A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray
Skyfall (Cert 12, 137 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £22.99/Daniel Craig Collection DVD Box Set £24.99/Blu-ray £26.99/Daniel Craig Collection Blu-ray Box Set £32.99) Starring: Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Berenice Marlohe, Rory Kinnear, Albert Finney, Helen McCrory.
Bond (Daniel Craig) is reportedly killed in action and section chief M (Judi Dench) pens an obituary as a political storm rages around her. A database of MI6 assets has fallen into the wrong hands, compromising undercover agents around the world. While M fends off sustained attacks on her reputation, news filters through that Bond has survived and M engages her physically bruised agent to track down menacing cyber terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Bond traverses the globe in search of Silva and consequently he unearths dark secrets from M's past that threaten to bring down MI6. Skyfall opens with a breathtaking 12-minute pre-credits sequence, which draws heavily from the Bourne franchise. Sam Mendes's film looks stunning courtesy of cinematographer Roger Deakins, and Adele's soaring theme song harks back to the belting ballads of Shirley Bassey. Craig has rugged physicality in abundance but his one-note interpretation of the spy who is shaken but never stirred remains devoid of personality. Mendes sensibly surrounds his leading man with an ensemble of award-winning actors. Bardem is deliciously camp and menacing, and Dench is glorious. Ben Whishaw asserts himself as a gadget geek worthy of the Q mantle. The film dazzles during verbal jousts, whether it's M discovering Bond in the shadows of her London apartment ("You're bloody well not sleeping here!") or Silva fondling Bond's inner thighs and asking what regulation training suggests he do in such a situation. In his 50th anniversary year, Ian Fleming's debonair secret agent is on top form. A three-disc box set comprising Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall is also available.
Rating: **** T
ower Block (Cert 15, 86 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Thriller, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £17.99) Starring: Sheridan Smith, Jack O'Connell, Ralph Brown, Russell Tovey, Ralph Laurila.
Jimmy (Ralph Laurila) is murdered by hooded figures in the corridors of the condemned Serenity House tower block and none of the residents come forward as eyewitnesses to the shocking crime, fearful of the reprisals for helping the boys in blue. Three months later, as the final residents are preparing to move out, new terror grips the block when a sniper begins taking pot shots through the windows. Like her neighbours, Becky (Sheridan Smith) has tried to forget the murder but now she has nowhere to hide from a hail of bullets. She heads out into the corridor in search of an escape route, only to discover that the mystery attacker has set traps to keep residents hostage in their homes. Becky decides to search for a way out of Serenity House and she carefully makes her way through the gloom accompanied by bully boy Kurtis (Jack O'Connell), alcoholic Paul (Russell Tovey) and other terrified targets. Silence can be deadly in James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson's claustrophobic thriller, which sustains dramatic tension from a slender premise. Smith and O'Connell deliver the stand-out performances in underwritten roles, while supporting cast struggle to flesh out their two-dimensional characters as the residents are slaughtered one by one. Some of the dialogue is crisp and O'Connell bags a large proportion of the best lines as the bad boy with attitude. However, James Moran's script comes unstuck in the closing frames - the identity and motivation of the marksman/woman is an anti-climax.
Hit & Run (Cert 15, 95 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, Comedy/Romance/Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £15.99) Starring: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Kristin Chenoweth, Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum, Bradley Cooper, Joy Bryant, Ryan Hansen, Beau Bridges, Sean Hayes, Jason Bateman, Jess Rowland, Carly Hatter.
Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) is a nice guy living in the small California town of Milton, whose formative years are a mystery to his perky live-in girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell). She is completely unaware that his real name is Yul Perkins and he is a one-time getaway driver from Los Angeles who agreed to testify against his bank-robbing chums in exchange for a new name in the federal witness protection programme. When Annie lands an interview for a teaching position in Los Angeles, Charlie throws caution to the wind and agrees to drive his sweetheart back to his old stomping ground, unaware that Annie's jealous ex-boyfriend, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), has alerted gang leader Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper) and sidekicks Neve (Joy Bryant) and Allen (Ryan Hansen) to his return. Hit & Run has its heart in the right place but Shepard's script is all over the place. Dialogue about the political correctness of a homophobic slur is outdated and a subplot involving a gay police officer (Jess Rowland), who cruises for partners using a fictitious smartphone app called Pouncer, outstays its welcome. Shepard and Bell gel nicely but any sparks of on-screen chemistry tend to be extinguished by the madness unfolding around them. Supporting characters are garish caricatures, from Kristin Chenoweth's sassy school principal, who casually admits to rape and abortion in her past, to Bradley Cooper's dreadlocked heavy, who seems to be modelled on Gary Oldman's deranged pimp in True Romance. Running jokes collapse wheezing well before the end credits.
Also released A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story Of Monty Python's Graham Chapman (Cert 15, 84 mins, Trinity Filmed Entertainment, Animation/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below) New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray Lewis - Series Seven (Cert 12, 267 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Drama/Thriller/Romance) DI Robert Lewis (Kevin Whately) and his trusty sidekick DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox) encounter more perplexing cases of murder and intrigue beneath the dreaming spires of Oxford. This series, the slaying of a young psychic poses difficult questions for friends and family, DC Gray (Babou Ceesay) joins the team while Hathaway takes leave to build an orphanage in Pristina, and Lewis and pathologist Dr Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) go public with their burgeoning relationship. The two-disc set includes the investigations Down Among The Fearful, The Ramblin' Boy and Intelligent Design.
Africa (Cert PG, 345 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Documentary) David Attenborough and his colleagues at the BBC's natural history unit embark on an epic quest to document undiscovered species of Africa's five major regions against breathtaking landscapes from the Atlas Mountains to the Cape of Good Hope. Cameramen journey the length and breadth of the continent armed with state-of-the-art technology to capture fascinating creatures in previously unseen locations.
Ripper Street (Cert 12, 462 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £24.99/Blu-ray £29.99, Thriller/Drama) All eight episodes of the violent and gory BBC drama series set in 1889 London. It has been six months since the last murder attributed to Jack the Ripper and police from H Division are no closer to catching the shadowy figure who has brought terror to the streets of Whitechapel. When more women are slain in a similar fashion, DI Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), Sergeant Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn) and American forensics expert Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) join forces to restore law and order. What they uncover is deeply disturbing.
Blandings (Cert 15, 180 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Comedy/Romance) The stories of PG Wodehouse provide the inspiration for this six-part sitcom set in 1929. Clarence Threepwood (Timothy Spall), the Ninth Earl of Emsworth, presides over Blandings Castle with a sense of weariness. His dream is to be left in peace and quiet with his beloved pet pig, The Empress. Unfortunately, Clarence shares his sprawling home with a domineering sister Connie (Jennifer Saunders) and dim-witted son Freddie (Jack Farthings), who both have a habit of creating uproar. Various relatives and house guests add to the chaos. Thankfully, Clarence can always rely on his long-suffering butler, Beach (Mark Williams), to remain an oasis of calm in the storm.
A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story Of Monty Python's Graham Chapman (Cert 15, 84 mins, Trinity Filmed Entertainment, DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Animation/Comedy) And now for something completely different. Inspired by recordings made by Graham Chapman before his untimely demise in 1989, A Liar's Autobiography is a fictionalised tribute to 'the dead one from Monty Python', which doesn't quite capture the madcap genius of the comedy troupe that made household names of Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Abandoning the stuffy constraints of a traditional biopic, Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett's film melds 17 different animation styles from 14 animators to create a mosaic of memories from Chapman's chequered life. The artistry of each vignette is impressive, tinged with impish humour, but there's a noticeable lack of eye-opening disclosure behind all of the visual razzamatazz.
World Without End (Cert 15, 368 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, DVD £29.99/Blu-ray £39.99, Drama/Romance) Recently broadcast on Channel 4, this eight-part mini-series based on the 2007 Ken Follett of the same name is a sequel to The Pillars Of The Earth. The year is 1327 and England teeters on the brink of war. King Edward III (Blake Ritson) is preparing to lead the country into conflict with the French. In the town of Kingsbridge, residents are determined to forge a brighter future, far from blood-stained battlefields. Caris (Charlotte Riley) and her lover Merthin (Tom Weston-Jones) are determined to stand firm against the English Crown and the Catholic Church. However, the spectre of the Black Death looms large over the community and some of the locals do not possess the same powers of endurance as Caris and Merthin.
Doctor Who: The Ark In Space (Cert U, 98 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £19.99, Sci-Fi/Drama) A pernicious alien life form plots to invade Earth in this four-part storyline, which was originally broadcast in January and February 1975. The Time Lord (Tom Baker) and his companions Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) arrive on an ageing space station, which turns out to be an ark for the human race. Passengers have been in suspended animation for centuries and an insectoid known as the Wirrn has infiltrated the ship with the intention of using the slumbering humans as hosts for eggs. The Doctor arrives just as the crew wakes from induced sleep, unaware of the extra-terrestrial threat aboard the ship.
The Fall Of The Essex Boys (Cert 18, 87 mins, Metrodome Distribution, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Drama/Thriller) Paul Tanter directs this gritty drama charting the rise and violent fall of the notorious Essex Boys, who became one of the most feared criminal gangs in British history. This reign of terror hit the headlines in December 1995 when the bodies of Craig Rolfe, Patrick Tate and Tony Tucker were discovered in a Range Rover on a remote Essex country lane. Tanter relives the exploits of Rolfe (Simon Phillips), Tate (Peter Barrett) and Tucker (Jay Brown) in blood-spattered close-up as police hunt down the gang and decide to play off different factions of the criminal fraternity against each other. The brutality escalates, culminating in the murders in Rettendon, which were previously dramatised in Terry Winsor's film Essex Boys.
White Collar - The Complete Second Season (Cert 15, 688 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £24.99, Comedy/Drama) Dashing con man Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and FBI Special Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) join forces once again in the second series of the comic crime drama. The killer of Neal's ex-girlfriend Kate Moreau (Alexandra Daddario) remains at large and the trail of evidence becomes ever more complex. Consequently, the relationship between the two men falters and Neal accepts a job to kill insurance investigator Sara Ellis (Hilarie Burton). The four-disc box set includes all 16 episodes.
Love (Cert 12, 80 mins, High Fliers Films, DVD £9.99, Sci-Fi/Drama) Captain Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) bids farewell to Earth and the people he loves to begin a solitary tour of duty aboard a newly constructed International Space Station. As the only human inhabitant, Lee keeps in contact with space command via a radio. Out of the blue, he loses contact with the men and women on the ground, and Lee is gripped with fear and paranoia, convinced that he will be stranded in space until the day he dies.
I Am (Cert E, 77 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £12.99, Documentary) Following a serious bicycle accident which left him with post-concussion syndrome, writer-director Tom Shadyac embarks on a quest to better understand what is important in life and what we can all do to improve our surroundings. With camera in hand, he travels the world to interview world leaders, economists and scientists about their visions for a brighter future.