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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 8th October 2012

05/10/2012

ILL MANORS is first up this week, the film written and directed by Ben “Plan B” Drew that is part gritty urban drama and part music video, narrated as it is (at least in part) by Plan B’s rapping as it’s multi-thread narrative unfolds. FOUR LIONS Riz Ahmed takes the lead as petty drug dealer Aaron, one of a number of characters from the seedier side of London life whose paths intersect over the space of a couple of days. It’s origins in a short film (essentially an extended music video) by Drew become pretty apparent as this underwritten exercise in grimness unfolds. This is the irredeemably grim London usually the preserve of tabloid journalism where there are literally no good people left, the only decent seeming human beings eventually shown to be essentially morally corrupt. This is the sort of caricature of society on show in the likes of HARRY BROWN or KIDULTHOOD where everyone is either black heartedly evil or so naive and impressionable that they become the puppets of those who are. By the end of the film events reach such a crescendo of implausibility that any of the credibility established in the first half of the film (scarce as it is) is thrown away in a last half hour of madness. A look at the on-disc making of documentary confirms the feeling you get from the film – that this is a cynical act by people with a commercial agenda looking to capture the pre-existing Plan B fanbase with a film. It has it’s moments of drama and humour but they are scarce and more problematically, they are swamped by the sheer overwhelming, unbelievable grimness of it all. Plan B fans should get a kick out of the music if nothing else and the performances are decent, it’s just a shame there wasn’t better material for them to work with in the first place.

Plan B might use hip hop to provide the exposition in his film but take a genre sidestep to classic rock and you find yourself in full blown musical territory with ROCK OF AGES, a musical that uses classic rock hits to hang it’s small town girl in the big city story on. Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta Jones and even Bryan Cranston put in an appearance in what presumably is supposed to be a celebration of the classic rock hits we all love but which in reality proves to be a crime against the very music it purports to revere. It might not be so bad if the songs hadn’t been GLEE-ified or if there was a script for the bits in between the songs or if Russell Brand hadn’t affected a pitiful attempt at a Black Country accent but they did all of the above. I’m no fan of musicals at the best of times and this plotless, soulless attempt at one just reinforces my belief that they aren’t worth the time. When it comes down to it, the only films worth watching about Rock n Roll are SPINAL TAP and ALMOST FAMOUS, both of which show ROCK OF AGES up for the facile nonsense it is.

Sam Riley, Jason Statham, Ray Winstone, Mickey Rourke and Michael Shannon join forces with Georgian director Gela Babluani in 13, a remake of his own Russian Roulette thriller 13 Tazmeti. Out go the black and white and the Russian dialogue, in comes an American setting and colour film in an actually pretty good revisit to the ground he covered in his previous film. Riley is particularly good as the hapless young man who inadvertently becomes embroiled in a secretive, highly illegal and extremely dangerous sporting event in the hope to earn some money to pay for his father’s medical care. It’s a compact, tense affair that’s a far cry from the sort of thing we’re used to seeing some of these cast members (Statham and Rourke I’m looking at you) in these days. It’s always slightly questionable when a director remakes their own film, but clearly the intention here is to have another bash with a bigger budget and bigger names in the hope of bringing the story to a wider audience – the original after all has enjoyed only cult success at best despite being a cracking film. This is a fair rendition of it though and definitely worth a look, even if you’ve seen the original.

With Halloween looming it’s going to be a constant stream of horror releases over the next couple of weeks and probably the best of the batch this week is the Spanish comedy horror ATTACK OF THE WEREWOLVES. When Tomas is invited back to his home village to receive the freedom of the village due to his (almost) success as a writer he is more than happy to make the trip, of course that’s before he’s discovered the village is cursed with a Werewolf problem thanks to a run in with some pissed off Gypsies a hundred years previously. While there are shades of the like of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE EVIL DEAD in places, it’s its own film and, with the balance tipped in favour of humour over horror is an enjoyable romp in the Spanish countryside where our bumbling heroes are forced to fend off a pack of men-in-furry-suits werewolves (better than they sound – the creature effects are actually pretty satisfying and far better than any CGI wolf I’ve seen) to great comic effect. It even has time to thrown in a couple of good jumps for your money and a rather classy comic book style opening sequence that establishes the back story. Good stuff.

My PICK OF THE WEEK this week though has to be Ridley Scott’s ALIEN prequel (of sorts) PROMETHEUS, a film I saw when it came out in the cinema and fully embraced despite its one or two minor flaws. The thought of another visit to the rich universe of the original ALIEN movies meant my expectations were high but they were essentially met by the end result. Exciting, thought provoking and wonderfully polished this is everything an event movie should be. Click here for a more in depth review of the movie, suffice to say that if you liked the ALIEN movies you owe it to yourself to see this, if only to get a sense of where the next couple of instalments of the series are likely to take you. You don’t get a lot of epic sci-fi that reaches this standard these days. A word of warning though, if you are expecting this to be a direct prequel to the events that transpire on LV-426 with the crew of the Nostromo you will be disappointed, so it’s best to leave such thoughts to one side before you embark on PROMETHEUS.

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