Sunday 8 December 2019

Download And DVD Reviews

Damon Smith reviews the latest Download and DVD releases, including Patti Cake$, Blade Runner 2049, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, The Mountain Between Us and The Glass Castle.

By Damon Smith, Press Association Film Critic

[STANDFIRST] Damon Smith reviews the latest Download and DVD releases, including Patti Cake$, Blade Runner 2049, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, The Mountain Between Us and The Glass Castle.



Patti Cake$ (Cert 15, 107 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Drama/Musical/Romance, available from January 26 on Amazon Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services)

Starring: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Sahr Ngaujah.

Overweight New Jersey 20-something Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald) has a talent for immortalising her day-to-day existence in snappy verse. She fantasises about public adoration under her rapper moniker Killa-P to rival her gold-toothed hip hop idol, O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah).

Alas, Patricia is stuck in a dead-end job tending the bar where her booze-soaked mother Barb (Bridget Everett) belts out 1980s anthems on the karaoke machine, and locals cruelly taunt her plus-size fabulousness by calling her Dumbo.

Undaunted, Patricia forges a creative union with her best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) and a death metal noisemaker (Mamoudou Athie) in the hope of finding the perfect beat for her confessional lyrics.

Fragile dreams shatter and Patricia turns to her emotional rock, Nana (Cathy Moriarty). “I thought I could be someone,” whimpers the rapper. “You already are,” smiles Nana. “You’re my superstar.”

Inspired by writer-director Geremy Jasper’s efforts to break into the New York music scene, Patti Cake$ is a crowd-pleasing underdog story, which wears its heart on its sleeve.

Hopefulness bumps and grinds with emotional hard knocks, reminding us that darkness courses beneath the surface of the best fairytales.

This modern-day fable about shooting for the moon, when everyone is telling you to dream smaller, exudes a roughly hewn charm that extends to the stellar lead performance from up-and-coming Australian actress Macdonald.

She is irresistible in the lead role. Every time life beats Patti down (and in one scene, head-butts her and draws blood), she gets back to her feet and retaliates with a spontaneously crafted barrage of weaponised wordplay.

Rating: ****

Blade Runner 2049 (Cert 15, 163 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Sci-Fi/Thriller/Action/Romance, available from January 28 on Amazon Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 5 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/3D Blu-ray £29.99/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray £36.99)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright.

Officer KD6-3.7 (Ryan Gosling) is part of a new breed of grizzled blade runners, who “retire” genetically engineered replicants that live among the weary population.

He returns home each night to a cold, functional apartment, where a holographic companion called Joi (Ana de Armas) creates the illusion of companionship.

Working under Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) at the Los Angeles Police Department, K hunts outdated Nexus-8 models, which haven’t been coded to cherish humankind like the new replicants fashioned by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto).

In the course of this unforgiving work, K uncovers a shocking secret that puts the blade runner on a collision course with Niander’s vicious henchwoman, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks).

The subsequent quest for painful answers leads K to Deckard (Harrison Ford). Two generations, scarred by loss, unite in the spirit of self-sacrifice.

Blade Runner 2049 is a beautifully crafted thriller that sustains a pedestrian pace, allowing us to second-guess K and even beat him to a couple of narrative punches.

Gosling’s restrained performance contrasts with de Armas’ luminous embodiment of a digitised love interest, who yearns to connect on the most primal level.

Ford eases back gruffly into a familiar role, noticeably with less spring in his step, while composers Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer crank up the volume on their bombastic score.

For all its bravura production design and flawless special effects, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t smack gobs with its invention like Ridley Scott’s 1982 picture, aside from a sensual three-way sex scene that gently tickles our G-spot.

Mimicking the automata, Denis Villeneuve’s film is one small yet significant iteration shy of perfection.

Rating: ****

The LEGO Ninjago Movie (Cert U, 98 mins, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Animation/Comedy/Action, available from January 30 on Amazon Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 12 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £26.99/3D Blu-ray £29.99/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray £34.99)

Featuring the voices of: Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, Justin Theroux, Olivia Munn, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Pena, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods.

High school student Lloyd Garmadon (voiced by Dave Franco) lives in the brick city of Ninjago with his mother Koko (Olivia Munn).

Classmates despise Lloyd because his estranged father, Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), is an evil despot, who repeatedly attacks the city in elaborate shark-themed contraptions.

Thankfully, Ninjago is protected by the Secret Ninja Force, an elite team trained by Master Wu (Jackie Chan), the mantra-spouting brother of Lord Garmadon and author of must-read manual Ninjanuity.

City residents are blissfully unaware that Lloyd moonlights as the Green Ninja, leader of the SNF, and other members of the heroic squad include fellow students Cole (Fred Armisen), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), Kai (Michael Pena), Nya (Abbi Jacobson) and Zane (Zach Woods).

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the third computer-animated adventure in a rapidly expanding franchise.

Sadly, Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan’s film is a flying kick too far for the brand and feels like a glossy exercise in corporate self-promotion rather than a fully-fledged cinematic adventure.

One flashback to Lord Garmadon’s courtship of Koko – “It was love at first fight!” – warrants a weak smile but too many punchlines fail to connect.

The pungent air of staleness pervades, exacerbated by a paucity of sly visual gags and pithy pop culture references.

“When I return, I’ll have something really wicked in store for you!” guffaws Lord Garmadon early in the film. He fails to deliver.

Polished one-liners are disappointingly thin on the brick-plated ground and vocal performances fail to elevate the material above the parapet of mediocrity.

Rating: ***

The Mountain Between Us (Cert 12, 106 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Romance/Drama/Action, available from January 29 on Amazon Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 12 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £26.99)

Starring: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges, Dermot Mulroney.

Storm clouds amass over Salt Lake City, grounding all commercial flights. Photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is poised to marry fiance Mark (Dermot Mulroney) the following day in New York.

She charters a two-person plane for 800 US dollars from avuncular pilot Walter (Beau Bridges), who flew during Vietnam. “As long as nobody’s shooting at me, I’ll get you there,” he promises.

Alex offers the second seat to Dr Ben Bass (Idris Elba), who is scheduled to operate in Manhattan.

During the subsequent flight, Walter suffers a stroke and the plane careens into a snow-laden peak in the High Uintas Wilderness.

Walter perishes, Ben suffers bruises and a couple of broken ribs, and Alex’s leg is badly injured.

The surgeon fashions a makeshift brace and, when Alex regains consciousness, the strangers confront the terrifying reality that Walter didn’t log a flight plan so they are alone in the sub-zero wilderness.

Based on the novel by Charles Martin, The Mountain Between Us is a gooey romance that brings together two strangers on different emotional flight paths.

Director Hany Abu-Assad’s film remains airborne thanks to Winslet and Elba, who compel us to believe in their unlikely coupling.

The award-winning duo are short-changed by the script but still threaten to melt the 10 inches of spring snow with lustful glances and a heartfelt delivery of corny dialogue.

The addition of a golden Labrador – the dead pilot’s pet companion – ups the cute factor.

The film’s final destination is clearly telegraphed far in advance of a softly lit sex scene.

Rating: ***

The Glass Castle (Cert 15, 127 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Drama/Romance, available from January 29 on Amazon Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 5 on DVD £19.99)

Starring: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Chandler Head, Ella Anderson, Olivia Kate Rice, Iain Armitage, Max Greenfield.

Journalist Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson) celebrates her engagement to nice guy financial adviser David (Max Greenfield).

She breaks the happy news to her father Rex (Woody Harrelson) and mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), who raised Jeannette and her three siblings in poverty and chaos.

“David is good for me,” argues the journalist. “You mean he’s got money,” coldly retorts Rose Mary, who feels certain the relationship is doomed to failure.

The parents’ refusal to share Jeannette’s newfound joy catalyses a series of anguished flashbacks that illuminate the destruction wrought by Rex and Rose Mary, like when the very young Jeanette (Chandler Head) set her dress alight on the kitchen stove because her mother was too preoccupied to cook lunch.

As she grows into a feisty pre-teen (now played by Ella Anderson), Jeannette clings on to Rex’s fanciful dreams until she can delude herself no longer.

Adapted from Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir of the same title, The Glass Castle is a tonally uneven family portrait about self-destructive bohemian parents, who nurture their brood with cruelty and cold comfort.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s picture threatens to shatter before the end of a plodding two hours but an impressive ensemble cast elevates the chronologically fractured script, which awkwardly juxtaposes scenes of tenderness and neglect.

Oscar-winner Larson is a vision of tightly coiled indignation, while Harrelson chews scenery as he careens wildly between alcohol-induced rage and despair, finally confronting the pain he has wrought.

Life is unfair and misfortune leaves scars on all of us, some deeper than others.

Rating: ***


Marjorie Prime (Cert 12, 95 mins, Bulldog Film Distribution, Drama/Sci-Fi/Romance – see below)


A Futile And Stupid Gesture (Cert 15, 101 mins, streaming from January 26 exclusively on Netflix, Comedy/Drama/Romance)

In the pantheon of great comedies, National Lampoon’s Animal House directed by John Landis – who subsequently helmed The Blues Brothers and Trading Places – displays only minor wear and tear 30 years after its original release.

The making of this low-budget landmark in testosterone-fuelled tomfoolery is chronicled in A Futile And Stupid Gesture, which streams exclusively on Netflix after its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

Based on Josh Karp’s non-fiction 2006 book, David Wain’s hilarious history lesson charts the formative years of National Lampoon magazine founded by Doug Kenney (Will Forte) and Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson), which repeatedly riled the political and religious elite with its provocative front covers.

Matt Lucas co-stars as writer Tony Hendra, who helps to propel the business into the Hollywood hills where the likes of Chevy Chase (Joel McHale), John Belushi (John Gemberling) and Bill Murray (Jon Daly) capture the publication’s defiantly anarchic spirit on celluloid.

The Miniaturist (Cert 15, 180 mins, Spirit Entertainment, available now on Amazon Video/BBC iPlayer/iTunes and other download and streaming services, also available from January 29 on DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Drama/Romance)

Based on the international bestseller by Jessie Burton, this handsome two-part BBC One drama set in 1680s Amsterdam screened over the Christmas period and now arrives on the home formats.

Eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman (Anya Taylor-Joy) arrives at the home of her wealthy husband, merchant trader Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell), and is greeted by the master’s ferocious sister Marin (Romola Garai).

She casts a long shadow over the household, which is maintained by servants Cornelia (Hayley Squires) and Otto (Paapa Essiedu).

When Johannes eventually materialises, he presents his wife with a most intriguing gift: a dolls house replica of the marital home.

An elusive miniaturist is hired to fill the rooms with tiny furniture and dolls representing the inhabitants. These beautifully crafted objects seem to predict the future and Nella’s curiosity is piqued.

She subsequently uncovers dark secrets and deceptions that may bring down her husband and everyone around him.

The Adventures Of Puss In Boots – Season 6 (13 episodes, streaming from January 26 exclusively on Netflix, Animation/Action/Adventure)

In 2004, DreamWorks Animation introduced us to sword-wielding chevalier Puss In Boots in the fairy-tale sequel Shrek 2.

Seven years later, the cape-twirling kitty sank his claws into a spin-off film and now the swashbuckling feline continues to risk his nine lives in a family-friendly series set in the city of San Lorenzo.

The mystical community was once hidden from prying eyes by a protection enchantment until a certain clawed hero accidentally broke the spell.

The sixth series unfolds in the aftermath of a battle royale between the evil Blind King and Puss In Boots (voiced by Eric Bauza), aided and abetted by sassy female cat Dulcinea (Jayma Mays), deranged alchemist Artephius (Paul Rugg) and orphaned pig Toby (Joshua Rush).

Young viewers can expect a boo-hiss arch-villain to rival bandit king El Moco (Danny Trejo) and The Duchess (Maria Bamford) in 13 fantastical episodes full of fur balls, daredevil escapes and purrfect puns. It’s the cat’s meow.

Marjorie Prime (Cert 12, 95 mins, Bulldog Film Distribution, available from January 29 on Amazon Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, also available from January 29 on DVD £17.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Drama/Sci-Fi/Romance)

Adapted from an acclaimed stage play by Jordan Harrison, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Marjorie Prime is a futuristic contemplation on the human condition.

Octogenarian widow Marjorie (Lois Smith) lives in a beach house in Long Island with her concerned daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins).

Marjorie’s beloved husband Walter has been dead for 15 years and the ravages of time are slowly robbing her of cherished memories.

With the help of state-of-the-art holographic technology, Marjorie is able to converse with a handsome rendering of her spouse called Walter Prime (Jon Hamm), who has been programmed to learn as much about his alter-ego through Marjorie and her loved ones.

The subsequent conversations between Marjorie and Walter Prime provide her with constant reminders of happier times and keep the deceased husband’s name and spirit alive within the family home.

Dirty Money (6 episodes, streaming from January 26 exclusively on Netflix, Documentary)

Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney spearheads this six-part Netflix documentary series, which uncovers stories of corruption and scandal in the cutthroat world of big business.

He directs the episode Hard NOx, which probes the furore that surrounded Volkswagen’s emissions testing and the links between governments and the automotive industry.

Other instalments are directed by Jesse Moss, Erin Lee Carr, Kristi Jacobson, Brian McGinn and Fisher Stevens, who offers a sobering account of Donald Trump’s business dealings and the rise of Trump Inc in an episode entitled The Confidence Man.

Retribution – Season 1 (4 episodes, streaming from January 30 on Netflix, Thriller/Drama/Romance)

Eighteen months after the relentlessly bleak thriller One Of Us tantalised viewers on BBC One, Harry and James Williams’ gripping four-part morality tale resurfaces on Netflix under a snappy new title.

The suitably grim setting is rural Scotland, where the Elliot and Douglas clans live in disharmony, divided by a rift which widens when Adam Elliot (Jeremy Neumark Jones) falls in love with Grace Douglas (Kate Bracken).

They marry but fate deals the feuding clans a cruel blow: the blushing newlyweds are murdered.

Grace’s parents Bill (John Lynch) and Moira (Julie Graham) are united in grief with Adam’s bohemian mother Louise (Juliet Stevenson).

Spookily, the man who supposedly killed Adam and Grace gate-crashes their lives and the families weigh mercy against justice.

Bill and Moira’s petulant teenage son Jamie (Cristian Ortega) and Louise’s other children, Rob (Joe Dempsie) and Claire (Joanna Vanderham), become entangled in the web of lies and poisonous deceit.

PA Media

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