DVD and Blue-ray film reviews: From Begin Again to the Killing Fields

The always compelling Ruffalo turns this average comedy drama into something much better

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The Independent Culture

Begin Again (15) John Carney DVD/Blu-ray (104mins)

“You look like a homeless man,” earnest singer Gretta (Keira Knightley) informs Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a sozzled degenerate. Dan has lost his position as an A&R man at the independent record company he helped set up, his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) considers him a “pathetic loser” and his teenage daughter despairs of his drinking and absence. Can Gretta help Dan rebuild his train wreck of a life? The always compelling Ruffalo turns this average comedy drama into something much better.

***

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG) Dean DuBlois DVD/Blu-ray (102mins)

This engaging sequel has the main character, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), try to resolve problems by being reasonable and, well, peaceful, which is rare for a modern children’s adventure. This time around the young Viking hero and his beloved Toothless unearth not only a large colony of wild dragons but Hiccup’s presumed-dead mother (Cate Blanchett) as well. He also has to contend with the homicidal Draco (Djimon Hounsou). A Dreamworks animation blessed with sumptuous visuals and a perky script.

***

22 Jump Street (15) Phil Lord, Christopher Miller DVD/Blu-ray (112mins)

“They party like it’s god-damn 1999,” maintains Ice Cube’s potty-mouthed police captain to dunderheads Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum). The mismatched cop duo are once again tasked with posing as students, this time to investigate drug dealing on a New Orleans university campus. 21 Jump Street was a puerile bromance, but it was also an unexpected comic treat. This sequel feels like a sloppy retread with only Tatum’s convincingly dim-jock act delivering laughs. It’s a hateful phrase, but this might have “jumped” the shark. No 23 Jump Street, please.

**

The Killing Fields (15) Roland Joffe DVD/Blu-ray (136mins)

Roland Joffe’s fearless examination of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in early 1970s Cambodia has lost none of its poignancy or power. Sam Waterston and an Oscar-winning Haing S Ngor both excel as the real-life US reporter, Sydney Schanberg, and his Cambodian guide, Dith Pran, who bond among the savagery. Apart from a misjudged use of John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the end, this is indisputably Joffé’s masterpiece from 1984.

*****

Transformers: Age of Extinction (12) Michael Bay DVD/Blu-ray (165mins)

“Sequels and remakes, bunch of crap,” a cinema owner tells budding inventor Cade (Mark Wahlberg) in a knowing reference to this wilfully trashy action franchise. Michael Bay’s latest wall of noise is set four years after the third film (with Shia LaBeouf now thankfully departed) and its aim is the same: to win over 10-year-old boys and sell toys. Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane, no less) are thrown into the mix to lend gravitas but they’re drowned out by the clunking Arnold Schwarzenegger-sounding metallic beasts. At least it has a sense of humour.

**

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