DVD Reviews June 25 2009
All the very best DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the week, including Steven Soderbergh's mammoth biopic 'Che' and Clint Eastwood's race relations comedy, 'Gran Torino'
DVD of the Week
'Che' (Parts 14 starsFILM Cert: 15 (DVD £29.99; Blu-ray £34.99)It seems inappropriate to describe this mammoth, two-part revolutionary biopic as ‘Steven Soderbergh’s Che’. The director may have placed his idiosyncratic stamp on what could have been a stock Hollywood biopic, but he and screenwriters Peter Buchman and Benjamin van der Veen were handpicked by the real power behind this sprawling, commendable effort: producer and star Benicio Del Toro. It was Del Toro who spent seven years obsessively researching the life of the Argentinean revolutionary, who travelled to Cuba to meet those who knew him, and whose single-minded dedication finally brought this unwieldy, wildly uncommercial project to fruition. And it’s his selfless, utterly convincing central performance that makes the film work, providing a gravitational centre around which the tangential, often wilfully obtuse narrative circulates.The films work as separate entities: the first, ‘The Argentine’, documents Che’s involvement in the Cuban revolution, while the second, ‘Guerrilla’, depicts his doomed attempt to kickstart a similar coup in Bolivia. But they’re best viewed back to back, as a wholly immersive study of revolution in practice. Here, the fatalistic nature of Che’s existence becomes painfully clear, the fearlessness and bull-headed inability to compromise which won the first war and led him deeper into tragedy the second time around. The film’s freeform, occasionally repetitive structure can become frustrating – the second film, particularly, seems to consist largely of sweaty men hanging around in forests. But that’s just a measure of how far from the ordinary – and how close to unglamorous reality – Del Toro and his filmmakers are willing to tread. Tom HuddlestonExtras Documentaries, interviews.
Other film releases
Before Stonewall4 starsGreta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s award-winning documentary explores the lives of lesbians and gay men in America before the famous Stonewall riots of June 1969. Released to mark the fortieth anniversary of Stonewall, this DVD is a timely reminder that employs a wealth of archive footage and provocative interviews to powerful effect. Paul Burston
Anvil! The Story of Anvil4 stars‘I’ll sum it up in two words. Three words. Four words. We. Don’t. Have. Good. Management.’ It’s easy to dismiss ‘Anvil’ as lazy and faintly exploitative, the real-life ‘Spinal Tap’. But that would be to ignore the massive, beating heart that drives this affectionate tribute to the eternal spirit of middle-aged musical brotherhood. Tom Huddleston
Aria4 starsTen directors, ten operatic arias, ten short films. This is an intriguing project, not least for the names of the directors that producer Don Boyd invited to the party – Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Ken Russell, Julien Temple, Nic Roeg… He gave each of them access to a list of RCA recordings of arias of varying reputations, and the pleasing results range from the more literal to the wildly personal. Dave Calhoun
Gran Torino4 starsFunniest film of the year so far? Hands down it’s Clint Eastwood’s jocular account of cantankerous Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Eastwood – superb), whose ire at the lack of white-bread values in his ethnically diverse neighbourhood results in numerous outbursts. Writer Nick Schenk brings a nice mixture of political depth and ironic humour to the table which makes Eastwood’s clunky direction less of a problem. David Jenkins
Living with Lions5 starsSPORT Cert: exempt (£17.99)With the current tour of South Africa nearing its end, this is a perfect time to cast our minds back to the Lions’ shock 2-1 victory in 1997. This fantastic two-part documentary follows the Lions’ first professional tour through training sessions, team-building exercises and the matches themselves. With unprecedented access, the ferocity of training and the heartache of injury are both covered, alongside the now-legendary pre-match motivational speeches by Jim Telfer and Ian McGeechan. Facing up to the world champions was a daunting task which brought out an intensity we rarely see. The extra footage here adds little, but this is still essential for any rugby fan. Rob Greig
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