DVD & Blu-ray reviews: From Brad Pitt war drama Fury to Jennifer Lawrence in Serena

A history of violence: Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's Fury (above)

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The Independent Culture

Fury (15) David Ayer DVD /Blu-ray (134mins)

“You think it can’t get worse? It can. And it will,” advises Brad Pitt in David Ayer’s acrid war drama. And it does. Pitt, channelling George Peppard in Tobruk, plays the grimly determined US tank commander coaxing the filthy five of his unit through blood-spattered Germany in the final months of the Second World War. His reliable gunner has copped it, so he’s forced to take on an army typist, Norman (Logan Lerman), and it’s through his naive eyes that we witness this impressively staged, nerve-shredding, authentic-feeling, Sam Peckinpah-esque spectacle.

****

The Avengers: Series 4 (12) various directors DVD /Blu-ray (1,295mins)

“I refuse to carry your bucket and spade,” Mrs Peel gently chastises Steed, so beginning the start of a beautiful friendship in this fiendishly impish Sixties secret agent series. Diana Rigg’s graceful, karate-chopping Emma Peel joins the insouciant Steed (Patrick Macnee) in tackling Cybernauts, Norfolk creepiness (English villages never looked as menacing as they did in The Avengers) and a sinister Santa Claus. The script is as sharp as Mrs Peel’s fencing foil, and its sauciness and wit mirror an England on the cusp of a cultural revolution. However, it’s the sensational Rigg who carries all this stylish daftness with aplomb.

****

Serena (15) Susanne Bier DVD /Blu-ray (107mins)

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who have previously proved adroit comic actors, apply determinedly solemn faces for this gamey, melodramatic romance set in Depression-era North Carolina. Cooper is timber magnate George Pemberton, who marries Lawrence’s force of nature Serena (“She’s a pistol,” is how George describes her), who has grand, Lady Macbeth-like plans for his business. Lawrence is compelling as always.

**

The Book of Life (U) Jorge R Gutierrez DVD /Blu-ray (95mins)

“What kind of story is this? We’re just kids!” exclaims a US delinquent on a museum visit who is exposed to a tale of death and the afterlife in Mexico. This breathless animation, produced by Guillermo del Toro, centres on two best friends in love with the same girl, and the gods of the Land of Remembrance and the Land of the Forgotten, who place a dangerous wager on which boy will win her heart. Perky.

****

The Manchurian Candidate (15) John Frankenheimer DVD /Blu-ray (126mins)

Frank Sinatra’s Major Marco returns from Korea haunted by a nightmare in which supposed war hero Raymond (Laurence Harvey) shoots two of his own unit in front of Russian and Korean officials. Poor Ray has been brainwashed by communists, of course, and worse, he’s become a presidential candidate with lethal intentions. Sinatra and Harvey are sympathetic and convincing, but it’s Angela Lansbury’s fearsomely driven character who stands out in John Frankenheimer’s hugely influential paranoia thriller, which still unnerves 53 years after its initial release.

*****

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