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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 1st October 2012

30/09/2012

Whimsy is the order of the day in Wes Anderson’s latest offering MOONRISE KINGDOM, a typically (for Anderson) bittersweet tale of young love in the face of adversity. There are no surprises here for Anderson fans, all the usual trademarks (including Bill Murray) are present and correct – a stellar cast, surrealist animated touches, wry (bordering on dark) humour – so much so in fact that you could argue that we’ve seen it all before. There’s also a strong argument that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and Anderson’s formula is certainly an enchanting one. It certainly seems to attract acting talent – Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, the aforementioned muse-like Bill Murray and even Harvey Keitel all put in an appearance and the film’s two young stars, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, are excellent also, possessed of an oddball chemistry that suits Anderson’s style perfectly. It seems that when it comes to Wes Anderson “more of the same” isn’t really a criticism.

For a very different fairy tale feel next up is SNOW WHITE & THE HUNSTMAN, an edgy reworking of the familiar Snow White story that realises it as more of a fantasy action adventure than anything else. TWILIGHT’s Kristen Stewart stars as the fairest in the land (I’ll let you decide whether or not that is bad casting or not) pitting her wits against Charlize Therons evil stepmother/Queen who wants to chow down on her stepdaughter’s heart in order to secure eternal youth and beauty for herself. Chris Hemsworth rounds out the central trio with his burned out, war veteran Huntsman (sporting a weird hybrid Scottish accent that is probably worth the price of admission alone). Sadly (and probably in order to retain access to Stewart’s core demographic) its GAME OF THRONES aspirations play out more like WILLOW with none of the memorable moments. In fact, the only thing that stands out here is the portrayal of the inevitable dwarves which sees a tremendous clutch of Brit actors (including Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan – still clearly unable to escape type casting, even as a dwarf) upstage the main players and dominate a film that is sadly lacking in uniquely exciting moments. In the end you can’t help but get the sense the makers were confident that Stewart’s fanbase would see them through, resulting in a lacklustre, by the numbers effort.

HARRY POTTER’s Rupert Grint is the other franchise star breaking out into a career post cash cow who has a film out this week. CROSS OF HONOUR is a (based on true) war story of survival and humanity, set against the backdrop of the frozen Norwegian wilderness. When downed airmen from both sides converge on a single hunting cabin in the Norwegian mountains tensions run high before the mutual need for survival overrides the prejudices of their uniforms. ENEMY MINE and BROTHERHOOD spring to mind as initial friction between the groups gradually gives way to camaraderie as the men find the common ground between them. It’s a decent effort,  driven largely by the performances and Grint acquits himself well as a surly, Scouse airman ordered by his officer to be a constant barb in the side of their German counterparts who have the upper hand in their predicament. It’s encouraging when you see someone so firmly established as a particular character break away into something different instead of being endlessly redeployed in order to capture the interest of their established fans.

There’s no danger of Jean Claude Van Damme breaking out into new ground, especially with his latest actioner SIX BULLETS, a film that doesn’t even attempt to break new ground in terms of story by lifting its plot more or less wholesale from TAKEN, as an American teenager gets abducted in Moldova by a sex trafficking gang and JCVD is hired by her family to get her back. Cue a sequence of under-realised action scenes, choreographed and edited by people who don’t appear to have seen many action films, as JCVD punches, kicks and shoots his way to the leaders of the gang in order to rescue the girl. In fairness, it edges into so bad it’s good territory but based on this evidence Van Damme is past it as an action star (his action scenes certainly seem to be very toned down from his 80s hey day – but hey, he’s getting on a bit) and let’s be honest, never really cut it as an actor. This is no DOUBLE IMPACT that’s for sure, but there’s probably just enough to satisfy hardcore Van Damme fans.

My PICK OF THE WEEK this week is, appropriately for October, the darkly atmospheric horror film THE PACT. When her sister mysteriously vanishes whilst finalising their late mother’s affairs, Annie (Caity Lotz) is forced to revisit their family home, a place she’s avoided most of her adult life due to the abuse she and her sister were subjected to as kids. Annie finds herself subjected to terrifying phenomena in the house and sets out to discover what is the cause of the haunting. Despite early indications that it’s going to be yet another dull PARANORMAL ACTIVITY rip off, THE PACT turns out to be a taught and atmospheric horror film in the traditional haunted house vein, that successfully plays on our primal fear of dark places and past traumas with a few judiciously placed shocks which prove remarkably effective. Finding a film that that is genuinely unsettling like this is a rare and welcome treat.

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