Spitfire, Entebbe, Mary And The Witch’s Flower, The Changeover, Take Shelter, Picnic At Hanging Rock, A Gentle Creature and Heathers feature in this week’s Sun DVD reviews.
Out Sep 10
This love letter to the aircraft that symbolises Britain’s bulldog spirit in World War 2 takes a while to get off the ground.
The early sections about the origins of the fighter plane lack an engaging narrative, and have the gadfly feel of one of those short films you’d find on a continuous loop in a museum exhibit.
In this part of the documentary, even the contributions by the WW2 veterans still alive to act as talking heads don’t give much insight.
But as with the war itself from a British perspective, Spitfire – narrated by Charles Dance – gets much, much better as it goes on.
When it gets to the Battle of Britain, and the fight to defend Malta, the veterans come alive (and given their advanced years it’s remarkable how bright-eyed and sharp they all still were when filming this; you’d think they were at least 15 years younger). Their recollections start to add poignancy and give us a real window into how they felt about the threat of death or killing their German counterparts.
And even from the outset, the film does a great job visually: camerawork and in-flight shots are mesmerising, whether it’s original footage or modern reconstructions.
By the end, there are some really touching moments and the debt of gratitude we owe to The Few and all those who supported them comes to the fore.
One current Spitfire owner describes the ‘grace and gallantry’ of the aircraft but really, as we are shown here, those epithets apply far more to the people who flew them.
Despite its bumpy beginnings, it’s a worthy reminder in this RAF centenary year of the bravery displayed in Britain’s darkest hour.
As the wonderfully engaging Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum, who passed away only in July at the age of 96, says: ‘It’s not about medals, it’s not about who shot down what, it’s not about the thank-yous. But it is nice to be remembered.’
Don’t worry, Geoffrey, we will.
Out Sep 10
On paper this has it all – a plane hijacking, an ideological conflict and a sprinkling of Idi Amin for good measure – but this action drama almost skips over the action and is lacking the drama.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and members of West Germany’s Revolutionary Cells Group (Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike) hijack an Air France flight from Tel Aviv and set course for Uganda, landing in the town of Entebbe.
Under the protection of Amin they make demands of the Israeli government and threaten to kill the hostages if they are not met.
Israel sets out on “the most daring rescue mission in history” to save the hostages but director Jose Padilha’s story makes these terrifying, intense real-life events feel boring.
Mary And The Witch’s Flower (U)
Out Sep 10
Studio Ponoc, formed of many ex-employees of Japan’s animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli, makes its debut with Mary And The Witch’s Flower.
On its own merits, the film is an enchanting diversion, but director Hiromasa Yonebayashi (who directed Arrietty and When Marnie Was There for Ghibli) spends too much time reminding us of Ghibli’s greatest hits instead of attempting to craft his own masterpiece.
Mary Smith moves into her great aunt’s rural estate. She’s kind-hearted and precocious like many Ghibli heroines, but she’s clumsier than most.
In her boredom she discovers a magical flower and a broomstick, which contrive to spirit her off to a school of magic above the clouds, overseen by Kate Winslet’s Madam Mumblechook and Jim Broadbent’s Doctor Dee.
From there, things take a more dramatic turn, complete with subtext about abusing nature that is such a staple of Ghibli products.
Unfortunately, Yonebayashi doesn’t lean completely into the ramifications of what he shows, and the story as a whole feels cobbled together from various cinematic places, among them Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle In The Sky and Harry Potter.
Additionally, an undercooked subplot concerning the great aunt keeps the narrative feeling slight. Nevertheless, the gorgeous animation and music combine effortlessly to absorb the viewer, and Ruby Barnhill’s sparkling voiceover for Mary helps carry the film to its conclusion.
The Changeover (12)
Sixteen-year-old Laura Chant (Erana James) has a “gift” – she can always tell if trouble is looming. When her little brother Jacko attracts the unhealthy attention of a weirdo (Timothy Spall) she becomes embroiled in a battle for his soul.
Laura, with the help of school hunk Sorensen Carlisle (Nicholas Galitzine) and his family of witches, learns that she is also one of them and must take part in the Changeover ritual to release her full powers.
The film is set in post-earthquake Wellington, New Zealand, and is based on an award-winning teen novel.
The movie is aimed at the young adult market with the coming-of-age and first-love themes. The romance gets in the way somewhat but this is a good, solid thriller.
The tension is kept high throughout and James makes an impressive debut while Spall gives a nightmare-inducing performance as the sinister Carmody Braque.
Take Shelter (15)
PLAGUED by visions of an apocalyptic storm heading for his family’s home, a father begins preparing for the end times.
He begins building a massive and expensive storm shelter in his garden, waving off the doubts of his wife, his friends and neighbours.
As the dreams start intruding on his waking life, his frantic preparations start to endanger his job, his family and his mental health.
Michael Shannon (dad Curtis) and Jessica Chastain (wife Samantha) put in compelling performances as the tension ratchets up and we wonder whether the dreams are real or whether Curtis is losing the plot.
This re-release of this 2011 film looks fantastic on Blu-ray, but those hoping for an action-packed end-of-the-world thriller may find their attention wandering.
But for those who persevere, it’s a film that stays with you long after the end.
Well worth a watch.
Picnic At Hanging Rock (15)
A group of boarding school girls go missing on a Valentine’s Day trip to a spectacular beauty spot in this six-part TV adaptation of the 1975 Australian film.
Natalie Dormer (Game Of Thrones) gives a memorable performance as formidable headmistress Hester Appleyard.
Some may find the meandering narrative frustrating but it is very watchable and brilliantly shot.
Mysterious and engrossing.
A Gentle Creature (18)
A wife (played by Vasilina Makovtseva) travels far away to the harsh region of Siberia in the hope of discovering why a parcel sent to her imprisoned husband was returned undelivered.
Makovtseva’s forlorn and morose look set the stage for what her character is about
to endure, but will her tenacity and perseverance pay off?
Adapted from a 19th-century Dostoevsky short story, A Gentle Creature is a riveting masterpiece that takes you on a depressing but epic journey filled with perpetual suffering and despair.
MOST READ IN FILM
Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle lead stars at glamorous T2 Trainspotting premiere
Out Sep 10
The outfits (scrunchie, anyone?) in this Eighties cult classic may not have stood the test of time but, restored for Blu-ray for its 30th anniversary, this black comedy still manages to sum up the pressure-cooker atmosphere of high school.
Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) hangs out with the cool kids, but she hates their cruel and snobby ways. When she hooks up with misfit JD (Christian Slater), who senses her disapproval, he eggs her on to challenge their behaviour.
But their prank goes wrong and it ends in murder they cover up as suicide – and it isn’t a one-off…
Edging into darker territory with a series of teen deaths, it cleverly touches upon the vulnerability and power struggles of the students.
Violent, bizarre and likeable.