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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 21st January 2013

20/01/2013

Regular readers of my new release round up should know that I get my review copies of the new release movies from my local branch of hmv and those of you who pay any attention whatsoever to the world around them should also know that as of last Tuesday, said entertainment retailer has entered into administration. This is terrible news for the company’s four thousand or so employees, although early indications would seem that there should be little trouble in finding a buyer for the business which hopefully means their jobs will be safe along with a retail brand that is a genuine British institution. I certainly hope so. Why is this relevant to the new release round up? Well, it’s impacted on my access to this week’s new releases, most notably AMERICAN MARY, which I have been unable to see as of yet. As such there are a few titles missing from this week’s round up, but I’m sure you will agree that as far as issues go, this is pretty insignificant compared to the plight of hmv’s staff. I’ll do my best to add them later if I can get my hands on the relevant titles but I shan’t be picking a PICK OF THE WEEK until I’ve seen the missing ones.

the sweeneyIn the meantime, let’s get the ball rolling with the latest vintage TV series to get the shiny reboot treatment, THE SWEENEY. Readers of a certain age (or UK Gold viewers) are likely to remember the original series starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, a rough and ready account of Scotland Yard’s “Flying Squad” (a.k.a The Sweeney, from the rhyming slang “Sweeney Todd”) that followed the antics of the heavy handed police unit as they foiled various gangs of armed robbers. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the show which always had a little twinkle of humour in its eye as it went about its business, taking itself just seriously enough as police officers in various shades of brown took on villains with pick axe handles and some sarky remarks. Roll the clock forward to 2012 however and THE SWEENEY becomes a very different prospect. All that really remains of the original series are the main character’s names. Go to Cockney Ray Winstone plays the head of the squad, Jack Regan (in a much less likeable incarnation than Thaw’s seventies original) and instead of Dennis Waterman his right hand man George Carter is played by Ben “Plan B” Drew who I’m sure brings in a pre-established fan base but who is, in my opinion, cinematic kryptonite. Stripped of its sense of humour and with added machine guns, the twenty first century realisation of THE SWEENEY is a po faced, faintly ridiculous attempt at a gritty cop drama. Loaded with action it might be, but the American style shoot-em-up approach doesn’t feel right at all, seeming very overblown and completely unconvincing in a British cop thriller. At one stage someone orders Regan to “turn in your badge and your gun” like it’s LETHAL WEAPON or something. A tepid script and lukewarm performances conspire against it too. Perhaps if they’d had the sense to call it something else, make it a cop thriller in its own right, it might have lessened the disappointment, but as it stands this is mediocre at best.

possession_retail_dvd#2.inddWhen a young girl picks up a mysterious wooden box at a yard sale she and her family are in for a nasty surprise, what with it containing an evil spirit intent on conquering her innocent soul and all. That’s the (actually not bad) premise for THE POSSESSION, which sees WATCHMEN’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan battling his ex wife, her new boyfriend and an evil force in a bid to save his daughter. All the usual trappings are there (“based on a true story” opening credits caption included) and, as is so often the case, we’ve seen most of them before. The box idea is a good one, a Pandora-esque puzzle box that is inherently inviting yet not supposed to be opened but it’s not long before things degenerate into yet another possession movie. The biggest issue with that is that Friedkin and Blatty did it best way back in 1973 with THE EXORCIST; so much so that all other possession/exorcism movies that followed have always felt like pale imitations. That said, there are some genuinely unsettling images in terms of special effects (although they did squander at least one of them in the trailer), the Judaism angle is a bit different and it’s a damn sight better than the likes of THE DEVIL INSIDE, although that is not particularly difficult.

the campaignWill Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star in THE CAMPAIGN, a heavy handed though often funny parody of the American electoral process which sees incompetent and slightly sleazy incumbent Democratic senator for North Carolina, Cam Brady (Ferrell) go head to head with a naive and slightly weird but backed by big business Republican opponent, Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) in a comedy of errors reminiscent of pretty much the main body of Ferrell’s work. It’s a pretty inconsistent array of largely predictable humour but when the jokes hit the right marks they are genuinely funny and there’s enough of these successes to pull the film through. Whether we really need the spelled out notion that the billionaires buy the politicians that help them make more money and unduly influence an electoral process that is more about the desire to win than the desire to do anything worthwhile when you do is open to question, and the predictability of the story is pretty dreadful, but like BLADES OF GLORY before it, THE CAMPAIGN has enough jokes that work to make it worth watching. Somehow they manage to tragically under use heavy hitters like Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow (not to mention Dundee’s favourite son, The Actor Brian Cox) but it manages to more or less work despite this. Imagine none of the insight into the American political system of the WEST WING combined with some of the jokes from ANCHORMAN and you are more less there I think.

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