DVD Review - February 25

DVD Review - February 25

DVD Review - February 25

First published in DVD Reviews

A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.

By Damon Smith.

New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.

Real Steel (Cert 12, 121 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Sci-Fi/Action/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £21.99).

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis, Anthony Mackie, Karl Yune, Olga Fonda.

In 2020, former brawler Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) boxes robots for a living but he is massively in debt. He thinks his prayers have been answered when he sells custody of his 11-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo) to the boy's aunt and uncle (Hope Davis, James Rebhorn) for 100,000 dollars. As part of the deal, he must look after the boy for the summer with the help of best friend Bailey (Evangeline Lilly). Father and son bond over an abandoned sparring 'bot called Atom and they train the ancient machine to punch and stomp up the rankings of the World Robot Boxing league (WRB) to a championship showdown with the fearsome Zeus, designed by Tak Mashido (Karl Yune) and owned by Russian ice maiden Farra Lemcova (Olga Fonda). Real Steel is a futuristic action adventure that handsomely showcases Jackman's rippling muscles. The Australian actor and youngster Goyo share a winning screen chemistry that holds our interest through some plodding interludes. Lilly looks beautiful in a two-dimensional supporting role. Rocky goes five rounds with Short Circuit in Shawn Levy's crowd-pleasing film that hinges on a familiar clash between father and estranged son, using the fictitious sport of robot boxing to salve old wounds. The special effects hardware is mightily impressive, combining John Rosengrant's animatronics with metal-crunching digital trickery, but the software of John Gatins's script is infected with the sentimentality virus. The dramatic trajectory of the central relationship is achingly predictable and the emotional manipulation throughout is shameless.

Rating: *** Warrior (Cert 12, 134 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Drama/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99) Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn.

Marine Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) arrives home unexpectedly after 14 years of service to ask his father Paddy (Nick Nolte), a recovering alcoholic, to train him for Sparta, a televised mixed martial arts fighting competition with the biggest purse in the sport's history. Meanwhile, Paddy's other son, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is struggling to make ends meet as a schoolteacher. The bank is threatening to take away his home so Brendan secretly fights in the backrooms of bars for money behind the back of his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison). Once the school learns of Brendan's extra-curricular activities, the headmaster suspends him and the teacher's future rests on winning Sparta, putting him on a collision course with his hulking sibling. Warrior is a brutal story of redemption and self-loathing. Gavin O'Connor's film talks tough and flexes its muscles impressively in the bruising fight sequences, but the script punches well below its class. Running time is excessive - the four editors should have thrown in the towel at least 20 minutes earlier. Characterisation is featherweight and Hardy and Edgerton, who have both bulked up for the roles, aren't given the material to deliver knockout performances. Nolte bares his soul in his few scenes and Morrison is similarly short-changed. Bone-crunching skirmishes between the characters and their buff opponents become a vibrant backdrop to the potential reconciliation of the estranged siblings. We are in familiar territory here - David O Russell's Oscar-winning drama The Fighter performed many of the same jabs last year, and arguably with more style.

Rating: *** Fright Night (Cert 15, 102 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Horror/Thriller/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £21.99/3D Blu-ray £28.99) Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Geeky teenager Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) warns best friend Charley (Anton Yelchin) that the hunky drifter, Jerry (Colin Farrell), who has moved in next door is a vampire. "You read too much Twilight!" scoffs Charley. When Ed vanishes without trace, Charley wonders if Jerry might be responsible. As the teenager investigates, using a smartphone web browser to access a page on How To Pick A Lock, he imperils his divorced mother, Jane (Toni Collette), and girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots). Thankfully, showman and self-anointed vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant) has some valuable tips on defeating the creatures of the night. Fright Night is a remake of the 1985 horror starring William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall, which became a surprise hit at the box office. Director Craig Gillespie orchestrates some slick set-pieces that draw blood simultaneously from the horror and comedy veins. A violent stand-off gives new meaning to 'bringing the house down' and a late night getaway in Jane's family car draws inspiration from the freewheeling camerawork in Alfonso Cuaron's Children Of Men. Farrell is sexy and menacing while Collette and Poots are woefully underused and serve as fresh meat, waiting to be desiccated. Former time lord Tennant outshines his Hollywood co-stars in the showiest role as a camp, leather trouser-clad Las Vegas magician, whose image as a bed-hopping dandy is shattered by his underwhelming performances between the sheets. One version of the Blu-ray includes the film in 3D format, which flings blood, entrails and an airborne wooden stake at the screen with giddy abandon.

Rating: *** Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark (Cert 15, 95 mins, Studio Canal, Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £22.99) Starring: Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Guy Pearce, Alan Dale, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake, Nicholas Bell.

Nine-year-old Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison) is sent to live with her architect father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend, interior decorator Kim (Katie Holmes), at the Gothic mansion they are restoring. Despite the grim warnings of caretaker Mr Harris (Jack Thompson), who knows all about the goblin-like creatures in the basement, the Hursts foolishly continue with renovations, thereby unleashing the pint-sized horrors upon poor Sally. At first, Alex ignores his child's pleas and finds other explanations for Kim's ripped clothes. But when the menace intensifies, Sally finds an unlikely ally in her pretty stepmother-to-be. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark is a slick remake of a 1973 telefilm, which Mexican film-maker Guillermo del Toro and co-writer Matthew Robbins have re-fashioned as a directorial debut for comic book artist Troy Nixey. It's a handsomely crafted film and Nixey demonstrates flair behind the camera. He has an artist's eye for detail but regrettably not yet the steely nerves of a horror film-maker because there is an absence of creeping dread. He does conceive one genuinely terrifying sequence though, when Sally discovers one of the monsters under her bedclothes. Madison brings emotional depth to her role and she galvanises pleasing screen chemistry with Holmes. However, Pearce is woefully underused and the carelessness with which his character addresses the daughter's deteriorating mental state borders on the laughable. You can take the film at its word - aside from a few effectively engineered shocks, you won't be afraid of the dark.

Rating: *** Also released Demons Never Die (Cert 15, 102 mins, Exile Media Limited, Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below) Miss Bala (Cert 15, 108 mins, Metrodome Distribution Ltd, Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99 - see below) The Well-Digger's Daughter (Cert PG, 109 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99 - see below) New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray Demons Never Die (Cert 15, 102 mins, Exile Media Limited, DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Horror/Thriller) Misfit Archie (Robert Sheehan), model pupil Ashleigh (Shanika Warren-Markland), weakling James (Jack Doolan), goth-girl Jasmine (Jennie Jacques), wide-boy Kenny (Jason Maza), conflicted Ricky (Jacob Anderson) and model Samantha (Emma Rigby) are London students battling their private demons. Tired and alone, the desperate students make a pact to end their lives together. A mysterious masked killer emerges from the shadows, determined to grant the suicidal young men and women their wish in far more horrific circumstances. As the students fall victim one by one to the killer's razor-sharp knife, the survivors begin to appreciate how much they have to live for but their hunter is merciless and their fate appears to be sealed. X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos co-stars.

The Well-Digger's Daughter (Cert PG, 109 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Drama/Romance) Daniel Auteuil writes and directs this remake of Marcel Pagnol's 1940 drama about love in a time of war. Pascal Amoretti (Auteuil) lives in the countryside in the south of France and he is struggling to provide for his children. So he beckons his beautiful daughter Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) to return home from Paris so she can help to keep a roof over the family's head. Upon her arrival in the close-knit community, Patricia turns the head of pilot Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle), whose father (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) runs the local hardware store with his wife (Sabine Azema). The airman is instantly smitten and makes a romantic overture only for it to be rebuffed for reasons that Patricia is reluctant to disclose. Meanwhile, Pascal considers a possible love match between his newly returned daughter and his employee, Felipe (Kad Merad).

Miss Bala (Cert 15, 108 mins, Metrodome Distribution Ltd, DVD £19.99, Thriller) A young woman with dreams of a brighter future becomes a vital pawn in the Tijuana drug wars in Gerardo Naranjo's incendiary thriller. At the behest of her best friend Suzu (Lakshmi Picazo), statuesque dreamer Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) enters the annual televised Miss Bala beauty contest. She passes the first audition and the friends celebrate at a local disco where Laura is the sole witness to a gangland massacre. When she attempts to contact the police, Laura is kidnapped by vicious drug lord Lino (Noe Hernandez), who takes a shine to his hostage and forces her to work as a mule. As Laura becomes firmly involved in Lino's operations, she becomes a prime target for the police in their battle to prevent narcotics crossing the US-Mexico border.

Best Laid Plans (Cert 15, 108 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Drama) Loosely inspired by John Steinbeck's classic Of Mice And Men, David Blair's low-budget British drama unfolds on the streets of present-day Nottingham. Low-level criminal Danny (Stephen Graham) is in debt to a powerful crime boss and has no way to pay off his arrears. So he manipulates Joseph (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a hulking man with the mentality of a seven-year-old boy, into taking part in a series of underground cage fights to raise the overdue cash. Every time Joseph steps into the ring, he is literally risking his neck for Danny's safety and with each bone-crunching brawl, the bond between these two men strengthens.

The Silence (Das Letzte Schweigen) (Cert 15, 114 mins, Soda Pictures Ltd, DVD £17.99, Thriller/Drama) Past and present collide with sickening consequences in Baran bo Odar's slow-burning thriller, which draws chilling parallels between two crimes, committed 23 years apart. In 1986, a rural community is shocked by the rape and murder of a young girl called Pia. The culprits, building caretaker Peer Sommer (Ulrich Thomsen) and young protege Timo Friedrich (Wotan Wilke Mohring), evade capture, their heinous crime unsolved by retiring police detective Krischan (Burghart Klaussner) or his inexperienced partner David (Sebastian Blomberg). Every day, the girl's distraught mother Elena (Katrin Sass) stands at the memorial by the wheat field, where Pia lost her fight for life. Then in 2009, 13-year-old Sinnika (Anna Lena Klenke) vanishes without trace and her bicycle is found in the same wheat field. While David, who has suffered a mental breakdown after his wife's death, reopens the old case in an attempt to save Sinnika, if she is still alive, Timo risks his marriage to re-establish contact with Peer. Ghosts of the past haunt the waking dreams of the guilty and the innocent, threatening to reveal what really happened to Pia more than two decades earlier.

Vanishing On 7th Street (Cert 15, 87 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, DVD £12.99, Horror/Thriller) An entire city vanishes without trace leaving a few survivors to pick up the pieces in Brad Anderson's horror thriller. News reporter Luke (Hayden Christensen) wakes to discover that none of his electrical devices are working. Venturing out on the streets of Detroit, he discovers all of his friends have disappeared and his neighbourhood is littered with abandoned cars and piles of discarded clothing. As he scours the metropolis for signs of humanity, Luke encounters James (Jacob Latimore) and Rosemary (Thandie Newton) and they pool resources to uncover the chilling truth about the city's grim fate.

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