A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith.
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.
John Carter (Cert 12, 126 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Action/Sci-Fi/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £21.99/3D Blu-ray £28.99).
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Dominic West, Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, Polly Walker.
Confederate soldier John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) seeks sanctuary from Apaches in a cave and is magically transported to Mars, where he is captured by a savage race of 15ft-tall green warriors called Tharks. Kind alien Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and his plucky daughter Sola (Samantha Morton) attempt to protect Carter from power-hungry rivals Tal Hajus (Thomas Haden Church) and Sarkoja (Polly Walker). Elsewhere on the planet, powerful being Matai Shang (Mark Strong) orchestrates peace by way of the union of Prince Sab Than (Dominic West) of Zodanga and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) of the besieged city of Helium. The spunky princess rages against the arranged marriage, despite the pleadings of her father (Ciaran Hinds), and spearheads a rebellion. Opening with a computer-generated aerial battle, John Carter is a fantastical and fantastically dull battle beyond the stars based on the novel A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Kitsch is devoid of charisma as the eponymous time-travelling soldier, who tips the balance of power in favour of the pacifist good guys by scything through hordes of computer-generated beasts. Strong and West are pantomime villains, and their comeuppance is swift and unsatisfying. Andrew Stanton's film lumbers like the monstrous white apes, which the eponymous hero fights in a gladiatorial setting reminiscent of the Rancor pit from Return Of The Jedi. Technical wizardry overwhelms one or two flickers of emotion and we give up caring well before the plodding 126 minutes are up. The 3D format is available on one version of the Blu-ray.
Rating: ** This Means War (Cert 15, 93 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Action/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99) Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, Warren Christie, Angela Bassett.
CIA agents FDR Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) fail to apprehend crime lord Heinrich (Til Schweiger) on assignment in Hong Kong and return to HQ to face a roasting from their boss, Collins (Angela Bassett). To lighten the mood, ladies' man FDR helps shy and gallant Tuck to dip his toes back into the dating pool by creating a flattering profile on a relationship website. Soon after, Tuck accepts a first date with Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), who is recovering from a break-up from her sweetheart (Warren Christie). Tuck is instantly smitten. Soon after the date, FDR also encounters Lauren and he falls for her acidic wit. Armed with a dazzling array of hi-tech gadgetry, FDR and Tuck compete against each other to win Lauren's heart. This Means War delivers slam-bang thrills and a few sparkling one-liners as rivalry between the two elite operatives intensifies. Director McG knows how to bolt together explosive sequences that quicken the pulse. However, comic interludes don't always hit their target and the voyeuristic nature of the men's surveillance leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, especially when they resort to documenting entanglements in the bedroom. Witherspoon relies on her strength as a comic actress, placing her at the centre of some elaborately staged set pieces, but Hardy struggles to soften his bruising hard man image, while Pine mugs shamelessly. Thank goodness for Chelsea Handler, scene-stealing with gusto as Lauren's potty-mouthed sister Trish, who dishes out filthy words of wisdom during lovemaking.
Rating: *** Project X (Cert 18, 85 mins, Warner Home Video, Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99) Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Dax Flame, Alexis Knapp, Brady Hender, Nick Nervies, Rick Shapiro, Miles Teller, Peter MacKenzie, Caitlin Dulany.
Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) throw a party for their friend Thomas (Thomas Mann), whose parents (Peter MacKenzie, Caitlin Dulany) are leaving town to celebrate their anniversary. With the folks out of the way, the boys score drugs from dealer T-Rick (Rick Shapiro), buy copious food and drink and prepare for the first arrivals. With pals Everett (Brady Hender) and Tyler (Nick Nervies) manning the door, Thomas enjoys a flirtation with the prettiest girl at school, Alexis (Alexis Knapp), and wrestles with his feelings for childhood sweetheart Kirby (Kirby Bliss Banton). Meanwhile, goth misfit Dax (Dax Flame) documents every mishap on his handheld video camera. Recounted in first-person perspective through the lenses of assorted video cameras, mobile phones, CCTV and police surveillance, Project X is a raucous comedy about youthful exuberance and raging hormones that escalate out of control. British director Nima Nourizadeh's stylistic conceit proves the film's undoing because to glimpse events behind closed doors, characters are conveniently in the wrong place at the right time, recording equipment at the ready. Nourizadeh heightens the sweat-drenched realism of the party sequences by intercutting footage taken by hundreds of extras. Mann's sweetness and naivete contrasts with Cooper's brashness, while the flimsy plot provides screenwriters Matt Drake and Michael Bacall with the perfect excuse to flood the screen with bare-chested girls, wanton debauchery and gleeful drug-taking. Romantic subplots sweeten the pill but a paucity of consequences for the teenagers' irresponsible behaviour and wilful destruction of property leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Rating: *** Jack And Jill (Cert PG, 86 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99) Starring: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino, Elodie Tougne, Rohan Chand, Eugenio Derbez, David Spade, Nick Swardson.
Ad man Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler) lives with wife Erin (Katie Holmes), their daughter Sofia (Elodie Tougne) and adopted son Gary (Rohan Chand). Every Thanksgiving, Jack braces himself for the arrival of twin sister Jill (Sandler again), who has a complete lack of social graces. The ad executive usually can't wait to be rid of Jill. However, this Thanksgiving, his sibling becomes useful. Jack hopes to persuade Al Pacino to star in a commercial for a new type of coffee from a well-known chain of doughnut shops. The Oscar winner develops a crush on Jill so Jack surmises that he can use her "like some kind of prosti-twin". Unfortunately for Jack, Jill has deep feelings for the Sadelsteins' Mexican gardener, Felipe (Eugenio Derbez). Jack And Jill is a grotesque comedy that plumbs the murky depths of human behaviour, revelling in the uncomfortable moments when characters are reduced to their base instincts. It's mind boggling that an actor of Pacino's stature would align himself with such a vulgar farrago. The script manages one honest laugh when it highlights the veteran star's shocking luck at the Oscars by having Jill accidentally shatter his one golden statuette. "I'm sure you have others," she smiles apologetically. "You'd think it but oddly enough, I don't," replies Pacino. Two Sandlers for the price of one means twice the mean-spirited barbs, twice the toilet humour and twice the grating on-screen laughter at an offensive selection of ethnic stereotypes and sexist sneers. Sadly for us, Dennis Dugan's film doesn't give us twice the fun. Anything but.