M&G reviewers look at the DVDs worth getting this festive season.
A Raisin in the Sun
A Raisin in the Sun exhibits the flaws that normally come out when a play is adapted for a different medium. Written by Lorraine Hansberry, it was the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway.
It is the story of a family struggling in Chicago’s South Side in the 1950s.
Starring hip-hop poster-boy Sean Combs, it still feels like a play that happened to be captured on camera — just as well it’s a play with really good lines. The action doesn’t seem to move away from enclosed places, the shots feel repeated, inducing a certain sense of claustrophobia. Midway through I had to go out for while. — Percy Zvomuya
This comedy is about two friends, Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Wade (Nate Hartley), abused by school bullies Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck). They report this to the school principal, but their torture continues. They place an ad on the internet and hire the cheapest bodyguard available, one Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). But Taylor is not who he says he is — There are a few genuinely moving and funny sequences, but most of the action tends to be predictable and insipid. — PZ
This has got to be one of the movies of the year: darkly funny yet truly poignant at the same time. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are the Irish mafia assassins sent to Belgium to chill while their boss (Ralph Fiennes) decides what to do after their last botched job. It’s great to see Gleeson doing something other than the psychopaths he played in Kingdom of Heaven and In My Country, and it’s good to see Farrell doing anything noteworthy at all. If the James Bond franchise hadn’t dumped the fantasy element and the jokes to go all Bourne, he’d have been perfect for a wisecracking Bond. The interplay between the two leads here is wonderful to see, and the supporting cast do well too. In Bruges also contains the line of the year: “You can’t sell horse tranquilliser to a midget!” — Shaun de Waal
Five lucky M&G readers can each win a copy of In Bruges. All you have to do is answer the easy question below and send your name, address and phone number to [email protected] by December 17. Put “In Bruges giveaway” in the subject line. Question: Who plays the gangster boss in In Bruges?
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege™ Tale
This game-based fantasy actioner boasts an impressive cast, including Jason Statham, Ron Perlman, Burt Reynolds, Leelee Sobieski and Ray Liotta — to no significant avail. Statham is perhaps best placed to portray a peasant caught up in war against the mutant raider Orc types, and Perlman is okay, but the rest are simply preposterous. Liotta appears to have chosen his wardrobe from the Liberace estate and his acting style from a 1930s horror movie. There’s a lot of clubbing and slashing and flying through the air, which is reasonably amusing, but the plot is a clumsy merger of a Lord of the Rings rip-off and a royal soap opera. Also, it goes on forever. — SdW
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
In the extras of this DVD Steven Spielberg explains that after completing the Indiana Jones trilogy he had intended walking away from the franchise. But fans and other pressures persuaded him to have another go at it. This latest offering is set circa 1957 and the movie does feel otherworldly; they have really done a lot to situate the action in the Cold War era. The action revolves around a crystal skull and some lost Amazonian city of Akator. Harrison Ford plays Indiana, opposite him is Cate Blanchett as KGB agent Irina Spalko and supporting are Harold Oxley (John Hurt), Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) and Marion Ravenhood (Karen Allen). The chase at the beginning of the movie is fun to watch, but most of the action is quite dull. You know that even when Indy is in a tight knot he has the means to untangle himself. No dangerous situation actually exudes risk. Indy and his people seem to plod along with self-satisfied and celebratory smirks. One for the fans. — PZ
Kung Fu Panda
Possibly my movie of the year, this is pure fun. It reworks and sends up the traditions of the oriental martial arts movie, reimagining them in an extravaganza of wonderfully animated effects and a good dose of humour. Jack Black voices Po, the dumpy, clumsy panda who serves noodles by day but aspires to great-warrior status; Dustin Hoffman is the voice of the furry little creature in the Yoda position, the teacher who dispenses training and wisdom. It all zips along thrillingly and merrily as Po and five assorted kung-fu animal heroes go up against the villain, snow leopard Tai Lung. There isn’t a dull moment. — SdW
Five lucky M&G readers can each win a copy of Kung Fu Panda. All you have to do is answer the easy question below and send your name, address and phone number to [email protected] by December 17. Put “Kung Fu Panda giveaway” in the subject line. Question: Who voices Po in Kung Fu Panda?
FW Murnau’s 1922 silent classic, his own version of Dracula, is silent no more. As part of Cape Town’s 2006 Horrorfest at the Labia, members of bands Terminatryx, Lark, Dawntreader and K.O.B.U.S. provided a new score, played live during a screening of the film. This has now been released on DVD, and it works a treat. The film is an unrestored print, but the spottiness and variable lighting take their place in the drama, too, and the music is very effective: thudding beats, distorted guitar, moany vocals (apparently sung in Transylvanian), and eerie-spacey effects — there’s even a real Theremin employed here. (They have also extended this honour to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and the Scandinavian quasi-documentary about witchcraft, Häxan. Let’s hope we see them soon on DVD.). — SdW
Redbelt is a tight fight film with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mike Terry, a martial arts instructor, and Alice Braga as Sondra, Mike’s wife. A psychologically disturbed Laura (Emily Mortiner) goes into the martial arts academy. She is a rape victim and has a phobia of being touched. A cop who attends the school touches her and, in the process, a gun accidentally discharges, resulting in unforeseen consequences. Terry happens to be in financial trouble and the movie’s action tests how far he is willing to live up to the onerous demands his martial arts code requires. The action is unflinching, the fight sequences are close up and tense and, right up to the end of the movie, you can never be sure what new twist the tale will take. — PZ
A humdrum comedy about two tycoons (one of whom always has an unlit cigar between his lips) who make a bet on the stereotype of who works the hardest, locals or foreigners. The pawns in this game are Brian Zwane (Aubrey Poo) and Zimbabwean street hustler Tendai Lufuno Phiri (Kabelo Ngakane). They each have a shot at being rich boys. What follows is a series of supposedly hilarious events that at times elicited a bewildered yawn and a quizzical “What exactly is going on here?” Swop! bears an uncanny resemblance to Trading Places, the 1983 movie starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Ayckroyd. — PZ
A little robot called Wall-E lives on a heap of trash. Mountains of debris are all that’s left of the world and all day, every day, in the blistering heat, the little robot swallows mounds of scrap, only to spit them out as metal blocks. It is strange to begin a kiddies’ movie with a picture of the planet as a living hell, but one supposes that these days everyone older than five is aware that we’re on the way out. For the lonesome Wall-E, relief comes in the form of a spaceship bringing with it a femme fatale called Eve. Eve is a shiny white robot, highly advanced, who can jet around, spin her head and even kill. She’s come to earth to look for signs of life, and that’s when Wall-E falls head over heels in love. Following her, literally, to the ends of the universe, Wall-E discovers a constellation of surprises. Directed by Andrew Stanton (Little Nemo, A Bug’s Life) Wall-E is great light-hearted sci-fi with a message: don’t eat tin. — Matthew Krouse
As the title may indicate, this is cheerfully trashy horror on a low budget. A secret state virus gets out and infects a bunch of strippers at an illegal strip joint — this is set during Geroge W Bush’s fourth term as president, note. Luckily for the proprietor, being zombies makes the strippers inexhaustible and they can dance all night. Eventually, after much lurching and chomping, a special unit of marines arrives to wipe them out; of course, it includes a busty blond in a tight T-shirt toting a machine gun. A lot of hilarious gore is to be had here. The highlight is the catfight between two strippers who have long been rivals and, now that they are both zombies, finally get to release their mutual aggression. — SdW
There is a chance that Ralph Ziman’s Jerusalema is the finest South African feature made to date. Time will tell, because to be proved best relies on longevity. But in the present, at any rate, Jerusalema seems to be the only work about crime and the inner city that takes in all the current thinking about why crumbling neighbourhoods of Johannesburg are not able to get over their problems and start repairing for the future. Based on real incidents, the film has Rapulana Seiphemo as Lucky Kunene, a gangster who uses his power and underworld links to begin cleaning up Hillbrow, the world’s most violent high-rise ghetto.
This involves sidelining white slumlords and working directly with tenants who see no service delivery for their overpriced rents, and declaring war on Nigerian druglords running girls and junkies on every block (in retrospect, the ruthless, happy murder of foreigners is a tad unsettling, given the xenophobic outbursts that plagued the country after the movie was made). On a hefty R20-million budget, the production seems to have brought hectic Hillbrow to a virtual standstill — something thought to be impossible a few years back.
Perhaps this in itself is proof that the no-go inner-city is opening up. The well-known Seiphemo and the cast of relative unknowns do a commendable job of that stone-faced brand of macho local gangsters are known for. Inside, though, Kunene is a puppy who melts the heart of his Jewish girlfriend’s mother when he attends the Passover dinner. And this is just one of dozens of religous references in Jerusalema. Some disturbing new contexts for the new South Africa. — Matthew Krouse