DVD and Blu-Ray reviews: Pain & Gain, Elysium, Borgen series 3


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The Independent Culture


Pain & Gain ****

(15) Michael Bay DVD/Blu-ray (129mins)

“I watch a lot of movies, I know what I’m doing,” claims Mark Wahlberg’s delusional bodybuilder, Daniel Lugo (above), who works in a costly Miami gym. Of course, he has no clue what he’s doing, he just believes himself to be a “do-er” and an American “patriot”. Lugo, convinced of his superiority due to his bulk, recruits two fellow musclemen (The Rock and Anthony Mackie) to abduct a vile restaurant-chain owner (Tony Shalhoub) for his dosh. Michael Bay, the director behind the execrable Transformers franchise, has crafted a suitably lurid satire of the modern-day American Dream. Worryingly, this Carl-Hiaasen-type drama is a true story.

Elysium ***

(15) Neill Blomkamp DVD/Blu-ray (109mins)

Earth’s a stinky cesspit. It always is in the future. The filthy rich – the one per cent – are residing on Elysium, a luxury space station, while the worker bees live in squalor on Earth, overseen by deadly droids. Matt Damon plays an ordinary Joe  who has a catastrophic workplace accident which radically reduces his life expectancy. So he makes a deal with a criminal kingpin to reach Elysium. The first half an hour is robust, but this political sci-fi loses its grip thereafter.

Wolf Children ****

(15) Mamoru Hosoda DVD/Blu-ray (117mins)

“Why is the wolf always the bad guy?” Mamoru Hosoda, the Japanese animator behind 2006’s wildly inventive The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, tries to redress the balance with this moving tale about the growing pains of a pair of wolf children. Their parents are Hana (Aoi Miyazaki) and wolfman Kare. When a tragic accident accounts for Kare, Hana is tasked with bringing up their two temperamental werewolf kids on her own. A beautifully constructed anime tale.

Big Ass Spider ***

(15) Mike Mendez DVD/Blu-ray (80mins)

“I get inside the minds of spiders,” boasts Alex (Greg Grunberg, Matt Parkman in Heroes), an exterminator or “bad-ass bug killer” in this daft and jolly old-fashioned B-movie. The US military have blundered by creating a whopping big spider that exponentially grows after tucking into various unfortunate Californians. Step forward personable Alex who is tasked, along with his wisecracking Mexican sidekick, with taking the beastie down.

Borgen: Series 3 ***

(15) various directors DVD/Blu-ray (500mins)

Birgitte Nyborg describes herself as “a mediocre lover, a bit of a mum and fighting an election” in this third dose of Denmark’s answer to The West Wing. Sidse Babett Knudsen is still extremely good value as the idealistic former Prime Minister trying to forge a new party and a new kind of politics, and Pilou Asbaek remains compelling as Kaspar. However, this walking-and-talking political drama loses its grip, sexiness and vivid storylines until the final few episodes.