A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.
By Damon Smith
New to rent on DVD/Blu-ray
The Amazing Spider-Man (Cert 12, 136 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Action/Romance/Drama/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/3D Blu-ray £29.99)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka.
High school student Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is haunted by the disappearance of his parents (Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz). He lives with his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field) and contends with all the usual growing pains, including persistent bullying from jock classmate Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka). A tender romance with fellow student Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), daughter of police chief Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), keeps Peter on an even keel until he is bitten by a genetically modified arachnid. At the same time, Peter discovers evidence linking his parents' disappearance to his father's business partner, Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Little does Peter realise that Connors also has a secret alter ego: reptilian menace The Lizard. The Amazing Spider-Man is a terrifically entertaining refurbishment of the Marvel Comics superhero, blessed with an appealing mix of high-octane action and humour. Twists and turns in the script are the same as Sam Raimi's action-packed 2002 blockbuster: the bite from an Oscorps spider; the senseless tragedy that propels Peter on his heroic quest. Technology has advanced in gargantuan bounds in the past decade and Marc Webb's film soars in the breathlessly paced action sequences. The chameleonic Garfield tugs the heartstrings as a teenager wrestling with a destiny he never asked for. Screen chemistry with Stone sizzles - it's no surprise they are reportedly dating off-screen. The lack of a scenery-chewing villain or one defining moment that lingers in the memory like the upside-down kiss is a slight disappointment. However, in all other respects, this Spider-Man still swings to dizzying heights. The 3D version of the film is available exclusively on Blu-ray.
Brave (Cert PG, 89 mins, Disney DVD, Family/Animation/Action/Drama/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £18.99/Blu-ray £22.99)
Featuring the voices of: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson.
King Fergus of Clan DunBroch (voiced by Billy Connolly) and his wife Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) plan to marry off their daughter Merida (Kelly Macdonald) to the first-born son of one of the other clans. However, Merida disrupts the Highland Games, which are designed to test the suitors, then flees into the forest where she encounters a witch (Julie Walters). "I want a spell to change my mum. That'll change my fate," the princess tells the hag. So the witch gives Merida an enchanted cake and when Queen Elinor takes a bite, she metamorphoses into a bear: the same animal which cleaved off King Fergus's left leg. The princess fears her father will kill Queen Elinor in her fearsome new form, so mother and daughter head into the wilderness to break the spell. Brave is a computer-animated fable of female empowerment which signals a return to form for the digital wizards at Disney Pixar. Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell's film strikes a perfect balance between laughter and tears, conjuring excitement and heart-warming sentiment out of the ether. The quality of animation is jaw-dropping. Merida's fiery flowing locks deserve an Academy Award on their own, such is the exquisite detail of every windswept fibre, and that's before your eyes are wooed by the sweeping landscapes, action-packed chases and colourful supporting characters. Macdonald is a spunky heroine and Connolly brings typical humour to his chest-thumping patriarch. Thompson adds emotional warmth to surprisingly tender scenes between Merida and her mother in bear form.
Ted (Cert 15, 106 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Comedy/Romance/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-ray £29.99)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Jessica Barth, Bretton Manley, Ralph Garman, Alex Borstein and the voice of Seth MacFarlane.
On Christmas Eve 1985, a boy called John Bennett (Bretton Manley) stares adoringly at his favourite teddy and whispers, "I wish you could talk. Then we could be friends forever and ever." A shooting star passes overhead and the next morning John introduces the exceedingly animated Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) to his dumbfounded parents (Ralph Garman, Alex Borstein). Fast-forwarding to the present day, John (Mark Wahlberg) now works for a car rental company and has a beautiful girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). When their four-year anniversary dinner ends in a fractious discussion about priorities, John responds by asking his best buddy to move out of the apartment and stand on his own two paws. Ted is a deliciously foul-mouthed comedy that employs the magic of digital trickery to bring to life a rotund stuffed bear with a penchant for women, soft drugs and offensive language. It's a simple premise - essentially a live action version of Toy Story - albeit with the eponymous bear accepted as a talking, skirt-chasing entity by everyone he encounters. Wahlberg is perfectly suited to his role as a goofy hopeless romantic and screen chemistry with Kunis simmers, if it never quite boils. Digital effects are excellent, seamlessly melding the bear with live action in hare-brained action sequences, including a hysterical hotel room punch-up. Writer-director MacFarlane, creator of the irreverent animated comedies Family Guy and American Dad!, has great fun with his real and virtual characters, taking verbal pot shots at Susan Boyle, Taylor Lautner and Superman actor Brandon Routh.
Magic Mike (Cert 15, 105 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Drama/Romance/Comedy, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez.
Adam (Alex Pettyfer) lives in Tampa Bay with his responsible sister, Brooke (Cody Horn). He lands a temporary construction job alongside nice guy Mike (Channing Tatum) but is soon sacked. As he roams the town, Adam crosses paths again with Mike and he introduces him to the local male nude revue bar, where delirious women thrust dollar bills into the sweaty orifices of fellow dancers Ken (Matt Bomer), Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez). A mishap affords Adam a chance to perform on stage and under his new moniker of The Kid, he becomes a firm favourite of the female clientele. However, while under the watchful eye of manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Adam discovers adulation comes at a price. Magic Mike is a cautionary tale of ambition and greed loosely inspired by lead actor Tatum's brief stint as a stripper. The gloves are off - the shirts, trousers and thongs too - in Steven Soderbergh's film, which delivers on the promise of copious oiled, naked flesh. Sadly, apart from the good-looking cast and another solid performance from Tatum, who threatens to melt celluloid with his crotch-thrusting dance solos, the film lacks emotional depth and substance. Male actors seem to be having a blast and we enjoy a fair few giggles at their expense, especially McConaughey who demonstrates the questionable art of bump and grind in front of a mirror. Reid Carolin's script occasionally errs towards the crass as it charts the descent of Pettyfer's inexperienced stripper into drug-fuelled oblivion.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 3: Dog Days (Cert U, 90 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Family/Comedy/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Collection DVD Box Set £24.99/Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £27.99)
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Devon Bostick, Peyton List, Grayson Russell, Laine MacNeil.
Wise-cracking tyke Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is looking forward to spending the summer in front of a TV playing video games. However, his mother Susan (Rachael Harris) has other ideas and encourages her husband Frank (Steve Zahn) to engage with Greg. To keep his father off his back, the youngster lies about landing a job at the local country club, where he hopes to win the affections of pretty classmate Holly (Peyton List), who gives tennis lessons to local kids. In order to impress Holly, Greg suggests a doubles match with loveable best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) and arch-nemesis Patty (Laine MacNeil). Rowley quietly reminds his pal that they don't know how to play. "We've played Ultimate tennis on the Wii. It's basically the same thing," casually replies Greg, who is heading for an almighty fall. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 3: Dog Days is the weakest chapter so far of the light-hearted romps based on Jeff Kinney's best-selling books. As portrayed by Gordon, Greg is deeply selfish, so we struggle to muster any sympathy for the brattish protagonist as his tower of little white lies collapses around him. "I think most people would agree, I'm a pretty likeable kid," Greg narrates cheerfully. He's deluded. David Bowers's soulless sequel contrives several flimsy set pieces - Greg losing his swimming trunks as he tumbles from a 10m diving board, a disastrous sweet sixteen party - that fail to raise a smile. The chaste romance between Greg and Holly rings hollow - she can clearly do much better. A three-disc box set comprising the original Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and the two sequels is also available.
In Your Hands (Contre Toi) (Cert 15, 77 mins, Artificial Eye, Thriller/Romance, also available to buy DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99 - see below)
Sound Of My Voice (Cert 15, 81 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Thriller/Drama, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £27.99 - see below)
New to buy on DVD/Blu-Ray
Merlin - Series Five, Volume 1 (Cert PG, 172 mins, Fremantle Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Family/Action/Drama)
Mordred (Alexander Vlahos) wreaks havoc on Camelot, luring King Arthur (Bradley James) to the brink of self-destruction. Young Merlin (Colin Morgan) attempts to protect the monarch from harm but there are dark forces at work in the kingdom and when Arthur attempts to make contact with his late father, he sets in motion a devastating chain of events. The DVD of the BBC One drama includes Arthur's Bane Parts 1 & 2, The Death Song Of Uther Pendragon and Another's Sorrow.
Sound Of My Voice (Cert 15, 81 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £27.99, Thriller/Drama)
Shot largely within the claustrophobic confines of a basement lair, Sound Of My Voice is a low-budget cinematic conundrum that steeps ambiguity and suggestion upon inference and innuendo, leaving us guessing about the ulterior motives of a cult in San Fernando Valley. Acolytes flock to leader Maggie (Brit Marling), who claims to be a time-travelling prophet from 2054, and film-makers Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) pose as willing disciples in order to infiltrate the cult and expose Maggie as a charlatan. Naturally, the cult is protective of its leader and demands demonstrations of loyalty from new members to ensure that only people who believe wholeheartedly in Maggie's prophecies remain within the inner sanctum. As they spend more time undercover, Peter and Lorna begin to question their assumptions and their previously solid relationship founders.
Hunted - Series One (Cert 15, 448 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £29.99/Blu-ray £34.99, Action/Thriller)
Frank Spotnitz, executive producer of The X-Files, is the creative dynamo behind this eight-part BBC espionage thriller about a private intelligence operative who is convinced that she has been double-crossed by her town team. Left for dead in Tangiers, Sam Hunter (Melissa George) lays low in Scotland and eventually returns to the fold at her company, Byzantium, to the shock and surprise of her superiors. Sam goes deep undercover as a nanny while attempting to uncover the moles in the ranks and identify the people who betrayed her.
In Your Hands (Contre Toi) (Cert 15, 77 mins, Artificial Eye, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Thriller/Romance)
Dispassionate surgeon Anna (Kristin Scott Thomas) returns to work after a holiday but something has clearly unsettled her. Eventually, she walks into a police station and makes a disturbing statement about being held hostage by a grieving husband, Yann Ochberg (Pio Marmai), because he holds her responsible for the death of his wife following a Caesarean section. However, Anna's carefully worded version of events to the police is not the whole story. Stockholm syndrome, loneliness and despair kindle sparks of sexual attraction between captor and captive, nudging Lola Doillon's film into volatile emotional territory.
Getting On - Series Three (Cert 15, 360 mins, BBC DVD, DVD £19.99/Complete Series One, Two & Three DVD Box Set £32.99)
Dr Pippa Moore (Vicki Pepperdine), Sister Den Flixter (Joanna Scanlan) and nurse Kim Wilde (Jo Brand) discover that laughter is the best medicine in another six episodes of the Bafta award-winning BBC Four comedy, which paints a scathing portrait of the modern NHS. This series, Den discovers she is pregnant, Pippa and Kim disagree on a patient's diagnosis and tensions are evident when an inspector tours the ward. A three-disc box set comprising all three series is also available.
Switch - Complete Series One (Cert 15, 300 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £24.99, Drama/Comedy/Romance)
Magical abilities can be a curse as well as a gift in six episodes of the ITV2 supernatural drama. Grace (Phoebe Fox), Hannah (Hannah Tointon), Jude (Nina Toussaint-White) and Stella (Lacey Turner) are members of a witches coven. They live together in Camden, enduring the same trials and tribulations as humans. Battling with their sworn enemies, the Witches of Kensington, Grace, Hannah, Jude and Stella use their gifts to find the perfect man and overcome difficulties in the workplace.
Criminal Minds - Season Seven (Cert 15, 1025 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £30.99/Seasons 1-7 Collection DVD Box Set £65.99, Thriller/Drama)
Six-disc set comprising another 24 episodes of the gripping crime series, charting the exploits of the FBI's Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU). Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) and his colleagues David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore), Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) and Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) face the uncertainty of a Senate Committee hearing in the opening episode which tests the bonds of truth to the limit. Later in the series, Prentiss suffers a gun shot wound and BAU hunts a murderous team of bank robbers, which culminates in one of the team being taken hostage. A 36-disc box set comprising all seven series is also available.
Cheryl: A Million Lights - Live At The O2 (Cert E, 93 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £14.99, Special Interest)
During a three-year hiatus from Girls Aloud, who currently hold the record for the most consecutive top 10 singles in the UK by a female group, Cheryl Cole became the nation's sweetheart as a judge on The X Factor and topped the charts with Fight For This Love and Promise This from her albums 3 Words and Messy Little Raindrops. This concert film follows the singer as she performs to screaming fans on her recent tour, intercut with revealing behind-the-scenes footage that shows both the excitement and exhaustion of living on the road.
First (Cert E, 106 mins, Revolver Entertainment, DVD £15.99/Blu-ray £19.99, Documentary/Sports)
During the summer of 2012, the eyes of the world were focused on London and the athletes of the Olympic Games. With the full backing of Locog, documentary film-maker Caroline Rowland was granted unprecedented access to 12 athletes from around the world as they put their bodies on the line in search of a gold medal. Personal stories of triumph and heartbreak unfold in close-up, capturing the magic and emotion of the greatest sporting event on the planet. The film's subjects include British sprinter James Ellington, Chinese diver Qiu Bo, Australian BMX cyclist Caroline Buchanan, American swimmer Missy Franklin, Brazilian swimmer Bruno Fratus, Albanian judo player Majlinda Kelmendi, South African swimmer Chad Le Clos, French sprinter Christophe Lemaitre, American gymnast John Orozco, Kenyan runner David Rudisha, Indian shooter Heena Sidhu, Irish boxer Katie Taylor, British cyclist Laura Trott and American boxer Queen Underwood.
Dancing On Ice: The Tour 2012 (Cert E, 120 mins, ITV Studios Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Special Interest)
Seven of this year's competitors on the hugely popular ITV1 series - Chemmy Alcott, Chico, Jennifer Ellison, Jorgie Porter, Heidi Range, Andy Whyment and Matthew Wolfenden - join 2011 champion Sam Attwater on the ice to compete for the audience's votes in a film of the live arena tour. As usual, Olympic champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean mentor the contestants through each camel spin and turn.
Cocktail (Cert 12, 138 mins, Eros International, DVD £12.99/Blu-ray £15.99, Comedy/Romance)
Homi Adajania directs this Bollywood romantic comedy chronicling the trials and tribulations of two young women who live together in London. Shy and introverted Meera (Diana Penty) and impulsive free spirit Veronica (Deepika Padukone) are polar opposites and unlikely housemates but the two twenty-somethings become firm friends when they spend a glorious summer together in the capital. While Meera is emotionally scarred by a bogus marriage to a man who stole almost all of her life savings, Veronica lives for the moment and throws herself at new experiences with gusto. When handsome 32-year-old Gautam (Saif Ali Khan) begins to romance Veronica, Meera is deeply suspicious, fearing he is a corruptive influence who could break her friend's heart. In fact, Gautam turns out to be just what Veronica needs and the older man has a positive effect on Meera too, inspiring both women to re-evaluate their priorities.
Hit So Hard (Cert E, 100 mins, Peccadillo Pictures, DVD £15.99, Documentary)
In the early 1990s, grunge came to the fore thanks to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. His death made headlines around the world and threw the spotlight on wife Courtney Love and her band Hole, whose drummer Patty Schemel was an indomitable force of nature. P David Ebersole's music documentary charts the life and near death story of Schemel, editing down more than 40 hours of home video footage shot by the musician and her loved ones to explore the devastating impact of Cobain's death on the Seattle music community and her dramatic fall from grace. Through the camera's lens, Schemel lays herself bare with remarkable candour, painting herself as a survivor in a world where some of the greatest talents are snuffed out far too soon.
DVD and Blu-Ray retail top 10
1 (-) Mrs Brown's Boys Live Tour: Good Mourning Mrs Brown
2 (-) Michael McIntyre: Showtime
3 (1) Men In Black 3
4 (-) Avengers Assemble
5 (-) Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups
6 (-) John Bishop Live: Rollercoaster Tour
7 (6) Mrs Brown's Boys - Series Two
8 (-) Kevin Bridges: The Story Continues
9 (5) London 2012 Olympic Games
10 (2) Downton Abbey - Series 3
Chart supplied by www.hmv.com
DVD rental top 10
1 (4) What To Expect When You're Expecting
2 (2) The Dictator
3 (3) Snow White And The Huntsman
4 (1) Avengers Assemble
5 (7) The Five-Year Engagement
6 (6) The Lucky One
7 (8) Contraband
8 (5) The Cabin In The Woods
9 (10) Man On A Ledge
10 (-) A Fantastic Fear Of Everything
Chart supplied by www.blockbuster.co.uk