Alec Guinness and John Mills in a fine strong drama

Alec Guinness and John Mills in a fine strong drama

Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs

TUNES OF GLORY (Odeon). The story of military honour in a wintry Scottish barracks in peacetime is a highly theatrical clash between the new battalion commander (John Mills), a nerve-wracked repressed martinet, and the old commander (Alec Guinness), a coarse, fiery-headed, hard-drinking braggart.

The audience’s sympathies constantly shift between the two men. It is interesting to note that the two actors, both excellent, agreed to swap roles just before filming began. James Kennaway’s1960 drama is first-rate and there are also fine performances by Gordon Jackson and Duncan Macrae.

FROZEN (Walt Disney) is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and given a new and humorous twist. There are two heroines, an ice-cold queen and her feisty sister, and two heroes, a handsome prince and a handsome ice trader. The supporting characters include a snowman and a reindeer. Walt Disney’s animators are on top form: the images are beautiful and spectacular. Frozen is enchanting entertainment for the whole family. I bet it will eventually be turned into a Broadway musical and run for ages.

GRAVITY (Warner Brothers).  A space shuttle is destroyed and the sole survivors, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, find themselves floating around in space among the whirling debris. Will they get home alive? The special effects are truly amazing. The space choreography is breathtaking. Visually, the ideal place to watch Alfonso Cuaron’s award-winning film is in a cinema in 3D and preferably in an Imax. At home you are all too aware that there is no drama, that the dialogue is poor and that the film has been grossly over-rated.

THE BIG MELT (BFI). The Martin Williams and Jarvis Cocker elegy to/celebration of the steelworks in Sheffield, covering the whole of the 20th century, uses music plus remarkable footage from the BFI National Archive. Two images stand out: firstly, the forge-manger conducting the work force handling the giant firey slabs with a miniscule hand gestures and secondly, the building of the New Tyne Bridge from Newcastle to Gateshead in 1928. The images of the silhouetted workmen balancing dangerously high above the river are beautiful, awesome and poetic.

ESCAPE PLAN (One Entertainment). Rambo meets Terminator in prison. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwartzenegger are together for a whole film. But they are a bit old and unconvincing for this jail-breaking caper. Stallone takes it all so seriously and is incredibly dull. Jim Caviezel is good casting for the evil warden. The most interesting thing is the actual SF high tech architecture of the prison with its all-glass cells.

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (Curzon) is an inordinately long and highly explicit portrait of a lesbian relationship. It will be too explicit for many people. The Palme D’Or for Best Film at the Cannes Festival was given to the director, Abdellatif Kechiche and also to the two actresses, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. Their performances are quite remarkable for their emotional complexity. Audiences will be surprised what the actresses were actually asked to do in an over-extended and extremely graphic sex scene. The actresses are on record as saying they did not enjoy the filming one bit. The director gave them a hard time.

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