DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 30th January 2012


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (StudioCanal): Tomas Alfredson’s impeccably crafted Cold War thriller finds new resonance in the current era of economic and social crisis. Set in the murky world of British intelligence during the 1970s, retired agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is hired to find out the identity of a Soviet double-agent inside ‘the Circus’ (in house name for MI6) and solve a looming crisis. [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]

Drive (Icon Home Entertainment): This ultra stylish LA noir not only provides Ryan Gosling with an memorable lead role and cleverly takes a European approach to an American genre film. When an enigmatic stunt driver (Gosling) decides to help out his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and her family, he finds himself caught up in a dangerous game with a local businessman (Albert Brooks). [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]

The Tin Drum (Arrow): Volker Schlöndorff’s 1979 adaptation of the Günter Grass novel shared the Palme d’Or with Apocalypse Now and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The story explores the rise of Nazism through the eyes of a young boy (David Bennent) who receives a tin drum for his 3rd birthday and decides to stop growing. A magical-realist classic the film is filled with striking imagery and has gained new resonance in light of subsequent revelations about Grass. Arrow have have the original theatrical version and the new Director’s Cut, which is the version that was seen at the Cannes premiere. Highly recommended. [Buy the dual format Blu-ray and DVD edition]


Alien (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Alien 3 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Alien Resurrection (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / 10th Anniversary Edition]
Aliens (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
An Affair to Remember (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Ca$h (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Cleopatra (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Eldorado (House of Fear) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition]
Four Flies On Grey Velvet (Shameless) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Great Barrier Reef (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Highlander: Endgame (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Rolling Thunder (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / with DVD – Double Play]
Samurai Girls (Manga Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Star Trek the Next Generation: A Taste of the Next Generation (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
What’s Your Number? (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Win Win (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Yamada – Way of the Samurai (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / Collector’s Edition]

Recent UK cinema releases
The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2011

Behind The Scenes Visual Effects

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy VFX

A video showing how visual effects were used to create the period world of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy begs the question as to why wasn’t nominated for a BAFTA or Oscar.

Mention the phrase ‘visual effects’ and I suspect images of science fiction or fantasy movies leap to mind.

After all, films like Star Wars (1977) and Avatar (2009) are most associated with the field.

Tomas Alfredson’s masterful John Le Carre adaptation is not the kind of film you would associate with modern visual effects, as it is a realistic tale of corruption and intrigue in MI6 during the 1970s.

But this video shows how modern technology was used to skilfully augment Maria Djurkovic‘s amazing production design:

They were done by Swedish company The Chimney Pot they highlight just how sophisticated the digital augmentation of photographic reality has become.

So sophisticated in fact that it may have worked against them in the awards season as the film has missed out on both BAFTA and Academy nominations.

It isn’t easy to blend old school techniques with cutting edge digital tools, but when they are combined successfully the results can be magical.

There is the (possibly apocryphal) story that 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) lost the Best Makeup Academy Award to John Chambers for Planet of the Apes (1968) because the judges didn’t realize Kubrick’s apes were really people (perhaps that was actually a greater compliment than the Oscar).

It was a strong field this year but it begs the question, did The Chimney Pot lose out on visual effects recognition because they were too good?

> The Chimney Pot
> More on the history of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects

Cinema Lists

The Best Films of 2011

Although it was a year with a record number of sequels, there was much to feast on if you really looked for something different.

The year will be remembered for momentous events which overshadowed anything Hollywood could come up with: the Arab Spring, the Japanese Earthquake, Hackgate, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the continuing meltdown of the global economy.

But cinema itself underwent some seismic changes: in April the thorny issue of the theatrical window raised its head, whilst James Cameron suggested films should be projected at 48 frames per second instead of the usual 24.

But by far the biggest story was the news that Panavision, Arri and Aaton were to stop making film cameras: although the celluloid projection will effectively be over by 2013, it seems the death of 35mm capture is only a few years away.

So the medium of film, will soon no longer involve celluloid. That’s a pretty big deal.

As for the releases this year, it seemed a lot worse than it actually was.

Look beyond the unimaginative sequels and you might be surprised to find that there are interesting films across a variety of genres.

Instead of artifically squeezing the standout films into a top ten, below are the films that really impressed me in alphabetical order, followed by honourable mentions that narrowly missed the cut but are worth seeking out.


A Separation (Dir. Asghar Farhadi): This Iranian family drama explored emotional depths and layers that few Western films even began to reach this year.

Drive (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn): Nicolas Winding Refn brought a European eye to this ultra-stylish LA noir with a killer soundtrack and performances.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Dir. Martin Scorsese): Scorsese’s in-depth examination of the late Beatle was a passionate and moving tribute to a kindred soul.

Hugo (Dir. Martin Scorsese): The high-priest of celluloid channelled his inner child to create a stunning digital tribute to one of the early pioneers of cinema.

Jane Eyre (Dir. Cary Fukunaga): An exquisite literary adaptation with genuine depth, feeling and two accomplished lead performers that fitted their roles like a glove.

Margin Call (Dir. J.C. Chandor): The best drama yet to come out the financial crisis is this slow-burn acting masterclass which manages to clarify the empty heart of Wall Street.

Melancholia (Dir. Lars von Trier): Despite the Cannes controversy, his stylish vision of an apocalyptic wedding was arguably his best film, filled with memorable images and music.

Moneyball (Dir. Bennett Miller): The philosophy that changed a sport was rendered into an impeccably crafted human drama by director Bennett Miller with the help of Brad Pitt.

Project Nim (Dir. James Marsh): A chimpanzee raised as a human was the extraordinary and haunting subject of this documentary from James Marsh.

Rango (Dir. Gore Verbinski): The best animated film of 2011 came from ILMs first foray into the medium as they cleverly riffed on classic westerns and Hollywood movies.

Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia): A documentary about the F1 driver composed entirely from existing footage made for riveting viewing and a truly emotional ride.

Shame (Dir. Steve McQueen): The follow up to Hunger was a powerful depiction of sexual compulsion in New York, featuring powerhouse acting and pin-sharp cinematography.

Snowtown (Dir. Justin Kerzel): Gruelling but brilliant depiction of an Australian murder case, which exposed modern horror for the empty gorefest it has become.

Take Shelter (Dir. Jeff Nichols): Wonderfully atmospheric blend of family drama and Noah’s Ark which brilliantly played on very modern anxieties of looming apocalypse.

The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius): An ingenious love letter to the silent era of Hollywood is executed with an almost effortless brilliance.

The Descendants (Dir. Alexander Payne): Pitch-perfect comedy-drama which saw Alexander Payne return to give George Clooney his best ever role.

The Guard (Dir. John Michael McDonagh): Riotously funny Irish black comedy with Brendan Gleeson given the role of his career.

The Interrupters (Dir. Steve James): The documentary of the year was this powerful depiction of urban violence and those on the frontline trying to prevent it.

The Skin I Live In (Dir. Pedro Almodovar): The Spanish maestro returned with his best in years, as he skilfully channeled Hitchcock and Cronenberg.

The Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick): Moving and mindblowing examination of childhood, death and the beginnings of life on earth.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Dir Tomas Alfredson): Wonderfully crafted John le Carre adaptation which resonates all too well in the current era of economic and social crisis.

Tyrannosaur (Dir. Paddy Considine): Searingly emotional drama with two dynamite lead performances and an unexpected Spielberg reference.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Dir. Lynne Ramsey): Audio-visual masterclass from Ramsay with a now predictably great performance from Tilda Swinton.

Win Win (Dir. Thomas McCarthy): Quietly brilliant comedy-drama with Paul Giamatti seemingly born to act in this material.


A Dangerous Method (Dir. David Cronenberg)
Anonymous (Dir. Roland Emmerich)
Another Earth (Dir. Mike Cahill)
Attack the Block (Dir. Joe Cornish)
Bobby Fischer Against The World (Dir. Liz Garbus)
Confessions (Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima)
Contagion (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Four Days Inside Guantanamo (Dir. Luc Cote, Patricio Henriquez)
I Saw the Devil (Dir. Kim Ji-woon)
Into the Abyss (Dir. Werner Herzog)
Life in a Day (Dir. Kevin MacDonald)
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Dir. Sean Durkin)
Midnight in Paris (Dir. Woody Allen)
Page One: Inside The New York Times (Dir. Andrew Rossi)
Super 8 (Dir. JJ Abrams)
The Adventures of Tintin (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
The Beaver (Dir. Jodie Foster)
The Deep Blue Sea (Dir. Terence Davies)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dir. David Fincher)
The Ides of March (Dir. George Clooney)


Armadillo (Dir. Janus Metz)
Beginners (Dir. Mike Mills)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Dir. Werner Herzog)
Submarine (Dir. Richard Ayoade)
Cold Weather (Dir. Aaron Katz)
Tabloid (Dir. Errol Morris)

Find out more about the films of 2011 at Wikipedia
End of year lists at Metacritic
> The Best Film Music of 2011
The Best DVD and Blu-ray Releases of 2011

Lists News

Sight and Sound’s Top Films of 2011

This year’s Sight and Sound poll has been topped by Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

The UK film magazine polled around 100 critics and – as usual – the list has surfaced on various websites before the official one, even though they have confirmed the top two films on their Twitter feed:

“Most of you guessed right: our film of 2011 is The Tree of Life (by a country mile)”

Which begs the question, why has this film got the reputation of being critically divisive?

Whilst a minority booed at the Cannes press screening and it presumably baffled some audiences, if you look at the filtered critical consensus there is a lot of love for Malick’s opus: 85/100 on Metacritic, 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, 79/100 on Movie Review Intelligence and 7.3/10 on IMDb.

As is often the case, there is a good spread of European auteur royalty amongst the list (Von Trier, Dardennes and Tarr), which makes it read a bit like Thierry Frémaux‘s contacts book, but its good to see Michel Hazanavicius, Tomas Alfredson and Asghar Farhadi join the club with films of real distinction and class.

1. The Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick).

2. A Separation (Dir. Asghar Farhadi).

3. The Kid With a Bike (Dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne).

4. Melancholia (Dir. Lars von Trier).

5. The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius).

=6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan).

=6. The Turin Horse (Dir. Béla Tarr)

8. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Dir. Lynne Ramsay).

9. Le Quattro Volte (Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino).

=10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Dir. Tomas Alfredson).

=10. This Is Not a Film (Dir. Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmashb)

Sight and Sound (follow them on Twitter or connect on Facebook)
Wikipedia on 2011 in film


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 16th September 2011


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (StudioCanal): Set in the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent from within MI6’s echelons. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, it co-stars Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and John Hurt. [Nationwide / 15] [Read our review here]

30 Minutes Or Less (Sony Pictures) : Comedy about a small town pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) whose mundane life collides with the plans of a wanna-be criminal (Danny McBride) who forces him to rob a bank. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, it co-stars Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson and Michael Pena. [Nationwide / 15]

The Change-Up (Universal): Body swap comedy about a family man (Jason Bateman) who switches roles with his best friend (Ryan Reynolds), a lazy womaniser. Directed by David Dobkin, it co-stars Olivia Wilde and Leslie Mann. [Nationwide / 15]

I Don’t Know How She Does It (Entertainment): Comedy about a finance executive (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids, is handed a major new account that will require frequent trips. Directed by Douglas McGrath, it co-stars Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer, Mathew Baynton. [Nationwide / 12A]


You Instead (Icon): Comedy about two pop stars who get handcuffed together at a music festival. Directed by David McKenzie, it stars Luke Treadaway, and Natalia Tena. [Selected cinema / 15]

Atrocious (Metrodome): Spanish low budget horror film involving found footage. Directed by Fernando Barreda Luna, it stars Cristian Valencia. [Key Cities / 15]

Episode 50 (Metrodome): Horror film about a television crew working on a paranormal investigation series has so far disproved 49 claims of supernatural goings-on. Directed by Josh Folan, it stars Chris Perry and Natalie Wetta. [Selected cinemas / 15]

Turnout (Peccadillo Pictures): A British crime caper about East End boys in Hoxton. Directed by Lee Sales, it stars Ophelia Lovibond, George Russo and Francis Pope. [Key Cities / 18]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
Recent UK DVD & Blu-ray releases including Star Wars, Sunrise and Point Break

Cinema Reviews

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

This impeccably crafted adaptation of John le Carre’s Cold War thriller finds new resonance in an era of economic and social crisis.

Set in the murky world of British intelligence during the 1970s, retired agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is hired to find out the identity of a Soviet double-agent inside ‘the Circus’ (in house name for MI6) and solve a looming crisis.

Along with his new partner Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and an agent in hiding (Tom Hardy), Smiley focuses on a group of suspects whom their former boss (John Hurt) had given nicknames: Percy ‘Tinker’ Alleline (Toby Jones); Bill ‘Tailor’ Haydon (Colin Firth); Roy ‘Soldier’ Bland (Ciaran Hinds) and Toby ‘Poor Man’ Esterhase (David Dencik).

Rather than comparing it to the acclaimed 1979 TV series with Alec Guinness as Smiley, it is better to think of this as fresh adaptation of the original novel, as it not only skilfully compresses the action into 127 minutes but also introduces some clever changes which establish a fresh version of le Carre’s world.

The screenplay by Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O’Connor moves things around, but preserves the essential story inside a clever flashback structure, which along with a key Christmas party scene (not in the book) neatly fuses the themes and plot.

But it is the hiring of Swedish director Tomas Alfredson and his cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema that proves the real masterstoke.

Fresh from the success of Let The Right One In (2009), they convey the slow burn tensions of the time with a piercing outsiders eye.

The framing of shots and muted colour palette are accomplished with laser like precision, whilst the the drab horror of the Cold War and the incestuous, Oxbridge world of UK intelligence is evoked with remarkable aplomb.

This is augmented by some wonderful production design from Maria Djurkovic and costumes by Jacqueline Durran, which convincingly depict an era which can be prone to kitsch or parody.

Also worth noting is the impressive sound design by John Casali, which seems to be channelling Walter Murch’s work in The Conversation (1974) – another film where a weary protagonist tries to process a world in which appearances can be deceiving.

Alberto Iglesias’ score lends the film a distinctive mood with its sparse piano and mournful strings, whilst some of the musical choices are judged to perfection, especially a memorable montage sequence involving a Julio Igelsias version of ‘Le Mer’.

The action frequently involves a patient Smiley quietly venturing between the strange, slang-infected world of ‘the Circus’ and meeting various people with whom silence is frequently more telling than the words that come out of their mouth.

Gary Oldman is vital in making this approach work, with his tangible screen presence and deliberately restrained performance. Marking a pleasant change from the raw energy of his earlier career, he imbues Smiley with a weary, quiet dignity.

The supporting cast is crammed with stellar British acting talent: Colin Firth, John Hurt, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch are particularly excellent in smaller-than-usual roles in an ensemble which snaps together like a particularly satisfying jigsaw puzzle.

Two key supporting characters are shrewdly never shown in this version even though their presence is keenly felt. They gain greater meaning via their absence, especially as it impacts on Smiley and further stokes the themes of trust and deception.

In his writing career, le Carre managed to mine his own Cold War experiences to create lasting depictions of the simmering intrigue and tensions of a period when the world flirted with nuclear annihilation.

George Smiley has proved his most memorable character and it is striking that such a particular novel as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy can find new resonance in an era of economic disaster, intractable wars and disillusionment with established institutions.

But is this film version too good for its own good?

Upscale audiences hungry for quality fare in a cinema landscape dominated by sequels and animation will eat this up and help power it to BAFTA and Oscar recognition.

The question mark hanging over it is whether a younger audience – for whom the Cold War is ancient history – will respond to its slow pace, opaque slang and considered editing style.

For viewers weaned on a diet of quickly edited action movies or CGI-fuelled comic-book morality tales, this may seem like something from another planet.

Whilst that will come as a relief to some, it may spell problems at the box office.

But whatever its commercial fate it is true to the source material: le Carre has often provided a steady corrective to the brightly coloured fantasies of James Bond.

Where Ian Fleming gave us escapist Cold War fantasies, Le Carre provided sobering reflections on the dark secrets that power human conflict.

The story of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy drew upon the Cambridge Five spy ring and the shattering realisation that the British establishment had been deeply infiltrated by the KGB from within.

The airing of the TV serial in 1979 coincided with the shocking revelation that not only was Anthony Blunt a spy but that the British Government had been keeping this a secret for 15 years.

Some critics may resent Le Carre for what they see as a distorted version of British intelligence, though I suspect whatever the precise accuracy of his novels, they provide a telling metaphor for the closeted hypocrisies of a nation unable to deal with its diminished global status during the post-war years.

In a similar way, this film adaptation feels timely after public anger at the deceptions used to justify two wars, a banking crisis – which may still trigger an economic apocalypse – and an insular political class which seems bereft of solutions.

Alfredson’s film is a brilliantly realised version of Le Carre’s book, but whether cinema goers want to be reminded that the world is often a dark and horrible place is the kind of question which would have given George Smiley a sleepless night.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy opens in the UK on Friday 16th September and in the US on December 9th

> Official site, Facebook page and Twitter feed
> Find out more about John Le Carre, the original novel and the Cold War at Wikipedia
> Early reviews of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy after its Venice premiere
> Radio 4 interview with John le Carre about the film
> BBC News on the realism of le Carre’s world (Warning: Spoilers)