Shark Killer (2014) | DVD release – Forget those Sharknado movies, there’s a ferocious new fin in town

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When one of nature’s most ruthless creatures threatens your beach, there’s only one man to call: the lay-about ladies man, Shark Killer Chase Walker (Derek Theler, Baby Daddy).  So when a precious diamond becomes lodged in the belly of one of these flesh-ripping beasts, the man who wants it back knows who to turn to.

The hunt is on. Enlisted by his brother, Chase endeavors to retrieve the diamond in the greatest challenge of his career yet. Keeping a close eye on him is Jasmine (Erica Cerra,Eureka) his brother’s girlfriend, and as threats from a rival crime boss, played by The Mummy’s Arnold Vosloo, draw closer loyalties start to shift.

When the blood starts flowing and the sea starts churning, Chase will have to go deeper, fight harder and kill with absolute finality if he is to survive… READ MORE…

Shark Killer is out now on DVD in the UK from Image Entertainment

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation | Film review – Cruise & co back for another burst of derring-do

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

Tom Cruise’s last outing as daredevil spy Ethan Hunt saw him dangling vertiginously off the face of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa hotel. Back for another burst of derring-do in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, he goes even further out on a limb, clinging to the side of a four-engine turboprop cargo plane as it careers down a runway and takes off.

With Simon Pegg’s comic-relief sidekick, tech nerd turned field agent Benji, offering bungled assistance from the sidelines, this opening stunt pretty much sums up the Mission: Impossible franchise: white-knuckle thrills teetering on the edge of absurdity. And it’s the dizzying audacity of scenes like these that soften us up for the preposterousness of the plots that contain them.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation - Simon Pegg

Rogue Nation begins with the Impossible Mission Force facing disbandment at the behest of Alec Baldwin’s testy CIA chief, who still hasn’t forgiven Ethan and his maverick chums for reducing the Kremlin to rubble in Ghost Protocol last time around. The gang’s only hope of reinstatement is to track down The Syndicate, a shadowy organisation of renegade spies drawn from the world’s elite intelligence agencies.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation - Tom Cruise

The ensuing adventure sees Ethan, variously joined by fellow disgraced MIF agents William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), as well as Benji, hopping from one exotic location to another, one moment striving to foil an assassination during a performance of Turandot at the Vienna Opera, the next trying to break into an impenetrable vault in Morocco protected by ludicrously convoluted levels of security. Along the way, there’s a scorching motorcycle chase through the streets of Casablanca and surrounding desert roads, before things reach a climax with some typically nifty footwork and dextrous sleights of hand in London.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation - Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise

At every turn, Ethan finds himself tangling with lithe and mysterious femme fatale Ilsa Faust (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson), an ex-MI6 spy turned Syndicate hireling. Ferguson is fabulous: a kick-ass heroine in her own right and no one’s token love interest.

Most of the time, new writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (teaming up again with Cruise after directing Jack Reacher and scripting Edge of Tomorrow) leaves it tantalisingly unclear whether she is helping or hindering Ethan. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Leaving everyone dangling is what the Mission: Impossible team do best.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 131 mins. Director Christopher McQuarrie.

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The Immortal Story (1968) | DVD release – Orson Welles’ period drama is a bittersweet beauty indeed

The Immortal Story_cover

A sumptuous experience’ Time Out

SYNOPSIS
Macao, 1860. Elderly merchant Mr Clay (Orson Welles) lives alone in his grand, empty mansion. His only contact is with his clerk Levinsky (Roger Coggio), whose duties include relieving the tedium of Clay’s insomnia by reading to him from his account books. One night, he tries to break the monotony by recounting the story that is told on every ship… about a rich man who paid a poor sailor five guineas to father a child with young wife. With no heir to his own fortune, Mr Clay resolves to make the legend true. Enter Virginia Ducrot (Jeanne Moreau). Now to find the sailor…

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THE LOWDOWN
Orson Welles made this 60-minute period drama (his next, F for Fake, would be his last) on a shoestring for French TV, based on a novel by Isak Dinesen (the pseudonym for Danish author, Karen Blixen), who Welles greatly admired, and who is best known for her autobiographical novel Out of Africa and for Babette’s Feast.

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Welles’s presence, as both star and director, dominates The Immortal Story, which centres on loneliness and old age, but this theatrical-looking film isn’t as depressing as it sounds, thanks to Welles’ brooding performance, the Gothic-infused story, the exotic setting (Chinchón, near Madrid, stands in for Macao), and Willy Kurant’s richly textured palette (he also worked with Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Robbe-Grillet so you know its going to look great). Bringing gravitas to the bittersweet story are veteran French stars Jeanne Moreau and Fernando Rey. For it’s 1969 US release, The Immortal Story appeared in a double-bill with Luis Buñuel’s satirical modern fable, Simon of the Desert. Now, there’s one that’s also deserving of a restoration.

The Immortal Story is available on DVD in the UK from Mr Bongo Films, and screens at the BFI Southbank from 1-3 August as part of the Orson Welles centenary season.

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Clouds of Sils Maria | DVD review – At their peak amid the Alps: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart & Chloë Grace Moretz

Clouds of Sils Maria

A bittersweet meditation on acting and ageing, beguiling art-house drama Clouds of Sils Maria finds three contrasting performers each at the top of their game. Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz play, respectively, a celebrated movie star, her savvy personal assistant, and a young Hollywood hotshot with a scandalous private life. Surprisingly, it’s the effortlessly naturalistic Stewart who proves the most compelling screen presence, becoming the first American actress to win a César (for best supporting actress) at this year’s awards. With much of the action revolving around the staging of a play, Olivier Assayas’s film is talky and slow moving, yet the interplay of its leading women is as mesmerising as the strange weather phenomenon – a cloud bank pouring through a mountain pass in the Swiss Alps – that gives the film its title.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 122 mins. Director Olivier Assayas.

Clouds of Sils Maria is available on DVD & Blu-ray from Artificial Eye.

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Dead Shadows | DVD release – Paris by night can be monstrous affair!

DVD Template 30.10.03The final scene of this 2012 French indie sci-fi is awesome. If only the same could be said of what comes before…

After a comet passes over Paris, twenty-something Chris (Fabian Wolfrom) discovers his friends and neighbours are undergoing some kind of monstrous transformation that is mutating them into something out of this world. With the help of the gun-toting John (John Fallon), Chris attempts to escape the mayhem, but soon finds the entire city is falling victim to the comet’s malevolent powers…

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Dead Shadows is certainly heavy on shadow-lit atmosphere and boasts some excellent creatures and sound design (from Escape from New York’s Alan Howarth), but the narrative is non-existent, the action scenes poorly constructed, and the English dubbing abysmal (I recommend viewing it in the original French with subtitles).

Heavily influenced by David Cronenberg’s early body horrors, George Romero’s original Living Dead cycle and John Carpenter’s The Thing, debut director David Cholewa sets out to bring his own dark imaginings to the screen. If only he’d worked harder on giving us more meat to chew on before the special effects take over – or at least give his monsters more screen time and a sense of purpose (a la Nightbreed). Instead, we have endless shots of our good-looking lead running in and out of his flat after yet another brief encounter in the dark and we have no idea what the alien invasion is about.

Dead Shadows is released in the UK on DVD (in French with subtitles and Dubbed English track) annd VOD from 27 July 2015 from Bulldog

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While We’re Young | Film review – Ben Stiller & Naomi Watts try to leap the generation gap

WHILE WE'RE YOUNG - Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts

Middle-aged pair Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts try to leap the generation gap and end up falling flat on their faces in While We’re Young, a sardonic satirical comedy by writer-director Noah Baumbach, maker of The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg and Frances Ha.

They’re a childless New York couple in their mid-forties who stop acting their age after they befriend a young hipster couple played by Adam Driver (Girls) and Amanda Seyfried. Soon, she’s getting jiggy at hip-hop dance classes and he’s trying to look cool in a pork-pie hat.

Embarrassment duly follows. Stiller’s documentary filmmaker Josh believes he’s found an eager protégé in Driver’s wannabe director Jamie. Yet, in an echo of the Bette Davis classic All About Eve, the reality turns out to be somewhat different.

The four stars deliver pitch-perfect performances, while Baumbach has satirical fun with both the younger duo’s retro-chic poses and the older couple’s delusions. He also stages some knockout farcical episodes – watch out for the after effects of the nausea inducing hallucinogenic drink everyone imbibes at a comically ridiculous shamanic ceremony.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 97 mins. Director Noah Baumbach.

While We’re Young is available on Blu-Ray and DVD and Digital HD from Icon Film Distribution.

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Man With a Movie Camera (1929) | Blu-ray release – This masterclass in Soviet cinema is the Number 1 documentary of all time

Man With a Movie Camera_blu

‘I am the camera eye, I am the mechanical eye.
I am the machine which shows you the world as only I can see it’
Dziga Vertov

Voted the greatest documentary of all time in the 2014 Sight & Sound poll, Soviet director Dziga Vertov’s radical, ground-breaking 1929 city-symphony, Man with a Movie Camera (Chelovek’s kino-apparatom), used every trick in the cinematic textbook and invented new ones to record the Moscow masses at work and at play from dawn to dusk, while celebrating the cameraman as hero.

Hugely influential, Vertov’s dazzling film certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the most contemporary of silent movies – and continues to inspire awe with each revisit thanks to its virtuso camera trickery. This is cinema vérité supreme.

On 27 July 2015 the BFI in the UK will release a Special Edition Blu-ray of the documentary, presented with Michael Nyman’s celebrated score, and accompanied with a host of extra, while the 2014 restored version, featuring music by the Alloy Orchestra, screens at the BFI from Friday 31 July, as part of the 10 Greatest Documentaries of All Time season.

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Inside Out | Film review – Pixar’s latest brainwave: a dazzling trip inside a young girl’s mind

Inside Out - Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust, Joy.

The studio’s best work since Toy Story 3 and Up, Pixar’s brilliant new animated movie Inside Out brings a young girl’s growing pains to life with dazzling wit and tender wisdom.

Its vivid conceit is that five personified emotions live inside 11-year-old Riley’s head – Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), who is wide-eyed, fairy-like and permanently buoyant; Fear (Bill Hader), a bow-tie wearing nervous nellie with startled eyebrows that levitate above his head; Anger (Lewis Black), squat, pugnacious, his fuse as short as his sleeves; Disgust (Mindy Kaling), chic and fastidious with a particular antipathy for broccoli; and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), droopy and blue beneath owlish spectacles and a chunky white turtleneck.

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They guide Riley’s feelings from a knob-laden control desk right out of the USS Enterprise, processing her new memories as they arrive at Headquarters, each memory looking like a glowing bowling ball and coloured according to mood. In the idyll of childhood, it’s ever ebullient Joy, naturally, who takes the lead at the console. But childhood bliss cannot last forever. Riley is uprooted from Minnesota to San Francisco when her father takes another job and the turmoil of the move to a new home and school triggers a crisis that ejects Joy and Sadness from HQ and leaves them stranded in the outer reaches of Riley’s mindscape.

Inside Out - Joy and Sadness navigate their way through Imagination

Their struggle to make it back to their colleagues and prevent further disaster is enormously inventive, simultaneously an engaging adventure packed with colour and incident and also a humorous mapping of the workings of the brain. The duo pass through the alarmingly surreal zone of Abstract Thought, enter the Dream Factory, a Hollywood soundstage complete with bustling camera crews, try to hitch a ride on the wandering Train of Thought and encounter Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong, a goofy clown who is part-elephant, part-cat, part dolphin. Amid the craziness, however, is an important lesson, deftly told, that sadness, as well as joy, has a crucial part to play in the creation of a healthy psyche.

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Certificate U. Runtime 102 mins. Director Pete Docter.

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Falstaff Chimes At Midnight (1966) | Orson Welles’ personal best gets a 50th anniversary restoration edition on Blu-ray and DVD

Falstaff Chimes at Midnight_cover

A magnificent film, clearly among Welles’ greatest work’ Roger Ebert

A dark masterpiece, shot through with slapstick and sorrow. Magic’ Time Out

If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of movie, it would be Falstaff’ Orson Welles

To celebrate the centenary of Orson Welles’ birth, one of the most radical and groundbreaking of all Shakespeare film adaptations and Welles’ favourite of his features is getting a brand new restored 50th Anniversary Edition (DVD and Blu-ray) from Mr Bongo Films, and also screens at BFI Southbank from 1-3 August.

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SYNOPSIS
On the brink of Civil War, King Henry IV (John Gielgud) attempts to consolidate his reign while fretting with unease over his son’s seeming neglect of his royal duties. Hal (Keith Baxter), the young Prince, openly consorts with Sir John Falstaff (Orson Welles) and his company. Hal’s friendship with the knight substitutes for his estrangement from his father. Both Falstaff and the King are old and tired; both rely on Hal for comfort in their final years, while the young Prince, the future Henry V, nurtures his own ambitions…

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THE LOWDOWN
Based on five of Shakespeare’s plays, this is, in Welles’ own words, ‘a sombre comedy’ and a ‘lament for Merrie England’. It may have come late in his career, but it remains his masterpiece, containing the true and profound essence of both Shakespeare the dramatist and Welles the actor. His Falstaff was the role he was born to play, the embodiment of the richly human, honest and heroic qualities of medieval England whose openness and loyalty eventually become the very cause of his own destruction.

The talented supporting cast includes John Gielgud, Keith Baxter, Jeanne Moreau, Fernando Rey, Margaret Rutherford and Ralph Richardson as the narrator. The film’s harrowing war scenes have proven especially influential, cited in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.

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Southpaw | Film review – Jake Gyllenhaal’s boxer is fighting fit. Shame we can see his punches coming

Southpaw - Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope

Skeletally skinny in last year’s Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal is pumped up and fighting fit in Southpaw, a boxing melodrama from The Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua that pummels the viewer into submission with a one-two combo of brutal action inside the ring and relentless clichés everywhere else.

Gyllenhaal is reigning Light Heavyweight champ Billy Hope (a role originally conceived for Eminem), an orphan from New York’s Hell’s Kitchen who has scrapped his way to the top, with devoted wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams), cute-as-a-button daughter Leila (Oona Lawrence) and an entourage of rowdy hangers on by his side. Then a shock incident leaves his life in ruins, transforming the movie into another timeworn drama of loss and redemption.

Southpaw - Forest Whitaker, Jake Gyllenhaal

Southpaw isn’t a total flop. Submerging himself in the role of the punch-drunk, inarticulate, bullishly raging Billy, Gyllenhaal oozes blood, sweat and tears with Method-style conviction, while Forest Whitaker makes the most of a grindingly formulaic part, that of the ruefully wise mentor who turns the hero’s life around. As for the boxing action, it’s gruellingly brutal – as Whitaker’s grizzled coach observes, Billy’s defensive strategy is stopping punches with his face. And the hero’s climactic bout against his trash-talking rival (Miguel Gomez) is a real whopper.

Off the canvas, it’s a different, all too predictable story. Fuqua’s direction is so club-fisted and Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter’s script so hackneyed that we can see every dramatic punch coming a mile off.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 124 mins. Director Antoine Fuqua.

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