DVD & Blu-ray reviews: Gravity, The English Teacher, Mister John, Dead of Night, Seduced and Abandoned

 

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The Independent Culture

Gravity (12) Alfonso Cuaron DVD/Blu-ray (91mins)

Alfonso Cuarón apparently held out for Sandra Bullock to play Dr Ryan Stone, the imperilled astronaut, untethered from her spacecraft after debris hits, in his disaster movie – and you can see why. She’s excellent as the resourceful spacewoman, as are the special-effects and the cinematography. Gravity (above) is a technical marvel, but film of the year? No. It’s just a very gripping, often disorientating, sometimes nauseating drama in which Bullock and her fellow astronaut, wise-cracking Matt (George Clooney), are subjected to more than their fair share of trauma.

****

The English Teacher (15) Craig Zisk DVD/Blu-ray (87mins)

Julianne Moore takes a break from twisted melodramas for the slight tale of an English teacher (Moore) who is so blown away by a former pupil’s intense play that she petitions her high school to stage it. Nathan Lane’s flamboyant drama teacher is keen to direct, but the higher echelons are less eager and demand cuts. It isn’t as funny as Christopher Guest’s underrated Waiting for Guffman and it wastes Greg Kinnear, but Craig Zisk’s debut feature is pleasant enough.

**

Mister John (15) Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor DVD (95mins)

Aidan Gillen delivers a typically nuanced performance in  this languid exploration of grief and identity. He plays a businessman, Gerry, who goes to Singapore to settle his  dead brother’s affairs. Once there, he gradually appropriates his diseased sibling’s rather seedy existence, and refuses to return to his unravelling marriage back in the UK. Gillen tackles his meatiest role since 2000’s excellent The Low Down in this disconcerting, understated thriller.

***

Dead of Night (PG) Charles Crichton, Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden,  Robert Hamer DVD/Blu-ray (103mins)

Michael Redgrave’s ventriloquist and his possessed dummy still have the power to unnerve in Ealing Studios’ macabre portmanteau film, dating from 1945. An architect encounters characters from his recurring dreams and listens to their  own nightmares – a driver recuperating from an accident,  a spooky mirror, an absurd love triangle revolving around  golf and, creepiest of all, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy”. “Temper, temper, you’ll be sorry for this later you know...”

****

Seduced and Abandoned (15) James Toback DVD/Blu-ray (98mins)

Alec Baldwin and screenwriter James Toback plan to remake Last Tango in Paris (presumably they’re joking) with Neve Campbell, so they try and flog the fruity drama during the Cannes Film Festival. While there, they speak to luminaries such as Martin Scorsese, Bernardo Bertolucci (who has a terrific Marlon Brando anecdote) and Roman Polanski about film funding. There’s some great clips – Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Repulsion – but there seems little point, besides demonstrating how venal the US film industry can be.

***

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