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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 14th January 2013

13/01/2013

vileThe next couple of months sees a steady trickle of the last of 2012’s big titles, mixed in with the usual jumble of less recognisable fare. First up this week is VILE, a curiously named indie horror about a group of people who find themselves imprisoned in a house and at the mercy of a mysterious drugs gang that wants to extract various chemicals released by the brain when it experiences pain in order to sell them on as the latest designer drug. Essentially, this means the hapless victims have an hour in which to inflict as much pain on each other as possible in order to meet a kind of agony quota in order to secure their freedom. Promises of “extreme content” on the cover are more than a little over-stated – much of the torturing blessedly happens off screen with the emphasis being on sound and inferred violence – but its biggest failing comes from the flaws in its own logic. Never mind the bizarre inefficiency of the method of endorphin collection that the bad guys have opted for, the basic mechanism by which their “pain counter” operates throws up major questions. Would the pain of submerging your hand in a pan of boiling water end when you pulled your arm out? Or would it continue for hours, days, weeks after? It’s not a terrible mess but I found it difficult to get past such inconsistencies, almost as difficult as I found it to feel any sympathy for the irritating bunch of hapless mugs that are being tortured. It’s reminiscent in a lot of ways of 1997’s CUBE, but nowhere near as good.

black eagleNo less ridiculous, but far more entertaining, is South Korean TOP GUN rip off BLACK EAGLE. Korean superstar Rain (SPEED RACER, NINJA ASSASSIN, I’M A CYBORG) plays Tae Hun, a maverick pilot in the Korean air force who gets booted off their Black Eagle display team for showboating at an air show. Once he’s been returned to his air force unit, a routine training mission goes awry when it runs into a North Korean military coup in progress and all hell breaks loose. Cue a race to rescue a downed pilot and avert global thermonuclear destruction that is full of thrills and spills, all delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. In many ways this has as much in common with FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER and BAT*21 as it does with TOP GUN and while it’s far from brilliant it’s certainly a lot of fun. The aerial combat sequences are particularly enjoyable and while they rely quite heavily on CGI, the F15 and MIG dogfights are actually quite exciting, especially when the action spills over into downtown Seoul. It’s depiction of the North vs South Korea angle is a little bit one dimensional (if you want some depth on this topic maybe check out BROTHERHOOD instead) but realism is forced to take a back in seat in deference to entertainment value, which BLACK EAGLE has just enough of to get away with.

lawlessOne of my cinematic highlights of last year was LAWLESS, a rooted in reality period piece about prohibition era bootleggers the Bondurant family, rural kingpins of the prolific moonshine trade of Franklin County, Virginia during the 1920s. The tremendous Tom Hardy stars as Forrest Bondurant, the head of the family who spends as much time trying to keep his psychotic younger brother Howard (Jason Clarke) and ambitious even younger brother Jack (a surprisingly not annoying Shia LaBeouf) in check in the face of increasing pressure from demented lawman Charlie Rakes played by an impressively unsettling Guy Pearce. Outlaw as folk hero is the order of the day with the legend of the Bondurants growing every time Rakes and his cronies fail to put an end to their moonshine operations. The cast make a wonderful job of Nick Cave’s script, adapted from Bondurant descendant Matt Bondurant’s book. Throw in a Nick Cave/Warren Ellis soundtrack, some beautiful photography and some striking set pieces, and this tale of brotherhood, loyalty and vengeance makes for some quality viewing.

dreddLast year was some year for the humble comic book movie with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and AVENGERS ASSEMBLE proving that comic blockbusters are pretty much here to stay and that’s no bad thing. The best comic book movie of last year was neither of these mega-budget block busters though, but rather the somewhat humbler but no less exciting rejuvenation of the greatest thing to come out of 2000AD, the mighty Judge Dredd. DREDD has swept away the rather sour memories of Danny Cannon’s 1995 disasterpiece that seemed to spend so much time getting the look right that it totally forgot to get the feel of Mega City 1’s toughest lawman even close to the comics. With DREDD, director Pete Travis gets it right as the Karl Urban’s steely Dredd babysits a fledgling Judge Anderson (a stunning performance from Olivia Thirlby) as they head into a residential block that is in the grip of vicious drug lord Ma-Ma (GAME OF THRONES’ Lena Headey) in order to get to the bottom of some drug related murders. What follows is a THE RAID-esque roller coaster ride of hard boiled action as the good guys have to fight their way through the deadly corridors of Ma-Ma’s block. You can read a full review of why this film is my PICK OF THE WEEK here, but in a nutshell, they’ve captured the essence of Judge Dredd perfectly in this film and brought new hope for a franchise worthy of the original comic.

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