DVD and Blue-ray film reviews: From Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to Spirited Away

As in the first prequel, your sympathies lie with the apes, while Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell are sensationally good as the duelling primates

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The Independent Culture

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (12) Matt Reeves DVD/Blu-ray (130mins)

A virus has wiped out most of humanity save for a Walking Dead-like community, run by militaristic Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and liberal Malcolm (Jason Clarke), in San Francisco. Unfortunately, they’re running out of power and the dam they need to access is right next to Caesar’s army of apes. Dam bad luck. Caesar (Andy Serkis), a reasonable and talking ape, allows them access against the wishes of his more militant and duplicitous deputy, Koba (Toby Kebbell). As in the first prequel, your sympathies lie with the apes, bar the humane Malcolm and his son. Serkis and Kebbell are sensationally good as the duelling apes.

****

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (pg) Val Guest DVD/Blu-ray (96mins)

The apocalyptic title is a bit of a red herring. Sure, the plot concerns the end of human existence, but this British sci-fi gem from 1961 is more concerned with hard-nosed reporters on the Daily Express, most notably Edward Judd’s sozzled hack (“alcoholics of the press unite” he maintains at one point) and Leo McKern’s science correspondent. The sharp-tongued duo are tasked with documenting the repercussions of some nuclear tests that have knocked the world off its axis and sent temperatures soaring. The tangy dialogue is reminiscent of Sweet Smell of Success and you almost don’t need the disaster storyline.

****

Guardians of the Galaxy (12) James Gunn DVD/Blu-ray (121mins)

“We’re just like Kevin Bacon,” exclaims Zoe Saldana’s green alien in reference to Footloose in this irreverent, Star Wars-like adventure. Chris Pratt is in the Han Solo role as Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord), a wise-cracking pilot who pilfers precious things. However, when he nabs a mysterious orb it causes intergalactic havoc. This Marvel adventure is refreshingly not po-faced, with some perky dialogue and a very amusing voice role for Bradley Cooper as raccoon Rocket. Uncomplicated fun.

***

Stanley Kubrick: 8-Film Masterpiece  Collection (18) Stanley Kubrick Blu-ray

“Mein Führer, I can walk”… Peter Sellers rightly receives the plaudits for his three roles here but George C Scott and Sterling Hayden are just as terrifyingly good in Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece, Dr Strangelove. The other seven films aren’t too shoddy either – Lolita, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut – but the New York auteur’s vision was fully realised on Dr Strangelove, a satire full of wit, sound and fury, signifying everything.

*****

Spirited Away (PG) Hayao Miyazaki DVD/Blu-ray (124mins)

Hayao Miyazaki’s eccentric, exquisite Oscar-winning animation involves a distraught 10-year-old girl who is trapped in an Alice in Wonderland-like environment in which her self-satisfied parents have been turned into slobbering pigs. A wildly inventive masterpiece from 2001.

*****

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