The latest DVDs and Blu-rays are given the once-over by our writers. Read first before reaching for your credit card.
By the time he directed Blow Out (1981), Brian De Palma had already had his ups and downs in the movie business, and that perhaps accounts for the marked jadedness of its protagonist, Jack (John Travolta). He's a soundman working on a cheap slasher flick called Coed Frenzy (“I'd like to think that this is our finest film,” he remarks sarcastically). It's his fifth movie in two years, and you can tell by his hangdog expression that he's had enough of the exploitation treadmill. Dissed by his director for using lazy, out-of-the-can wind FX, he's sent out to get new ones, and it's while doing this that he witnesses (and records on audio tape) a car plunging off a bridge into a river as the result of a blown tire.
The Liability sees cameraman Craig Viveiros take the director's chair for the first time and he certainly wears his influences on his sleeve. Unsurprisingly, it's a joy to watch. A thriller starring Tim Roth as the cool killer, Peter Mullan as the potty mouthed psychopath, with rising star Jack O'Connell providing the youthful charisma, all the key elements are there for a magnificent crime picture. As enjoyable as it is aesthetically, with slick cinematography, a striking use of colour and some cracking slow-mo sequences aided by an interesting soundtrack, it seems the direction lets it down in the final third. The plot lulls, failing to follow through an opening which promised so much.
In this, his first movie, Hal Hartley began to lay down his unique path of story-telling that would become instantly recognisable to anyone watching. Shot in just twelve days, and for a budget of around $200,000, it is a fantastic dark comedy set in a small community. As I found with another of his early films, Amateur, Hartley’s concentration on the interaction, dialogue and behaviour between a group of main characters is more important than the story itself.
LA, 1949, and ruthless crime boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is feeding business rivals to the coyotes on the Hollywood hills. With all kinds of corrupt officials in his pockets, the City of Angels has become his private fiefdom. However, Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) has other ideas, and he tasks Sergeant O'Mara (Josh Brolin) with forming an off-the-books outfit to wreck Cohen's empire.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the most famous horror movies of all-time and an originator of the "slasher" genre, has spawned numerous prequels, sequels and remakes, but nothing has really come close to the original. We are reminded of this during the opening sequence, in which we experience a quick recap of the first movie, including meat hooks, dismembered bodies and of course, a chainsaw. Unfortunately, this is where the movie starts to go downhill.