DVD and Blue-ray film reviews: From Mad Men to Chef

This Mad Men half-series is a return to form, after flagging around season five

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The Independent Culture

Mad Men: The final season – Part 1 (15) various directors DVD/Blu-ray (329mins)

Mad Men started flagging around season five; it was becoming too soapy, Pete Campbell was too absurd and there was too much account talk. But, like the last series of Six Feet Under, this half-series (above) is a return to form. Roger Sterling’s quips still zing, and one of TV’s most complicated anti-heroes, Don Draper, still compels. It’s 1969, and a chastened Draper is working from an apartment since his drunken outburst a year ago. Will Sterling allow him back, against the wishes of Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Cutler (Harry Hamlin)? Nuance, wit and excellent performances make this an enjoyable experience.

****

Chef (15) Jon Favreau DVD/Blu-ray (114mins)

“If you bought Stones tickets and Jagger didn’t play ‘Satisfaction’, would you be happy?” maintains Dustin Hoffman’s unadventurous restaurant owner to his frustrated chef, Carl (Jon Favreau). The maverick cook wants to go off-piste to impress a food critic, but he’s blocked by his boss, which leads to a lousy review. So Carl leaves his job, starts up on his own, bonds with his 10-year-old son – and it’s the best thing that happens to him. It sounds corny – and it is, a little – but the likeable characters and delicious-looking food add up to a winning comic concoction.

****

Mystery Road (15) Ivan Sen DVD/Blu-ray (118mins)

A truck driver shines his torch on a “Massacre Creek” road sign before unearthing a dead indigenous girl in the Outback. The opening sequence hints at a Wolf Creek-type horror, but Ivan Sen’s Aussie thriller is better than that. Aaron Pedersen plays an indigenous cowboy detective tasked with investigating the murder without the assistance of an all-white police force (including Hugo Weaving) who have their own sinister agenda. An accomplished murder mystery, heavy on atmosphere and menace.

****

Le Jour Se Leve (PG) Marcel Carne DVD/Blu-ray (87mins)

Marcel Carné’s exquisite slice of French miserablism stars Jean Gabin as François, a decent man holed and surrounded by the police after he shoots a rotter (Jules Berry) dead. Through flashbacks we learn how François got here, mainly because of cruel circumstance and his passion for two women (Arletty and Jacqueline Laurent). A claustrophobic, beautifully crafted melodrama from 1939.

****

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed  Out the Window and Disappeared (15) Felix Herngren DVD/Blu-ray (114mins)

Jonas Jonasson’s satirical novel lost impetus after 100 pages, and this adaptation loses it roughly 30 minutes in. Centenarian Allan (Robert Gustafsson), who flees his nursing home in order to avoid a birthday party, steals a bag full of drug money, sparking a series of minor catastrophes. Throughout, Allan reflects on a life in which, Zelig-like, he encounters Franco, Truman and Oppenheimer. This flimsy whimsy is like Forrest Gump without the heart.

**

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