A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray
Mirror Mirror (Cert PG, 101 mins, Studio Canal, Family/Comedy/Romance/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99)
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Sean Bean, Robert Emms, Jordan Prentice, Martin Klebba, Ronald Lee Clark, Danny Woodburn, Joe Gnoffo, Mark Povinelli, Sebastian Saraceno.
Once upon a time... the King (Sean Bean) of the realm is presumed dead so his second wife, the Evil Queen (Julia Roberts), seizes the throne and turns her teenage stepdaughter Snow White (Lily Collins) into a recluse. Hunky Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) and his manservant Renbock (Robert Emms) arrive at the palace and the Queen is smitten. "The prince is rich, he's built like an ox, I intend to marry him and all my financial problems will be over," she excitedly tells her bumbling manservant, Brighton (Nathan Lane). However, the Queen cannot risk Snow White stealing her thunder, so the scheming monarch banishes her stepdaughter to the forest, where the young lady will be easy pickings for the carnivorous beast that lives in the trees. Mirror Mirror is an occasionally uproarious reworking of the classic fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, which references the familiar elements, including an enchanted looking glass and a poisoned apple. Roberts has a blast as the pantomime villainess, milking generous laughs from Melisa Wallack and Jason Keller's uneven script, which strives for but falls short of the dazzling irreverence of The Princess Bride. Occasionally, the screenwriters' wit bites, such as when Snow White takes on the beast of the forest alone and Prince Alcott pleads for her to kow-tow to convention and let him be the hero because "it's been focus-tested and it works!" Alas, Collins and Hammer are bland as the much-abused heroine and her gallant suitor, whose chaste love blossoms in adversity. This is supposed to be their story but every time they are on screen, our attention wavers.
The Raven (Cert 15, 106 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Horror/Thriller/Romance/Action, also available to buy DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £22.99)
Starring: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Pam Ferris.
Baltimore detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) investigates a double murder in a supposedly locked room, where one girl's body is discovered wedged in the chimney flue. "This scene is familiar to me," remarks Fields, recognising the similarity to a heinous crime described in lurid detail in a collection of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack). So Fields approaches the writer and encourages Poe to get inside the tortured mind of the killer. When a second victim is slain and the perpetrator targets Poe's sweetheart, Emily (Alice Eve), the writer gladly accepts the challenge, remarking tongue in cheek, "If I would have known my writing would have had such an effect on people, I would have devoted more time to eroticism." Punctuated by scenes of explicit gore, including the cleaving of one heavily bound victim by a giant pendulum blade, The Raven is suspenseful and tautly paced, drawing inspiration from the same well of misery as Se7en. Screenwriters Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare splice fact with blood-spattered fiction, putting Poe's own words into the mouth of the writer's long-suffering newspaper editor (Kevin McNally), who remarks, "I believe that God gave him a spark of genius and quenched it in misery." However, the meat and gristle of The Raven is pure ludicrous invention, anchored by a quixotic performance from Cusack as the literary genius, who confides, "I despise people who despise me." Evans is a tad insipid and Eve's damsel in corseted distress is more of a plot device than a fully fledged love interest.
The Players (Cert 18, 103 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, Comedy/Romance/Drama, also available to buy DVD £12.99 - see below)
New to buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Ab Fab At 20 (Cert 15, 90 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £14.99, Comedy)
Jennifer Saunders's award-winning comedy returns for three special episodes 20 years after PR doyenne Edina Monsoon (Saunders) and best friend Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) first graced our TV screens. In these instalments, Saffy (Julia Sawalha) forces Patsy to reveal her true age - to the nearest decade, Eddie stages a high-profile performance at the Royal Albert Hall, and the entire Monsoon family including Mother (June Whitfield) is bitten by the Olympics bug as London gears up for the greatest sporting tournament on the planet. The DVD also includes the Sport Relief special featuring Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Kate Moss.
Doctor Who: The Greatest Show In The Galaxy (Cert PG, 100 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £19.99, Sci-Fi/Drama)
The Time Lord helps his companion to confront her crippling coulrophobia in this four-part adventure originally broadcast in December 1988 and January 1989. The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) is painfully aware that Ace (Sophie Aldred) is terrified of clowns but this doesn't stop them accepting an invitation to the renowned Psychic Circus on the planet Segonax. The time travellers quickly realise that something is dreadfully wrong behind the scenes at the circus, which is controlled by the Chief Clown (Ian Reddington). When fortune teller Morgana (Deborah Manship) reads the tarot cards for the Doctor and turns over the Hanged Man, it seems that death walks among the performers.
The Players (Cert 18, 103 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment, DVD £12.99, Comedy/Romance/Drama)
Directors Emmanuelle Bercot, Fred Cavaye, Alexandre Courtes, Jean Dujardin, Michel Hazanavicius, Eric Lartigau and Gilles Lellouche explore male infidelity and the pursuit of carnal pleasures in this comical compendium of short films starring Oscar winner Dujardin and Lellouche in multiple roles. In one segment, a dull dentist (Lellouche) faces a struggle to hold the fickle affections of his temptress younger girlfriend (Clara Ponsot), while in another chapter, a lonely businessman (Dujardin) yearns for an escape from his conference and hopes that a pretty female might distract him from the boredom of the convention centre. The film concludes with shenanigans and more toe-curling embarrassment beneath the bright lights of Las Vegas.
NCIS - The Eighth Season (Cert 15, 1440 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, DVD £49.99/Series 1-8 DVD Box Set, Action/Drama)
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his team at the Naval Criminal Investigation Service race against time to unmask the Port To Port Killer in 24 episodes of the Emmy-nominated drama. Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) faces the ghosts of the past when she is asked to help protect her father Eli (Michael Nouri), who is Director of Mossad. Meanwhile, fellow agents Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) provide vital back-up and at NCIS HQ, chief medical examiner Donald 'Ducky' Mallard (David McCallum) and forensic specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) pore over vital evidence. A 48-disc box set comprising all eight series is also available.
Salute (Cert PG, 88 mins, Arrow Film Distributors, DVD £19.99, Documentary)
The Olympic Games is traditionally a time of global peace, when warring factions are asked to lay down their arms and come together for the ultimate celebration of strength, speed and determination against the odds. One of the most iconic scenes of the modern era unfolded at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a Black Power salute on the winner's podium after a closely fought 200m sprint with Australian athlete Peter Norman. Documentary film-maker Matt Norman examines this defining moment in sport which became an enduring symbol of the civil rights struggle at a time when black nations had threatened to boycott the Games and black athletes within the US team had been urged to follow suit.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians - Season Four (Cert 15, 401 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, DVD £12.99, Special Interest)
Kim Kardashian and her headline-grabbing family experience more emotional highs and lows in the soapy reality TV series, which is broadcast on channel E!. Khloe and Lamar tie the knot after a few weeks of dating, despite vociferous disapproval from the rest of the clan. At the ceremony, Rob sees ex-girlfriend Adrienne and tries to rekindle their relationship, while Kourtney rebuilds bridges with Scott as they await the birth of their son, Mason. Meanwhile, Kim celebrates her birthday by taking the entire family to Las Vegas and the copious alcohol sparks a series of bitter arguments and recriminations. The three-disc set includes all 11 episodes.
Hijacked (Cert 15, 86 mins, Anchor Bay Entertainment UK Ltd, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Thriller/Action)
Rogue Special Agent Paul Ross (Randy Couture) is on the trail of a gang of ruthless criminals who don't think twice about killing innocent bystanders in pursuit of riches. At a lavish party in Paris, Ross is asked by wealthy industrialist Bruce Lieb (Craig Fairbrass) to act as security aboard his private plane for an important flight out of the French capital. Ross accepts and brings along fellow hard man Otto Southwell (Dominic Purcell) for the ride. It transpires that Ross's old flame Olivia (Tiffany Dupont) is aboard the flight but before embers of attraction can rekindle, villain Rostow Pawlak (Holt McCallany) and his goons - the very men that Ross has been hunting - storm the craft, determined to steal Lieb's considerable assets.
Remains (Cert 15, 85 mins, Metrodome Distribution, DVD £15.99, Horror/Thriller)
Based on Steve Niles's graphic novel, Remains, directed by Colin Theys, depicts a zombie apocalypse in the unrelenting heat of the Nevada Desert where there is no escape from the slaughter. While customers of a Reno casino waste their money on slot machines and roulette, the world waits with baited breath for the launch of a revolutionary new power source that could signal the end of the nuclear age. A switch is flicked and the world is plunged into darkness as most of mankind is transformed into flesh-hungry zombies. Tom (Grant Bowler) and Tori (Evalena Marie) are too busy getting high on drugs in a casino back room to notice the carnage but when they emerge from safety, all hell breaks loose and the duo join forces with other survivors to weather the relentless onslaught from the undead.
Axed (Cert 15, 87 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, DVD £12.99, Horror/Comedy/Thriller)
Ryan Lee Driscoll writes and directs this black comedy about a doting father who takes his family on an outing they will never forget. Kurt Wendell (Jonathan Hansler) cannot bear to tell his loved ones the shocking truth: that he has been fired from his well-paid job in the city and their future hangs in the balance. Crippled by fear, Kurt decides to take drastic action so he grants his children Megan (Nicola Posener) and Jay (Christopher Rithin) a day off school and persuades his wife Steph (Andrea Gordon) to escape her work so they can all spend the day together. Kurt drives the clan to a remote spot for some quality family time - little do Steph, Megan and Jay realise that Kurt intends for them to bond with his pickaxe.
Airborne (Cert 18, 90 mins, Chelsea Films, DVD £12.99, Horror/Thriller)
What goes up must come down in Dominic Burns's horror thriller charting the fortunes of passengers on board the last flight to take off during a deadly snow storm. As foul weather heads towards East Midlands Airport, Atlantic Sky Airways flight 686 takes off bound for New York, with a full crew and 10 passengers. As the craft gains altitude, one of the passengers goes missing and then in a bizarre and unsettling twist, the crew start to vanish too. When both pilots are found dead and the body count continues to mount, survivors race against the clock to understand the horrors unfolding in the claustrophobic confines of the cabin. Mark Hamill, Julian Glover and Gemma Atkinson co-star.
Skinning (Sisanje) (Cert 18, 97 mins, KSM, DVD £15.99, Thriller/Drama)
Peer pressure and the desire to fit in propel a high school student down a dangerous path in Stevan Filipovic's gritty stale of gang culture. High achiever Novica (Nikola Rakocevic) excels at mathematics and other academic subjects but he is an outsider with the other students despite his best efforts to win their approval. Relja (Viktor Savic), the charismatic leader of a group of Belgrade skinheads, seduces Novica and indoctrinates the shy and retiring teenager into a world of hooliganism and mindless violence. As Novica begins to rise up the ranks of the gang, his schoolwork suffers and he kisses goodbye to a glittering future in order to immerse himself fully in skinhead life.
Zombie 108 (Cert 15, 88 mins, Showbox, DVD £17.99, Horror/Thriller)
Nuclear disaster plunges Japan and its neighbours into the midst of a zombie plague in Joe Chein's bloodthirsty horror. When catastrophe strikes, the influenza virus morphs into something far more deadly, unleashing a wave of voracious predators upon the world. Governments struggle to quarantine the infected and in Taipei, Swat teams infiltrate different sectors of the city, culling the undead. However, a clash with crime lords momentarily distracts the police from the task at hand, threatening to leave hordes of flesh-hungry inhabitants unchecked. Meanwhile, a serial killer (Chein) uses the apocalypse as a cover to slay more unsuspecting female victims, including a young mother (Yvonne Yao) who just wants to escape the city and the stench of death.
The Night Porter (Cert 18, 112 mins, Anchor Bay Entertainment UK Ltd, DVD £9.99/Blu-ray £15.99, Drama/Romance)
Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling headline this re-issue of Liliana Cavani's controversial 1974 drama, made famous by the centre-piece sequence of a topless concentration camp prisoner performing Marlene Dietrich's song Wenn Ich Mir Was Wunschen Durfte to a room full of Nazi officers. Lucia Atherton (Rampling) arrives in 1957 Vienna with her husband and comes face to face with Max (Bogarde), who works as a hotel night porter. In flashback, we discover that Max is living in Austria under an assumed name and is really SS officer Maximilian Theo Aldorfer, who tormented prisoners including Lucia at a concentration camp but also enjoyed a sadomasochistic relationship with her behind closed doors.