News Column

DVD and Blu-ray releases

June 15, 2013


hitchcock (12) 4/5 in a career spanning more than 50 years, Alfred Hitchcock redefined the cinematic landscape with his diabolical and twisted thrillers.

Yet for all his success and public adulation, he never won an Academy Award as Best Director and had to put his personal fortune on the line to commit arguably his crowning achievement to celluloid.

Director Sacha Gervasi pays tribute to the iconic film-maker in this compelling biopic based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, by Stephen Rebello.

Hitchcock focuses on the fractious relationship between the film- maker (Anthony Hopkins) and his screenwriter wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the turbulent period when the couple risked everything to self-finance a nice, clean, nasty little piece of work called Psycho.

Studios bosses balk at distributing the film and the universally feared Motion Picture Production Code voices its concerns about the infamous shower scene.

The Code will absolutely not permit you to show a knife penetrating a woman's flesh, warns administrator Geoffrey Shurlock (Kurtwood Smith).

So Hitchcock strikes a deal to shoot the film's love scene to Shurlock's exact specifications in exchange for keeping the shower scene intact.

Alma remains a rock of support through the turmoil and she offers valuable advice about killing off the heroine halfway through the film.

I think it's a huge mistake, she says.

You shouldn't wait until halfway through... Kill her off after 30 minutes! When principal photography begins, Hitchcock nurtures an obsession with his blonde leading lady, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson).

This devotion to Leigh comes at the expense of his relationship with actress Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), who was once the apple of his twinkling eye.

Hitchcock is a handsomely crafted portrait of tortured genius, distinguished by scintillating performances.

Mirren oozes determination and steely resolve as a trailblazer in an industry dominated by men, while Hopkins disappears beneath Oscarnominated prosthetics.

His mannerisms perfectly capture the awkwardness and insecurities of a visionary who struggled with his weight. Hopkins delivers lip- smacking one-liners with relish. Gervasi's picture is almost as delicious and elegant.

warm bodies (12) 4/5 love may not be blind in Jonathan Levine's post-apocalyptic romantic comedy, but it's certainly a little cross- eyed.

Warm Bodies is a refreshing twist on Romeo and Juliet, as a feisty teenager sparks an unexpected attraction to a zombie. The film opens in the aftermath of the terrible epidemic, which has reduced most of the population to shuffling corpses incapable of speech or feeling.

Survivors are crammed inside a high-walled metropolis patrolled by General Grigio (John Malkovich) and his gun-toting troops.

The general's feisty teenage daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer) ventures into the dead zone with her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton), where they come under attack from zombie buddies R (Nicholas Hoult) and M (Rob Corddry).

R kills Perry and devours his brain, which transfers memories of Julie.

Something stirs within the zombie and he rebels against his carnivorous nature to protect the terrified girl from the marauding hordes. Warm Bodies is surprisingly sweet, anchored by an endearing performance from Hoult as the shuffling predator, who hankers for the glory days of vinyl and his favourite 1980s power ballad, Missing You, by John Waite. Levine casts a nostalgic, rosy glow over the post-apocalyptic gloom. His screenplay elicits laughs, such as when R recalls life before infection and muses, It must have been so much better before, when people could communicate and express their feelings as the screen fills with images of airport passengers welded to mobile devices, tablets and video game consoles. The message is clear: the zombification of modern society started a long time ago.

mama (15) 3/5 things go bump in the night, repeatedly, in Andy Muschietti's unsettling ghost story.

The Argentinean director masterfully sustains tension for the opening hour, teasing us with glimpses of the spectre, which runs amok in a frenetic finale.

Fear of the unknown is far more powerful than anything the special effects wizards can conjure, so for the extended periods when we can hear or sense a malevolent force just off screen, our nerves are stretched to breaking point. But once Muschietti reveals his destructive apparition and fleshes out her convoluted back story, terror turns to incredulity.

Jessica Chastain, Oscar-nominated for her lead performance in Zero Dark Thirty, lends gravitas to the role of a surrogate mother who discovers her parental instincts during crisis.

It's a solid performance, complimented by strong support from youngsters Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse as sisters abandoned to a grim fate.

The film opens in 2008 as financial gloom pervades. Businessman Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) kills his partners and his wife, then takes his children Victoria (Charpentier) and Lilly (Nelisse) for a drive into the mountains. The car skids off the icy road and an injured Jeffrey seeks sanctuary with the girls in a rickety cabin. Daddy, there's a woman outside. She's not touching the floor, Victoria ominously informs her father, shortly before he comes to a sticky end.

Five years later, a tracker dog search party locates the girls, who have been living wild in the cabin under the watchful gaze of an invisible presence they refer to as Mama.

The fingerprints of executive producer Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) are all over Mama, which explores the power of otherworldly forces through innocent eyes. ? .M:

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