DVD and Blue-ray film reviews: From Godzilla to The Newsroom

Weak characterisation lets Godzilla down, as does its lack of momentum

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The Independent Culture

Godzilla (12) Gareth Edwards DVD/Blu-ray. 123mins

Gareth Edwards’s reimagining of the Japanese gem pits  a heroic Godzilla (above) against some ghastly Mutos,  with humanity helpless. American nuclear tests during  the Fifties awakened the terrifying creatures and, at first, only Bryan Cranston’s widowed nuclear physicist seems  to be on to their existence. Weak characterisation, particularly from Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a navy  lieutenant and Elizabeth Olsen as his wife, let this monster flick down, as does its lack of momentum. Edwards’s Monsters (2010), made for a fraction of the budget, was better but the titular monster itself is a sight to behold.

***

20,000 Days on Earth (15) Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard DVD/Blu-ray. 97mins

“I torment my wife and then gather up experiences,” Nick Cave admits in this suitably idiosyncratic and frequently droll look at the singer. This highly stylised documentary examines Cave’s love of Brighton, his songwriting process (“It’s about counterpoint,” he maintains), and his relationship with his Bad Seeds, Kylie Minogue, Ray Winstone and his shrink. The psychiatry segments are the most absorbing, with a lot of conversation revolving around Cave’s late father. A cut above the average music documentary.

****

Grand Piano (15) Eugenio Mira DVD/Blu-ray. 90mins

Elijah Wood’s piano maestro, who has been suffering from crippling stage fright, tentatively agrees to return for a comeback gig in Chicago. Everything is going swimmingly until he spots a murder threat on his sheet music. He must play the concert flawlessly, or he will die. And his fragrant wife (Kerry Bishé) will, too. This absurd thriller is clearly influenced by Hitchcock, and it completely wastes John Cusack’s talents, but it keeps you interested right up until its thoroughly ludicrous conclusion.

**

Soul Boys of the Western World (12) George Hencken DVD/Blu-ray. 110mins

“I always thought success was the thing that would make me happy,” claims Gary Kemp (“the smart one”), the impetus behind Spandau Ballet’s success. The five North Londoners educate us about their working-class backgrounds, their musical influences (David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, Sixties soul), the importance of their terrific debut single, “To Cut a Long Story Short”, and their unfortunate legal fallout in this rather sweet, uncomplicated look at  the rise, fall and rise again of the Eighties dandies.

***

The Newsroom: Series 2 (15) various directors DVD/Blu-ray. 540mins

“Sorry for annoying you with the news,” snipes troublemaker Jerry (Hamish Linklater) in Aaron Sorkin’s unapologetically news-driven series. There’s more rapid (verging on hectoring) talk from the overworked, emotionally incontinent fictional cable news crew and Jeff Daniels’s anchorman, Will McAvoy, is still the best thing here. It lacks the depth and punch of Lou Grant, but The Newsroom is, for the most part, commendably high-brow telly.

***

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