News Column

DVD / Blu-ray releases

May 4, 2013


the impossible (12) 4/5 boxing Day, 2004. An undersea earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra triggered one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. The tsunami which struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, killed thousands of people and wrecked the lives of many, many more. s

Adapted by screenwriter Sergio G Sanchez from the nightmarish recollections of survivors Maria and Enrique Belon, Juan Antonia Bayona's film is a harrowing drama about five people caught up in the disaster, who mustered formidable strength and courage to search for each other amid scenes of heartbreaking loss.

Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts) arrive in the tropical paradise of Thailand with their sons, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast).

They open Christmas presents on the patio overlooking the sea, unaware of the horror to come. The following day, flocks of birds suddenly take to the skies, heralding a wall of water that pummels the luxury complex.

Maria and Lucas are carried away by the surge and, when the water eventually recedes, they hobble through the mud and detritus in search of survivors.

Meanwhile, Henry is forced to leave his two youngest boys in the care of strangers to learn the fate of his wife and eldest child.

The Impossible recreates the tsunami using giant water tanks to drench the lead cast, augmented with digital effects that give a sense of the confusion and terror on that fateful Boxing Day.

Watts packs a mighty emotional punch as a critically-ill mother who puts on a brave face in front of her terrified boy. McGregor has the less showy role, but still tugs heart-strings with an anguished phone call back home to relatives, his voice cracking with every shell-shocked word.

Teenage newcomer Holland impresses most, bearing the emotional weight of deeply moving scenes as if he has been acting all of his life.

quartet (12) 3/5 beecham House is a retirement home for opera singers and musicians in the twilight of their careers. Run with a gentle yet firm touch by on-staff medic Dr Lucy Cogan (Sheridan Smith), the place heaves with eccentrics including luvvie Cedric (Michael Gambon), who masterminds the annual fund-raising concert attended by staff and wealthy donors.

Three of the residents - Reginald (Tom Courtenay), Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissy (Pauline Collins) - once performed Verdi's quartet from Rigoletto as part of a celebrated fourpiece.

The unexpected arrival of the group's last member, Reg's ex-wife Jean (Maggie Smith), sends shockwaves through Beecham House.

Once Jean rebuilds bridges that were burnt to a cinder, she rediscovers her passion for performance, laying the foundations for a reprise of the quartet's soaring rendition of Bella figlia dell'amore.

Quartet is a warm, gentle hug of a comedy that never quite escapes its origins as an acclaimed stage work.

Adapted for the screen by playwright Ronald Harwood, the film feels static, cocooned with chambers of the retirement home, as characters deliver polished dialogue from their sofas and armchairs.

It's light and frothy fare with a generous glaze of sentiment.

midnight's children (12) at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, a fusillade of fireworks signal the dissolution of the British Raj and the partition of India and Pakistan.

A maternity nurse (Seema Biswas) is swept up in revolutionary fervour and switches the name tags of two infants, Saleem and Shiva, robbing the latter of his privileged birthright.

Saleem (Satya Bhabha) doesn't look like his parents, Ahmed (Ronit Roy) and Amina (Shahana Goswami), but his mother loves him unconditionally, unaware of the mix-up.

A simple sneeze unlocks Saleem's ability to telepathically connect with the other children born at midnight. However, Shiva (Siddharth Narayan) harbours deep resentment towards Saleem and plots to seize control of this band of misfits.

At almost 140 minutes, Midnight's Children is a bit of a slog. It's based on a script by Salman Rushdie, who provides the mellifluous narration.

Anecdotal in structure, Deepa Mehta's sprawling history lesson fails to cast a heady spell, stripped bare of some of the magical realism of Rushdie's Booker Prize-winning novel.

alex cross (15) 2/5 based on the 12th book in James Patterson's long-running series featuring Detective Alex Cross, Rob Cohen's film lumbers when it should sprint.

Detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) returns home to his family unaware his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and colleague Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols) are enjoying a secret affair, which is against department rules.

Soon after, Cross and Kane are called to a grisly murder scene. Businesswoman Fan Yau (Stephanie Jacobsen) has been tortured and slain. Cross deduces that one man is responsible for the carnage - sadistic assassin Picasso (Matthew Fox) - whose ultimate target appears to be billionaire CEO Leon Mercier (Jean Reno).

As the Detroit police close in on their wily prey, Picasso retaliates by targeting the cops, their families and friends.

Perry is solid and brings emotional depth to the role but the picture around him suffers the same failings as earlier Patterson adaptations (Along Came A Spider, Kiss The Girls), reducing the psychologically complex and brilliant central character to a bland, cliched cop.

charlie brooker's black mirror - the complete second series (15) 4/5 three more standalone dramas which explore how modern technology warps the way we see ourselves and the world. Martha (Hayley Atwell) copes with the grief of losing her partner Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) by connecting with a social media clone of her beloved. The emotional attachment deepens but Martha must soon face the fact that artificial Ash pales next to the real thing...

Victoria (Lenora Crichlow) wakes without her memory and learns from a stranger called Jem (Tuppence Middleton) that most of the human population is being controlled by a transmitter known as White Bear. The only solution is to destroy the transmitter, but at what cost? Struggling comedian Jamie (Daniel Rigby) uses motion capture to interview prominent politicians as a cartoon bear called Waldo. The digital creature captures the public imagination, so TV producer Jack Napier (Jason Flemyng) persuades Jamie to enter the political arena by standing in a by-election against bona fide contenders. ? .M:

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