Friday 26 October 2012

Blu-ray prizes to be won

Win A Royal Affair on Blu-ray

Ravishing period drama A Royal Affair is released on DVD & Blu-ray on October 29th, and we have three Blu-ray copies to give away thanks to Metrodome.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply send an email with your name and postal address to by Friday November 2nd.

Terms and Conditions

Only one entry will be accepted per person.
Entrants must be UK residents and aged 18 or over.
The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Monday 22 October 2012

DVD Review

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Powell and Pressburger’s 1943 masterpiece arrives in a spanking restored version, ripe for rediscovery if you’re a fan, or demanding to be discovered if you’ve never seen it. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is the comedic, romantic and epic story of General Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey) that kicks off at the height of WWII, before flashing back 40 years to his adventures as a young officer.

In Berlin in 1902 his involvement in a duel with a German officer, Theo (Anton Wolbrook), leads to the pair becoming lifelong friends, even though Theo marries the girl (Deborah Kerr) whom Candy realises too late he’s in love with.

Racing through the First World War and beyond, with Kerr playing three different women in the three timelines, it’s a beautifully observed character piece about a man who refuses to change with the times, who still believes in a war fought by gentlemen.

With its glorious Technicolor photography, ravishing production design and costumes, it’s quite stunning to look at, but that’s just gravy. The range of the wit and humour on offer is remarkable, in a film that can be droll, satirical, farcical and sometimes just plain silly. Colourful characters blustering about can give it the air of a farce, but while it can work as an indictment of colonial warmongering and military incompetence, this isn’t dwelt upon.

At its heart, it’s about the friendship between Candy and Theo. Initially it may seem like it’s setting up characters like Candy to be objects of ridicule, full of pomposity and elitism. In fact it becomes evident that Powell and Pressburger have nothing but admiration and empathy for him, and for decent Germans tainted by Nazism.

It’s sweeping yet intimate and for a near three-hour film, it moves at a fair old lick, anchored by a quite astonishing performance from Livesey, who brings remarkable range, passion and warmth to all the iterations of Candy. Spanning his 20s to his 60s, the combination of makeup and prosthetics used to age him has quite frankly never been bettered.

Colonel Blimp underwent a painstaking digital restoration recently, and the results are magnificent. Colours pop and detail is fine, and you’re not going to find a better example of a 70 year old film on DVD. Just imagine how good the Blu-ray must look.

A tasteful doc that looks like it probably dates from the mid 90s (judging by how slim Stephen Fry is) takes us through the production of the film in insightful detail, with contributions from Pressburger’s grandson Kevin Macdonald and cinematographer Jack Cardiff, as well as various well informed historians. There’s also a fine restoration piece hosted by Martin Scorsese that shows how the manky old print was cleaned up frame by frame, and text biographies of all the main players.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Skyfall review

Skyfall (12A/PG-13, 143 mins)
Director: Sam Mendes
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Bond 23, as it was once known, the first James Bond adventure for four years due to legal wrangles, finally arrives with the rather more evocative title of Skyfall, alongside what’s sure to be a collective sigh of relief from audiences that it was worth the wait.

Like its predecessor, Quantum of Solace, it begins with a rip-roaring chase, as Bond (Daniel Craig) and his colleague (Naomie Harris) pursue a suspect through Istanbul. He’s in possession of a file containing the names of MI6 moles, something that M (Judi Dench), controlling operations from London, is desperate not to lose. Unsuccessful in his mission, the pre-titles sequence ends with Bond being accidently shot and presumed dead.

Back in London, Ralph Fiennes is the government lackey who wants to fire M for the loss of the file. Meanwhile, having been off the grid for months, Bond returns when MI6 comes under attack from former agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who is waging a personal vendetta against the agency, and M in particular.

From that opening sequence, one that reveals the ruthlessness of M (Judi Dench) while suggesting Bond has some humanity, it’s clear that this is a film with more on its mind than simple action. It’s the kicking off point for a drama that actually has its characters at its heart and isn’t just an excuse for exoticism and mayhem.

As we travel to China and back, it retains the glamour of a Bond film while sending up their inherent silliness, managing the extremely difficult task of being both knowing and deadly serious about its plot machinations, even while providing some huge laughs.

It’s the most introspective of Bonds, one that dares to consider the possibility that maybe everything about it is getting a little long in the tooth, from M to Bond to the spy game itself. But there’s also humour, with touches that nod to the 50 years of Bond without falling into the cartoonish self-parody that blighted Die Another Day on the occasion of Bond’s 40th.

It’s also a triumph for Craig, who in his third outing has truly made the role his own. He was allowed some room to breathe in Casino Royale but in Quantum of Solace, which looks more and more of a dud with every viewing, he was basically the Terminator, rampaging through action scenes with an unstoppable dourness. Here he’s human, real and flawed, and when he returns from his extended absence, he’s even lost much of his physical ability and lethal skills.

And far from being an indicator that the franchise is ready to be pensioned off, Skyfall actually feels like a breath of fresh air. This is a Bond movie for the ages, at once a culmination of what the Craig movies have been working towards, as well as a tribute, a reinvention and a continuation, and it works on every level imaginable. Adele’s title song is the best for many a long year, and there are a few surprises, the meaning of the film’s title simply being the start of them.

On top of that there are a couple of true masterstrokes. One aspect that’s going to get a lot of attention (and hopefully an Oscar) is the work of Roger Deakins, long-time director of photography for the Coen brothers, and more recently for the director here, Sam Mendes. Whether it’s the neon skyscrapers of Shanghai or a rainy London street, Skyfall is just gorgeous.

Then, in a dream piece of casting, there’s Bardem. In the role of a flamboyant villain once again, you might have expected something of a rerun of his Chigurh from No Country for Old Men, when what he actually serves up is so unexpected, so delicious, that you can’t takes your eyes off him from the moment he makes his sensational entrance.

Too many times recently we’ve heard characters in Bond movies talking up the bad guy, only for the reality to be a bit of a letdown. But Silva lives up to the billing, and though his scheme seems simple, he’s always a step ahead. In that respect he’s very much a successor to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, an agent of chaos rather than a supervillain who’s a physical match for Bond.

Fights are choreographed, not edited into existence, and thankfully any pretence to be being a Bourne film, with jittery hand-to-hand combat and all that free running guff, is jettisoned. Though it may not be on the scale of some previous adventures, the action sequences still have ambition and audacity while never losing sight of the characters.

It’s a complicated juggling act for Mendes, and he and everyone involved in Skyfall has risen to the challenge.

Friday 19 October 2012

Blu-ray Prizes to be Won

Win Werewolf: The Beast Among Us on Blu-ray

WEREWOLF - THE BEAST AMONG US is the latest incarnation of the monster movie, brought to you by Universal studios, the studio behind the legacy of werewolf movies from The Wolf Man, American Werewolf in London and most recently The Wolfman.

Full of gore and bloodthirsty attacks, this action-packed horror thriller takes Universal Studios’ historic monster legacy to an all-new level of chilling action and terrifying suspense!

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 22nd, from Universal.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy on Blu-ray, simply send an email with your name and postal address to by Friday October 26th.

Terms and Conditions

Only one entry will be accepted per person.
Entrants must be UK residents and aged 18 or over.
The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Blu-ray Review

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us Blu-ray

Movie: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Featuring a hodgepodge of accents and idioms, and vague in its setup, Werewolf: The Beast Among Us takes a while to find its feet. Taking place in what appears to be a 19th century eastern European village, yet populated largely by Americans, it offers a curdled mythology of a beast that feeds for three nights around the time of the full moon. Having ripped apart a village, a hunter and his gang are hired to destroy it, shamelessly riffing on Jaws. Stephen Rea is ripe as the town doctor, whose young apprentice longs to join up with the hunters. Werewolf: Etc trades in care and coherence for fine looking sets, grim humour and no qualms about buckets of blood and gore, while also chucking in some passable plot developments. The makers have sourced some terrific locations that with just a bit more budget and richness to the cinematography could really have raised it another notch. Still, it’s a couple of rungs above the kind of similar guff you’ll regularly stumble across on the SyFy channel. It isn’t doused in unnecessary CGI, with many of the shots of the fairly decent looking beast done with animatronics, and although there is a fairly shoddy transformation sequence, as straight to home market Halloween fare goes, this is perfectly presentable stuff.

A/V: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Picture quality is as clear and detailed as you like, and backed up by a robust audio track that’s well distributed around the channels.

Extras: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
A couple of brief featurettes go behind the scenes and are largely EPK affairs, while there’s also a very quick look at Universal’s long tradition of monster movies. There are also some deleted scenes and a commentary from the director and producer.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Paranormal Activity 4 review

Paranormal Activity 4 (15/R, 87 mins)
Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Films like Paranormal Activity 4 are a true gift to moviegoers. Rarely do you get the opportunity to spend 90 minutes in a cinema entirely alone with your thoughts, with absolutely nothing on screen to distract you. It’s a great chance to make a start on that novel perhaps, or plan for your retirement. It’s only been three years since the first Paranormal Activity arrived as a breath of fresh air for horror fans, and became a surprise smash. With their tiny production costs and insatiable fanbase they can be churned out indefinitely, but three films down the line it’s clear the makers are all out of ideas. With the need to introduce ever more convoluted backstory into the timeline, this one kicks off in 2006 with the kidnap of a baby seen in one of the earlier movies. We then jump to 2011 and a new family, and predominantly the teenage daughter, as they start to experience strange goings on after they take in the weird young boy from across the street while his mother is in hospital. The now thoroughly redundant found footage conceit necessitates someone filming all aspects of the family’s daily life, and there’s simply no justification for some of the things shown here being filmed. It also begs the question, if this is all supposed to be home footage, why is it whenever something happens on screen it’s accompanied by a loud bang on the soundtrack? It’s all incredibly stupid and desperately tedious, with literally nothing happening for most of the running time, interspersed with nonsensical poltergeist interaction. Take along your tax forms to keep you entertained.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Taken 2 review

Taken 2 (12A/PG-13, 91 mins)
Director: Olivier Megaton
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Following the surprise success of Taken a few years back, this significantly less accomplished sequel opens with the funerals of the Albanian gangsters slaughtered by Liam Neeson’s ex-CIA agent Bryan in the first film, and their relatives swearing revenge. In Istanbul with his daughter and ex-wife, Bryan and his ex are taken, and their daughter must shake off her victim role to come to their aid. The family setup is clunky but necessary, but movies like this live and die on their action. Chases are fine, but punch-ups are frantic and shaky, given no room to breathe by a director who might have watched The Bourne Supremacy a few times, but which doesn’t qualify him to shoot an intelligible fight sequence. And, neutered to a 12A certificate, much of the satisfaction, and sometimes coherence, is taken out of the kills. Lacking the purity and single-mindedness of the original, Taken 2 just doesn’t move forward with the same sense of purpose, though it is still passable fun to watch Bryan employ his lethal skills.