Shaolin on DVD and Blu-ray

Asian film makers churn out action-packed period epics at an alarming rate of knots, and Cine Asia's new release "Shaolin" is up there with the best of them. The star-studded cast includes Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Jackie Chan and Wu Jing, with director Benny Chan bravely but successfully moving outside his comfort zone of modern-day crime thrillers such as "Connected" and "New Police Story".

Lau plays General Hou, a power-hungry yet fearful warlord who accrues massive wealth, suspects everyone and plots the death of a fellow general. Objecting to a lack of recognition and disagreeing with the General's handling of diplomacy with the British, his right-hand man called Cao (Tse) betrays his boss. Hou is forced to flee his luxuriant compound, leaving his beloved wife's fate unknown and in possession of his seriously injured young daughter.

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Black Heaven out now on DVD

“Black Heaven” is a dark and slinky techno thriller from France with a serious message about the potential perils of becoming immersed in cyberspace. Gaspard (Grégoire Leprince-Riguet) and Marion (Pauline Etienne) are young, sweet and innocent lovers. One day they stumble upon a lost mobile phone and start snooping on the owner and his beautiful blond girlfriend. They follow the couple and end up saving the girl in the midst of a disturbing suicide pact.

Marion thinks no more about the incident and looks forward to her future with Gaspard, but he becomes increasingly obsessed with the blond lady called Audrey (Louise Bourgoin - "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec"), and her involvement in a mysterious online videogame called 'Black Hole'. In this alternate reality, Audrey's avatar is Sam, a submissive slave, whilst in real life she is in with a bad crowd of thrill-seeking drug dealers. Death and deceit intersect both worlds.

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Revelation of the Pyramids

In geological terms, the pyramids, as well as other ancient sites around the globe, including the infamous statues on Easter Island, are the ‘elephant in the living room’. They point towards inexplicable feats of engineering, completely impossible with the level of technology we widely expect these civilisations to have in their toolkit of skills. The building blocks were moved inordinate distances, the accuracy of their builds incredible in their execution.

A French co-production, it comes as no surprise that the truth comes out from a project for which English is very much the second language. Although there has always been the ability to dismiss alternative theories as to how these ancient monoliths came into being, stepping back and taking a deeper analysis always undermines these attempts - not only as unsatisfactory, but desperate in the extreme. This film does this and more besides.

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Beastly on Blu-ray and DVD

In a society that worships good looks, it’s difficult to get those who have been submerged in this culture for all their lives, where beauty really is only skin deep. The age-old tale “Beauty and the Beast” has had a spruce-up so that the modern mystical and vampiric audiences can more easily bit into it. Teenage angst, tortured souls, brooding sexual undercurrents all combine to make “Beastly” a revamp in the truest sense.

Step forward Alex Pettyfer, fresh from success as John Smith in “I Am Number Four”, and still smarting from his time as Alex Rider in “Stormbreaker”, when a good film was ignored and didn’t launch a franchise.  Partner him with Vanessa Hudgens - Tin Tin in “Thunderbirds” (2004), but unfortunately also Gabriella in “High School Musical” – and you have a magical combination of lead actors.

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Wasted on the Young: DVD

Written and directed by Ben C Lucas, “Wasted on the Young” comes from the Australian film industry to our shores – but don’t let that put you off.  Here we have their take on a tense high school drama, the stuff that Americans would suggest that they have cornered the market on. This takes the standard checklist of such movies, twists it and subverts it in a way which means that, at every turn, your expectations are undermined and played with.

It’s a very commanding and assured piece of direction from a first-timer who had only previously helmed a TV documentary. The stars of the movie are Oliver Ackland (Rhys in The Slap, Toby in Cloudstreet) as Darren, and Alex Russell (Hass in “Almost Kings”) as the social alpha-male step-brother Zack. It follows the disillusioned and disaffected students of an elite high school, with the two brothers occupying opposite ends of the school’s social hierarchy.

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