A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray
Arthur Christmas (Cert U, 93 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Animation/Comedy/Action, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99)
Featuring the voices of: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen, Bill Nighy, Ramona Marquez.
Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) has been the figurehead of the Yuletide season for decades and he proudly oversees this year's delivery of presents in his hi-tech spacecraft, masterminded with military precision by eldest son Steve (Hugh Laurie). Down in the bowels of the craft, youngest son Arthur (James McAvoy) excitedly answers correspondence from the children of the world, including a young British girl called Gwen (Ramona Marquez). A malfunction in the loading bay goes unnoticed by the elves in mission control and Gwen doesn't receive her pink bicycle. With time running out until Gwen's Christmas is ruined, Arthur joins forces with Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and wrapping elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) to deliver Gwen's gift using the old sleigh and a team of retired reindeers. Aardman, the creator of Wallace and Gromit, reveals the truth about Santa's 21st century operations in this hugely entertaining computer-animated comedy that delivers a feast of family fun for the festive season. Arthur Christmas is a treat for the very young and the young at heart, affirming all of the wholesome messages of the holiday season without lingering too long on the rampant materialism. The script, co-written by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith, is festooned with loveable characters and belly laughs, from Laurie's pompous Santa-in-waiting to Nighy's old-timer who rejects all of the technological improvements to centuries of tradition. Imelda Staunton lends her warm tones to Mrs Santa and Justin Bieber sings a suitably jolly rendition of Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town over the end credits. Arthur Christmas is coming to town, and he's a hoot.
Dr Seuss' The Lorax (Cert U, 94 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Animation/Comedy/Romance/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/3D Blu-ray £29.99)
Featuring the voices of: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, Betty White.
Twelve-year-old Ted Wiggins (voiced by Zac Efron) lives in the carefully controlled utopia of Thneed-ville with his mother (Jenny Slate) and feisty grandmother Norma (Betty White). Town mayor Aloysius O'Hare (Rob Riggle) provides the residents with all they need - everything except for real plants, which are manufactured in a factory. Ted pines for neighbour Audrey (Taylor Swift), who tells him dreamily, "What I want to see more than anything in the whole world is a real-life tree growing in my backyard." So the smitten lad seeks out a hermit called the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who knows why all of the Truffula trees disappeared from Thneed-ville. In exchange for 15 cents, a nail and the shell of a great, great, great grandfather snail, the Once-ler recounts how he inadvertently devastated the lush landscape for generations to come and summoned the guardian of the forest known as The Lorax (Danny DeVito). Dr Seuss' The Lorax is an environmentally conscious, computer-animated story of one boy's noble quest to restore balance between avaricious mankind and Mother Nature. Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda's film is rendered in lurid hues that radiate off the screen. Efron and Swift's honey-toned voices perfectly fit their cutesy characters, while the animators let their imaginations run amok in scenes of pre-deforestation Thneed-ville: marshmallow-guzzling bears tumble acrobatically through the air to doo-wops from a barbershop trio of fish. All very inventive, although villain Aloysius seems to hark from the same gene pool as Edna Mode in The Incredibles, minus her impeccable comic timing. The 3D version of the film is available exclusively on Blu-ray.
The Penguin King (Cert E, 78 mins, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, Documentary, also available to buy DVD £15.99/3D Blu-ray £19.99 - see below)
A Simple Life (Cert PG, 113 mins, Arrow Film Distributors, Drama, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below)
New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray
The Thick Of It - Series Four (Cert 15, 225 mins, 2entertain, DVD £19.99/Complete Collection DVD Box Set £37.99, Comedy/Drama)
Armando Iannucci continues to satirise the inner workings of Westminster in six episodes of the award-winning BBC comedy drama, focusing now on the trials and tribulations of a coalition government. Policy enforcer Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) schemes to undermine newly installed leader Nicola Murray MP (Rebecca Front) and oust her from power using all of the underhand tactics at his disposal. Meanwhile, Peter Mannion (Roger Allam), Secretary of State for Social Affairs, is resistant to new legislation promoted by coalition partner Fergus (Geoffrey Streatfield). An eight-disc box set comprising all four series, packaged in a case similar to the Chancellor's red box, is also available.
DCI Banks - Series Two (Cert 15, 267 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £24.99, Thriller/Drama)
Detective chief inspector Alan Banks (Stephen Tompkinson) finds professional allegiances tested to breaking point when his estranged brother Roy comes under police investigation in the opening instalment of the gritty ITV1 drama based on the crime novels by Peter Robinson. New recruit DI Helen Morton (Caroline Catz) gets off to a terrible start with the rest of the team but she gradually earns their trust and respect. Meanwhile, another case puts Banks on a collision course with his ambitious rival DCI Stuart Burgess (Richard Dillane). The two-disc DVD includes Strange Affair, Dry Bones That Dream and Innocent Graves.
The Penguin King (Cert E, 78 mins, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, DVD £15.99/3D Blu-ray £19.99, Documentary)
Sir David Attenborough narrates a visually stunning nature documentary directed by Anthony Geffen and Slas Wilson, which chronicles the battle for survival of a majestic bird in one of the most inhospitable regions of the world. Three years after one particular Penguin King left his home, the bird returns to the place of his birth, known as Penguin City. In this crowded piece of ice and rock, the Penguin King must find a mate and start the circle of life against the stunning backdrop of one of the Earth's last great wildernesses. As other birds succumb to the elements and deadly predators, the Penguin King battles for territory and his family to bring new life into the world and ensure the survival of his species. The 3D version is available exclusively on Blu-ray.
Peter Kay: Live & Back On Nights! (Cert 15, 93 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £21.99/Blu-ray £26.99, Comedy)
The bubbly and beloved stand-up from Bolton performs to his adoring fans on his sold-out, record-breaking 2011 UK tour, intercut with revealing behind-the-scenes footage that gives some indication of the pressures of life on the road.
Westlife: The Farewell Tour - Live At Croke Park (Cert E, 100 mins, 2entertain, DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Documentary/Musical)
On June 23 this year, Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily and Shane Filan played the final concert of a glittering 14-year career at Croke Park in Dublin - an emotional, sold-out homecoming to celebrate 14 number one singles and almost 50 million worldwide record sales. Cameras captured the show from beginning to end, including the joy and tears of the crowd as the band members sang together live for the final time. The DVD and Blu-ray both include a behind-the-scenes featurette and a souvenir tour booklet.
Celebrity Juice - Too Juicy For TV 2 (Cert 15, 145 mins, 2entertain, DVD £19.99/The Bang Tidy DVD Box Set £29.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Comedy)
Leigh Francis's outrageous comic creation Keith Lemon hosts this compilation of the sauciest and most potty-mouthed highlights from series four to six of the ITV2 panel show featuring team captains Fearne 'Dot' Cotton and Holly 'Willoughbooby' Willoughby. Celebrity guests include Ant and Dec, Pamela Anderson, Mel B, JLS, Paddy McGuiness and Dermot O'Leary. A three-disc box set comprising compilations of the best moments from series one and two is also available.
Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour 2012 (Cert E, 120 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Musical)
Filmed live during the recent arena tour, this all-star production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's rock musical features TV talent show winner Ben Forster as Jesus, Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot and Melanie C as Mary Magdalene. Former BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Chris Moyles makes his stage debut as King Herod, who delivers one of the show-stopping numbers in Act II. The production's most famous songs include Everything's Alright, I Don't Know How To Love Him and Superstar.
A Simple Life (Cert PG, 113 mins, Arrow Film Distributors, DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Drama)
Deanie Ip won the coveted Best Actress Prize at the 2011 Venice International Film Festival for her mesmerising portrayal of an elderly housemaid who must contend with the sobering reality of old age. Ah Tao (Ip) has worked for the Leung family for more than 60 years, raising different generations including young master Roger (Andy Lau) and his kind mother, Mrs Leung (Wang Fuli). While cleaning Roger's apartment and preparing his food, Ah Tao suffers a stroke and decides that the time has come to retire. She tells her employer that she wishes to live in an old people's home so she isn't a burden on his family. Roger finds her a bed in the finest facility in town and makes regular visits to Ah Tao, ensuring that she is receiving the best care possible. Despite her frail condition, Ah Tao tends to the other residents of the home and forges an even deeper bond with Roger, which blurs the usual boundaries between servant and master.
Big Boys Gone Bananas!* (Cert E, 90 mins, Dogwoof Digital, DVD £14.99, Documentary)
In 2009, Swedish film-maker Fredrik Gertten made the documentary Bananas!*, which chronicled the efforts of 12 Nicaraguan plantation workers to file a lawsuit against Dole Food Company. The feature was subsequently removed from competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival and lawyers acting on behalf of Dole threatened legal action to stop Gertten from distributing his picture. Big Boys Gone Bananas!* continues this extraordinary story through the film-maker's eyes as he faces a barrage of criticism and scrutiny in the media and contends with the very real possibility that the multinational corporation will file a defamation lawsuit. With freedom of speech at stake, Gertten dares to stand up to the consumer giant, risking everything to ensure the voices of the 12 Nicaraguan plantation workers are heard on the big screen.
Coldplay Live 2012 (Cert 15, 107 mins, EMI Records Ltd, DVD £11.99/Blu-ray £21.99, Documentary/Musical)
Paul Dugdale's concert film captures the excitement and energy of Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion as they tour Mylo Xyloto around the world. Coldplay Live 2012 edits together footage from performances at the Stade de France in Paris, the Bell Centre in Montreal and the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, where the band play album tracks Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall, Paradise and Princess Of China alongside old favourites such as Viva La Vida, Clocks and Fix You. The DVD and Blu-ray are both packaged with a live concert CD.
Al Murray: The Only Way Is Epic Live (Cert 15, 66 mins, Anchor Bay Entertainment, DVD £19.99/Two-Disc DVD Box Set £24.99, Comedy)
Al Murray's bibulous and notoriously intolerant alter ego embarks on his latest tour to salve the wounds of Broken Britain and vent his fervent dislike of our European neighbours in France. This concert DVD captures the belly laughs as the Pub Landlord waxes lyrical about binge-drinking loutishness and laments the state of society amid the continuing financial crisis. A two-disc box set comprising Barrel Of Fun Live and The Only Way Is Epic Live is also available.
Revenge - Season 1 (Cert 12, 902 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £30.99, Thriller/Romance)
Six-disc box set comprising 22 episodes of the American drama series inspired by Alexandre Dumas's The Count Of Monte Cristo. Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) moves to the Hamptons one summer and is welcomed with open arms by the privileged residents of the exclusive community. She befriends Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) and falls head over heels in love with Victoria's hunky son. Little do the Graysons realise that Emily is in fact Amanda Clarke, the daughter of a man who Victoria framed for a crime he did not commit 17 years earlier. Amanda has come to the Hamptons to exact revenge on Victoria and her brood by infiltrating the social circuit in order to destroy Victoria's world from the inside.
Big Time Rush: Season Two - Volume One (Cert PG, 165 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, DVD £9.99, Musical/Drama)
Minnesota hockey players Carlos (Carlos Pena), James (James Maslow), Kendall (Kendall Schmidt) and Logan (Logan Henderson) continue their journey to becoming a chart-topping boy band in another seven episodes of the Nickelodeon family comedy. However, life in the media spotlight isn't always the dream that the lads hoped it would be, causing inevitable tensions between band members. The two-disc set includes the episodes Welcome Back Big Time, Big Time Fans, Big Time Girlfriends, Big Time Live, Big Time Halloween, Big Time Sneakers and Big Time Pranks.
Jay And Silent Bob Get Old - Teabagging In The UK (Cert 18, 229 mins, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Comedy)
Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith adopt their slacker egos to perform a unique brand of stand-up in London, Manchester and Edinburgh in these three concert shows, recorded live during their 2012 tour.
Burnistoun - Series Three (Cert 15, 166 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £19.99/Complete Series 1-3 DVD Box Set £32.99, Comedy)
Robert Florence and Iain Connell write and star in six more episodes of the critically acclaimed Scottish sketch show set in the titular town of misfits and oddballs. Recurring characters include bickering siblings Paul and Walter, who run an ice-cream van, a serial killer dubbed The Burnistoun Butcher, Beyonce wannabe Kelly McGlade and her band the Sloppy Seconds, and resident superhero Doberman Man. A four-disc box set comprising all three series is also available.
Two Years At Sea (Cert E, 90 mins, Soda Pictures, DVD £17.99, Documentary)
Award-winning artist Ben Rivers builds on images and themes from his short films with this provocative feature documentary which explores the hermetic existence of a man called Jake, who Rivers first encountered in his work This Is My Land. Setting up his camera in and around the ramshackle house in the middle of a forest that Jake calls home, Two Years At Sea is a revealing portrait of a bona fide outsider who is at one with nature but completely separate from the rest of mankind. Without obviously intruding on Jake's solitude, the film delights in the minutiae of the subject's day-to-day existence, from walks in the countryside to fishing trips on a loch using a crudely constructed raft.
DVD and Blu-ray retail top 10
1 (-) Men In Black 3
2 (-) Downton Abbey - Series 3
3 (-) Mad Men - Season 5
4 (-) Supernatural - The Complete Seventh Season
5 (1) London 2012 Olympic Games
6 (5) Mrs Brown's Boys - Series Two
7 (3) Red Tails
8 (-) Peter Pan
9 (4) Prometheus
10 (-) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Chart supplied by www.hmv.com
DVD rental top 10
1 (1) Avengers Assemble
2 (5) The Dictator
3 (4) Snow White And The Huntsman
4 (6) What To Expect When You're Expecting
5 (2) The Cabin In The Woods
6 (3) The Lucky One
7 (7) The Five-Year Engagement
8 (9) Contraband
9 (-) Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
10 (10) Man On A Ledge
Chart supplied by www.blockbuster.co.uk