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DVD/Blu Ray New Release Round Up Monday 13th August 2012

13/08/2012

With the Olympics keeping the major releases at bay for pretty much the whole of August, this week is yet more fertile ground for smaller (and arguably more interesting) independent fodder, including even more decent world cinema.

For starters, there’s ELFIE HOPKINS, one of those spirited, low budget British affairs that sits in the rather broad Horror/Comedy category. Elfie (Jaime Winstone) fancies herself as a rural village’s answer to Nancy Drew after the accidental (or was it?) death of her mother spurs her on to root out all the villagers’ secrets. When the wealthy and charismatic Gammon family move into town they earn the admiration of the entire village. Except of course for Elfie who smells a rat and soon discovers the Gammons harbour the darkest secret of all. It’s a quirky little film that has shades of THE BURBS about it (not a bad thing) and that doesn’t take itself too seriously. A suitably blood soaked denouement ought to keep the genre fans happy and there’s a cracking cameo from Ray Winstone as the local butcher (although it did leave me wishing he’d had more screen time) which all adds up to a decent, if a little unspectacular, film.

If you prefer your horror more straight laced then CREATURE may be more your thing. It’s good to see a creature feature of the “man-in-a-rubber-suit” variety after so many computer generated giant sharks and while the college kids running into trouble in backwoods Louisiana plot may be rather predictable, even dare I say it cliched, it ticks pretty much all the boxes you’d expect from a film about a mutant half-man, half-gator who plagues the swamps looking for a suitable bride. Horror stalwart Sid Haig essentially reprises his Captain Spalding role from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (minus the makeup) and is pretty much the embodiement of the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as he bellows his way in familiar fashion through the film, proving to be genuinely sinister in the process. His redneck sidekicks manage to pretty creepy too, almost more so than the beast that stalks the swamps, and the gore and creature effects are rather satisfying too. Its stark predictability holds it back a little bit but sometimes innovation is overrated and this by-the-numbers monster movie does pretty much what it says on the tin.

LIVID on the other hand is an exercise in horror French style, that combines creepy atmospherics with rivers of gore to great effect. On her first day on the job a young care worker, Lucy, learns of an old woman kept alive in her mouldering mansion on a life support machine who has reputedly hidden a treasure somewhere in her house. When she tells her boyfriend about this they embark on a THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS style house breaking to relieve the tragic old woman of her riches. Of course they are utterly unprepared for what they will discover inside the house and they soon find themselves embroiled in a living nightmare of blood and terror. There’s no question the French have a knack for this sort of thing (see MARTYRS, FRONTIERS and SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE for further examples of thoughtful Gallic gore) and LIVID is no exception, bringing a refreshing perspective to traditional horror tropes. By the end it is in danger of trying to be a little bit too clever for its own good but this is a minor flaw and easily forgiven when the overall feel is so unsettling.

RED RIDING HOOD’s Amanda Seyfried experiences terror of a different flavour in GONE as Jill, a young woman traumatised by a kidnapping who is convinced her abductor has returned when her sister goes missing. The cops think she’s crazy so it’s up to her to try and track down the serial killing kidnapper before harm befalls her sister. As far as thrillers go it’s a reasonable effort undone largely by the ease with which Jill tracks down her quarry which really forces you to question what the police were up to first time round that they couldn’t catch the kidnapper. I’m not sure how I feel about the “all men are misogynists” vibe of the film (apart from the two older men who appear in the story who seem alright) although it works to establish Jill’s world view post abduction I suppose, where she feels threatened by men in a general sense. It’s too lightweight a film to really explore this aspect though. A passable, if somewhat superficial, thriller.

Superficiality is the order of the day in BAD ASS, an “inspired by true events!” exploitation movie in a MACHETE vein (an obvious comparison given Danny Trejo’s lead role) which sees Vietnam veteran Frank Vega (Trejo) turn vigilante when his best friend is murdered. Just which true events it was based on I’m not sure (I think it might be this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKKADFIEX84) but it plays out as a DEATH WISH/HARRY BROWN type scenario where Vega finds himself something of a celebrity when a video of him standing up to racists on a bus goes viral, making him some kind of crime fighting celebrity. To be honest the plot seems like an afterthought, the main point of the film being to see Trejo beat up bad guys in various ways. It’s amusing enough in its own right but is something of a pale imitation of all the films it really wants to be.

For those of you seeking a little bit of depth this week there is the marvellous THIS MUST BE THE PLACE starring Sean Penn as washed up rocker Cheyenne who is prompted to end a self imposed exile in Dublin when his estranged father dies, revealing a secret that takes Cheyenne across America. The trip becomes a journey of self discovery for Cheyenne where he explores his roots and his life with the help of eccentric people he meets on the way. It’s a charming film, full of humour and warmth that has shades of Lynch’s STRAIGHT STORY about it. Penn is excellent channelling a combination of Robert Smith, Ozzy Osbourne and Edward Scissorhands as the big haired, makeup wearing Cheyenne and is supported by an excellent cast including the always phenomenal Frances McDormand as his wife and a cameo from David Byrne. Wonderful stuff, funny, tragic and heartwarming all at the same time.

This week’s PICK OF THE WEEK has far less lofty ideals. HEADHUNTERS (from the Jo Nesbo book of the same name) is a cime thriller following the exploits of Roger Brown (MAX MANUS star Aksel Hennie) a high flying corporate headhunter who moonlights as an art thief in order to fund his extravegant lifestyle. When he sets his sights on a valuable painting belonging to security contracter Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who you are more likely to recognise as GAME OF THRONES’ Jaime Lannister) he discovers he has bitten off more than he can chew and finds himself desperately fighting for survival. This low budget Norwegian film set out to rival its glossy American rivals on a fraction of the budget and they have definitely succeeded, the end result being a darkly humourous, taught thriller whose high production values lend it all the cache of its American counterparts but with a touch more class and style. A solid storyline is supplemented with some tremendous set pieces and despite his less pleasant aspects, Brown is a character you can really get behind. Coster-Waldau is excellent as the psychopathic Greve (who’s not a million miles away from his GOT character  if we’re being honest) and it has just enough of a twinkle in its eye to get away with its slightly less believable moments. Keep your eyes peeled for the inevitable Hollywood remake mind you…..

All reviewed titles provided courtesy of hmv Inverness and are released on Monday the 16th of August.

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