A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith.
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (Cert 12, 112 mins, Entertainment One UK, Romance/Drama/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Two-Disc DVD £22.99/Blu-ray £25.99) Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Billy Burke, Chaske Spencer, Booboo Stewart, Julia Jones, Sarah Clarke.
Heartbroken Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is distraught to learn about the impending nuptials of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire lover Edward (Robert Pattinson). He refuses to attend the wedding, where Bella and Edward make their vows in front of her parents (Billy Burke, Sarah Clarke) and his blood-sucking clan: Dr Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), Alice (Ashley Greene), Rosalie (Nikki Reed), Emmett (Kellan Lutz) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone). The newlyweds head to a private island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro to consummate their love. Bella falls pregnant during the honeymoon and a half-human, half-vampire child grows at an accelerated rate, literally devouring Bella from within. The Quileute wolf pack led by alpha male Sam (Chaske Spencer) prepares to kill Bella and her unborn abomination. Naturally, Jacob protests and forms a splinter pack with Seth Clearwater (Booboo Stewart) and sister Leah (Julia Jones) to protect the woman he loves. Baby makes three in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, the fourth film based on the books by Stephenie Meyer. Bill Condon's film stretches a 50-minute narrative into almost two hours of lustful glances, bitter recriminations and CGI-heavy battles between bloodsuckers and their werewolf rivals. Where one scene would normally suffice, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg churns out two, underscored with angst-ridden rock and pop. There are moments of unintentional hilarity and Part 1 ends rather curiously with all loose threads seemingly tied and nothing to keep us counting down the days until the cinema release of Part 2 this November.
Rating: ** The Help (Cert 12, 140 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Drama/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £21.99) Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Mike Vogel, Mary Steenburgen, Cicely Tyson.
Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) returns home to 1960s Mississippi after graduating from university with dreams of becoming a writer. She is horrified to learn that her family's beloved maid Constantine (Cicely Tyson) has quit and that one of the neighbours, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), is proposing that black workers should use separate bathrooms. Determined to end the discrimination in Jackson, Skeeter pitches a book to editor Elaine Stein (Mary Steenburgen), detailing the extraordinary lives of the maids, who have spent countless years raising white children. At first, the maids are reluctant to talk but Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) eventually breaks her silence. Meanwhile, fiercely outspoken Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), renowned for her chocolate pies, loses her job as Hilly's maid and finds employment instead with social outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). As Hilly continues with her crusade for segregation throughout Jackson, Skeeter's secret novel gathers momentum. Narrated in soft, lilting tones by Aibileen, The Help is an embarrassment of acting riches, anchored by tour-de-force performances from Davis and Spencer, the latter recently winning an Oscar. Tate Taylor's beautifully evokes an era of social upheaval and racial tensions. Nowhere is this more pronounced than a tense scene in which black bus passengers flee, having just learned from the driver about a racist killing on the streets. His script is littered with delicious one-liners ("Love and hate are two horns on the same goat... and you need a goat!") ebbing and flowing between the various storylines, much like the Pearl River that cuts through the state and washes away so many sins.
Rating: **** My Week With Marilyn (Cert 15, 94 mins, Entertainment In Video, Drama/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, Emma Watson, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper.
In the summer of 1956, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) secures a position as assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) on the filming of The Prince And The Showgirl at Pinewood Studios. From the moment lead actress Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) arrives, Olivier is smitten and his wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond) wearily tolerates the obsession. On set, Olivier's desire turns to frustration as Marilyn fluffs takes and turns up late. Celebrity photographer Milton H Greene (Dominic Cooper), who is part of Marilyn's entourage with acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), issues a warning: "Accept Marilyn on her terms and you will be OK. Try to change her and she'll drive you crazy." So Olivier asks Colin to win his leading lady's trust and get her to set on time. While Colin falls under Marilyn's spell and extinguishes a burgeoning romance with wardrobe mistress Lucy (Emma Watson), the screen siren argues with her husband, writer Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). Adapted from Clark's on-set diary and memoir, My Week With Marilyn is an entertaining and bittersweet drama, laden with the cream of British acting talent. Adrian Hodges's script glistens with polished one-liners and provides Williams with a show-stopping role as a cinematic icon that richly deserved her Oscar nomination. Admittedly, she can never match the full luminosity of Monroe but Williams comes close, capturing the vulnerability and mood swings, the naivete and inner conflict. Redmayne exudes the innocence of a young man getting his heart broken for the very first time and Branagh is a comic whirlwind, responding to each setback with a barbed quip.
Rating: *** Jane Eyre (Cert PG, 115 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £26.99) Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Dame Judi Dench, Imogen Poots, Holliday Grainger, Tamzin Merchant, Amelia Clarkson, Freya Parks, Settbon Moore, Simon McBurney.
Jane (Mia Wasikowska) flees Thornfield Hall in tears, where she has been employed as governess for Adele Varens (Settbon Moore), the young ward of Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Stumbling across the moors, she seeks refuge with clergyman St John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his sisters Diana (Holliday Grainger) and Mary (Tamzin Merchant) at Moor House. As Jane recuperates, she recalls her turbulent past, including her childhood with cruel aunt Mrs Reed (Sally Hawkins), her brush with Mr Brocklehurst (Simon McBurney), the sadistic headmaster of Lowood charity school, and her employment at Thornfield under the watchful eye of housekeeper Mrs Fairfax (Dame Judi Dench). Jane Eyre is an artfully composed version of Charlotte Bronte's timeless romance, the first film version since Franco Zeffirelli paired Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt as the lovers across the social divide. Elegantly adapted for the screen by Moira Buffini, Cary Joji Fukunaga's colour-bleached film condenses the source novel into two hours of yearning and regret. Wasikowska delivers a deeply moving and emotionally wrought performance. With a single mournful look into the camera, the fast-rising Australian actress conveys all of the unspoken desires and shattered dreams of a young woman, who has survived as much by her wits as by good fortune. Fassbender proves a sexy and brooding Rochester, who falls under Jane's spell but conceals a terrible, dark secret that could poison their relationship forever. Fukunaga's camera sweeps over the foreboding locations, lashing his lead actress with enough wind and rain to match the emotional battering meted out by Mrs Reed and Mr Brocklehurst.
Rating: *** Straw Dogs (Cert 18, 105 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Thriller/Action, also available to buy DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods, Dominic Purcell, Drew Powell, Rhys Coiro, Billy Lush.
Screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) transplants his entire life from Hollywood to the Deep South after his actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) loses her father. At the local diner, David meets Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), who has put in a bid to renovate the roof on the remote farmhouse owned by Amy's family, where the Sumners have taken up residence. David asks Charlie and his boys, Bic (Drew Powell), Norman (Rhys Coiro) and Chris (Billy Lush), to start in the morning. It becomes clear that Charlie still holds a torch for Amy and the screenwriter tries to ward off his rival. A shocking act of brutality lights the fuse on a powder keg of emotions involving former football coach Tom Heddon (James Woods) and mentally challenged local man Jeremy (Dominic Purcell), and David and Amy are caught in the crossfire. Based on the novel The Siege Of Trencher's Farm by Gordon Williams, Straw Dogs is an unsettling thriller that snarls and bares its teeth but doesn't bite like Sam Peckinpah's controversial 1971 film, which sparked a wide-ranging debate about on-screen violence. Writer-director Rod Lurie transplants the remake from a close-knit community in Cornwall to rural Mississippi but the rest of the plot remains largely untouched, including a harrowing sexual assault and a violent final showdown that includes one man being covered in boiling hot oil. Marsden and Bosworth are solid if unremarkable, while Skarsgard glowers with menacing intent. The final home invasion threatens to teeter into unintentional hilarity thanks to Woods's over-the-top performance as a father on a quest for revenge.
Rating: ** Monte Carlo (Cert PG, 104 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £21.99) Starring: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Cory Monteith, Pierre Boulanger, Luke Bracey, Catherine Tate, Andie MacDowell, Brett Cullen.
Grace Bennett (Selena Gomez) graduates from high school and looks forward expectantly to a trip to Paris with best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy). However, Grace's parents Robert (Brett Cullen) and Pamela (Andie MacDowell) are worried that Emma will lead their girl astray so they pay for step-sister Meg (Leighton Meester) to join the European expedition. Tensions are evident and at the Eiffel Tower, the girls are left behind by the tour guide and seek sanctuary from the rain in a five-star hotel, where Grace is mistaken for celebrity Cordelia Winthrop-Scott (Gomez again). Emma persuades Grace to carry on the deception and the girls head for Monte Carlo where the real Cordelia is due to auction a diamond necklace under the watchful eye of the socialite's suspicious aunt (Catherine Tate). Monte Carlo is a lively if improbable fantasy set in some of Europe's most picturesque locations. It is frothy and inoffensive entertainment for young, undemanding viewers, who are content to be spoon-fed emotions and to believe that every girl gets her Prince Charming in the end. Admittedly, she does it by lying and deceiving, but even the most haphazard path leads to true love and the all-important fairy-tale ending. Director Thomas Bezucha keeps the tone light and breezy, complimenting the perky performances with a bouncy orchestral soundtrack courtesy of Michael Giacchino. Gomez is a likeable fresh-faced heroine but her character is woefully undernourished, while Cassidy and Meester make the most of their similarly two-dimensional travelling companions. Tate provides fleeting comic relief as Bezucha steers his film lazily towards the inevitable feel-good, redemptive conclusion.