Short, sharp and to the point is the order of the day for the lastest DVD survey.


A chance occurrence alters the world-view of 11 year-old Eloise Lawrence in theatre director Rufus Norris's reading of Daniel Clay's novel, Broken. However, her witnessing widowed neighbour Rory Kinnear menacing learning-impaired Robert Emms is just one of the incidents occurring on the estate where Lawrence lives with father Tim Roth, brother Bill Milner and carer Zana Marjanovic, who helps her cope with her Type 1 diabetes when she isn't trying to make a go of her relationship with the commitment shy Cillian Murphy, who teaches at the school that Lawrence is set to attend alongside Kinnear's aggressive and sexually precocious red-headed daughters Faye Daveney, Rosalie Kosky-Hensman and Martha Bryant.

Screenwriter Mark O'Rowe doesn't always integrate the interweaving episodes into a coherent narrative, while Damon Albarn's score draws attention to itself a tad too frequently with its bold tonal shifts. Yet, despite trying a bit too hard to prove he can cut it away from the proscenium, Norris makes a solid transition to the screen. Abetted by cinematographer Rob Hardy, he often finds quirky ways to frame the action, which sometimes owes as much to magic as social realism. The ensemble impresses, with Roth and the debuting Lawrence sharing a couple of poignant sequences. But, ultimately, this slice of private housing estate life is a touch too self-conscious in both its offbeat stylisation and its casual attitude to contrivance.


When son Eric Etebari is sentenced to die by lethal injection, mob boss Jonathan Banks and his crazed German henchman Torsten Voges kidnap Seri DeYoung, the daughter of California governor John Savage and execute her boyfriend so that he knows they mean business. Unfortunately, they also make the mistake of snatching the grandson (Kyle Villalovos) of maverick cop Danny Trejo, who does a bit of bare-knuckle boxing in his spare time to stop him lapsing back into drug abuse. Trejo was responsible for busting Etebari after he killed three cops. But Banks wants him to sign a statement admitting both his own guilt for the crime and that he framed Etebari to save his own skin. Naturally, Trejo refuses to co-operate and vows to rescue the hostages his way before the trauma tempts reformed addict daughter Tinsel Korey to start using again.

Sloppily scripted and directed with all the finesse of a bulldozer in a china shop, this is risible drivel that wastes the talents of decent character actors like Trejo, Savage and Julia Dietze, who is saddled with the thankless role of the defence lawyer who aggravates Trejo. Devoid of the wit that made the Trejo-Rodriguez Machete movies just about bearable, this lurches between set pieces in the desert and more intimate moments designed to show that Trejo can do sensitivity and sincerity. Some of the support playing is excruciatingn and it's all too easy to see why producer Robert Rodriguez fell out with director Nick Lyon, who co-scripted this farrago with Byron Lester and Ron Peer. They should all hang their heads in shame.


Flashing back two years from the moment in 1997 when Diana, Princess of Wales (Naomi Watts) and Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) scurried to their waiting car along a corridor in the Ritz Hotel in Paris, this sincere, but woefully misjudged movie focuses on the friendship that develops between Diana and Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) after she bumps into him at a London hospital while visiting the husband of her acupuncturist friend, Oonagh Shanley-Toffolo (Geraldine James). Slipping away from butler Paul Burrell (Douglas Hodge), Diana offers to rustle up something tasty for Khan in the kitchen at Kensington Palace. But he is too much of a jazz-loving, footie-mad everyman to bother with such niceties and the lonely divorcée is soon seduced by his bluff charm, as he encourages her to devote herself to humanitarian charities. However, Khan is too private a person and too dedicated to his vocation to commit to a public affair and Diana begins flirting with Dodi in the hope of winning his heart.

Adapted by Stephen Jeffreys from Kate Snell's Diana: Her Last Love, this is an utterly misguided project that attempts to piece together an infamous romance with all the subtlety of a tabloid scoop. The surfeit of wincingly awful dialogue and gauche supporting performances ensure that it is impossible to recognise Oliver Hirschbiegel as the director of such fine German films as Das Experiment (2001) and Downfall (2004). Valiantly striving to rise above the gossipy nonsense, Watts fleetingly captures Diana's trademark faux demureness, but she barely hints at the needy manipulativenenss that seems to have alienated Khan as much as his fear of the spotlight. But it's the absent Royals who most damningly expose the speculative shoddiness of this tiresome treatise, as they less re-emphasise the bubble of exploited isolation in which Diana existed than suggest the preening self-preoccupation and brattish sense of celebrity entitlement that gravely undermines any claims that she was a genuine queen of hearts.


Edinburgh detective James McAvoy is hoping that his investigation of the murder of a Japanese student will secure his promotion to detective inspector over colleagues Jamie Bell and Imogen Poots. However, since wife Shauna Macdonald left him, McAvoy has been sliding deeper into the bipolar disorder that requires him to have regular sessions with Australian psychiatrist, Jim Broadbent. Nevertheless, the childhood death of his brother and the gnawing disapproval of his father can't quite excuse McAvoy's addictive personality, his tendency to cross dress and the sociopathic delight he takes in sexually harassing Shirley Henderson and framing her Freemason husband Eddie Marsan for the string of obscene phone calls. He also thinks nothing of bullying an underage rent boy into giving false testimony. But his world comes tumbling down when the gang responsible for the student murder think they recognise him and McAvoy kills their leader in the ensuing scramash.

Ditching some of the more outrageous and difficult to film elements of Irvine Welsh's 1998 novel, writer-director Jon S. Baird laudably captures the chaotic core of the text. He also elicits a bravura performance from James McAvoy, who frequently makes Harvey Keitel's bad lieutenant seem like an upstanding citizen. Subplots involving such Scottish stalwarts as Gary Lewis, Kate Dickie and Martin Compston don't quite coalesce, while the ongoing mystery surrounding widow Joanne Froggatt and her son only makes sense during a darkly comic denouement that is shot through with too much undeserved pathos. The Gilliamesque reveries that McAvoy experiences on Broadbent's couch are also hit and miss (with the one involving Macdonald and cabbie David Soul singing `Silver Lady' being a notably misfire). Yet, for all its many faults, this ambitiously dystopian and unflinchingly bleak Yuletide yarn just about holds together.


On 1 January 1953, in the small town of Hammond, New York, Raven Adamson inducts classmates Katie Coseni, Claire Mazerolle and Madeleine Bisson into a gang named Foxfire. Proudly sporting their homemade tattoos, they plan to stand up for themselves in a male-dominated world and begin by daubing the car of leering maths teacher Ian Matthews, who has been pestering Bisson. Other girls seek to join, as the all-boy Viscount gang begins to feel threatened by the graffiti appearing across town. They also put the frighteners on a pet shop they feel mistreats its animals. But things start to get out of hand when the girls beat up Coseni's abusive uncle (Ron Gabriel) and get into a playground fight with the Viscounts that culmintates in them stealing a car and going for a joy ride. Adamson is sent to a correctional facility after causing a crash that leaves several of her passengers badly injured. But she returns to rent a property on the outskirts she calls the `Foxfire Homestead' and plans to boost the revenue the residents make from shoplifting by kidnapping right-wing banker Rick Roberts, who also happens to be the father of Adamson's close friend, Tamara Hope.

Previously filmed by Annette Haywood-Carter in 1996 (with Angelina Jolie in the Adamson role), Joyce Carol Oates's Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang should provide a useful corrective to all those rose-tinted recreations of Eisenhowerian boyhood. But, in reworking the text, French director Laurent Cantet and co-scenarist Robin Campillo have retained too many passages of original dialogue that sit awkwardly with lines that frequently sound like clumsy translations of French rather than something that teenage girls would have said in upstate New York during the most conservative period in recent American history. The inexperience of (the admittedly game) cast also counts against the production, as does the overcooked climax. Indeed, even the precision of Franckie Diago's production design, Pierre Milon's photography and Gersha Phillips's costumes reinforces the impression that everyone here is trying too hard, without having gotten the mindset of the times quite right.


Dumped by boyfriend Brian Petsos and abandoned by such socialite pals as June Diane Raphael, magazine writer Kirsten Wiig fakes a suicide attempt and finds herself having to swap Manhattan for Ocean City, New Jersey and the home that mother Annette Bening shares with her crab-obsessed son Christopher Fitzgerald, oddball lover Matt Dillon and inoffensive lodger Darren Cross. Cringingly embarrassed by Bening's dress sense, habit of saying the wrong thing and ongoing gambling problem, Wiig takes against Dillon (who claims to be something in the CIA, but hides in a rubber suit whenever there's a storm) and places her trust in Cross, who gives her lifts to the city and unsolicited advice. A family crisis arises when Bob Balaban, the husband Bening had told everyone was dead, comes home. But Wiig slowly comes to recognise her problems lie as much with herself as with other people and, having seen Cross play with his tribute band, she realises she has found her soulmate.

Renowned for American Splendor, their 2003 oddity about comic-book writer Harvey Pekar, husband-and-wife directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini sought to bounce back from misfiring with The Nanny Diaries (2007) and The Extra Man (2010) with this quirky indie domcom. However, Michelle Morgan's screenplay is so stuffed with clichés, contrivances and caricatures that it's difficult to summon much enthusiasm for the eminently resistible Wiig and her petty problems. Bening, Dillon and Balaban do what they can, but not only are the gags unfunny, but too many of them rely on mocking perceived social outcasts. The plot meanders and the majority of set-pieces fall resoundingly flat. But there is a notable exception, as Wiig sits in an Atlantic City bar and Terry Stacey's camera lingers on her face as her relief that Cross's 90s tribute combo doesn't suck turns into genuine admiration before she lets herself go and starts rocking along to the music.


Arriving back in a Newcastle after a spell confronting corruption and shooting triad chiefs in Hong Kong, cop Stephen Tompkinson bridles at the socio-political paralysis that has left Britain in thrall to striking miners and working three-day weeks. He is equally dismayed to discover that hopeless underling Mark Stobbart is now his boss. But any hopes Tompkinson might have had of seeing out the last six months before his retirement are dashed when he decides to clean up the estate dominated by thug Ronnie Fox and his henchman Craig Conway after a small child is accidentally killed and an old friend Maurice Roëves is brutally murdered. Naturally, Stobbart disapproves of Tompkinson's antediluvian methods. But he finds an ally in Gillian Kearney, whose marriage is as moribund as her career in a resolutely chauvinist milieu.

Borrowing titles from early 70s films starring Michael Caine and Clint Eastwood, Vince Woods's directorial debut might have been called Get Dirty Harrigan. Working from a script by ex-rozzer Arthur McKenzie, Woods is well served by cinematographer James McAleer and production designer Sarah Beaman, who give the visuals a look that recalls such period cop shows as The Sweeney. But the versatile Tompkinson always seems too nice to play hardcases and his doughty strain of world-weary decency feels a mite forced. Roëves's Geordie accent is also shocking. But Fox and Conway's villainy is more persuasive, while Amy Manson shows well as a put-upon single mum. But, while they achieve a credibly noirish mood, Woods and McKenzie belabour the similarities between the country under Edward Heath and David Cameron, with the result that this winds up seeming like a low-budget Life on Mars wannabe.


Having jointly triumphed at the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdean (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) tour Panem's districts under the watchful eye of the fascistic President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who doubts the couple are truly in love. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) warns Katniss that she epitomises the growing spirit of rebellion against the Capitol and, when Snow declares that the 75th Games will involve previous winners, she tries to rig the reaping ballot to prevent Peeta from taking part. However, he volunteers and the couple announce their engagement before going into training, only for Katniss to infuriate Snow by wearing a wedding dress designed by Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) that transforms into a representation of a mockinjay, which is the symbol of defiance to the regime.

Mindful of Haymitch's suggestion that they forge alliances, Katniss and Peeta befriend Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and his elderly mentor Mags (Lynn Cohen) before heading into the arena designed by fiendish new gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Together they survive a deadly forcefield, a cloud of poisonous gas and an attack by fanged mandrills before seeking sanctuary on a beach, where they hook up with Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and the inventor duo of Wiress (Amanda Plummer) and Beetee Latier (Jeffrey Wright). Wiress realises that the arena is designed like a clock that can unleash hazards on the hour. But she fails to survive a battle and it falls to Katniss to sabotage the Games by using a coil of wire, a spear and a tree that is struck by lightning every 12 hours.

Essentially a bridge between the original story and the two-part finale, this is a far superior film to Gary Ross's The Hunger Games (2012). By devoting time to the district tour and contrasting the tyrannical repression used to subjugate them with the untrammelled decadence of the Capitol, screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt are able to delve into the political subtext of Suzanne Collins's source novel. But, while director Francis Lawrence doesn't stint on the action, he stages it with less flamboyance than his predecessor and he is ably abetted by cinematographer Jo Willems, production designer Philip Messina and costumer Trish Summerville. The performances are also strong, with Jennifer Lawrence deftly using her own experience to examine the impact of celebrity upon the psyche, while Sutherland ramps up the villainy and Seymour Hoffman plays a canny game as a covert rebel. Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks reprise their roles as Caesar Flickerman and Effie Trinket, but, like Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne) and Toby Jones (Claudius Templesmith), they have little to do, as the emphasis falls on conveying the state of the nation ahead of the District 13 uprising.


Reporter Paul Giamatti is sceptical when college dropout Chase Williamson informs him that he has been hunting ghosts and ghouls with buddy Rob Mayes, while bombed out on a new drug nicknamed `soy sauce'. He is no more convinced when Williamson describes how a woman they were helping exploded into snakes that reformed into a frozen meat creature. So, Williamson embarks upon a long and convoluted narrative involving dealer Tai Bennett, would-be gangsta Jonny Weston, inter-dimensional traveller Doug Jones, TV psychic Clancy Brown, detective Glynn Turman and a dog named Bark Lee, whose owner, Fabianne Therese, is the only person who can open a ghost door that will allow her heroic mutt to confound the sentient organic computer, Korrok (Kevin Michael Richardson).

Adapted from a novel by Jason Pargin (writing under the name David Wong), this is the latest offering from Don Coscarelli, the cult director of Phantasm (1979) and Bubba Ho-Tep (2002). As one might expect, it's gleefully quirky and appears to be being made up as it goes along. But the misadventures of the juicesome twosome and their canine sidekick are as slickly staged as they are defiantly non-linear and thematically haphazard. The performances are splendidly over the top, while Michael Gioulakis's photography, Todd Jeffrey's production design and Coscarelli and Tom Milne's editing are first rate. However, this manic meld of David Cronenburg, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and Stephen King would be nothing without the hilariously gory special effects and Robert Kurtzman's grizzly make-up.


Returning home from his daughter's funeral in 1992,. Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) thinks back on his chequered career. He started out as a mind-reader in seaside shows in the 1950s and marries Jean Bradley (Anna Friel) after she is attacked during a lion taming act. Buoyed by the publicity from a failed legal suit against a newspaper, Raymond relocates to Soho and makes his fortune in the Swinging Sixties with the topless shows at his Raymond Revue Bar. He also invests in property and is soon able to afford a playboy lifestyle that alienates Jean and leads to an affair with Amber St George (Tamsin Egerton), who reinvents herself as sexpert Fiona Richmond when Raymond launches the porn magazine Men Only, under the editorship of Tony Power (Chris Addison). Having briefly reunited with Derry (Liam Boyle), the grown-up son he had long refused to recognise, Raymond accepts the hostility of Howard (Matthew Beard), his son with Jean, and lavishes his affection on their daughter, Debbie (Imogen Poots). However, when she flops as a singer in one of her father's shows, she seeks solace in drugs, as her marriage to musician Jonathan Hodge (Simon Bird) fails to assuage her humiliation.

Scripted by Matt Greenhalgh, this is an underwhelming profile of the smut peddler who died in 2008 as one of the wealthiest men in Britain. Director Michael Winterbottom films the early scenes in monochrome and switches to colour as Raymond's fortunes improve. But, despite the bullish supporting performances and cameos by the likes of Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas and Sarah Solemani, this struggles to capture the personality and pain of a hedonistic entrepreneur who was so scrupulously careful in maintaining a public image that few got to know the real man. Steve Coogan sleepwalks through the decadent decades, but comes into his own as the Citizen Kane of Soho, striving to atone for being a bad parent by making his little girl a star. Slickly photographed by Hubert Taczanowski and boasting spot on décor and costumes by Jacqueline Abrahams and Stephanie Collie, the action plays out to a songtrack that punctuates a Bacharach-David core with period specific cues by The Searchers, Donovan, T Rex, Sweet, David Bowie and Soft Cell.


Ryan Gosling runs a muay thai boxing club in Bangkok. When older brother Tom Burke rapes and kills an underage prostitute, he is beaten to death by the girl's father, Kovit Wattanakul. Gosling learns that karaoke-singing cop Vithaya Pansringarm sanctioned the reprisal and grieving, drug-smuggling mother Kristin Scott Thomas orders him to avenge his sibling. But Gosling proves incapable of harming Wattanakul (who has had his forearms severed for failing his daughter) and Scott Thomas hires Gordon Brown to do the job. When Pansringarm is assigned the case, Scott Thomas orders Byron Gibson to eliminate him, but he survives a machine gun attack on a restaurant and bullies mobster Danai Thiengdham into betraying Gibson, who loses his eyes and has a spike driven into his ear while being sadistically interrogated. Gosling challenges Pansringarm to a boxing bout and gets pulped. Consequently, he accedes to his mother's request to assassinate the lieutenant. But hitman Nophand Boonyai gets there before him and Gosling decides to intervene in order to save Pansringarm's young daughter.

It goes without saying that the pantomimically fiendish Scott Thomas pays for her ruthlessness. But it's not entirely clear whether Gosling is also punished or he merely succumbs to the latest in a line of dire visions that involve him being hideously mutilated. However, few will care less about the fate of this inscrutable anti-hero, who meanders impassively through the nihilistic nonsense served up with typically dystopic style by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. Red features prominently in the neon-lit colour schemes employed by cinematographer Larry Smith and production designer Beth Mickle, but this is less a crackling existentialist noir than a wallow in bloody self-indulgence and twisted moral logic that tries to pass off thin imitations of Hamlet and Lady Macbeth as darkly comic cult icons. Kohled to the eyeballs and revelling in her cartoonish villainy, Scott Thomas is gruesomely compelling alongside Pansringarm's sword-wielding angel of doom. But this too often feels like a calculated mash-up of tropes from Carl Theodor Dreyer, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Lars von Trier, Quentin Tarantino, Gaspar Noé and Wisit Sasanatieng that has been assembled to dupe gullible cineastes into thinking they are watching something artistically, dramatically and thematically daring.


On 22 November 1963, the motorcade of John F. Kennedy (Brett Stimely) rolls into Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The crowd lining the route cheers and the President and First Lady (Kat Steffens) wave cheerfully. Suddenly, shots ring out and Kennedy slumps forward in his car, leaving his wife cradling his shattered skull after her attempt to climb out of the back of the vehicle is thwarted. Standing on a concrete pedestal in Elm Street, Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) films the incident with his 8mm Bell & Howell camera and he confides his shock to wife Lillian (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) as he develops the footage. As Kennedy is whisked to Parkland Hospital, Dr Charles James Carrico (Zac Effron) and chief nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden) lead the efforts to save his life. But, the last rites are administered by Fr Oscar Huber (Jackie Earle Haley) and the news is broken on television by Walter Cronkite. While Robert Edward Lee Oswald (James Badge Dale) watches in horror as it becomes clear that his brother Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) is being pursued as the assassin, their mother, Marguerite (Jacki Weaver), revels in the fact that she is no longer a nobody.

Based on Vincent Bugliosi's imposing tome, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, this is a well-meaning, but misguided attempt to reveal how the eclipse of Camelot impacted upon ordinary people. Like Emilio Estevez in Bobby (2006), writer-director Peter Landesman struggles to turn an iconic moment of history back into a quotidian experience for those caught up in it. There are poignant moments, but Landesman and his cast strive too hard to emphasise their significance. A case in point are the sequences in which FBI agents Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), Roy Kellerman (Tom Welling) and James P. Hosty (Ron Livingston) ruminate upon their failure to protect either Kennedy or Oswald (who, in a grim twist, were taken to the same emergency room) before rallying to protect Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson (Sean McGraw) on Air Force One en route back to Washington.

Poor dialogue undermines the majority of the tableaux. But the concept itself is deeply flawed and one is left wishing that Landesman (who is a journalist) had followed Irishman Shane O'Sullivan in taking the documentary option. Paying little attention to the bullet trajectories that so fascinate other conspiracy theorists, Killing Oswald seeks to profile the shooter in the Texas School Book Depository. Mixing dramatic reconstructions with talking-head contributions by such authorities as Joan Mellen, Dick Russell, John Newman and David Kaiser, O'Sullivan bids to establish the reasons why a 19 year-old US Marine defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and sought to relocate to Cuba after returning Stateside before he was charged with shooting both Dallas cop JD Tippit and President Kennedy. Exploring Oswald's connections with Castro and the CIA, O'Sullivan also speculates why the Mafia was so keen to have stooge Jack Ruby gun down the 24 year-old in full view of the nation's TV audience. The purists will decry the technique, the sceptics the evidence. But this is a cogent and compelling account of the backstory that scarcely concerned the Warren Commission as it reached its highly dubious lone gunman verdict.


Some time in the 1950s, John Skillpa (Cillian Murphy) works as a bank clerk in the small Nebraskan town of Peacock. He keeps to himself outside work, but boss Edmund French (Bill Pullman) is aware that he is still deeply affected by the loss of his mother several months before. Everyone is surprised, therefore, when it transpires that John has a wife called Emma after she is discovered in the house when it is damaged by a derailed train. In the hope of boosting his re-election chances, mayor Ray Crill (Keith Carradine) and his wife Fanny (Susan Sarandon) take a shine to John and Emma, as they become the toast of the town. But no one ever sees the couple together and it slowly becomes clear that Emma is a mother figure that John has invented for himself and that he assumes her identity whenever he needs a woman's touch around the home. However, while John is keen for things to return to normal, Emma acquires a taste for the limelight and independence. Moreover, as they battle for control, money-grabbing single mother Maggie (Ellen Page) appears to explain the events that caused John to suffer from dissociative identity disorder.

There's more than a hint of Hitchcock about Michael Lander's contrived, but nonetheless unsettling psychological drama. But the spirit of Twin Peaks also looms large, as the townsfolk try to ingratiate themselves with the secret newlyweds, while also trying to pry into their fiercely guarded privacy. Cillian Murphy impresses hugely, as he wakes to prepare breakfast as Emma and slips back into the bedroom to emerge as the work-bound John. He also deftly conveys the consensus that makes their unique arrangement possible. But the support playing is also admirable, with Carradine and Sarandon amusing as the pragmatic politician and the feminist with a taste for power. Josh Lucas also shows well as a sympathetic cop. But the very nature of the store imbues it with an inevitability that make Page's revelations feel both strained and anti-climactic.