The latest DVDs and Blu-rays are given the once-over by our writers. Read first before reaching for your credit card.
I’m always a little sceptical when a film is given rave reviews from the get-go, particularly if it features an actor-turned-director (or writer), as they can sometimes take an idea and push it a bit too far past what you might consider good taste. However, despite those mediocre feelings towards the film, having now watched it, I can definitely see why it received such praise from both the awards circuit and critics alike.
Gambit commences with an animated credits sequence ripped straight from the playbook of 1960s comedy features – think The Pink Panther without the rose-tinted big cat. We get a cartoon depiction of art curator Harry Deane (Colin Firth), as he hatches his fiendishly clever scheme to bamboozle his irritable, impressionist art-loving boss Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman) into paying millions of pounds for a forged Monet.
One of the biggest challenges facing those who choose to translate an immensely successful book onto the screen is that of being faithful to the tale’s redeeming features, especially when it is a children’s story. Those films that have achieved this goal have been rewarded accordingly; Raymond Brigg’s “The Snowman” has enjoyed tremendous longevity over the past twenty years and is as popular as ever. A more recent entry into this category, “The Gruffalo” is proving just as popular, and it’s no coincidence that it is also written by the author of “Room on the Broom,” Julia Donaldson.
Lional Jeffries' film adaptation of The Railway Children (1970) is an acknowledged classic, a blissful reverie of enchanted childhood, and you've probably watched it even if you didn't want to, it's such a perennial presence on our TV screens. His second film, The Amazing Mr Blunden (1972), is a rather different proposition. It's always been much more difficult to see, and it serves as a dark companion piece to the earlier film.
Its release coinciding nicely with the appearance of Mama in the cinemas, here's a movie from Norway that covers somewhat similar ground – with the difference that it deals with the theme of perverse paternal instincts. The protagonists are part of a heavy-duty cleaning crew who mop up dead bodies (well, someone's got to do it). Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) is a poker-faced veteran who's seen everything, Elvis (Erlend Nervold) a queasy last minute replacement for the regular guy. Searching for the scattered (by what?) remains of an old man at a remote farmhouse, they stumble upon an underground cellar stocked with tinned food and strange equipment. Within, lurching suddenly at them out of a bath of milky fluid, is a naked girl (Silje Reinamo). Unable to speak, she can only communicate telepathically through a series of jarring images, but the man who kept her down here has left a stack of audio tapes recounting his thoughts and experiments. From these, they learn that her name is Thale.