DVD review - July 21

DVD review - July 21

DVD review - July 21

First published in AdXtra

A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.

By Damon Smith.

New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray.

Contraband (Cert 15, 105 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Thriller/Action/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99).

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Caleb Landry Jones, Lukas Haas, Olafur Darri Olafsson, JK Simmons, Diego Luna, David O'Hara.

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) and best friend Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster) were "the Lennon and McCartney of smuggling" but both men have gone straight. Trouble looms large when Chris's reckless brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), runs drugs for gun-toting madman Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) and dumps the narcotics when US customs unexpectedly storms the cargo ship. "I'm going to take care of it," Chris assures his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale), reluctantly agreeing to smuggle millions of dollars of fake bills from Panama to pay off Andy's debt with the help of old pals Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas) and Igor (Olafur Darri Olafsson) aboard a ship commandeered by Captain Camp (JK Simmons). Contraband is an assured reworking of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam starring Baltasar Kormakur, who sits in the director's chair for this slick remake. Wahlberg is a muscular central presence, greeting each ridiculous twist in Aaron Guzikowski's script with bewilderment. We're not remotely surprised that common sense is flung overboard for the sake of an adrenaline-fuelled action sequence. A subplot involving a Jackson Pollock canvas worth 140 million dollars is preposterous, so too is Captain Camp's comeuppance, but while the script springs leaks, Kormakur's film stays afloat, buoyed by its action-packed interludes. Wahlberg's lack of emotional depth in front of camera doesn't prove fatal since his character spends most of the film clambering around the ship dodging bullets. He's a likeable hero, breaking the law to keep his family together. However, Beckinsale is wasted in a thankless supporting role that proves when boys will be boys, girls are superfluous.

Rating: *** We Bought A Zoo (Cert PG, 118 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Elle Fanning, Angus Macfadyen, Patrick Fugit, John Michael Higgins, Stephanie Szostak.

Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is trying to be strong for his teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford) and precocious young daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) following the death of his wife (Stephanie Szostak). At the behest of his accountant brother (Thomas Haden Church), Benjamin starts anew with his family in a ramshackle house that comes with a fully functioning zoo, complete with animals and ballsy head keeper, Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson). Benjamin sinks all of his money into the zoo, hoping to restore the facility to its former glory in time for an inspection by the notoriously pernickety Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins). The odds are stacked against Benjamin but his determination inspires alcohol-swigging handyman MacCready (Angus Macfadyen), animal handler Robin (Patrick Fugit) and Kelly's teenage cousin Lily (Elle Fanning) to buy into the impossible dream. Based on the inspirational memoir by Benjamin Mee, the British newspaper columnist who took charge of Dartmoor Zoological Park in 2007, We Bought A Zoo is glossy Hollywood fiction that slathers on the emotional syrup. Children stare mournfully into the camera; parents salve wounds with trite platitudes; a father stumbles upon a cash windfall in the nick of time, and an ageing tiger prepares to make a final journey to the great jungle in the sky. This is writer-director Cameron Crowe at his most mawkish and cliched. The film's trump card is Damon, who delivers a moving and honest performance as the family man haunted by memories of the past. Church provides the comic relief, tenderly advising: "Travel the stages of grief but stop just before zebras get involved!"

Rating: *** Act Of Valour (Cert 15, 105 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, Action/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99) Starring: Alex Veadov, Jason Cottle, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, Gonzalo Menendez.

Following the assassination of the US ambassador to Manila, CIA agents Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sanchez) and Walter Ross (Nestor Serrano) investigate a drug smuggler nicknamed Christo (Alex Veadov) and his links to bomber Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle). The agents are ambushed - Ross is killed and Morales is spirited away to the jungle where she is tortured. An elite team of Navy SEALs under the command of Senior Chief Van O is scrambled aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard to extract the stricken agent. The seven-strong unit including Lieutenant Commander Rorke and Special Warfare Operator Chef Dave infiltrates the enemy compound, unaware of the level of resistance. Directors Mike "Mouse" McCoy and Scott Waugh honour the Navy SEALs with Act Of Valour, a fictionalised account of real-life operations starring active servicemen and women. Fantasy and reality collide head-on: combat sequences are festooned with the latest battlefield technology and the film takes to the air with pilots and dives inside a state-of-the-art submarine. Neat directorial flourishes - the camera whirling as agent Morales's body is rolled up in a carpet - quicken our pulse. The veracity of McCoy and Waugh's film sadly doesn't extend to the narrative or dialogue. Characters are thinly sketched and it seems highly unlikely that a senior officer would advise his men that a terrorist "pulled a Roman Polanski on my ass and disappeared." While the real-life SEALs bring power and intensity to fight sequences, most don't know how to deliver a line with conviction. It doesn't help that a florid and occasionally jingoistic voiceover incites giggles.

Rating: *** The Devil Inside (Cert 15, 79 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £26.99) Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Ionut Grama, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Suzan Crowley, Claudiu Isotodor, Bonnie Morgan, Claudiu Trandafir.

On October 30, 1989, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) telephones the police to confess to slaying three members of her church group during an exorcism. Her exorcism. She is spirited away to Centrino Mental Hospital in Rome where she moulders behind closed doors. Twenty years later, Maria's daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) makes a documentary about exorcisms to better understand the dark forces that supposedly took hold of her mother. Film-maker Michael Schaeffer (Ionut Grama) follows Isabella on her journey into the unknown, flanked by Italian priests Father Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) and Father David Keane (Evan Helmuth). The exorcism of young Rosa Sorlini (Bonnie Morgan) in a dingy basement persuades Isabella to contact Doctor Antonio Costa (Claudiu Isotodor), chief of staff at Centrino, and set up a similar procedure for her mother. The Devil Inside jumps on the rickety Paranormal Activity bandwagon with a found footage horror styled as a documentary. Director William Brent Bell and co-writer Matthew Peterman clumsily contrive the set pieces, blatantly setting up the finale with off-camera expository dialogue. We're always several paces ahead of the characters as they blunder towards disaster, their whimpers and screams captured on three cameras that have been placed fortuitously in just the right spots to document each chilling encounter. Exorcism sequences tick off a checklist of horror tropes - levitation, painful bodily contortions, speaking in tongues - but commit the cardinal sin of forgetting to scare the living daylights out of us. A couple of cheap scares would crank up tension but dramatic momentum is pedestrian and the spry running time feels considerably longer than 79 minutes.

Rating: **

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