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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them - DVD Review

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

JK ROWLING turns her hand to scriptwriting with mixed results in Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, an entertaining if flawed first entry into a new wizard-based adventure.

A prequel of sorts to her Harry Potter series, this takes place in the same world, albeit years before, and boasts a new set of heroes and villains, as well as a colourful array of beasts.

But while certainly visually arresting, the story itself feels muddled and uneven, with awkward shifts in tone and wafer-thin characterisation. Returning director David Yates does his own magic trick in keeping things moving so fast that you almost don’t notice the shortcomings but his spell only reaches so far.

Britain’s own Eddie Redmayne heads the cast as Newt Scamander, a magician and beast whisperer who, while on a mission to release a beast back into its rightful home in the American wild, unwittingly finds himself in New York (in 1926) and in the middle of a brewing war between humans (aka muggles or ‘no majs’) and wizards.

To place further strain on an already delicate situation, the suitcase he carries, and its various beastly inhabitants, has accidentally been opened by a luckless aspiring baker (Dan Fogler), forcing Newt to team up with two wizard sisters (Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol), as well as the muggle baker, to recapture them.

On their trail, meanwhile, is the mysterious Graves (Colin Farrell), the head of security for the American Ministry of Magic, who is also on the hunt for put-upon young social outcast (Ezra Miller) and his puritanical step-mother (Samantha Morton), as well as an invisible entity that is wreaking havoc around the city.

There’s a lot going on with Rowling’s latest work but the writer herself sometimes struggles to cope with the demands this imposes. The sheer number of characters, for instance, means that some inevitably get short-changed, with Farrell’s Graves certainly worth of more screen-time, and the likes of Morton and other supporting players too easily discarded.

As endearingly eccentric as Redmayne’s Scamander undoubtedly is too, we don’t get to learn that much about him, which also feels like a bit of a waste of the Oscar-winning actor’s efforts. Likewise, both Waterston and Sudol, whose sibling double act combines both resolute feminism with sexy charm.

If anything, it’s Fogler’s baker who gets the best deal, with his arc nicely realised and equally well acted. His interplay with Redmayne is a particular highlight and – at times – almost Laurel and Hardy-esque in terms of its slapstick quality.

Another big plus is the scope of the film’s imagination, which creates a believably wider world to the one witnessed in Potter, complete with the fantastic beasts of the title. And believe me, most of them are fantastic – even if the pursuit and capture of some does prove a timely distraction from the main event.

Yet here also lies another of the film’s problems. For while the set pieces mostly revolve around Redmayne and his often amusing attempts to recover his suitcase’s anarchic inhabitants, the simmering back-story struggles to get the space it deserves. And it’s much, much darker… tapping into contemporary fears about everything from political and social divide, discrimination, terrorism and even child abuse.

Rowling deserves credit for enabling Fantastic Beasts to resonate beyond its fantasy elements (there’s even a Presidential candidate in the bullying mould, whose biggest supporter is played by Jon Voight), but this invariably sits somewhat uncomfortably alongside the escapism. Rowling seems to want to have her cake and eat it.

Given the sheer volume of Potter enthusiasts, though, she’ll undoubtedly be indulged, especially given the way the film eventually dangles a number of possibilities (including a new big bad) for future instalments that offer plenty of potential.

And for all of its problems, there’s no denying that when it fires on all cylinders, Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them is hugely entertaining. It’s a bigger, bolder creation than the more personal Potter, which still manages to nod to those films with some tantalising links.

Fans will lap it up, while newcomers may also find themselves spellbound. Just don’t go expecting perfection.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 132mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 27, 2017

Paterson (Adam Driver) - DVD Review

Paterson

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IN AN age when modern cinema seems more interested in seeing how big things can get, it’s something of a charming experience to find a film prepared to dwell on the more simple things in life.

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is an amiable crowd-pleaser that exists to celebrate the everyday. And while it may well test the patience of those counting down to the next big explosion or grand gesture, it’s a disarming experience for those willing to try something different.

The story basically follows a man called Paterson, played by the increasingly versatile Adam Driver, who works in Paterson, New Jersey, as a bus driver. Although he has formerly served in the military (as evidenced by a photo on one of his shelves), he is a quiet, mild-mannered man with a deep-rooted passion for poetry.

He is also very happily married to Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who stays at home actively pursuing her ambitions, no matter how fleeting. One day, she may be intent on becoming a successful baker; the next, she’s begging to buy a guitar to fulfil a desire to become a country and Western singer.

The love-struck couple also share a dog, whom Paterson walks every night en route to his favourite bar, where he always stops for just the one pint and a chat with the similarly traditionalist bar owner Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley).

It’s an existence governed by routine for Paterson – but it’s one he enjoys, even if Laura keeps encouraging him to have a go at publishing his poems.

And so viewers are invited to follow Paterson over the course of a week. Admittedly, not much happens. There is the odd flashpoint… whether involving young former lovers Marie (Chasten Harmon) and Everett (William Jackson Harper), or a broken down bus. And there’s a minor loss, which carries an unexpected poignancy.

But the film remains a low-key affair, fuelled by a terrific central performance from Driver and some eye-catching support from the likes of Farahani and Henley. It’s a measure of the quality of Jarmusch’s script, however, that the characters absorb and resonate. Time spent in their company doesn’t feel like time in any way wasted.

When fellow bus driver Donny (Rizwan Manji) declines to offer his latest update on why his life is so miserable, for example, you kind of wish he had. While you really want to find out how Doc fared in his fabled chess tournament.

But then part of the appeal of Paterson is the way it stays with you. The characters it depicts could well be people we all know, or have experienced. Laura, for instance, could represent the dreamer in all of us, while Paterson is the quiet everyman going about his day-to-day content with his lot in life (possibly more so, having experienced life at the sharp end of the military). It’s a nice juxtaposition in a film that resolutely clings to hope, no matter what life throws at his characters.

With Paterson, Jarmusch has expertly created his best film since Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. It’s a quietly inspiring experience.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 112mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 27, 2017

Win The Light Between Oceans on DVD

The Light Between Oceans

Preview by Jack Foley

ENTERTAINMENT One (eOne) is pleased to announce that the stunningly romantic The Light Between Oceans releases on DVD and Blu-ray from March 13, 2017 – available to pre-order now from Amazon – and will be available digitally from February 27, 2017. To celebrate its release, we have 2 x DVD copies to giveaway!

Based on the best-selling novel by M.L. Stedman and from acclaimed director Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond The Pines), The Light Between Oceans is a beautiful and heart-breaking reminder of the infinite power of love and the lengths that we’ll go to in order to protect it.

When lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his adored wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander) discover a baby adrift in a boat off the remote coast of Western Australia they assume the worse.

Determined to give her a happy life full of love they choose to raise the child as their own but it’s not until years later that the shattering consequences of their decision will change their lives forever.

The Light Between Oceans will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from March 13, 2017 and digitally from February 27, 2017.

Read our review

To celebrate the release of The Light Between Oceans on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, March 13, 2017, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 2 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. What film did Alicia Vikander win the Academy Award of best supporting actress in (Clue, the answer is in our review)?

A) The Danish Girl
B) Ex-Machina
C) A Royal Affair

Simply send the answer to The Light Between Oceans competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Win Jack The Ripper on DVD

Jack The Ripper

Preview by Jack Foley

DOUBLE Oscar Winner Michael Caine heads a star-studded cast in this acclaimed dramatisation of the hunt for the notorious serial killer who preyed on the prostitutes of London’s East End – Jack the Ripper.

Made for the 1988 centenary of the infamous murders, the production team were granted unprecedented access to Home Office files on the Ripper case – the resulting two-part mini-series winning Caine a Golden Globe award for his portrayal of the dogged Scotland Yard detective Frederick Abberline.

Co-starring Lewis Collins (The Professionals), Jane Seymour (Live and Let Die, Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman), Ray McAnally (My Left Foot, The Mission) and Armand Assante (Judge Dredd, American Gangster), Jack The Ripper is presented here as a brand-new High Definition restoration from original film materials, in its original aspect ratio with a brand-new Dolby 5.1 mix.

In the autumn of 1888, Chief Inspector Abberline is sent to investigate the murder and mutilation of a prostitute. On the teeming streets of Whitechapel others soon meet the same fate and a press frenzy ensues.

With “Jack the Ripper” terrorising London and both the police and outraged public clamouring for a conclusion, Abberline and his partner, Godley, work doggedly through their list of suspects – more than one of whom has royal connections.

Win Jack The Ripper on DVD

To celebrate the release of Jack The Ripper on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, March 27, 2017, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 2 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. What is the name of Michael Caine’s character in Jack The Ripper?

Simply send the answer to Jack The Ripper competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Win Shut In on DVD

Shut In

Preview by Jack Foley

To celebrate the release of Shut In – available on DVD and Blu-ray from April 10, 2017 – we are giving away a copy of the DVD courtesy of Arrow Films.

Shut In is a heart-pounding thriller starring two-time Oscar Nominee Naomi Watts, that relentlessly questions whether or not we can really believe our own eyes and ears.

Isolated by her role as carer to her paralyzed son and by a devastating blizzard, Watts’ child psychologist, Mary, must find out the truth behind a missing boy in her care.

Making great use of its claustrophobic setting, Farren Blackburn’s Shut In is a terrifying slice of New England gothic that will keep you riveted until the final twist.

Synopsis

After losing her husband in a tragic car accident that also left her teenage stepson, Stephen (Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton), paralysed and uncommunicative, child psychologist, Mary (Watts), finds herself isolated in a remote New England house, struggling with her responsibilities as a carer while juggling her career.

When a new patient, Tom (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), left grieving after the death of his mother, vanishes in a severe winter storm and is presumed dead, Mary continues to hear his voice and catches fleeting glimpses of him around her home.

While her doctor puts her visions down to sleep deprivation, Mary begins to suspect something more sinister as the storm cuts her and Stephen off from the outside world, and the intensifying apparitions cause her to fear for her sanity – and her life.

Order today

Win Shut In on DVD

To celebrate the release of Shut In on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, April 10, 2017, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 copy on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Shut In?

Simply send the answer to Shut In competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Win Paterson on DVD

Paterson

Preview by Jack Foley

IN this sublime new film from Jim Jarmusch, Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) gives a career-best performance as Paterson, a bus driver in the New Jersey city of the same name.

He’s also a poet, recording his daily observations and thoughts into a notebook. Paterson thrives on routine: he drives his bus route, he goes home for dinner with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani, About Elly), he walks his dog, he visits his local bar for one beer.

By contrast Laura’s world is ever-changing, with new project and ideas striking her daily.

When Laura starts pushing him to publish his work, Paterson is reluctant to make any change to his comfortable and serene world.

The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.

Paterson comes to DVD and Blu-ray on March 27, 2017.

Read our review

Win Paterson on DVD

To celebrate the release of Paterson on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, March 27, 2017, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 2 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who plays Adam Driver’s wife in Paterson (Clue, the answer is in our review)?

Simply send the answer to Paterson competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Certificate: 15
Running time: 113mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 2, 2017

Bleed For This - DVD Review

Bleed For This

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

STRONG performances and a genuinely remarkable real-life tale help Ben Younger’s boxing drama Bleed For This rise above the similarities it undoubtedly shares with other films in the genre.

Inspired by the true story of Vinny ‘Paz’ Pazienza, whose promising career was derailed after a terrible car crash, this also benefits from taking a more low-key approach to the subject, opting to borrow more from the style of David O Russell’s The Fighter than it does the celebratory likes of fictional works such as Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series or Southpaw.

Pazienza was one of the few American boxers to hold world titles in three different weight categories, who suffered a near-fatal car accident at the peak of his career. Told by doctors he would never walk again, Paz spent months recovering in a neck brace until, against doctors’ orders and without their knowledge, he returned to the gym.

With the support of trainer Kevin Rooney, Pazienza – aka ‘The Pazmanian Devil’ – made a triumphant return to the ring just over a year later.

Miles Teller plays Pazienza and, just as he did in Whiplash, inhabits the role of the boxer: whether it’s his foolhardy ‘in the ring’ bravado to his fierce determination never to throw in the towel, even when the odds seemed insurmountable. It’s an inspiring role without resorting to anything too showy and presents further evidence of why he is such a highly rated young actor.

Aaron Eckhart, meanwhile, plays his coach, Rooney, a washed-up has-been, who once trained Mike Tyson, who comes to view Paz as his ticket back to the big time. Far from using him, though, Rooney becomes a second father-figure… an astute mentor who is as much a part of Paz’s family as his pastel-clad dad (nicely played by Ciaran Hinds), his devout mother (Katey Sagal) or any of his sisters.

Eckhart is almost unrecognisable in the role – half bald, chubby and scruffy. But it’s a passionate performance that, like Teller, wears his heart on his sleeve, making Rooney a hugely endearing figure to be around.

Put together, Teller and Eckhart combine to create a brilliant partnership and one that’s truly worth rooting for.

Elsewhere, Younger – who won widespread acclaim for his earlier film Boiler Room – directs the boxing scenes with a gritty realism that enables you to feel every punch, while maintaining a sense of realism that never allows things to become too Hollywood (it comes as no surprise to find Martin ‘Raging Bull’ Scorsese served as a producer), while his scenes involving Paz’s rehabilitation are tough and often painful – one sequence, in particular, finds Paz removing the pins in his neck brace without any painkilling drugs. It’s as tough as it sounds.

Hence, as familiar as elements of the film certainly are, Bleed For This does what every great boxing movie does: it rises above the sport it represents (and which could be limiting to viewers) to deliver an empowering tale of triumph against the odds that never loses sight of the people who lived through it.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 57mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 27, 2017

The Proud Valley - Preview & competition

The Proud Valley

Preview by Jack Foley

A NEW restoration of Ealing Studios classic0 The Proud Valley comes to Blu-Ray, DVD and EST on March 27, 2017, as part of the Vintage Classics collection courtesy of STUDIOCANAL.

Lovingly remastered, The Proud Valley stars the highly revered black screen actor Paul Robeson (Song of Freedom, Show Boat), whose work was recently honoured in the BFI’s ‘Black Star’ season celebrating the range, versatility and power of black actors.

Set in the Welsh mining valleys this popular social drama is an authentic portrayal of working-class life and society struggles which rung true with Robeson, a political activist in his own right, and is the second of just three films ever made by the young director Penrose Tennyson (There Ain’t No Justice, Convoy).

The Proud Valley was Robeson’s final British feature and the one film that in his own words, he was “proud of having played in”.

David Goliath (Robeson), a charismatic African-American stoker, washes up in a small Welsh village where he finds work alongside the miners down the pit.

A competent singer, Goliath’s roaring voice soon draws the attention of the local choir master Dick Parry (Simon Lack, The Silver Darlings, Enemy at the Door) and his son Emlyn (Edward Chapman, Convoy, It Always Rains on Sunday), who have ambitions of winning the national choir contest.

Following a deadly explosion, the pits are closed, leaving the villagers out of work and struggling to make ends meet.

Wanting to help the community that welcomed him so generously, David rouses a group of activists to march to London in the hope of reopening the mine in time to serve the nation at the outbreak of war.

Win The Proud Valley on DVD

To celebrate the release of The Proud Valley on Blu-ray, DVD and EST on Monday, March 27, 2017, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs The Proud Valley?

Simply send the answer to The Proud Valley competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

The Edge of Seventeen (Hailee Steinfeld) - DVD Review

The Edge of Seventeen

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING made such a strong impression with her debut role in the Coen brothers’ True Grit remake, Hailee Steinfeld repeats the trick in teen drama The Edge of Seventeen, proving yet again that she is one of the most exciting young actresses around at the moment.

As mixed up teen Nadine, Steinfeld gets to convey a maelstrom of emotion in a film that just as notably mixes certain genre conventions with a lot more complexity, while still managing to be dramatic and funny.

We first meet Nadine informing her teacher (Woody Harrelson) that she intends to kill herself, to which he quips – in brilliantly deadpan fashion – that he does too. The reason for her ‘trauma’ becomes clear as the film unfolds via flashback.

Still coming to terms with the loss of her father, Nadine has only one friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who she now feels has betrayed her by starting to date her seemingly perfect, sports jock older brother (Blake Jenner). The revelation sends her on a self-destructive spiral.

The ensuing film, from first-time writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig, is a genuinely endearing coming-of-age tale that allows you to sympathise with the plight of its lead character without feeling overly manipulated, or wanting to scream ‘grow up’!!!

A lot of the credit for this goes to Steinfeld, whose performance feels natural more than delivered. She can be sweet and naive but also prone to ugly fits of selfish rage, all of which is so clearly [and often painfully] born out of the insecurity (and guilt) she feels over the loss of her dad. It’s a mature, nuanced performance that is further aided (and enhanced) by Craig’s astute script.

And while certain plot beats can be guessed early on, Craig’s script keeps on delivering unexpected delights that enable the film to rise above the norm, especially in the colourful array of supporting players.

Harrelson’s droll teacher, for example, is far removed from the usual father-figure stereotype, thereby making his interplay with Nadine more edgy, while Jenner’s older sibling also proves to be someone far more layered and sensitive than first appearances suggest.

And special mention must also go to Chinese-Canadian actor Hayden Szeto, whose portrayal of smitten fellow student Erwin, is an awkward, yet hugely endearing delight. Szeto, like Steinfeld, invests Erwin with an Everyman quality that is highly relatable.

If we’re being picky, Craig’s film loses points for making its students more affluent than most, with some of their rants and frustrations carrying the whiff of over privilege. The final scenes, meanwhile, arrive a little too neatly packaged and lack the guts of most of what’s come before.

But if you’re looking for a slice of jovial escapism with the ability to make you care, The Edge of Seventeen is a highly recommended charmer of a movie, anchored by an ensemble cast at the top of their game.

Watch the trailer

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: March 27, 2017

Win Chosen on DVD

Chosen

Preview by Jack Foley

To celebrate the release of Chosen – available on DVD and Digital Download on March 27, 2017 – we are giving away a copy courtesy of Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment.

An extraordinary story of courage and survival during World War Two, as the resistance take on the Nazis in a powerful cross between Valkyrie and Defiance. Chosen is war cinema at its most powerful!

Take an incredible cast, including a supporting role from Hollywood legend Harvey Keitel, a war story inspired by actual events that is as audacious as it is incredible, mix it in with stunning production values and thrilling set pieces, and you have Jasmin Dizdar’s Chosen.

A powerful and haunting testament to the human spirit, a portrait of humanity in the depths of war that is brilliantly evoked, thrillingly effective and frighteningly prescient.

Synopsis

Based on remarkable true events during World War Two, Sonson is a young Jewish Hungarian lawyer living under German occupation. Devastated when the German authorities allow his ailing wife to die – and after they take away his sister-in-law Judith to a concentration camp, Sonson realises he can no longer sit on the sidelines of conflict.

He joins the Hungarian resistance and sets out to rescue Judith – the start of an inspirational fight back against the increasingly desperate and dangerous Nazis in the dying embers of the war, where Sonson will, in avenging the deaths of his people, save thousands of others.

Order today

Win Chosen on DVD

To celebrate the release of Chosen on DVD on Monday, March 27, 2017, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 copy. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Chosen?

Simply send the answer to Chosen competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email