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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 11th February 2013

11/02/2013

madagascar 3Everybody knows that Dreamworks are pretty much a solid second place in the world rankings for producers of quality, family friendly CGI animations (and considering the holders of first place are the mighty and pretty much unwavering Pixar that is much more of an accolade than it sounds). If you’re in any doubt that they deserve the second place rosette just compare something like ICE AGE 4 to  MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED, the latest instalment of the popular franchise that follows the adventures of a gang of animals who are trying to find their way back the to Central Park Zoo from which they escaped waaaay back in 2005. With the law of diminishing returns almost always applying to sequels it’s only reasonable to expect some deterioration in quality by the third outing but Dreamworks have managed to keep the decay to a minimum and deliver a kids animation that is funny, a little bit heart warming and, visually, wonderfully vivid. As far as rip roaring chases across Europe with anthropomorphised animals who join a travelling circus go, it’s pretty darn entertaining. One word of warning though, you are likely to be singing Marty’s Circus song for some considerable time after viewing.

savagesSAVAGES sees Oliver Stone take the helm on an action thriller centred around marijuana cultivators Ben and Chon (yes, Chon…) and their oh-so-Californian shared girlfriend O (short for Ophelia) as they are forced to take on a Mexican drug cartel headed by the ruthless Elena (played by Salma Hayek, presumably in a nod to real life Medellin Cartel kingpin Griselda Blanco who turned the South Florida cocaine business into a bloodbath during the eighties). Its main stumbling block stems from risible writing (“I have orgasms, he has wargasms” she declares – via tedious voice over – of her ex Navy SEAL lover Chon) and the clumsily handled Ying/Yang nature of peace loving hippy Ben and psychotically violent Chon’s relationship. Redemption is almost found in the form of Benicio Del Toro sporting a fabulous mullet/quiff combo as the dementedly murderous cartel enforcer Lado, and the action scenes are passable (some of the scenes involving the cartel’s punishments are particularly gruesome) but this feels more like it’s been cobbled together by a sub-par Tarantino, rather than the man who brought us Platoon.

PusherRegular readers will know how much admiration I have for Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, so I was extremely curious at how the Richard Coyle starring, English language remake of Refn’s first film PUSHER would turn out. The short answer is, actually pretty well. Mid level drug dealer Frank (Coyle) finds himself in a bit of a predicament when police interference causes the loss of a large quantity of drugs and the money he was supposed to sell them for. His supplier, the superficially affable Milo (Zlatko Buric, reprising his role from the Danish original) is not happy that he won’t get the money he’s owed from Frank which sets him off on a frantic attempt to raise the cash by other, even less legitimate, means. It’s a pretty straight remake but like all duplicates, it’s lost a little bit of the quality of the original. If Refn’s movie had never existed, or I hadn’t seen it, I’d have probably enjoyed it more but it lacks a lot of the punch of the Danish version. The attempt to recreate Refn’s frenetic movie with its thudding techno soundtrack and maniacal editing is partially successful but has lost a little bit of its intensity in translation. The biggest loss is the replacement of the tremendous Mads Mikkelsen as Frank’s sidekick Tony with Bronson Webb. It’s not that Webb isn’t any good (he is), it’s just that he can’t touch Mikkelsen’s performance in the original. A bit watered down then, but still a decent watch, especially if you haven’t seen the original.

sinisterEthan Hawke stars in SINISTER, a horror from the makers of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and INSIDIOUS, as a true-crime writer who has moved his family into the house of the family at the centre of his latest, gruesome book. It very nearly lives up to its name, especially when it comes to the rather fiendish, Super 8 movies that chart the grizzly story behind the horrific multiple murder he’s investigating which are actually pretty effective, but these are the highlight of a film that is strained by its own silliness. For every moment of tension and atmosphere there’s some flailing loose end that doesn’t make sufficient sense to sit comfortably within the story, critically breaking the atmosphere as your brain struggles to reconcile the lack of basic logic. This is a shame as some of the ideas the film explores are quite interesting (not the lifted from THE SHINING hard drinking, struggling author plot thread though) but just don’t feel sufficiently thought through to make the film work as a whole. Horror fans should get a kick out of most of it though, especially those freaky 8mm “home movies”.

beasts of the southern wildMajestic. That’s the word that springs to mind when I consider my PICK OF THE WEEK, the universally acclaimed BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. I can’t help but be suspicious of films that are this hyped having been burned too many times in the past by high expectations that have been mercilessly dashed by average movies but in this instance the praise is well deserved. Six year old Hushpuppy lives with her father in The Bathtub – a community on the edge of the New Orleans bayou that seems to exist outside the straightlaced restrictions of normal society. Her life is turned upside down though when her father succumbs to a mystery illness and the water level rises, setting Hushpuppy on a journey of discovery and survival. It’s quite a difficult film to pin down, a whimsical almost fairy-tale like affair that’s cut through with drama and comedy and imagination. It hinges on the excellent performances, none more so than the stupendous turn from Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy. It’s mythical quality put me in mind of the equally brilliant Thai film UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, a film it feels like it has a lot in common with, not least the way its relatively humble story is enhanced by folk tradition and wild imagination. Great stuff, that no doubt has set BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD up for some serious award season silverware.

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