Sunday, March 27, 2005

DVD Review - Hustle, Series 1

I'm trying to be good now, I keep gettin' bollocked for making sarcastic comments and writing over 200 words. All nice and smiley then, lets give it a crack, even the unedited version...

"The Con is On”…

From the makers of Spooks comes Hustle, the BBC drama series about a group of four con artists; Mickey Stone, Ash Morgan (a world weary Robert Glenister), Stacie Monroe (the totally gorgeous Jaime Murray) and Albert Stroller (the incredible, one and only, Robert Vaughn) who get back together after Mickey's spell in the klink. Mickey (Adrian Lester) has a plan for one last score before his retirement and wants the best team he can lay his hands on. The over-eager, full-of-himself Danny Blue (Marc Warren), a “short-con artist”, also wants in on the action and invites himself along for the ride.

Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, features on the disc include an Assembling the team featurette, a Marc Warren Card Trick Easter Egg and interviews with the writer Tony Jordan, the producers and cast.

Hustle is fairly lightweight, but good and glossy fun. The honour among thieves thing never wears thin as they prove, from episode to episode, that “you can’t con an honest man” and that they are the are probably the only honest folk in a dishonest world. Friendship and teamwork, plus slick and stylish and (on occasion) inspired direction, make this a light but quality bit of entertainment that’s harmless to all but “the mark”. Broaden your vocabulary and polish off your spats. The inter character on-screen chemistry is over-flowing.

Okay, so it gets a bit far fetched at times, but it never takes itself too seriously and it has that BBC stamp of production value that offers some truly inspired and well written and skilfully crafted episodes that will keep you guessing right up to the punch line.

All in all, if you don’t mind me saying, an excellent investment opportunity for 2005. Trust me, one thing you wont be is "conned" if you treat yourself to this DVD. Just have a feel of the quality of that, that's not some cheap VHS you know. Don’t let this one pass you buy. Six (yes, count them, six) instalments later and I've studied hard. Now please sent me all your money.

Oh, and don’t forget to look out for the new series, now showing on BBC1 at 9.00 on Tuesday evenings...

Movie: 4 out of 5

Saturday, March 19, 2005

DVD Review - Apollo 13: Anniversary Edition

"Houston, we have an extended special edition..."

Basically, stranded 205,000 miles from Earth in a shattered spacecraft, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert wage a desperate battle to survive. A mysterious explosion scrapped plans to land on the moon and turned the operation into a desperate battle to get the three astronauts home. Meanwhile, at Mission Control, astronaut Ken Mattingly, flight director Gene Kranz and a heroic ground crew race against time-and the odds to bring them home while their families show a courage of their own despite an almost certain outcome.

This film is a totally breathtaking adventure that tells a story of courage, faith, audacity and ingenuity that’s all the more remarkable, as it is true! Stunningly shot, this vividly rendered dramatization of Apollo 13's true-life brush with disaster is a mesmerizing motion picture that seamlessly combines computer graphics, archive footage and epic special effects to recreate the amazing story of men who battled astronomical odds to make it back to terra firma.

Based loosely on the book Lost Moon, written by Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger, Apollo 13 is an extraordinarily gripping and accurate depiction of this doomed mission. It takes its time, both in setting up the situation, and in playing it out. We understand the events from the standpoint of the astronauts, their families, and the space program itself, which, after the dramatic first moon landing the year before, was beginning to seem routine to the public and to Congress.

Although the movie's pace is deliberate, it never seems slow. Part of that success is due to the excellent performances, part due to flawless byplay between the astronaut, family, and Mission Control locations, and part to the entertainment value of a perfectly-realized era.

This is a can-do, feel-good DVD of the first order. In fact, this whole DVD is packed with the sheer audacity of mans spirit and the endeavour of human kind

Tom Hanks (as Lovell) gives a poignant and perfectly understated performance, as the veteran astronaut on his last and greatest mission. Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise and Kathleen Quinlan all give some of the best performances of their careers and this film took 9 Academy Award Nominations: including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for Ed Harris), and Best Supporting Actress (the excellent Kathleen Quinlan) and won 2 Academy Awards including Best Film Editing.

Apollo 13 runs 140 minutes, and uses 57 chapters. The new edition contains some worthy “space fan” extras, including "Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13", "Feature Commentary with Director Ron Howard", "Feature Commentary with Jim and Marilyn Lovell", "Production Notes", "Cast and Filmmakers" and a "Theatrical Trailer”, which is the same extras as on the old Collector's Edition. A second DVD in the set, however, contains the full iMax (70mm) version of the film, a first on DVD, and it’s worth going out an upgrading for this alone. Also included is “Conquering Space: The Moon And Beyond” and the featurette “Lucky 13: The Astronaut's Story”, both of which leave one heady with the tenacity and vision that has driven the human race beyond our planet and into the unknown.

Excellent picture and sound quality, and outstanding extras. A great DVD. Beautiful.

I had 'a moment' (TM) recently. I was at Houston and I was looking at the capsule above when I glanced at the name plaque and realised it WAS Apollo 13. I felt small in the universe and blown away by the audacity of us as a species and the coolness of film...

Movie: 5 out of 5