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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 28th January 2013

25/01/2013

resident evil retributionThe schedule picks up a bit this week with some of the bigger releases from the tail end of last year getting their home video release. First up is Paul W.S. Anderson’s RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION, the latest instalment in his series of movies based around the popular video game franchise. Perhaps I’m at a disadvantage with this one, having not seen any of the previous four (four!) movies in the franchise and being only passingly familiar with the video games may well mean I lack the requisite grounding in the series to full appreciate it. But I doubt it. The popularity of the series is unquestionable, the fact a sixth episode is in the works is testament enough to that, but barring a gun toting Milla Jovovich in fetishwear the evidence as to why the RESIDENT EVIL movies are so popular is in short supply. The action sequences aren’t too bad I suppose, although they’re nothing that hasn’t been done before (and better) elsewhere. They certainly aren’t adequate compensation for the acting and dialogue. I can’t tell if the overall feel of a substandard video game cut scene is a result of a lack of skill and creativity on the part of the makers or if it’s a stroke of deliberate genius given the franchise’s origins, but if you ask me a sequence of video game level style scenes does not a good film make. I doubt it’ll be the worst film I see this year though.

the doubleThere was probably a time when having Martin Sheen or Richard Gere in your film was probably a selling point in its own right, but on the strength of THE DOUBLE such days are long gone. Gere’s a CIA agent called out of retirement when a notorious Russian assassin whom he believes to be dead appears to have been reactivated to whack a U.S. Senator. It’s two main failings are a ham fisted script that fumbles the twists and turns of a plot that is far less convoluted than I think they’d hoped for, and painfully low production values that set actors who would in the past have had producers throwing money at a movie left to wallow in what feels more like a TV miniseries. That said, if you like espionage thrillers there’s probably enough here to get by on even if it is a little bit predictable and for some reason, reminded me of Kevin Costner’s 1987 spy thriller NO WAY OUT.

house at the end of the streetAnother eighties stalwart puts in an appearance this week, this time in the shape of Elisabeth Shue in HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET. She plays the mother of Elissa (THE HUNGER GAMES star Jennifer Lawrence) who are in for a spot of bother when they move in next door to a house with a grizzly past. A text book teen horror, it’s a film that knows its target audience but sadly chooses to pander to it rather than challenge them, trotting out the usual American high school cliches and pretty faces at the expense of real tension and horror. They even manage to lever in a battle of the bands sub-plot in order to give them an excuse to have Elissa sing a couple of songs like it’s GLEE or something. I suppose these kinds of films exist to be a stepping stone for teenagers to bridge the gap between the likes of THE HUNGER GAMES and harder edged horror fare, and so maybe its intended audience won’t be as familiar with the tedious tropes as I am but if you’re a serious horror fan there’s not much on offer here.

looperMy biggest cinema related regret from last year was not catching Rian Johnson’s sci-fi thriller LOOPER on the big screen. His earlier features BRICK and THE BROTHERS BLOOM are both phenomenally dense, complex thrillers, brilliantly written and performed. As such I was excited by the prospect of him turning his hand to science fiction, in this case a time travel tale that sees hitman Joe (Joseph  Gordon-Levitt) faced with the prospect of having to murder his own future self (played by Bruce Willis) when he’s sent back in time by the mysterious criminal kingpin, The Rainmaker in order to be executed. Johnson has built a convincingly dystopian vision of the near future and has done so with the minimum of clunky exposition. They’ve done a magnificent job of Willis-ing up Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the combination of make up, hair and Levitt’s convincing recreations of classic Willis mannerisms making for a convincing “younger-self”. Its one stumbling block, and it’s a minor one, is the same issue that’s faced by almost every time travel movie ever made (PRIMER  being a notable exception) – there’s no escaping those temporal paradoxes. As much fun as Johnson has with the idea of manipulating an individual in the present to impact on the future version of that person there’s no escaping the fact that it throws up certain paradoxical issues of how it impacts on the future and consequently the events of the present. I suppose it’s a minor niggle, these things after all have to be expected when you’re dealing with time travel, but solid time travel logic is something that I’m always looking for in these kinds of films and that I’m always a little disappointed by when it doesn’t quite work. It’s still a cracking thriller though, with some neat sci-fi touches and slick production values.

paranormanMy PICK OF THE WEEK this week is the family friendly, supernatural animation PARANORMAN. Norman’s the weird kid in class, constantly picked on for being different which he is – he can see and converse with the dead. People’s attitudes are forced to change towards him though when he and his misfit band of friends are the only things standing between their town and a three hundred year old witches curse that threatens to destroy it. This is traditional stop-motion animation pulled off with real class (apparently entirely shot with Canon 5D digital SLR cameras!!) with great character design and a charming, frequently witty script by writer/director Chris Butler. There are plenty of horror movie references (most of which will admittedly fly straight over the heads of younger viewers) and they do a good job of usurping the usual horror conventions whilst still finding time to have a positive moral for the kiddies. It’s a great film, hugely entertaining and a masterpiece of technical achievement. With zombies. What more do you want?

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