Top Of The Class

Monday, October 31 2011
Top Of The Class

Last week Rio was among the best reviewed titles in our regular round-up of DVD and Blu-ray reviews in the national press, this week the plaudits were raining down on X-Men: First Class, although it didn’t quite dominate as much as you might imagine, a fact explained away by the sheer volume of releases.

Comedy fared well with Bad Teacher picking up plenty of coverage too, but some review columns, notably The Guardian Guide and Time Out’s, gave much of their column inches over to exhaustive (and exhausting) looks at Halloween horror releases, tying in with the celebrations that are becoming increasingly lucrative not just in the home entertainment sector. And admirable they were too, it’s good to see titles such as Arrow Video’s Maniac Cop getting mentions alongside contemporary blockbuster fare such as the latest superhero outing.

Our week in reviews starts, as ever, with Tuesday and the Metro newspaper, where the morning free tabloid given out to commuters in major conurbations devotes a full page to DVD and Blu-ray coverage. Its DVD Of The Week was Rio, which got four stars and a pretty decent review, which stated that while the film “doesn’t really work as a Disney-style musical… it’s a cut above most talking animal toons”. There were a brace of Universal reviews, for The Conspirator and The Messenger, the latter getting four stars (“powerful stuff”). Also reviewed was Last Night (Studiocanal) while the Cult Vulture choice (Oddball Cinema For Sofa Loafers) was A Man Vanishes (Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema imprint).

On to Friday, when the bulk of the weekend’s reviews kick in, and another London free newspaper, the Evening Standard. Its brief reviews included The Conspirator, which has performed strongly in the past two weeks in terms of coverage, Rio, The Tree (Artificial Eye), Brotherhood (Cine Asia) and, under a separate box sets heading, Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy (Universal).

And as if to prove our point about The Conspirator, it cropped up again in The Sun (“a thoughtful intelligent piece”), alongside a maximum score review for the Jurassic Park Blu-ray release (“this lovingly collated box set… should be an essential part of anyone’s DVD collection”) and Network Releasing’s The Taqwacores.

Bad Teacher was top of the class in the Daily Star, with a competition offering copies of the film alongside a review. Other titles in the half page Small Screen section were Universal’s The Best Of Cult Sci-fi box set (“a thrilling collection of some of the finest and most watched shockers from the 1950s heyday of Hollywood”), X-Men: First Class, earning full marks and the epithet “unmissable” and a joint offering of District 9 and Battle: Los Angeles from SPHE.

The Daily Mirror also gave a maximum marks to X-Men First Class, saying “you don’t even get people this rounded in your standard Oscar movie”. The Mirror’s The Ticket supplement was almost as complimentary about The Tree Of Life (“baffling, pretentious and brilliant”), but less so about Bad Teacher and The Way. The bottom part of the page, in keeping with one or two other publications, was given over to Halloween-timed horror releases, taking in Shameless’ The House On The Edge Of The Park (“sensationally nasty”), The Caller (Universal), Mother’s Day (Studiocanal) and Maniac Cop (Arrow Video).

In the mid-market newspapers, the Daily Express featured The Tree Of Life, Orphans (Park Circus) and Studiocanal’s excellent Blu-ray bow for The Conversation. The Daily Mail’s DVD Of The Week spot went to Rio.

The Independent featured The Way (Icon), Last Night and, as its prime selection, Tree Of Life, saying that while some may call it “humourless, spiritual claptrap”, it was “profoundly moving”.

Over in The Guardian, there was no coverage in its Film & Music section (although a couple of ads for Tilihina Sky and The Way, while its You Next Box Set feature was The Killing (Arrow), the column ended with the bold statement: “Prepare for the most thrilling 20 hours in television.”

Saturday, and we’ll skim through the tabloid telly supplements that usually mention the odd DVD or two – the Daily Mail’s Weekend plumped for Desperate Housewives (Disney) as its best box set of the week, while the Daily Mirror’s We Love Telly had a competition for the latest season of Fox’s How I Met Your Mother (the sixth, incidentally).

The Times’ Review section reviewed The Conversation (Studiocanal), giving it five stars, calling it an “extraordinarily effective paranoid thriller”, as well as X-Men: First Class, The Tree Of Life, giving it its worst rating of the weekend, and Maniac Cop.

The Daily Telegraph’s similarly titled arts section had an interesting feature on forthcoming feature Weekend and reviews for Life In A Day (eOne) and The Tree Of Life.

As well as a feature on dodgy doctors tying in with the release of The Human Centipede 2 (due on DVD later in November), The Guardian’s guide gave over a full page to Halloween horror titles. Reviewer Phelim O’Neill kicked off with an apt introduction: “Tis Halloween, and many film companies are observing the not-so ancient tradition of releasing plenty of horror DVDs. All pagan man could manage was sticking candles into hollowed-out pumpkins, whereas we get the full widescreen, HD and surround sound Halloween experience. In your face, pagan man.” Titles covered included (take a deep breath) “plucky newcomer” Stake Land (Metrodome), “uncommonly beautiful zombie flick The Dead (Anchor Bay), Revolver’s The Woman and its “bizarre central premise”, Universal’s The Thing on Blu-ray, on which the “the HD clarity actually shows up even more disturbing detail and warped imagination”, Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic, from Studiocanal in director’s cut version (“the real horror story here is on the commentary where he catalogues everything that can and did go wrong with his first US movie”), the Blu-ray of Candyman from Universal, the same studio’s “magnificent” horror box set, a Blu-ray box of all the A Nightmare On Elm Street films (Warner) and some nostalgic horror in the shape of Quatermass And The Pit (Studiocanal) and Children Of The Stones (Network), and a brace from Arrow Video, Pieces and Maniac Cop.

Sunday now, and The Mail On Sunday’s Review section seems to have temporarily ditched any DVD coverage, for TV, comedy or film titles, but its Live magazine is still featuring a clutch of titles in its This Week’s Entertainment Releases section. This week’s recommendations included the ubiquitous Bad Teacher, as well as The Tree Of Life,  The Way and 2 entertain’s The Sarah Jane Adventures (“a nice way to remember Doctor Who’s Elisabeth Sladen).

The People had Bad Teacher and, on its TV pages, competitions for Desperate Housewives and the final season of Smallville.

The Sunday Mirror featured X-Men: First Class (“great fun”) and The Tree Of Life (“baffling and lyrical”), while there was plenty of feature coverage in its Celebs On Sunday magazine, including a page on Universal’s The Only Way Is Essex fitness titles, Essexercise (Universal), a smart page feature placement on John Carpenter’s The Ward (SPHE), that saw a reporter going to a derelict mental asylum and, not strictly DVD-related, although it soon will be, a page on the Tulisa fro X-Factor starring chiller Demons Never Die.

The other Sunday red-top, the Daily Star Sunday, gave a full five stars to The Conversation, calling it “a landmark film that looks even more breathtaking on this crystal clear Blu-ray version”, and also reviewed The Way and X-Men: First Class (“the best X-Men film in years”).  

We had a good look at the arts section of the weekend edition of the Financial Times, this week took it in The Conversation which, given today’s surveillance-happy society may have seemed “somewhat prescient… but it was always ahead of its time”, as well as The Tree Of Life, Bad Teacher (“the funniest high school comedy since Election”) and Life In A Day.

The Independent On Sunday featured Tree Of Life (“the grand old maverick Terrence Malick has outdone himself”, Bad Teacher and, in a competition, Princess Of Montpensier.

That latter Studiocanal title also featured in the Sunday Telegraph’s Seven magazine, alongside Everything Must Go and the one star earning Last Night (“lacks the spark to turn a collection of clichés into flesh and blood”).

Our newspaper coverage for the week ends, as we usually do, with The Observer and critic Mark Kermode’s thoughts on the week’s releases. This took in The Princess Of Montpensier (“a deceptively seductive affair”), The Tree Of Life (“Sean Penn has declared that he doesn’t know what he was doing in [it] and he’s not the only one”), X-Men: First Class (“director Matthew Vaughn makes a brave fist of pulling it all together”) and Everything Must Go (“writer director Dan Rush seems uncertain whether he’s trying to make us laugh or cry”). Philip French’s Classic DVD in the same paper was The Conversation, saying “the numerous extras on this DVD include first-rate highly informative commentaries”.

We traditionally end our round-up with a look at a few magazines and this week is no different. So we had a flick through the Radio Times, which featured X-Men: First Class as its DVD Of The Week, its Box Set Of The Week was the complete collection offering the first seven seasons, sorry, series, of Desperate Housewives (Disney). Also mentioned as vod and ppv releases were The Tree Of Life and Talihina Skies (Revolver).

Free men’s magazine ShortList recommended Richard Herring’s Christ On A Bike, the ubiquitous X-Men: First Class and Jurassic Park: The Ultimate Trilogy, while it also had competitions offering electrical kit for both True Blood (HBO) and Setup (Lionsgate).

Time Out, whose coverage we particularly enjoy, devoted much of its coverage to timely Halloween and horror-related releases, noting: “It’s a time when DVD distributors crack open their crypts and unearth a few lurking terrors for our ghoulish enjoyment.” Many of the titles mentioned were from Universal, these included its Best Of Classic Horror, Best Of Cult Sci-fi, The Thing, Candyman and The Frighteners, and, from other distributors, Stake Land. Also covered were A Man Vanishes (Masters Of Cinema), Talihina Sky and, in its Blu-ray Revivals column, Guns Of Navarone (SPHE) and Nightmare Before Christmas.