Sunday, 3 April 2011

Megamind, Harry Potter, The Tourist etc: April DVD & Blu-ray Round Up

April 4th

Megamind was a fun and frothy bit of comedy, that was a bit of a pleasant surprise when it came out in the cinemas. It benefits greatly from an impressive cast of voice actors headed by Will Ferrell, who is ably supported by Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross and Brad Pitt, who I always forget is a great comedy actor until I see (or in this case hear) him.

The central conceit of the film is that the eponymous Megamind (Ferrell) is a supervillain who has defeated his superhero Metro Man. After the initial glory of one of his fiendish plans finally working out for him, he finds that life isn't as much fun without a nemesis, so decides to create a new one. But then there's the other thing, despite seeing himself that way since childhood, Megamind isn't actually all that villainous at heart. So when his new 'Hero' Tighten (Titan, geddit?) turns into a threat to Metro City, he has to switch roles and play the hero for a change.

It's a clever plot, and crucially it is filled with enough laughs to keep you interested. Don't expect too much, but Megamind is certainly an amusing diversion for its 96 minutes runtime.

If you enjoyed BBC sci-fi series Outcasts this DVD and Blu-ray release is going to be your last and only chance to help it secure a second series. For all it's faults, which saw it lose viewers and drop from a prime-time weekday slot to one late on Sunday nights, I ended up feeling quite a connection with the pioneers of Carpathia. I would dearly like to see a second series, or even a one-off special, that could round off the stories of President Tate, Cass and Fleur, and Stella Isen and her delicate relationship with daughter Lilly.

Professor Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe was a much more successful space venture for the Beeb though, as the mopatop rock-star-turned-scientist guided an enthralled public through interstellar landscapes, while trying to explain pieces of theoretical physics. It might not have worked in this age of dumbed down television, but Cox's lack of intellectual ego, and unceasing enthusiasm for his subject makes it almost impossible not to enjoy Wonders.

April 11th

This is the big one for April, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part One is out on the 11th, just over two months before the concluding part due on July 15th. Harry, Ron and Hermione are nearing the end of their adventures, Voldemort is well and truly back in the picture, and the magical and muggle worlds are both set to fall before him, unless the young trio, against all the odds, can find a way stop him. Undoubtedly the darkest, and scariest of the films to date The Deathly Hallows Part One does well not only to set up the big finale for Part Two, but it also stands up surprisingly well for what is essentially half of a book.

Some commentators have criticised the film for lacking action for large chunks, but expanding the final of J. K. Rowling's books to two films, and allowing the story this space to build was certainly the right thing to do. It gives the character's time to grow (and the young actors time to show off how much they have improved over the years), and just to press home to viewers that heavy sense of foreboding that runs through the whole movie.

Monsters as a point of contrast is a film that feels like it should have a far more sinister mood about it than it actually does. With a name like Monsters, and a story set in a post alien-invasion planet Earth you might be forgiven for expecting a bit of survival horror, or at least a rip roaring Independence Day style action-adventure flick. But no, Monsters is instead an indie road movie, largely devoid of action, and a noticeable lack of monsters.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest sees Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist reprising their roles as Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist for the concluding part of the Millenium Trilogy. The Swedish movies, based on Stieg Larsson's bestselling novels, were such a success in the cinema that they have received the uncertain compliment of English language remake in Hollywood.

April 18th

In third instalment of the The Chronicles of Narnia movies, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy and Edmund, the younger Pevensie children return to the magical land with their cousin Eustace in tow. There they meet up with old friend Prince (now King) Caspian for some swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. Caspian has set out, with some other familiar faces (Reepicheep is back now voiced by Simon Pegg) to find as promised the seven Lost Lords of Narnia. Along the way the group will meet slavers, wizards, merfolk and dragons, as well as the omnipresent Aslan.

We've said an awful lot about Tron: Legacy already on Popsiculture, the long awaited return to The Grid was something we looked forward to here with a geeky, 80s-inspired glee before release. Then seeing it in awesome IMAX 3D which showed off the incredible visual effects, and the brilliant , the experience was spellbinding. Ask me what the story was though, and I don't think I'd be able to tell you now. Luckily if you want to know more, you can check out Bob's review here.

Little Fockers slipped in to cinemas without much fanfare just before Christmas, to mixed, but mostly negative reviews and subsequently disappointed at the box office. Nevertheless completists will want to buy the Fockers Triple Box Set and who could blame them. The law of diminishing returns certainly applies to this trilogy, but there are at least a few laughs to be had throughout.

April 25th

To paraphrase Ricky Gervais, I haven't even seen The Tourist, who has? But it must be good because Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are beautiful people, running around the beautiful cities of Paris and Venice, being beautiful.

The plot, if it matters, revolves around gangsters and secret agents, stolen money and illicit love affairs, and most importantly mistaken identities. Jolie plays Elise, the former lover of a man named Alexander Pearce who is being chased by some rather nasty people. Her task is to throw the pursuers off Pearce's trail by creating a decoy, in the form of an American tourist called Frank (Depp) who bears a resemblance to Pearce. The rest is intrigue, double crossing and a surprise twist at the end.

Burlesque is a good old-fashioned rags to riches story, featuring Cher as the owner of the eponymous Burlesque club on Sunset Strip, and the big screen debut of Christina Aguilera as the small town girl with the big voice looking to find fame and fortune in the City of Angels. Not as trashy as Showgirls, but every bit as camp, if you're in the mood for a simple, untaxing feel-good film with big showstopping tunes to boot, well, you can stop looking.

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