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Join us for the latest on the best in extraordinary fictional television and film from the past, present and future, and analysis on its cultural impacts.

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John Payne

John Payne

Sunday, 03 April 2016 23:00

Jeruzalem on VOD and DVD

Jeruzalem - out now on DVD and VOD“Jeruzalem” is a found-footage horror movie about the opening of one of the gates of Hell. Two American tourists on their way to Tel Aviv are persuaded by a handsome historian to take a detour to Jerusalem, just as the ancient city is about to mark Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement. Their holiday is interrupted by some disturbing goings-on and rapidly descends into a supernatural nightmare.

Rather than using traditional video camera or mobile phone footage, this time events are witnessed through Google Glass-style smart eyewear that Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) is trying out. As we follow her and friend Rachel (Yael Grobglas), facial recognition, Facebook posts and other social media windows pop up in ‘our’ field of view, helping to drive the story forwards and also add some occasional humour.

Monday, 15 February 2016 08:29

Fixed Bayonets! DVD and Blu-ray

Fixed Bayonets - comes to dual format Blu-ray and DVDThe Korean War (1950-1953) is the setting for Samuel Fuller’s “Fixed Bayonets!” Starring Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, “La Strada”), Gene Evans (“Shock Corridor”, “The Steel Helmet”) and Michael O’Shea (It’s a Great Life, “Lady of Burlesque”), the film focuses on a platoon of 48 reluctant soldiers tasked with holding a doomed, rear-guard action to buy time for the retreat of 15,000 troops.

Facing the imminent arrival of overwhelming Chinese forces, the American platoon bed into a snow-laden, cramped valley between two sheer cliff faces, laying mines, digging fox holes and generally planning to make life as difficult as possible for the enemy. Fuller (“The Big Red One”, “Pickup on South Street”) had strong views about the futility of war and consequently the movie aims for a tone of restrained realism.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016 00:00

Friends of Eddie Coyle DVD/Blu-ray

The Friends of Eddie Coyle - out now on a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD releaseBased on a novel by crime writer George V. Higgins, this movie stars Hollywood tough guy Robert Mitchum (“Cape Fear”, “The Night of the Hunter”) as the eponymous aging gangster. Coyle is due to be sentenced for a recent misdemeanour and is desperate to avoid another stretch. As a gun runner he has a lot of criminal contacts and senses he can buy a pardon by turning a few of them over to the police, but at what price?

Directed by Peter Yates (“Bullitt”, “Krull”), the film is fashioned in a very naturalistic, believable style that is aided by Mitchum’s relaxed, slightly burnt-out performance. Eddie Coyle is an experienced criminal whose edges have been dulled and he seems more interested in providing for his family than he does getting rich through a dangerous lifestyle.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00

Last Shift on DVD

Last Shift - now available on DVDA rookie cop is assigned caretaker duties at a defunct police station on its final night before closure. Office Loren (Juliana Harkavy – The Walking Dead, “Dolphin Tale”) is led to expect a quiet night with no calls or visitors. The reality is a little different, and before long she is assaulted by all manner things that go bump in the night. The old facility has a particularly nasty history and it is seeping into the present.

Playing a little like a supernatural version of “Assault on Precinct 13” combined with “The Evil Dead”, the film feels simultaneously innovative and derivative. The clean and brightly-lit station provides a welcome change from the traditionally grimy cabin in the woods or dilapidated asylum settings featured in other films of this ilk, and the contrast when the lights go out is all the more stark and effective.

Sunday, 10 January 2016 00:00

Return of the Pink Panther: Blu-ray

Return of the Pink Panther - out now on Blu-rayThe world’s largest and most valuable diamond has been stolen and that can only mean one thing: Peter Sellers is called on to reprise what is probably his most famous role as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The detective is on back the trail of master cat burglar The Phantom, aka Sir Charles Litton (the iconic Christopher Plummer – who has played everything from Chang in “Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country” to Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”). All may not be what it seems however, as Litton is engaged in his own hunt for a thief.

All of the usual ingredients of Blake Edwards’ hit comedy are present: Herbert Lom plays Clouseau’s twitching, nervous wreck of a boss, Burt Kwouk’s Cato keeps us and the Inspector in suspense as his servant and sly martial arts plaything, and Henry Mancini’s timeless and sublimely slinky theme tune sets the tone. Effortlessly glamorous Catherine Schell (Maya in season 2 of Space: 1999, and Countess Scarlioni in the classic Doctor Who story “The City of Death”) co-stars as Lady Claudine Litton.

Tuesday, 08 December 2015 00:00

Detectorists Series Two on DVD

Detectorists - Series 2 on DVD nowIn series two of the hit BBC Four comedy Detectorists, Andy and Lance have new challenges to deal with. Epic procrastinator Andy (Mackenzie Crook – Almost Human) has a baby son and the prospect of an exciting opportunity in Africa, whilst Lance (Toby Jones - Capital) has mysterious meetings with a young woman. Their metal detecting club also has to contend with an enigmatic young German seeking the location of his grandfather’s downed war plane.

This second set of six episodes does not mess with the winning formula, and fleshes out some of the background characters. The excellent mixture of quirky comedy and heartfelt character drama makes for very fulfilling viewing, and the beautiful countryside, evocative soundtrack by Johnny Flynn and depiction of tranquil village life lends the series a very relaxing tone. Detectorists is quite unlike anything else on television.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 00:00

Robinson Crusoe on Mars: Blu-ray

Robinson Crusoe on Mars - Out now in a Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD set“Robinson Crusoe on Mars” is a sci-fi spin on the classic novel by Daniel Defoe. After their spacecraft narrowly evades a collision with a meteor, Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West – Batman) and Commander Christopher Draper (Paul Mantee – Cagney & Lacey) are forced to eject down to the surface of Mars. Their escape pods are separated by miles of unforgiving terrain, and supplies of air, water and food are dwindling rapidly.

The film, made in 1964, follows Draper’s search for resources, shelter and his colleague, who he soon learns has perished in a crash landing. Draper is not left entirely alone however, because Mona, their pet woolly monkey also gets down safe and sound. Every time the survivor thinks he has overcome all the challenges the red planet can throw at him, a new and even more deadly peril arrives, be it environmental or otherworldly.

Monday, 16 November 2015 00:00

A Traveller in Time on DVD

A Traveller in Time - out now on DVDA Traveller in Time is a children’s mini-series from the 1970s about Penelope Taberner (Sophie Thompson – Detectorists, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”), a teenage girl who discovers she can travel back through time to the late 16th Century. Sent to her Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Derbyshire to recuperate from pneumonia, Penelope becomes entangled in a Tudor plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots.

Penelope’s own ancestors, the Babingtons, are hatching the high-risk plot to free Mary before Queen Elizabeth I and those loyal to her can have Mary executed. Well aware of history’s path, Penelope is not sure if she can influence events but her uncertainty will not sway her from trying. Matters are complicated by our heroine not knowing how to trigger her time slips back and forth, and the distrust and suspicion that meets her in the past.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015 00:00

Undercover Brother on DVD

Undercover Brother - out now on DVD“Undercover Brother” is a high-energy comedy about a team of black agents striving to overcome a shadowy mega-corp headed by The Man, a Blofeld-esque super-villain. Penned by John Ridley (“Three Kings”) and Michael McCullers (“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”), the film stars Eddie Griffin (“Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”) as the titular all-action crusader, whose ample afro and sharp 70s outfits define him.

The movie co-stars Aunjanue Ellis (“Ray”) as the high-kicking Sistah Girl, Denise Richards (“Starship Troopers”) as blonde bombshell White She Devil, Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live) as The Man’s conflicted flunky, Chi McBride (Lou Grover in Hawaii Five-0) as the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. team’s irascible boss and Dave Chappelle (“Block Party”) as the rather nervy Conspiracy Brother. The director is Malcolm D Lee (“Scary Movie 5”).

Tuesday, 27 October 2015 00:00

The Skull - dual-format DVD/Blu-ray

The Skull - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDBased on a short story by “Psycho” author Robert Bloch, “The Skull” is a dark, gothic horror film about a skull with the power to compel murder. The picture stars Peter Cushing (“Dracula”, “The Curse of Frankenstein”) as Christopher Maitland, a rather starchy collector of occult relics, with Christopher Lee (“The Wicker Man”, “The Mummy”) in the supporting cast as a fellow collector who has somehow evaded its influence.

The skull was severed from the neck of none-other than the Marquis de Sade, the infamous 18th-19th Century French aristocrat with a penchant for sadism and other morally dubious behaviour. On its own, the skull is able to control the weak-willed but when combined with other satanic artefacts, its power could overwhelm even the strongest and most devout minds. Incredulous, Dr Maitland pursues the object with potentially deadly results.

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