blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 8th March 2010


An Education (E1 Entertainment): Coming of age dramas can often fall prey to cliché or sentimentality but this manages to avoid avoid such pitfalls to become something really special. Based on journalist Lynn Barber‘s memoir of growing up in the early 1960s, it explores the life lessons learnt by a 16 year old girl named Jenny (Carey Mulligan, outstanding in the central role) as she falls for an older man (Peter Sarsgaard) and the glamorous lifestyle he appears to offer her. Skilfully directed by Lone Scherfig from an intelligent and heartfelt script by Nick Hornby, it evokes the charming drabness of the period whilst accurately depicting the emotional minefield that teenage years can be. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]

Bright Star (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): The latest film from director Jane Campion explores the last years of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his relationship with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Beautifully filmed and acted, it is a surprise that this hasn’t got a UK Blu-ray release given the stunning Vermeer-like cinematography from Greig Fraser. [Buy on DVD]

Toy Story (Walt Disney): The first feature from Pixar finally arrives on the Blu-ray format. The 1995 film directed by John Lasseter had a brilliantly simple concept: what happens to toys when they’re not played with? The main characters it introduced us to were: Cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), the favourite toy of a young boy named Andy, who tries to calm his colleagues during a difficult time of year – the birthday – when they may be replaced by newer toys. Along comes the snazzy Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), who mistakenly believes he is a real space ranger and not a toy. What could have been cheesy and overly commercial was instead a magical, innovative landmark in film history. Lasseter and his team won a richly deserved special Oscar “for the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film”. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]

Toy Story 2 (Walt Disney): The 1999 sequel to Toy Story gets a simultaneous Blu-ray release in preparation for the third film, which is out at cinemas in June. As the only sequel Pixar have done (so far) Toy Story managed to preserve the quality of the original and in certain sequences surpass it. Toy collecting becomes the focus here, as Woody (Tom Hanks) – a rare doll from a popular 60s children’s show – gets kidnapped by a greedy collector and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) hatches a rescue mission with Andy’s other toys. A massive box office success, the second film demonstrated that Pixar were not only innovators in terms of CG animation but that they had tremendous story telling skills which have continued to delight audiences over the last decade. [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]

Afterschool (Network Releasing): A US indie which explores the experiences of a teenage student at an elite East Coast school who accidentally captures on camera the tragic deaths of two female classmates. Their lives become memorialised as part of an audio-visual assignment intended to facilitate the campus-wide healing process, with the technophile Robert eventually overseeing the project, which creates unexpected tensions and unease. An interesting and distinctive debut film from first time director Antonio Campos which explores new and disturbing issues for a generation who have grown up in a world connected by the web. [Buy on DVD]



Julie and Julia (Sony Pictures) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
Kill Zone (Showbox Media Group) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
Saw VI (Lionsgate UK) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
The Great Rift (2 Entertain) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
200 Motels (Tony Palmer Films) [Buy on DVD]
Amelia (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy on DVD]
Don’t Worry About Me (Verve Pictures) [Buy on DVD]
Mister Lonely (ICA) [Buy on DVD]
Motherhood (Metrodome Distribution) [Buy on DVD]
Reservoir Dogs (Lionsgate UK) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
Taking Woodstock (Universal Pictures) [Buy on Blu-ray / Buy on DVD]
The Mentalist: Season 1 (Warner Home Video) [Buy on DVD]
Track 29 (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Buy on DVD]
True Lies (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Buy on DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 5th March including Alice in Wonderland, Legion, Chloe, Case 39 and Ondine


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 6th November 2009

UK Cinema Releases 06-11-09



A Christmas Carol (Walt Disney): An animated retelling of the Charles Dickens novel about a Victorian-era miser (Jim Carrey) taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions. Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, it stars Carrey in a variety of roles, including Ebenezer Scrooge and the three ghosts who haunt him.

It was filmed using the performance capture techniques Zemeckis previously used in The Polar Express (2004) and Beowulf (2007). Disney will be expecting healthy box office after a big marketing push and audience familiarity with the story. [BFI IMAX, Empire Leicester Sq., Trocadero Picc Circus & Nationwide / PG]

The Men Who Stare At Goats (Momentum Pictures): Loosely adapted from Jon Ronson’s non-fiction book about a secret Army unit founded in 1979 called the ‘First Earth Battalion’ who conducted paranormal experiments, which included staring at goats in order to kill them.

The film uses a fictional framing narrative of an Ann Arbor journalist (Ewan McGregor) who hears about these strange practices when he covers the Iraq war in 2003 and encounters a former member of the unit (George Clooney).

An excellent supporting cast includes Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and Stephen Lang. Although director Grant Heslov doesn’t always get the mix right between comedy and drama, there are enough funny set pieces here to chew on. Read my full thoughts on the film here.

Momentum will be hoping the starry cast will boost ticket sales but the oddness of the story and heavy competition might dent its grosses. [Coronet Notting Hill, Screen On The Green, Vue West End & Nationwide / 12A]

Bright Star (Warner Bros./Pathe): Director Jane Campion returns with this lush period drama based on the three-year romance between 19th century poet John Keats (Ben Wishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), which was cut short by Keats’ untimely death at age 25.

It has screened to some acclaim on the festival circuit since premièring at Cannes back in May and many are tipping it for Oscar recognition. Critical buzz and word of mouth amongst discerning audiences could help it achieve decent art house business, with multiplex crossover in some areas. [Nationwide / PG]

Jennifer’s Body (20th Century Fox): A comedy horror about a newly possessed cheerleader (Megan Fox) who turns into a killer who specializes in offing her male classmates, much to the dismay of her best friend (Amanda Seyfried).

A massive creative misfire all-round, despite the talents of screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) and director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight). Fox will be hoping to snare gullible teens but audiences will be disappointed when they see what a bad film it is. [Nationwide / 15]

The Fourth Kind (Entertainment): ‘Fact’ based thriller involving an ongoing unsolved mystery in Alaska, where one town has seen an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances during the past 40 years and there are accusations of a federal cover up [Nationwide / 18]



UK Cinema Limited Releases 06-11-09

Paper Heart (Anchor Bay UK): Charlyne Yi embarks on a quest across America to make a documentary about love.

Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec, it is a drama/documentary hybrid starring Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera as themselves. Sort of. [Odeon Panton Street & Key Cities / PG]

1 Day (Vertigo Films): The first ever British hip hop musical about a hustler named Flash set amongst young rappers in Birmingham. It should be noted that it is directed by Penny Woolcock who has made two of the worst films of all time (The Principles of Lust and Mischief Night). [Nationwide / 15]

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (Park Circus): A part documentary and part reconstruction of the 1964 film Henri-Georges Clouzot never made. [Cine Lumiere, ICA Cinema & Key Cities / 15]

Welcome (Cinefile): Drama about a Kurdish boy from Iraq who sets off on a journey across Europe. [Curzon Renoir & selected Key Cities/ 15]

> UK cinema releases for November 2009
> DVD & Blu-ray picks for this week including Wallace and Gromit: The Complete Collection, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Proposition and The Wizard of Oz (W/C Monday 2nd November 2009)

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2009 Reactions: Bright Star

Abbie Cornish and Ben Wishaw in Bright Star

Bright Star is the latest film from director Jane Campion and it explores the last years of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his relationship with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish).

It is screening in competition and initial reviews seem to suggest it is a return to form for ther Kiwi director who hasn’t made a film since 2003’s In the Cut (now best remembered for Meg Ryan’s awkward interview on Parkinson).

Here is a summary of the initial critical reaction: 

Todd McCarthy of Variety thinks it is an impressive return for Campion:

The Jane Campion embraced by 1990s arthouse audiences but who’s been missing of late makes an impressive return with “Bright Star.”

Breaking through any period piece mustiness with piercing insight into the emotions and behavior of her characters, the writer-director examines the final years in the short life of 19th century romantic poet John Keats through the eyes of his beloved, Fanny Brawne, played by Abbie Cornish in an outstanding performance.

Beautifully made film possesses solid appeal for specialized auds in most markets, including the U.S., where it will be released by Bob Berney’s and Bill Pohlad’s as-yet unnamed new distribution company, although its poetic orientation and dramatic restraint will likely stand in the way of wider acceptance.

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian thinks Campion could be up for another Palme d’Or (she won in 1993 for The Piano):

Jane Campion has put herself in line for her second Palme d’Or here at the Cannes film festival with a film which I think could be the best of her career.

Campion brings to this story an unfashionable, unapologetic reverence for romance and romantic love, and she responds to Keats’s life and work with intelligence and grace.”

Allan Hunter of Screen International is impressed by

Sixteen years after The Piano, Jane Campion has found renewed artistic inspiration in a tragic romance to match the haunting intensity of that Palme D’Or winning feature.

Bright Star deftly avoids the stilted, starchy quality often found in lesser period dramas. Characters appear comfortable in their clothes and settings, the dialogue flows easily from their lips and there is a quiet, everyday intimacy to the way events unfold.

We are invited into this world rather than kept at arm’s length because nothing jars or seems out of place. The keen attention to detail is never obtrusive  but instead creates a complete, credible universe.

Beautifully crafted in every department from the composure of the camerawork to the precision of the costume and production design, Bright Star is a film to savour.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere admires it with some reservations:

It’s been done quite perfectly — I was especially taken with Grieg Frasder‘s vermeer-lit photography — with immaculate fealty for the textures and tones of early 19th Century London, and a devotion to capturing the kind of love that is achingly conveyed in hand-written notes that are hand delivered by caring young fellows in waistcoats.

But it struck me nonetheless as too slow and restricted and…well, just too damnably refined. I looked at my watch three times and decided around the two-thirds mark that it should have run 100 rather than 120 minutes. 

The pacing is just right for the time period — it would have felt appalling on some level if it had been shot and cut with haste for haste’s sake — but there’s no getting around the feeling that it’s a too-long sit. It’s basically a Masterpiece Theatre thing that my mother will love. I’m not putting it down on its own terms. I felt nothing but admiration for the various elements. 

Dave Calhoun of Time Out thinks it has an admirable lightness of touch:

[it is] free of the hysterics so often associated with films about writers and deftly avoids the distracting surface tendencies that can plague British period pieces set in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

“It’s also remarkable in its lightness of touch: the film barely tries to persuade us that Keats is a valid object of this girl’s affection or that he is a fine literary talent; we are left to learn both incidentally.

They’re wise choices, leaving Campion to concentrate on character and emotion rather than any special pleading about genius and its offshoots.”

Ray Bennett in The Hollywood Reporter predicts an arthouse hit:

With much grace and at considerable leisure, 1993 Palme d’Or winner Campion (“The Piano”) tells the story of the brief love affair between the gifted but early dead poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

Ben Whishaw plays Keats with impeccable tragedy and Abbie Cornish portrays winningly the beautiful seamstress Fanny, whose passion is constrained only by the rigorous mores of the times.

Cynics need not apply and it’s doubtful that “Bright Star” will be the shining light at many suburban cineplexes, but festivals will eat it up, art house audiences will swoon and it will have a lucrative life on DVD and Blu-ray, not to mention the BBC and PBS.

Here is a clip of the film from AFP:

Check the official Cannes site which has audio and video from the press conference.

More photos of the film can be seen here at Filmofilia.

> Bright Star at the IMDb
> Jane Campion at Wikipedia