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Special Edition # 36

Now, as the holiday season has come to an end, it’s come to that time of year when you have loads of vouchers to spend (“Oh, thanks for that Auntie. A voucher I can spend in a specific shop, as opposed to money which I can spend – you know – anywhere”) and DVD’s to exchange for something better. So Special Edition # 36 is here to point you in the right direction as Laurence Boyce examines some of the latest releases in the cold light of the New Year.

Currently riding a wave of award nominations, The Hurt Locker (Lionsgate and Optimum Home Entertainment) is a return to form for Kathryn Bigelow who reasserts her status as one of the most accomplished directors of action working in cinema today. Here she tells the story Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team working in Iraq in 2004. With a job to disarm bombs in the desert heat, these are soldiers who live their lives on the edge. But when a new sergeant is placed in charge of the team, everyone is poised to lose their balance. Bigelow’s direction is amazingly taut and manages to capture the general insanity and confusion of war. Indeed, this is one of the most intriguing movies about the Iraq War made over the past few years: initially it’s less concerned with the political situation of Iraq and concentrates on being an amazingly tense examination of men and masculinity pushed to the limit. But in focusing upon the people who risk their lives every day, the film  still provides a fresh insight on the conflict whilst still managing to contain some of the finest action sequences seen over the past year.


Special Edition # 35

Special Edition # 35 is  your special Xmas bumpercolumn with plenty (and we really mean plenty) of DVDs for you to be getting your teeth into. Laurence Boyce will point you in the right direction if you’re looking for presents or simply some ways to escape the endless rounds of Xmas television. So let’s get cracking with just what exactly Santa may put in your stocking over Christmas, especially if he were rather partial to good movies.

Star Trek (Paramount Home Entertainment) remains one of the best blockbusters of the year, thanks to an audacious script that re-writes Trek history, some strong direction from JJ Abrams and a bunch of accomplished performances. The film begins with the birth of one James Tiberius Kirk who fast grows up to be a rebel. Joining Starfleet Academy, alongside the highly-strung Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy and linguist Uhura. He also forms an antagonistic relationship with half-Vulcan Mr Spock. When a Romulan from the future arrives, determined to destroy an ‘Ambassador Spock’, these disparate cadets will find themselves on a ship called the USS Enterprise with their destinies changed forever. There’s so much to like here, from the way in which the film caters to both the old school fans and the uninitiated, Zachary Quinto’s measured performance as Spock and some really exciting action sequences. It does sometimes whiz by a little quickly making you wonder if you’ve missed something but this is a great example of how you take a classic franchise and reboot it with style and grace. The DVD is really good, with all the kinds of extras you would expect that prove to be quite interesting for once.


Special Edition # 34

Films, films and more films. And some TV shows. Yes, Special Edition# 34 has plenty of fun things for you this time around. It’s a good job the clocks went back or Laurence Boyce wouldn't know where to find the time….

It seems that all our directors have decided to have a laugh: after Mike Leigh decided to head down the comedy route in Happy-Go-Lucky and some would say that Guy Ritchie has been having a joke for his entire career, Ken Loach raises a smile in Looking For Eric (Icon Home Entertainment). Eric is a postman whose life is drifting out of control: his wife is gone, his stepson is going off the rails and he can’t see to turn for his friends for help. But salvation is at hand, as Eric Cantona – his footballing hero – is around to coach him through life. This is a fine paean to the power of belief, with Paul Laverty’s script providing much mirth and pathos and some top acting from Steve Evets and Cantona. Loach’s films have always had a dry sense of humour and here he amps it up whilst unafraid to dwell on dark moments. Tremendously enjoyable and with a lightness of touch that is absolutely affecting, this is yet another triumph from one of the UK cinema’s most talented directors. Special Edition reviewed the Blu-Ray edition of the film, which also be purchased as a standard disc


Special Edition # 33

Lots of new films this time around as Special Edition # 33 has more examples of Hollywood being unable to think of new ideas, a bunch of documentaries and the usual intriguing mix of world cinema and TV releases.

Originally a BBC Drama, State Of Play (Universal Releasing) has transferred to the big screen under the direction of Oscar winner Kevin One Day In September Macdonald. The original was a heady mix of political intrigue and complex motivations and, to Macdonald’s credit, this continues in this new version in which journalist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe, who’s on good form) finds himself involved in the investigation of the murders of two congressional aides. However the condensation of the plot means that this is not as richly satisfying as its UK parent but – taken on its own – its an extremely exciting political thriller that manages to be reminiscent of some of the great US conspiracy movies on the 1970s. Aside from Crowe, Helen Mirren and Ben Affleck are on good form and this is a good example of intelligent Hollywood fare. The extras include a deleted scenes and a making of.


Special Edition # 32

A bit of a British bonanza this time as Special Edition # 32 brings a pair of UK films which delve into two of British people’s favourite subjects: politics and football.  It’s a shame The Age Of Stupid isn’t out until October, otherwise we’d also have the weather.  Laurence Boyce also looks at the usual mixture of classic films (including one of the best – and funniest – mockumentaries ever made), new releases and TV shows that you’ll need in order to avoid the fact that ‘The X Factor’ is back on the telly.


Special Edition # 31

It’s looking like a pretty quiet summer for blockbusters. Harry Potter has caused a stir but seems somehow slight, Transformers 2 has distinguished itself by being absolutely diabolical and Star Trek seems like ages ago. So, if you’re not fancying your local multiplex then Special Edition # 31 would seem to be the perfect option for all your film watching needs. Laurence Boyce leads you through superhero angst on the big and small screen, a bit of comedy for when the sunshine isn’t lifting your mood and much more in-between.


Special Edition # 30

Even though Laurence Boyce is getting ready to visit a mass of summer music festivals, he’s still ploughing through all the latest DVDs as Special Edition # 30 amply illustrates. This time around: Clint Eastwood impresses, someone actually makes a sequel to Donnie Darko and – as always – there’s a little bit of old school Doctor Who.


Special Edition # 29

The Wrestler (Optimum Home Entertainment)Life is a strange thing. It keeps interfering when you want to do a DVD column. Yes, due to lots and lots of things, Special Edition has been away for a long time. But it’s never been forgotten and Laurence Boyce returns with Special Edition # 29 complete with lots and lots of discs, including an absolutely ton of British cinema, that you can get to keep you entertained whilst you absolutely ignore Big Brother. A bit like the rest of the UK nation…

After the huge misfire that was The Fountain it was a bit worrying when Darren Aronofsky announced that his latest film would set in the carny world of pro-wrestling. It was even more worrying when Mickey Rourke – long since derided as a Hollywood joke – would take the main role. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the both of them have made The Wrestler (Optimum Home Entertainment) one of the finest US films of the past few years. Whilst there has been a justified amount of praise for Rourke’s brilliant performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a washed up pro-wrestler looking for one last big match,  it’s a shame that the film wasn’t more lauded for Aronofksy’s excellent direction and the excellent cinematography from Maryse Alberti. Even though it’s set in the present day the film throws us into a world of muted greys, trailer parks, old console systems and payphones: much like Randy, we’re apparently trapped by the 80s. Similarly, the camera is continually following Randy (indeed he’s in almost every single scene of the film) and through it's relentless pursuit we know that, ultimately, he can never escape his past. This technical bravura never feels tricksy and, alongside the brutal wrestling scenes, it creates an air of both energy and  bruised romanticism to the entire film. Mention must also be made of Marisa Tomei’s extraordinary and fragile portryal of a stripper whose life mirrors that of our babyface hero. Tragic and moving but also breathtakingly beautiful this is a unique and exciting example of American cinema at its best. The DVD comes with a comprehensive ‘making of’.


Special Edition # 28

The X-Files: I Want To Believe DVD CoverHow did we cope before the advent of DVD’s? Rewinding a video tape took ages, the quality was something less to be desired and there was a nary a special feature in sight. How our film loving predecessor’s must have suffered in that primitive world - well, unless they had loads of money and bought a Laserdisc. Thankfully, we’re now knee deep in DVDs and Special Edition # 28 is here to guide you through some of the latest releases. Laurence Boyce looks at some summer blockbusters that - well - didn’t exactly bust any blocks, some brilliant short films and the usual mixture of films and TV shows. And, if you missed the Easter Egg, go HERE for a review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.