A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray
Men In Black 3 (Cert PG, 101 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Sci-Fi/Action/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Trilogy DVD Box Set £26.99/Blu-ray £24.99/3D Blu-ray £29.99/Trilogy Blu-ray Box Set £38.99)
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nicole Scherzinger.
A Boglodite assassin called Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from the Lunar Max high-security prison and travels back in time to kill the man who put him behind bars: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). The ripple effect causes Agent K to disappear from the future, heralding a full-scale Boglodite invasion of Earth. "K's been dead for over 40 years," Agent O (Emma Thompson) tells a confused 21st-century Agent J (Will Smith) when he turns up for work. Having ascertained that the past has been altered, J also travels back to 1969, where he meets the young Agent K (Josh Brolin). With assistance from the young Agent O (Alice Eve) and an otherworldly soothsayer called Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), J risks everything to save his best friend from annihilation. Third time's a charm for the sharp-suited Men In Black, who rediscover their swagger 10 years after the lacklustre second instalment. The script largely ignores races issues of the era to concentrate on slam-bang thrills, which is a shame but would have bloated the running time, which already feels long at 101 minutes. Stuhlbarg threatens to upstage everyone in a quixotic supporting role and Thompson lends gravitas but invariably Smith's wise-cracking and the imaginative production design are the constant sources of wonder. Director Barry Sonnenfeld imbues each breathlessly orchestrated scene with impish humour, from a protracted kiss that churns stomachs to a slime-slathered skirmish with a giant fish. As usual, visual gags include the flickering video wall at MIB headquarters, which monitors alien activity on Earth and exposes Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Tim Burton as extra-terrestrial visitors.
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (Cert 15, 97 mins, Studio Canal, Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Melanie Lynskey, Rob Corddry, Connie Britton, Derek Luke, Nancy Carell.
An asteroid called Matilda is on a collision course with Earth, heralding the end of humankind. Insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell) is abandoned by his wife Linda (real-life spouse Nancy Carell) and returns to his unedifying daily routine. His married best friends Warren (Rob Corddry) and Diane (Connie Britton) attempt to set him up with vamp Karen (Melanie Lynskey) but Dodge would rather spend his final days alone. Until, that is, he meets vinyl-obsessed English rose Penny (Keira Knightley). An awkward first encounter mellows into something more meaningful and with time running out, Dodge helps Penny to shake free of the shackles of her boyfriend Owen (Adam Brody) so that she can find a flight back home to Britain to be reunited with her family. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is a bittersweet end-of-days romance, distinguished by Carell's moving portrayal of an office drone who doesn't want to die alone. Knightley isn't completely comfortable with comedy but Lorene Scafaria's script delivers lots of belly laughs, relating the final countdown using gallows humour TV and radio announcements. There is an embarrassment of snappy one-liners - "You think Jesus was sober for his last supper?"; "I am a recovering serial monogamist" - and a deranged sequence in an American diner styled on TGI Friday's is lip-smackingly hilarious. However, as doomsday approaches, Scafaria cannot resist a few bows to cheesy convention. It's the end of the world as we know it but there's always time for opposites to attract.
Katy Perry: Part Of Me (Cert PG, 93 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, Documentary/Musical, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99)
Starring: Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Lucas Kerr, Shannon Woodward.
In less than four years, Californian singer Katy Perry has become one of the biggest-selling artists on the planet. She capitalised on the controversy of debut single I Kissed A Girl with two hugely successful albums, One Of The Boys and Teenage Dreams, and numerous hit singles. Over the past 18 months, her personal life has been under scrutiny as a whirlwind marriage to comedian Russell Brand fell apart. Katy Perry: Part Of Me is a behind-the-scenes documentary that traces her ascent from gospel singer Katy Hudson to the present day, with countless awards cluttering up the mantelpiece. "Thank you for believing in my weirdness," she squeals to adoring fans during one candy-coloured musical number. While her on-stage shenanigans with a dancing cat called Kitty Purry certainly err towards bonkers, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz's video diary is a conventional fly-on-the-wall portrait in a similar vein to Justin Bieber's Never Say Never. Invariably, it's the raw footage which makes the biggest impact, and Perry allows the cameras to keep rolling at her low ebb. From the moment Brand wanders into shot and Perry swoons, "I think, honestly, I found the love of my life", we're braced for the emotional car crash. Sure enough, she breaks down before a concert in Sao Paulo, sobbing uncontrollably as the reality of the break-up hits home like a sledgehammer. Concert footage showcases her tremendous vocals, as you'd expect, and her zany costumes and stage design wouldn't look out of place in Willy Wonka's factory.
Joyful Noise (Cert PG, 119 mins, Warner Home Video, Musical/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99)
Starring: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan, Dexter Darden, Courtney B Vance, Paul Woolfolk, Angela Grovey, Francis Jue, Andy Karl, Kris Kristofferson, Kirk Franklin.
In the God-fearing Georgia town of Pacashau, the choir led by Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) inspires hope. When he passes away suddenly, Pastor Dale (Courtney B Vance) appoints Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) as the new director ahead of Bernard's sassy wife, GG (Dolly Parton). Vi imposes her will and quashes any discussion about changes to the repertoire for the upcoming final of the Joyful Noise singing competition by telling one choir member, "Save time, see it my way". Tensions rise, then GG's handsome grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes to town and promptly falls for Vi's teenage daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer). Joyful Noise relies heavily on the chemistry between Latifah and Parton, and their verbal sparring has its moments, such as when Vi pokes fun at GG's cosmetic enhancements and the pint-sized dynamo retorts, "God did not make plastic surgeons so they could starve". Palmer and Jordan are an insipid romantic pairing but they sing beautifully as the soundtrack swings from gooey ballads to upbeat exultations to the Lord. Praise be that director Todd Graff doesn't extend his saccharine sermon beyond two hours. Characters are sketched in disappointingly broad strokes and Graff's script is simplistic and cloyingly sentimental, singing from a hymn sheet that has been borrowed from the TV series Glee and its imitators. Musical numbers are undeniably rousing, including a climactic mash-up of Sly And The Family Stone, Usher and Stevie Wonder for the national championships. Yet for all of its heart, not to mention Parton's boundless good cheer, Joyful Noise fails to hit any emotional high notes.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (Cert 18, 84 mins, Warner Home Video, Comedy/Romance/Action, also available to buy DVD £15.99/3D Blu-ray £24.99)
Starring: Kal Penn, John Cho, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Trejo, Paula Garces, Thomas Lennon, Amir Blumenfeld, Danneel Harris, Elias Koteas.
Harold (John Cho) has lost touch with his buddy Kumar (Kal Penn) and has turned his life around by ditching the reefers, clambering up the corporate ladder and marrying Maria (Paula Garces). Their attempts to get her pregnant on Christmas Eve are interrupted by the arrival of Maria's formidable father, Carlos (Danny Trejo), and the entire Perez clan carrying a 12ft Douglas fir tree that the patriarch has been growing for the past eight years. Fate conspires to reunite the estranged buddies and a spark from Kumar's discarded marijuana joint sets the beloved Christmas tree alight. Determined to impress Carlos, Harold heads into the night in search of a replacement fir with Kumar, buddy Todd (Thomas Lennon), teenager Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld) and Todd's infant daughter in tow. Arriving on the small screen almost 12 months after its cinema release, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is another hit-or-miss instalment of the series. Christmas is the season of giving so Todd Strauss-Schulson's film gifts us a familiar array of mishaps, potty-mouthed outbursts and gross-out moments wrapped in festive cheer. Penn and Cho revisit their roles without breaking a sweat and, once again, Neil Patrick Harris steals every frame, sending himself up with tongue wedged firmly in cheek. Screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are neither big nor clever, subjecting a baby to nose candy for the sake of a giggle, but for every two or three gags that miss the mark, one hits the sweet spot. The 3D version of the film is available exclusively on Blu-ray.
Killer Joe (Cert 18, 98 mins, Entertainment One, Drama/Thriller/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99 - see below)
Private Peaceful (Cert 12, 102 mins, Eagle Rock Entertainment, War/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below)
New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Downton Abbey - Series Three (Cert 12, 418 mins, Universal/Playback, DVD £29.99/Complete Collection DVD Box Set £49.99/Blu-ray £34.99/Complete Collection Blu-ray Box Set £54.99)
Death stalks the corridors of Downton Abbey in these eight episodes of the award-winning ITV1 drama series that continues to make waves across the Atlantic. The fate of the grand house hangs in the balance but everyone comes together for the wedding of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), including Cora's mother Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine), who locks horns with the imperious Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). Below stairs, first footman Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is physically drawn to new arrival Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers) and the mood changes when valet Bates (Brendan Coyle) is finally released from prison. An 11-disc box set comprising all three series is also available.
Mad Men - Season Five (Cert 15, 592 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, DVD £29.99/Seasons One To Five DVD Box Set £79.99/Blu-ray £39.99/Seasons One To Five Blu-ray Box Set £119.99, Drama/Romance)
Three-disc box set of 13 engrossing episodes of the award-winning drama set at the Sterling Cooper advertising agency in New York City between 1966 and 1967. This series, Megan (Jessica Pare) throws a surprise birthday party for new husband Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and turns the heads of most men at the company, Joan (Christina Hendricks) confronts the irreparable breakdown of her marriage, Roger (John Slattery) and Jane (Peyton List) see the world differently after an LSD trip and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) entertains a tempting job offer as chief copywriter with rival company CGC. A 15-disc box set comprising all five series is also available.
Killer Joe (Cert 18, 98 mins, Entertainment One, DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Drama/Thriller/Romance)
Tracy Letts's incendiary 1993 play, which exploded to life at the Bush Theatre in London before transferring to the West End, translates smartly from stage to screen in William Friedkin's suspenseful portrait of white-trash treachery. Matthew McConaughey shows his acting mettle rather than just his pecs as the eponymous assassin who is hired by disgruntled son Chris (Emile Hirsch) to kill his mother Sharla (Gina Gershon) in order to collect a hefty life insurance payout. When Chris fails to stump up the hit man's sizeable fee, Joe demands the lad's emotionally unstable sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a "retainer", and the film's moral compass whirls sickeningly out of control. Killer Joe doesn't completely escape its stage origins, notably in closing scenes within the family's claustrophobic trailer, where Chris's father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) is reduced to a whimpering, bloodied mess by Joe. Laced with laconic wit and peppered with scenes of violence that will churn even the strongest stomach, Friedkin's film steadily cranks up the tension as Joe worms his way into Dottie's affections. Pent-up frustrations percolate and eventually boil over in a wince-inducing sequence involving southern fried chicken that is finger lickin' great.
Homefront (Cert 12, 360 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Drama/Romance)
The wives and girlfriends of soldiers serving in Afghanistan are left behind to pick up the pieces in ITV1's six-part drama, which was filmed on location in Manchester and Cheshire. Claire Marshbrook (Claire Skinner) met widowed Major Peter Bartham (Greg Wise) on a dating website and had to give up her career to become an army wife. Fifteen-year-old step-daughter Millie (Rosie Day) resents her and Claire's teenage son, Sam (Ceallach Spellman), leading to inevitable blow-ups. Former army nurse Louise Mancetta (Nicola Stephenson) knows all about the dangers faced by her husband Joe (Warren Brown) on the front line. She raises their two daughters Hannah and Grace and refuses to kowtow to top brass unlike some of the other women. Paula Raveley (Clare Higgins) is proud that her son Matt is serving in Helmand alongside his brother Tom (Chris Reilly). She clashes with Matt's young wife, Tasha (Antonia Thomas), who is determined to prove herself the perfect parent to their toddler son, Alfie, after a troubled upbringing by her single mum, Cheryl (Lorraine Ashbourne).
New Tricks - Series Nine (Cert 15, 588 mins, Acorn Media UK, DVD/Blu-ray £25.99, Drama/Thriller)
Jack Halford (James Bolam) bids farewell to Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) and the Unsolved Crime And Open Case Squad in the opening episode of the enduringly popular BBC1 crime drama. Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman) and Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) re-adjust slowly to life without their good friend, investigating the disappearance of a PE teacher and re-opening a case involving the suicide of a Foreign Office diplomat. Retired DI Steve McAndrew (Denis Lawson) lends his expertise to the team on one of his old cases and becomes a full-time member of UCOS, but he faces resistance from Brian. The three-disc box set includes A Death In The Family, Old School Ties, Queen And Country, The Girl Who Lived, Body Of Evidence, Love Means Nothing In Tennis, Dead Poets, Blue Flower, Parts Of A Whole and Glasgow UCOS.
Private Peaceful (Cert 12, 102 mins, Eagle Rock Entertainment, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, War/Drama/Romance)
Screenwriter Simon Reade adapts Michael Morpurgo's beloved novel for the big screen under the direction of Pat O'Connor. Tommo Peaceful (George MacKay) lives in the tranquil village of Iddesleigh with his mother Hazel (Maxine Peake) and brothers Charlie (Jack O'Connell) and Big Joe (Kyle Summercorn), who has learning difficulties and is fiercely protective of his siblings. Tommo develops a crush on spirited local girl Molly Monks (Alexandra Roach) but she seems to prefer the attention of Charlie and when she falls pregnant with his brother's child, Tommo nurses a broken heart by enlisting in the army to fight in the First World War. Charlie follows and does his best to protect weakling Tommo from the constant goading of sadistic Sergeant Hanley (John Lynch). However, Tommo cannot forgive his sibling for stealing Molly's heart and as the conflict rages on, the Peaceful lads fight for their lives behind enemy lines, hoping one day to return to the green and pleasant land of their innocent youth.
Spy - Series 1 (Cert 12, 135 mins, Studio Canal, DVD £19.99, Comedy)
A divorced father is unwittingly welcomed into the ranks of MI5 in his six-part British sitcom broadcast on Sky1. Tim (Darren Boyd) is shell-shocked by a divorce from his wife Judith (Dolly Wells) and the subsequent custody battle for their hyper-intelligent nine-year-old son, Marcus (Jude Wright). To provide a more stable environment, Tim quits his job at a computer shop and secures an interview for a data-entry position in the hallowed corridors of Westminster. When he arrives, Tim discovers that he is applying instead for a job as a spy under the aegis of an enigmatic handler called The Examiner (Robert Lindsay) - a role for which he is poorly equipped in almost every respect.
Supernatural - The Complete Seventh Season (Cert 15, 931 mins, Warner Home Video, DVD £39.99/Blu-ray £49.99, Horror/Drama)
Sam Winchester (Jensen Ackles), his brother Dean (Jared Padalecki) and their trusted friend Bobby (Jim Beaver) are spared death by the angel Castiel (Misha Collins) at the beginning of the seventh series of the popular supernatural drama. However, there are far greater terrors ahead for the siblings, including the murderous Egyptian god Osiris and the Greek titan Cronos, who transports Dean back to 1944, when Elliot Ness (Nicholas Lea) and his gun-toting cronies held sway. In the gripping finale, one of the brothers finds himself in Purgatory while the other is betrayed by Crowley (Mark Sheppard). The six-disc set includes all 23 episodes.
Welcome Aboard (Bienvenue Parmi Nous) (Cert 15, 88 mins, Studio Canal, DVD £15.99, Drama)
Two emotionally fragile souls are unexpectedly brought together for an extraordinary journey of self-discovery in Jean Becker's tender drama. Sixty-something painter Taillandier (Patrick Chesnais) has enjoyed success in his career but all of the adulation fails to stop him becoming overwhelmed with depression and self-doubt. He gives up his art and leaves home without any explanation to the people he loves. On the road, Taillandier meets a young girl called Marylou (Jeanne Lambert), who has been rejected by her mother and is searching for stability and direction in her life. They elect to travel together and a father-daughter relationship forms between Taillandier and Marylou.
Channel 4's Comedy Gala 2012 (Cert 15, 126 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £6.99, Comedy)
Some of the brightest stars of live and television comedy come together at the O2 Arena in London to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Recorded in May 2012, this concert film features hilarious performances from the likes of Jo Brand, Kevin Bridges, Alan Carr, Paul Chowdhry, Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Micky Flanagan, Keith Lemon, Sean Lock, Michael McIntyre, Lee Nelson, Andi Osho, Jon Richardson, Jonathan Ross, Seann Walsh, Jack Whitehall and Josh Widdicombe.
Santa Sangre (Cert 18, 117 mins, Anchor Bay Entertainment, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £17.99, Drama)
A welcome re-release of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1989 portrait of a damaged soul who is born and raised on the road. Felix (Axel Jodorowsky) harks from a long line of circus folk: his father Orgo (Guy Stockwell) is a knife-thrower and his mother Concha (Blanca Guerra) soars through the air with grace as a trapeze artist. The young man bears witness to his father's adulterous transgressions with the Tattooed Woman (Thelma Tixou) and the subsequent fallout when his mother discovers the affair and punishes her husband by pouring sulphuric acid on his nether regions. Felix is mentally scarred by the episode and he ends up in an institution. One day, he and the other patients enjoy a day trip to the cinema, but on their way to the movie house, the men are intercepted by a pimp who attempts to entice them to visit a prostitute. Felix notices that one of the working girls is the Tattooed Woman and, haunted by the spirit of his dead mother, he pursues retribution.
Bear Grylls: Born Survivor - Complete Season Six (Cert E, 480 mins, Demand DVD, DVD £24.99, Special Interest)
Six instalments of the popular series broadcast on the Discovery Channel. Fronted by Bear Grylls, the famed survival expert and explorer pits his wits against Mother Nature in some of the most hostile environments on the planet. In this series, Grylls scours for water in the sun-baked Arizona desert, he witnesses how bears survive in the harsh Scandinavian winter and attempts to spear fish 20ft underwater. The DVD includes the episodes Arizona, Scotland, Norway, Borneo, Malaysia and Global Survival Guide.
It's A Wonderful Life (Cert U, 130 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99)
The annual re-issue of Frank Capra's life-affirming 1946 fable that perfectly exemplifies the festive spirit. James Stewart stars as suicidal family man George Bailey, who ponders a life without his beloved wife Mary (Donna Reed) and children, but is thankfully saved by guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers). The black-and-white and colourised versions of the film are included on both formats.
The Snowman (30th Anniversary Edition) (Cert U, 26 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £6.99/Blu-ray £10.99)
Three decades after it was first broadcast on Channel Four, the animated version of the beloved Raymond Briggs story continues to charm and delight. The story centres on a boy called James, who wakes at midnight to discover that the icy figure in the garden has come to life. The snowman and the boy embark on a magical adventure to the haunting strains of Walking In The Air.
DVD and Blu-ray retail top 10
1 (-) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
2 (2) Prometheus
3 (3) Dark Shadows
4 (1) Wrath Of The Titans
5 (5) Mrs Brown's Boys - Series Two
6 (4) Shrek's Thrilling Tales
7 (-) What To Expect When You're Expecting
8 (-) House - Series 8
9 (-) Red Lights
10 (-) Chernobyl Diaries
Chart supplied by www.hmv.com
DVD rental top 10
1 (2) Avengers Assemble
2 (4) The Cabin In The Woods
3 (3) Snow White And The Huntsman
4 (5) The Hunger Games
5 (9) The Dictator
6 (-) How I Spent My Summer Vacation
7 (6) The Five-Year Engagement
8 (-) Chernobyl Diaries
9 (-) Sofia
10 (7) Lockout
Chart supplied by www.blockbuster.co.uk