DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 21st March 2011


The Kids Are All Right (Universal Pictures): A perfectly pitched comedy-drama about family tensions, director Lisa Cholodenko’s third film is also a showcase for some stellar acting. When a Los Angeles lesbian couple, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), discover their two teenage kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), have got in touch with their biological father (Mark Ruffalo) it causes various complications.

As with Chodolenko’s previous films, this is very much a character piece exploring the intricacies and complications of human relationships. But it is a step up from her last two films, applying a light touch to potentially heavy issues, and much of the enjoyment comes from the actors fitting snugly into their roles, especially the two leads who have their best parts in years.

> The Kids Are Alright LFF review
> Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD on Amazon UK

Out of Sight (Universal Pictures): Adapted from Elmore Leonard’s novel, this 1998 film re-energised Steven Soderbergh’s career and starred George Clooney as a bank robber who falls for a US marshall (Jennifer Lopez). Scott Frank’s screenplay captures the wit of Leonard’s dialogue and the lead actors have a striking chemistry together. It was the first leading man role for Clooney that worked and Lopez hasn’t done anything remotely as good since.

The supporting cast is especially stellar with Ving Rhames, Catherine Keener, Dennis Farina, Albert Brooks, Don Cheadle and Steve Zahn all turning in fine performances. For Soderbergh it was a chance to demonstrate his directing skills in a mainstream picture after years in the indie wilderness with a smart flashback structure, clever editing and a glorious musical score from David Holmes. Although not a big hit, it proved a turning point for Soderbergh and Clooney, helping to establish their credentials as they juggled interesting projects alongside the star-driven Ocean’s trilogy over the next decade.

> Out of Sight at the IMDb
> Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK

La Signora Senza Camelie (Eureka): Two of Michaelangelo Antonioni’s early feature films from the 1950s are re-released on Blu-ray this week and although not as important as his work in the next two decades, they are an interesting snapshot of his early career. His second feature is about a shop assistant named Clara (Lucia Bosé) who, following a chance casting, becomes as major screen star in mainstream movies. When her husband persuades her to do a more serious production based on the life of Joan of Arc tensions erupt.

A fascinating look at show business from Antonioni’s unique perspective, it explores themes that would be flashed out in later works (mystery, identity, performance). It also provokes an interesting discussion about the director’s intentions, exploring the notions of a popular and arthouse cinema, without appearing to come down on one side or the other.

The transfer is excellent, preserving the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and the special features include:

  • A new and exclusive video introduction to the film with critic and teacher Gabe Klinger
  • Gabe Klinger discussing Antonioni in the context of the Italian production system of the 1950s
  • Optional English subtitles
  • A lengthy booklet containing newly translated critical pieces about the film, excerpts of interviews with Antonioni, and a lengthy debate between Antonioni and critic Luigi Chiarini on the subject of the film.

> La Signora Senza Camelie at the IMDb
> Buy it on Blu-ray at Amazon UK

Le Amiche (Eureka): This 1955 film marked Antonioni as a director to watch on the interantional stage. Based on an article by Cesare Pavese, it explores the life of a Roman woman (Eleonora Rossi Drago), who leaves the Italian capital to work at a boutique in Turin.

The supporting cast includes Valentina Cortese, Yvonne Furneaux, and Franco Fabrizi and the film is notable for its elegant compositions and the way in which it juggles multiple characters. The transfer is excellent and it is a real pleasure to experience a film like this in high definition, even if it isn’t quite the same stature as the director’s later work.

The extra features, which like the other disc were shot by Joe Swanberg, include:

  • A video introduction to the film with critic and teacher Gabe Klinger (8:22 in 1080P)
  • A video featuring Gabe Klinger discussing the arc of Antonioni’s entire career (10:35 in 1080P)
  • 28-page booklet containing newly translated vintage critical pieces about the film, excerpts of interviews with Antonioni, and a 1956 letter written by Antonioni to Italo Calvino
  • Second disc DVD of the Film

> Le Amiche at the IMDb
> Buy it on Blu-ray at Amazon UK


Along Came Polly (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Charlie Wilson’s War (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Evan Almighty (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Jack Falls (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
London Boulevard (EV) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Ray (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Skyline (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sleepers (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sympathy for the Devil (Fabulous Films) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Other Boleyn Girl (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Tudors: Season 4 (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Universe: Season Five (Go Entertain) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Universe: Seven Wonders of the Solar System (Go Entertain) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition]
Ultimate Wave – Tahiti (BPDP) [Blu-ray / with 3D Version]
Wild Child (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]

> UK cinema releases for Friday 18th March 2011
> The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2010

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

The Way Back

An epic escape from a Russian gulag during World War II forms the backdrop for Peter Weir’s first film in seven years.

Loosely based on Slavomir Rawicz’s book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” (more of which later), The Way Back begins with an soldier named Janusz (Jim Sturgess) being sent to a remote Siberian prison camp on trumped up charges of spying.

After enlisting the help of inmates to escape, including an ex-pat American (Ed Harris) and a tough gang member (Colin Farrell), the group venture on a massive trek across Asia where they meet an orphan (Saoirse Ronan), struggle to survive and attempt to reach the safety of India.

Weir shoots everything with convincing detail: the prison camp is believably hellish and the landscapes form a frequently stunning backdrop as the prisoners venture across sub-zero Russia, the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas on their way to India.

Visually, the film feels grittier than one might expect, with D.P. Russell Boyd appearing to use a lot of natural light and the splendour of the landscapes are frequently intercut with shots of blisters and the physical cost of the journey.

The performances all round are solid: Sturgess and Harris stand out as the two lynchpins of the group; Farrell is charmingly gruff; Ronan has presence and depth and Mark Strong is believably seductive as a prison camp veteran with his own agenda.

As a narrative experience, the initial tension of the prison break quickly becomes a fight for survival as the group struggle to eat, stay warm and avoid all manner of hardships involving the harsh landscape.

This means that it lacks conventional tension, but there is a certain pleasure in the gruelling sprawl of the story as they keep moving across a bewildering variety of landscapes and adverse weather conditions on their 4,000-mile trek.

Sequences that particularly stand out are the initial prison break in a blizzard, a lake infested with mosquitoes, a harsh desert which drives them to the brink and the latter stages which involve some famous Asian landmarks.

For the most part it is absorbing and features well drawn characters, even though it occasionally suffers from the problem of mixing English and native dialogue, which in the modern era diminishes the overall authenticity of the film.

The film hinges on the central character’s desire to get back home (hence the title) to see his wife, which we see in a recurring vision, and it is hard not to be moved by the climactic depiction of the personal set against the historical.

But although The Way Back is an undeniably powerful experience, there is a problem at the very heart of the adaptation which directly relates to the original book that inspired it.

Although Rawicz’s account was acclaimed for a number of years, in 2006 the BBC discovered records that essentially debunked his version of events, even though there is evidence to suggest that the journey may have been undertaken by other people.

Peter Weir was fully aware of the controversy surrounding the book when he made the film, hence certain key changes, and overall it demonstrates the taste, tact and intelligence that has informed his career.

But given the extraordinary nature of the journey there is something dispiriting about finding out the truth about Rawicz, even if the actual trek may have been done by someone else.

It remains a powerful and handsomely constructed piece of cinema but also suffers from the shady origins of its source material.

> Official site
> The Way Back at the IMDb
> BBC News story on the controversy surrounding the book and its road to the screen

Cinema Lists

The Best Films of 2010

As usual these are my favourite films of the year in alphabetical order (just click on each title for more information).


Animal Kingdom (Dir. David Michôd): The outstanding debut feature from director David Michôd is a riveting depiction of a Melbourne crime family headed by a sinister matriarch.

Another Year (Dir. Mike Leigh): A moving, bitter-sweet drama about relationships, filled with great acting, is arguably the peak of Mike Leigh’s career.

Biutiful (Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu): Searing exploration of life and death in a modern European city, featuring a tremendous central performance from Javier Bardem.

Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky): Swan Lake is retold with glorious intensity, channelling Polanski and Cronenberg whilst giving Natalie Portman the role of a lifetime.

Carlos (Dir. Olivier Assayas): Scintillating and immersive depiction of a 1970s terrorist with a tremendous performance by Edgar Ramirez.

Enter the Void (Dir. Gaspar Noé): Technically dazzling depiction of a dead drug dealer that also features what is possibly the greatest opening title sequence of all time.

Exit Through The Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy): An ingenious and hilarious hall of mirrors which is brilliantly executed and so much more than a ‘Banksy documentary’.

Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan): The ingenious puzzles of Christopher Nolan’s early films were given the scale of his blockbusters in this hugely ambitious sci-fi actioner.

Inside Job (Dir. Charles Ferguson): Devastating documentary about the financial crisis which plays like a heist movie, only this time it is the banks robbing the people.

Tabloid (Dir. Errol Morris): The media feeding frenzy surrounding a bizarre 1970s sex scandal provided Errol Morris with the raw material for one of the most entertaining documentaries in years.

The Fighter (Dir. David O’Russell): A boxing story which follows a familiar path but remains energetic, inspirational and funny, with Christian Bale on career-best form.

The Kids Are Alright (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko): A perfectly pitched comedy-drama that explores modern family life with genuine heart and humour.

The King’s Speech (Dir. Tom Hooper): Wonderfully crafted period drama with two brilliant lead performances and a moving story filled with hilarious one liners.

The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher): The inside story of Facebook is a riveting tale of ambition and betrayal, which sees Fincher, Sorkin and a young cast firing on all cylinders.

Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich): The ground breaking animated series gets a worthy final chapter whilst maintaining Pixar’s impeccable standards of story and animation.


127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle)
Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance)
Catfish (Dir. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost)
Four Lions (Dir. Chris Morris)
Let Me In (Dir. Matt Reeves)
Restrepo (Dir. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Somewhere (Dir. Sofia Coppola)
The American (Dir. Anton Corbijn)
The Ghost Writer (Dir. Roman Polanski)
The Illusionist (Dir. Sylvain Chomet)
Winter’s Bone (Dir. Debra Granik)

> Find out more about the films of 2010 at Wikipedia
> End of year lists at Metacritic
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray Releases of 2010


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 29th October 2010


Saw (3D) (Lionsgate UK): The seventh part of the Saw franchise arrives for its now customary Halloween slot. The story for this instalment involves the battle over Jigsaw‘s ‘brutal legacy’, a group of survivors, and a self-help guru. All in 3D.

Directed by Kevin Greutert, it stars Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor and even has a returning part for Cary Elwes, who featured in the original film (how long ago that seems). The big questions for this Saw film will be: are audiences burnt out on their yearly dose of torture porn? Will 3D have a positive or negative impact on the box office? I suspect it will do well and that the franchise will be rebooted in some bizarre way because this film series is a cash machine for Lionsgate. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 18]

Burke & Hare (Entertainment): A black comedy about the 19th century grave robbers (played by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis) who sold bodies to an Edinburgh medical school.

Directed by John Landis, it co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Ronnie Corbett and Tim Curry. Although the period detail is well realised, everyone involved is let down by a poor script, which makes for some awkwardly unfunny sequences, and some dodgy accents which become distracting. The pull of Pegg (a genuine star in the UK) might attract audiences but negative critical buzz and word-of-mouth is likely to hamper the film’s prospects. [Nationwide / 15]

The Kids Are All Right (Universal): A comedy-drama about the complications that ensue when a Los Angeles lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) discover their two teenage kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) have got in touch with their biological father (Mark Ruffalo) it causes various complications.

The third film from writer-director Lisa Cholodenko is a delight: funny, moving and featuring some stellar acting from all concerned. Bening, Moore and Ruffalo are all outstanding whilst Wasikowska and Hutcherson are equally affecting in less showy roles.

Since debuting at Sundance back in January, it has basked in richly deserved critical acclaim for painting a warm and deeply human portrait of family relationships. Word of mouth will be very strong amongst upscale audiences and the likelihood of Oscar nominations will help spread the buzz when the film eventually hits the home market. [Cineworld Haymarket, Curzon Soho, Odeon Covent Gdn. & Nationwide / 15]

* Read my LFF review of The Kids Are Alright here *


Involuntary (Trinity Filmed Entertainment): A Swedish ensemble drama exploring various characters including a man who likes to play salacious pranks; a school teacher and two girls who like pose for photos. Directed by Ruben Östlund , it stars Villmar Björkman, Linnea Cart-Lamy, Leif Edlund and Sara Eriksson [Key Cities / 15]

The Hunter (Artificial Eye): An Iranian drama about a factory worker (Rafi Pitts) who ends up on the run in a nearby forest after something goes wrong. Directed by Pitts, it also stars Ali Nicksaulat, Hassan Ghalenoi, Malek Jahan Khazai and Mitra Hajjar. [Curzon Renoir, Ritzy & Key Cities / 15]

It Happened One Night (Park Circus): Reissue of the Frank Capra film about a pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) who falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable). [BFI Southbank & Key Cities]

Forbidden (Park Circus): Another Capra reissue, this is the 1932 melodrama starring Barbara Stanwyck as a librarian who falls for a married man (Adolphe Menjou), with serious consequences. [BFI Southbank & Key Cities]

Out Of The Ashes (Independent Cinema Office): Documentary about the Afghan cricket team and their rise from refugees to the World Cup. Directed by Tim Albone and Lucy Martens. [ICA Cinema & Nationwide]

Spiderhole (Soda Pictures): A British horror film about four students who end up having problems in a seemingly deserted house in London. [Empire Leicester Square & Key Cities]

This Prison Where I Live (Dogwoof): A documentary about the imprisoned Burmese comedian Zarganar, who was imprisoned in 2008 for 35 years after complaining about the government’s response to cyclone Nargis. [Ritzy Picturehouse]

> Find out what films are showing in your area with Google Movies
> UK DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Monday 25th October 2010