Barry Forshaw’s DVD Choice

Barry Forshaw on what to watch

TROLL HUNTER

Andre Ovredal, director/Momentum Blu-Ray

A critical success and audience pleaser during its UK theatrical release in late 2011, the horror-comedy (and mocumentary) Troll Hunter looks wonderful in its Blu-Ray incarnation. The debut feature from Norwegian director Andre Ovredal, this clever faux-documentary, utilises the ‘found-footage’ conceits of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project to produce a diverting (and, at times, suspenseful) feature, sporting gigantic trolls stalking the Norwegian countryside.

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Pier Paolo Pasolini, director/BFI Blu-Ray

Pasolini’s 1969 film of the Euripides tragedy is not held in particularly high esteem these days, although it is a creditable stab by a director fully in sympathy with his material. Two cultures clash when Medea, the ‘barbarian princess’, is brought home to secular Corinth by her lover Jason. Maria Callas is extraordinary as Medea in Pasolini’s reworked version of Euripides’ drama, told in majestic cinematic tableaux with a spectacular array of gorgeously costumed figures. Ironically, the casting of Maria Callas in a non-singing role as Medea was, at the time, considered to be the film’s trump card – surely the singer’s undoubted dramatic skills would translate effectively into the new medium? In the final analysis, Callas, deprived of the greatest weapon in her armoury (her singing voice), did not plumb the tragic depths of the part, although her performance, like the film itself, looked good, with Ennio Guarnieri’s cinematography adding a lustre to the often static proceedings.

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CONAN THE BARBARIAN.

Marcus Nispel, director/Lionsgate Blu-Ray

Perhaps this reboot of the Robert E Howard fantasy character is only fitfully successful, but supplies enough bone-crunching action to pass painlessly (for the viewer, not the protagonists) an undemanding Saturday night. Rose McGowan chews the scenery enjoyably as a fey, sexy villainess.

ROLLING THUNDER

John Flynn, director/Studio Canal Blu-Ray

Starring the under-regarded William Devane, the now-celebrated Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Haynes, this tough, focused cult thriller looks better than ever in its overdue Blu-ray incarnation. When Major Charles Rane (Devane) returns to his home of San Antonio, Texas, he is given a hero’s welcome. But his readjustment is to be problematic -- his wife is having an affair with another man, and his son no longer remembers him. But Rane is about to face far worse – including brutality and mutilation. A sinewy, taut film that fully deserves its reputation.

DRIVE

Nicolas Winding, director/Icon Blu-Ray

The much anticipated Blu-ray release of the hit film of James Sallis’ pared-down cult novel delivers on all levels. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (responsible for the equally unflinching Bronson), the film features a strong cast, including Academy Award Nominees Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, both ubiquitous these days. Drive provides high octane (and extremely violent) entertainment.

LADY KILLERS – THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES

Various directors/Network

This disturbing anthology series features seven striking dramatic reconstructions of infamous murder trials, where in each case the defendant is female. If convicted, she faces the gallows. This 2-disc set stretches from Victorian ‘baby farmer’ Amelia Dyer – suspected of strangling hundreds of infants in her care – to the trial and execution of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. The cast includes Joan Sims, Rita Tushingham, Joanna David, Elaine Paige, Michael Kitchen and Peter Sallis.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

Tomas Alfredson, director/Studio Canal Blu-Ray

Tomas Alfredson (director of Let The Right One In) has created an understated, measured adaptation of John Le Carr�’s classic espionage thriller, enshrining Gary Oldman in a career-defining performance as spymaster George Smiley, given the task of uncovering a mole at the heart of MI6 (“The Circus”) during of the Cold War. Oldman is supported by a matchless ensemble cast (including Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Mark Strong). Most signally, Oldman makes us even (at times) forget Alec Guinness’ definitive performance as the ageing spy.

THE SCARLET BLADE & THE BRIGAND OF KANDAHAR

John Gilling, director/Studio Canal

Although it is rightfully celebrated these days for its glorious horror films, the Hammer Films studio prided itself on the commercial success enjoyed with films in other genres, notably colourful swashbucklers -- of which these two are prime examples, coming up fresh as paint in these DVD world premieres.

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE

Tom Six, director/Eureka Blu-Ray

Not quite the ‘full sequence’ the title suggests. It appears that the days when adults could make their own decisions about what films to watch are under threat again, as the BBFC has taken its scissors to this one, no doubt more because of the hysterical moral furore that the first film in the sequence created. Nevertheless, there is enough left here of Tom Six’s controversial film -- nothing like as assured at its predecessor -- to make it a fascinating (if uncomfortable) viewing experience.

STRAW DOGS

Sam Peckinpah, director/Fremantle Blu-Ray

After considerable delays, here at last is the much-anticipated Blu-Ray release of Sam Peckinpah’s confrontational classic (filmed in England), which still retains its uncompromising power. And a few frames of this beautifully restored Blu-Ray version is sufficient to blow away the ill-advised, softened remake which recently made its way into cinemas.

BLACK HEAVEN

Gilles Marchand, director/Arrow

This visually seductive French thriller is as unorthodox in its approach as one might expect from the director of Who Killed Bambi, and such is the indebtedness of the team who created this to David Lynch that echoes of that director’s Blue Velvet are not hard to discern in this highly unusual thriller.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST

Ruggero Deodato, director/Shameless Blu-Ray

The wash-and-rinse job that has been done for the Blu-Ray release of this notorious shocker is absolutely revelatory -- the film looks like it was made yesterday. And how influential it has proved! The use of convincing ‘found footage’ to convey (with gritty verisimilitude) horrific -- and supposedly real-life -- events still packs a considerable punch.

THE GUARDIAN

William Friedkin, director/Second Sight

Any film from the director of The Exorcist is inevitably of interest, even a misfire -- although William Friedkin himself would probably not make great claims for this neglected shocker. Nevertheless it’s worth the attention of Friedkin fans.

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