News Column

DVD and blu ray releases

October 12, 2013


behind the candelabra (15) liberace always bowed down at the altar of excess. Too much of a good thing is wonderful, he famously proclaimed.

No doubt the flamboyant entertainer would have approved of the bouffant hairstyles, outlandish fashions and gaudy decor - referred to as palatial kitsch - festooning Steven Soderbergh's handsome biopic.

Based on the autobiography of Liberace's lover, Scott Thorson, Behind The Candelabra exposes the tormented showman behind the fur- lined and sequin-bedecked myth.

Soderbergh's film traces the men's relationship from a fortuitous first meeting in 1977 to Liberace's death bed in 1987, when the entertainer attempted to keep his HIV status secret from fans and the press.

Richard LaGravenese's script unfolds in chronological order, peppered with tart one-liners, gifted largely to Michael Douglas in a tour-de-force portrayal of the musician, who sued anyone who dared suggest he was gay.

Behind The Candelabra opens in a gay bar, where Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) meets choreographer Bob Black (Scott Bakula), who takes him to Las Vegas to enjoy a sold-out performance by Liberace (Douglas).

At Bob's insistence, Scott abandons rural Wisconsin for the bright lights of the big city, where he is taken under Liberace's wing and encouraged to explore his sexuality.

I want to be everything to you, Scott: father, brother, lover, best friend. Everything! the pianist squeals.

The relationship deepens and Liberace incorporates Scott into his act as a chauffeur and assistant.

Bizarrely, the pianist pays plastic surgeon Dr Jack Startz (Rob Lowe) vast sums to mould his lover into a younger version of himself.

The pressures of fame weigh heavily on Scott and the relationship flounders, causing Liberace to quip cattily: I can't stand it when you have a face like that, especially after all the money I paid for it.

Behind The Candelabra trades biting wit, romance and heartbreak to lay bare the emotional bonds between Scott and his famous partner.

Damon has the less showy role, but rises to the occasion magnificently, barely puckering his glossed lips when Liberace glimpses himself on The Johnny Carson Show and caterwauls: I look like my father. In drag!'' The white-hot glow of Douglas's performance distracts from the sluggish pacing of the film's final third and the broad sketching of peripheral characters. However, the glitz and glamour are intoxicating and Soderbergh's film swishes tantalisingly close to Liberace's favourite and over-used superlative: Fabulous!'' after earth (12) after Earth is a family affair, reuniting father and son Will and Jaden Smith for the first time since the saccharine 2006 drama The Pursuit Of Happyness.

M Night Shyamalan's sci-fi blockbuster combines elements of I Am Legend and Independence Day with a deeply human story of a soldier struggling to connect with his griefstricken child.

In the distant future, Earth is a devastated wasteland, uninhabited by humans, who have relocated to Nova Prime. This new planet is also home to an alien race called the Skrel, which views the interlopers as vermin.

So the Skrel unleash the Ursa: hideously-deformed creatures which track humans by the scent of fear pheromones.

One man, General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) from the Ranger Corps, learns to overcome his fear through a phenomenon called ghosting'', which allows him to walk among the Ursa undetected, slaughtering the killing machines without mercy.

Cypher's son Kitai (Jaden Smith) trains to become a member of the Ranger Corps to assuage his guilt about the death of his older sister Senshi (Zoe Isabella Kravitz).

While Cypher is emotionally cold and logical, Kitai is passionate and reckless, and his application to The Corps is rejected. So Cypher's wife, Faia (Sophie Okonedo), implores her husband to bond with Kitai during a final mission before retirement.

A freak asteroid storm badly damages their spaceship, which crash- lands on Earth and Cypher and his boy are the only survivors. With his father critically ill, Kitai must keep a cool head to retrieve a rescue beacon and alert headquarters to their dire predicament.

The central relationship of a son desperate to impress his old man is the glue that holds Shyamalan's film together, when other elements including overblown action sequences threaten to tear the picture apart.

There are some tender moments in Shyamalan's script, co-written by Gary Whitta, that draw heavily on the natural chemistry between the leads.

Unfortunately, the demands of a summer blockbuster and the film's epic scope, achieved through a blitzkrieg of digital effects, tend to overwhelm that fragile humanity.

the big wedding (15) based on the 2006 French farce Mon Frere Se Marie, The Big Wedding chronicles the trials and tribulations of a fractured family on the biggest day in one young man's life.

Justin Zackham's lacklustre Englishlanguage remake is laden with Oscarwinning and nominated talent, with impeccable comedic credentials including Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl and Robin Williams.

It's an embarrassment of acting riches. So what can go wrong? The script, unfortunately. Where it matters, The Big Wedding leaves us feeling disappointingly short-changed.

The film centres around Alejandro Griffin (Ben Barnes), the Colombianborn adopted son of Don (De Niro) and Ellie (Keaton), who is poised to propose to his pretty sweetheart, Missy O'Connor (Amanda Seyfried).

As the big day beckons, Alejandro wants his parents, who are now divorced, to pretend they are still married so that his biological mother, a devout Catholic called Madonna (Patricia Rae), won't be offended.

One little white lie stacks atop another, right up to the point that priest Father Monighan (Williams) asks Alejandro and Missy to pledge themselves to each other before God.

Sure enough, the tower of fibs eventually topples over, like a bad episode of Terry and June*. The Big Wedding is a frothy and harmless confection that squanders the onscreen talent.

* Hang on: Is there any other kind?

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