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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 10th September 2012

08/09/2012

This week kicks off with some high seas high jinx from Aardman Animation in THE PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS. A bit of a mouthful that title may well be but the misadventures of Pirate Captain and his swarthy crew make for a diverting and pretty entertaining enterprise as they pitch in with Charles Darwin to win the coveted Pirate Of The Year Award, duking it out with a borderline Steampunk (and Pirate hating) Queen Victoria in the process. It’s completely barmy, an effect compounded by the claymation animation which always looks a little bit eccentric in the CGI age and is stuffed with gags, including plenty of incidental visual details, that all riff on the usual pirate cliches. It’s list of vocal talent is impressive: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Blessed, Salma Hayek and David Tennant all lend their voices to proceedings. It’s top notch family fun with a lively, mischievious spirit.

If you prefer your seafaring tales to have more of a romantic bent, then you’ll probably be delighted to know that TITANIC is out in an anniversary edition (can you believe it’s fifteen years old?) and for the first time in high definition with both two and three dee versions hitting blu ray this week. There’s probably little need to offer a synopsis here, the love story between Jack (Leonardo Di Caprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) being one of the better known in recent years, suffice to say three hours of flashback driven, love story narrative later and *spoiler alert* the boat gets sunk. Director James Cameron shows off his well documented obsession with the deep ocean in the present day segments that often feel like they border on documentary whilst doing his best to weave in a tale of doomed love against a backdrop of class war and social injustice. It’s a lavish recreation of one of history’s best known tragedies but for me there are a couple of serious problems, not least of which being the special effects, which may have felt cutting edge in 1997, look and feel terribly dated now a mere fifteen years later. The other major one for me is the sheer length of the thing. It doesn’t really get going until a hundred minutes in and those hundred minutes are wasted on a tired, cliched love story. Clearly I’m in the minority with these opinions, what with it being one of the biggest selling films of all time and spawning a seemingly endless chart run for Celine Dion with her theme song from the film. To each their own.

Thank goodness Jason Statham is on hand to inject a bit of earthy, low brow action fun this week in SAFE, which sees former New York cop Luke Wright (Statham) pitted against Triads, Russian Mafia and corrupt cops in his attempts to protect a young Chinese girl whose photographic memory has made her an invaluable asset to a Triad boss who doesn’t want to leave a financial paper trail for his organisation. It also means his rivals want to get their hands on her, or more accurately the information she’s carrying in her head. As far as plots go it’s just enough to hang the action set pieces on which to be honest aren’t half bad and don’t really let up throughout the film. Statham is on fine ass kicking form (say what you like about him as an actor, he knows how to carry off a fight scene) and Boaz Yakin’s direction exhibits a certain flair for action, a particular highlight being the kidnapping attempt on the girl, shown almost exclusively from inside a car with the action playing out in the rear view mirrors. It’s hardly a work of genius but it’s lots of fun and the frantic action has enough heft to carry it through.

The action in THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY is a much more sedate affair, aiming for realism (even if it doesn’t quite hit the mark). SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL star Henry Cavill stars as Will, the son of CIA Agent Martin (Bruce Willis) who finds his life turned upside down when his family are kidnapped by terrorists intent on retrieving a briefcase containing stolen intelligence that Martin has secured for the agency. It’s basically BOURNE-light but sadly never seems to get going, with lacklustre set pieces and implausible twists holding it back. It’s not that it’s bad or anything, it’s just that in a crowded genre like this you have to shine if you want to get noticed and THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY is just a bit dull, which is all the more shameful considering it stars Willis and Sigourney Weaver. Weaver seems to be spending her days playing evil, shadowy CIA bosses these days but here it doesn’t really ring true and you know when Ripley doesn’t seem right toting a machine pistol that something is amiss.

Ray Winstone actually plays marginally against type in indie Brit flick THE HOT POTATO. Instead of the typical Cockney gangster he normally plays he portrays a Cockney scrap merchant called Kenny who is more of an opportunist than a career villain. Apparently based on real events, Kenny finds himself slap bang in the middle of a dubious get rich quick scheme when his young protege Danny (Jack Huston) salvages a chunk of high grade Uranium from an industrial fire. Looking for a big pay day, the pair find themselves hounded by international espionage agents all intent on securing the prize for their respective governments. It’s far more sedate than the typical Winstone fare, it’s late sixties setting feeling more HEARTBEAT than NIL BY MOUTH but it has a cheeky charm that saves the day and just enough humour to get away with it all.

 

I wish the same could be said for the witless AMERICAN PIE: REUNION, the latest in the long running gross out franchise. I suppose to expect much from a series that popularised the term MILF and immortalised Jason Biggs as the man who stuck his penis in a warm apple pie is a fools errand but surely the joke has worn perilously thin by now? It’s not without it’s moments (chief among them a particularly grotesque vengeance exacted by Stifler on some unsuspecting youths) and Eugene Levy still manages to be the oasis in a comedy desert (the bigger mystery being why he persists in slumming it in a series he’s so clearly above) but it’s a pretty long film with precious few jokes to keep it ticking over. I’m sure long term fans of the series will get more out of it than I did – there are doubtless references to previous episodes that I didn’t pick up on – but for me it felt like a relief that this seems like an effort to wrap up the loose ends and draw a line under the AMERICAN PIE legacy once and for all. All that said, I was never a fan of the first AMERICAN PIE, so it’s just as likely that I simply don’t get the joke.

The unsettling, atmospheric THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS is much more my scene and is, in fact, my PICK OF THE WEEK this week. Veteran hitman Pinner (an outstanding performance from Billy Clarke – HUNGER) and his young apprentice Cully (Jack Gordon – CAPTAIN AMERICA, FISH TANK) lie in wait for their next target at his home. Neither man is prepared for what awaits them in the house though and as they make some gruesome discoveries they quickly realise their boss hasn’t quite filled them in on all the details. This carefully measured horror story is as sinister as it is compact, it’s streamlined sets lending a theatrical air to a rather traditional feeling tale of the macabre. It’s the writing that makes it, and writer/director Sean Hogan’s dialogue is brought to chilling life by Clarke who gets all the best lines (in fact almost all the lines full stop). It crams a lot into its sub-seventy-minute running time, including plenty of gore and some diabolical philosophy for good measure. And it’s pretty darn creepy ‘n’ all.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/09/2012 22:08

    I have successfully lived my life in a Titanic free zone so far, and I intend to keep it that way. What that movie needs, in my opinion, is a few good martial arts sequences to liven it up. Some of the other films sounds good but I guess my top pick would be the Pirate film! Love that kind of animation. Will have to give the last film a miss – can’t do horror, it literally gives me nightmares.

  2. 08/09/2012 22:13

    You should give Safe a look – it’s a bit flimsy, but the fight sequences are actually pretty good and it’s definitely in the upper bracket of the Statham movies. Pirates! is great fun. In a parallel universe there’s a kung fu battle raging on the slanted deck of a sinking Titanic between Di Caprio and Billy Zane. Sadly, we are not in that universe.

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