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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - DVD Review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

PETER Jackson finally delivers a Hobbit film worthy of the epic status of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. But while The Battle of The Five Armies is a suitably epic finale, it does little to enhance the memory of the two drawn out films that preceded it.

The final film is, at least, a sprint to the finish line that includes several notable battle scenes and a couple of great performances.

With regard to the latter point, Richard Armitage shines as Thorin Oakenshield, grappling with greed (having been seduced by Smaug the dragon’s gold) and his desire to do what’s right. His climactic scenes, in particular, are steeped in tragedy and serve to ensure that his journey arguably gets the franchise’s most satisfying arc.

But Martin Freeman is good too, even though his scenes as Bilbo are more limited here. Nevertheless, he bears the emotional weight of his own journey well while still managing to inject some nice moments of humour.

Jackson, for his part, stages some suitably rousing battle sequences, beginning with the destruction of Laketown by Smaug and culminating with a grand last stand between the dwarves and the orcs.

In between, there are even some enjoyable sequences involving the ever-reliable Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Orlando Bloom’s maverick Legolas, whose own story lays the groundwork for his journey in The Lord of the Rings.

As good as The Battle of the Five Armies is, however, it still offers unnecessary reminders of where this particular trilogy has failed, the most glaring of which comes in the treatment of it’s supporting players.

Having gone to great – or bum-numbing lengths to introduce the dwarves at the very start of An Unexpected Journey – Jackson loses track of most of them and it’s difficult to remember who is who a lot of the time, let alone care what happens to them. Given that the trilogy clocks in at a little over eight hours, it’s a big shortcoming and one that only makes the protracted nature of those first two chapters more unforgivable.

The story embellishments, such as the romance between Aidan Turner’s Kili and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, also continue to underwhelm and detract from the main event, while Jackson himself still doesn’t know how to deliver a tidy ending despite having delivered his shortest film in the series.

Hence, as good a climax as The Battle of the Five Armies is, it still exists in the shadow of its more illustrious predecessors. And taken as a whole, The Hobbit series has been marred by its director’s unchecked self-indulgence and a studio’s lust for profit.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 144mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: April 20, 2015

Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast - DVD Review

Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE sixth installment in Disney’s Tinkerbell franchise continues the trend for becoming more and more visually extravagant but lacks the all-round entertainment value of its predecessor, The Pirate Fairy.

That’s not to say it’s a bad film – far from it. Rather, The Legend of the Neverbeast is a darker one in tone that pulls back on the feel-good factor and humour for long periods. You may even shed a tear.

The plot finds another of Tinkerbell’s friends, Fawn (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) stumbling upon a mysterious creature in the woods and befriending it against the better judgement of her fellow fairies.

Indeed, her decision to befriend the beast, christened Gruff, back to Pixie Hollow places her at odds with the leader of an elite group of protector fairies (led by Rosario Dawson’s Nyx), especially once it is revealed that the creature could have returned to fulfil an ancient prophecy and destroy their home.

Fawn, on the other hand, remains convinced that Gruff means no harm and so enlists Tink (Mae Whitman) and her usual band of friends to help change the Hollow’s perception of the Neverbeast and, quite possibly, save everyone into the bargain.

Directed by Steve Loter, The Legend of the Neverbeast moves at a nice pace and has enough to keep viewers of both ages entertained, especially in the way that it absorbs you in the plight of its central creature and even manages to deliver a poignant conclusion. If anything, the darkness has more in common with a Road Dahl tale than a Disney Tinkerbell film.

In that regard, younger viewers may find themselves shivering at some of the early, scarier moments, while Tinkerbell fans may lament the shortage of screen-time afforded to the central character herself as this is more about Fawn and the Neverbeast.

Criticisms and warnings aside, however, this is an endearing entry into the Tinkerbell franchise that succeeds in spite of the reservations and flaws that have hitherto been outlined.

Certificate: U
Running time: 76mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: April 20, 2015

Midnight Run - Review

Midnight Run

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

ROBERT De Niro arrived at Midnight Run looking to do something lighter, having just played Al Capone to such memorable effect in The Untouchables. He had initially wanted to do Big but when the producers of that film turned him down, he opted to play foul-mouthed bounty hunter Jack Walsh in Martin Brest’s comedy road-movie thriller.

The resulting film saw him paired with Charles Grodin to create box office dynamite. Midnight Run is, without question, one of the best films of the ’80s – a foul-mouthed, funny, exciting and often action-packed mis-matched buddy comedy thriller that proved a consistent delight.

De Niro plays Walsh, a bounty hunter assigned a job that could set him up for retirement. All he has to do is get bail-jumping accountant Jonathan ‘The Duke’ Mardukas (Charles Grodin) back to Los Angeles by midnight on Friday.

But things aren’t that simple. The Duke has embezzled $15 million from the Mob and they want him dead; the FBI want to get to him first to testify; and Jack just wants him to shut up after five minutes in his company.

The ensuing road trip is frought with peril as Jack seeks to outwit Yaphet Kotto’s bullish Agent Mosely, put one over long-time nemesis and crime boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina) and remain one step ahead of rival bounty hunter Marv (John Ashton), while also keeping his slippery prisoner in check.

One of the great joys of watching Midnight Run is the rapid-fire banter that exists between De Niro and Grodin. The two have undoubted chemistry and are a perfect foil for each other: De Niro all pent-up rage, Grodin a model of self-control and calculated cool, even when feigning panic.

But there’s equally memorable support, too, from the likes of Kotto (brilliantly dead-pan in his dealings with De Niro), Farina (suitably smarmy as the villain) and Joe Pantoliano (nicely untrustworthy as the bail-man).

The action, when it comes, is nicely handled by Brest, who doesn’t pull too many punches, while the twists and turns that take place along the way are all fun and sometimes unexpected. It’s a consistently inventive film that keeps you guessing until the end as to whether Walsh will make it.

This Blu-ray release is therefore downright essential viewing – either as a first time experience to catch up with an out-and-out classic that you may have missed, or to re-live the joy in brilliant high definition.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 126mins
UK Blu-ray Release: April 20, 2015

Hooked Up - Preview & trailer

Hooked Up

Preview by Jack Foley

BRACE yourselves for the first ever feature-length horror film to be shot entirely on an iPhone when Hooked Up arrives on DVD from April 27, 2015, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

Following in the dark and twisted footsteps of found-footage classics like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, the horrors of Hooked Up are delivered through the iPhones of Tonio (Jonah Ehrenreich) and Peter (Stephen Ohl), two young Americans who travel to Barcelona to party and meet women.

When Tonio and Peter befriend the flirtatious Noemi and Katia on their first night out partying, they escort them back to the house where things take an unexpected turn. The boys become trapped in the house and soon realise that the girls have a very different kind of party in mind – one the guests don’t get to leave…

Director Pablo Larcuen (Orphan, Non-Stop) turns the found footage genre on its head in much the same way as distant cousin VHS did. Destined to become a cult favourite and arriving on a huge wave of anticipation amongst genre and tech fans, Hooked Up brings an age-old tale of terror firmly and horrifyingly into the present.

Win Hooked Up on DVD

To celebrate the release of Hooked Up on DVD on Monday, April 27, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 2 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Hooked Up?

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

Watch the trailer

Frequencies - Preview & 2 clips

Frequencies

Preview by Jack Foley

THE timeless story of star-crossed lovers is given a thought-provoking, profound reworking in Frequencies, arriving on digital platforms from April 13, 2015 and on DVD from April 20, 2015 courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

In a dystopian future, children’s ability to succeed in life is determined at a young age, based on their own personal ‘frequency’ which dictates just how lucky they will be.

In the process of testing one particular group, it transpires that Marie (Lily Laight – Love Rosie, Les Miserables) has an impossibly high frequency, making her the luckiest girl in the world. At the same testing, Zak (Charlie Rixon) is discovered to have a frequency so low it measures as a negative number.

Despite the polar differences in their predetermined futures, Zak and Marie grow closer, undertaking various experiments to understand the meaning behind their interactions and the results of ultra high and low frequency interaction.

As they reach adolescence, Zak (Daniel Fraser – The Patrol, Scar Tissue) becomes desperate to alter their frequencies so that he and Marie (Eleanor Wyld – Misfits, Black Mirror) can be together, and with the help of his friend, Theo (Owen Pugh), devotes his life to finding a way.

However, when he finally makes a huge breakthrough, the repercussions stretch further than he could possibly imagine, causing everyone he once trusted to turn on him…

A mind-bending sci-fi romance, Frequencies has already generated huge buzz at festivals- featuring superb performances, including a wonderful supporting turn from Joanna Hole (Pusher, Half Light), this uniquely ambitious story will provoke, captivate and ultimately leave you wondering just how responsible for your own fate you truly are…

Win Frequencies on DVD

To celebrate the release of Frequencies on DVD on Monday, April 20, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who plays Zak during his adolescent years in Frequencies?

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

Watch the first clip

Watch the second clip

The Last Survivors - Preview

The Last Survivors

Preview by Jack Foley

To celebrate the release of the thrilling post-apocalyptic action adventure The Last Survivors from the co-producer of The Guest and You’re Next – on DVD on May 4, 2015 – we are giving away a copy!

The Last Survivors draws on some classics of cinema, part Mad Max, part Spaghetti Western, the film delivers on action and thrills throughout.

Haley Lu Richardson (Ravenswood) is phenomenal, and at 20 delivers a performance of such verve and maturity that it is impossible not to be drawn in!

The film is both thrilling and beautiful to look at, largely down to director Tom Hammock’s graphic novel and production design background.

If you like You’re Next and The Guest then this one is well worth adding to your collection.

The Last Survivors is available to pre-order today

Synopsis

At the edge of an expansive barren valley, all that remains of The Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings. Seventeen-year-old Kendal (Richardson) can barely recall when the Oregon valley was still lush.

It’s been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Kendal and the few others that remain barely scrape by, while dreaming of escape.

When a greedy water baron lays claim to what little of the precious resource remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for the few cherished people and things she has left.

Win The Last Survivors on DVD

To celebrate the release of The Last Survivors on DVD on Monday, May 4, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 copy. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who wrote the graphic novel upon which The Last Survivors is based?

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

Black Sea (Jude Law) - DVD Review

Black Sea

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

KEVIN Macdonald made his name directing the tense, real-life mountain survival thriller Touching The Void, which found men pitted against the elements and having to rely on each other. The director may have gone underwater for his latest venture but he proves equally adept at delivering a tense, gritty thriller that grips from start to finish.

Based on a script by Dennis Kelly, Black Sea is a suitably claustrophobic potboiler that also works well as a human story with an unexpectedly touching father-son style under-current running throughout. What’s more, it makes the most of a strong ensemble cast.

The film focuses on a freshly out of work submarine captain (Jude Law) as he is asked to pull together a crew to go after a sunken Russian treasure rumoured to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea since getting lost on its way to Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

However, with the crew divided between Scottish and Russian members and everyone desperate to find some financial relief from their current dire predicament of unemployment and self-loathing, the increasing uncertainty – and inevitable greed – causes the men to turn on each other.

Clearly taking its cues from the likes of Das Boot and other films in the submarine genre, Black Sea both embraces the best elements of the genre while striving to do its own thing within it. Hence, it’s the personal struggles provide the main dramatic thrust rather than any underlying threat from above.

Trapped within the sweaty confines of the rusty sub, these men are their own worst enemy and include a psychologically unhinged deep sea diving expert (Ben Mendelsohn), a jittery businessman out to protect his investment (Scoot McNairy) and a young lad desperate to gain a foot-hold on life’s ladder.

Macdonald allows events to unfold in a stagey fashion but plays to the strengths of his cast, allowing them plenty of room to breathe and create memorable characters who are capable of surprising in lots of different ways.

He also invests Law’s central character with a slow-building father-son dynamic that pays rich rewards come the film’s end. As such, Law excels – convincing as a Scottish grizzled submarine vet who must try to juggle greed, desperation and low self-esteem with a paternal instinct and a desire to do the right thing by his crew. It’s a gritty portrayal that feels credible and real.

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Mendelsohn, McNairy and the ever-dependable Michael Smiley, all of whom get given the chance to make their characters count.

Admittedly, there are some issues with some of the plotting and the characterisation (Mendelsohn’s psycho is never really given a back story despite screaming out for one) while the lack of any big set piece sequences may disappoint some viewers with a more mainstream appetite.

But Macdonald remains in complete control of his direction, setting a good pace and delivering a few twists and turns along the way that not many will see coming.

Black Sea is therefore a solid underwater thriller that’s marked by some taut direction, some excellent performances and an unexpectedly strong emotional element.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 115mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: April 13, 2015

The Signal - DVD Review

The Signal

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

PART horror, part sci-fi but totally engrossing, William Eubank’s The Signal is a small scale production that thrives on some very big ideas.

Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are two young computer experts helping the former’s girlfriend, Haley (Olivia Cooke) to relocate when they realise a simple detour could put them face to face with a mischievous computer hacker that has been targeting them.

But upon arriving at his remote address, the trio suffer a strange experience that renders them unconscious. When they re-awaken, men in Hasnat suits (led by Laurence Fishburne’s Damon) are waiting to interrogate them about the nature of their experience and how it may have changed them.

Eubank’s film works better the less you know about it, forcing you to scramble for clues in much the same way as its main characters.

In doing so, it cleverly tips its hat to tried and trusted genre conventions before neatly subverting them at several points. The opening, for instance, plays like a traditional horror film where a group of hapless teens are lured or get lost somewhere remote. But while Eubank gleefully leads you halfway down that path, he then delights in pulling the rug out from under you.

Similarly, the second half of the film toys with notions of genetic engineering, alien abduction, government conspiracy and even super-heroism, while never losing sight of the human emotions at play (fear, anger, suspicion, even love and sacrifice).

He also builds the tension nicely towards a more adrenaline-fuelled climax that, again, succeeds in leaving you with plenty to think about and be impressed by.

Credit, too, must go to the cast who acquit themselves well with the material, and help to ensure that this is a set of characters worth caring about and rooting for.

The Signal is a smart, exciting movie and well worth making the time to see.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 97mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: April 13, 2015

Zulu (Orlando Bloom/Forest Whitaker) - Preview

Zulu

Preview by Jack Foley

To celebrate the release of the gripping, violent and action-packed thriller Zulu starring award-winning actors Forest Whitaker (The Last King Of Scotland) and Orlando Bloom – on DVD and Blu-ray on April 27, 2015 – we are giving away a copy on DVD.

This Official Cannes Selection balances exciting action with emotional drama, inspiring Orlando Bloom into a career-best turn – his conflicted cop with a past is worthy of several spin-offs.

Which isn’t to diminish Forest Whitaker’s compelling turn – his Chief is the heart of the film, and Whitaker is as mesmerising as ever.

Zulu, directed by Jérôme Salle, is available to pre-order today

Synopsis

When a teen girl is discovered brutally murdered in Cape Town’s botanical gardens, Chief of Police Ali Sokhela (Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker) and cop Brian Epkeen (Orlando Bloom) are tasked with solving the crime.

However, upon investigating the murder they uncover a sinister synthetic drug ring with a worldwide network, releasing a new illegal substance into the market, which is spiralling out of control.

Sokhela and Epkeen are soon placing their own lives in danger in an attempt to end further devastating and disturbing consequences.

Win Zulu on DVD

To celebrate the release of Zulu on DVD on Monday, April 27, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 copy. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Zulu?

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

Mankind's Last Stand - Preview

Mankind's Last Stand

Preview by Jack Foley

To celebrate the release of the new high-octane sci-fi thriller Mankind’s Last Stand – on DVD on April 20, 2015 – we are giving away a copy!

From visual effects maestro-turned-director Jabbar Raisani (Game of Thrones, Predators) comes a gritty tale of survival against alien invaders.

It’s Independence Day meets Black Hawk Down as a documentary crew joins an elite unit of soldiers at Outpost 37 – the most hostile region of what remains of our planet…

Mankind’s Last Stand is available to pre-order today

Synopsis

In 2033, mankind has barely survived a war against an alien force known as ‘Heavies’. Now, with the planet battered and scorched, military forces fight against the last surviving Heavies who remain on Earth.

When a documentary crew joins an elite band of soldiers at the dangerous Outpost 37, they soon discover the alien menace is planning a second invasion – and they’re the only ones who can stop it and ensure the survival of humankind!

Win Mankind’s Last Stand on DVD

To celebrate the release of Mankind’s Last Stand on DVD on Monday, April 20, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 copy. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Mankind’s Last Stand?

Simply send the answer to Mankind’s Last Stand competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email