A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith.
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.
The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn (Cert PG, 102 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, Animation/Action/Adventure/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £27.99/3D Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £29.99).
Starring: Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones.
Gung-ho reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys a model ship and is plunged into a centuries-old mystery involving Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig). Ivan asks Tintin to name his price for the boat but the reporter refuses to sell, sensing the wooden vessel is far more valuable than it first appears. Sure enough, a cryptic conundrum lies within, revealing that "only a true Haddock will discover the secret of The Unicorn". Blistering barnacles! Assisted by trusty pooch Snowy, Tintin searches for more clues, meeting booze-sodden Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), whose family history holds the key to the mystery of a cursed shipwreck. Herge's iconic hero with the distinctive ginger quiff enters the 21st century in The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn, which employs state-of-the-art motion capture to translate actors' movements into the performances of incredibly detailed digital characters. Steven Spielberg's film is a breathlessly entertaining spectacle, littered with eye-popping action set pieces that would simply be unthinkable - not to mention astronomically expensive - as live action. A dizzying motorcycle chase through the winding alleys of a Moroccan marketplace is accomplished in a single take and Captain Haddock's penchant for booze provides the hilarious spark for an explosive bi-plane flight. The script, co-written by Peter Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, delivers some big laughs, such as when Captain Haddock reveals that one of his crew has no eyelids. "Aye, it was a card game to remember!" growls the salty sea dog. One version of the Blu-ray includes the film in 3D.
Rating: **** Moneyball (Cert 12, 127 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Drama, also available to buy DVD £17.99/DVD Box Set £19.99/Blu-ray £22.99/Blu-ray Box Set £24.99).
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright.
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), general manager of Oakland Athletics baseball team, goes cap in hand to the team's owner for more funds after bigger teams pilfered three of his star players. The request is denied - "Don't spend money I don't have!" - so Billy turns to Yale-educated economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who believes crucial decisions should be based on statistics and data. Together, Billy and Peter compile a list of the most undervalued players in the league and bring together this band of misfits as the new squad. Gruff team manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) scoffs at the plan, as do members of the old guard. The season begins with a series of crushing defeats, heaping pressure on Billy and Peter, until the tide turns and miraculously, the A's embark on the longest winning streak in the sport's history. Based on an incredible true story, Moneyball is a classic tale of triumph against adversity but the script, co-written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, doesn't lazily regurgitate cliches of the genre. The film might set up a classic feel-good resolution but Bennett Miller's drama is smarter than that, laden with snappy dialogue and richly detailed characters. Pitt impresses as a family man bucking the trend, while Hill foregoes his usual comedy shtick to demonstrate his dramatic range as the expert number cruncher. Both men deserved their Oscar nominations. Box sets comprising the DVD or Blu-ray and Michael Lewis's book Moneyball: The Art Of Winning An Unfair Game are also available.
Rating: **** Tower Heist (Cert 12, 100 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Comedy/Action/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £26.99) Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, Stephen McKinley Henderson.
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) is the proud manager of The Tower, one of the most luxurious and tightly secured residences in New York City. He entrusts his staff's pensions to Wall Street titan Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), who is placed under house arrest after he is caught stealing two billion dollars from investors. Convinced Arthur must have a multimillion-dollar safety net concealed in his penthouse, Josh approaches petty thief Slide (Eddie Murphy) to plot the perfect heist. While Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni) keeps a close eye on Shaw, Josh and Slide initiate their daring scheme aided by Josh's brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck), sassy housemaid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), lazy bellhop Dev'Reaux (Michael Pena) and recently evicted resident Chase (Matthew Broderick). Tower Heist is a largely entertaining if completely preposterous romp that gallops along at a fair lick. Stiller is a likeable hero, risking everything to ensure the staff aren't swindled out of their dues. Broderick, Affleck and Sidibe, sporting a credible Jamaican accent, lend solid support, while Alda essays a fittingly loathsome villain. However, Murphy threatens to sink the film every time he opens his mouth and launches into his high volume, flamboyant shtick. Screenwriters Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson wilfully ignore the laws of physics during the climactic theft, permitting characters to accomplish an impossible feat in a similarly impossible short span of time. Artistic licence dissipates any dramatic tension. Director Brett Ratner orchestrates action sequences with aplomb, careening through those gaping holes in the script at breakneck speed.
Rating: *** Machine Gun Preacher (Cert 15, 123 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Drama/Action/War, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Madeline Carroll, Kathy Baker, Michael Shannon, Souleymane Sy Savane.
Violent biker Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) emerges from prison, seemingly intent on returning to his boozy, degenerate old ways, much to the chagrin of his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter Paige (Madeline Carroll). Then, miraculously, Sam finds God and he is deeply moved by a sermon from a pastor who tends to a flock in Africa. So Sam decides to be good a Christian and travel to war-torn Sudan to build an orphanage for the children who have been caught up in the bloody conflict. In the process, Sam witnesses shocking acts of brutality perpetrated against children and he takes up arms to protect them, assisted by Sudan People's Liberation Army soldier Deng (Souleymane Sy Savane). Machine Gun Preacher has its heart in the right place and the true story that underpins this uneven fiction is extraordinary, attesting to the endurance of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable evil. Director Marc Forster hammers home the horrors perpetrated by Joseph Kony and by the Lord's Resistance Army in shocking scenes of slaughter and cruelty. On this most primal level, his film hits hard. Butler has fire in his belly but tender moments are lacking, and he spends too long apart from Monaghan to spark sufficient screen chemistry. His performance is emotionally starved and Jason Keller's screenplay fails to empathise with the lead character as he abandons his family to wage a one-man war in the Sudan. Chronology is confusing and the film is overlong, ricocheting back and forth too many times between American suburbia and the African war zone.
Rating: *** Trespass (Cert 15, 87 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Thriller/Action, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £22.99) Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Liana Liberato, Ben Mendelsohn, Cam Gigandet, Dash Mihok, Jordana Spiro, Emily Meade.
Diamond dealer Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) arrives home in his Porsche, desperately trying to close a deal, while his wife Sarah (Nicole Kidman) grounds their teenage daughter Avery (Liana Liberato). Naturally, Avery defies her parents' punishment and slips out of the multimillion-dollar house to attend a party with wild child friend Kendra (Emily Meade) just before Elias (Ben Mendelsohn), his girlfriend Petal (Jordana Spiro), brother Jonah (Cam Gigandet) and hard man Ty (Dash Mihok) bluff their way through the front door, determined to steal the gems that the father has stashed in a safe in his office. Trespass is a fast-paced but emotionally underpowered home invasion thriller penned by Karl Gajdusek, who previously worked on Unknown starring Liam Neeson and the remake of The Mechanic headlining Jason Statham. Those testosterone-fuelled films give some indication of Gajdusek's action credentials and there are some satisfying chases and fights in Joel Schumacher's film. Unfortunately, he's less gifted when it comes to sketching protagonists and the power dynamics that bind them, and it's in the verbal showdowns that this sleek pot-boiler fails to convince. Oscar winners Cage and Kidman are an unlikely pairing as a husband and wife in jeopardy and there's nothing on the screen to suggest why their characters would have walked down the aisle. Lapses in logic and suspensions of our disbelief at key moments set up an explosive finale to affirm the power of the family unit to overcome adversity. All of the characters are undernourished, shaded in various shades of grey so that no one is entirely innocent by the time the end credits roll.