A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray
The Sweeney (Cert 15, 108 mins, Entertainment One, Action/Thriller/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Steven Mackintosh, Damian Lewis, Kara Tointon, Paul Anderson.
Flying Squad hard man DI Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) and sidekick George Carter (Ben Drew) hunt a gang of wily European thieves led by Francis Allen (Paul Anderson). Frustratingly, the team cannot find sufficient evidence to charge Allen and Regan is forced to let the suspect go after hours of intense questioning. Tensions within the department explode when Internal Affairs officer Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh) embarks on a personal crusade to bring down Regan, who just happens to be bedding Lewis's wife Nancy (Hayley Atwell). Section chief Frank Haskins (Damian Lewis) protects his boys and girl in the Flying Squad as much as he can, but Internal Affairs clearly has a vendetta. The Sweeney is a slick yet soulless revamp of the classic 1970s TV series starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. Winstone plays the daddy of the department with tightly coiled intensity. The romantic subplot with Atwell defies credulity - Winstone looks like he would rather chew off her face than kiss it - and their bedroom scene inspires unintentional snorts of derision. By contrast, Drew (aka rapper Plan B) underplays his role but still gets involved in the bruising fisticuffs. Director Nick Love embraces every cliche imaginable and is completely divorced from the reality of modern policing in London. Car chases careen through the shimmering glass and metal structures of Canary Wharf at dizzying speed to the pounding beat of Lorne Balfe's score and a shoot-out in Trafalgar Square leaves ancient monuments riddled with bullet holes. Almost every arrest culminates in Winstone growling "You're nicked!" However, we're underwhelmed.
The Campaign (Cert 15, 82 mins, Warner Pictures Video, Comedy/Romance/Action, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99) Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Sarah Baker, Katherine LaNasa, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox, Grant Goodman, Kya Haywood.
Self-serving congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has represented the North California district of Hammond for four terms and is poised to be re-elected for a fifth stint. When Cam's brazen promiscuity finally comes to the attention of voters, power broker siblings Glenn (John Lithgow) and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd) throw their considerable support behind a rival candidate: eccentric tour guide Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). Oily campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) descends on Hammond to give Marty, his wife Mitzi (Sarah Baker) and their children (Grant Goodman, Kya Haywood) an extreme makeover. As Marty begins to make inroads into Cam's voting heartland, one-upmanship between the two camps intensifies and the backstabbing escalates out of control. The Campaign fails to deliver on its promises, rather like the political rivals at the heart of the action. Marty's catchphrase pledge to clean up politics - "I'm bringing a broom, because it's a mess!" - might also be aimed at Jay Roach's disjointed film. Ferrell lacks his usual sparkle, while Galifianakis recycles his performance from the 2010 comedy Due Date, replete with canine sidekick. Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell's script vetoes plausibility in favour of garish caricatures, bad taste and profanity, beginning with a sleazy romp in a pungent loo that takes toilet humour at its most literal. For every handful of gags that miss their target, the film unexpectedly unleashes a polished one-liner - "My heart is beating like a phone book in a dryer". Our hearts don't race at all for Roach's picture.
Now Is Good (Cert 12, 98 mins, Warner Home Video, Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99) Starring: Dakota Fanning, Jeremy Irvine, Paddy Considine, Olivia Williams, Kaya Scodelario, Edgar Canham, Sarah Hadland, Patrick Baladi.
Seventeen-year-old Tessa (Dakota Fanning) has the same lust for life as her best friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario), but Tessa won't live to see her 18th birthday, go to university or raise a family. She is losing her battle with leukaemia and is painfully aware of the few precious days and weeks that remain. So Tessa makes a list of dreams she would like to fulfil before she dies, including losing her virginity, taking drugs and going shoplifting with Zoey. Tessa's protective father (Paddy Considine) and flighty mother (Olivia Williams) are determined to protect their daughter as best they can in these final weeks, but the teenager wants to take risks. This includes falling hopelessly in love with hunky neighbour Adam (Jeremy Irvine), who is ill prepared for Tessa's deterioration. Based on the book Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Now Is Good is a touching drama about two teenagers united in the shadow of terminal illness, written and directed for the screen by Ol Parker. The script is laced with dry humour and Fanning sports a credible English accent as the plucky heroine who vows to do "as much as I can, as fast as I can". She sparks pleasing on-screen chemistry with rising star Irvine. The film keeps the grim reality of terminal illness largely off screen, apart from one striking scene in which the heroine suffers a heavy nosebleed and red liquid gushes out of her body, soaking a towel and cascading on to the floor. The final act, while emotionally manipulative, handles the grief and goodbyes with sensitivity.
Lay The Favourite (Cert 15, 90 mins, Entertainment One, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £12.99) Starring: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta Jones, Vince Vaughn, Joshua Jackson, Laura Prepon, Frank Grillo, Wayne Pere, John Lynch Carroll.
Beth Raymer (Rebecca Hall) hails from Tallahassee and ekes out an unfulfilling living by shedding her clothes for beer-swilling punters in the privacy of their trailer parks. Hankering for something more, Beth packs up her belongings and heads to the bright lights of the Nevada desert, where bookmaker Dink Heimowitz (Bruce Willis) introduces her to the thrills and spills of illegal sports gambling. Beth becomes a good luck charm for his co-workers Scott (Wayne Pere) and Frankie (Frank Grillo). As Dink gravitates towards his flirty protegee, their close working relationship exacerbates the marital malaise of his vampy wife, Tulip (Catherine Zeta Jones). Thankfully, Beth's romance with kind-hearted journalist Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) provides her with a fresh perspective on matters of the heart. Lay The Favourite is a ham-fisted comic caper based on a colourful memoir by journalist Beth Raymer. "As luck would have it, the following story is true," promises the film during its opening titles sequence. Evidently, fiction is duller than fact because screenwriter DV DeVincentis struggles to construct a screwball comedy from promising source material, striking an uneven tone that inspires lacklustre performances. Hall possesses a disarming ditziness as the heroine who discovers she is good with figures other than her own, while Zeta Jones is squandered as a forceful wife who believes that cosmetic surgery is the route to lasting happiness. Comic timing doesn't quite click, even when Vince Vaughn enters the fray as a showboating bookmaker, who belittles a rival by quipping, "He is the '57 Chevy of gambling. All modesty aside, I'm the Ferrari". Stephen Frears's film, meanwhile, is a second-hand banger.
American Mary (Cert 18, 98 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £15.99 - see below) The Possession (Uncut Edition) (Cert 15, 90 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99 - see below) That's My Boy (Cert 15, 110 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99 - see below) New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray The Royle Family: Barbara's Old Ring (Cert 12, 90 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £12.99, Comedy/Drama) In the 2012 Christmas special of the award-winning sitcom created by Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, Jim (Ricky Tomlinson) is convinced that his clan's fortunes will be turned around by a big win on the scratch cards. Barbara (Sue Johnston) scours the shelves of Poundland for her Christmas shopping, while son-in-law Dave (Cash) has a fantastic idea that he is convinced will go down a storm on the TV show Dragon's Den.
Merlin - Series Five, Volume 2 (Cert 12, 301 mins, Fremantle Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99/The Complete Fifth Series DVD Box Set £34.99/The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray Box Set £39.99, Family/Action/Drama) The Saturday night drama based on the Arthurian legend comes to a spectacular close in these seven action-packed episodes. Attempts on the life of King Arthur (Bradley James) continue apace and Merlin (Colin Morgan) harbours deep suspicions that Morgana (Katie McGrath) is to blame. With a heavy heart, the young wizard reveals the shocking betrayal of Guinevere (Angel Coulby) to the king, and soon after, Merlin is stripped of his magical powers. In order to restore his abilities and protect Arthur in the fierce battle against Morgana's massed troops, Merlin must face life-or-death decisions that will ultimately decide if Camelot falls to the forces of evil. A five-disc box set of the entire fifth series is also available.
The Possession (Uncut Edition) (Cert 15, 90 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Horror/Thriller) A trinket bought in a yard sale has devastating consequences for a young girl in Ole Bornedal's supernatural thriller, which is based on a true story. Em Brenek (Natasha Calis) purchases an antique box and she becomes obsessed with opening it, even though her father Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tells her that it appears to be sealed. The youngster's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and Clyde, who has just divorced his wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), grows concerned that his little princess is losing her mind. When medical intervention fails to stop Em's violent mood swings, Clyde and Stephanie temporarily put their differences to one side to protect Em. They discover that the box harbours a terrifying supernatural force which is poisoning the girl's soul.
That's My Boy (Cert 15, 110 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99, Comedy/Romance) Adam Sandler headlines this comedy directed by David Caspe about a forty-something loser who is forced to take responsible for his past mistakes. As a hormone-addled teenager, Donny Berger (Donny Weaver) is willingly seduced by his high school teacher Miss McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino), who becomes pregnant with his child. He names the boy Han Solo Berger but father and son are estranged in the wake of the sensationalist TV coverage of the pregnancy. Many years later, Donny (Sandler) has squandered all of his money and he learns that he owes the IRS 43,000 dollars. If he cannot settle the arrears by the end of the week, he will be sent to prison. TV producer Randall Morgan (Dan Patrick) approaches Donny with a tantalising proposition: a payment of 50,000 dollars if he can orchestrate a tearful reunion on camera with Miss McGarricle (now played by Susan Sarandon) and their son, who has changed his named to Todd Peterson (Andy Samberg) and is a successful businessman poised to marry his beautiful fiancee, Jamie (Leighton Meester). So Donny gatecrashes his son's pre-marriage reception and attempts to rebuild bridges in order to spare himself a lengthy prison spell.
American Mary (Cert 18, 98 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £15.99, Horror/Thriller) Girls just wanna have flesh-ripping fun in American Mary, a blood-drenched cautionary tale of female empowerment that begs fascinating questions about the nature of true beauty in a youth-obsessed modern society. Canadian siblings Jen and Sylvia Soska - aka The Twisted Twins - come on leaps and bounds from their low-budget debut Dead Hooker In A Trunk, showing admirable restraint with the gore as their plucky heroine, gifted surgical student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle), uses her medical expertise to modify and enhance the physical attributes of clientele who orbit a sleazy strip club run by Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo). Isabelle's impressive lead performance exposes the woodenness of the supporting cast but the script is solid throughout and the tone remains deliciously dark and demented.
The Inbetweeners USA (Cert 15, 252 mins, 4DVD, DVD £19.99, Comedy/Romance) All 12 episodes of the American remake of the award-winning British comedy series created by Iain Morris and Damon Beesley. Will Mackenzie (Joey Pollari) begins his first day at a new public school and is hopelessly out of his depth, so he befriends fellow misfits Jay (Zack Pearlman), Neil (Mark L Young) and Simon (Bubba Lewis). The young men attempt to raise their perilously low social profiles and perhaps woo the opposite sex.
The Glades - The Complete First Season (Cert 15, 559 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £24.99, Drama) Fiery-tempered Chicago detective Jim Longworth (Matt Passmore) is compelled to leave the Windy City and relocate to sunny Florida, where he intends to recuperate from gunshot wounds and improve his golf handicap. A flirtation with local nurse Callie Cargill (Kiele Sanchez) raises Jim's spirits but he is soon embroiled in cases of murder and deceit every bit as time-consuming and complex as his last posting. Meanwhile, Callie, whose husband Ray is behind bars, entertains Jim's overtures with amusement as she single-handedly raises her 13-year-old son, Jeff (Uriah Shelton). The four-disc set includes all 13 episodes of the hit US drama.
House Of Lies - The First Season (Cert 15, 360 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, DVD £29.99, Comedy/Drama) Two-disc set comprising all 12 episodes of the comedy drama based on the book House Of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch And Then Tell You The Time. In the cut-throat world of management consultancy, Galweather & Stearn ranks second in America after market leader Kinsley-Johnson. Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) leads the team at G&S and will stop at nothing to undermine his rivals and secure lucrative deals. Flanked by colleagues Jeannie van der Hooven (Kristen Bell), Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson) and Clyde Oberholdt (Ben Schwartz), Marty pushes moral boundaries in the ultimate survival of the slickest.
Unit One - Series One (Cert 15, 512 mins, Arrow Films, DVD £24.99, Thriller/Drama) Nine episodes of the acclaimed Scandinavian crime drama. Ingrid Dahl (Charlotte Fich) is appointed commander of the elite Rejseholdet task force, which moves around Denmark, helping various police teams to solve the most challenging cases. Personal and professional pressures bring Ingrid into conflict with members of her team including Detective Inspectors Allan Fischer (Mads Mikkelsen), Jens Peter Jorgensen (Waage Sando) and Thomas La Cour (Lars Brygmann).
Ghostquake (Cert 15, 83 mins, Signature Entertainment, DVD £12.99, Horror/Thriller) Jeffrey Scott Lando directs this supernatural horror about high school students who face unspeakable terrors in the aftermath of an earthquake. The pupils of Helville High are preparing for homecoming when Mother Nature unleashes her fury, trapping eight students in the building with Principal Spiro (Mike Kimmo) and some of the staff. Malevolent spirits are released from the earth and take possession of the adults, forcing the students to put aside their differences and petty rivalries to survive the onslaught.
Death Valley - Season One (Explicit) (Cert 15, 264 mins, Universal/Playback, DVD £15.99, Comedy) All 12 episodes of the comedy mockumentary which broadcasts on MTV. Twelve months have passed since zombies, vampires and werewolves descended on San Fernando Valley in California and made the area their home. Captain Dashell (Bryan Callen) of the LAPD leads a newly formed division, the Undead Task Force (UTF), which eradicates this threat to human existence. A camera crew follows Dashell and his team, which includes officers 'John-John' Johnson (Texas Battle), Billy Pierce (Bryce Johnson) and Joe Stubeck (Charlie Sanders), as they maintain law and order in deeply trying circumstances.
Django (Uncut) (Cert 15, 90 mins, Argent Films, DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £22.99, Western/Action) With Quentin Tarantino's blood-spattered Django Unchained released in cinemas, a re-mastered and uncut version of Sergio Corbucci's seminal 1960s spaghetti western arrives on the home formats. One-time Yankee soldier Django (Franco Nero) swaggers into a ghost town on the border between Mexico and the US and becomes embroiled in the bitter feud between gangs led by Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) and Hugo Rodriguez (Jose Bodalo). Django blames Jackson for the death of his wife so he joins forces with Rodriguez to wreak revenge.
Fireman Sam: Pontypandy Gone Wild (Cert U, 50 mins, HIT Entertainment, DVD £12.99, Animation/Children) Tom and Moose get stuck in a fox's den and a search for the fabled Pontypandyness Monster strands some of the villagers in the lake in five episodes of the popular animated series. Thankfully, the tow's favourite fireman and his colleagues are on hand to avert disaster. The DVD includes the instalments Boyce Will Be Boyce, King Of The Mountain, To Outfox A Fox, The Pontypandyness Monster and Lighthouse Lock Out.
DVD and Blu-ray retail top 10 1 (2) The Dark Knight Rises 2 (1) Total Recall 3 (4) Snow White And The Huntsman 4 (3) London 2012 Olympic Games 5 (5) The Hunger Games 6 (-) Avengers Assemble 7 (-) Doctor Who: Legacy 8 (6) Prometheus 9 (10) The Lord Of The Rings - Trilogy 10 (-) Rock Of Ages Chart supplied by www.hmv.com DVD rental top 10 1 (2) The Bourne Legacy 2 (4) Ted 3 (-) The Amazing Spider-Man 4 (-) Men In Black 3 5 (1) Dark Shadows 6 (-) Prometheus 7 (6) The Five-Year Engagement 8 (3) Wrath Of The Titans 9 (5) Rock Of Ages 10 (8) Contraband Chart supplied by www.blockbuster.co.uk