Our guide to the best new DVDs to hit shelves in Dubai
Like it or lump it, over the coming weeks much more of your life, at least during the hottest times of the day, is going to be spent indoors as the mercury soars and the humidity continues to climb. If this isn’t enough, there will also be a lull in big-screen blockbusters as cinemas calm down over Ramadan. So plan ahead now and make sure you’re not left twiddling your thumbs with our guide to ten of the best new DVDs to hit the shelves in recent weeks. What’s more, five lucky readers will win a collection of all ten titles. The Artist Yes, it has no spoken dialogue; yes, it’s black and white; and yes; it was still showered with five Oscars. But look beyond the spew of awards and you’ll discover The Artist is a feel-good hit you can watch again and again. Its jaunty soundtrack and carefree mood recall the bygone days of early Hollywood, the era in which the film is set. Yet below the surface-level whimsy, this introduces more serious themes to the screen by stealth: the harsh glare of the media, the nature of celebrity, the fallacy of pride and the warmth offered by a faithful pet are all explored amid the brisk dance steps and cartoonish raised eyebrows. The strength of the story is so universal, The Artist almost didn’t need its novelty silent-movie hook to secure its status as one of our favourite movies of last year.
A Separation Iranian director Asghar Farhadi picked up a well-deserved Oscar last year for Best Foreign-Language Film for this gritty drama about a couple’s attempts to disentangle themselves from each other. Shot with urgency and framed in a style of handheld realism, it plunges us into life in modern-day Tehran. Taking place over a few weeks, it’s one of those films that tricks you into believing it’s unfolding in real time, even though what it doesn’t show – and what it actively conceals – is as important to its ethically teasing dynamic as what it reveals. A marital separation and new domestic situation may seem trivial or everyday as the subject of a modern movie, but it’s this setup that proves to be a catalyst for events of potentially life-changing proportions (we won’t spoil things by revealing exactly what these are). A Separation is lively and suspenseful as both drama and debate. It’s also a rare opportunity to glimpse the realities of life in Iran.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn Tintin in Hollywood is one comic that Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi never wrote. But it could well have been the title of Steven Spielberg’s cartoon adaptation of The Secret of the Unicorn. Using motion-capture technology, Spielberg does what any Hollywood heavyweight would do when confronted with such a zany story: he introduces a beginning, middle and end (and a promised sequel). He boots the main crooks out, promotes a minor character to arch-villain and alters the motivations of key players. If the movie works despite the mangling, it’s because Spielberg remains faithful to Hergé’s love for breathless adventure.
Cinema Verite Back in 1973, in the days long before The Osbournes, Big Brother et al became nightly viewing fixtures around the world, television was turned upside down by An American Family, an unscripted documentary series about the Loud family from California that paved the way for the genre that came to be known as reality TV. Ironically, it took a scripted TV drama to make sense of their story, starring Diane Lane, Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini and Kathleen Quinlan. Rather than dwelling on the nature of television, it dramatises the off-camera relationships between ‘cast’ and crew to reveal how the show tore the family apart.
Contagion You might think twice about holding the rail on the metro after watching Contagion, a sober, engrossing thriller about the hysteria surrounding a worldwide epidemic of a disease that makes bird flu look like nappy rash. Moving from country to country with the vigour of the outbreak, Steven Soderbergh extracts a strong ensemble effort from Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Laurence Fishburne, none of whom outshine the real stars of the story: rabid death and blind panic. Adopting a clean, chronological approach, Soderbergh holds a steady eye on panic and chaos.
Contraband This muscular, old-fashioned, honour-among-thieves fairytale takes no risks, but contains enough plot twists and blue-collar wish fulfilment to guarantee a fun night in. The stylishly directed thriller benefits from a knotty, unpredictable script and an indisputably great cast, including Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale. Much of the movie is unlikely to linger long in the memory, but it’s enormous fun while it lasts and a real crowd-pleaser, wrapping up a tangle of storylines in unfashionably upbeat, feel-good fashion. Perhaps Contraband is crime by numbers – but it’s also honest, unpretentious and highly entertaining.
Footloose Back in 1984, Time Out London called the original Footloose ‘a cynical and manipulative exercise with little feel for the teen culture it purports to celebrate.’ We’ve softened our stance since then – yes, this remake was doubtless conceived for commercial reasons. But if you found the original a toe-tapping guilty pleasure, this 2011 version is surprisingly enjoyable. While broadly faithful to the original, it’s a more multi-racial affair, with street dance alongside line dancing and freestyle. The plot may be straightforward, but it’s refreshing to see a modern dance film that tackles religion, convention and local law alongside the requisite forbidden romance.
J.Edgar There are numerous flaws with Clint Eastwood’s narrow-focused biopic of J. Edgar Hoover. By eschewing chronology, it presents a dangerously jarring image of the long-serving head of America’s FBI, and at times the picture is narrowly reductive in framing the film around Hoover’s skeleton in the closet. Yet it still presents a captivating portrait of one of the 20th century’s most important men, especially vivid in its depiction of his descent into xenophobic paranoia. It may also go down as a career-definer for Leonardo DiCaprio, who dons layers of make-up to depict Hoover at the various stages of his 48-year reign.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol It’s a virtually impossible mission to live in Dubai and have an unbiased opinion of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. No it’s not Tom Cruise’s best movie, nor is it even the best movie in the franchise. But there’s no escaping Dubai’s starring role on the screen, nor the media hooha it created both here and abroad: it was the top-selling Christmas movie in the US last year, ensuring millions of Americans have now heard of Dubai for the first time. Yes, there are fanciful plot twists, but we still feel a tang of pride watching Tom Cruise shimmy around the Burj Khalifa. We guarantee you’ll re-watch it to spot the on-location Dubai shoots.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Leave it to Hollywood to take one of literature’s great thinkers and turn him into a Victorian-era action hero. Sherlock Holmes (2009) ditched everything cerebral about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous property, opting instead to construct a character-driven amusement-park ride. The same happens here: Robert Downey Jr’s great detective becomes a puckish, unshaven, macho eccentric whose genius manifests itself through superhuman reflexes and martial-arts moves. With apologies to Conan Doyle, this brawn-over-brains approach actually works, provided you can get down with director Guy Ritchie’s jaunty vision of 19th-century London.