DVD Round-up, 27 January 2010

If I asked you to think of a 3D film then there’s a good chance Avatar would spring to mind. But step back to the end of 2009 and a little 3D film crept into cinemas and took everyone by surprise with it’s spot-on humour and gorgeous visuals…and it wasn’t UP.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
(Sony Pictures) takes place in a small town where scientist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) i
s determined to invent something big that will ensure people remember him…and he succeeds in style.

Creating a machine which converts water into food, Flint becomes a celebrity, while big city weathergirl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) tries to prove her own worth while slowly falling for Flint.

Throw in some cameo appearances from Bruce Campbell as the nasty town Mayor and Mr T (yes, that Mr T) as a cop tired of Flint’s disastrous inventions, and Cloudy starts to become something special.

Add the stunning visuals (stripped on DVD and Blu-ray of 3D but don’t let that put you off) and the smart script which had me laughing all the way through, and this becomes a minor modern classic for animation and comedy fans.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray, the latter set also comes bundled with the DVD and features the usual glut of extras, from a director commentary to making-of documentaries. There’s a real sense of fun throughout this set which is refreshing.

Though it never quite made its mark in UK cinemas, the two part Mesrine (Momentum Pictures) finds its natural home on DVD as Vincent Cassel’s turn as the legendary French gangster arrives in a two-disc set.

With its opening scene harking back visually to Steve McQueen’s 1968 classic Bullitt, Mesrine: Killer Instinct (the first of the two films) is instantly a revelation, a vibrant and classy entry into Mesrine’s (Cassel) 1970s world which will be recalled at the start of part two.

We’re then taken back a further 20 years to Mesrine’s time in the army, our journey with him starting as he takes his leave from the military and begins to dabble in the French underworld. Meeting mafia boss Guido (Gérard Depardieu), Mesrine soon rises through the ranks to become a feared and respected criminal.

Part two, Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 is more of the same, though much of the bravado of the first film is gone, Mesrine instead more the hunted than the hunter. Cassel still has the charm and the skill to ensure he can outwit the police and his friends, but there’s a feeling of the light going out on his career, albeit over a long, and entertaining, period of time.

To try to summarise the twists, turns and surprises of Mesrine is unfair to the layered story that screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri has produced. Prison breaks, bank robberies, disguises, violence and a healthy dash of humour are the name of the game here, director Jean-François Richet making Cassel look every inch the hero even when he’s clearly up to no good.

Whether or not you agree that making a criminal look effortlessly cool is morally justified, Mesrine is a fun ride. At over four-and-a-half hours it’s also a commitment, but try and set aside time one evening for them both and you’ll be rewarded with a compelling mix of drama and biography that hasn’t been seen in the cinema for a long time.

Finally we have Une Femme Mariee (Masters of Cinema), Jean-Luc Goddard’s 1964 “missing” film which hasn’t been available on video or DVD until now.

Macha Méril is Charlotte, a married woman who begins to have an affair with actor Robert (Bernard Noël) while gliding through a world composed of material possessions and confused morals.

When Charlotte discovers she’s pregnant by Robert she must lie in order to keep some semblance of peace, but decisions must be made that will affect all their futures.

Composed of a number of close-ups of Méril’s body alongside the various fads and fashions she encounters, Goddard’s film is akin to a magazine, the viewer flicking from scene to scene without getting the chance to digest much substance.

Viewed as a whole it’s a rewarding watch, a gorgeously shot insight into a woman who has embraced Sixties culture and is enjoying the benefits, as well as the all-too-obvious downsides.

It’s hard to fault the presentation of this new Blu-ray, an impressive booklet putting the film into context with regards to Goddard’s other films and video essays helping the viewer to delve even deeper into the film.


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