Best Blu-ray movies and DVDs to buy in 2012
16th Jul 2012 | 11:40
A cliffhanger in the literal sense, Danny Boyle's biopic tells the story of Aron Ralston, a climber who got his arm stuck under a boulder, then had to make a rather tough decision involving a pen knife. James Franco is awesome as Ralston and the pen knife scene is faint-inducingly intense.
A Japanese cyberpunk biker gang runs into a bit of bother as one of them transmutes into an unfathomable telepathic mutant blob superweapon, er, thing in post-WWIII Japan. THE classic anime for non-anime fans.
We love the smell of triple-disc Blu-Ray editions in the morning. Especially when they contain one of the greatest films of all time. Francis Ford Coppola's acid nightmare take on the Vietnam War and Conrad's Heart of Darkness gets the treatment it deserves here, with gorgeous, remastered prints of both the original cut of the film and the even more sprawling Redux version, plus a disc of interviews and extras.
Attack The Block
Hoodies fight invading space beasts in this cross between Alien, Assault on Precinct 13 and the riots earlier this year. Directed by Adam or possibly Joe out of Adam and Joe.
Darren Aronofsky's Oscar-scooping movie teeters constantly on the brink of ludicrousness, from Natalie Portman's demented lead performance to the fact the beautiful, portentous score is by the bloke who once sang Beaver Patrol for Pop Will Eat Itself. Much of what happens in this incandescent tale of obsession is irrational, impossible and mad, but when viewed through the prism of Aronofsky's visual genius it all appears perfectly rational - like the logic of a dream.
The star of teeth-gratingly twee indie abomination Lars and the Real Girl redeems himself with a brave performance in Blue Valentine. He plays a charming but irresponsible bloke whose perfect relationship crumbles to dust. Prepare to weep manly tears.
Richard Attenborough is flatly terrifying as emotionless, amoral post-war gangster Pinkie in this classic Graeme Green adaptation. The film's heart-rending final scene is an all-time classic.
It's the new Showgirls (remember that?), camper than a row of pink tents and just as unmissable. Ooh, it is awful. But we like it.
Cross of Iron
Extreme violence and manliness ahoy as James Coburn's rag-tag platoon try to survive the carnage of the Eastern front. Directed by Sam (The Wild Bunch) Peckinpah, this is a bloke's-night-in classic.
Don't Look Now
Sitting in the top tier of all-time great British films, Don't Look Now builds a nerveshredding psychodrama around a husband and wife driven to the brink of insanity through grief at the death of their child. It's a chilling work of genius from director Nic Roeg, and on Blu-ray, it's never looked better.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Currently doing lots and lots of acting in Tree of Life, Mr Penn is now a teeth-grindingly serious superthesp. Flash back 29 years, though, and he was perma-monged surf dude Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Check out that barnet: awesome.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One
Having had to put up with endless icky articles about herself "flowering" over the last ten years, Emma is now established as an English rose, Burberry model and, if we're being generous, actress. Her last hoorah as Hermione starts here.
Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy
The original is a real T Rex of a movie, with CGI that still impresses today, and Sam Neill classing it up. Its two sequels are more like a steaming heap of something a T Rex left behind, however
The King's Speech
It's the thespian Rumble in the Jungle: Colin Firth at his most pained versus Geoffrey Rush at his least mad. It's an emotional tour de force, but my gosh there's a lot of acting.
Let Me In
This remake of ace Swedish vampire horror Let The Right One In is beautifully acted, atmospheric and unflinching in its depiction of just how horrible it must be to be immortal. It's like Twilight for non-morons.
The heavily armed titular anti-hero (Danny Tréjo) has a face like a piece of weather-beaten rawhide that's had a relief map of Ben Nevis etched into it. Naturally enough, then, he's constantly attracting the lustful attentions of large-breasted young ladies, when he isn't blowing up, shooting, decapitating and running over bad guys. Based on one of the faux trailers from Quentin Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse, this is wish fulfilment for ugly men and an absolute scream for about 80 per cent of its 105-minute run time.
Very good, low-budget indie with lots o' talkin' and not much action. It's essentially a romantic thriller cum road movie but, er, with 30-foot-tall space aliens as a backdrop. Unusual.
Howard Marks' life and high times as the world's leading dope dealer are amiably recounted in this engaging biopic. Rhys Ifans is really rather excellent in the title role - now there's a sentence you don't read often.
Once Upon A Time In America
Like a cultier The Godfather, Sergio Leone's sprawling masterpiece is one of the greatest gangster films ever made. Bob De Niro and James Woods are mesmerising.
Paranormal Activity 2
The follow-up to the no-budget demonic possession horror sensation inevitably piles on more of everything, but not necessarily to greater effect. There are some good, cheesy shocks to be had, though.
Resident Evil: Afterlife
The epitome of a guilty pleasure. This is - almost unbelievably - the fourth film spin-off from Capcom's legendary series of survival horror games. And it's in 3D! In certain respects, Afterlife feels nothing like the RE games, lacking their moments of dread-soaked stillness and high-class art direction. However, in certain other areas - repetitious and incomprehensible plotting and atrocious acting, for instance - it's actually very true to the source.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
To win the girl of his dreams, Scott Pilgrim (the notably unsuperheroic-looking Michael Cera) must battle his seven evil, supernaturalpower-wielding exes. Yes, that old chestnut. This flopped at the box office yet currently rides high with an 8.1 approval rating on IMDB.com: that's pretty much the definition of a cult movie.
It's odd to think that F1 was once dominated by a true genius, rather than a succession of blandly handsome young men with all the personality of a tin of beans. Ayrton's legend will live on when they've all retired from driving to promote dandruff shampoo full-time.
The Social Network
David Fincher's Oscar-bait biopic of Mark Zuckerberg, his friends and his enemies - there are rather more of the latter, it must be said - fizzes along on Aaron Sorkin's script and performances that are uniformly strong. Justin Timberlake is particularly Oscar-worthy, playing Napster co-founder Sean Parker as a boundlessly arrogant, moderately creepy arse - Parker will no doubt be frightfully flattered. However, this is largely a film about quite dull people who set up a website then sue each other. It also feels rather meanspirited. They made a few mistakes when they were young. Get over it.
A slightly muddled, overlong but ultimately satisfying sci-fi yarn. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent - being a cerebral action hero suits him well - and director Duncan Jones and writer Ben Ripley make a fairly gripping fist of the central conceit: that Gyllenhaal has to keep going back in time for eight-minute spurts in a bid to discover who blows up the train he is on - but not stop him, obviously, as that would be too obvious and wouldn't allow for a doomed-romance sub-plot.
Stanley Kubrick Visionary Film Maker Collection
Eight films, from 2001 to Full Metal Jacket via A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. An obligatory Blu-ray purchase for its sheer audiovisual grandeur, as well as Kubrick's giddying way with a story.
Star Trek The Complete Original Series
The Shat is back in full HD with the box set that all techy Trekkies have been waiting for. Most of the episodes were shot on film so the quality is astounding. So is Shatner's acting, with different… INTONATION on. Every. Word… HE SAYS!
Portentous maestro of the macabre Dario Argento's last great film is like the olympics of splatter. With stabbings, gougings and hackings galore, it's fun for all the family - the Manson Family, specifically.
The Last Exorcism
Clichéd but effective demonic possession yarn shot in mock-doc stylee. Terribly mannered acting only adds to its retro feel.
The Long Good Friday
It's the late 70s and gang boss Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) has big plans for regenerating London's docklands, thereby going legit. Too bad he's about to be sucked into a turf war with the IRA. Still probably the best British gangster film of all time.
Pete Postlethwaite, RIP. The late, granite-faced star of The Usual Suspects and Brassed Off gets a decent send-off with blue-collar heist movie The Town. He's terrifying as a reptilian Irish crime lord and gets to shoot Ben Affleck whilst shouting "You pr*ck!" Good man.
The Walking Dead
Episode one of this undead apocalypse series is surely one of the best TV shows of all time. It then settles for formula thrills and dunderhead characters, but never to the extent you stop watching. Zombie fans simply have to see it.
The most likeable of the recent slew of comic-book adaptations, Thor is forgettable but fun. Chris Hemsworth gives it loads of "What is this metal beast that roars and seats up to five passengers, and the plot, well, we have absolutely no recollection at all.
The Tree Of Life
In places this film achieves a transcendent beauty. In others, it resembles a high-class life assurance commercial with a script cribbed from The Little Book of Calm. Different, certainly.
Legacy mixes eye-popping 3D CGI with a Daft Punk soundtrack that's an honourable successor to Wendy Carlos' original. The plot is silly and the pacing turgid, but this is still a lush, hypnotic feast for the senses.
The Twilight Zone Series One
Series 1 Extras-packed compendium of dark, twisting tales from the first golden age of American telly. The stories can be formulaic - "So, all along the monster was really… us!" - but the stark visuals and tight plotting still impress, with many moments of genuine poignancy, and real scares, too.
Liam Neeson is back in this very close relative of Taken. Again, it's like the Bourne films, if Matt Damon were an incredibly slow, hulking, middle-aged man who looks like he might keel over from a heart attack at any second. Classic.
This harrowing, unique film is not an easy watch - the plot is as minimal as it is unpleasant - but it is worth the effort.
The Fifth Element
Luc Besson's colourful sci-fi story ticks all the usual action film boxes - a boy and girl, a comedy sidekick, a terrible evil - but does it with such visual flare and creativity that it feels new all over again. Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman and, yes, Resident Evil's Milla Jovovich, are all on top form.
Spartacus Blood And Sand/Gods Of The Arena
The sex and violence yardstick by which all future TV will be measured, Spartacus Blood and Sand starts out as guiltily pleasurable schlock and then abruptly steps up a gear into proper, gritty drama. The mini-series follow-up, Gods of the Arena, is a most excellent prequel, with even more raunchy Roman romping and body parts flying about.
Military-grade cuteness from Studio Ghibli, with an enchanting toon based on kids’ classic The Borrowers. It’s not quite as good as the same team’s Pom Poko but then, very few things are.
How to explain Brazil? It’s George Orwell’s 1984 with slapstick elements. It’s a berzerk bombardment of retina-searing images in which every frame contains something you’ve never seen in a film before. The rhythms of the film and its relentlessly bleak wit mean some may find it a chore to watch, but the pay-off makes it all worth while – the final shot is like being punched in the gut.
Final Destination 5
Looking for some quality films for your new 3d setup? Tough, you’ll have to make do with this. It’s terrible, but it does deliver a lot of fleshy things being impaled on metal things.
A languorous tale of two sisters’ lives as they prepare for armageddon, enduring depression and having Charlotte Rampling for a mum. A great finale is almost worth the wait.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
CGI apes make points about fascism. his Royal Franco-ness, James Franco, brings his slightly otherworldly, earnest handsomeness. Good stuff.
The Skin I Live In
Pedro Almodóvar’s unique film takes his usual preoccupations with gender and sexuality and puts them in a creepy setting that’s essentially clinical torture porn. Squirmy.
Fun, if stereotype-laden, O’Oirish-meets-Yankee romp with a slightly awkward tone – it’s odd these days to have an ostensibly likeable lead character who’s a racist.
Joining the ranks of all-time cinematic bad-asses, Otto Jespersen makes this film as the titular dispatcher of trolls, tersely growling out wisdom on how to kill them – use a bloody massive torch, basically – and how to avoid being smelled and hence killed by them yourself – cover yourself in their “stench” and don’t, whatever you do, “believe in God or Jesus”. He plays it absolutely straight and so what could be camp and silly becomes seriously engaging. The trolls, brought to life with all the special effects wizardry the Norwegian film industry has at its disposal, similarly work as believable foes despite looking faintly ridiculous, and the thoroughly Scandinavian tone extends to the very dry, dark sense of humour. As a result, it’s hard at times to tell if Troll Hunter is meant as a film for kids that adults can enjoy or vice versa, but it’s none the worse for that.
The Hangover Part II
If you liked The Hangover you really should dig this, cos it’s the same uproariously cynical film. It also features quite possibly the rudest joke you’ll ever hear in a mainstream movie.
This cage-fighting movie is a bit like The Fighter but with more steroids, bigger muscles and more homoeroticism. Sorry, we’re too cynical; it’s brutal but very good, actually.
Lobotomised men, punks, gangsters, government agents and Emilio Estevez are all hunting for a car with something very dangerous in the trunk. One of the coolest movies ever.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Betrayal, suspicion, death, relentless gloom. Hey, let’s party! Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy superbly recreates both the grubby- Burberry’d, morally blank world of espionage and the dull ugliness of Britain in the 70s. gary Oldman channels the spirit of Alec guinness in his portrayal of betrayed master spy george Smiley, all dutiful restraint, stiff pleasantries and heart of ice. The rest of the Premier League cast – Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy just for starters – give rock solid support. The story weaves and flickers from your grasp, coming into focus only as Smiley gets closer to the truth about the MI6 mole. There are no gunfights and, though there is hideous violence, it’s all done off camera, but this cerebral spy fl ick is clearly Oscar nod-worthy for its screenplay, Oldman and director Tomas Alfredson.
Two friends race across America, meeting a man in a GTO and a girl hitchhiking. That’s it. but in the details, you see the vastness and complexity of America. best car movie of all time.
Actor Paddy Considine’s directorial debut is horrible but gripping. Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan and Olivia Colman elevate what could be B-list Brit grimness into something lyrical. But grim.
Warning: this, the epic to end them all, will take over your life. HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s billion-page classic is weighty, violent, utterly compelling and a bit silly.
A film so grim it makes Tyrannosaur look like Mary Poppins, this Aussie serial-killer drama is based on a true story and feels frighteningly real. Claustrophobic and chilling.
Price: £10 (Blu-ray) £14 (HD Download)
Your second masterpiece this month is Bertolucci’s jaw-felling exploration of Fascism. Even better, it’s on Arrow Video, which usually puts out the likes of Frankenhooker.
More than 40 years on from its release, Ken Russell’s “mad ’n’ sexy nuns” classic retains awesome power It’s testament to how controversial this deranged meditation on evil and corruption from the late British director Ken Russell still is that this is its first ever outing on DVD. No, it’s not coming out on Blu-ray because, well, Warners just don’t want it to – maybe they worry it’ll seem more blasphemous in hi-def. Ollie Reed was never better than as Grandier, a proud shagger of a priest who comes to seem almost Christ-like in his piety when contrasted with enemies who range from jealous rivals to scheming politicians to a sexually repressed, hunchback nun (an incredible Vanessa Redgrave).
All the nudity, enemas, torture and the jarring presence in the cast of both Tinker from Lovejoy and George out of George and Mildred can’t disguise that this is, at its heart, a righteously moral film, and a great one. The DVD looks very handsome and has some high-class extras.
Second best compared to the rest of the month’s crop, this is nonetheless an effectively scary yet poetic film, blessed with a superb Tilda Swinton performance.
A good old-fashioned haunted house movie, this is a little reminscent of a British 'The Orphanage' with a hay clarse cast including Dominic West and Imelda Staunton.
Dario Argento's nightmarish art-horror reconfigured for lovers of 80s trash, Demons locks a bunch of characters in a cinema and proceeds to slay them to the pounding pop-rock sound of Billy Idol and Motley Crue. That the cinema goers lured to said cinema to see a gory horror film - very meta - indlude a middle-aged couple who hate each other, a blind man, and a pimp called Tony gives fair warning that nothing that proceeds to happen makes any sense.
No matter: from the priceless dialogue (Toni admonishes one of his "ladies" for putting of a cursed mask that subsequently cuts her face with the immortal, "That'll teach you to touch things!") to the eye-popping gore to the unique mix of unintentional comedy and real, dark horror, this is a film so good, they made it twice - Demons 2 is identical in every respect, except Toni is a body builder and it's set in a block of flats.
Scorcese's "kids' film" is a winner despite laying on the "this is a classic and serious film" schtick with a trowel. Arguably the only compelling reason to own a 3D deck to date.
This couldn't be more calculated to annoy Bronte purists if it featured a scene in which Cathy masturbates with a crucific to the strains of a dubstep remix of the Kate Bush song. We liked it.
So, hands up who can remember the name of Tom Cruise’s character in these films? And quite what his role is in the intelligence service or whatever the hell it is? We can’t either, but that didn’t stop us enjoying the hell out of this. Director Brad Bird, the maestro behind The Incredibles, directs like he’s unaware there’s a difference between cartoons and live action, delivering one astonishing action sequence after another.
Even better, Tom Cruise dials back his trademark preening assholism, while Simon Pegg, new-Bourne Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton are given space to add comedy, class and something resembling proper acting. It all feels a long way from Peter Graves infiltrating a top-secret bunker by turning up in overalls and claiming to have come to fix the air conditioning, but we can live with that, frankly.
The unkind might call this spielberg war epic overblown, overlong bollocks of the fi rst order. Still, if you like relentless seriousness and galloping, this is the film for you.
Director Lucio Fulci again shows off his Confuse-ORama technique, with terrible acting and ludicrous plotting papered over with frequent, gory slayings. C+.
This has all the insight you’d expect from the director of Mamma Mia, but no tunes. How about Maggie belting out the Winner takes it all while sinking the Belgrano next time?
Here’s a First World War film so weighty and wise, it makes War Horse look like an Adam Sandler comedy called “Oops, My Balls! A genuine classic and the best thing out this month.
This makes a virtue of its limitations, keeping its ropey CGI killer wolves in the dark and Liam Neeson’s winningly one-note performance up front. A top-notch B movie results.
X Men by way of Cloverfield, this excellent, clever film examines what those gifted super powers would really do with ’em. The “found footage” gimmick is wearing a bit thin, mind.
Not the Bourne-with-tits you might expect, this is actually a classy, 60s-style thriller somewhere between Bullitt and Point Blank. That said, star Gina Carano sure can kick arse.
From Dennis Hopper huffing pre-coital crazy gas in Blue Velvet to lead actor Bill Pullman transforming into somebody else entirely half way through Lost Highway, David Lynch has crafted some of the most indelible movie images of the past 30 years. This HD boxset is annoyingly incomplete – Elephant Man and Mulholland Drive (above) are the most notable absentees – but with extras from documentaries to Lynch’s shorts, there’s still an embarrassment of riches here. Few other directors can match Lynch’s gift for combining creeping malevolence, extreme violence, deranged sexuality, seemingly random plot twists and gratuitous outbreaks of 50s crooning with moments of genuine sweetness and vaulting visual ambition. Put simply, the guy’s a genius; even this half-finished greatest hits compilation is more than enough to prove that.
A harrowing, bleak piece from director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender, this is a numbing study of sexual addiction and broken families. Big laughs, then.
Moon-based WWII Nazis are re-invading Earth, using space Zeppelins, and only Sarah Palin can stop them. How can a film with that premise be dull? We don’t know, but this pulls it off.
Price: £12 (Blu-ray), £14 (HD download)
Woody Harrelson is so cool in this, you find yourself rooting for his violent, misanthropic, corrupt cop. It’s a troubling fi lm that draws no easy conclusions – a bit of an arthouse gem.
Price: £14 (Blu-ray and HD download)
Based, obviously, on a stage play, Roman Polanski’s latest jaundiced look at the human condition stars Jodie Foster and John C Reilly as what you might call a lower-middle class, boho couple. They’re having a meeting with Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet – a more, let’s say, upper-middle class couple – whose young son has assaulted their own.
What starts as an ever so reasonable discussion becomes tense as Foster gets increasingly shrill, Waltz’s lack of grasp of mobile-phone etiquette begins to grate, and Reilly and Winslet get sh*t-faced on Scotch. None of the characters are lovable but nor are they monsters, yet because it’s Polanski you’re always waiting for a horrible twist, possibly involving a meat hook, or Satan. Does it ever come? Watch and find out… It’s a smart, funny, nuanced film that, at its best, is almost painfully well observed and acted.
Price: £14 (Blu-ray and HD download)
French self-indulgence at its best, this intensely romantic, silent-ish movie boasts monochrome cinematography so lush, you just want to smear it all over yourself and wriggle.
Price: £15 (Blu-ray), £14 (HD download)
Terrorists/freedom fighters take on colonialists/ peace-keepers. Intelligent, thrilling, urgent and brilliant, this documentary-like classic refuses to date, 46 years on from its debut.
Price: £14 (Blu-ray)