DVD and Blu-ray film reviews: From Game of Thrones to The Babadook

The heroes of Game of Thrones struggle as ever, but it’s the more ambiguous characters that continue to grip and baffle

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The Independent Culture

Game of Thrones: Season 4 (18) various directors DVD/Blu-ray (550mins)

“Elia Martell, Princess of Dorne, you raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children.” Pedro Pascal’s saucy Red Viper goes the full Inigo Montoya, and is one of the many highlights of this increasingly tense, compelling slice of fantasy (above). The heroes (Jon Snow, Tyrion, Arya, Samwell) struggle as ever, but it’s the more ambiguous characters (Jaime Lannister, Lord Varys, Littlefinger) that continue to grip and baffle. Episode nine, devoted entirely to the Night’s Watch defending the wall, is sensational (and clearly quite expensive) television.

*****

The Babadook (15) Jennifer Kent DVD/Blu-ray (94mins)

I wouldn’t recommend watching this jarring chiller just before bedtime. Essie Davis plays frazzled single mother Amelia, whose life is dominated by her wildly imaginative, mildly disturbed son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), whose father died the day he was born. One night Samuel plumps for the sinister The Babadook at reading time, unleashing psychological mayhem on the pair. It’s much creepier than the legion of horror titles spewed out recently, and blessed with astonishing performances from Davis and Wiseman.

****

The Maze Runner (12) Wes Ball DVD/Blu-ray (113mins)

“We all have each other, because we’re in this together,” announces Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jojen in Game of Thrones), with an admirably straight face. You half expect REO Speedwagon to kick in. Teenagers are once again being tormented and tested (also see Divergent, Hunger Games, Ender’s Game) in this effectively staged James Dashner adaptation. Teen Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakes to find himself trapped with a group of boys with  a dirty great maze and some giant beasts in front of them. Can he find a way out? Simply plotted, efficiently made.

***

What If (15) Michael Dowse DVD/Blu-ray (101mins)

As proved by the execrable (500) Days of Summer and Garden State, it’s fiendishly hard to get the tone right for  a romcom involving twentysomethings. So credit goes  to the director (Michael Dowse) and screenwriter (Elan Mastai) of this charmer, starring Daniel Radcliffe as lovesick Wallace and Zoe Kazan as perky animator Chantry, who take an age to get it together. What If benefits from a sharp script, a nimble cameo from Adam Driver and a typically winning performance from Kazan.

***

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster (E) Erik Sharkey DVD/Blu-ray (97mins)

“I used to draw on the toilet paper,” admits Drew Struzan. The US artist grew up dirt-poor and unloved before enrolling in art college, briefly illustrating album covers and becoming Hollywood’s most famous creator of movie posters. Struzan’s celebrated poster work includes Star Wars, ET and Back to the Future, and luminaries such as Harrison Ford, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg sing his praises in this reverential, talking-heads documentary.

**

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