DVD Reviews

High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Pictured: Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Pictured: Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens.

First published in What's On

A weekly round-up of the latest DVD releases.

By Damon Smith

NEW TO RENT ON DVD/VIDEO

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Cert U, 112 mins, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Musical/Romance, also available to buy DVD £17.99/High School Musical DVD Collector's Set £32.99/Blu-ray £22.99)

Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Olesya Rulin, Alyson Reed.

Tissues at the ready as we bid farewell to best buddies Troy (Efron) and Chad (Bleu), their girlfriends Gabriella (Hudgens) and Taylor (Coleman) and the attention-seeking twins Sharpay (Tisdale) and Ryan (Grabeel) as the talented students perform one final time under ebullient drama teacher Ms Darbus (Reed) before heading their separate ways.

As usual, Sharpay tries to steal the limelight, plotting with her brother to woo talented composer Kelsi Nielson (Rulin), who always writes the best songs for Troy and Gabriella. Meanwhile, the lovebirds face the reality of going to colleges hundreds of miles apart. High School Musical 3: Senior Year continues to peddle a rose-tinted view of adolescence: the only drug you'll see is caffeine and the furthest these lusty, hormone-addled teens stray is holding hands in the moonlight.

Boyishly cute leading man Efron is blatantly the star attraction. Director Kenny Ortega opens with a lingering close-up of the 21-year-old shaking his sleek, sweat-drenched locks, before launching into one of the high-energy song and dance numbers, which have become the series' trademark.

Ortega, who doubles as choreographer, pulls out all the stops to make the most of the widescreen format, delivering dazzling set pieces which reach a crescendo in Riley's Salvage Yard, where Troy and Chad duet on "The Boys Are Back" over a moving assault course of tyres and scrap metal cars.

Screenwriter Peter Barsocchini glues these colour-saturated spectaculars together with minimum plot and character development, essentially replaying romances and rivalries from earlier installments in the series. Dialogue is loaded with so much schmaltz, you'll probably require urgent dental attention by the rip-roaring finale. A DVD box set comprising all three films is also available.

DVD Extras: Deleted scenes with director introductions, "Out Of Sync" bloopers, "Cast Goodbyes" featurette, "Night Of Nights" prom scene featurette, "It's All In The Dress" featurette; Blu-ray: Deleted scenes with director introductions, "Out Of Sync" bloopers, "Cast Goodbyes" featurette, "Night Of Nights" prom scene featurette, "It's All In The Dress" featurette, new cast profiles, Senior Awards.

Righteous Kill (Cert 15, 96 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Carla Gugino, Brian Dennehy.

When a suspected child molester escapes conviction and later turns up dead with a four-line poem placed on his body, Lieutenant Hingis (Dennehy) asks NYPD detectives Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino) to investigate. The men have mixed feelings about the case, secretly believing that the victim deserved his punishment. However, the modus operandi recalls earlier cases, leading Turk and Rooster to join forces with detectives Perez (Leguizamo) and Riley (Wahlberg).

Crime scene detective Karen Corelli (Gugino) collects the forensic evidence, in between bouts of frantic sex with Turk. As the body count rises, drug dealer Spider (Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson) provides invaluable clues to the serial killer's identity, which leads Turk and Rooster to suspect the culprit may be one of their own.

Righteous Kill opens with a video confessional from the killer then pieces together the fractured narrative in flashback. When we reach the denouement and see the confessional in context, we realise that we've been hoodwinked, and led astray by screenwriter Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man) and director Jon Avnet, who never had any intention of playing fair.

There's no rapport between the leading men, no meaty one-liners or put-downs, and their characters embark on linear emotional journeys that are an insult to De Niro and Pacino's talents and our intelligence.

They go through the motions as the plot unfolds at a pedestrian pace around them, with forgettable supporting performances from Jackson, Gugino and co. Leguizamo spits his lines with an urgency, which seems wholly misplaced.

Cliches stack up quicker than spent bullet casings with a strangely moving final scene that is too little too late.

DVD Extras: Director commentary, "The Investigation: An In-Depth Look At Righteous Kill" featurette, "The Thin Blue Line: The Darker Side Of The Police Force" featurette.

Mutant Chronicles (Cert 18, 107 mins, Entertainment In Video, Sci-Fi/Action/Horror/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)

Starring: Thomas Jane, Anna Walton, Ron Perlman, John Malkovich, Benno Furmann, Luis Echegaray, Tom Wu, Steve Toussaint, Devon Aoki.

By 2707, the earth's natural resources have almost been exhausted. Global corporations Bauhaus, Capitol, Imperial and Mishima compete for control of the few remaining deposits of coal and gas, using highly trained soldiers of fortune to do their bidding. During one skirmish, cannon fire obliterates an ancient stone seal, unleashing hordes of mutants. A monk called Samuel (Perlman) hints at an ancient prophecy about a saviour destined to save humanity from the invaders.

He enlists battle-hardened Capitol soldier Mitch Hunter (Jane) to lead a suicide mission into the mutant lair, aided by corporation rivals Steiner (Furmann), Jesus de Barrara (Echegaray), Juba Kim Wu (Wu), John McGuire (Toussaint) and Valerie Duval (Aoki). They flank Samuel, who leads the way with the eponymous tome in hand, shadowed by sword-wielding protector, Severian (Walton).

Mutant Chronicles is a futuristic action adventure that locks and loads, but only shoots blanks. British director Simon Hunter labours under the illusion that a few snazzy visual effects are sufficient to satisfy thrill-seeking viewers for the best part of two interminable hours, mimicking the look and relentless gore of one of those noisy arcade machines, which invites players to shoot legions of slavering zombies using a plastic light gun.

Hunter bombards us with a miasma of spurting blood, torn flesh and exploding craniums, trying desperately to keep time with the pounding music and sound effects. Philip Eisner's script and the performances are appalling. Jane, Perlman and co would probably look embarrassed if they were lit better.

DVD Extras: "The Making Of Mutant Chronicles" featurette, cast and crew interviews.

Also released

Jesse Stone - Sea Change (Cert 15, 85 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Drama/Thriller, also available to buy DVD £19.99 - see below)

NEW TO BUY ON DVD

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Season 08 Part 02 (Cert 15, 345 mins, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment UK Ltd, DVD £34.99/Season 08 DVD Complete Box Set £58.99, Thriller/Drama/Action)

Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) is left fighting for his life in the gripping season finale of the top-rated Five series, following the exploits of the Las Vegas crime lab led by shift supervisors Gil Grissom (William Petersen) and Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger). The whole team comes down with flu but is forced to continue working tough cases while Warrick faces probing questions from internal affairs about his links to a dead girl and colleagues Nick Stokes (George Eads) and Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda) probe a series of curiously interconnected deaths. A complete season 8 DVD box set is also available.

DVD Extras: none stated.

Whitechapel (Cert 15, 136 mins, 2entertain, DVD £15.99, Thriller/Drama)

Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton star in this gripping three-part ITV1 drama, about a serial killer recreating the bloodthirsty escapades of Jack The Ripper.

DI Chandler (Penry-Jones) and his hard-bitten colleague DS Miles (Davis) are baffled by a series of slayings on the streets of East London.

Vulnerable women are being slaughtered by a killer, who vanishes without trace. When Ripper fanatic Edward Buchan (Pemberton) contacts the police to draw their attention to similarities to the past, Chandler and Miles race against time to unmask a copycat without any remorse.

DVD Extras: "Making Of Whitechapel" featurette.

Thick As Thieves (Cert 15, 99 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, DVD £15.99, Drama/Thriller)

Veteran thief Keith Ripley (Morgan Freeman) is in the crosshairs of the Russian mob after his former cohort in crime betrayed him to the cops.

Now he needs to pull off one big heist to escape the thugs and make enough money to retire. So he plots the daring theft of the latest two remaining Faberge eggs from a seemingly impenetrable vault, aided by an inexperienced criminal (Antonio Banderas), whose talent is matched only by his thirst for excitement.

DVD Extras: Cast and crew interviews, "Making Of" featurette.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season Seven (Cert 15, 898 mins, Universal Playback, DVD £44.99, Drama/Thriller)

Five-disc box set comprising 22 episodes of the hit crime series, a spin-off from the original Law & Order with plotlines inspired by real-life cases. Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) worries his colleagues, particularly Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hartigay), when he goes undercover as a sex offender to befriend a convicted rapist. Elliot faces suspension when he becomes embroiled in the case of an old partner and Olivia suffers a horrific attack on the trailer of a deviant, which puts a strain on personal relationships within the department.

DVD Extras: none stated.

7-49 Up (Cert E, 500 mins, Network, DVD £48.99, Documentary)

In 1963, director Michael Apted began the longest-running documentary project in history when he made Seven Up!, a portrait of 14 very different seven-year-old children from around the UK, as part of the World In Action series.

Every seven years, the filmmaker has returned to film these participants to chart the courses of their lives, witnessing the crumbling of hopes and the realization of their dreams, contrasting the optimism and indecision of earlier installments with the contentment and security of the most recent film, 49 Up.

DVD Extras: Series producer, editor and cameraman commentary on segments of the films, director interview, "Michael Apted" featurette.

The Fall Guy - The Complete Season Season (Cert PG, 1065 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DVD £29.99, Drama/Action)

Legendary stunt man Colt Seaver (Lee Majors) moonlights as a bounty hunter, working with his wet-behind-the-ears cousin, Howie (Douglas Barr), to track down bail jumpers and errant criminals.

Aided occasionally by sexy Jody (Heather Thomas), Colt always gets his man - or woman - in this six-disc set, comprising all 23 episodes first broadcast in 1982 and 1983.

DVD Extras: none stated.

Jesse Stone - Sea Change (Cert 15, 85 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, DVD £19.99, Drama/Thriller)

In the latest straight-to-DVD outing for Tom Selleck's emotionally conflicted cop turned small town sheriff, Jesse feels compelled to follow the advice of his therapist (William Devane) and throws himself into his work, reopening an old case involving a bank robbery. Plucky assistant Rose (Kathy Baker) helps to sift the evidence as Jesse turns back time 15 years to unravel the truth about the bank shooting while investigating a young woman's allegation of rape.

DVD Extras: none stated.

The Unwinking Gaze (Cert PG, 67 mins, Joiningthedots.tv, DVD £12.99, Documentary)

Subtitled The Inside Story: The Dalai Lama's Struggle For Tibet, Joshua Dugdale's documentary grants us unparalleled access to one of the world's most revered and fascinating men, who remains a spiritual figurehead for Buddhism and its followers, and an important political statesman bridging the divide between Tibet and China.

Filmed over the course of three years, Dugdale's film reveals a man coolly shouldering the hopes and fears of an entire nation, determined to promote Tibet to the west and out-manoeuvre the notoriously secretive Chinese government.

DVD Extras: none stated.

Zero: An Investigation Into 9/11 (Cert 12, 101 mins, Joiningthedots.tv, DVD £12.99, Documentary)

On September 11, the world watched in horror as passenger airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center; a terrorist outrage which provoked the Bush administration into declaring a war on terror and sending troops into Iraq. This Italian documentary questions the official version of events surrounding the attacks that fateful day, intercutting commentary from Gore Vidal and Dario Fo with new witness testimony and the latest scientific data, some of which conflicts with the US government's account.

DVD Extras: none stated.

I.O.U.S.A. (Cert U, 85 mins, Joiningthedots.tv, DVD £12.99, Documentary)

With the credit crunch biting hard and the ailing American economy shouldering much of the blame for the severe downturn in global fortunes, documentary filmmaker Patrick Creadon interviews prominent leaders in finance and everyday tax payers to better understand the reasons for America's rapidly growing national debt and its impact on citizens from across the social spectrum.

The film also follows David Walker, United States Comptroller General, as he embarks on a nationwide tour to pique public interest in and demystify fiscal policies.

DVD Extras: none stated.

Ben 10 - Season 1 Volume 2 (Cert PG, 64 mins, Warner Home Video, DVD £12.99, Children)

Plucky teenager Ben 10 meets a boy called Kevin who wants to harness the power of the Omnitrix for his own ends, battles tiny, electrically-charged creatures called Megawatts then clashes with an evil clown called Zombozo in four episodes of the popular Cartoon Network animated series. The DVD includes "Tourist Trap", "Kevin 11", "The Alliance" and "The Last "Laugh".

DVD Extras: none stated.

The Backyardigans: Into The Deep (Cert U, 100 mins, Fremantle Kids, DVD £6.99, Children)

Preschoolers can sing, dance and giggle with best friends Austin the purple kangaroo, Pablo the penguin, Tasha the hippo, Tyrone the moose and the mysterious Uniqua as they invent wondrous worlds full of magic and adventure in this collection of episodes from the computer-animated Nick Jr series.

DVD Extras: none stated.

The World According To Miley Cryus (Cert E, 64 mins, 4Digital Media, DVD £9.99, Special Interest)

In March 2006, Miley Cyrus - daughter of singer Billy Ray Cyrus - exploded into the public consciousness as the star of the Disney Channel show Hannah Montana. Elevated to teen sensation overnight, Cyrus has become a role model to millions of girls, on the TV programme that tells its audience dreams can come true.

This DVD is the unauthorised story of her rise to fame, including her relationship with Nick Jonas and the infamous Vanity Fair photo shoot, with contributions from many of her celebrity pals including Abigail Breslin, Chris Brown, Zac Efron, Dakota Fanning and Vanessa Hudgens.

DVD Extras: none stated.

DVD RETAIL TOP 10

1 (-) RocknRolla

2 (-) Step Brothers

3 (-) Death Race

4 (1) Tropic Thunder

5 (4) Mamma Mia - The Movie

6 (-) Wanted

7 (3) Iron Man

8 (-) The Accidental Husband

9 (-) Igor

10 (5) I Am Legend

Chart supplied by getcloser.com UK RENTAL (VHS & DVD) Top 10

1 (-) RocknRolla

2 (-) The Righteous Kill

3 (-) Step Brothers

4 (-) Pineapple Express

5 (2) Tropic Thunder

6 (4) Death Race

7 (1) Taken

8 (6) The Dark Knight

9 (5) Hancock

10 (7) You Don't Mess With The Zohan Chart supplied by www.blockbuster.co.uk

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