Under Great White Northern Lights (More2Screen): A concert film featuring The White Stripes. [Key Cities]

DVD and Blu-ray Picks for Monday 8th March including An Education, Bright Star, Toy Story 1 & 2 and Afterschool
Get local cinema showtimes for your area via Google Movies

Cinema Thoughts

Green Zone

Combining technical brilliance with a specific historical narrative makes Green Zone an absorbing political thriller, even if its modification of history is problematic.

Opening with an Iraqi official fleeing as US bombs rain down on Baghdad in March 2003, it then follows Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) who is part of several teams assigned to hunt down the Weapons of Mass Destruction the Bush administration believed Saddam Hussein had hidden.

As the search proves unproductive he begins to suspect something is wrong with the intelligence that was used to justify the invasion.

People Miller comes across in his search for the truth involve: the newly arrived US Administrator of Iraq (Greg Kinnear); a CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson); a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan); a local Iraqi (Khalid Abdalla); and a special forces Major (Jason Isaacs).

Director Paul Greengrass began his career in current affairs television and since breaking through into the mainstream with Bloody Sunday (2002) and The Bourne Supremacy (2004), has managed to combine political awareness with realistic excitement in such films as United 93 (2006) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).

His Bourne films were first rate, adrenaline fuelled entertainment whose box office success afforded him the opportunity to make an intense, sombre film about 9/11 at a major studio. When this project was announced it looked like he was exploring similar territory.

Originally based on based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book “Imperial Life in the Emerald City“, which depicted the clueless arrogance of US occupation under viceroy Paul Bremer, it is now credited as being inspired by it.

The Green Zone of the title comes from the area in Baghdad where the US forces and administrators lived in a secure bubble of imperial delusion, which was observed and documented by Chandrasekaran in his book.

Although there are scenes and characters that modify and pay homage to the book (most notably a meeting by a swimming pool), it appears that screenwriter Brian Helgeland and Greengrass have grafted on the thriller elements to make it more palatable for mainstream audiences.

I suspect that when the film started shooting in 2008, Universal and Working Title (the producers of the film) got nervous at the sight of War on Terror themed films such as In the Valley of Elah, Redacted and Lions for Lambs bombing at the box office.

It could have always been the director’s intention to fuse the Bourne action aesthetic with the political insights of his historical films, but given how it has been essentially been marketed as ‘The Bourne Zone’ (i.e. Matt Damon on the poster, plenty of action in the trailer) you could be forgiven for thinking that the studio was keen to play down the Iraq stuff.

Which is a little bit of a problem in that the film is set in Iraq and explicitly about the faulty intelligence that underpinned the invasion, along with the illusions which made turned the subsequent occupation into a chaotic bloodbath.

What rescues the film is the technical excellence which has long been a hallmark of Greengrass’ productions.

Possibly the most talented mainstream director at creating believable action sequences, he films the hunt for WMDs and Iraqi officials with remarkable authenticity.

Different parts of Baghdad are brilliantly recreated in locations as diverse as Morocco, Spain and the UK. The fact that the Freemasons Hall in London is even used for the CPA’s headquarters is testament to the work of production designer Dominic Watkins.

The shaky camera work which has been a hallmark of Greengrass’ previous films, is also present but although it’s been influential on other Hollywood films (sometimes to the point of parody) it gives the film a visceral, urgent feel.

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd shoots proceedings with his customary expertise and skill and the visuals are augmented with some superb CGI work which allows panoramic shots of Baghdad that are integrated seamlessly with real helicopters and buildings.

Christopher Rouse‘s editing helps the narrative move briskly along and as a thriller it is undeniably absorbing. So, what exactly is the problem with this technically brilliant political thriller?

The issue is certainly not anything to do with the thriller aspects of the film but the political elements, and in particualr the history it is based on.

I certainly don’t dispute the general thrust of the story, which paints the trumped up intelligence and mendacity of the Bush administration in a less than flattering light. Where the film hits problems is in it’s avoidance of conflating the real with the imagined.

To avoid the legal headaches the producers have the usual disclaimer about characters being fictional but it is palpable that key plotlines are based on real life examples: the journalist ‘Lawrie Dayne’ (Amy Ryan) is inspired by New York Times reporter Judith Miller, the infamous mouthpiece for WMD stories; ‘Clark Poundstone’ (Greg Kinnear) is a thinly veiled portrayal of Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority head who personified the wrong headed approach to the war; and there is also a character who looks suspiciously like Ahmed Chalabi, the exiled Iraqi beloved of the neo-conservatives who pushed for war.

Whilst it is understandable that a mainstream studio would want to dodge the threat of legal action, it inevitably undermines claims to the ‘truth’.

Are there audiences that will think that the Wall Street Journal did a worse job than the New York Times in reporting the WMD issue?

How seriously can we take the film’s historical claims if names and details have been altered?

I’m sure Greengrass and Helgeland will argue that dramatic licence is taken in any endeavour such as this, but something does not sit right if a major Hollywood film is taking a newspaper to task for not reporting the truth, and doing so by deliberately changing historical facts.

There is no doubt that the basic premise of the film is correct, sourced from numerous books and documentaries documenting the disastrous nature of the invasion and occupation. But the details with which it presents that premise is shaky.

That is not to say that Green Zone isn’t an expertly crafted and entertaining thriller, but as a political drama it doesn’t reach the heights of United 93, one of the landmark films of the last decade.

It will be interesting to see how audiences respond to the film. Universal made a calculated decision to postpone the release from the Autumn until the spring, to avoid a costly Oscar campaign and take advantage of a quieter time at the box office.

That could turn out to be a shrewd move because earlier this week The Hurt Locker won big at the Oscars and this may be the time for a mainstream film about the Iraq misadventure to finally cross over at the box office.