DVDs: a feast of high drama and animation

From teenage vampires to sweary spin doctors, Ben Walsh offers his selection of the best of the year's television and film on disc


Moon (15)
Duncan "David Bowie's son" Jones's lo-fi sci-fi (right), which features no sex, very little violence or budget, and ostensibly one actor (Sam Rockwell), is a cerebral delight. Sam Bell (Rockwell), like ET, wants to go home; three years working on the dark side of the Moon with only Kevin Spacey's creepy voice, as spaceship computer, Gerty, will do that. Sam's suffering hallucinations and headaches and a near-fatal accident lands him in the infirmary. He awakes to find a younger version of himself stalking his bed. Jones's intelligently constructed, distinctly retro film borrows from the best – Silent Running, Alien, Blade Runner, Solaris, Dark Star and Outland – and is the best kind of paranoia movie, with unfussy dialogue, a heightened sense of isolation and corporate wickedness to the fore. Low-budget sci-fi of the year.

Star Trek (12)
J J Abrams's rollicking take on Star Trek is the most enjoyable since the original 1960s series, foregoing the earnest drivel about "directives" of the latter incarnations. It chronicles the early years in the life of Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones, Uhura et al, all young, brash cadets at Starfleet Academy. The baddie of the piece, Nero (Eric Bana), a deranged Romulan, is secondary to the animosity/love between young Spock and Kirk, with Bones whining in the middle. Huge fun and breathtaking action.

Timecrimes (15)
A weary middle-aged man, Hector (Karra Elejalde), follows a naked woman into the woods and ends up being stabbed by a maniac who has bandages wrapped round his head. Hector stumbles into a creepy research facility and bumps into a scientist (Nacho Vigalondo, the film's director), who places him in a tank of white liquid. When Hector emerges he discovers he has gone back in time by an hour. This inventive Spanish mind-twister is that rare thing – an original sci-fi film – so Hollywood is remaking it. The good news is that David Cronenberg is set to direct.


Rachel Getting Married (15)
Anne Hathaway's previous performances – Bride Wars, The Devil Wears Prada – didn't suggest she was this good. The wide-eyed ingénue disentangles herself from the mainstream, giving a barnstorming turn as the damaged, wired and entirely inappropriate Kym in Jonathan Demme's low-budget and partly improvised melodrama. Kym, a recovering junkie, takes a break from rehab to attend her sister's wedding at the family house. She behaves patchily throughout: demanding to be chief bridesmaid, bonking the best man and delivering a crushingly embarrassing toast to the bride. Demme's witty and deeply moving film is an acting masterclass, with Rosemarie DeWitt, as Kym's long-suffering sister, and Debra Winger, as the callous mum, excelling.

The Class (15)
François Bégaudeau, a former teacher, plays M Marin, the kind, beleaguered teacher trying desperately to engage with, not condescend to, and inspire his class of unruly 15-year-olds in Laurent Cantet's formidable drama. Based on Bégaudeau's own bestselling tome, this methodically dissects not only the gruelling task of keeping "order" in an inner-city classroom, but the paralysing bureaucracy that engulfs the teaching profession. Excellent.

I've Loved You So Long (12)
Over here she's typecast as the haughty toff, but in France Kristin Scott Thomas is flourishing, with a series of diverse roles including this meaty turn in Philippe Claudel's measured, cerebral drama. She plays Juliette, who has spent 15 years in prison following the death of her six-year-old son. Her performance is captivating, never soppy and sometimes even amusing.


True Blood: Season 1 (18)
Alan Ball's gleefully mischievous vampire saga, set in Louisiana, gets off to a perky start with a giant dollop of slayings, sex and saucy dialogue. The plot, which is based on Charlaine Harris's collection of "Southern Vampire" tales, centres on Sookie (Anna Paquin), a goofy telepath who falls for a brooding vampire, Bill (Stephen Moyer, right). So far, so Buffy, but it's the other characters that make this Southern gothic sizzle, particularly Sookie's bimbo brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), and Rutina Wesley's acerbic Tara. One hopes this doesn't go the way of Ball's other HBO delight, Six Feet Under, and become maudlin. It's hugely gripping.

American Dad: Volume 4 (15)
"You're the Adam Sandler of this house and nobody wants Punch Drunk Love, just give us Waterboy." This inspired, caustic and riotous US animated satire has Seth MacFarlane voicing Stan Smith, the deranged, pinko-loathing CIA agent.

The Sopranos: Season 1 on Blu-ray (18)
HBO's finest achievement – The Wire was excellent, this was better – gets the Blu-ray treatment. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), family man/Mafia capo, is experiencing panic attacks and ends up seeing a shrink (Lorraine Bracco); an idea common to Analyze This. Tony's got a lot on his plate: a conniving uncle, a vile mother (the late Nancy Marchand), a wayward cousin, Christopher (the wonderful Michael Imperioli), and the FBI are circling (they have a rather large snitch embedded in Tony's outfit). Tony, in the first series, still has a sort of rakish charm – this diminishes markedly as the series continues – and the black humour is at its most tangy here. Ground-breaking television.

Mad Men: Season 2 (15)
If the first series of this sumptuous Sixties drama belonged to the philandering, back-stabbing, chain-smoking ad-men (Don, Pete, Roger), the second firmly belongs to the elegant, ambitious chain-smoking women (Betty, Peggy, Joan). "Eugene, I'm in the persuasion business, and frankly I'm disappointed by your presentation." Peggy's slick rebuff of a suitor is typical of this series' main theme: female emancipation. It begins on Valentine's Day 1962, two years after the first season ends, and the cagey Don Draper (the excellent Jon Hamm) and his wife, Betty (January Jones comes into her own in this series), are unravelling further, while slimy Pete Campbell starts pining for ambitious, smart Peggy. Witty, cerebral, stylish and moving. Exquisite TV.

Pulling: Series 2 (15)
Pulling is that rare, gorgeous thing, a laugh-out-loud BBC sitcom. But, inevitably, someone in their infinite wisdom decided to pull Sharon Horgan's gem, while the execrable likes of Three Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps (already eight series down) and Grownups thrive on BBC3. Horgan, Rebekah Staton and Tanya Franks play three unruly flatmates who flail around London in a sea of booze and excruciating sexual capers. Franks, in particular, excels as the sozzled, potty-mouthed Karen, who's entangled in a toxic relationship with a wretch called Billy (Paul Kaye). Cavan Clerkin is also memorable as the beleaguered Karl, Donna's (Horgan) on-off boyfriend.

Film Noir Classics (12)
"If you ain't got socks you can't pull 'em up, can you?" Insolent dialogue, moral ambiguity, a sultry dame (Googie Withers), a put-upon girlfriend (Gene Tierney) and a bravura performance from the excellent Richard Widmark, as weaselly conman Harry Fabian ("an artist without an art"), are at the heart of Jules Dassin's sensational Night and the City. The 1950 film noir features in an exquisite four-disc collection from the British Film Institute, which includes three Otto Preminger gems. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) stars Dana Andrews as a roughhouse cop who kills a low-life gambler with a couple of blows, and tries desperately to cover it up; his actions almost have dire consequences. Karl Malden also stars in this coarse, violent morality tale. Andrews also plays the lead in Preminger's stark Fallen Angel (1945), this time as an unruly ("You can't tie me down. Cramps my style."), down-on-his-luck press agent who falls for gorgeous but doomed Stella (Linda Darnell). Lastly, there's Whirlpool (1949), the least-known and weakest of this dazzling quartet, in which Gene Tierney plays a well-heeled wife whose arrest for shoplifting triggers a blackmail plot. Very dark materials indeed.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (PG)
You can see the wicked queen's point. Her chubby-cheeked step-daughter, Snow White, is quite annoying, constantly chuntering away to any small animal within listening distance and obsessively, compulsively cleaning everything. Kevin Lima's Enchanted (2007) did an exquisite job of mocking this classic fairy tale, and we're now used to a more sophisticated and arch type of animation. But Walt Disney's 1937 film, which took three years to make, is still sensational to look at and packs a sinister bite – you never forget the queen's wild-eyed old hag offering the gormless Snow White a poisoned apple or Snow White fleeing into the snarling forest – and "Heigh-Ho" is still the best marching-to-work song there is.

Waltz with Bashir (18)
Ari Folman's unflinching animation charts an ex-Israeli conscript's experiences from the Lebanon war of 1982. He's worried he has no memory of the massacre of Palestinian refugees by Lebanon's Christian Phalangist militia in the camps of Sabra and Shatila. In order to help him recall this traumatic episode, he consults ex-comrades. This cerebral and savage film brims with potent images, from rabid dogs rampaging through the streets to a soldier dodging bullets, waltz-like, under a poster of Bashir Gemayel.

Pinocchio (U)
In 1940, Walt Disney made Pinocchio, his second animated feature film (left). It still looks sensational, thanks partly to the work of the abstract artist Oskar Fischinger. This sinister tale follows the gruelling growing pains of Pinocchio, the wood-carved creation of gentle, childless Geppetto. The Blue Fairy offers the little timber chap a chance to become a real boy. In return, he has to learn to be noble and truthful. We all know what happens to his snout if he's not.


The Wackness (15)
"Never trust anyone who doesn't smoke pot or doesn't like Bob Dylan," advises Ben Kingsley's messed-up shrink, Dr Squires, in Jonathan Levine's pitch-perfect rites-of-passage film, set in New York in 1994 to a hip-hop soundtrack. Josh Peck's glum drug dealer sells weed to Squires in return for life advice. Together, they debate loneliness and seek out women. It's a simple premise, but there's a barely a bum note. Olivia Thirlby (right) co-stars.

In the Loop (15)
"Christ on a bendy bus," is one of the more printable remarks from Malcolm Tucker, Peter Capaldi's exquisitely potty-mouthed, snarling spin-doctor. Armando Iannucci's big-screen version of The Thick of It is very much the Capaldi show. The other highlight is the diminutive Tom Hollander, as the hapless Secretary of State who propels the plot. The dunderhead makes a gaffe on radio when he says a war in the Middle East is "unforeseeable".


Doubt (15)
"The dragon is hungry," jokes Philip Seymour Hoffman's modernising Father Flynn. The charismatic priest is referring to Meryl Streep's Sister Aloysius (below), the strict and shrewd school principal of a Bronx Catholic school in 1964. The sister "knows people" and her twitchy nose sniffs out Flynn as a child abuser. Suspecting he has an unhealthy interest in a young black pupil, she orders her nuns to keep an eye on him. Sister James (Amy Adams), soon spots something awry. Streep is pretty gamey (and oddly amusing) as the Marple-like nun and Hoffman is, as always, convincing, as the underfire priest in John Patrick Stanley's impeccably detailed, never less than compelling and very theatrical drama.

Jar City (15)
"Don't be a sissy," growls Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson's Erlendur, the cardigan-wearing, chain-smoking detective in Baltasar Kormakur's taut, severe Icelandic crime drama. A pensioner has been bludgeoned to death and Erlendur is assigned to the case. The gruff cop's investigations soon reveal a history of rape, blackmail and violence all linked to the old man. Jar City, beautifully shot by Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson, benefits hugely from Reykjavik's stark and unusually beautiful landscape, from a morbid sense of humour, and from a compelling, layered central turn from Sigurdsson. Also, plot-wise, it knocks Wallander into a cocked hat.

Let the Right One In (15)
"Just so you know I can't be your friend," Eli informs Oskar, after witnessing the 12-year-old boy repeatedly stab a tree, imagining the bark's the school bully. It's their first encounter. On their second, Oskar lends her his Rubik's cube; in return, she resists biting him. On their third, Oskar asks Eli her age. "Twelve... more or less," she explains. It's the start of a beautiful fangship. Tomas Alfredson's beautifully crafted horror romance (left), set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in 1982, centres on two lonely children falling in love. Oskar, who is being relentlessly bullied at school (they call him "Piggy", Lord of the Flies-style, and whip him after school) has new neighbours, Eli and her "father", a man taken to hanging people upside down in the woods and bleeding them like pigs. They're vampires, of course, and they're slowly wiping out the small band of drunks in this gloomy, snow-covered town. Even if you're suffering from neck-biter fatigue, this is a visually delicious, often quite droll and moving treat. Lina Leandersson is excellent as the pasty Eli and Kare Hedebrant is winning as Oskar. Every frame of this is studied and memorable, but the two standout scenes include a naked Eli creeping into Oskar's bed and letting him know "I'm not a girl", and the exquisite and bloody (of course) ending.

What was the most memorable arts event of 2009? In the comments form below (or via email to arts@independent.co.uk) nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.

Arts and Entertainment
Kristin Scott Thomas outside the Royal Opera House before the ceremony (Getty)
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor